Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: Closing the Books

 It is time once again to let a new chapter in the Fam Och saga begin. But as always, closing the books on 2011 requires a bit of reflection.

CHANGE

It's what seemed to be the theme of this past year.



The biggest one being leaving this behind.
This one event was by far the most difficult thing we had to do. Dylan had his first swing here. The girls came home from the hospital as newborns here. We had numbers of Easters, Thanksgivings, and Christmases...opening presents by the fireplace...Simply put, this place housed every Fam Och memory for eight years. Leaving it suddenly made us feel vulnerable and unprotected somehow.


But we soon realized that although the circle of 2325 West will always have a special place in our hearts, home is always always always where the heart is.  And this little townhouse unit on base at present, fits the bill.

We've minimized and redesigned, explored new ideas, and set up house and made this our home.

Alaska is a place of wonder and adventure. Nature in extremes of beauty and weather, there really is nothing like it. Fam Och thanks its lucky stars every day we get to partake in its glory.

We've travelled on many occasions, whether on a train tour to see Mt. McKinley, or a plane trek across the Pacific to see my hometown. 

But when we look back at this past year, the main thing that comes to mind is how this family has banded together and hunkered down against all the difficulties of change. The Mister and I look at our children and see the most well-adjusted, truly wonderful kids we could ever have. And really, what more can we wish for?

So bring it on 2012! 

Livy and her Friend

I must admit this pairing caught me by surprise, although when I think about it now, it really shouldn't have.  Jasper's older brother JR was Dylan's best big buddy, and when I was younger, their oldest brother was mine. From the beginning, Liv started referring to Jasper as "my friend."


He would come over with gifts and chocolate cake. They would chat and play and Liv absolutely loved all the attention.

video

Jasper, in his full police uniform, sitting and enjoying "tea" with Little Livy.

These are those heartwarming moments that cancel out all the unwanted drama of this trip. :-)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

PI Vacay: Pistols and Revolvers and Bullets, Oh My!

 My younger cousin is a rookie cop (and also my youngest child's favorite friend, but that has nothing to do with this particular post). Of course, he finds a lot in common with the hubby.  During our first day there, I needn't worry that the Mister would be avoided/ignored since Jasper chatted up a storm and asked a multitude of questions about his service.

Anyway, it was during that day that tentative plans were made to go target shooting. It was agreed that he and a friend would supply the hardware if we supplied the ammo.

Unfortunately, the actual day of, I was nursing a nasty migraine so I had to bow out (who would want to be in the same room with a chick who is nauseous, sensitive to light and sound, and carrying a loaded gun?). So the boys plus T'Anna bounded off, a .38 revolver, .45 pistol, and a heavy heavy box of bullets in hand.

 Normally, minors are not allowed to participate in the firing range. But, as most things involving rules in the Philippines, a bit of "negotiating" gave Dylan the go-ahead. For the record, the hubby is very very comfortable with these weapons and I was there when the safety lesson was administered.

video
My boy and his first time shooting.

Dylan's target.
Pretty ghetto, huh? But hey, there's no reason to waste resources if the holes can simply be covered by masking tape and reused. LOL

This was hubbyman's target. 
Note the gaping hole in the center of the head. Pretty damn impressive, wouldn't you say?


video
T'Anna shooting for the first time as well.

They had a great time while I napped the pain away. They decided to do it again, that time with Jasper's new gun (they do not issue weapons, cops must actually purchase their own), aiming at cans near the lake.

PI Vacay: Splash Island, Laguna

A real huge plus living where my mom lives is the super close proximity to this water park. Ten minute drive...in the PI, the shorter the drive, the better. The Mister and I rounded up the clan and treated everyone to a day at Splash Island. Another awesome plus...the regular admission price of P500 per person (approx. $11.60) was slashed in half because we were residents of the town. 

P250 per person for 24 persons = P6,000 ($124 USD total)
Can anyone say SCREAMIN' DEAL?

