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JUNE 2006
(Hold your mouse over a picture for its caption.)

June 3, 2006

Becca came over bright and early this morning and we had another garage sale.  It was a complete success, and I'm very much enjoying my house without all of the extra junk sitting around.  :-)  Patch threw me for a loop this morning.  Mark had taken Alex to his football game and Patch was going in and out of the house while we were outside with the garage sale.  A kid from the neighborhood, Steven, came over to play and I told him to go on inside and find Patch.  A few minutes later he came back out and said he couldn't find him.  I went looking all around inside and called out back for him - no Patrick.  I ran back out front and hollered for him, and Becca said she heard him from near the front door.  I walked over there and he was stuck in the tree!

June 4, 2006

Cute kid story:  We were on our way to dinner tonight, and Patrick was pretty hyper.  Alex was teasing him and telling him to calm down.  Alex said, "Patrick, two words:  calm - down.  Do you know what they mean?"  and Patrick replied:  "I know what they mean, I just can't DO IT!"

Monday, June 5, 2006 

We’re in ALASKA!!!!  Our day started at 5:00 this morning (the middle of the night in my opinion) in order to get to the airport on time.  We were on and off of three airplanes over about 12 hours.  As we approached Seattle on our second flight, we had an awesome view of snowcapped Mount Rainier peeking up through the clouds.  As soon as we got off the last flight, the boys and I ran outside to feel the cold!  We were still dressed in shorts so we really felt it!  And felt it and felt it and felt it, since we managed to beat our luggage to Alaska.  We were enjoying the cold when we headed out of the hotel for dinner, but the desk clerk refused to let us leave without loaning us some spare jackets.  Patrick has been dying to eat crab in Alaska, so I ordered a $30 king crab dinner to share with him.  I was more than a little dismayed when the meal came with only two crab legs.  I guess king crab doesn’t compare with the puny snow crab I’m used to eating, because Patrick and I could barely finish the meal! 

Patch was watching our plane being prepped

Our first glimpse of snow-capped mountains! Spectacular

Mount Rainier poking up through the clouds

Tuesday, June 6, 2006 

The four-hour time change has sure thrown us for a loop.  Last night the kids were all excited thinking they were going to be able to stay up four hours later than usual (the poor things are delusional), despite the fact that in our own time zone, we got up at 5:00 yesterday.  We insisted on going to bed at 7:00, and they were both asleep within minutes.  LOL  On the other hand, Mark and the boys were also awake at 5:00 this morning, and soon discovered that most of the restaurants within walking distance don’t typically open for breakfast until 7:00.  There are some advantages to being able to sleep until the wee hours of the afternoon – I was happily oblivious until 7:30 when Mark called me to join them for breakfast.

 We spent the morning exploring downtown Juneau.  It’s a tourist trap, but then again, we are tourists, so we had a wonderful time.  This afternoon we went on a gold panning trip and came home with several flakes of gold, and a couple of small garnets as well.  Garnet and gold – Seminoles to the core!  It was exciting to get to the bottom of our pans and see the flakes shining up at us. 

We had originally planned a big tour to a glacier to ride a dog sled, but ended up canceling to make better use of that big chunk of money.  Patch was very disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to see the dogs, but we’ve run into several around Juneau and everyone has been kind enough to let Patch pet their dogs.  There was even a dog in one of the shops who apparently belongs there and jumped up on the counter a few times!

Gold Panning
 Our guide, Rocker Box Randy, showing Patch and Mark how it's done Alex worked on his own

Randy helped Patch put his gold flakes into a tiny bottle

Around Juneau
A gorgeous view from downtown Juneau

Taking a break in the bear chair Did that bear grow a blue arm?

Down time in the hotel 

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 

What an awesome day!  We spent the morning wandering around town.  We finally found a decent breakfast place, although after we ate we went to a grocery store and stocked up on stuff for the hotel, so hopefully we can eat in for the next few mornings.  The kids discovered a joke shop and bought fake mustaches and a whoopee cushion.  The whoopee cushion kept them busy and happy for most of the day while in the room.  So much for all of the sophisticated puzzle books and games I brought! 

