The Revisit

Guess where Sergio is? He’s in Bethel!

Well, I guess he is actually flying over lots of tundra toward Anchorage where he will then get on another flight to come backward to Fairbanks. Because nothing with Bethel is ever straightforward.

It’s been two years since either of us have been to Bethel, but per Sergio’s job duties, he is supposed to go out periodically and check on the workings of the more remote offices. How much was he looking forward to returning to Bethel? Well, he only put it off for two years.

Here is my single most favorite dispatch so far from his less than 24 hour visit to Bethel. Backstory: he went into the AC store for old times sake/coffee.

“I bought a sandwich which was labeled as a sausage burrito. It was round and clearly not a burrito, but I assumed it was a sausage sandwich. I opened it and it was a chicken and pickle sandwich.”

I know this isn’t very funny to anyone that hasn’t lived in Bethel, AK, but for me it embodies everything you would ever need to know about living there and tickles me endlessly.

I should note that Sergio emailed that information to me because AT&T does not work in Bethel. We only communicated through email and iMessages when he was in the vicinity of wifi. We also tried Facetiming when he had wifi, but that had about as good and steady a connection as you would expect.

To sum up: I am glad to have experienced living in Bethel however I don’t miss it with even the tiniest shred of my being.

Here is the stellar view from the best hotel in Bethel.

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Easing Back to Normal

I tried to come in a with a space-filling blog post sometime around Tuesday, but it dissolved into a mess almost immediately. It has taken some serious adjustment to reacclimatize to my work schedule this year. I recognize how lame that sounds. Working! *Whiny voice: so hard!

I think there are a few things at play this year.

First, this is my 10th year in the classroom! How crazy is that? The tenth year in the classroom seems to be the one where I KNOW what I want to do. Like, I know how the room should be organized and decorated, what books I need and when I need them, how my lessons should sound and when they should occur, and just exactly how MUCH I need to fit into each day/year. That’s a wonderful feeling. It is also exhausting. I no longer need to fly by the seat of my pants because I can prepare for everything in advance. So I have. Case in point, more than one other teacher has come into my room and called me OCD. ME! I want to take this imaginary certificate proving my organizational prowess back to my 7th grade teachers and show them I turned out just functional enough to pretend I’m organized for brief spurts of time. Why my 7th grade teachers? Because they are the ones that gave me the superlative award for “Girl With the Messiest Locker.” I’m not bitter. Had they given me an award for “Girl Probably Fermenting Alcohol With Forgotten Snacks Under Mountains of Paper and Also Probably Hosting a Family of Rats Down There Somewhere,” it would have been closer to the truth than the vast understatement of “Messiest Locker.” I think they would be proud of me.

Second, we changed the schedule to a rotating block. I have only positive things to say about this schedule change, but it definitely took some getting used to at first. No single day of the week runs on the same schedule. Prep is always different. On Mondays, I don’t even have a prep. Since I volunteered for lunch detention duty first quarter, I don’t even have a lunch break. You can imagine that by the time I get home from the Monday afternoon staff meeting (of course they fall on Monday), I am not at my best as a human. It takes until about Wednesday to recover.

Third, I’m not just readjusting to my own schedule, but also to Rolo’s. She has homework, piano, social wants, scouts, and soon swim two nights a week. Her schedule alone is enough to keep a couple of people busy.

Fourth…I don’t remember. I’m sure there were more reasons. I’m tired and losing my brain function.

But enough about that. The last two days seem to have been the magic turning point at which the classes started functioning without constant intervention and instruction from me. Hence this post finally showing up. Aren’t you so glad it did? I know it’s been a real page turner.

Happy long weekend, everyone. Let’s consider donating to worthy causes. Here’s a link to places offering help other than the Red Cross. Not because I have anything against the Red Cross (though I’m aware of the controversies). I just think let’s spread the help around, ya know? I’m considering pets and diapers?

This Is A Stall Tactic

Back at it again! With the going to work that is. I’m probably going to go ahead and take a couple of days to readjust to the constant social interaction that turns me into a zombie after hours for the first few weeks. I’ve made you this picture post to enjoy while I go recover from two whole days with kids. Before you scoff, realize that yesterday I did not go to the bathroom from 5:30 in the morning until I got home at 4 pm because I didn’t have a single moment where I wasn’t handing out schedules, guiding students, teaching class, opening lockers, teaching kids to open lockers, helping kids find their bus, reminding kids to put that backpack back in the locker because we still had another period to go, comforting kids that were overwhelmed and on the verge of tears, and so forth and so on. I should note that though I don’t teach 6th grade, I am located in the 6th grade area of the school. It’s chaos down on this end for about two weeks.