We arrived early and rushed to the VIP villa (first come first serve) and claimed it as our own.  The villa's living room portion is enclosed by glass walls, with the sleeping quarters and private shower further inside.  I have this thing about public shower facilities...as I have issues about all sorts of stuff with potential germ infestations...so the P5000 ($119USD) was well worth it, especially since that villa is the only place within the park with air conditioning.

There is stuff for everyone here. There was a kids pool and playground area, but my girls preferred the wave pool. My mom was gracious enough to take them under her wing while the Mister and I joined the adults for more adult sized fun.
This is called Magellan's Drop.  It can be a bit disconcerting laying on a thin rubber mat, stomach down, head first, waiting for your go-ahead to push off. But the thought of smokin' all the other three in this race was more fun than scary. (Dylan was a tad nervous, so I told him to lift up on the mat when he wanted to slow down...which was of course a complete lie...it actually made you go faster...But he won his race with his cousins, so he didn't complain. Lol)

There were inner tube slides, enclosed slides, some you can ride with a partner, and others you had to ride alone.

Our favorite was the Rio Montanosa, a slide you can ride on a giant raft that holds five adults. We all endured the thigh-burning climb up several times with our big group just to scream all the way down again.

Francis, Sophia, Andrea, Auntie Linda

 Lulu, Auntie Elsie, and my mother sitting on the "shores" of the wave pool.

Marie, Olivia, Richelle, Andrea

The girls with Kuya Francis

Since it was December and considered a "cold" month (is there really such a thing in the Philippines?), the park is only open from Friday to Sunday. We would have happily gone more times had it not conflicted with all our other plans. If you are ever in the Metro Manila area, Splash Island is a must-see.

PI Vacay Day 1: Gastronomic Adventures and Disasters

 To say that my family to include mommy dearest was excited for Fam Och's arrival would be an understatement. We arrived at Casa Corazon at 0230 on 30 November after the missing baggage fiasco at the airport and the ever enlightening drive on the SLEX (pronounced ES-Lex...as in South Luzon Expressway) in which I believed our van would catapult to our certain deaths once every ten seconds or so. A welcome party to include a house blessing was scheduled that same afternoon.

It was ambitious, yes, considering factors of jet lag and children and such. But surprisingly, sleep struggles were not to be an issue this trip.  Apparently, the fam somehow managed to nap at precisely the perfect times during our flights to synchronize our internal clocks to that of the Philippine time zone. I have no clue how that came about, although there were many a time back in the Yukon in which I attempted to figure out some sort of sleeping schedule strategy on the plane (yeah, waste of time...but I had to try).

What didn't come as a surprise was the Mister's stint with food poisoning. The Philippines and food poisoning are best friends. Drinking water is the usual culprit. My mother was thoroughly prepared for our weak foreign stomachs and had a cache of filtered water at the ready...in the kitchen, in the upstairs fridge, and even in all the bathrooms (we were not even allowed to dip our toothbrushes in water from the tap).  Even the ice cubes in the freezer were filtered. So we should have been all set, right?

Well...no. This is MY husband after all, whose luck with these sort of things could qualify him as a certifiable jinx.

The man got food poisoning ON THE PLANE.  Yep, you heard me. Somewhere between the continental United States, Korea, and the Philippines, a nasty little bug claimed my hubbyman as victim. Upon landing in Manila, he had already broken out into a sweat and as I feared for our lives during the drive to momma's, he was curled up into a ball of spastic intestines.

Aside from the precursor introductions, the Mister spent Day One in the bathroom or in bed. Poor guy.


The parish priest made a house call to bless the house after extensive renovations were completed.

After a blessing, it is tradition to throw some coins for prosperity. 

Yeah, that's a whole pig. Roasted on a spit for hours and hours. The Mister was uber excited for this...poor guy missed out.

My Auntie Elsie's specialty pork kebabs marinated in her super secret sauce. This stuff is so good it's ridiculous. Liv loved this so much, she ate this for the majority of her meals there.

Huge shrimp for our seafood aficionado, Sophia. She refused to eat anything else. 

Pancit bihon. Soooo good.