 This afternoon we rafted down the Mendenhall River.  On the bus ride to the lake, we saw several bald eagles.  It seemed that we were on the opposite side as in Florida.  Here, we were awed by the plentiful bald eagles.  In Florida, tourists are awed by the plentiful alligators.  We donned waterproof overalls, hooded parkas and boots to protect us from the 36 degree water, and then put life jackets on over that.  Poor Patrick disappeared inside his huge gear and had to walk like the Stapuff Marshmallow Man.  The trip started off in Mendenhall Lake which is at the base of the Mendenhall Glacier.  We dodged small icebergs on the lake which our guide said had just calved overnight and rode some Class II and III rapids on the way down the river.  Mark, Alex and Patrick were in the front of the raft.   When we went over the rapids they got a “glacial facial.”  LOL  At the end of the ride, we were treated to reindeer sausage, salmon spread and hot cider.  Mmmmmm.

Rafting the Mendenhall River
The boys disappeared in their wet gear! Heading down to the rafts

Mendenhall glacier Goofball #1

Goofball #2 Goofball #3

This is the closest thing we could find to a park within walking distance of the hotel.
at least we got to see a bear statue, even if we missed the real thing Monkey bars for the monkey

Tossing around the "flat ball"

Thursday, June 8, 2006 

Alex has already maxed out the grump-o-meter.  It’s not that we didn’t expect this.  He doesn’t do well away from home, especially when he doesn’t have control over things.  But we didn’t really expect it to be this bad this soon.  Today we went on a whale watching trip and he had been bitching and moaning about it.  He wants some down time and thinks whale watching is boring, and he’s made sure we all know about it.  Funny, though, when we got on the boat he sure looked like he was having a ball!  He finally admitted that having a good guide made the trip good.  We saw several humpback whales, stellar sea lions and bald eagles.  It was awesome! 

 We also rode the Mount Roberts Tramway up Mount Roberts (imagine that) and had lunch.  What a view!  We’ve been marveling at the size of the cruise ships in the harbor (there have been 5 or 6 different ships in the harbor each day), but from up the mountain they look small.  The top of the tram also has a gift shop, a resident bald eagle and several hiking trails, so we rooted around a bit before heading back down.  I have been absolutely determined to ignore my fear of heights on this trip, and I think I did it!  I won’t deny I was more than a little tense, but I didn’t let it get in the way of enjoying the views.  I could sit and look at the gorgeous landscape here forever.

 The view from Mount Roberts Tramway
This is the tram we rode up in

The whale watching trip - I did not zoom the camera on any of these pictures.  The whales were really that close!
The gorgeous view as we left Juneau
Herbert Glacier

The whale's back going over . . . . . . . and starting back down . . .

. . . and the beautiful tail as it goes down Another great tail shot

Stellar sea lions on the buoy Frollicking sea lions

Alex got comfortable on the way back to Juneau Mark taught the boys card magic tricks

 Patch and I went to the Alaska State Museum.
That's a big totem pole! His first dandelion wish!

Friday, June 9, 2006

The boys have been getting pretty tired of having to be at scheduled events.  Today all we had on the agenda was a salmon bake for lunch.  It turned out to not be all that great, but we enjoyed having the rest of the day free and spent most of it hanging out in the hotel.  It got into the low 70’s, and we’ve been amused by the locals complaining about the heat!  Mark went for a hike up Mount Roberts past the top of the tramway and took the tram back down.  He hiked right up to some snow, which the kids are insanely jealous about.  He was also completely tuckered when he got back!  There’s a bowling alley close by so we took the kids there for something familiar, and then had PB&J’s back in our room.  It’s been a nice and relaxing day.

 The salmon bake
Getting to know Mac, the resident malamute
My wild and crazy guys

The waterfalls that powered the old Chilkoot mine Hoping to make our fortunes in gold!

Taking a rest with more bears

Mark's hike up Mount Roberts
The view while hiking up Father Brown's Cross at the top of Mount Roberts (with snow in front of it)

Tiny little cruise ship (BIG from the ground!) w-a-y down there bird's nest (duh) - with snow

Gasteneau Channel Snow!

