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Category Archives: Homeschool

Life on Big Lake

A Growing Family

Life on the lake is becoming our new “normal” and we’re really getting settled.  Mama Bird has two more eggs and my husband has finally relinquished the idea of hanging our sun shower from HER roost. Hey showers are overrated anyway, right?  She does occupy prime real estate in the back with privacy and full sun. This bird obviously understands the ageless concept of location, location, location.

I’m feeling more rested and not requiring as much sleep as I needed when we initially arrived. We are establishing routines with sleeping, school, work, play, projects, showers, shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. I’ve realized how little “stuff” you need to truly enjoy life. We have designated areas of the cabin which serve all essential purposes: office, bedroom, kitchen, dining area, living room, library, and foyer. Yes, all of these functions exist within the walls of a four hundred square foot structure. The family room in the outbuilding has become a crash pad for the kids during rainy days and the other side serves nicely as a storage/pantry area.  Yesterday it rained for the first time in almost two weeks and the kids spent some time in the family room watching a movie, playing video games, setting up Allyson’s doll house, and anything else they could find in there to occupy their time (and there is everything you can imagine in that room except for the kitchen sink). Despite the wet weather we took the kids tubing, we cooked s’mores around the fire, roof work continued, and the outdoor grill proved once again the most convenient kitchen appliance. When you live in Alaska you go about your day in rain or shine (or wind or snow or anything for that matter…unless your dream is to live as a hermit).

Mysterious Lake Creature (a.k.a. leach)

I found another spider indoors (I promise to stop counting), saw two more shrews, and the loons and grebes
must have announced to all of their friends that we are animal-friendly.  Aaron ran up the hill today and screamed hysterically about a new “creature” he caught in the lake (turns out it was a leach).  Of course, once he calmed down it went into a bucket for closer observation (you can use your imagination to figure out a seven-year old’s idea of “observation”).

Casey's Birdhouse (finished product)

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Junior Entrepreneur

My eleven year old is such a little business man.  The title on his business card reads “Junior Entrepreneur” which perfectly suits him.  He makes his money by mowing lawns, selling homemade wares at the Saturday Market, watching homes for out-of-town neighbors, and removing snow from driveways.  I remind him that when we move to the cabin he will need to find a new line of work, since he will be unable to perform most of these tasks.  He saves all his money for cell phones and accessories and remote-controlled airplanes.  He definitely has an aptitude for cell phone equipment and applications and r/c airplanes for that matter (is there a promising career in r/c planes?).  So much so, that he is on a first-name basis with our local provider.  Too much fun!  The customer service staff often joke with him and say he could easily work alongside them (of course they would break a few child labor laws, but it’s all in good humor).  When he goes into the office they actually ask him questions.  I just stand back and watch in amazement as he shares his depth of knowledge about cell phones and how they function.

You might be wondering why an eleven year old is working (trust me, it’s not full-time).  I told him over the years that when he turned eleven he would need to get a job to pay for extras.  Of course, I wouldn’t expect him to do anything I didn’t do as a child.  I became a babysitter at age eleven and have worked ever since.  I cannot imagine him babysitting though.  Yikes, that’s a scary thought! (What were those parents thinking when they hired me?)

He recently learned a very valuable lesson about business when a customer did not pay him what he expected for a job.  He (and I for that matter) realizes that it’s good practice to get customer expectations in writing – up front. It was devastating to him when our neighbor paid him $300 less (than his calculations) for a job he performed over the span of five months.  It broke my heart, because he had written in his journal and told all his friends how he was going to spend the money (on three r/c boats).  One for him, one for his dad, and one for his brother.  (Not sure why my daughter and I were left out, but I digress.) 

Well, he is resilient and very creative.  He has been brainstorming ideas on how to make a little cash (of course he wants to sell everything not nailed down) now and after we get to the cabin.  Today he decided that washing bikes might be a lucrative venture.  Here is the sign he created to solicit neighborhood kids (no bites today, but there is always tomorrow).

Bike Wash Venture

Homemade Birdhouse (rustic version)

 

Some of his other ideas include:  homemade birdhouses (like the one pictured here), bike repairs, and writing a blog (yes, I confess…that’s my idea).

 

Man Cave

Taxes are done (thank you Rachel) and now I can focus on our new adventure…

View of cabin from the lake

View of lake from the cabin

 

The time has come to wait for the ice to go out.  We’re expecting fifty degree weather, so the ice will begin its rapid decline.  My husband made his last trip by truck today on the ice road (well, what’s left of it anyway).  He made a final load of lots of goodies and carpet for the classroom.  Oh by the way, the boys in my family (husband and two sons) have renamed the classroom their “man cave.”  They have all these grandiose ideas of how to use the space:  tv, video games, card games with the guys, no girls allowed kind of place, etc. Well, we will see about that.  I guess the up side to their plan is the cabin will be the girls’ domain and it’s much bigger.  Yep, that’s right.  I can see the sign now on the outside of the classroom, No Girls Allowed or Enter at Your Own Risk.  Oh brother.

