Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Great Alaskan Adventure Part 2

Let's see, where did we leave off?

On Tuesday afternoon we took a boat ride through Ressurection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska. The first two hours were amazing as we saw a sea otter, played with dolphins and spotted several bald eagles, mountain goats, and humpback whales. We even witnessed some shenanigans from harbor seals and saw a juvenile bald eagle catching and eating its prey on the cliffs alongside the water. The flight of the gulls from the cliffs as the eagle made it's attack was breathtaking. After the excitement in the bay we headed out to the gulf where I learned that I do not have a future in sea travel. So much for that cruise Kirk and I always thought we would take. Even with the maximum dose of anti-nausea medicine I could barely open my eyes without wishing for the ability to lose my lunch over the rails. Needless to say the second half of the voyage was not as enjoyable as the first.

We departed the boat and made our way over to the diesel train that would return us to Anchorage. Whit was very excited to be on a train but was so overwhelmed that he wanted to get off shortly after boarding. Once we convinced him to stay on the train we had some dinner in the dining car as the train got underway. In the dining car we could just see the front of the train as we pulled out of the station. At this point Whit finally grasped that we were riding the train. This was a difficult concept for him because when we hear the train whistle from our house And Whit asks to "ride the choo-choo" I always tell him that we listen to the train, we don't ride the train. At first when we told Whit he would be riding a train he would say "no, Mama, no ride the choo-choo!" In the dining car we heard a lot of "the choo-choo! Ride the choo-choo! Ride the choo-choo, Mama!"

On the train we saw wildlife, beautiful views of the mountains and valleys that boasted snow measured in feet rather than inches. Whit reluctantly fell asleep with a blanket draped over his face to drown out the sunlight that continued to stream into our passenger car until we pulled into Anchorage at 10:30 pm.

Wednesday again dawned somewhat dreary so we made plans to visit the Alaska Native Heritage museum. If you are ever in Anchorage I strongly recommend visiting the museum. We saw native youth exhibiting hunting training games as well as native dancing. After the demonstrations we visited the cultural center documenting the history of the native peoples and most recently their integrations with European visitors. Being of European descent it saddens me to think that we barged in, not understanding, and interrupted the beautiful balance that the Native American people shared, and continue to share, with the planet. The fact that our modern ways are inhibiting the native children from learning and living their culture saddens me even more.

Thankfully, I was quickly cheered by Whit's enthusiasm to see the "doggies" (dogs and puppies of the 2011 Iditarod championship) and to race around the replica native village houses.

On the way home Grandpa took us up to an overlook where, on a clear day, you can see Mt Mckinley. We weren't able to see the mountain through the haze but we did have a couple more close encounters. On the way up the road we caught sight of a black bear that got a little too close to the car for comfort. On the way back down he was still grazing along the side of the road. We rolled the window down to let Whit get a better look as the bear was quite engrossed in his afternoon snack. Whit put his head out of the window and yelled "hey bear!" as loud as he could. It may have been that the bear expexted or smelled food or it could have been that Whit is charming not only to people but wild animals as well. Regardless of the reason, After just a few repetitions of "hey bear!" the bear looked up, made eye contact with Whit and ambled over to the car yet again. I quickly pulled Whit back into the car and rolled up the window urging my father to put the car in drive as quickly as possible. He, of course, took that opportunity to get out of the car himself and get an up close and personal photo of said bear. A little ways down the road we encountered yet another moose whom Whit eagerly called "horse! Hey horse!" Thankfully, the moose did not attemp to join us!

We ended the day with local pizza and beer and some downtime with family and friends.

Thursday: Sadly our last day in the great state of Alaska. After a lazy morning Kirk and I left Whit to play at the Anchorage Museum with Grandma and Grandpa while we had lunch together and did some sightseeing and souvenir shopping.

This afternoon we plan to go on a short hike (ie a walk in the woods) where hopefully our close encounters with local Alaska wildlife will not continue.

