Thursday, August 27, 2009

Portland to Coast

Many of you are unaware that I am an elite athlete.

AH - HA! HA! HA! HA! Hoo ha hee, hee! Hee, um . . . ha.

Ah well (wiping tears of laughter from my eyes), that was fun. For a second there I had you, right? I mean, you can picture me as maybe an average athlete, right? C'mon - we're all friends here.

Seriously, every year in August, for around 30 hours, I am an athlete. I am captain of the . . . wait for it . . . High Maintenance Chicks in the Portland to Coast Relay. We are one of 400 walking teams.

There is also a running portion of the relay - Hood to Coast - but for now we won't spend a lot of time on the runners. Those people are nuts. And so very funny! We are always entertained by the shenanigans of the running teams. When you've been awake more than 24 hours, things tend to be funnier than if you'd had a good night's sleep. Especially if the humor happens to be inappropriate (ask me about some of the van decorations).

This year's relay begins tomorrow and our start time is 0345. As in AM. As in we need to get up at 2 am. At that point, we'll begin our walk to Seaside, Oregon. It will take us a little under 30 hours to walk the 127 miles.

We have 10 members on the team, divided into 2 vans. Here are the Chicks from last year, at the finish line. My we were fast! We finished 5 hours ahead of schedule.

Here are the girls in my van. These girls are my chicks, my posse, the wind beneath my wings, uh . . . you get the idea. See the hot pink team shirts? Can you also see the rhinestone tiara on the front?

High Maintenance Chicks MUST have bling. Even if you're hot and sweaty and haven't had a shower after walking 13 miles.

So, my annual try at being an athlete starts tomorrow.

Go High Maintenance Chicks!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wii Night - or - WHAT WAS I THINKING?

This summer, to give my kids and their friends some incentive to read, we had Wii Night. The boys each had to read 1500 pages and they chose a friend to participate with them. Once the goal was met by all four boys, we picked a night to celebrate!

I got the idea from my friend, Davi, a FABULOUSLY creative mom, friend, and parenting coach. Davi did this with her kids last summer and, since I'm always good for stealing other people's great ideas, I took ownership. SUE ME.

For four Wii-obsessed boys, this was a dream come true. A piece of grade-school heaven.

You see, we usually put limits on screen time - one hour a day and none on school days/nights. On Wii Night there are no limits. The kids can play the Wii all night long if they want.

And they wanted.

Seriously, the opportunity to play Mariokart all night long?

Daniel invited his BFF, Max. Max must have told me twenty times, "Thanks for having me over Mrs. Kogler!"

Matthew invited Andrew. Andrew never lets me hug or kiss him. More on that later.

Another plus for Wii Night is the veritable buffet of junk food I provide. Each kid picked his favorite candy, chips, cookies and pop and I set up the buffet. They wanted Mountain Dew. I said, "Yeah, that'll happen."

They all made it all night long except Daniel. He crashed in the "quiet zone" where we had sleeping bags ready, in case anyone wanted some quiet time.

The next morning they came downstairs for breakfast . . . and. completely. crashed. There they were in the family room, Matthew, Andrew and Max all in various positions and absolutely unresponsive to my voice. What's a person to do but take advantage of the situation?

Never waste an opportunity, people.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thoughts, conclusions and tying up loose ends

Now that the tanning, cruising, vacationing and possibility of being seen in a bathing suit are behind me, I have some thoughts. Thoughts on pursuing a high maintenance lifestyle (if you don't understand that last sentence, read this before you put me on the "Too-Shallow-To-Be-Taken-Seriously" list). They are really deep thoughts. Just reading these thoughts will change your life.

You can thank me with chocolate.

1. I like being tan. I especially like it when my legs and feet are tan. I can look down at my feet and see my tan toes with my pedicure. It makes me happy - HEY - you already knew I was superficial.

2. I don't like paying to be tan. I probably won't do a tanning bed again. For both health and financial reasons.

3. My toenails need attention. They are very happy when they have a French pedicure on them. I've always loved French manicures - they're really classy - but thought it looked dumb on toes. I was wrong. On MY toes it looks FABULOUS.

4. I'm too cheap to go to a salon for a pedicure. I do it myself, at home, with about $5 worth of supplies from Walmart.

5. I should wear lipstick more frequently.

6. Duane is so handsome. I mean really, really handsome.

7. I've gotten a few questions about what I wore on the cruise ship. Especially after my berserko rant about the dress code. The week before we left on the cruise, I found (at a SWEET 40% off the clearance price) a couple of shirts with bling on them. I'm wearing one of them in the above picture. I wore those shirts, with some black, shiny pants, on the two formal nights. Nobody kicked me out of the dining room, can you believe it?

8. Some of you need to have fancy parties and invite me so I can wear these blingy shirts again. And lipstick.

9. I can totally see the point in becoming a billionaire. Then we could travel to Maui and Alaska whenever we wanted. And we could own a yacht like this one. We saw this on our way out of Ketchikan, Alaska - check out the helicopter on the top deck. We found out this yacht belongs to Paul Allen (Microsoft founder and owner of the Portland Trailblazers). He owns more than one yacht. This is the little one. Gah.

10. I don't know what happened to the hummingbird babies. When we returned from Maui, the nest was empty and Mama was nowhere around. I like to think they all flew away and are living together in Happy Hummingbird Land. These kids, they grow up so fast these days.

11. I really like my corn dip. That's my final thought. Deep, no?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Whale Watching

Today I'm going to share with you my absolute favorite thing about our Alaska cruise - whale watching.

I know when people hear the word "Alaska" they think - snow, Iditarod, moose, bear, wilderness - at least, that's what used to come to my mind. Now when I think of Alaska I'll always picture whales!