We discussed how to make the cabin more of a home and the boys came up with some pretty crazy ideas in my book.  Here are a few of their recommendations:  let’s store some things outside covered with tarp, or let’s use a clothesline to dry our clothes (after washing them at the laundromat a five-mile boat ride plus a two-mile truck ride away), and the best one is let’s filter water from the lake to use for outdoor showers (I do take outdoor showers, with good water, in my swimsuit).  Okay people, we have lost our marbles.  Number one, if you think I’m going to allow tarp anywhere you are nuts.  Number two, I will happily go to the laundromat to wash AND dry my clothes (thank you very much), and I draw the line with “roughing it” with filtered lake water.  Yuck!!!  I don’t do tarp (okay, I think I’ve made that point), I grew up hanging clothes on the line and the towels practically scratched my face because they were so rough and stiff, and I’m not taking any chances with beaver fever (ingesting contaminated water).  I think my husband is losing it (probably due to lack of sleep).  Ha ha.

Well anyway, he accomplished a huge task of getting the classroom (a.k.a. man cave), ready for us to occupy.  The roof is on, the wiring is almost done, the door and window installed, and the carpet is ready to go down (thank you Ron).  I have sent to the cabin every possible book, school supply, kitchen utensil and appliance, dvd, board game, arts and crafts project, etc. to make our time very enjoyable (especially if we have a rainy summer like last year).  We have two more weeks in the house and a lot more stuff to sell and pack and store.  Are you ready for this?  We will stay in our RV during the transition between the house and cabin as we patiently wait for the lake to open for boating.  I know what you are wondering.  Have you completely lost your mind?  Well, no.  Everything is all relative, my friend.  The motor home is approximately thirty-three feet long, luxuriously (okay, I might be exaggerating a smidge here) appointed with a master bedroom, full bathroom, kitchen, and two tvs.  It has indoor plumbing for Pete’s sake!  That’s right.  We will be living like kings for a couple of weeks.  (Hey, I can see the good in everything.)

Classroom on the right

Looks as though one of my first projects will be painting our classroom and removing the old play set, but for now everything is still frozen to the ground.

 

My Alaska Man

The same things that make me crazy are the same things that I love the most about my husband.  I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it makes sense to me.  We’ve been married twenty years this November and we’ve experienced great joy and challenges over the years.  He told me the other day that a lot of life happens with me and there is never a dull moment.  I’m going to take that as a compliment. 

We are very different in a lot of ways, but when the rubber meets the road we are on the same page.  We both agreed it was time to make major changes in our life, we both agreed that our children will benefit immensely by having more Mommy time, and we agreed that living without indoor plumbing might be one of our biggest adventures yet.  Ha Ha.  It’s really not that big of a deal to me, since I grew up in several places that had no indoor plumbing or at least it was marginal at best.  I just say, “we’ll improvise.”

My husband is the quintessential Alaska man.  That is, he wears blue jeans and t-shirts and the occasional insulated flannel and has a huge collection of caps (great for those days when you don’t have a shower handy).  I stopped buying him “nice” clothes years ago, because they just hang in the closet with the tags still attached.  He has worn a tie twice since we met:  at our wedding and one other time when he borrowed one from a friend (the friend also had to tie it, because I am clueless).  He is a crazy snowmachine rider (broke his back last spring and was riding this winter), a hard worker (well okay, I have to say that in case his boss reads this…Hi Carl) with the same employer for over sixteen years, and just an all around nice guy (the life of the party if we ever have a party).  Oh yeah, he also drinks beer.  He has graduated from Budweiser to Rolling Rock, so there is still hope.  We have different parenting styles, different communication styles (he will freak out when he sees this is for public consumption), and very different eating habits (I’m vegetarian and he is a meat and potatoes guy).  He makes me crazy when he doesn’t remember the fifty things I asked him to do, when he feeds the kids Captain Crunch for breakfast, and the way he falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow (I call it the baby doll effect:  lean back, eyes close, game over).  His snoring keeps me awake, he is a neat freak (I’m just a freak), and he puts the knives in the dishwasher with the blades pointing up.  That really drives me crazy.  But, for all the little idiosyncrasies we remain together and in love (right honey?). 

I know he would run into a burning building for us and do absolutely anything to protect us.  What I have really learned though is that he listens.  He doesn’t seem to be listening, because he’s so fidgety and if you sit down with him and talk he practically falls asleep.  Case in point…I mentioned to him how important it is for the classroom to be ready when we get to the cabin.  That way we can stay on our school schedule and get organized more quickly.  The thought of him building the room while all of the stuff is in the middle of the cabin was causing me a lot of anxiety.  Yikes, we only have four hundred square feet.  Come on people!  I am human after all.  So, for the past three days (his days off by the way) he has driven over fifty miles each way and battled the snow, wind, and rain to get our room ready.  He was determined to get the roof on today although it was snowing sideways and he was freezing and all alone.  He did it though.  What’s so funny about all of this is that I knew he would.  He has been grumbling about me expecting the impossible, but I knew he was capable.  And he is. 

