Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dallin's Perfect Day

 Kids are simple creatures. You can plan and save and make huge sacrifices so they will have fun and make memories, and all they do is complain. Then you have a normal, hectic Saturday going from one thing to another, and you feel like you are about to go crazy, yet at the end of the day, your nine-year-old tells you it was the best day he's ever had. That's what happened yesterday. 
It started out with the boys' last flag football games of the season. Luke's game was first. His siblings were supportive, though slightly unenthusiastic.

Luke's friend Cooper's dad was the coach this year. They had such a fun year. Luke is a bit of a giant compared to the other boys, but that's okay. One of these years his effort is going to match his size and he is going to dominate, I'm sure of it. This year he tried hard... on games when he knew he would get $$ for each flag he pulled. The other games were a little more... relaxed.
Here he is kicking off. Just pretend the ball is way up there.
Don't get me wrong, I love to watch my kids play sports. The problem is, I don't get to watch very much. I end up chasing the devil himself around for a few hours.

Don't let his innocent appearance deceive you. He never holds this still. 

He likes to follow around every animal within a five mile radius.
And we also spend a lot of time dragging him off the playing field. Sigh. Good times.
Then it was on to Dallin's game.
He had a great game and loved every second. He requested that I call this play, "The Touchdown Throw" because he threw this for a touchdown. So here's The Touchdown Throw. Pretty proud of that old boy.

Jason was hunting during the games, so that afternoon he decided to take the kids fishing to make it up to them. Boy, did that ever work. If there's anything Dallin loves as much as sports, it's fishing. Here is Dallin displaying a beautiful little blue gill. They were pulling them in on almost every cast.

Jason let each kid reel in numerous fish. Numerous times. They were in heaven.

Luke found a bird.

Unfortunately, it was deceased at the time. If you know anything about Luke's soft heart, and his love for birds, you can imagine his sorrow. He spent a lot of time trying to dig a little grave for it in the rock hard ground.

Isn't this a pretty spot?

You'd never know we were about 10 yards from a highway. It's a private place, but don't worry, we had permission. Jason knows a guy. A guy whose dad is rumored to own it. Jason swears the guy's dad won't prosecute.
Because I mean, I'm sure we were welcome there. Those keep out messages were just meant for other people. Other people who don't know the son of the guy who probably owns the place.

Jake had to be dragged out, but at least he had a smile on his face. Note to self: Jason's thumb is in a can of worms. Then he drove using keys that touched that thumb. Now those keys are sitting on my kitchen counter, about three feet away from me right this second. I will be disinfecting right after we are through here.
Well, that was a pretty exhausting day, for me anyway. Jason took us out to dinner, and we let Dallin choose the place.
sizzler home
He decided to channel his inner senior citizen and we ended up at Sizzler. Don't get me wrong, Sizzler is great. Just not on a Saturday night when every Mormon in Utah County has the same family-friendly idea. I was sitting at the table, shoveling food in five different directions, when Dallin turned to me and said, "Mom, this was the best day ever. Fishing, football and Sizzler." Then he gave me one of those smiles that let me know that despite everything else, it was all worth it. Non-washed fish hands and all.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Abby is Five!

 My sweet little Abby turned five on September 28. I don't know how it happened, because wasn't she just born yesterday? I kind of fought her birthday in my heart because I loved her so much as a four-year-old that I just couldn't handle the thought of her changing into a five-year-old. The good news is that not much has changed except for the amount of toys in her bedroom.  She is just as sweet at five and two days as she was at four. Whew!

The day before her birthday she got to celebrate at preschool. The kids sang happy birthday to her while she had the honor of being the ONLY one jumping on the trampoline. She was thrilled.

I brought ice cream sandwiches for her treat and the kids made a cute little star while they ate.

On Friday I went against everything I stand for and actually had a friend party for her. The boys usually have parties, but that's because Jason does them. I don't know why I shut down mentally and physically at the thought of planning and executing a birthday party for five-year-olds, but I do. However, I bit the bullet and planned a Dora party and Abby was in heaven. Mission accomplished.

I took the kids on a little Dora adventure to find Boots, who got lost on his way to the party. I made a map and everything. I was so impressed with myself. Then Abby opened her presents. Luke was a lot of help for someone who hates Dora and all things girl.

Here is a fuzzy picture of the whole adorable group. I don't know why half my pictures are turning out fuzzy lately. Maybe I'm looking through the sight hole with the wrong eye. I can never remember which eye is my good one. Anyway, aren't they cute?

The kids decorated cupcakes and had a great time covering themselves with frosting and candy. Sounds good to me! 

Jake made himself useful after the party and pushed crumbs around for a while with the broom. I was very proud of him for trying to help out. I was even tempted to forgive him for figuring out how to climb out of his crib.