The food spread was expansive. It took two long tables to lay everything out. I was in tummy time heaven.

The girls made friends effortlessly. They were always surrounded by my cousins and their children. 
JR, Jasper, Sophie, Richelle, Justin

Liv and two of her favorite three friends, Jasper, being her original number one "friend".

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

PI Vacay: The Flight(s) There

 As I completely ignored this blog during the vacation...(I tell you if you ever get cursed with dealing with Filipino cable internet as slow as a dial-up connection, you would, too)...the following posts will detail Fam Och's Christmas vacation.

Let's first start with the flight to our intended destination.

The goal this time around was to find airfare with dates compatible with the Mister's limited amount of leave days.  But, more importantly, the total $$$ would have to be pocket-friendly. After months of scouting internet prices, I stumbled across a short-lived sale and as the tickets were several hundred Benjamins less than what I've normally seen, I snapped them up. (International airfare during the holidays must be bought in advance, esp. with a traveling group of five. In this case, we found the best prices in October for travel in December.)

So our itinerary had us flying this route:

ANC-SEA-INC-MNL

3.5 hours to Seattle, 12 hours to Seoul-Incheon, 4 hours to Manila
+
2 hour layover in Seattle and 2 hr layover in Seoul
=
24 hours total traveling time

Yowza!




We've never travelled on Asiana Airlines before.  It is a South Korea-based airline, with its hub in Seoul. It's been my experience when flying multiple carriers (we flew Alaskan Airlines to SEA and must switch to Asiana from there) to check-in again at the gate of the new airline. However, instead of the gate, there was an official check-in counter serving all the Asiana gates. And as the fam was seated at the rear of the ANC-SEA plane, we were last to disembark, and therefore, last in line.  The entirety of the two hour layover in Seattle was spent standing in line to check-in, with the Mister sneaking off to the snack bar to purchase munchies for the kids.


All in all, the thousand-hour flight across the Pacific was uneventful. They had complimentary slippers, toothbrush/toothpaste packs, hand lotion, and combs available for passengers.  Headphones were free as well, although purchasing an adapter would allow you to use your own, far superior headphones/earphones set. You can choose between a Western or Korean dish...same ole airplane food...bleh. 


I did appreciate the built in head support...no more lolling heads!


Seoul-Incheon has been given rave reviews on its airport. I do admit it was pretty nice in there.  I didn't expect, however, that although we were just passing through to a connecting flight out of the country that we would still have to pass through another security checkpoint...which isn't a big deal for the fam since we have it down to a science (lol)...but the LINES!...the LINES!...and we only had a two-hour layover!...and we were again exiting from the back of the plane!...and our flight arrived 45 minutes late!

So here's the secret to this.  Passengers tend to herd over and try to speedwalk, following the green "Transfer" signs pointing to the security checkpoint.  They will ALL stop at the first one they come to, not knowing there are several of them in the airport.  Smartest thing to do? Bypass the first one, keep walking until you spot another "Tranfer" directional sign and head there.  You'd save yourself the time of waiting in yet another lengthy queue. Unfortunately, we didn't quite realize this until the flight back home. Needless to say, we were the last ones to board the final flight to Manila.


Now, the airport in Manila (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) is the exact opposite of Incheon...as in it has been rated as one of the worst airports in the world.  Ummmm, yeah, I can see why.  Usually, when deplaning, you can sense the temperature change only when walking through the jetway (that walkway that connects the plane to the terminal)...and when finally in the interior of the airport, you are once again oblivious to the heat/cold outside. Not so here.  This place needs an HVAC overhaul. If you're smart and packed a change of clothes in your carry-on, change into a T-shirt and shorts prior to landing. 

