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Friday, November 30, 2007

Maine Woods

One of my favorite things about Maine is the deciduous forest. We got beautiful Sitka Spruce rain forest here on Kodiak, but the species diversity of trees is rather low (alder, sitka spruce, cottonwood, black birch, willow). In Maine you got a forest with too many trees to name. A delight to hike. It's something I miss about life out East. So when Zoya and I and the kiddos headed out East for Thanksgiving I was really looking forward to the hikes in the Maine woods.

My brother promised me he'd show me places around the Camden Hills that I'd never seen. Old growth forest with huge oaks, white pines, maples and big cliffs. And he delivered. I was impressed with how the Camden/Rockport area has managed to keep huge tracts of land wild in close proximity to housing developments. Many areas in Alaska have not managed this sort of land management. Take Homer, for instance, in Homer there is a house just about every 5 acres - spread out over a huge area, and very few huge tracts of land are leftover for simple, nomadic wandering. But in Camden such areas exist, and, moreover, the hiking is spectacular. Big granite cliffs, boulders and pretty darn big hills with sweeping vista views out over Penobscot Bay. Surprisingly enough we saw very few people - and most people seem to stick to the trails.

Out East these days people are terrified of ticks. It seems everyone either knows someone who has had Lyme's disease, or has had it themself. Lyme disease is a pretty serious tick bourn disease, and I must admit Zoya and I got a little paranoid about ticks. But the sad thing is that nobody seems to leave the trails and bushwack through the woods anymore. In terms of paranoia, ticks are the East coast version of Kodiak Brown Bears. Except Zoya and I believe ticks are more of an actual threat to one's health than bears. In any case, perhaps ticks are the reason my brother Dicky and I had the woods to ourselves.

In the top photo Dicky, Davis and Brooks pose on top of a mountain. Note the town of Camden on the right side of the picture. In the second photo Dicky and Leo pose in front of a deciduous holly tree. Amazing berries! In the third photo Dicky poses in the snow on Mount Megunticook. The bottom two photos is cliff climbing on Mount Megunticook with Davis and Dicky. Some of the cliff are two hundred feet high! Patrick

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Court Junkie Phone Repair Man

Today the phone guy came to change over our local phone to GCI. He pulled up in a run down, 1970's pick up truck and I was suspicious it was even the cable guy. The bumper was about to fall off and the muffler made loud noises as he pulled into the driveway. He introduced himself as Scott, put shoe covers over his shoes and made his way on into our house. The conversation with him ended up being much more amusing than I ever would've imagined.

Me: Do you have any kids? (Stuart and Nora were both crying at the time and I wanted to see what his compassion-o-meter was for tolerating fussy kids)
Scott: Yeah, I got one but hes not here. Hes down in Montana.
He flashed a grin full of empty spaces where teeth once were.
Me: How old is he?
Scott: Hes 11. Yeah (sigh) Kids are a lot of work. He got done with court recently.
Me: Court? Oh wow. What for?
Scott: Smoking. He can't stay away from the cigarettes. (smoke on scott's breath, BTW).
Me: Court. Wow. I'm scared of court. Even with just jury duty, it scares the be-jesus out of me.
So after he went to court, did that scare him enough to not smoke anymore?
Scott: Oh no. He still is smoking. Hes not scared of court. I'm not either. I spend a lot of time there.
Me: Oh..........really?
(Pause. Gulp. What does he go to court for? Abduction? Breaking and Entering? Assault? )

Scott: Yeah, between my ex wife, my truck and my son, I'm there all the time.

I laugh...

Me: So court for you is sorta like going to the grocery store? pick up a gallon of milk, go to court...
Scott: Yeah, you could put it that way. Its no big deal any more.

Scott wrapped things up with the phone-he was quite efficient hooking everything up and was on his way in a matter of 20 minutes. I joked with him about staying out of trouble as he left and he laughed as he said he doesn't mind going to court. It was a reminder of how each of us has our own reality and our own comfort levels with what life throws at us. I would be terrified to pieces to have to go to court and he was just fine with going once a month.


We Are Family

The flights home went so smoothly-couldn't have gone better. Even security was a breeze! The TSA people were actually quite helpful and in Anchorage they let us go to the front of the (long) line because of the kiddos. Patrick and I usually complain on and on about TSA, but they couldn't have been better this holiday travel season. (I did get the sense that people in line gave us "snake eyes" when we got brought to the front of the line. Perhaps it was just my imagination. Probably after they saw the production it is to get small kids through security, they had more compassion for us than envy!!)