It's just 12 hours until our flight departs and we head back to reality and the hot sunny days of a Tennesee summer. I'm not looking forward to getting myself and Whit back on Eastern time but I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to see this beautiful place and spend some much needed time with my parents. Until next time, Alaska!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Great Alaskan Adventure Part 1

This is what I know.  Saturday at 12 Noon we got on a plane in Knoxville, TN.  About 9 hours of flying and 5 hours of layovers later (that's approximately 14 hours total) we got off a plane in Anchorage, Alaska at 11pm. Needless to say we are all a little confused.  Apparently it's now nearly 10am on Tuesday.  I know I've had a great time so far although I probably cannot list all of the things we've done over the last 2 1/2 days. Thank goodness I took pictures, so we will tell the story so far that way. By the way, thank you Seattle and Chicago airports for your kid's play places. We could not have survived without them!

Whit playing at the Children's Museum of Chicago at the airport's play place.
 Saturday: Arrive in Anchorage; Grandma gets a big hug from Whit. A cute tidbit? In true form Whit has created his own name for my parents.  I keep saying "Grandma and Grandpa" and he calls them something akin to "Mungka and Mungka." 

Sunday: Since it was 3am our time when we finally arrived in Anchorage and only Whit slept on the plane (Thank you, man with the cat... on the plane... directly in front of us) we went to bed and slept as much as possible. Whit woke up at 8:30 his time, which is sleeping late for him, but it was only 4:30 in Anchorage and Kirk and I had slept less than 6 hours.  We soldiered through, had some breakfast, played and everyone headed back to bed for some much needed rest.  We finally left my parents apartment around 10:30 local time and headed out for lunch and some shopping as it was raining (sad!) but caught our first glimpse of Alaskan wildlife when a Mama moose and her two babies came trotting across the road directly in front of us. 

Whit was quite taken with the moose and when we returned to the apartment he spent a good 30 minutes looking for them.

Later Sunday night we went to dinner at a local dive, Whit learned the term "bar," and we dropped my parents off for work.

Monday: After a solid 9 hours of sleep Sunday night the entire Renegar family woke up rested at about 5:30 in the morning.  We went out to breakfast where we decided that everyone in Alaska is happy, ridiculously happy. Perhaps it's the beautiful view that they wake up to each and every day.  


We picked up "Mungka and Mungka" from work and while they napped we headed to the park, decked out in the same gear we wear at home in the early winter!  Whit played hard on the playground and we spent some time kicking the ball around "Socca" style (more on that later.)

Monday afternoon we started our trek toward Seward where we finally found some moose for Whit at the Wildlife Conservation. We also saw muskox, caribou, elk, bear and bison, whom Whit insisted were "Horses!"
The view from the car on the road to Seward.


Looking at Caribou with "Mungka"

An enormous 2 year old Kodiak Brown bear
In Seward we went to the Sealife center, saw a commonplace glacier, had dinner at another "bar" (so called by Whit) and tucked in early for yet another crisp Alaska morning.
At the touch tank at the Sealife Center

Playing with the seal with Daddy

The glacier is the big white part in the valley between the two mountains.
Tuesday:  Today we are waiting for Whit to wake up from his nap so that we can get lunch and head out on a boat ride. We are hoping to see sea otters, birds and possibly whales. We should also catch a few more glimpses of glaciers, so check back soon for some more great photos!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Please and Thank You

Teaching manners to a toddler is, to borrow the expression from my husband, anything but roses and sunshine.  When Whit was smaller and not yet speaking we taught him to say "Please" and "Thank You" using sign language.  Even now he will use the hand motion when he says "pees" but simply intones "thank you."

As Whit's second birthday approaches he is beginning to use multi-word sentences.  The general crux of his statements? "Mama, I NEED ______!"  

Pleasant, no?

Thus begins Manners 101.  I'm starting by patiently restating "Whit, let's say:  Mama, may I please have _________" followed by "thank you."    We've been on this track for about 3 days and last night I had one small success.  After yelling across the house at me "Mama, I need watee (water)!" I walked over toward him said "How do we ask for water? Mama, may I have some water, please?"  And I got in response "pees, watee?" in a very quite voice.  A small step, but an important one. 