Immigration cards must be filled out for EACH member of the traveling party.  My cuz had the misfortune of being told otherwise and she had to fill out three more cards at the entry counter.  Visitors/tourists are limited to a three-week stay...any longer and you would need a visitor's visa which you should apply for in advance. If, however, you plan on staying longer (like we did) but have at least one member of your party who at point held a Filipino passport/birth certificate/proof of Filipino citizenship, simply present it to the immigration officer to receive your "Balikbayan" stamp. This exempts you from needing a visa, and applies to all members of your party. (I had discarded my Filipino passport long long ago, and since I was born in Japan and simply registered at the Philippine Embassy there, I did not have an official NSO Filipino birth certificate, I did not have official proof of prior citizenship. However, I just talked to the officer in fluent Tagalog, explained the situation, and received the stamp regardless.)


Remember that post wherein I listed some pretty nifty goodies that could help in keeping my rugrats from morphing into hellions on the flight? If not, click up on that subtitle. 

-The Trunki's were AWESOME. No strollers! The girls just hopped on theirs and went for a ride. Plus they fit perfectly under the seats in front of us. 

-iPod touches and their earphones were priceless when compared to the quiet time we had.

-Activity books and markers also kept them busy.

All the others were ok, but those three were the hit and I will never ever travel without them again. We received so many "Your kids are the most well-behaved kids I have ever sat next to."

Anyway, so that's how the first part of the trip went. Part II coming up.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Disappointment Strikes

 
I excitedly started counting down for this "grand" vacation to the Philippines several months out.  It had been a whole decade since I've stepped foot here, my mother being the only relative I've seen regularly since she treks over every year or so to visit us. To say I was excited was a gross understatement. I grew up in a family that spent vacations back home (here) rather than in new locales.  My sister and I cherished those times, flying back to the Philippines, staying at a hot and cramped house with a toilet that didn't have a flushing mechanism rigged to it. We didn't care, we were with our cousins, and we spent the days running around the small village, sneaking up on the corrugated steel roofs, telling of crushes and ghost stories of a half-man half-horse that smoked cigars and lounged in large trees (i know...weird...but "kapres" were scary when you were 8 years old).

I had this intense desire to show the Mister and kids how I had grown up this way, and I talked it up to them, going on and on about family members and their respective quirks...how this cousin was the neighborhood alarm clock since he tended to turn up the soft ballads radio station while he bathed in the morning and sang along with his loudest most off-key voice, often transposing his own personalized lyrics to the songs...or how this uncle had a habit of grabbing unsuspecting nephews and nieces and bit their fingers...or that cousin who had a pair of intensely hyperactive children whom I was sure would make great playmates for the girls. 


I had hoped that perhaps my children would make those lifelong connections as I did, forging close relationships this time with their second cousins (the children of my cousins)...that just maybe they would be the ones begging to go back whenever the opportunity for a vacation came up again.  Sadly, it is not so. 

I don't know what happened between the ten years I have been gone. Or even from when I was a child and now...Back then, although the language barrier was always present...it never seemed to be an issue.  I was raised bilingual (I am fluent in both English and Filipino), although my little sister could only understand Filipino but could not fluently speak it. There were times I had difficulty translating what I wanted to say into terms my cousins would understand...but we always found a way to understand each other...

Now, it seems this language barrier has manifested into a physical roadblock, standing in between Mister D and his cousins his age.  And as I had explained to my eldest beforehand, he would have to make the initial effort to communicate with them, as children here are generally shy and uncomfortable when it came to speaking English.  Being here for our second week, I've sat back and appreciated my normally timid son's attempts to make a connection with them.  This is not a natural thing for him, either.  And when I observe him approach a group of cousins and then see those guys turn their backs all for the mere fact that they are uncomfortable with communication, it simply hurts my heart.  And angers me all at the same time.  Here is my son, the one who is different, making the attempt to fit in...putting himself out there, as uncomfortable as any kid who is trying to be accepted...and he gets shunned.

It angers me to see such rudeness...such ignorance...such weakness.  It makes me want to point fingers and set blame...on those kids for hurting my child...on their parents for raising children who lack a spine...but in reality, I am just angry at myself for putting my faith in these people only to have my son hurt.

Now, Mister D has expressed his disappointment in the family I had talked up so much.  He says he does not want to return, and that perhaps he would be happier if we made an early return to Alaska. And I can't blame him.