More beauty Oooooh, Ahhhhhhh

Carvings along the trail More artwork

Saturday, June 10, 2006

We said goodbye to Juneau this afternoon and boarded the ferry for Petersburg.  The beds at the hotel were small and we’ve been rotating beds so everyone would get to sleep by themselves at some point.  The stateroom in the ferry had four bunks, so we stretch out all by ourselves and enjoyed the solitude for awhile.  It was an eight-hour ferry ride, so we enjoyed the cafeteria, explored the ship, and saw several more humpback whales, sea lions and dolphin.  While the boys and I were in the cabin reading, Mark was out on deck and saw some Orcas.  I’m so jealous!  At about 10:30 p.m. we put the kids to bed, kicking and screaming (it was still light out), but they passed out almost immediately.  We got to Petersburg at about 1:00 a.m. so we had to wake them up.  Alex was fine, but Patrick really couldn’t wake up.  He needed to change from shorts to pants since it had gotten cold, but he kept rolling over and going back to sleep.  I told him to take off his shorts, and he got them down to his knees before he was asleep again.  We finally got him up and out the stateroom door, with all of our luggage, and had to wait in the lobby while we docked.  He laid down on the bench and was out again.  When we docked, we took the elevator down to the main floor, and he slumped down the wall of the elevator and was almost asleep again!  It was hilarious!  We were pretty bedraggled when we met Greg, but it was so nice to see him.  We invaded his house and slept like babies. 

Pictures from the ferry
Zooming along Dolphin playing

Enjoying the late sunshine Beautiful sunset

Poor Patch just couldn't wake up!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

We spent most of today just hanging out and relaxing while I did laundry.  Greg took us out into the Tongass Forest and we followed a boardwalk down to the water.  It is absolutely gorgeous up here!  The boys skipped rocks and got muddy and were happy as clams.  Greg threw a mattress in the back of his pick-up and the kids have been having a field day rolling around back there with the turns, laughing their heads off.  (Don’t worry – he has a topper over the truck bed so there was no chance of losing a kid!) 

 Skipping rocks in the woods
I love the reflection in the water Boys being boys

The deer just graze through people yards!  The orange netting around the plants is to keep the deer from eating the plants.
A deer in Greg's neighbor's front yard

Monday, June 12, 2006

Greg took us by his skipper’s house today and we took a leisurely walk along the water with their two labrador retrievers.  Patch has been dying to see some dogs so he was in seventh heaven.  From there we headed out to the woods again.  There’s a beautiful picnic area with a trail down to the water where we continued to hone our rock skipping skills.  One of Patrick’s skipping stones ended up on top of a big rock on the other side of the stream, so he waded out to retrieve it.  There was some debate about the actual water temperature, but we all agree that it’s cold!  That didn’t stop the boys, though.  They waded around, slipped up to their chests, squealed, and waded some more.

Skipping rocks and wading
Mark picking out a good skipping rock Patch trying to keep his clothes dry

Mark and Alex analysing stones So much for keeping the clothes dry!

Aren't boys the happiest when they're wet or dirty? Monkey see, monkey do

Hanging out at Greg's
Bookworm  :-) Upside down with his GameBoy

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 

Today was definitely the highlight of our trip.  Greg took us out in his skiff to explore Frederick Sound.  We went to a spot with probably about 50 stellar sea lions.  When we arrived they all got off their rocks and floated in the water with just their heads bobbing up and down.  It looked like a bunch of black balls everywhere.  We could see an iceberg nearby so we went over to investigate.  Greg was telling us that it’s not uncommon for icebergs to roll.  As he was positioning the boat so he could take our picture with the berg in the background, it did just that!  It was amazing to watch is lazily roll over, and a chunk of ice fell off in the process.  I’ll tell ya, Greg got that boat moving in a hurry!  I was so impressed with that iceberg, but boy was there more to come.  We worked our way towards the Leconte Glacier.  After we rounded each turn going further in towards the mountains, the icebergs became more and more plentiful and we weren’t sure how much further we would be able to go.  It also got colder and colder as we rounded each bend.  Greg managed to dodge the ice and it was spectacular to finally see the glacier as we rounded the last turn.  The water was littered with icebergs of all sizes and beautiful shades of dark blue.  Harbor seals were everywhere we turned, hanging out on the icebergs, many with their cute little pups.  At any moment, we could look up and see a bald eagle soaring overhead.  It was such a peaceful and awe-inspiring place.  When we’d gotten as close as we could, we went ashore sort of across from the glacier where there was a stream cascading over rocks, and before we knew it, Patch had waded across the stream (this is some seriously cold water we’re talking about!) and was climbing the rocks trying to get to the snow on the side of the mountain. Granted, the snow was very close, but it still would have taken some intense hiking to get there, not to mention we were in virgin wilderness with all of the bears and moose and whatever else you can imagine!  Being the good mother that I am, I braved the cold and waded across after him and convinced him, grudgingly, to head back to the boat.  We had a good long boat ride back, and as hard as we looked, we never did see a bear along the shore line.  What an absolutely amazing day!