Today I remembered to take the time to find a restroom on my lunch break. See how quickly I learn things? *Editors note: I started this post yesterday and couldn’t even make it through before I zombied out on the couch and then fell asleep in Rosalind’s bed at 8 pm. So really this is Friday’s post.*

Anyway, here are some pictures from the last week or so that aren’t Seward related. First, we hung out in Anchorage before picking up Retha and Eugenio. We spent our first night doing one of our favorite Anchorage things – lounging in a hotel bed watching tv with the air conditioner running full blast. We also ordered Indian food delivery. It was glorious.

Next, we took a day out for the Tanana Valley Fair which has become a tradition for our family during inservice week. Who doesn’t need to see a pile of baby piglets once in a while? We ate fair food, saw animals, and watched Rolo spin around and around until her tickets ran out.

We had some s’mores in the back yard while alternating between Dr. Hook and the Hamilton soundtrack. There are so few mosquitos this year. Alaska is much easier to enjoy during a low mosquito year.

And finally, we went back to work and school.

Seward

I’m sure you all know that feeling when you are making your in-laws process out all the fish you brought home from Seward on a makeshift system in the backyard and then you have to stop what you are doing to make sure the bull moose that is eating along the slough isn’t going to decide to come visiting too closely. I mean, you KNOW that feeling, right? Everyone does.

Have I ever uttered a more Alaskan run-on sentence? Nope.

In honor of Sergio’s parents coming to visit again this year, we planned a trip to Seward. Our big event while in Seward was that we planned to go on an all day fishing trip. To say that this worried me is a vast understatement. Let me number the ways –

  1. I don’t fish. Why do I want to do this?
  2. Would any of us get sea sick?
  3. Is Rosalind going to be good for 10 hours on a boat?
  4. Will it be cold?
  5. Will it be wet?
  6. Will I cry when someone catches a fish and I have to watch it die? Would Rosalind?
  7. Will Rosalind fall off the boat and die in the frigid Alaskan waters? (Hey, nobody said being a parent doesn’t breed some very morbid thinking).

So before I get into which of the above came true and which was not an issue (spoiler: Rolo did not fall off the boat), let me just chat about Seward as a destination first.

Often when people find out that I live in Alaska, they first bring up any number of Alaskan television shows where people fish, or homestead, or antisocial people live off the grid. I pretty much immediately say, “we don’t live in that kind of Alaska.” “That kind” being the kind where the ocean meets the mountains. Seward is “that kind of Alaska.” A picturesque, but somewhat gritty, small Alaskan town nestled around a small bay and tucked underneath towering mountains. It’s pretty. It smells like the fishing tourism industry that keeps the town running. It has 75 year old bars on a main strip. It’s remote enough to feel like you moved somewhere difficult and distant while still being accessible to a Target a two hour drive down the road.

Activities to keep you entertained in Seward include fishing, wildlife tours, eating, hiking Mt. Marathon, and walking/shopping around town. My personal favorite was the Alaska Sealife Center. This is where I tell you that I have lived my life all wrong. All of the decisions I have made that have led me to this point in my life have been the wrong decisions. If I had made the right decisions, my job in life would be to serve as the comfort object for an 8 week old walrus.

HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS WAS A CAREER OPTION!!! Her job is to cuddle with a baby walrus! Daily! My parents, counselors, and career aptitude tests have all failed me.

The places we ate included The Cookery, chinese takeout, and the Seward Brewing Company. Sergio and I very much enjoyed our raw and chargrilled oysters at The Cookery, but honestly the wait for both seating and then food was so long as to mar the experience for me slightly. All of the other food can pretty much be wrapped up as pretty good. I was disappointed to find that the chocolate store was closed on the only day we had to walk around town.

The highlight of the trip (other than the aquarium) was definitely fishing. For most of us anyway! We went on an all day multi-species charter. It took 2 1/2 hours to get out of Resurrection Bay and into our fishing waters. All fifteen guests and three crew members made the outbound trip with no issues. However, as soon as we stopped and anchored, three of the fifteen guests started puking. They all continued to be sick to one degree or another for the remaining 10 hours of the trip. I felt awful for them because there was just no escaping the situation and a whole day stretching out before them. As for the other concerns that I had, they broke down as follows –

