Friday, April 25, 2008

In the midst of the chaos...

Natural smile-maker!

...she made my heart smile. And that was an unexpected blessing.

Between state assessments, three separate district assessments, end of quarter tests, report cards, student learning plans, professional performance plans, Saturday schools, inservices, graduation, an awards assembly, and Inupiat Day...the last three weeks have truly been a chaotic jumble of activity and emotion.

As the yearbook coordinator, I spent most of graduation zipping around the gym in an effort to capture the excitement and pride of the graduates and their families. As a K-12 school, graduation involves kindergartners, eighth graders, and high school seniors. Some families have children in all three categories! It can be nerve-racking trying to make sure that no one is overlooked in the photos and that the joy of the event is clearly and effectively represented.

And sometimes the view through the lens sends a little of that joy my way. Like when a ray of sunshine walks through the door...wrapped up in a pretty pink dress.

What a beauty!

Aattai! (how cute!)
Are graduates always this huggable?

On their way...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Brutish or Brave?

play area 3

This morning, before school started, I happened into the kindergarten classroom and was tickled to find children of various ages having a blast with all the cool stuff in the play area. It always surprises me a little that, in spite of its remote location, our school is well-equipped with all those creative treasures that encourage and delight the imagination.

Today I paused at the Lego table and traded high fives with a first grader who was busily snapping plastic pieces together. He appeared to be constructing some sort of weapon. That wasn't too surprising. It doesn't really matter what type of construction material is involved...modeling clay, Lincoln logs, K-nex, Legos, even a plain old popsicle stick. At some point, most boys can (and usually will) create a gun. I'll be honest, that has bothered me at times. There is always a concern that kids will fail to recognize the value of preserving life if they are allowed to act out imaginary violence against others during play.

I was well on my way to voicing my concern when the intercom squawked the announcement for breakfast. That triggered a frenzied exodus toward muffins and applesauce and within seconds I was standing in the play area alone. As I passed by the Lego table, I glanced back down at the abandoned weapon and realized that I probably shouldn't have worried. This boy might just have a pretty good handle on preserving life after all.

play area 1

play area 2

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Springtime is turning out to be a strange time this year. I'm seeing things that I've never seen before. Can you tell what this is? Scroll down and take a look at the anomaly that I found on my water pipe the other day.

I understand that the icicles formed when they delivered water to my house. A little water always runs back down the pipe after they disconnect the hose. The feathery crystals would have formed later on one of the many foggy days we've had lately, but the shape of the icicles has me stumped. Weird, huh?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Boys Will Be Boys

Okay, so you're five or six years old and the school day has just ended and the sun is shining and there isn't much wind to speak of and you become aware of this shed and it's just sitting there all shed-ish like and there's snow on top, just right for throwing at passersby, and it's not really a big shed. In fact, it's not really very big at all and it looks almost easy to climb like your own personal Everest and you'd be like the biggest guy up there with all that snow to throw and, besides, what could be more fun than that...

...if you were five or six?


I did try to encourage these little guys away from their scheme, but they weren't inclined to pay much attention to my warnings. They've been playing on buildings such as this for most of their young lives, no reason to adjust their course now! The roof of the shed really wasn't all that high, but it didn't seem very stable to me, so between photos I continued to point out the risks involved which may have only served to heighten the thrill and increase their motivation to persevere. I wasn't particularly surprised. After all, boys will be boys.

It's not so easy to climb a shed without a ladder, especially while your friend is kicking snow on your head!

Almost there...well, maybe not.

Oh, a ladder, where did that come from?

Aarigaa! (Wow!) We made it! We're the biggest guys ever! Who can we hit with some snow?

Hey, is my buddy crying? Oh, he's just making an icky face because there's a girl coming from across the road. Ew, girl cooties! Who wants girl cooties? What can we do?

Whew! That was close! This is our shed! We're the biggest guys! We don't have to share with no stink'n girl!
Wait...does she have candy?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Between Wednesday and Thursday...