Heading out

Scenery and stellar sea lions bobbing in the water
More beautiful scenery Pretty little waterfall It's a bunch of bobbing sea lions!

The rolling iceberg
The first lone iceberg After it rolled

Enjoying the ride
Gotta get wet That's cold!

Just hangin' out

At Mount Leconte Glacier
Harbor seals hanging out on an iceberg Leconte Glacier - WOW!

We were really there!

We went ashore and Patrick started heading for the snow

Heading back
Greg at the helm A VERY happy family!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 

We hit the mother lode!  Greg took us w-a-y out into the woods, actually to the end of the road in the woods, where we hiked down a narrow, very steep little path to a stream loaded with garnet.  You could pick up a rock and there were garnets peeking out of it – even the boulders!  Mark quickly discovered how to chip away the rock until the garnet popped out of the rock.  We explored and chipped and filled our pockets with amazing garnets.  The boys also practiced echoing their voices off the mountains. 

 When we go out into the wilderness, Greg brings a gun in case we have a bad bear encounter.  On the way home we passed the shooting range, so we pulled in and he and Mark shot some rounds.  Mark was lovin’ shooting Greg’s big 45.  Yikes! 

We’ve been staying at a bed and breakfast right on the water – actually, it’s over the water on pilings.  I was looking out the window at an immature bald eagle sitting on the shoreline when I noticed little spurts of water puffing out of the beach.  I called the kids over to look and they confirmed that I’m not going crazy.  We went down to investigate and Greg told us that the water squirts are from clams.  We were digging away everywhere we saw a squirt, and meanwhile Greg turned over a rock and exposed a whole zoo of baby marine life.  There were baby eels, sea cucumber, dungeness crab, starfish, sand fleas, hermit crab, sea urchins, and we finally dug deep enough to find one of those squirting clams.  Nearby was a sponge (yes, alive) and some worm tubes, and the entire beach was covered in mussels.  Just amazing. 

Tonight when we got back to the room, Mark was sitting next to the window, when he said, “What the heck!” and grabbed the binoculars.  Just below us in the water was an otter cruising by! 

Someone at the Bed and Breakfast tossed some salmon scraps on the beach, and several bald eagles, mature and juvenile, came in to eat it.  Wow!  I stood outside and took picture after picture of bald eagles just feet away! 

Since today is our last full day in Alaska, I gave everybody a piece of paper to see how many animals we could remember we’ve seen in Alaska.  We’ve got quite a list! 

                    Humpback whales                Clams
                    Stellar sea lions                  Eel
                    Harbor seals                       Sea cucumber
                    Dolphin                               Starfish
                    Killer whales (only Mark)     Sponge
                    Deer                                   Crab
                    Bald eagles                          Mussels
                    Otter                                  Sand flea 

Two critters that we really wanted to see but didn’t were bear and moose.  However, today, we did see both bear and moose poo.  Does that count?

Exploring the beach
A juvenile bald eagle outside our window That's the incredible B&B we stayed at!  :O

Those are little baby eels at Greg's fingertips Greg giving Patch a baby dungeness crab

Alex loves critters! That green blob is a sponge

One of those freaky squirting clams I know it looks gross, but those slimy things are starfish with 6 legs

Patch was desperately trying to hold onto a slimy eel! The B&B from the beach

The trip to the garnet mine
A deer in the woods Climbing down to the water This is called Devil's Walking Stick.  You can see why!

Mark's "tool" for freeing the garnet from the rocks All those red marbles are garnets in the rock!