I always try to take a family picture on my kids' birthdays. The pictures never turn out very well, but this is us in all our glory, on September 28, 2012. Although sometimes the days are long and it seems like I might never get a full night of sleep, this precious little family is growing up on me. The kids get a little bigger each time a birthday passes, we all get a little older and our adventures never seem to run out. There is a lump in my heart when I think of Abby not being a little girl anymore, but I love the person she is turning into. She seriously is the sweetest little friend I could ever ask for. I love my boys, but I'm so glad I got my girl! Happy Birthday, Abby, my little sweet sweet. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Alaskan Adventure

Jason and I recently took a little trip to Alaska. Jason has a goal to accomplish the "Super Slam," which is to take every North American big game animal (there are 29) with his bow. There are very few hunters who have accomplished it with a gun, and even fewer with a bow. We all know that Jason loves a good challenge, so it is not surprising that he is well on his way to, how do we put it delicately, harvesting all the required critters with his bow. Next on the list: Sitka blacktail deer, available only in Alaska and the west coast of British Columbia.

I love it when hunters say harvest. What, do they want us to think they planted the animal in the ground? Nice try.

When I heard about his plans to go to Alaska, fly to an island on a little float plane and camp for a few days, I thought, why do all Jason's little hunting buddies get to have all the fun? I like fun and I don't hate nature most of the time. So I signed up for the adventure. And what an adventure it was.

We flew into Ketchikan, Alaska on a Monday night, with plans to fly out to Prince of Wales Island the next morning. However, it was too windy that day to fly so we found ourselves with a day to explore the nice little town of Ketchikan. It was here that we saw our only bears of the trip. THANK HEAVENS.

The only thing I was really nervous about on the trip (besides having to eat Ramen noodles) was bears. Jason chose Prince of Wales Island because there are no grizzly bears there. Only regular bears and wolves. No biggie.
These bears were right by the side of the road, where a river emptied into the ocean. People were fishing about five feet away. I couldn't believe it! Here is a little video footage of the experience:

It was kind of bad, though, because then I had bears on the brain for the rest of the trip. I was certain we were going to come across one (or many) around every bend, under every tree, and especially during each night. Luckily, I was with Jason, who had a gun, and if that didn't work, he's bigger than me and the most logical choice for a bear's lunch. So I tried not to worry too much.
Well, I can't lie, I was also nervous about flying in a tiny plane. I watched the float planes take off and land on the water in Ketchikan and I thought, holy cow. That's gonna be me. And soon it was.
Yeah, it was a little scary stuffing myself in the back of the plane. The pilot wasn't very amused when Jason asked him how many times he had flown. I guess those kind of people don't like to be doubted. Here is some footage of me on the plane, trying to trust the little guy and not freak out:
But as soon as we were in the air I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the ocean and the mountains. It was seriously incredible. I LOVED the flight! It was cool landing on the water. The pilot found a log to pull up to, so we stopped and unloaded all our gear, shimmying across a wet log to the shore. Adventure: begin!
Pretty sure he was saying, "See you later, suckers!" as he dropped us off and paddled away, then flew back to civilization.
The first thing that struck me on the island was how green everything was. Like, vibrant green. So lush and beautiful. And wet! "How amusing," I thought, "Little droplets of water just hang in the air!" Little did I know, I would never be dry again.
Even the spider webs were wet. 
Our plan, which was carefully routed on Google Earth, was to fly into Aiken Lake (check!) and then hike a few thousand feet up to camp at a certain spot where the deer would likely be abounding.
What we didn't know is that it is really hard to hike on steep, wet, mossy rocks and through thick, thick brush while trying to balance our backpacks, the two bows, rifle, tripod and everything else under the sun. We went as far as we could through the jungle, and as soon as we found a clearing we set up camp. 
The tent looks deceivingly large in this picture. It was actually about as high as my knee. Note to self for next time: a one man tent does not equal a one man and one woman tent. It was just big enough for the two of us to lie side by side, but not big enough to sit up fully. Gets to be awful crampy after a few days o' rain, my friend!
We decided to begin hunting right away. Jason had two tags for himself and one for me (not that I would have shot anything), so he wanted to hurry and get a deer to check off his list, and then hunt for a really good one. 
Hiking was amazing. It was easier not having ALL our gear, but still pretty slippy. I fell a few times and had some impressive bruises.
There were streams and crystal-clear lakes everywhere. Water! And hidden bears.  
I mean, if there are not five families of bears living under that tree, I'll give you a thousand dollars. I would get especially nervous when we would pass these strange and abundant caves because Jason was usually several yards ahead of me and I knew that I would be lunch for the bears because I was bringing up the rear. Pretty sure Jason was banking on that, even though he didn't know my secret plan of feeding him to the bears because he's bigger. I'm SO glad we were never in that situation, because how awkward would our marriage have been after that, both of us trying to shove the other toward the family of bears, then we somehow survive, and still have to spend the rest of our lives together. Awk-ward!
Jason tried pretend like he didn't want me to get too far behind, but then I would look up and, oh great, he's clear up on top of that mountain! Now I have to scale the slimy thing.
Right up around here somewhere we saw our first real herd of deer. Jason took a shot while I tried to video, but I wasn't sure if I was on the right deer, so he didn't shoot right when he wanted to, and once he shot and all the deer ran away we found the arrow sticking in the ground with no blood. He was sure he had hit the deer he was aiming at, so that was disappointing. We hiked in the direction the deer went, but with little hope of finding them again.
Jason took a break to fill the water bladder. Can I just tell you how much I hate the word bladder, especially in reference to drinking water? Please, let us not refer to bladders when we are talking about water we will soon drink! It's so... unappetizing. We had a filter and everything, but still. I don't know if I'm made for the outdoors. 