  1. It turns out I really get a kick out of fishing when there are people there that bait my hook, tell me what I’ve brought out of the ocean, kill it humanely for me, and then filet our fish before we get home. I know. I’m a terrible person.
  2. My poor mother-in-law was one of the three that got seasick, but the rest of our party managed fine.
  3. Rosalind was really great! She actually slept a lot during the outbound and inbound trips which may have had something to do with the non-drowsy dramamine being less than non-drowsy in an eight year old body.
  4. It wasn’t that cold and it miraculously did not rain at all! I wore a hat because I can’t stand wind in my ears, but it was pretty temperate while we were still.
  5. I do not enjoy watching things die. Sometimes it got kind of brutal like when someone caught a 69 inch halibut that took hours to fully quit twitching and the captain of the boat had brutally whacked it repeatedly to try and kill it quickly and keep it from knocking anyone overboard. It was pretty horrific. I did not have any specific emotions at the time other than to hope it was quick and look away. Rosalind would probably have participated in popping the fish on the head if she had been given the opportunity.
  6. Again, nobody fell off the boat. I think some of the members that were so terribly seasick might have wished to throw themselves overboard rather than endure another moment, but I’m just guessing from how miserable it looked.

I should also mention we saw eagles, puffins, humpback whales, sea otters, and porpoises while on the boat, so it was sort of a wildlife tour as well.

We shipped 40 lbs of halibut and salmon to various locations in Arkansas through Captain Jacks before leaving Seward and then took another butt ton (scientific term) of halibut, salmon, and rockfish all the way back to Fairbanks to deal with on our own at home where, as I mentioned before, we finally hung out with a bull moose for a decent amount of time.

All in all, I think we have gotten a number of great Alaskan activities ticked off of our list. Go to Seward! Go fishing! I would end with the tip that maybe Seward only requires two days for visiting, but it’s a lovely destination. I’m linking Aurora Charters because I enjoyed our experience with them. Here is a Seward puffin.

A Style Of Her Very Own

Rosalind has always made her displeasure at taking care of her hair well known. Repeatedly. Annoyingly. Sometimes loudly.

She told me months ago that she would like to cut it all off. I took some time to let her weigh this decision out, not because I worry over her hair, but because I never want to move too quickly on these types of decisions in case she was just blurting and would be upset with the not easily reversed outcome. She never let the idea go, and then she came back from camp on a mission. Several other kiddos at camp had pixies. She was sold.

She is thrilled. All of these different ways of wearing this style and not one of them requires the use of a hairbrush! I’m pretty sure she is wondering why all people don’t lop their hair off. It’s so much more convenient! I’ll let her discover the need for super frequent haircuts, and the miserably slow process of one day growing it back out, in her own time.  Meanwhile, there is peace at hairbrush time in the Barron household.

Our Week

Rosalind comes home tomorrow morning. I expect that she’ll be nightmarish for a day or two while she gets back into her normal routine. I am super grateful to have realized that there is a Facebook group that posts a few pictures every now and then from camp so that we can keep futile tabs on how she’s doing. It turns out a week without any communication at all makes me feel pretty antsy. I’ve been able to discern from the pictures the following information:

  • Rosalind has been swimming in water cold enough that she turned kind of blue.
  • They make them wear lifejackets to swim in an entirely enclosed lake location. This gives me comfort despite knowing that Rolo is a strong swimmer.
  • They warm up by a fire after swimming because the water in Alaska never really warms up. I barely made it through touching the water that came out of our water hose while we washed the car last week.
  • She got to paddle her own canoe this year instead of just going for rides with older campers.
  • Rosalind might have worn the same outfit for more than one day even though I packed her an outfit per day and even twisted each outfit component up together in her bag so that she didn’t have to make any clothing decisions. Here’s hoping that she is actually bathing and brushing teeth.

Here are the ways that Sergio and I have entertained ourselves while she is away.

