Friday, May 30, 2014

The Class of 2014 (A Return to Brevig)

There wasn't time to take photos. I was too busy spending time in good company and enjoying my former home. The graduating class asked me to be their speaker this year. There was no question in my mind, I would be there.

I had all the usual Bush adventures. The Saturday afternoon flight was cancelled due to weather and I had to ask someone in Nome to take me in at the last minute. There was rain and mud and cardboard boxes for luggage but, as I told C.O., it was just like riding a bike.

Sunday morning my plane landed just before the fog was once again too thick and low for flying.
I got the warm welcome that Brevig is known for as I walked around town saying hi to everyone. I'm pretty sure I have never gotten as many hugs in the span of two days as I did during my visit. It was a bit surreal to be back in Brevig. It felt like I had never left. I saw our old house near the ocean and it seemed as though I could just walk in and be home.

In my third year of teaching, the group of students you see in the picture above walked into my classroom. They were some of my favorite students. They were a blast to teach and worked very hard at school. I knew all those years ago that these kids had a bright future. I felt honored to be a part of their special day. The kids all did a wonderful job with their speeches and their slide show was beautiful making an all around enjoyable ceremony.

The graduation speech I gave was about 13 minutes long. I don't suppose very many people will ever watch it but for my sake I'm thankful to have it preserved. I've watched it a couple times since returning and it makes me cry every time. The two most important points I wanted to get across was how much these young people have going for them and what a big difference they made in my life. It's common to hear about teachers who make a difference in students' lives but in this case, it was these students who made me love teaching.

I am forever grateful to Brevig Mission and this class for shaping who I am today. It was good to be "home" for a little while.

Brevig Grad Speech 2014 2 from AnnMarie Rudstrom on Vimeo.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Harold Does Poetry

Harold never ceases to amaze us with his long list of talents. The most recent discovery was his ability to write poetry. Harold has always enjoyed writing stories but this was something completely different and came seemingly out of nowhere. We were on a road trip and Tizita was in the middle of a crying fit when Harold whipped this out to make her feel better. C.O. and I were blown away.

Tizita is just like a flower;
Rosy and red.
She's the prettiest of all.
Look at her shining bright.
She's the prettiest in sight.

By: Harold Ramos Rudstrom

This evening we had the opportunity to learn more about poetry and celebrate Harold's writing. The Soldotna Public Library held a poetry reading session for kids in recognition of National Poetry Month. They began by reading a selection of poems from around the world followed by nursery rhymes. Kids were encouraged to bring their favorite poem to share as well. We had Harold practice reading slowly and clearly at home so he was prepared for an audience. Harold was too shy to go up by himself but he did a nice job sharing his piece with the group. We are so proud!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Curtain Project or Why it Takes Us So Long to Decorate

We are very happy with the house we bought here in Soldotna. It has just the right amount of space, a nice layout and a cozy feel but we haven't really had time to decorate and add our personal touch. We finally got going and decided curtains would be our first decorating project.

Martha Stewart magazine first inspired this project. The idea is to use painter's drop cloth as the fabric for curtains or whatever you're doing with cloth. The fabric is inexpensive and comes in larger widths than what you can find at the average fabric store. It's also a lot less expensive. You also have the option to dye the fabric whatever color you would like.

The first step was to cut out the curtain panels from a piece of drop cloth. 

We borrowed a large stainless steel sink and a propane burner from a turkey fryer and did the dying outside. It seemed like way to scary of an operation to do in the house.

Salt, dye and a vat of boiling water is the magic trifecta for adding color to your life. 

In goes the fabric. 

Our friend Andy stopped by so we put him to work stirring. He got a bit of purple dye on his new jeans. Lesson learned: wear play clothes when you come to the Rudstroms.

It's so purply!

We've decided to have a subtle nautical theme in the living area so C.O. made the rod supports from boat cleats. 





The curtains add a lot to the living area. It's like they're coming off the wall to give you a big, cozy, purple hug.

Slowly things are coming together in the house. Our project list and ideas are a mile long but little by little the house is starting to reflect our style.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Rudstrom Family Christmas Tree

"We're kicking off our fun old fashioned family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols."

"They invented [Christmas tree lots] because people forgot how to have a fun old fashioned family Christmas. You see kids, this is what our fore fathers did. They walked out into the woods, they picked out that special tree and they cut it down with their bare hands."

“The most enduring traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. Thith tree is a thymbol of the thspirit of the Griswold Rudstrom family Chrithmath,” 

(A chorus of angels fades in.) There it is! 

Thankfully C.O. did not forget the saw.

 I give you the Rudstrom Family Christmas Tree.

Merry Christmas everyone!

 The Rudstroms

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Best Thanksgiving Yet

After most every holiday C.O. and I say, "That was the best one yet." Well, it happened again. This Thanksgiving was the best Thanksgiving yet. The holiday week kicked off with C.O.'s parents arriving from Minnesota.