Our trip East was a true vacation for me. Often times the past few years when I come home from vacation I feel that I need a vacation to recover from the vacation. This trip wasn't so. Largely thanks to Stuart who started sleeping through the night during the trip. I actually had time to read and relax and being well rested puts a whole new twist on the world!

Emmy (Patrick's mom) got Nora a little dollhouse which Nora just loved playing with. Sometimes she would try to sit on the furniture. Lots of times she would put the dolls in the house on the bed and in the bathtub and close the house up, saying "shhhh"...they were sleeping. As Nora is Emmy's only granddaughter, you can only imagine the joy she got from watching Nora play dress up and with the dollhouse. Nora loved walking around in Emmy's heels and hat one evening-see photo! So many laughs from all of us. She was quite serious with walking all around the living room in her get-up.

I enjoyed seeing all of my nephews as well. The kids are all so great with the younger ones-so fun to watch and makes get togethers easier as they all entertain each other to a certain degree. Brooks and Davis (13 and 10-Ella and Dicky's older boys) are especially wonderful with Nora, Leo, Zeke and Stuart. Their comfort, confidence and patience with small babies is remarkable.

We were gone for almost two weeks, but the time just flew by. What a fantastic way to start the holiday season.



Nora and the doll house.

Nora playing dress up.

Group shot of Thanksgiving dinner in progress. Patrick's sister is on the far left.

Davis Saltonstall. What a photogenic guy!

Stewart Walker holding Stuey Saltonstall. Stewart is Patrick's longtime friend. We had a fun visit with him.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fun times out East

So many good times were had the past week out here in Maine and Boston. Thanksgiving was fun filled with delicious turkey, and roasted vegetables, lively conversation followed by a delicious dessert sampler. After the meal, Patrick, Cam (his step brother), Gretchen (Cams girlfriend) and the kiddos all hung out in the kitchen. Cam is a pilot and got on the floor doing airplane with Nora. Nora LOVED it! I was laughing so hard my cheeks hurt. Cam was doing the "Cessna 180...ready for takeoff on runway 2..." Nora would put her arms out and prepare for takeoff. Anytime Cam got up off the floor, nora would politely pat the floor for Cam to get back on the floor for more airplane.

The evenings in Rockport were enjoyed by reading in the house library while the kiddos slept. And sleep they do! Finally! On vacation they are now both sleeping through the night. I'm in heaven and remember what it feels like to feel rested once again. It has made vacation so fantastic!

We head back tomorrow eve, spend the night in Anchorage and arrive home Wednesday morning. A long trip it will be-but we'll make the most of it. The trip out went smoothly so we feel lucky in that regard!



Ella, Zoya, Zeke and Stuart.

Cam doing airplane with Nora on Thanksgiving day.

Patrick doing the driving back to Boston. I sat in the back seat with the kiddos.

Emmy resting by the fire with the bellow after preparing a delightful meal!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

East Coast trip

We arrived safe and sound to Boston after an all night flight from Kodiak. Our adventure began upon arrival to the Kodiak airport when we realized we forgot the umbrella stroller for Stuart. Patrick thought of checking the baggage lost and found in Anchorage to see if we could have a free one. In Anchorage, they had a whole stack of them and we got one for free! yeah! My arms and back were saved from carrying Stuart everywhere!

In Anchorage airport Nora pushed Stuart around in the stroller for lots of the wait. Stuart was quite content and it was a great way to pass the time and burn off some of Nora's energy!

The plane ride to Portland was smooth-kiddos both slept. The 5 hour flight from Portland to Boston went amazingly well also. Stuart slept, and ate and didn't cry at all! Nora just cried for a few minutes before going to sleep. The trip couldn't have gone smoother!

The first night here Nora slept for 16 hours-8 PM till 12:30 PM the next day. Unbelievable! I've never seen Nora so tired.

Yesterday we enjoyed dinner with Sandra and Jimmy Walker, longtime friends of the family. Emmy cooked up potatoes, lamb and broccoli with apple crisp for dessert.

Patrick and Emmy are outside for a walk and today we drive up to Maine to see Ella and Dicky and the boys.

What a relaxing time it has been!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

As Predicted - Our First Snow

That's our Alaskan girl - bathrobe, extra tuffs and a big bottle of wine (empty of course). Its snowing hard right now and blowing. The weather service did not predict the storm but I had a feeling (check my last blog post) we'd get one. It always snows when I leave Kodiak. At this point I just hope we do get out! We are scheduled to leave this evening, fly all night, and reach Boston tomorrow. It'll Nora and I with the etch-a-sketch and books while Stu and Zoya sleep.