And let's not even get into the other family drama ever present here...goodness! constantly hearing about it has exhausted me. One thinks she is being taken advantage of and disrespected.  The other thinks she is also being taken advantage of and disrespected. WTF. Has anybody heard of actually talking to the other person and trying to sort things out? So I am here, a sounding board for both, as they refuse to look at anything said at face value, instead twisting it and molding it to serve as some poisonous weapon to further corrode the relationship. It does wonders for the Christmas spirit.

Nine days into this vacation, I spent in my room crying, fed up with the drama. The hubby and I have decided to approach this vacation in a different way now.  Instead of the grand month-long family reunion I had built up for Fam Och to enjoy, we are instead focusing inward into our own family.  This will be just like any other Fam Och vacay...all five of us, enjoying what's available here in terms of entertainment, food, and culture. There will be no hurt alienated feelings when it is just us.  No petty concerns or little white lies...false pretenses...and plain old stupidity. I am officially done with it.  I have never imagined this would be such a disappointment. Good thing is, it's not too late to change that.  Hopefully, with this inward approach, it'll still be a memorable vacation rather than an enormous waste of money.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Perfect Travel Kicks for Kids

 
Well, now that TSA has revamped their security screening procedures for kiddos 12 and under, I suppose this won't make as much a difference as it would beforehand.  But here it is anyway...

Fam Och travels frequently and the children are well-trained on airport procedures. (It doesn't hurt that psycho Missus Och holds a drill or two at home on security checkpoint actions before the flight.) We've received many impressed/surprised reactions when the girls plop their backpacks/hoodies/shoes in their own tray and push it down the conveyor belt all by themselves. The only hiccup that hasn't been perfected is the chaos involving the whole fam struggling to re-don their shoes and get out of the way of others passing through...someone needs their laces tied or a sock gets bunched up towards their toes that the heel won't fit inside the shoe...Well, Crocs (I know many of you think they look hideous) are the answer! BUT, since TSA has ruled little ones need not strip their shoes off going through security....well, it shouldn't be an issue anymore...

Except, my kiddos will more than likely want to kick off their shoes once settled in our two thousand hour flight across the Pacific Ocean, get cold, put them back on, kick them off only right before they need to put them back on again because they need to go potty.  And the genius of the slip-on shoe is worth the $30 bucks again.  

What I like about this particular shoe for this particular trip:

  • The removable fluffy fleece lining.  This is perfect for dual-weather trips like this. The kids need warm and cozy kicks to keep the piggies toasty during traveling time (it is expected ANC will be hovering around 5 degreed Fahrenheit)...but they will also need breathable, lightweight, sockless ones for the 85-90 degree temps awaiting us in tropical heaven. Two-in-one slip-ons mean less packing space needed! Yay for more space!
  • The adjustable back strap.  It can be shoved aside for hurried simple slipping on, or if you are trekking across to another terminal, the strap can be put in place to keep the shoe more secure.
They are available at Zappos.com, or if you're local to ANC, Fred Meyer has a whole section devoted to them.  Anything to make this trip or any trip less stressful.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

So Very Soon...

 

In less than two weeks, baby. Less than two weeks. 
(And no, this isn't a pic I randomly grabbed from Google Images. I will be in THAT particular infinity pool very very very soon.)
Eat your hearts out.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Anticipation...

 

...of Shark Week...

Disclaimer: for all of you of the five limbed gender, you may opt to stop reading right now...as this post is certainly of the TMI sort, and you may never think of me the same. Why, you say? This seems harmless enough, right? The Discovery Channel's show special is universally liked! Well, us females deem our...errrr....most...ummmm...hormonally active week as such...so for your sake...the little red X button is on the upper left corner for Macs, and upper right for PC's. Thank you and have a good day.

Okay, ladies, obviously my monthly SW extravaganza is stalking me around in circles, ready to pounce once the calendar hits that number circled in blood red. In all actuality, this isn't about the actual event, it's more about the week-long pre-awards show. 

