Friday, April 03, 2009

Mad Max: Beyond Pinewood Derby

William had his pinewood derby this week. He designed his car all by himself. He even built most of it himself. I helped with the bandsaw because I wanted him to keep his fingers. But he did all the sanding, painting, and gluing. He really surprised us with his creativity. It came out kind of "medieval meets post-apocalyptic future". Rebecca called it Mad Max: Beyond Pinewood Derby.

The name really cracked me up. We were coming back from his den meeting last week. I asked him what he wanted to name his car. He jokingly asked for our 20,001 Baby Name books. I thought he was serious so I said, "sure, but what are you going to name it . . . Bob?" We laughed about silly names for the car. I said I had seen Grendel in our baby book. That got us talking about weird names and their meanings. I mentioned the name "Lilith" and how it meant "night hag" and its mythology. Yah it's true, go on and google it. And by the way, who would ever name their girl Lilith. Will thought it was cool name for a car. I didn't think anything about it until he showed us the final painting job. The name does match the car. He had the coolest looking car at the race.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pinewood Derby Time

It is spring and that means Pinewood Derby time. This is one of my favorite things about having sons. I loved making and racing pinewood derby cars when I was a boy. And now I am having as much fun watching William do it. And yes I am letting him do most of the work, though I sometimes have to sit on my hands.

It is really easy, as a father, to get too involved in the making of his son's car. In fact it is a running joke in Cub Scouts about how much fathers do just that. Last year I saw the movie Down and Derby, which follows a group of highly competitive fathers who go way overboard with their sons' cars. I just about died laughing because it was so true. The only thing that wasn't real was how much the wives put up with it.

Inside every man is a boy and every boy loves building and racing little wooden cars. The only difference between men and boys is men can finally build the cars they always dreamed about as boys.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Redoubt Erupts

Mt. Redoubt finally erupted last night on Sunday night spewing (what a great descriptive word) ash 50,000 feet in the air. It looks like the wind is blowing north to northeast. The news broadcaster seemed a little disappointed when he announced that ash cloud wouldn't hit any population centers. I can understand a little. After all the hype over the last couple of months it was a little bit of a let down.

I remember the last time Mt. Redoubt dumped on Anchorage. The falling ash was bending the light so the street lights were looking greenish. It made everything look really eerie. We got a day off of school and afterwards scooped up lots of ash into those little plastic film canisters. It was a cool experience. Yah, it is a shame it will miss us--a crying shame.

I took the above photo while flying to Iliamna. I guess it is out of date now.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Art of Being a Dad

One of the best things about fatherhood is being able to play with your kids. They should be wrestling on the floors, having doll tea parties, or telling silly stories. It is the fun part of being a father. If you are doing it right your kids will know it. It also can be an art form where you get to use your imagination and talents to have fun with them.

I recently was introduced to a website where a father has truly turned fatherhood into an art form. He is a father who spends his lunch breaks drawings on his kids lunch bags for the following day. Each day he posts his creations on his tumbleblog. These are the coolest lunch bags ever. My kids thought so too. We had a lot of fun picking out the characters and pop references. They picked out their favorites:

William: Pikachu.

Gwenna:Hair Band Unicorn.

Benjamin: Roger, Roger.

My favorite was probably the Surfing Samurai Squid or Armor Mothra, though it technically wasn't a lunch bag. Now, I have to get going . . . I need to find some paper bags and crayons.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Following the Iditarod

We have been following Iditarod on the web. Here are some of the websites we have enjoyed:

Official Iditarod Website: It has all the official stats, updates, current listings, musher bios.

Iditarod Blog: This has personal stories and dog profiles.

Anchorage Daily News: Has stories and read submitted photos.

Ultimate Iditarod: Not official, but lots of cool facts, information, and trivia.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Iditarod Fever!

Saturday was the start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. I don’t ever remember being into the Iditarod when I was growing up here. I remember when Susan Butcher was winning and some of the other big names, but we didn’t follow it. Then we moved back to Alaska. In 2006, I took our two oldest, Will and Gwen, downtown to see the start of the Iditarod race. I don’t even remember why we went. It was probably just something to do on a Saturday morning or to give Rebecca a break. Either, way I packed up the kids and a stroller. I was surprised by how exciting it was to see the dogs and the mushers get ready. It really is the dogs that set the tone. They are all riled up, barking and pulling at their traces. The kids loved seeing all those dogs and the sleds. There is just something really fun about dog mushing.

While we were watching a musher prep her dogs--she was putting booties on the dogs’ feet--she started talking to Gwen who was sitting in her stroller. Gwen was really cute and chatty. When she was done she handed Gwen one of the doggie booties and told her it had been on the Iditarod trail. Gwen clutched that bootie the rest of the day. She was really proud of it when she showed it to Rebecca.

For the past three years, we have tried to go the Iditarod start, but for one reason or another we never did. This year we put it on the calendar in advance and kept the day open. Last Friday night, I brought home a huge map of the Iditarod Trail. That night we each picked a musher.

I chose Ed Iten of Kotzebue, AK. I met him this summer in Selawik. I got to know him a little and he is a really nice guy.

Rebecca chose Sven Haltmann of Willow, AK. She liked his name and the fact that he was from Willow.

When William was asked who he wanted he shouted Lance Mackey of Fairbanks, AK. He is the Tiger Woods of sled dog racing. No really, he is.

It came as no surprise to us that Gwenna chose DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow, AK. She is the top female competitor and one of the most well known mushers. She also seems to like pink a lot. It was an easy sell for Gwenna.

Benjamin chose Ray Redington Jr. of Wasilla, AK. Ben picked him because as Ben put it he is the son (actually grandson), of the King of the Iditarod.

Timothy chose Rick Larson of Montana. It was a tough pick for our four-year-old, with several other mushers being picked then dropped.

Xianli chose Judy Currier of Fairbanks, AK because I have worked with her husband. He races in even years.

Ransom, at six months, played it safe and went with Martin Buser of Big Lake, AK who holds the current record for the fastest Iditarod run ever.

So once we picked our mushers, we headed off to the race on Saturday to cheer them on. We had a great time walking around downtown and watching the dogs. We tried to track down our mushers. William and I got to shout “Good luck!” to Lance Mackey. I don’t think he heard. There were too many groupies in front of us. Gwenna got to see DeeDee’s team but not DeeDee. We saw several others too. In all, it was really fun and now we are tracking them as they race towards Nome.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Alaskan Winter Barbeque

We have been having a lot of adventures and misadventures moving into our new house. We finally moved out of our three bedrooms into a four bedroom. That is a lot bigger than it sounds. We have room to grow and remodel. Plus there is a real yard.

So last weekend we rushed to move out of our old house. And this week we have been working on make the new house a home. It has been a lot of work and late nights. On Friday, we found out that we were not supposed to have taken our washer and dryer. Oops! They were part of the sale of our old house. So Saturday I spent half the day getting a truck and hauling them back to our old house. I got to meet the buyers for the first time. They were really nice and made it easy. When I got back I continued the unpacking and organizing that seems unending when you move into a new house.

While unpacking, I found our little propane barbeque. Rebecca had some steaks and asparagus, so we decided to barbeque. Of course it was February in Alaska. And it was about 20 degrees outside. And it was in the middle of a snow storm which dumped over eight inches on us.
Timothy and Benjamin helped me set up the barbeque on the back deck and cook everything. We had to shovel the deck just so the barbeque wasn’t under the snow. The boys had me make up a story about Miss Tongs and Mickey Knife, a story of forbidden love. The steaks and asparagus turned out fine. We had a blast as the snow whirled around us. So the adventures and fun are beginning again in our new home.