Today, when I got home with Nora from a trip in Zoya's car, Nora just gravitated to the snow. She kicked it with her boots and slid them back and forth. I made a snowball - so she copied me and made one too. Despite the lack of adequate gear she was adamant about staying outside. I had to drag her kicking and screaming inside. But I am very relieved that she seems to enjoy snow. That's my side coming out! Patrick

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ski Season Begins!

Yesterday I climbed up Pyramid with my skiis for the first time in 3 1/2 months. Today, after work, I climbed up again. That's two days in a row on snow, and I intend to ski again tomorrow. Ski season has begun - I'm back in the saddle again.

It's not the greatest skiing in the world, but, hey, at least it's skiing. I have a run that is only about 400 vertical feet, but the base is pretty good and I have not hit a rock yet. Today there was some fluffy wind blown powder on top to blow through in my skiis, and I even noted that two wind slabs had slid. Mini Avalanches! So winter has begun. It'll only get better from here on out.

In two days Zoya, me and the kiddos are off to Maine. This means that it'll snow like crazy in three days time. Just a prediction. I am actually looking forward to Maine - I'll get to drive on a freeway, walk through a deciduous forest, and see family. I doubt I'll ski much. Patrick

Sleep Bliss

For many nights in a row, Stuart has slept in his crib all night. Yes, from 8:00-6:30 AM. I only have to go in once at midnight when he wakes up, sometimes just to give him his teddy bear and let him know I'm there.

I feel like a brand new person.

I've been sleep deprived since he was born in February and now I feel an energy about me which I forgot existed. I'm glad he slept in our bed until now-he was confident with the fact that when he wakes up his needs are met. I've always been right there for him. This translates to his crib as well. He knows I'm right there if need be.

I'm amazed he doesn't wake Nora up when he cries. The thought of them sharing a room for a while is so fun. Our little guys waking up and falling asleep together.


Nora Word of the Week

This weeks word is "Dah-Deeeee" which translates to DADDY.

This is the word Nora speaks most throughout her day. From the moment she wakes up in the crib, she says, "Dah-deeee" with her eyebrows furrowed and shoulders shrugged, wondering where Patrick is. Repeated "dah-deeeee's" occur as she roams around the house until she finds him.
The same occurs at the end of the day when she wants Patrick to come home from work. She puts a chair up at the window to look out for him until she sees his red Chevy come rolling down the driveway.


Photo is of Nora admiring all the goodies on the cake table at Karen and Jeremy's reception.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Picnic at Abercrombie

The best time for a picnic at Abercrombie beach is probably summertime. But when Zoya's sister Bonnie visits we always go to the beach - no matter the season. So today we had a picnic at Abercrombie. Temps in the low 30 with snow flurries. A skim of ice on lake Gertrude. Zoya made wraps with the leftovers from Karen and Jeremy's party. Elk meatball and Thai chicken curry wraps. She added bit and pieces from the antipasta platter for zest. Absolutely wonderful.

We put the kiddos in the stroller and walked from our house. At the beach I threw a stick in the ocean and only jake was brave enough to jump in. A big wave rolled in and Jake was body surfing. I don't think he liked it much. Nora stomped around the beach in her red boots and drank a bottle of juice. Bonnie, Zoya and Stuey sat on a log and ate their wraps - I ate mine on the run while I chased Nora up and down the beach. Patrick

Karen and Jeremy's Wedding Reception

Last night there were 25 people over to celebrate the marriage of Jeremy and Karen!
There were small bouquets of orange roses intermingled with bright colored flowers around the house.
Votive candles burned softly-people laughed, talked and music permeated the evening. Such a fun night it was!
Toasts were given-I read a poem to them that I wrote about them meeting in Kotzebue Alaska and moving here.
The menu consisted of elk huckleberry meatballs, bacon wrapped scallops, chicken sataty and platters of appetizers (all catered-I NEVER would have had to the time to make that much food!!).
Shortly into the evening, Nora tore off her dress and spent 99% of the evening running around in her diaper. We were just glad she kept her diaper on!
My sister Bonnie is here from Anchorage and was SO helpful with getting things ready yesterday.