It effing sucks. Most times, it sucks more ass than the arrival of my great white. For a week prior, I have an out of body experience. My sane composed self sits on the leather armchair in the corner, observing the evil incarnate taking over my body and making my head spin in circles.

During this week, my children wear earplugs and flip me the bird whenever we cross paths and the Mister dons his hat in the form of an ass and elicits random urges to give his nutsack a good heartfelt kicking. (No, my kids would never really do that...they are normal respectful children...and my husband is only an asshat in my mind.) See? I am fully aware my mind is certifiably bonkers during this time...yet my foot wants to meet the Mister's crotch in such violent ways regardless! Oh, goodness, my poor family.

This is the week the entire household floor is magically smothered in eggshells like some perennial curse. This is the week I nitpick and forbid other members of the fam to do the same. 
As in:

"What was THAT look for? What do you mean NOOOOTHING?!?! It doesn't mean NOOOOTHING if you apply that type of intonation to it!" Eyes as big as saucers and steam puffing from ears and everything....as target of nitpicking slowly but purposefully moves towards the hall in the desperate hope of escape.

For this week, I become the chimp whose food bowl gets shoved into the cage until I tire of flinging shit at the walls. To make matters worse, immediately after all this, I have yet another week to feel uncomfortable and disgusted. Just makes me want to kick a nutsack real bad.

Are there drugs for this? 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Breaking Out the Cold Weather Gear!

 Ooops, it looks like I clicked on "Publish" before I even wrote the post. Gomenasai!

This one was inspired, obviously, by the freakishly sudden appearance of the Alaskan winter wonderland this year. The temps had already dipped and leaves had messed themselves all over my lawn prior to October, but the cold fluffy white stuff was still nowhere to be found. Heck, New England got buried in a storm before we did! BUT, this weekend, it started to fall...

...and for the first time in four days, it has finally taken a break.  All in the span of one weekend, the gray asphalt of roads and sidewalks are nowhere to be seen, a mighty heated discussion of the merits of school cancellation and dangers of bus transportation took place, and the snow shovels took five trips outside to prove their worth.  I suppose this is the Alaska way. She leads you on for weeks and when you've finally given up, BAM! it smacks you right in the face!

And so the frantic digging through the bins for anti-frostbite clothing began. As temps dip into the single digits (as the sun shone at 10am this morning, the thermometer still registered a mere 9 degrees), I am ever more thankful of the judicious investing the fam has made on cold-weather gear.

Back in Utah, (where it also gets mighty cold) a simple wallet-friendly purchase of kiddie winter boots before the hordes of late shoppers whisk them away was a viable solution to outfitting the children for the weather.  Here....well, I suppose there are those here who still do the same...but the smartest thing to do is to purchase a great insulated pair of winter boots officially RATED for negative degree temps. My girls have these:

I love these Kamiks. Waterproof with aggressive tread that will keep those little bums upright and not slamming onto the sidewalk in a slip are great for snowy and icy conditions.  They have a thick wool felt insulator sock (removable) and my little ones' piggies are toasty even when the mercury drops to     -35.  Yes, peeps, it can get that cold up here. 

Another important article is the winter coat. I am a loyal fan of the Land's End 4-in-1 Expedition Parka.  Here's why: It's all about the details. 


  • It has an outer water and wind-proof outer insulated shell.  

  1. The inside collar (that strip that hits the back of your kid's neck is a soft warm fleece (No more of that shudder when the cool satiny lining touches your skin). 
  2. The faux fur portion of the hood is removable (don't you hate those that aren't bc they get ruined when you have to throw it in the wash?).
  3. The hem hits below the hip, and there is a reflective logo (perfect for the darkness here in AK) at the bottom of the hem (even when they're wearing the backpack, it doesn't get covered.
  4. Lots of pockets! There are ones for hand-warmers, inside ones for MP3 players (yeah, my kid has one, don't judge).
  5. Grow-a-long Sleeves! YES, people, these things are pricey! BUT, you can guarantee your kid can wear them for at least two winters. Why? There's a nifty hidden seam inside the sleeves that you can rip off when it seems your kid's arms are sprouting out too much. With the seams ripped out, there is an extra inch and a half of sleeve.
  6. Wrist cuffs that hook onto their thumbs that keep snow from creeping up.
  • The inner jacket liner is a contrasting color with 600 fill down, which can be worn alone, or as a vest with the sleeves zipped off.