Our entire family was thankful to spend these few days with Mac and Mary after not seeing them for well over a year. I noticed the kids were more content with all of the attention they received throughout the week. Grandparents are a good thing.

Mary Crockett came down from Anchorage to stay a couple days. Mary was my student up in Brevig Mission but now is all grown up, a college student and is considered a close friend of the family. She has grown into such a wonderful young lady (that is a very old person thing to say I just realized). 

Stu came from Bird Creek, south of Anchorage. Stu is now making Alaska his home after moving from  C.O.'s hometown of Side Lake, Minnesota. It's been fun to get to know him better.

There's something special about gathering with the same relatives year after year but I love celebrating holidays with a group of people who don't necessarily know each other. A group made up of friends new and old and family too. Our Thanksgiving Day table was filled with just that kind of group: families and singles, kids and grandparents, those who traveled from across town and those who had to fly a couple thousand miles to get here. Perfect.

We had a total of 18 people for Thanksgiving dinner and were able to seat everyone at one table thanks to a couple sheets of plywood, saw horses and a 20 foot piece of cloth. Throughout the night we enjoyed sledding and a bonfire, games and chatting, pie and egg nog and a whole lot of laughter. See. It was the best Thanksgiving yet.

I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Maybe next year we'll find you seated at our plywood banquet table. We'd love to have you!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Camping Through the Summer

I was not looking forward to spending this past summer in Alaska. Summer in Minnesota is what our family has always done and I wasn't very happy about giving that up. C.O. and I looked at the average yearly temperature in Soldotna versus the average temperature in Minnesota and the statistics were depressing. Cool and wet and gray is the norm but we had no choice but to stay. Work and finances determined that. 

But thankfully it turns out we had a pretty great summer. Long time locals kept saying summers like this only come around once every ten years. While I don't like the sounds of that, I was happy we were here to enjoy one of those perfect Kenai Peninsula summers. Warm temperatures, clear skies and just enough rain when we needed it suited me just fine. And I was thankful for each day.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, C.O. worked 80 plus hour weeks for most of the summer. I wish it wasn't the case but the kids and I made the best of it. I decided to take advantage of the weather and take the kids on as many camping adventures as I could manage.

I was first inspired to take the kids camping when we joined in on a Memorial Day camping trip with a bunch of families from our church. Camping with a group of people is a blast. I didn't have to worry about the kids, the older ones looked out for the younger ones and they were constantly entertained so I was free to relax. Other people did most of the cooking as well. I just talked and stared at the fire for a couple days. Perfect. (This was the complete opposite of our future camping trips when I had to watch the kids, cook and pitch the tent on my own.)

The first solo camping trip was at Johnson Lake State Park. We were introduced to this spot by our friends Mollie and Trevor from Anchorage. Staying right on the lake had some advantages. For Harold the advantage was being able to fish practically from your front (tent) door.

Harold is an absolute fishing fanatic. I tried to explain to him that I would first have to set up the tent and get dinner going before we could do any fishing. I thought he understood the situation but as soon as we pulled in, Harold grabbed his pole and ran to the water's edge. Thankfully there were other adults around that were willing to help Harold out when I was busy or just plain unsure of what to do with hooks, sinkers, spinner, fire balls and all that other stuff I don't know much about.

Our usual routine was to pack up the car (which took all day), drive to the campground and spend the first night on our own. C.O. would work a crazy long day so that the following day he could get off around dinner time and at least spend the evening with us. I was thankful for even those few hours together.

A quick Johnson Lake story that must be told here. I was taking a morning walk around the lake with the kids. Tizita's thing at the time was to ask me, "Who's that?"for everyone we saw. So I told her to just ask people their name. A couple pulled up in their motorhome near the lake to do a little fishing. Tizita asked the lady, "What's your name?" She said, "Arlene, what's your's?." Arlene then introduced us ot her husband Aimo. I told her that Aimo sure sounded like a Finnish name and that my maiden name was Lindula. While I was busy lamenting the loss of my beautiful Finnish name after I got married she said to me, "As in Cindy Lindula?" My brain was totally confused for a moment or two or ten. Turns out Arlene lives in Northern Minnesota, knows a bunch of my family and works with my mom at the Cherry Greenhouse! It's a small world after all. Now Arlene and I are friends on Facebook. The End Moral of the Story: Don't be afraid to talk to strangers.

In my opinion, the most beautiful place we stayed was at Captain Cook State Park north of Kenai about 30 miles. It is situated right on Cook Inlet. You can kind of make out the water from the above photo. Our campsite was basically on the bluff at the edge of the Inlet. Amazing views, for sure but it was also a little stressful trying to keep the kids within sight while I set up camp. I trust Harold but still worry about Tizita getting herself in a scary situation.

Exploring the beach was the best part of Captain Cook State Park. We had fun climbing on rocks, finding pretty rocks and acting silly. Tizita does her best to keep up with her older brother. She fell a few times and got hurt but there's just no stopping her. She is determined to do everything just like Harold!

