Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Squirrels and sleeping beauties

We started putting out sunflower seeds on the windowsill by the kitchen window. There is a lot of interest in the sunflower seeds - both squirrels, and chickadees and redpoles come and get them. Sonja loves to watch the squirrels, which she calls "vaya", which is her way of saying "veverka" (squirrel).

Saphira is also very interested, when Martin puts her on the kitchen counter.

And here are my two beauties sleeping happing in the morning:

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Everyone back

Wednesday evening Sonja and I walked to get mail and en route home met Sandy, who was just coming back from her trip and dropping off the dogs. Sonja was very happy to see them. In the five minutes we took to walk to the house, the dogs managed to disappear again - apparently they took off running the moment Sandy opened the car door. Spring fever. With Sonja, we went looking for them, or rather yelling for them, but to no avail. But since the dog team down below us was sounding off, I thought that perhaps I should load Sonja up into the car and drive around the neighborhood before we hit her bedtime. And sure enough, after a few stops an yells (just to be sure we are not driving past them somewhere), there they were at the end of the ditch road. They happily jumped into the car, and off we drove back home.

Friday I took Sonja to Sarka's playgroup. Sarka works in the same building, but that is about the extent of our acquaintance currently, except for the language. She has two daughters, slightly older and slightly younger than Sonja. I picked Sonja up from the daycare and we drove out to where Sarka lives, more than half hour away. Sarka and her husband have 20 dogs, of which one is sort of a pet (her name is Ice), and Sonja was fascinated by all those doggies. After a while, I managed to persuade her that only Ice was ok to pet, that she should stay away from the rest of the dogs. Since Ice thought she could have some of the people food, Sonja got really good at saying "no, no, ice" when she had food in her hand and the dog approached. We also watched the chickens. Overall, Sonja seemed to warm up overtime to the other kids, which was nice to see.

Today, Saturday, was a rather busy day. We took a bath first thing in the morning because we didn't end up doing it last night. Unfortunately, when I was adding some hot water, Sonja stuck her hand out to touch it, and got burned. End of bath. I stuck it into the bathwater (since that was cooler than what I was pouring), and then got a pitcher of cold water and stuck her hand into that. We got dressed, and I tried to put some of my grandfather's "propolys" onto it, but that did not go over well with Sonja. So, since it seemed like it was hurting her but not too much, I decided to cotninue with the morning program, which was a walk by Smith Lake at the university, with the dogs, and Sonja in the Chariot.

I loaded up the car and off we went. In the car, Sonja had fun time watching Saphira being incapable of sitting down, so she did not even complain about her "ouwie". Once at the university, we got out onto trails, proceeded to the "Potato field", where I left the chariot and we started our walk. At the bottom of the potato field, which was completely snow-free except for a few shadow areas, Smith Lake was still completely frozen. We walked along the shore, on the ice, to where the other trail comes out. There, I managed to persuade Sonja to turn around, and walk back on the ice (she wanted to continue forward). I also let go of the other dog, and now the dogs had a grand old time exploring bushes. Periodically, Spahira would try to hunt Mica: she would hunch down a bit, eyes staring at Mica, getting ready for a pounce, and then at some point the pounce would come. Mica seemed to be mainly intersted in doing her own business though. Just as we got back to the chariot, though, it seemed like she accepted the play, and started a game of chase with Saphira chasing her in an extremely fast game of circles around us. I was just glad that both of them had good footing - at one point Saphira ran within a foot of Sonja, very very fast.

After dropping off the dogs at the car, we watered my seedlings in Martin's office, and headed back home. Sonja was complaining about the ouwie for the first time in couple hours. Within a couple minutes she was out. I thought she would still eat lunch when we got home, but that got nixed when she didn't even wake up when I carried her from the car to the futon in her room.

In the afternoon, we did errands. Stop by the mailbox. Stop by the bank. Do laundry. At the laundromat, in the parking space next to ours was one of those old motorcycles that has a companion box attached to it (don't know what they are called). There sat a big brown dog. Funny sight. But Sonja seemed to be most taken by the ability to sit in the drivers seat of our car and twirling the steering wheel and all the knobs and buttons and levers within her arm reach. Who cared that she couldn't see over the steering wheel, it moved when she moved it!

We also stopped by the Constitution park where Sweating Honey was playing, and danced to a few of their songs, and by the caribout to see the three baby caribou.

After a dinner and some play, Sonja is asleep after a bsy day, and Martin came back a few hours later. House is full again!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ultrasound and animals, but no doggies :( yet

Last Thursday, we had the mid-pregnancy ultrasound. As with Sonja, this baby will be a surprise (we decided that they should not tell us whether it is a boy or girl).

Now that the house is empty except for the two of us, we have been checking out animals: in addition to the geese, chick, and reindeer that we saw on Saturday, we saw on our walk to get mail yesterday a raven sitting in a tree right above us, a butterfly, and a squirrel that went to get the sunflower seeds we left out for the chickadees. The squirrel was quite a hit - Sonja would sit on the kitchen counter half a foot away from the window, and the squirrel was nibbling the seeds just outside. Even with all these animals, Sonja periodically asks about the doggies, and cries at night for them. At least now I know that she cries because she misses the dogs. The first time that happened, when she was inconsolable, I thought she had a toothache, or stomachache, or ear infection. That first time it happened, at some point after more than an hour of crying, I finally heard her say "doggie", and when I asked if she is crying because the doggies are not here, she said yes, and I was able to tell her that they will be back in a week. That quieted her down. I doubt if she believes me though, a week is a long time for a toddler.