Photo:  Is that the cutest classroom you’ve ever seen?  My husband finished the roof today on the new addition on the right.  If I’m really nice maybe he will build a storage shed and we’ll get both sides.

 

Winter is Not Saying Goodbye

We had a snowstorm yesterday and today we awoke to the howling wind.  My husband and a friend (thanks Stewart) were able to get the classroom almost done…everything except the roof.  The room is basically the other half of a building that we built a couple years ago.  Later this summer we plan on constructing an outbuilding for storage and opening the classroom to the other side to double the space.  The weather is prohibiting the roof going on today, so we’ll have to wait and see if that gets done while we still have road access. 

Photo left:  We got about four inches of snow last night, but you can see the progress of the classroom.

Photo above:  Entering the lake today with whiteout conditions.  Mother Nature is just throwing everything she has our way. 

Photo:  This is the highway headed to Anchorage this morning.  Whiteout conditions here too.  When you live in Alaska you cannot let the weather change your plans too much, because you’d never leave your house.  The weather is just a part of the Alaska experience which makes you tough.

 

Spring Snowstorm

Photo:  A spring snowstorm blew in this morning and made everything look like a milk bottle.  This is the road as you enter onto the lake. 

Photo:  My husband braved the weather today and was able to get most of the framing done for the classroom (thank you Ken).  It’s a 12′ x 12′ space which I’m so grateful to have.

Photo:  The ice road across the lake is almost unrecognizable now that it’s turned to slush.  6-8 inches of water (overflow) floats on top of the ice now.  We should have a few more days to get things done before it’s time to stay off the lake.

Today I made progress by gathering things we’ll need for summer.  We made our annual trek to the mill and feed store to get Crocs and flip flops for everyone (thank you Kelly).  We also procured a few lake essentials:  rain boots for puddle jumping, sunscreen for those scorching hot summer days (yeah, right), and water shoes to keep the leeches off our feet and protect our tender toes.  

Another big accomplishment was getting connected to the outside world today.  We now have our land line working and internet connection (thank you Tasha).  No tv service though…bummer.  Actually I love the idea, but my husband may have withdrawals.  We mostly use our cell phones there, but the service is not reliable.  It’s nice to have the permanent line for emergencies and of course those long-winded conversations with my sister.  Perhaps we will try the webcam and Skype this summer to keep in touch with family and friends.  Last but not least, we officially appointed a mascot (thank you LA) for our new adventure.  Buddy the Bear.  You will see a lot of Buddy this summer, so stay tuned…

 

Full Circle

Some of you might be reading this and scratching your head wondering what in the world is she doing?  Well, I’m making this move deliberately and consciously with the full support of my husband and children.  Honestly, we are all excited about the adventure that lies ahead and for the kids each day will be like an extended summer vacation.  We have not stamped an expiration date on this journey, so we might still be on this path by winter or we may have found a new zip code.  In my mind whatever happens is part of the bigger plan called Life and I’m grateful for the opportunity to discover what makes me tick.  I’m very proud to have mustered the courage to be Me and all that entails (thank you Kelly B).

When I awoke this morning I kept thinking “full circle” and wondered why this concept was so important.  Tonight I was studying with my oldest son and suddenly realized the significance of this thought.  I truly had an epiphany!  (Don’t you just love that word?  It’s so much fun.)  You know…a light bulb moment.  I finally understood why I had been pushing away the very idea of a simpler life, because in the past simple equalled failure in my brain.  For years I thought the chaos of work and hectic schedules and accumulating stuff meant I was a success.  I actually believed this insanity!  I also tried really hard to conform to society’s definition of success and normal.  I was never at peace or happy with myself in this state and now I know why.  Crazy Land is not where I want to reside.  Please understand that I absolutely love my work, but will be conducting business a little differently.  Helping others and inspiring people to help themselves is in my DNA (thank you Troy) and I wouldn’t abandon that part of my life for anything.  That is my purpose on Earth.  I have learned what’s most important to me and that is being present NOW for myself, my family, and everyone that I encounter.  Life is what me make of every moment.  Now I measure success by the amount of joy that I’m experiencing.  I certainly cannot put a price tag on that.

Most people who know me are not aware that I grew up very modestly.  Literal translation:  dirt poor.  I programmed my brain to accept a distorted reality of believing the further and faster I ran from anything that resembled my childhood the better.  I figured if I lived a life that looked completely different from the way I grew up I was successful.  This was actually my measuring stick.  That’s because I believed that being poor meant failure or at a minimum lack of success.  My personal concept of success now has nothing to do with my net worth.  It has everything to do with my self-worth though.  I’ve come completely full circle and back to where I began as a child.  A simple life!  However you want to dissect it I have realized that being Me is about living my life on purpose with passion.  I almost feel like saying, “Hello You, where have you been?  Or what took you so long?  Or, duh!”