Small Group Girls

One of my sweetest, slowest mornings of summer was spent with my small group bible study girls from seventh grade.  Yep, I've known these lovely ladies since the days of choker necklaces & converse low tops.  For years we met on Monday nights at Nancy's (she was our small group leader) and as we ate our way through her Life Savers Wint-O-Green mints (only occasionally sneaking into the bathroom to watch as they lit up the mirror when we bit them in the darkness) we would share our innermost fears & wishes.

We wrote vows to our future husbands, promising to save ourselves for them; shared prayer requests and more than once, shed tears together as we grew from awkward pre-teens to beautiful grown women.

Getting together this summer, we got to connect as wives & mothers, and they were the most deep and meaningful conversations.  Each of us, at one point, was moved to tears during our time together.

These girls hold my history, my prayers and my relationship with God.  They know my struggles, my triumphs... my very heart.  And it felt good that morning, to be cradled by them.

I love you girls.
And I am forever grateful you are in my life.

Branstetter Reunion

Part Two of Reunion Tuesday is our Branstetter family reunion.

It has become tradition that each summer we do a Branstetter reunion at Lewisville Park.  The Branstetter side is my mom's side, and includes my mom & her two sisters (plus all their offspring, and their offspring's offspring) as well as their uncle & his wife, and their children.

My cousin Kasey showed up on motorcycle and Wyatt was thrilled to jump on.

He thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Jack is STILL talking about how next summer cousin Kasey is going to give him a ride around the neighborhood!

Kasey's older sister, Kris & her wife Ang, have twins who are Wyatt's age, a boy & a girl.

& Sidney

The person I most look forward to seeing comes all the way from Hawaii with her hubby and two sons.  Amy is my mom's cousin and is the sweetest person ever.  

I love talking to her about living remote and raising rambunctious boys!

Her son Kahlil.

Her little sister Stefani also has a little boy, Cole, who has the most beautiful brown eyes you ever saw.

My cousin Kasey's daughter Elexus was in love with Wyatt.  

They were even wearing matching Saltwater Sandals!

My mom, dad, sister & her family were there as well.

That's my mom pushing Ferris (my nephew).

Boy pileup on the slide!

My dad & Kasey

Stefani, Amy, Hailey, Jenn, my mom, Wyatt & Logan

I love so much sitting around visiting with these girls.
I can't wait for next summer!!!

Leah & Martin

Part One of Reunion Tuesday (a holiday I invented all on my own so I could blog about some fun reunions from the summer) starts with our best Alaska friends Leah & Martin.  

Leah, as well as Martin, came to visit & stay with us when there was a training in Portland Oregon this summer.  They stayed with us for a week in our summer rental.  It was so fun to have them meet some of our family & get a taste of life in the Pacific Northwest.

Leah is a kindergarten teacher, whom my boys adore; and Martin is the assistant principal in Marshall, whom Wyatt is particularly fond of.  I am so grateful for all the friends we have in Alaska, and spending time with them this summer helped me feel good about heading back in August.

While Leah was staying with us, I had to have her try Tillamook ice cream.  She's from Pennsylvania, so she'd never had any before. Just looking at that makes me miss home-- I want some Grandma's Cake Batter!!! 


How To Pretend You Live In Rural Alaska

Without ever setting foot on a 207, you too can have the bush Alaska experience.

Start your day in complete darkness with a sock in your mouth (to mimic the dry air effect) and get immediately into the shower.  For breakfast, whip yourself up some powdered milk and cereal, followed by instant coffee mixed with powder creamer.

Be sure to wash dishes (by hand with a sponge) after each meal, or you will want to die the next day when you wake up with a) two hours worth of dishes to do & b) no dishes on which to eat or cook.  After doing the dishes (or avoiding them, whatever suits you) start filling the Brita sysytem with water because since moving here your children have become camels that are apparently storing up water in their reserves for drought season, and every blessed day it needs to be refilled.

Spend the morning homeschooling your two ruffians while attempting to keep the third entertained enough to let the older two learn.  Good luck.

Then in the middle of a heartfelt conversation with your mom/sister/friend during quiet time, hang up.  Yep, just hang up. Later, after holding at least twenty minutes to talk to a real live customer service person, hang up on them, despite the importance of said phone call.

In the afternoon (but before 6:00pm, because that's when the store closes here) head to the store and only buy half the items on your MUST BUY list.  Try omitting things like butter, cottage cheese, coffee creamer and ice cream.  Then, when you get to the register, willingly pay twice the marked price for every item.  Oh, and you can't buy any tortillas, cookies or bread either.

On the weekend, when you finally get a day off with your husband home, you will need to spend at least four hours in the kitchen making four loaves of bread and 48 tortillas from scratch, while at the same time whipping up a batch of cookies for the kids to devour on movie night.