  • With all components of the jacket on, it is rated to -15 degrees.  If you suspect it may be colder, base layer, shirt, and fleece sweater should do the trick.

Best Bet: wait towards the end of the season and buy a size up. We purchased Sophie's in late February after discovering that her Old Navy puffy jacket was not cutting it for up to -10 degree recesses at school....and SCORE!...it only cost us $40 (from $160 at regular price).

I also swear by Land's End for snow pants because of the Grow-a-Long legs that add an extra 2 inches. ..and they have colors to match the parkas.  

Gloves must be waterproof, mittens are much warmer, but kids prefer more dexterity with their fingers. 

The hats we have hang down to cover their ears.

For any of you new Alaska newbies, these are definitely worth checking out. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

No More Debbie Downer

 

I may very well be bipolar. Or at least it may seem so to my readers. My days are a roller coaster of ups and downs. This is an up day, mostly because I am trying my damn hardest to cheer up.

This morning, as I scrolled through FB (a morning ritual that is as ingrained into my routine as my cup or two of coffee), I stumbled across one that about bitch-slapped that AHA! moment across my face. It said:

"Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessing by counting your troubles."

I tell you what, this fabulous lady who posted this never fails to inspire. And so I sat here, ticking off the things that deserve gratitude...from the teeny little things that make me smile...all the way to those humongous blessings that just warm my heart. 

I hope you all have a fantastic day!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In My Humble Opinion: Facebook

 I "stole" this saying from a dear friend who knew how opinionated I am and gifted me one Christmas with a journal with the same title.  I have this idea to just start this entry and repeatedly post it after an update or two...because we all know how these "opinions" of mine never run out, right?

I tell ya, ranting and raving on the web has been nothing but cathartic. Although there are quite a few that make readers uncomfortable with my bitching, I can't stop! I don't feel better until  I talk about it, write about it, and click on that pretty little orange button called "Publish." So, rest assured, friends and family, there will be shiny happy posts left in me yet. Stay tuned for those. But in the meantime, here's another one of the different sort.

Let's talk about Facebook, shall we? Isn't it awesome? World-wide sharing in real time! Boy, do I love it. Chances are if you are reading this blog, you are an FB friend of mine as well.  So we all know how updated you all are in my day-to-days, correct? I share A-L-O-T! And although I misstep a time or two...er...ten, here is one of the things I try to avoid doing.

1) Diss the hubby.  Mind you, I don't post anything false, either. All those bragging posts of how wonderful the Mister are all true.  But have you seen one in which I am seriously complaining about him? Nope, don't think so. Especially if the Mister's bosses/colleagues/bosses' wives are part of my friend list? MMMMM...no.  You see, as the wife, I am blessed with knowing and appreciating my husband as a whole. I appreciate him despite the buttons he can push.

As an FB "friend," you don't.  All you can gauge his character on are my little ditties about him.  Why would I want my friends to just see the negative? Wouldn't that make him seem like a jerk? And wouldn't that make me look dumb because I'm putting up with it? And why in the world would I want my husband's chain of command thinking anything negative about my man? His career keeps the food on the table. Enough said.

Yeah, yeah, there's a gripe here and there...but they are all minor.  When there's an obvious trend in your updates that may suggest your husband may very well be a certified douche, it's time to get counseling, baby.  Facebook does not offer that service....yet.

**Stepping down from the blogging soapbox. And....bow, curtsy, blow kisses...Drop curtain**

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I am not a Sponge




Eeeew, this is going to be an ugly gripe post. Another testament that I am only but a flawed human being who harbors some pretty intense emotions about issues that really (no, I mean REALLY) should have no impact on my life at all.