I was waiting patiently for Jason to fill the, ahem, bladder, when I looked down by my feet and saw.... blood! I was standing right by a big blood trail. My able husband had hit his deer after all. I will spare you the pictures, my sensitive viewers. I'll save the gore for the pictures of the actual dead animal. So brace yourself. Here's a scenic picture to help you get ready:
Now here's one of me having a really good attitude. I vowed I would not complain on this trip, and I didn't! I was, however, silent once in a while.
Now back to the chase. We followed the blood trail that I spotted and it led us to a quiet, lonely creature with a large wound. He was lying there, breathing his last. He was so cute, with great big eye lashes. I just wanted to take him home. And then I realized, oh yeah, I am taking him home. In my backpack. And then he didn't seem quite so appealing.
Well, well, well, what do we have here? The mighty hunter with his Sitka Blacktail Deer. Now, if you are used to mule deer, this one must seem quite small. However, this particular brand of deer is very small, so this one is actually on the large side. 
I'm having two thoughts here: #1 - "Please don't let me fall off the edge of the earth," and #2 - "How long until I can wash my hands with soap?"
Jason doesn't really care about washing his hands with soap, which is fortunate, because he has the fun job of... dismantling the critter. Soon the job was done, our backpacks were full ("Deep breath, deep breath, it's only meat!") and we headed back down to camp.
Ah, camp. We got there right before dark. A slight drizzle was starting. The slight drizzle became more of a regular drizzle, and then a large drizzle, which continued for, oh, two days or so. Without stopping!! We had no idea how lucky we were to be able to hike and hunt on that first day, because we never again had the opportunity. The rain and fog settled in and didn't leave. Ever again.

We spent most of the remainder of the time in the tent. It wasn't so bad. I had my kindle and a large bag of candy. I read five books and I was pretty much living my dreams, as long as I could keep circulation going in all of my limbs. Trying to drown my bear worries in chocolate actually worked pretty well. Jason acted tough, but I could tell he was a little nervous, too, because every so often he would say, "I'm going to shoot the rifle out the door, just in case there are any bears around." And then he would wake me in the night and say, "I'm just going to shout for bears for a minute. They don't like that." Then he'd start yelling at the top of his lungs in a really mean voice, "Get away bears! Get out of here! Shoo!" and I would think, "Oh man, we are doomed." But either it worked, or the bears really were down fishing for salmon at the lower elevations like they were supposed to be at this time of year. Occasionally we had to leave the tent to get water, and we tried to go hiking a few times, but it was just too wet.
Nice bladder!
We were supposed to leave the island on Sunday. Let's see, if you do the math, we shot the deer on Wednesday, that's an awful lot of time to spend in a tiny wet tent! So we called on the satellite phone to see if the pilot could come get us a day early. He said he would try.
Saturday morning we packed up all our sopping wet things and slid down to the lake to wait for our rescue. The sky wasn't looking so hot.
Jason tried to fish for a while, but there were no fish to be caught. At 9:30 am, we heard a plane approaching. We heard it fly around for a long time. And then we heard it leave. I was sure we were destined to stay on this island forever. It really felt like we were on LOST, but with no fruit to sustain us. Just meat. And we all know how I hate to meet my meat. We waited and waited and finally at about 3 pm we  heard... a plane! The sky didn't seem any clearer, but suddenly, there was Dave! Bursting through the clouds and headed straight for us! 
He's probably never received such a warm welcome in his life. Then again, he's a bush pilot in Alaska... he probably has.
Flying away! Flying away!
Do I look happy? Because I am.
It was a pretty clear day once we got past Aiken Lake. I know why they call it that. Because if you aren't achin' when you get there, you will be by the time you leave.
Alaska is just breath taking. Most of the time I couldn't believe what I was seeing. And the nature! It just goes on and on and on. You can't get away from it!
It looks especially great from a plane after four days on a blessed little island. Don't get me wrong. Jason and I had a great time. The weather took us by surprise, for sure, but we had a lot of laughs and I'm so glad I got to experience all the craziness with him. I told Jason in the beginning that I just wanted to read and sleep on this trip, and man, did that ever come true! But we were also blessed with the hike of a lifetime, and a hunt we will never forget.

I'm just glad we finally got to leave, because a few too many days in the rain tends to make a person... slightly crazy. Take my word for it.