Martin called yesterday, which was also a big hit with Sonja. She would listen on the phone for a bit, then take it away from her ear, so that she could look at this contraption, inside which apparently her dad was trapped.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Raclette; empty nest; geese arrived!

In the beginning of April, we enjoyed a raclette dinner at our house with others, thanks to Tinu and Elsbeth and Lena, who brought the cheese over from Switzerland. It is an excellent and very simple dish, though I am sure that if I asked a nutritionist about how is the food, they would just roll their eyes. In its purest form, it is melted cheese served with boiled baby potatoes, with some pickles and pickled onions on the side. In the olden days, the dish was made over the fire - the half wheel of cheese was put close to the flames, and when it melted and got a good layer of somewhat-burned cheese, it was scraped off onto the plate with the potatoes. The electric machine we have emulates the fire setting by having a heating element at the top, but without the wood smoke. Still good to disconnect the fire alarms though. Eating raclette makes for a nice social dinner, because only one person is served at a time. Plenty of time for conversation, and for the stomach to digest one serving of raclette at a time. Most people had three or four servings - a serving is one scrape of the melted cheese. Mmmm, raclette.

This morning our house got really empty as even Martin left for fieldwork. With the dogs being gone for the camping trip with Sandy up north in the Brooks Range for up to ten more days, and now Martin being gone to Bering Glacier, also for some ten days, weather dependant, there is only Sonja and myself left. It is rather quiet.

To keep her occupied, we went to Creamer's field this afternoon to look at the first geese, which apparently arrived yesterday, April 13th, according to the newspaper. It will be more impressive when there are more of them, but I think she saw both the geese and the ducks.

Reminds me - the last day of February we saw a bald eagle in town, being chased by a raven. At that time, it caught us by surprise, but apparently others have been seeing it too. I wonder if it manged to survive until now.

After the geese, we stopped by Alaska Feed Company because they received their shipment of chicks, but Sonja seemed more interested in the raisins I gave her for snack just before we entered the store.

Our last stop this afternoon was the UAF Experimental Farm, to look at the caribou. In addition to the regular herd, there were two brand new baby caribou there, and there might have been one more pregnant female still waiting to give birth. One male was right at the fence when we were on the other side of the people fence - some five feet away. Sonja liked the caribou, especially the baby caribou, though the raisins were still enough on her mind that we didn't watch the caribou for very long.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

First spring rain; emptying nest

So, first of all, here are the pictures of the Bear, the one that is now Bear All Done: first a picture of the mama bear and baby bear and Sonja and Martin, and next, the lovely picture of Martin picking the poor bear's nose.

Today was the first day that it reained since, I forget when - october? november? We didn't have the horrible rains in the middle of winter like a few years ago, so the road conditions were never extremely bad.

Our house is slowly emptying. Our friend Sandy borrowed the dogs, Mica and Saphira, to go do a trip in the Brooks Range. She picked them up yesterday, and will be gone for a week or two. Sonja seems to be taking it in stride, which is good to see. It helped that Sandy borrowed the dogs overnight earlier in the week, and then we explained to Sonja that "Sandy Mica Saphira walk" and that they will be back. And the next day they were. Now it just will be longer than overnight.

In addition, Martin leaves on Saturday, for ten days of fieldwork. When that happens, it will be Sonja and myself left in the very quiet house.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bear AllDone

A week ago we said bye for the last time to the polar bear ice sculpture at the entrance to the university. The heat from the sun collapsed it the next day.

Sonja was very fond of the bear, we stopped by it twice, and anytime she would see it in passing, she would yell out "Bea"(r)! Last week, we tried to show her how the snow and ice melts, so as we were passing the place where the bear and its cub had stood, we said "Bear all done", since Sonja now regularly uses "All done" for finished/done/gone. Sonja saw the remains of the ice where the ice sculpture had stood. and burst into tears. She was sobbing for most of the way home. We tried to explain to her that next year, there will be another ice sculpture there, but were not very successfull.

Well, Spring is almost here, and Bear AllDone.

I'll try to post a picture of Sonja and the bear in question from home.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter weekend 2007: dredge and white mountains

Saturday we went to a local dredge. The snow conditions deteriorated amazingly fast between Trhusday, when I went to the dredge with Elsbeth, and Saturday, when we went there with her husband, Martin, and Keith and Susan (as well as Sonja and Lena). While I normally ski to the area where the dredge is from our house, the road was already melted out a week ago, so we jsut drove a car to the end of it, and made the relatively short less than 1 mile hike to the dredge on skis. Hardest part is dropping into the ditch. The ditch took all the water out of the area, and since it is going through silty soil, the ditch cut really deep into the landscape, and has steep slopes. This year, a snowmachine made its way into the ditch from the lookout, so this was the first year I have gone closer to the dredge. Huge thing, that dredge. First picture shows Martin way up high looking down onto Elsbeth and Lena. Second picture shows Keith having fun climbing to the top of the stairs on the left side.

Saturday evening the same party reconvened at our place for a dinner of salmon, so that Tinu and Elsbeth could have some before heading back to Europe. Lena and Sonja started really playing together for the first time then. It was wonderful to see.

On Easter sunday, we went on our very last ski trip of the season, to Wickersham area. We headed out on the trail to Lee's cabin. After some two hours on a somewhat icy trail, we stopped on a hillock to eat some lunch. An hour later, at 2 o'clock, we headed back towards the cars, on a now somewhat slushy trail