To go to the doctor, just hop on two planes, rent a car and reserve a hotel room.  Plan on at least one extra day in Bethel waiting for the weather to clear.  Oh, and don't forget your snow gear in case of below freezing temps.

Next Saturday night, once the kids are in bed and you are finally free to peruse Pinterest guilt-free, go shut off your internet. Twenty minutes later, turn it back on.  Then off. Then on. Then off again.  Repeat for at least two hours.  Then give up and watch another episode of Pawn Stars. Then, five minutes before the show ends, turn off the TV.

And one more thing?  To make your whole experience legit, tell your girlfriends & family members outside your immediate family that you are terribly sorry, but you won't be able to see them again for nine months. No biggie, right?

Let me know how your experience is! ;)


On a positive note, there's no sales tax here, and we do get the PFD for every member of our family.  And oh, you know, we see Josh everyday for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Not to mention that I don't have to work and finally get to be the stay-at-home mom I've always dreamed of.  We truly are blessed by our life in out here... but some things make keeping my sanity in the bush pretty tough!


She Moose

A few weeks ago Josh got a moose.  

He was out hunting with Sol (our neighbor and Josh's coworker) on his boat and got a cow (girl moose) on the shore.  Unfortunately, she spooked and ran down the bank toward the water, where she collapsed.  

Josh & Sol spent hours trying to get her out of the mud and water so they could butcher her and get her into the boat.  They were unsuccessful so they tied her legs to Sol's boat anchor and left her there, planning to go back the next morning and try again.  Sunday they brought reinforcements in Peter & Isaac (more coworkers) and were gone nearly twelve hours trying to get this blasted moose cut up enough to move into the boat and bring home.

They lost some of the meat to the water, but were able to salvage quite a bit.  Mostly we were grateful a bear (or other animal) didn't happen upon it & help himself!

Finally they got home after 8:00pm and Josh brought our pieces into the arctic entry.  We laid cardboard down and stacked it up on top.

The next day, Monday, Josh was off work and he spent the day washing & butchering while I attempted to keep the boys in the playroom.

{Those ribs there on the table were cut into thirds, that's how BIG the rib cage was!}

{Blood splatter on the floor from carrying the legs back & forth}


Picnic in the playroom!


After he got the meat cut off the legs, he borrowed Sol's meat grinder and made us 100 pounds of hamburger.

The freezer is now well stocked for winter, and we are so grateful for this animal that gave its life to feed our family.

The clean up was brutal afterwards, (Hello Clorox wipes + elbow grease!) but for the price of gas for the boat, the meat came to a mere $0.45 per pound.  It was a lot of work, but totally worth the end product.



When God talks, you need to listen, people!

 I had a gut feeling to get the boys helmets about six weeks ago. I talked to Josh about it.  The conversation sort of fell by the wayside as they do when you have three active kids and it's dinner time, and we never revisited it.  Then I spoke with my sister-in-law about it, lamenting that I feel bad they don't have them here, wondering if I should order some, even though winter is on its way and there are only a few weeks of bike-riding weather left.

The final straw (poor, patient God trying to get through to me!) was an email from a lovely blog reader whose own son was injured in a minor bike crash and was undergoing his seventh surgery for his skull.  I was left speechless.  She said the kindest things in the email and said that as a mom she just couldn't sit by and look at the pictures on my blog of the boys helmet-less and not say something.

So I got on Amazon and got those guys some helmets.  They've had them almost a month now.  They are so happy and I feel like such a better mom.  Thank you, kind reader.  For being gentle and for spreading your message of safety.


Alvin's Birthday

This summer my oldest nephew turned 17.  He is a huge Oregon Ducks fan, so naturally his little brother (in true little brother fashion) bought him an Oregon Beavers football! Ha!  We were all cracking up!

Alvin has a huge heart, always wanting to spend time with my boys, especially Wyatt.  He's also incredibly helpful.  If you need something in a pinch, Alvin will do it.

You are the best! 
We love getting your letters. 
Keep working hard at school.  
We can't wait to see you this summer!!!


The Dump

I talked to you before about "those" parenting days. And how sometimes on those days, we take walks.  Because of where we live in relation to the school, we tend to try and stay off the main road during school hours because we provide a distraction to the students trying to learn in the building.  So that means when we walk, we head either uptown or toward the airport.  On the way to the airport is the dump.  My boys are fascinated by the dump.  They love to drive with Josh to drop off our trash and would really love to go poke around in there.  (Sorry but no, boys!)

So one morning when we were having a rough start to our day, we took a walk to the dump and enjoyed some sunshine.  It's a strange destination, I'll admit, but I guess that's the life of a mother of boys!