Thursday, June 20, 2013

More from Alaska

I had only a few shots that Michal didn't get in Alaska, namely from our four hour train ride. You can see the entire gallery in its 121 photo glory or you can just take my word for it.

The train from Anchorage to Seward is awesome not just because of the scenery (which is fantastic, although the 6:45 a.m. departure is not) but also because there is a baggage car, a dining car, a sightseeing car, a dome car, and best of all, some open air spaces where you can sight see. Moving around with the kids made a huge difference, and we scored great seats with a table for the four of us when we actually used our assigned spots.

Theo and I went to the back of the train where only a small gate separates you from the tracks flying underneath. It was chilly, so I pulled him into my lap (we had already been there longer than anyone else) from the cold floor and he took a twenty-five minute nap. It might have lasted longer but I had to change my position as I wasn't expecting a morning snooze.

Posing by the big bear in Anchorage.

Vivian sneaking Granddaddy's pen out of his pocket on the trolley ride up the hill in Anchorage.

Theo and Grandmama sightseeing from the upper level of the cafe car, which we also called the sightseeing car.

Theo got very excited by the increasing amounts of snow as we traveled. We did spot a bald eagle nest and two bald eagles, one nearby and one in the nest, but no other wildlife (goats, belugas, bears, moose) during our ride.

A gorge as seen from between a series of tunnels, which was another highlight for Theo (the tunnels, not the scenery).

Eating second breakfast in the dining car.

The dome car, where we stayed for about sixty seconds - just long enough to sit down then get back up again. In all fairness we were going to the back of the train to look for the caboose when we went through this car.

At the back of the train. Theo expressed astonishment that it had "no caboose". That didn't deter him from staying a while though, around an hour total.

Sitting on the floor at the back of the train watching the tracks.

The view from the back.
Snacking on board after a refreshing nap.

Our scenic campsite as seen from our dining (and also our living) room in Seward.

Enjoying the snow in the parking lot at Exit Glacier.

Michal and Theo playing in the bubbles at the Anchorage Museum.

Theo enjoying the house and animals at the Anchorage Musuem tots area, including the "funny looking dog" seen on the left, aka a kangaroo.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Red Letter Day

Today was a big day for everyone. I'm not sure even where to start, so here it is from the beginning.

Theo had his second day of drop-off school, which meant Vivian had her first real day of one-on-one time. It's by far the longest span of time I've spent with Vivian awake consecutively, although she had a thirty minute nap at the beginning.

Theo was dropped off at school by Daddy without any fuss. (Last week when Mama left him there for the first time he cried, and was sad intermittently throughout the day - until he finally ate something at lunch, at which point he improved dramatically.)

Vivian bent over, picked up a link off the floor, and stood up all on her own without holding onto anything or anyone.

Vivian held her own sippy cup and tipped it up by herself to drink water successfully. (We've gone back and forth between a regular sippy cup that requires tipping up like a bottle to get to the liquid and a straw cup - which requires exactly the opposite - you have to keep it pretty level and down for the straw to get the liquid.)

Vivian's seventh tooth came in, the lower right one next to the center tooth.

Theo started playing the piano to accompany himself while singing such favorites as ABC's and Itsy Bitsy Spider. I managed to catch some of this on video. Warning: You should probably only listen to this video rather than watch it for the sake of your stomach.

I have not managed to record him singing his very own song, what we call "Old MacFarmie" for posterity yet. It turns out the beginning of Old MacDonald and Bingo (First line lyrics of "There was a farmer had a dog and Bingo was his name-o") are identical. I had no idea until Theo meshed the two into "Old MacFarmie had a dog and Bingo was his name-o".

I don't know what inspired Theo to play the piano while singing today, but my money is on the piano rolls. Yesterday Daddy got three new piano rolls for Father's Day, and I knew them well enough to sing along. (I know a lot of our other 50+ rolls, too, but not well enough to sing, or they are things like the Nutcracker Suite which doesn't technically have words. I am not above singing along with "la-la-la" though.) After one finished playing and the next one started Theo asked me to sing with it as well.

Vivian started walking for real. She's been capable and willing to do unassisted walking for about a month and a half (since just before 11 months) if someone was down on her level (either sitting or crouching) to receive her. But this evening just before 7 pm she took off on her own! She walked away from me about six feet, executed a u-turn, and came back. Then she would push my legs away and start the process again or I'd turn her around and set her off again. And again. And again. And away she went and my mini-heart attacks began. She bumped into one wall, which did not phase her, and fell onto her face once at the end, which she did find upsetting, but only briefly. More importantly, she fell once and put out her hands to break her fall.

Whew! What a day!


Last week, we took the kids and Sarah's parents and went on vacation to Alaska. You can check out all of my photos, or I'll try to hit the high points below. Sarah and I took a previous trip to Alaska in 2008.

Sunday, June 2

We left Seattle quite late -- our flight was scheduled for 8:30 but didn't actually take off until about 9:30pm. I snuck the photo above while we were passing Anchorage (that's the airport on the tip of the peninsula) at 11:52pm AKDT (there's a reason it's called the land of the midnight sun). Much to my surprise, Theo stayed awake the entire flight. Fortunately he was in a pretty good mood. Rental cars in Alaska are surprisingly expensive, and rental RVs are relatively inexpensive, so we rented an RV for our stay. However, we knew we were getting in pretty late, so we opted to stay in a hotel near the airport our first night: the Executive Suite Hotel. One interesting factoid is travelling with six people you have a carry-on bag allowance of 12 items, plus strollers and car seats. We didn't check a single bag!

