Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2012 Polar Plunge

It all started with a half-hearted invite to my friends on Facebook..."anyone want to do the Polar Plunge with me?"...I laughed when I posted it, the absurdity of plunging into a lake in the middle of an Alaskan winter far from any reality I could ever imagine. Then Missus Heck replied. She was in! And then another friend agreed. And another...and so on and so forth.

Oooops, I couldn't back out then. 

Not when all these brave and CRAZY chicks called me on it.

And so the Diva Divers were formed.

The temp was 10*F that morning. Just stepping out from that tent without our outerwear on was a struggle. 

The first group of jumpers from our team. 

The second group. I looked down into that dark water and prayed not to die. Seriously. The depth was about 5 feet, which of course, was a non-issue for everyone else.  I, on the other hand, had much more to worry about. Will the shock of the water cause an involuntary inhale while I was completely underwater? Will my mediocre floating/pretend swimming skills be enough to get me over to the ladder?

The Emcee didn't give us much time to think about all of that, though.  He counted us down, and we all just jumped in.

Hmmmm, so how would I describe it? The shock of the water instantly zapped any inkling of warmth from my body. I've gotta hand it to survival instinct. The only thing on my mind at that time (while I was hyperventilating from the cold) was to get OUT! I somehow managed to stay afloat...doggy paddled? my way to the ladder...and tried to step up. I did experience a slight delay at the ladder, my fingers were so numb/painful/frozen I couldn't quite grip onto the sides.

Being out in the open air, soaking wet, was the most painful part. Thankfully, they had hot tubs inside the tents for us to warm up in. Unfortunately, they only allowed us a ten second dip before we got kicked out to make room for the next batch of jumpers in desperate need to get warm.

After we dressed, we hung around for a little bit longer to witness our men take their turn jumping into the water. 

I had always said this was a bucket list item, a once in a lifetime experience, and something I would never do again. Yet, the excited chatter about different costumes and new participants has got me to rethink my position on the subject. Never say never, right? 


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Random Updates

 Hello! It is yours truly again popping up after yet another long absence. So what's new?

- Well, it is winter. As expected, the autumn period lasted for...hmmm....a day or two? A freak windstorm came by, knocked down trees and power lines all over the place, and then BAM! the snow is here.  Note, however, I am not complaining.  I love winter (in the beginning anyway...my enthusiasm flags around February or so when we are buried in hundreds of inches of snow) and the holidays.

- The kids are enjoying school. My high schooler is hauling home awesome grades and even got awarded a Best Student at Mathematics certificate.  Dylan and Math? The Mister and I had to scratch our heads at that and ask if he was serious. But the boy just shrugged and said, "Yeah, I guess it's starting to click now." Yay! Sophia received an Academic Excellence award for the first quarter and her teacher wants to get her tested for the Gifted Program. Olivia got a Citizenship Award (gasp!).  I was shocked....hahahaha, then guilty for not giving Miss Sassy Pants enough credit.  She CAN be a good girl when she wants to be...

- Hubbyman is enrolled...college courses in pursuit of his Community College of the Air Force degree! I am crazy excited for him, as this kept getting thrown to the back burner because of other more "important" matters. I, on the other hand, am on an extended break. Business Law (gag!) did it in for me. I will NOT take another class until after the holidays, thank you very much.

- What else is going on? Louie turned almost forty! Dylan is in the midst of basketball tryouts. The girls are preparing for their holiday piano recital on the 1st. And I am sitting here frustrated with the seemingly lackadaisical way usajobs.gov is run (don't tell me my rating for a vacancy is 98 out of 100 and make me sit here and wait and wait and wait and wait). I have a budget tech position and a human resources asst. position with the VA I am waiting for interview dates. I HATE waiting.

- Not a lot of snow right now.  Just an inch or two. Certainly not enough to sled, snowshoe, and try out the nordic tracks around the area. We are waiting for it to come down so we can go have fun!!!

No pictures as I apparently used up all my 1G of picture space for this account. I'm gonna have to figure it out without having to pay...

Anyway, apologies once more for being absent yet again. Until next time (whenever that may be)!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Last 2012 Summer Adventure: Matanuska Glacier

The frequency of Fam Och's summer adventures have steadily declined since the advent of the new school year... understandable considering the sports practices, music lessons, homework, and early bedtimes of late. But ya'll know me, right? I couldn't let summer fade away just like that.  It needed to go away with a BANG! type of trip. And this was just the excursion to officially bid farewell to warmth and sunshine until June 2013 rolls around.