We went on a whale watching excursion in Juneau. Wanna see some pictures? You know you do . . .

We saw orcas . . .

. . . and humpback whales. See why they're called humpbacks? They come up for air, then curve their backs as they dive back down. These whales are so huge, the curve goes on and on and on until . . .

. . . the tail comes up.

This is called a tail "fluke". It was thrilling to see these! Especially since we were warned, prior to the trip, that seeing a whale leap out of the water (called a "breach") was pretty rare. We didn't get our hopes up about seeing a whale breach but then, what do you know . . .

We saw it - oh, SEVEN times.

Amazing! One time we even saw a double breach - two whales at the same time.

Here's my picture of the double breach . . .

Good, no? Here's another picture of a breach -

I'm considering becoming a wildlife photographer. Because I have lightning reflexes and (I hate to toot my own horn here, but really folks) an inherent sense of how to capture animals in the wild. It's a gift, I tell you.

We also watched the whales "bubble net". It's how they work together to feed. The whales spot a school of fish and one of them dives down deep, below the school. It blows out air, creating bubbles . The rest of the whales circle the fish, blowing out bubbles and creating a "bubble net". This frightens the fish and causes them to pack together, making it easy for the humpbacks to get a huge mouthful.

See the tallest, pointy thing in the middle? That's a whale's chin, so to speak. The roof of the mouth looks like a sinking row boat on its end. We were told a Volkswagon could fit in that mouth. Gah. You can see two open mouths of whale calves on the far right. (If you click on these pictures you'll get the full-screen version).

Sheesh. Sorry about going all National Geographic on you.

. . . and they're almost . . . . done . . . .

. . . eating.

Whale watching was awesome. You know, I use the word "awesome" pretty cavalierly but in this case, seeing these whales inspired true awe.

Our God is so creative!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ahhhhh, relief!

This morning I woke up to a cool, cloudy day - ahhhhhhh, thank you, Lord! Don't get me wrong, I love the sun but the relentless heat we've had lately was tiring. Not to mention exhausting. Plus, the heat combined with the hot flashes makes me a teensy, tinesy bit cranky. Too much information? Sorry.

Anyway, when I came downstairs the windows were open to let in the cool air - ahhhhhh, again - and it was 64 degrees in the house. SIXTY-FOUR DEGREES. That's just a tad cool, especially since the kids asked if I would turn on the heater. Uh, NO, that's a big no. I'm a supportive mom so I said, "Go put on a sweatshirt. Pretend we're still in Alaska." See? Just helping them to become problem-solvers. Teaching them to be part of the solution. (I'm available to teach parenting classes if anyone's interested.)
Moving on.

Want to see more of Alaska? Come along as I reminisce about Glacier Bay!

This was the first stop on our cruise. We sailed into this bay and cut the engines on the ship. We stayed there for over an hour, taking pictures and watching pieces of the glacier fall into the water (called "calving"). It was very peaceful, quiet and cold. When the glacier pieces calved it sounded like gunshots in the quiet.

(I made the high-maintenance decision to wear cute flip-flops that day. My toes were numb but they looked good!)

The water was really interesting. I don't know how cold it was but it looked almost thick - like mercury. There was no movement of the water and the ice pieces just floated in place. When I think of Alaska, I'll always remember the color of the water - kind of a greenish-black. Such a contrast between it and the ocean around Maui!

I can't remember the name of this glacier - it's either the Margerie or Johns Hopkins Glacier. It was very beautiful. Regal, almost. So huge and quiet and demanding of respect. See that cut in the front?

Here's a close up.

You know, there are people who climb these things - on purpose. They want to be in, on and around glaciers. It's very brave but sheesh, ice climbing? Those two words make me want to drink a latte while curled up with a blanket and a book. Actually, it doesn't take much for me to want that. Not much at all.

The top of the glacier. It was beautiful and ominous at the same time.

The only way to keep warm is to snuggle! Good thing I had my own personal heater with me.

The cold didn't seem to bother her, though. Doesn't she look comfortable? I'm not a seal expert but she seems like a girl and this is probably a seal's version of laying out. She's waiting for her friends to show up so they can have girl-time on the iceberg. I think I see . . . yes, that's definitely a cell phone!

"So, when are you coming cuz I can't wait to tell you what happened! Oh, bring me a blue raspberry slushie if you go through the drivethru but OMG you're not going to believe what he said to me I was so . . . and then he was all . . . and I was so mad and my mom is being randomly unreasonable and OMG there's a cruise ship with all these people hanging over the rail! Hang on, I need to ask them something . . ."

"Does this iceberg make my butt look big?"

Monday, August 3, 2009

Beatin' the Heat

Oh MAN it's hot. Really hot. 100's hot.

It's unusual for it to be this hot here in the Pacific northwest, so I'm giving myself permission to turn into a big whiner.

We have an air conditioner but rarely use it. We're usually guaranteed a cool breeze every evening around 6 or 7 pm when the temp will drop 15 - 20 degrees in an hour. It's lovely. It's fabulous. We sleep with our windows open and get cold at night. In August.

The past week, our A/C has been on 24/7. No cool, refreshing breezes in the evening. Do I wish I was back in Alaska? You better believe it - and NOT just because somebody else was doing the cooking.

So, what to do about the heat?

Time to break out the Slip 'n Slide . . .

. . . it's so much cheaper than a pool,

. . . the kids can set it up themselves,

. . . and the grass gets a good watering while they play. If I had any guts I'd be out there with them and their pals. However, my varicose veins have a tendency to scare kids. I'm sure you've seen the satellite photos.

I'm feeling the temperature drop just watching them!

Summer time is so much fun . . .