Miners at work Chipping away

Greg and Alex climbed up some steep terrain to get to the mine shaft Climbing our way back up from the water

At the shooting range
Taking out the bear bullets and putting in regular bullets Look out - BIG gun!

Seeing how many times they hit the target

Bald eagle feast
It's hard to see on the rocky beach, but there are 5 bald eagles on the beach

An adult and a juvenile eagle There are 2 bald eagles sitting at the very top of that tree

Decompressing at the end of an exciting day
Drawing pictures of what they saw today

Thursday, June 15, 2006

We were so sad to leave Alaska.  Patrick sort of summed it up this morning.  He said, “I’ll be glad to get back home where things are normal. . .  But now things here seem normal.”  The Petersburg airport is a tiny little one-gate terminal.  Our flight was scheduled for around lunchtime, so we took our bags out to the airport and checked them in at about 10:00, then went back into town for some coffee, then went and hung out at Greg’s house, and left for the airport a half-hour before our flight, and still made it before they were boarding the plane!  We had two flights today, and ended up in Seattle at dinnertime, so David met up with us and we went to the Rainforest Café for dinner.  Then we went back to the hotel and the three adults visited on the hotel pool deck while the boys swam.  Yes, I did haul two bathing suits all the way to Alaska so my children could swim in the hotel pool for one evening!  It was wonderful to see David again, even if it was for just a short visit, and the boys were in full goofball mode for him and kept us entertained.

One more beach exploration before we leave.
I love it when they put their heads together!  LOL 

Friday, June 16, 2006 

Ahhhhhhh – Home Sweet Home!  And it’s Mark’s birthday!  Happy Birthday Mark!

 We had to be at the Seattle airport bright and early this morning (it’s an abrupt end to your vacation when you have to wake up to an alarm clock!), and as we were checking in, on the front of one of the counters was a big Disney advertisement.  It’s strange.  We spent 10 days in the outdoor, natural beauty of Alaska – about as real as life gets – but when I saw the Disney ad, my first thought was, “Ugh, back to reality.”  Disney = Reality?  When did that happen?

Our long flight into Orlando was uneventful, and it was so nice to see Mom there to pick us up.  She once again earned her saint status.  Our fridge was packed with goodies and the doggies had obviously been well-pampered in our absence.  She even spritzed the snake eggs daily for us.

I checked the messages on the answering machine, and Alex’s friend had left one asking if we’d gotten his birthday party invitation and whether Alex was coming.  I sifted through the huge stack of mail and came across it.  I called to Alex that he had mail and let him open it himself.  He started jumping up and down when he read it, saying it’s a slumber party tonight.  I did some quick thinking.  The four-hour jetlag means he’ll probably be awake until 1:00 a.m. anyway, and he’s been dying to see his friends, so why not?  We did a quick repack and off he went.  Mom had left a birthday cake for Mark (did I mention she’s a saint?), so Patrick played him Happy Birthday on both the piano and the guitar before we dug into the cake. 

Mark and I were both floored when Patrick went to bed at 10:00 and actually fell asleep.  I tried to go to bed at a reasonable hour, but was wide awake, so I got back up and started sorting laundry and going through mail.  At about 12:30 Patrick came into the kitchen asking what I was doing.  I told him and tried to send him back to bed but he was wide awake.  We hung out for a while, and at 2:00 a.m. I drugged him with Benadryl, and he finally went back to sleep at 2:20.  It's a good thing because I was mighty tired by that point, too!

Trying to rest during the layover Playing Happy Birthday while Daddy held his music

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Today was web update day, as you can see.  :-)  We took 387 pictures on the trip!  Sorry if I bored you with too many scenic pictures, but it was truly gorgeous and I couldn't choose.  Hope you enjoyed it!

June 18, 2006 

Happy Father's Day

We're still recovering from our trip, so we spent a lazy day around the house.  After dinner, we took the dogs to the dog park.  One little puppy came up to Grendel and started sniffing around under her belly.  Patrick asked what he was doing, and I just said that dogs like to sniff each other in the darndest places.  He said, "At first I thought he was looking for milk."  ROFL!

June 19, 2006

The boys made a new toy today.  They took string and made a line from Patrick's dresser to his bed and built Lego "racers" to slide down the string.