The day is spent and I'm well past tired, but I thought I'd share some things that caught my eye sometime between Wednesday and Thursday.

I spotted these interesting icicles clinging to the curved side of my fuel tank. In the photo above, my neighbor's son (a former student of mine) runs past my house, enjoying the sunshine that is getting brighter and lasting longer every day.

I am just dying to photograph snowflakes. I've tried a couple of things and this is the best I can do with my current (very old) camera. In spite of the poor quality...can you see the shimmering snowflake closest to the center of the photo? I think it looks like the Star of David....what do you think?

I snapped a shot of my neighbor as he was crossing the pond in front of my house. I didn't realize until I saw the larger version of this photo that he was waving to me. I hope I waved to him as well...I couldn't quite remember!

These tires are on the playground in front of the school. Due to the warmer temperatures last week, the tires have recently emerged from the thick layer of snow that's been concealing them for most of the winter.

Precious claimed the pushed-snow mountain as her own. Actually, I think she was looking for caribou. She surprised a couple the other day and ended up chasing them about a mile across the river before giving up. She's a lab...she just wanted to retrieve something!

These icicles are hanging from my roof, covered in frost.

Click on any photo to see a larger image.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Snow Much Enthusiasm!

I think it's pretty obvious that my dogs enjoy snow as much as I do. For the last two or three days we've been experiencing April showers of the frozen variety. It snowed all day today and's still snowing! With an ambient temperature of 9 degrees above zero and relatively little wind, this is frisky-making weather without a doubt.

And I love it.

I really like the softness of this type of snow. The silliq, snow made crusty and hard by wind, has been covered with nutagaq, freshly fallen, unpacked snow. The sheen of silliq is interesting, but nutagaq is friendly and inviting. Just walking through it is fun.

As I was walking home from school today, I noticed footprints leading up to the roof of these old "hotel" living quarters. If the nice weather continues, unexpected footprints will appear all over the village. To kids, all the world is a playground and the more unexpected, the better.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Just What the Doctor Ordered

It's that time of year. The time of year when Spring grabs hold of the reins, but Winter refuses to let go. And so a tug-of-war ensues. Temperatures fluctuate by as many as forty degrees (or more) over the course of the day. Roofs are dripping, yet the water freezes when it hits the ground.

The settled snow across the tundra has sheen to it. Warmed by the sun and buffed by the wind, it has developed a glossy crust that shines and crunches with every step. The unpaved road has become fickle. In the morning it calls for snow boots, but by the evening it's clear that rubber boots would have been a better choice.

Carried by the wind, laughter playfully dances across the village. Like little parka squirrels emerging from their burrows, the children are out taking full advantage of the comparative warmth. Drifts and enormous piles of pushed snow create natural playgrounds perfect for sliding or digging or staging a snowball fight. Tonka traverses snow just as well as soil or sand.

Right this minute, it's snowing outside. Big, fat globs of wet snow are swirling around my window. Inch upon inch, the snow is building, covering the mud, making the world pristine again. Though the wind growls a little, the snow is quiet and inspires a coziness that smoothes those feathers ruffled by a busy, stressful week.

As I look out the window, my breath freezes on the glass. With a smile, I reach up and etch out a prescription: One full day of tranquility, to be taken slowly, preferably with hot chocolate, guitar music, and a good book.

Ah...just what the doctor ordered.


The mountain of snow beside my house has become something of the ultimate sandbox. Not only is snow fun to slide on and dig in, but it holds its shape much better than sand ever could. So roads and caves will last and last, at least until the sun breaks up the party.

The two dark spots to the right of the Tonka truck are the beginnings of snow caves. Having grown up in the South, I am basically fascinated by that kind of thing and I am tempted to get out there, myself.

My next door neighbor and summertime walking buddy makes the most of what's left of her swing set.