  • Sergio went to work because that’s what normal people have to do.
  • I watched tv and sat on the couch and mopped the kitchen but didn’t really bother deep cleaning the rest of the house.
  • We pretty much did not cook at all. Take out and easily compiled junk food meals.
  • I went to a new dentist. I really liked her and will go back. However, I did not end up caring for the directive to have my ugly dead tooth internally bleached rather than crowned. I didn’t initially mind this directive. I just did not care for the estimate given to me by the endodontist I was referred to. If I’m going to spend as much as they told me, I might as well go bigger. Does anybody have an opinion or experience with having a front tooth crowned or bleached or veneered? The internet has mixed opinions.
  • We DID manage to go see a movie that wasn’t from Marvel or Disney or Pixar or DC! We watched The Big Sick yesterday afternoon. Thumbs up.
  • We have watched one episode of Last Chance U per night. Documentaries make me feel too many feelings. I don’t care for feeling feelings.
  • Sergio and I emailed our Senators relentlessly. In light of the news out of the Senate last night, maybe it helped? Or probably they won’t even make it to automatic response list for another month or two, but you do what you can do when it’s all that you can do, right?
  • I went back for the last bit of my spa day. The package that Sergio got for me included having my makeup done. I just went for the day that I knew I would be in town because we don’t really go anywhere or do anything that would necessitate having my makeup done. When she asked what I wanted, I told her she could do whatever. Maybe teach me a thing or two about makeup. I find the Youtube/Instagram videos of makeup transformations endlessly mesmerizing, but I don’t know how to do almost anything with makeup myself. Whatever I knew in my teens has been long forgotten in the years of barely investing time or money into makeup. Have you watched these videos? There is a whole world of contouring and highlighting and eye-linering that is basically like a foreign language to me. Anyway, when I expressed interest in contouring, she very nicely shut me right down. Apparently us Olds don’t need contouring. It’s for young babyfaced people. Instead she directed me toward concealer and highlighting. I also mentioned that I’ve been fussing with my eyebrows lately because they are too light but then uneven when darkened, and I don’t really know what I’m doing.

That was foreshadowing.

Because ohmygosh, you guys. GUYS! Did I ever get what I asked for. . .

 

EYEBROWS

Needless to say, I used my workout pants that I found in the backseat of the car to wipe down most of my face in the parking lot of Barnes and Noble. There was a lot of really good stuff happening with my makeup, but it’s just not me, you know?

Finally, Eliot has been soaking up the sun. He has always liked hanging on the back deck, but he often wanders off to explore our yard. This wasn’t much of a problem before we had neighbors who have three or four small dogs of their own. One of those dogs hates Eliot with a burning passion and has attacked him already. I bought a baby gate for the top of the deck, and now I can just leave that door open for him to wander in and out as he pleases.

 

Clearly it’s imperative that he keeps his butt in the shade at all times.

Golden Days

Sergio and I are pretty bad about exploring Alaska. We would like to do a better job of it, but when faced with vacation ideas, we always default to “leave the state and go somewhere with sun and warmth…or Europe.” We never say, “Oh, hey, maybe we should use this week of time and a couple thousand dollars to go see…Juneau?” It just doesn’t seem far enough to justify the cost, you know? I mean, it’s plenty far away from here, but is the experience different enough from just staying home? Probably. I dunno.

We also have other barriers to entry such as a lack of time, being afraid of getting mauled because we don’t own a gun or bear spray or any useful Alaskan gear like a snow machine or a 4-wheeler, not wanting to drive long distances on icy roads (or drive long distances in general), or just plain preferring to keep our rears on the couch with the blankets.

We DO manage to go see some cool Alaskan stuff when we have visitors, and we’re super excited that we will be going to Seward in a couple of weeks when Sergio’s parents come back. We saw Denali with them last year. If more of you would like to come visit, it really helps to motivate us to be better tourists here at home.

Anyway, the point of this post is actually about how we are trying to do a better job of participating in the stuff happening right here around us. Fairbanks just wrapped up it’s annual Golden Days celebration. As best as I can tell, this is a celebration of the Gold Rush that brought about the existence of Fairbanks. There are several events, most of which we missed. However, due to some good timing/luck, we managed to attend the Golden Days River Regatta and a portion of the Golden Days parade.

The Regatta was one in which you could come out in anything that could float and didn’t have a motor. We were surprised to learn it was also a total water fight. It was fun.

The portion of the parade that we were able to stay for mostly included very old cars, people in period costumes, and some military units. We didn’t leave out of boredom or anything. Sergio had to help judge a barbecue competition later in the afternoon and the timing required we cut the parade short. Rosalind was given four pieces of candy before we left and she couldn’t eat any of them with her braces. Oops.

Look out! We’re on fire! We’ve been to one and a half events. Maybe only one and a quarter. Not really sure how long the parade was.

Child In The Wild

Rolo headed off to Girl Scout Camp yesterday. This is her second year, and this time she stays all week. Eliot went along for the ride. We had to waste about 15 minutes, so we stopped down by the lake and let them play on the rocks. It was in the mid-seventies and mostly sunny when we dropped her off yesterday, but her camp luck for the weather seems to have returned today. Hopefully the rest of the week will pan out to be warm because I’m at a loss to imagine what they will do for an entire six days in the rain in the Alaskan woods. On the other hand, she did point out to us that the cabins get really warm at night if the sun is out, so maybe it’s a toss up.

I guess while she is away, the adults can play. Snort. Not really. I’m totally sitting on the couch watching DVR’d Say Yes to the Dress UK episodes. Just without the normal guilt that I should be engaging with my child. We might also go to a movie that doesn’t come from Marvel or Pixar or Disney. We are the very definition of party animals.