Matanuska Glacier, 4 miles wide and 27 miles long, sits alongside the Glenn Highway, the largest glacier accessible by car. I've always wanted to check a glacier walk off my AK bucket list, so north we drove, past Palmer and Sutton, along the windy road lined with aspen and birch trees crisp and golden and burnt orange.

The official National Park Service viewpoint sits at Mile 101 (on the right side if you're heading north). There is a parking fee if you wish to stay longer than half an hour (there are picnic tables and a one-mile hiking trail).

The view from the scenic overlook...Matanuska Glacier, the frozen river of ice

Take note of our clothing in this picture and in the rest of pics below.  Even a mile away from the glacier face, it was COLD.  We took this snapshot, hurried into the car to get warm and headed to the access point to get a closer look.

Now, glaciers are beautiful, majestic, and simply very very cool (ahem) to look at.  But why just look when you can actually touch it...and walk on it...

Glacier Park is a privately-owned swath of land adjacent to the glacier. At Mile 102, there is a dirt road on the right that will take you on a downhill and somewhat bumpy road down.

The road is fairly smooth on the descent.

You need to cross a one-way-at-a-time bridge across the river. You'll have to stop at the gift shop to purchase your access pass.  There is a guided tour option for $50/pp.  BUT you can go unguided ($15 active military/dependents, $10/13yrs-17yrs, $5/6yrs-12yrs, free for under 6yrsold). They accept credit cards. They also have a decent bathroom (so go there unless you want a porta potty visit later on).

After a little bit more of a drive, we parked at the lot overlooking the face, got out and immediately bundled up in hoodies, fleece, down coats, hats, and gloves. We were also decked out in boots (muddy) and brought our hiking sticks (slick ice).

The first part of the 0.5 mile hike was a bit muddy.  Of course, this is mud from glacial silt. The majority of the wet portions were fine, but there were some spots that were like quicksand.  We were careful to warn the children to stay on the path, marked by orange traffic cones.  Especially muddy areas had plywood or steel walking grates to help.

 This whole time, we were excited to get to the ice...not realizing we were ALREADY on the glacier itself. We didn't quite get that until we saw this...


 The white part of the glacier (what the kids called the "real part") was fine to walk on, although I'm sure someone would have wiped out if they had chosen to run.  The ice crunched under our feet and mini streams of melting ice ran in braids all over the surface.

 A stream of meltwater...

 ...we followed it and it ran into this crevasse about ten feet deep, where you can hear it join another more swiftly flowing larger stream of water under the ice.

 We stayed about an hour, exploring a small portion of the area. (We will do more extensive exploration next year when we have more time...and crampons.) The children had fun finding the cracks in the ice and poking their walking sticks in to see how deep they were (a couple were so deep the stick would go all the way in to the handle). We called it a day and headed home.

 On the drive back, the beautiful view of King Mountain already blanketed in termination dust.

It's goodbye summer 2012, hello winter for now. (Autumn lasts for about two weeks here it seems.) This, however, does not mean the adventures of the fam are on hold 'till next year.  We are determined to explore all the winter has in store for us.  

Snowshoeing, cross country skiing, sledding, tubing, igloo building, and so so much more. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Lesson in Ska

The plan was to dance. The Mister and I haven't gone out dancing in quite some time. (Note: although I can hold a rhythm, the dancing prowess most definitely belongs to my other half) We got the kidlets fed, bathed, changed into pj's and left them with our teenager (LOVE the fact we have a live-in babysitter!).

Projected itinerary: Eddie's Sports Bar (Country) and Club Soraya (Latin)

The country bar was situated in the basement of the sports bar, with a U-shaped bar table setup around the small dance floor, with a live band at the other end. Hubby taught me to two-step (pretty simple, but killer for some reason on my hip joints) and we glided across the dance floor in a counter clockwise parade with everyone else.  

We decided to try some Latin dancing next (hubby loves to salsa), headed to Club Soraya to find it shut down. This is what I love about nights like these.  When something doesn't quite work out according to plan, it usually means there's something epic waiting around the corner.  And epic it was.

The couple we were with suggested another bar in midtown called Taproot, with the intention of catching the swing dancing (they are fantastic swing dancers). We made it there, but swing it wasn't...and we couldn't figure out the music at first.