Let me start by saying I am not a good listener. As I understand there are others who want to vent just to vent and be heard and that's that. They need a sponge in the form of a friend to help absorb the burden on their shoulders. I, however, even in the midst of my wanting a real close (and local) friend, can't seem to assume the sponge position!

You see, I'm what you call a "fixer." There's a problem? Well, rest assured, Missus Och is here to offer solutions! So when I am placed in the position of the ventee, I find myself honing in on the problem and formulating fixes. Not such a desirable thing in a sponge, I tell you.

The funny thing is, I don't even think this is the reason why I don't have many friends.  Why am I so bold to say this? (I mean, 'cuz that should be reason in and of itself, right?) Well, I dare to assume so because I still find myself being requested to perform the role of said sponge...from the same people. And it actually gets to the point that I am fed up with it!

Me, ending a friendship because I am failing as a friend...how dysfunctional is that?!?!? I've thought long and hard about this. I am a fixer because it means I am in control. I refuse to let a problem bog me down and get the better of me. Yes, I am a complete control freak, alpha female. (Lord, help my husband.)

So, when someone comes to me and complains about something....receives a number of options to solve slash alleviate the dilemma...and then decides to do nothing about it....I just get really turned off.  Because in my mind, you are surrendering to your problem, and therefore forfeit your right to whine about it. The friend doesn't even need to heed MY advice. Just do something! Take action! Don't play the victim!

Because if you don't...all I here is: "Waaaah wahhhh waaaah wahh. "In other words: "Boo hoo, I hate this is happening, but I'm gonna sit here and LET it happen. Listen to me boo hoo again and again and again, please."

By that point, I'm done. I don't want to hear anymore. Really, people! No action should equate to no whining!

That view, apparently, hasn't been passed as law into the Universal Friend Constitution. I still have not mastered the art of being what others call a "friend," I suppose. A sponge I am not. Oh, well.

So there.

Orlando Florida Vacation 2011


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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thunderbird Falls & Eklutna Lake

 Ooops, did I really forget all about this post in the making? FAIL!  Sorry, folks. As always, I have been a subpar blogger. Anywaaaaay....this mini excursion took place a couple months back in the early days of summer. We wanted a short easy hike with a rewarding endpoint (not too much to ask, right?). We took a friend's two thumbs up hiking Thunderbird Falls, just ten minutes away from the casa.

One thing we have to get used to here in AK is the parking fee required for...well...EVERYWHERE! Downtown parking is NOT free. Even the parking garage for the mall....and they don't offer validation! (Oh, Salt Lake City Gateway Mall, how I miss you!) Anywho. All Trailhead parking lots require a $5 fee. So come prepared.

The trail itself is well-maintained, and well-used.  The first 500 yards or so is a moderately steep incline, and then the trail levels out. Hiking sticks are nice on the way back down.
Towards the end, the trail forks with one way leading to the viewing deck for the falls, and the other winds down into the gorge.  We chose to see the falls first...


This picture is a sure indication that Missus Och is in desperate need of photography lessons...or a new bigger lens, perhaps? Or both? This is Thunderbird Falls as seen from the viewing deck.

We plopped down on the deck benches and enjoyed a nice little lunch. 

Goofed off a bit...

Then headed down into the secondary trail, which was much steeper. The kids did fine, though, and they sped down, eager to get to the water below.

This is about the best view you can get of the falls from the gorge below, unless you climb over some pretty slick rocks. Mister D and Sophia were begging to go until I explained that an unexpected tumble into that icy water below may not be deadly (It was pretty shallow), but the walk back to the parking lot would  be a miserable and wet one. 

It took us about an hour and a half with the hike and the lunch. We still had some energy left, so we decided to check out Eklutna Lake.

The sign as we entered the recreation ground. Lots of bears around!


Look at that view. There is a great multi-use trail that follows the perimeter of the lake.  At the other end, which is about 8? miles down is a glacier and another spectacular waterfall.  We were short on time as we still had church that night, so we just decided to let the kids run around at the beach.




This looks like a great camping spot for the fam next time around. Maybe even a little kayaking adventure later on. But for now, since summer is clearly over, it'll have to wait.