Two buddies take turns swinging each other. The swing's chains had to be looped over the top of the swing set frame to provide clearance for swinging. There is about two feet of packed snow under the children's feet.

Mud and muck alternate with snow and ice this time of year. My snow boots don't like it much and, I must admit, neither do I.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

TGIF! Oh, wait…it’s only Thursday.

Ever had one of those weeks? Let me tell you, this has been one of those weeks. For those of you not acquainted with the joys of standardized testing, try to imagine using one of those disgusting nose thingies on a room full of stuffy-nosed babies who are hungry and cranky and haven’t had a nap…in days. Still not ringing any bells? Okay, how about giving a bath to a twenty pound, fully-clawed cat that’s never had one…and isn’t in favor of it in the least? Surely the picture is becoming clearer now…right?

To be honest, it wasn’t like that the whole week…only during the testing part. Please, little Johnny, pick up your pencil. Please, little Johnny, pick up the pace. Please, little Johnny, pick up your head! Hey, don’t get me wrong. Assessing educational progress is a good thing. So I guess, in a way, standardized testing is simply too much of a good thing! In any case, this leg of it is over now and we’ve survived and tomorrow there will be a special lunch to celebrate the accomplishment.

I think meatloaf is the intended entrĂ©e. For some reason that just strikes me as really funny. I guess, in my mind, meatloaf just doesn’t qualify as celebration fare. You know? I can see telling a school full of kids that they’ve done a great job and will be rewarded with a barbeque cookout or spaghetti blowout or pizza pigout or some other kid-friendly menu. Somehow, saying, “Hey, kids! Here’s a slab of meatloaf just for you!” just doesn’t elicit the same enthusiasm. But it does make me laugh and shake my head.

And maybe that’s a perfect ending for a week like this anyhow.


This is what greeted me when I opened the door at my house and I thought, “I know exactly how you feel, buddy.” The good news is…I will recover from this week. The little guy in the photo won’t be so fortunate.

In fact, as I was clicking away with the camera, caught up in the luxury of this welcome distraction, somebody decided she’d shared her toy long enough.

Yep, he’ll be in a body bag (garbage bag) by bedtime.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hey, it's Summertime!

Okay, it's not really summertime. But it certainly feels like it! That's a little April Fool's Day trick that Nature played on us yesterday! The low was -8 and the high was 18 above zero! Even with the windchill knocking it down to 3 degrees, that's leave your parka and snow pants at home weather. And everyone has been making the best of it. Kids have been outside playing all over the village. People have been shoveling snow off their porches (I did mine over the weekend while it was colder...ugh!) and even their roofs! All that shoveling is more than simply taking advantage of the heat wave. Once temperatures begin to rise above zero, the snow changes. It begins to expand and contract and the longer you wait to move it, the more difficult that job will become. Woe to the man (or woman) who allows snow on the porch to meld. Shoveling snow is a job. Breaking ice with a shovel is...pure torture.


I took the sunrise photo a few days ago. It was one of the first mornings that the sun has been above the horizon as I walked to work. That big pile of snow is sitting right beside my house, the product of several winter pushings.

The photo below was taken right outside of the school as I walked back home that evening. It just amazes me that colors can be so vastly different depending on the angle of the sun. There has to be a lesson in there somewhere.

Here is the teenage son of my friend Gail helping his mom (yes, she was up there too) shovel snow off their roof. I had to laugh everytime Gail stopped working to chat with neighbors as they walked by. No one seemed to find it a bit unusual that she would be carrying on conversations from her roof.

No, I wasn't intoxicated or experiencing vertigo when I took this photo. This is what happens when you don't look at the LCD when you're taking a picture! Sorry about that. If you cock your head to the left slightly, you should be able to see the freshly cleared path to my front door. Gail also had a hand in this project. I would call her the Snow Queen, but that doesn't seem quite right. I guess the most accurate tag would be Ever Faithful Friend. No question!