Another difficult life lesson that we have recently discussed is teaching Whit that things will not always go his way.  I'm not quite sure how he will handle the day when he asks "pees" and I say "no" (more on that later.)
It is our hope that we can model for Whit acceptance of those life events that do not go as planned or in a pleasant way.  We hope that we can teach him grace and grow in him the ability to always see the bright side, take the positives from a bad situation, and know that God has a perfect plan for him.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A good day

I've been meaning to get this post up for nearly a week but I've been busy (of course) rooting the Hawks baseball team on to the district championship game (which is being played tonight).

Last Friday began the district tournament.  Whit and I went out to the games on Friday and Saturday and we went as a family to a very special little girl's birthday party on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday we attended church.  Although we typically take Whit to the nursery to play, he was understandably tired after such a busy weekend so we let him cuddle with us during the service.  When we went back to the high school to pick up Kirk's truck we stopped by the playground to let Whit get out some of his wiggles. Back home we settled down to a great family dinner, put Whit to bed and Kirk and I got some much needed couch time.

As we cuddled together on the couch the consensus between us was "What a good day!" There are some days in your life that are hectic and some days that are special for various reasons. And then there are the days that are ordinary, but perfect. Days when you didn't take any pictures, attend any special engagements and typically do not record in any way. Days that leave you at the end of the day with a feeling of satisfaction and a slight pang of regret that such a wonderful day is over.  I couldn't let this day, weekend, really, pass us by without noting it.  What a great day! The only thoughts I had that did not follow with perfection was that the dinner table felt a little empty with only three seats filled and that when one of us was cuddling Whit, the other's arms were empty....

Friday, May 4, 2012

Little Helper

Let me preface this by saying that I am not the perfect parent. But every so often I am pleasantly surprised to learn that my effort has paid off and I am doing something correctly.

I am a big proponent of having children be responsible for a growing list of chores as they get older. When I was a child I was always helping fold laundry, attempting to clean my room (typically not well) and I traded off with my sister on responsibility for sweeping the floor and doing the dishes after dinner each night. All of this was before the days of high school when we were forever gone from the house involved in various activities.

I've heard many parents say that they struggle to get things done around the house after working all day because they have to entertain their children. On the other side of things (and I've been guilty of this myself, especially during baseball season) you put your child, whom you have not seen all day, in front of the television so that you can put in a load of laundry, go to the bathroom and get dinner started. The few times I've fallen back on this strategy is has just hurt my heart so I try to avoid it at all costs.

The solution? Create a little helper. Children are helpers by nature. They are imitators and strive to please their parents. If you praise your child rather than scold them when they "help" and unfold rather than fold the laundry you will begin to build something in them. You will make them more prone to help. You will encourage them to try and not be afraid of failure. Over the last year I've spent quite a lot of time cleaning up Whit's messes when he has been "helping." There was the flour incident when our pizza making became 6 cups of flour all over the kitchen floor (some of which is still hanging around).

There were a few months this winter when folding laundry became throw Daddy's folded shirts all over the living room and dirty laundry rather than clean was winding up in the dryer.
Currently sweeping involves running a broom as fast as possible through Mama's dirt pile so that she has to start all over and washing dishes typically puts more water on the floor than in the sink (hey, at least I don't have to mop!)
We are still working on the concept that weeding the garden involves digging up the weeds, not climbing on the flowers.

Sometimes Whit's helping is easier to accept. It's adorable to watch as Whit follows Daddy around the yard with his toy mower every weekend or pretends to help vacuum (complete with whirring noises). He has quickly figured out how to water the "peppa" plants (even if he misses as many times as he hits the plants).

Throughout all of this I continue to tell Whit what a good helper he is to reinforce this behavior. Consequently, I am not surprised when I am unloading the dishwasher and he grabs a handful of silverware and tosses it haphazardly into the silverware drawer. I simply say "Thank you Whit, you are such a good helper!" And he beams at me and toddles right on about his business. It is my hope that we can continue this trend of helping. I love that Whit puts his books back on the shelf when he is finished reading them and that he brings me Daddy's empty glasses and dirty plates from the living room. Yes, it requires a little more effort now, but when Whit is 10 and I put "unload the dishwasher" on his chore list he should do it quickly, correctly, and with little or no complaint. Why? Because helping is FUN! And helping gets you praise and kisses!