Future engineers at work

June 20, 2006

Sleep - my kingdom for a good night's sleep!  We're all suffering from serious jet lag.  The boys aren't falling asleep until after 11:00, which means I'm not able to go to sleep until then either. 

We've been taking it easy.  Our big outing today was taking the dogs to the field across the street.

A boy and his dog.  Awwww. Mr. Acrobat

June 21, 2006

Desperation has kicked in and we had to get out of this house!  So Becca and I took the kids bowling this afternoon.  We had a wonderful time, and it was so nice to get together with Becca and her boys for a play date.

Alex and Carter in back, Patch and Nathan in front

Intense air hockey Trying to smile for the camera and pay attention to his game

June 23, 2006

I've been feeling badly that Mark's 40th birthday got lost in the vacation shuffle, so I figured I'd have the neighbors over for a little get together.  I know I've bragged about our neighbors before, but they pulled through once again, and we had a full-blown birthday celebration!  Everybody brought food, and I managed to make a cake (although I was still decorating it when the first people arrived) and put up some decorations.  Add a bunch of awesome people, and voila - happy times!

Alex and Jacob were break dancing It's not a party at the Finster house without getting the snakes involved

WHAT?!?!  I'm FORTY? The spot light was so we could watch the kids on the trampoline

June 24, 2006

Alex has been very excited about a Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament in town this morning, so I agreed to take him, thinking we'd be home before lunch.  The entire Finster clan is at the river this weekend, so we were planning to head over there after the tournament.  Well, turns out the tournament is an all-day affair and didn't end until 7:30 p.m.!  So Mark and Patrick went over to the river on their own, while I basically killed time for 10 hours while Alex dueled his little heart out.  He was having a fabulous time until they posted the standings.  By that point it was already dinnertime, we were both getting pretty tired, and he was truly shocked to see how far down in the standings he was.  He somehow managed to finish off the last two rounds, and barely held off the tears until he got in the car.  It was a 45-minute drive home, and he sobbed all the way.  It broke my heart!  I think it was more exhaustion than disappointment, but life's lessons can be tough sometimes.

June 25, 2006

Alex and I woke up bright and early (okay, early, anyway) and headed over to the river.  After leaving the dogs home alone all day yesterday, I didn't dare leave them again and expect to have my house intact when we got home, so we lined the van with towels and prayed Grendel had her Dramamine far enough before we left.  Alas, it didn't work.  I swear I had every inch of carpet of that van covered, and yet, two out of the three times she got sick she managed to find exposed carpet.  Ah well, the trip was worth it to get to see everyone!

John was there with his girlfriend, Laurie, and her daughter, Emma, although they left shortly after we arrived.  I hope we get to know them better soon.  We celebrated Chase's 5th birthday, so there was a bouncy house and slide set up in the back yard for the kids.  We finally got to meet the twins, who are absolutely adorable!  I tried to sneak one home with me, but didn't succeed.  :-)  We had a rare moment when all 13 grandkids were together and awake (small miracle) so we lined them all up by age and got pictures.  What a bunch of cuties!

Kate, Patch and Alex posing on the slide Mark had to join the kids, and Grendel tried before she was shooed away

Boudreaux got in the river first thing! Larry, Curly and Mo trying to set up the screen room

 Danielle and Kate could hardly wait for the hot tub to fill up! Everybody had to check out the Spiderman cake

Caroline and I were having a serious bonding moment Caroline and Madeline

A heated game of spoons Ryan and Kate both claimed the book was "MINE!"

Julia and Mike wore each other out Heather was helping Ryan hold Caroline

Mark getting his baby fix Julia and Mary Beth feeding Madeline, while Darice (Jay and Stacey's nanny) helped Ashley with Caroline

Mark and Maddie with some serious cuddles Mark and Danielle were playing and Grendel couldn't stand it and wiggled right between them

Ashley just loved Maddie! Can you tell Heather has 3 younger siblings?  She's a natural!

Hail!  Hail!  The gang's all here! What a bunch of beautiful faces!

Alex, Heather (holding Caroline), Patrick, Cameron, Ashley (holding Madeline), Preston, Danielle, Chase, Julia, Kate and Ryan.