-Karen and Nora admiring the spread before the guests arrive.
-Jeremy and Karen in front of the cake.
-(Left to Right) Mary Forbes, Tia Leber, Rose Wolf holding baby Presley Norkus, Brandi Norkus
-Bonnie holding a sacked-out-Stuey at 11:30 at night


Friday, November 09, 2007

9 Month snapshot

Stuart is at his 9 month mark-growing like a weed and grinning from ear to ear. He is 27+ pounds and feeling less like a baby to me. He still has that baby smell and baby feel when he nuzzles his head into my neck, however! Phew!

When I sit him on my lap, he likes to move around more and on the floor he is making attempts to crawl. These attempts only frusturate him, as he commando crawls backwards, away from the toy he is trying to reach. I vaguely remember Nora going through this phase and how frusturating it was for her.

Last night we turned a corner with him in his crib. He was in there from 8:30-4:00 and I went in twice to nurse him and get him back to sleep. There was a bit of crying involved but not for too long. He did a midnight-4:00 stretch which was heavenly. When he is in our bed he just doesn't sleep as well lately (and neither do I!).

He has 4 small teeth and continues to be Mr. Pucker face with food. I remember when Nora ate solids, she was all over it. He is much more tenative and puckers much more during meal time. Sometime he'll pucker and shake his head back and forth as if to shake the food off of him. Pretty funny to watch.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Mighty Machias

With hunting season over and skiing season still on hold, I decided it was time for another blast from the past. In the early to mid 1990s I used to travel every spring to Maine to run rivers with my brother Dicky. Generally we'd aim to run rivers when the snow melt had increased flow but before the black flies hatched. Some years we simply did day trips on rivers close to his house, but for a couple years there we had a tradition going of taking a week to run the Machias River from its head waters all the way to the sea. I always liked the trip because it reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books about a carved model indian in his canoe paddling to the sea - titled, appropriately enough, 'Paddle to the Sea'. Here I was living out my childhood dream of paddling from the north woods all the way to the sea.

The trip started out on a tiny creek, led to large lakes, and then the last half was big river and lots of whitewater. One year a pod of atlantic salmon flashed past under our canoes on their way up river to spawn. It was very remote and we never saw any other paddlers or other people till we got to the lower stretch of the river near the sea. We'd float by moose feeding in the river, listen to loons on the lakes, and drink too much every night in camp (a good way to deal with the intense mosquitos). We'd go out in the dark in the canoes and play hide and seek on backwater sloughs. Hard to believe all this happenned 15 years ago!

In this photo my two brothers Andrew and Dicky enjoy the sun on a granite rock while our friends Philip Kemp and David Chapin ('Doozer') paddle down the river to join us. Philip Kemp came all the way from South Africa for the trip. I went to high school with David and we actually did canoing for a spring sport our senoir year. Patrick

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Nora Word of The Week

The Alutiiq museum has a strong language revitalization program which includes an Alutiiq word of the week. The word is spoken, defined and used in context. The importance of the word in the Alutiiq culture is also described. The word is read over the radio and is in the local newspaper.
Check out in the language sidebar to see the Alutiiq Word of the Week.

This weekend Patrick and I decided to do our own family version of Nora's language. At times it seems that Nora speaks a different language.

Nora Word of the Week:

Haaa h'iig, which translates to HOT DOG. Hot dogs are of great importance to Nora (and dad) and she prefers the Kosher Hebrew National Brand. One must be careful opening the fridge if there is a package of hot dogs in sight-Nora will break out into a chorus of Haa h'iig's and persistent pointing to the fridge. Louder, more persistent haa h'iig's often indicate that she would like some ranch dressing with her hot dogs.

Zoya & Patrick

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Change of Seasons

Hunting season is pretty much over. I don't like to hunt deer past the end of October because the bucks start to go in rut and they start to taste REALLY BAD. So while I might go out and harvest a few bunnies, perhaps a duck, or a ptarmigan or two, my weekends spent chasing deer are over. This weekend I will help my friend John Barklow with his registration bow hunt for goat, but that's it. It is time to start thinking about skiing.

So this week after work I have been climbing up Pyramid Mountain. I quit skiing up there in mid July so I had not been up in 3 1/2 months. It's funny because there is still less snow up there than there was back in July. But it will not be long before we have a good snow pack again. Last week, while I was still possessed with hunting, people were even skiing and snowboarding on Pyramid. A warm snap over the weekend melted most of the snow, but today it was snowing above 1500 feet, and I think there is already enough snow to warrant pulling out the rock skiis. Time to get with it and lose the summer flab - get back into ski shape. It's almost winter! YEAH!