Monday, June 3

This is our RV. We picked it up from Great Alaskan Holidays and threw all of our stuff in it. This photo was actually taken on Tuesday, but I didn't have an exterior shot from Monday. Here's what it looks like on the inside:

After pickup, it was pretty much nap time, so this is Theo drinking his milk and reading books outside the Ulu Factory in Anchorage (the only place we knew to go without much thought). We gave Theo the bottom bunk -- it was his first experience sleeping alone in an open-sided bed. (spoiler alert: he fell out. Multiple times a night, for the first four nights.) In the bunk we drew the curtain shut, giving him a tiny private space which he loved. He had a little window, too. He loved peeking out, especially at our parking spot at the Ulu Factory as it was right by the train station.

After nap we took the Ulu Factory's trolley into downtown and walked around a few gift shops. One had a giant bear out front, which Theo enjoyed:

I don't have a photo of Vivian in her sleeping arrangements, but because of the limited space in the RV, a pack-n-play wouldn't have fit, so she slept with Sarah in the overhead bunk. During naptime, we put pillows along the front so she wouldn't fall out: a bit risky, but Vivian's not crawling (despite walking!). Here's a shot of Theo who asked to come up while Sarah was getting the bunk ready:

Tuesday, June 4

Today started off early, with a 6:45am train departure from Anchorage to Seward. Sarah and I had done the train ride in 2008, and it's absolutely spectacular. It doesn't hurt having a toddler who loves trains. Meanwhile, Cony and I took the RV and drove down to meet them in Seward. Here's the boarding in Anchorage:

And here's Theo getting off the train in Seward, four hours later:

Cony and I had already found a nice campground right on the waterfront in downtown Seward for only $15/night.

Each time I looked at the water, within a few minutes I was able to spot sealife:

After nap, we walked the two blocks to the Alaska Sealife Center. Here's Vivian looking at Wally, the sea lion:

Here's Theo watching Wally's feeding:

In the underwater viewing areas, seals would follow your hands along the glass. Theo and Vivian both enjoyed it:

After dinner at Chattermark's, we put the kids to bed and went out for a beer flight at the Seward Brewing Company. We also went back to the Sealife Center sans kids -- unlike our visit in 2008, this time we were in prime tourist season and the center was open until 9pm! I took some sealife photos:

And this is a baby octopus:

Wednesday, June 5

The very first thing we did this morning was go play at the world's most scenic playground, right at our campground:

Then we went to see Seavey's Dogsled Kennels. Everyone had a great time: we got to see the dogs, see the gear, see some puppies, and best of all, we got on a cart pulled by a dog sled team! Vivian in particular loves dogs!

Afterwards we went out to lunch at the Train Wreck, a restaurant inside a old train car next to the train station. After nap and another visit to a different playground, we went to the Exit Glacier, the only part of Kenai Fjords National Park you can drive to:

Theo really enjoyed playing in the snow (we had none in Seattle this winter):

After the glacier, we had one of the most delicious dinners at the nearby Salmon Bake. In the evening we drove to Kenai, a city where Sarah's dad had a friend of a friend who might be able to get us a boat ride. We decided to put Vivian in her car seat, then did something totally crazy which Theo loved: put him to bed in his bunk, padded thoroughly with pillows, then drove the two hours to Kenai. He loved staring out the moving window, and took forever to fall asleep but for the first time on the trip didn't really struggle and try and get out of the bed! As an aside, Theo really enjoyed moving the shoes from the entrance where we took them off, and into the hallway:
. We ended up spending the night at the Beluga Point Lookout RV Park, arriving in bright daylight shortly after 11pm.

Thursday, June 6

We woke and quickly determined that a boat ride was not going to happen today, despite the gorgeous weather so we started working our way back to Girdwood, where we planned to pan for gold.

After the gold panning, we headed towards a new RV park back in Anchorage. This was definitely one of the less activity-packed days, and unfortunately the ladies who didn't pan for gold were stuck in the RV most of the day. We had dinner at the Chair 5 restaurant in Girdwood, then put Theo to bed again in his bunk on the drive back to Anchorage. Here's how he looks when he finally fell asleep sometime north of 9pm:
Fittingly, we spent the night in the Golden Nugget RV Park in Anchorage.

Friday, June 7

In the morning we took the kids to the playground across the street from the RV park:

Then we went to the Anchorage/Alaska Botanical Garden:

At one point the kids wandered off with the grandparents, and I was able to dig out my macro lens and take some nice flower shots:

After nap we went to the Anchorage Museum Center, which contained both an Imaginarium / Kid's Museum and a History of Alaskan Aviation exhibit. Theo loved both! Vivian had a great time too.

A big plus was the museum contained the world's largest elevator!

Dinner was in the museum's restaurant, where a band was playing for their First Friday celebration. Unfortunately Theo was so short on sleep by this point he was rather unpleasant to deal with and we ended up taking him to the RV early, and didn't go back to the museum after the dinner.

Saturday, June 8

In the morning we went to the market in downtown Anchorage:
Then we returned our RV, and went back to the airport where Theo rode on the moving sidewalk a lot:

Getting off the plane in Seattle:

This was darker than it ever got in Alaska!