We changed things up a bit when I signed the three of us up for family camp at Solid Rock Bible Camp just down the road from us. This was fun because we were camping but our food and entertainment was provided by the camp staff.

It was a little weird camping so close to home. I realized it was only 7 minutes from our campsite to our house's front door. So I went home each day to give Tizita a nap and to shower. Then went back for more activities and slept in the tent on the ground. Crazy but it worked.

There were a ton of fun activities at Solid Rock. Mostly the usual camp things, archery, riflery, swimming, kayaking, a game room, crafts etc. But the second day was the main event with a mini "fair". There were carnival games, cotton candy, fry bread, a dunk tank, carriage rides and pony rides.

We met a bunch of neat families and made many new friends. I would love to do it again someday, maybe C.O. could even join us.

A lot of people asked if I was scared taking the kids camping by myself. I don't know if they meant that I might be scared of bears or bad guys or what but I wasn't scared of any of that. The campgrounds were full of people so I really wasn't worried. Mutiny from my children was probably the scariest possibility of all. But they're still with me and enjoyed their summer experiences so I'd call this adventure a success.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

September Lilacs

 I was a little disappointed this spring when our lilac bush out back barely bloomed. It got a few blossoms here and there but it was all in all pretty sad compared to the Minnesota lilac bushes I'm used to seeing. Since it was our first spring here I wasn't sure what to expect but I thought maybe this was just another plant not really cut out for cool Alaskan weather.

About a week ago, I noticed that the lilac tree had a few blossoms on it. What a sweet, unexpected surprise! Now it's blooming like crazy and oddly enough fall colors are in full swing as well. I like this photo because it shows a lilac bloom with the brown and yellow leaves on the very same tree. It's unusual but I'll take it as one last sweet reminder of warm weather before winter sets in.

I ran across a recipe for lilac scones over at Kitchen Vignettes recently. Though all the blooms hadn't opened fully, C.O. and I decided to harvest a cup full of lilacs to try out this recipe. Since it had frosted the night before we were nervous the flowers wouldn't last another day. Turns out we were wrong. It's three days later and the lilac bush looks prettier than ever. 

I'm curious what will happen next year with my seasonally confused lilac bush.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Whittier is a Little Weird

This spring C.O. found a job working for a fish processing plant in Kenai. Summer is a time of abundant fish around here so the plant operates around the clock. Which meant C.O. had to work a crazy amount of hours. Honestly, we hardly saw him this summer. He worked 7 days a week, 12-16 hour days.

A few times, C.O. even had to travel for work. His skills were needed on a boat anchored near Whittier, about a two and a half hour drive from Soldotna. Before his second trip to Whittier, I figured we would drive him down so we could spend at least a couple hours together as a family. It also gave the kids and I a chance to explore a new part of Alaska.

I hate to be so blunt and possibly offensive to the residents of Whittier, but it's true, this town is just plain weird. There's a book about Whittier that calls it "the strangest town in Alaska." So, it's not just me folks.

The first odd thing about Whittier is the tunnel. The only road to Whittier passes through a two mile long tunnel which is wide enough for a single lane of traffic. People plan their comings and goings based on the time traffic is scheduled to go their direction. Before the year 2000, travelers had to drive their car on a train that would then bring vehicles through the tunnel. So, it's a little more convenient today than it was 13 years ago.

The Rudstrom station wagon waiting to drive through the second longest tunnel in North America.

Glaciers peek out along the highway as you drive toward Whittier. 
This one can be seen as you wait to enter the tunnel.

We made a big deal to the kids about how an entire mountain was over our head as we were driving along.

As soon as we arrived in town we drove straight to the docks to drop C.O. off. C.O. boarded the tender that took him two hours beyond Whittier to the Portage Bay, the barge in need of some repairs.

Now the kids and I were on our own . . . again . . . like it was nearly every single day this summer. (Can you tell yet that I was weary of C.O.'s work schedule?)

We walked around the tiny town to see what Whittier had to offer. It's a small place, a half a day is all you need to see it all, unless you sign up for a cruise or kayak tour of the harbor. Other than the scenery being spectacular, Whittier also has an interesting history with it's roll in WWII. If you care to read more about go here and here.

The strangest thing about this fishing town is that 90% of the population lives in one apartment building. That's right, this building houses the police officer, the drug dealer, the mayor, the school teachers, the preacher, and most everyone else. I thought the dynamics of a small village could be tough. Imagine living here.

Whittier is only a couple hour drive from Anchorage so quite  a few people come down to do some fishing and tour buses stop in daily during the summer months.

After one night in town, it was back through the tunnel to start the drive home. A day later C.O. was able to catch a ride with in a semi-truck full of fish totes back to the plant in Kenai.

Now that summer is done, he's working a regular schedule and we're very happy to have him back.