Is dis a butterfly?

Rolo and I went through her closets, buckets, cabinets, and bags last week while rearranging her bedroom. We didn’t really get rid of that much stuff, but it allowed us to reorganize a bit. During the purge, Rolo came across one of the old phones that I had never backed up to anything. We had a good time going through our pictures and videos. I have now uploaded everything I wanted to a couple of locations.

The video I am attaching below is one that I never shared because I remember feeling slightly frustrated with it at the time. I was trying to show how quickly toddler Rosalind would run through the puzzles at the library. I do have that really obnoxious side to me, I guess, that only wants to show off the best things about my kid. Instead this turned out to be a video of her taking it slow and making some mistakes and chatting with me, and I could not be happier that it turned out that way now. Listen to her! Just listen to that little voice! It melts me.

Ugh. My voice. Gross.

 

Hey, Puter

Did you catch my Lego Batman reference in the title? I’m nothing if not sophisticated. My movie references are top notch.

The title is really a reference to having gotten my work computer back with just enough time left in the summer to feel like I now need to actually do some planning. I am totally thrilled with this development because I can’t stand posting to the blog through my phone. The editing process is such a pain doing it that way. Not to mention typing. Oh, sweet keyboard, how I adore you.

I have so many things I want to post about! Where to start? None of them are particularly important, but they are all worthy of the blog-as-a-scrapbook-of-my-life thing I have going on.

I’ll just start with my birthday. Yes, I know that I already posted a bit about my birthday. This one is less about me and more about Sergio. I’ve mentioned before that Sergio is way better at gestures than me. First of all, when he and Rolo decided I should have a cake and asked for ideas because I had already gotten my fav strawberry cake while in Arkansas, I gave coconut as one of the suggestions. All the recipes for coconut cake that I know are to buy a Pepperidge Farm frozen one, or to make a sort of poke cake that involves boxed cake mix and sweetened condensed milk and cream of coconut and Cool Whip (both delicious options, by the way). Sergio, however, created this. From scratch!

It was delicious. He even bought us a really pretty bundt pan because we didn’t have one. Bonus gift.

Speaking of gifts, he went overboard. I bought myself some perfume earlier in the summer and called that my birthday in the same way that Sergio bought himself some cologne and called it Father’s Day. Sergio did not buy into that (like I totally did because I suck) and presented me with three books and a spa day. Not a spa treatment. A DAY! So I’ll be collecting any and all gift ideas that any of you might have for the next two months until his birthday. Thanks in advance.

I went for the majority of my spa day yesterday. That’s right. I had to break it into two sessions because I ran out of time to continue spending at the spa. That’s spoiled (I do feel I need to clarify that I didn’t close down the spa or anything. I just had an appointment that I couldn’t miss at lunch). I enjoyed it immensely, of course, but as all three massages that I’ve ever had in my life have now shown me, I have tension in my shoulder/neck area. Or at least that’s what I’m always told. I’m not sure this is true. On the one hand, I am a ball of anxiety at any given time. On the other hand, I am on summer vacation and tend to be pretty chill when not in a social setting. So I came up with some possible options for what is really happening when they abuse my trapezius muscle.

Option one: I am deceptively muscular. When not actively working out, I am pretty nondescript and have a little layer of fluff that disguises that I have minimal muscle tone under there somewhere, and it surprises all massage therapists to find muscle where they expected to find none.

Option two: I am built wrong. I just have knots where other humans don’t for no reason other than I am built wrong. Or maybe I absorbed a twin in the womb and one day we’ll find a tumor up there that turns out to be the absorbed twin? Something like that.

Option three: I actually hold stress there? Seems unlikely.

Option four: Massage therapist always start with shoulders and despite knowing that I will eventually relax, the first response to being laid out on a table, mostly nude, at the mercy of a stranger, is fight or flight. Flight is pretty much out of the question when you take into account the mostly nude part, so it’s all fight. Especially when they haven’t yet found the right amount of pressure (literally attacking you with their freaky strong massage therapist muscles) and so I tense up. Fight, if you will, relaxing for the first five minutes or so which turns the whole shoulder thing into a torture show until I can convince myself to calm down and then miraculously they have worked out the tension in my shoulders. So…I think option four is probably the real explanation.

After that first five minutes, it was pure relaxation. My husband is neat. I’ll probably let him continue to hang around. Just kidding, it’s definitely more of a question of whether he’ll put up with me any longer if I don’t figure out how to step up my own game a little. Or a lot.