The band is called Nervis Rex, six men in suits, ties/bowties, vests, hats, and sneakers playing a genre of music called SKA.  Never heard of it before then, but it was FANTASTIC! It's like a mix of punk/alternative rock with brass instruments.  They played contemporary music (from my heyday)...seamlessly tying in Greenday, Bob Marley, Barenaked Ladies, Marvin Gaye, Color Me Badd (didn't see that one coming), and so so so much more.  The dance floor was packed with folks who simply felt the urge to jump around, hippies who like to do that swaying with arms thing, and everyone in between. The hubby and I danced, swayed, jumped, sang, and yelled until they closed. 

I am now a bonafide fan (purchasing their CD makes me one now, right? Oh, and I 'liked' their FB page so I can follow their schedule) and will drag all my local friends the next time they are in town. So JBER folks, now is the time to have a babysitter on speed dial, because you are ALL coming with next time around. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Big Girl

The day before Kindergarten classes started, I gave my little munchkin free reign of our itinerary. 

Me:  What should we do today?

Olivia: It's too nice to stay inside, mama! I want to go play in the playground!

And so we did. Under the bright sun and clear blue skies, I played with my little girl...

Cheering her on as she slid down with hands in the air.

See-sawed and laughed with her.

When Daddy came home for lunch, we took her to Marble Slab Creamery and let her have her ice cream in a cone for the first time ever.
 Afterwards, she requested to pick fresh raspberries to pack for her lunch the next day. 

And when she jumped into my arms and wrapped her legs around me as I helped her out of the car, I cried.

I cried because the next day she would officially be a big girl...
 Going to big girl school
not needing her mommy as much.

She was eager to start on her "What I did last weekend" coloring project, deciding to draw and color a scene with her on a boat on the lake. She gave me a tight squeeze and turned to the work at hand as I side-stepped to the door, reluctant to let my baby girl out of my sight.

 It seems like it was just yesterday that she just started to crawl.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blueberry Festival

The fam enjoyed the annual blueberry festival at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood even more this year because we had three families accompany us.  We didn't spend too much time at the festival itself since our big goal for the day was to harvest some berries!

It was pretty comical at times, the huge herd of our four families lumbering down the Winner Creek Trail, the energetic children gallivanting through the rainforest, oblivious to the vicious pricks of the devil's club thorns brushing up against their clothes.  As for the berry harvest itself, we weren't very impressed.  It seemed Winner Creek (on the resort side) was either picked over already or is still trying to recover from last year's moth infestation. The few that were still there were small and tart.

In any case, the mini hike was still fun for all.  
Never mind the formal footbridge crossing the creek...the fallen log was much more enticing to cross to the other side...

 The kids had a great time along the trail boardwalks, keen to spot a ripe berry or two waiting for them off the trail.

After heading back to soothe our grumbling tummies with some bison burgers and mac and cheese with reindeer sausage, the group slowly started to disassemble.  One fam decided to stay behind to pick on the slopes of the ski mountain.  Another had to leave to make a prior engagement.

The rest of us left behind drove to the other end of the trail to pull ourselves across the gorge, where the confluence of the Crow, Winner, and Glacier creeks roared below, via hand tram (mentioned in a previous post).

 The view from inside the cage, suspended midway between terminals.

 The girls peering down, just a bit nervous.
The berry picking on that side was more successful, with large ripe almost black Alaska blueberries and juicy salmonberries all for the taking.

On a side note, I just found a treasure trove of picking places on post!  
 Small but sweet and juicy raspberries

We had found this bush plus a couple others during a nice drive around base one night. I had wanted to bring a friend along the next day with me to pick them, but since she was busy, I just took the kids instead.
 The kids got a kick out of this pic since Liv's position in the foreground made her look a bit gigantic compared to the other two.

Now, the big surprise of this mini-picking trip with my kiddos was not the red currants, lingonberries, and raspberries we picked...but these HUMONGOUS watermelon berries! They were the biggest we've ever seen them...big as grapes!

 And then we found THESE.  The dreaded and DEADLY baneberry. All it takes is a couple of these berries and a small child will suffer cardiac arrest within minutes.
I was quite excited to find them just so I could see a plant in person. I used that as an opportunity to teach the kids to look out for this berry/plant and to NEVER EVER pick them. (Actually, as a general rule, the kids are not allowed to pick round red berries because of this very reason.  Blueberries, watermelon, and salmonberries/raspberries are all they are allowed to pick.)
They look pretty scary, don't they?

My bowl of watermelon berries. We had stopped by hubby's workshop to drop him off some of these (they're his favorite...and he couldn't believe how big they were). Thank goodness we did as these were GONE a minute or two after this picture was taken.