Here we are!

Here we are!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier was very cool to see. The visitor center had lots of interactive exhibits and a video. We took a little hike to the waterfall by the glacier. You can see the glacier on the left and it looks like a river in this picture.

Alaskan Cruise Day 8

Debarkation in Seattle. We woke up and had breakfast and then left the ship. We sent our luggage ahead to the airport since we were spending a few hours in Seattle. Some friends from church drove to Seattle from Fresno, so they gave us a ride to the Seattle Center (Space Needle) from the cruise terminal. We wanted to see the Experience Music Project (which included the Science Fiction Museum also). That was a great place to see. They had a history of the Seattle music scene, a “lab” where you could learn to play different band instruments, and a stunning display of original dresses from The Supremes. They had a feature on Jimi Hendrix and his history and impact on music.

After that, we walked around Seattle Center where they had a food festival with lots of vendors and restaurants. Then we took the monorail downtown and walked to Pike Place Market where Tim got some smoked salmon. After that, we took the light rail train to the airport and came home.

Alaskan Cruise Day 7

At sea until 6:00 p.m. where we docked in Victoria, B.C. We made the walk from the dock into town, which was just over a mile. Tim did some research before we left for some music or entertainment and came up with some options. We decided to try a presentation by “the Other Guys theatre company” at the Royal BC Museum entitled “Good Timber, Songs and Stories of the Western Logger.” We didn’t know what to expect by the title and weren’t really holding out too much hope. This was a fantastic presentation by six people performing different instruments and songs, and even a bit of poetry about the logging industry in B.C. A lot of it was tongue-in-cheek, but the musical performance was just incredible. We were very glad we chose that option. I really wanted to shop at Rogers’ Chocolates, but they were closed when we got there. We walked up Government Street a couple of blocks and then it was time to head back to the ship. We did one more pass up the Lido Buffet before packing up (as if we needed more food).

Alaskan Cruise Day 6

Early morning in Ketchikan, we were there from 7:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. We were not there long enough to get to Misty Fjords unfortunately, so we took another tour around town. We ended up on the same van as eight others from our church. And, what a coincidence, out of three cruise ships, the little 2 year old boy from yesterday was on it too, but he was happy since it was early morning. We saw some salmon that were about 15 to 20 pounds and getting ready to run. There were still more eagles and totem poles. Some people were snorkeling in wet suits in the ocean and our driver said that to the killer whales they look the same as seals. We did a quick walk through town and then it was time to leave. Back on the ship, they could not keep up with everyone trying to eat at the buffet. Eventually, we got some lunch and then an afternoon nap. That evening was dinner and a show along with a dessert buffet late at night. How do people eat so much? One of the singers made up a little song: I’m eating my way through the cruise ship, I’m eating my way through the sea, I’m eating my way through the cruise ship, my friends they won’t recognize me.

Alaskan Cruise Day 5

We arrived in Sitka and since the cruise ship could not get close to shore, we got to ride on “tenders” to get to shore. The tenders were the life boats on board and they could hold about 100 people. There were several tenders shuttling back and forth all day. We got on a tour van and saw the fishing docks where all the boats were moored. There was a sea lion that jumped out of the middle of the water with a fish in its mouth. The eagles swooped down to see if they could get anything, but the sea lion went under. That was cool. We saw a private boarding high school that was only for the Tlingits and paid for completely by the government. We drove around by Silver Bay and saw salmon berries, which are like raspberries. The tour guide said we could stop and pick some, which we did. We saw a brown bear habitat with two bears in it. They were rescued as cubs because their momma died. When raw meat was thrown in, the bears would do tricks, like stand on their hind legs with their arms raised or sit on a tree stump. There were lots of eagles to see up close and watch them eat the scraps. We stopped at a totem pole place and a river there held a legend that if you drank from it, you would never leave Sitka and if you did leave you would return. There was a family with a 2 year old on the tour, and why they decided to trap this boy in a van during nap time is beyond me. He was not happy that afternoon. After the tour, we looked around town and stopped for a late lunch. We had some salmon chowder and a burrito. There was “free Sitka internet” curiously enough.

On the ship, we saw quite a few more whales in the ocean. It was formal night again for dinner and at the rate everyone was eating, we should have been wearing bathrobes instead of dresses. The ship was swaying a bit but nothing like the first night. I should have videoed the pool on that first day at sea; the pool was sloshing over each side whenever it would tip that way.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Alaskan Cruise Day 4

We arrived in Juneau. We got off the ship and purchased some bus tickets to the Mendenhall Glacier. The sky was overcast and it rained all day. Once at the glacier, we went to the visitor center with some great displays of glacier life and history. There was a lake at the bottom of the glacier and a big waterfall on the side. We were able to hike to the waterfall and get a little closer to the glacier, but it was a 3 mile hike around the mountain to get to the actual ice, and we didn’t hike that far.

On the drive back, we saw lots of bald eagles waiting for the salmon run. The eagles were bigger than what I thought and they were so full of thick feathers, it almost looked like fur. They appear next to the inlet about a day or two before the salmon appear, so the locals know that the salmon will arrive shortly when the eagles show up to wait.

We had lunch on the ship and then walked to a local coffee shop, the Silverbow, for a coffee and wifi. Then we went up the Mt. Roberts Tramway, which is a tram that hangs on a cable and seems to go directly up because it is such a steep climb. At the top, there is a visitor and nature center and some trails. We did a hike through the rainforest with lots of lush greenery. There was also a short movie about the Tlingit natives. After riding down the 1,850 feet, we were going to do some shopping, but Tim saw a friend getting on the tram so he quickly ran through the entrance since the tickets were for a day pass. He did another ride up and down while I hit some shops. The goods are all touristy type, so we didn’t find much to buy that we couldn’t get in Fresno.

We hit the high seas again this night, but fortunately it wasn’t as bad. Next stop: Sitka…

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Alaskan Cruise Day 3

Waking up to smooth seas was wonderful. We were cruising through an inlet and it felt like we were stopped. But we were still traveling the same speed as yesterday. The captain said we were running late on our schedule because of the high winds and rough waters. We saw lots of whale tails and blows. We saw lots of small dark dolphins, but I’m not sure if they were actually dolphins or something else.

When we entered Glacier Bay, a boat of park rangers pulled up to our ship and they climbed aboard a small rope ladder. They provided information on the Bay and the glaciers. We were able to walk on the front bow while we were in Glacier Bay (“Jack, I’m flying!”).

I guess I didn’t know what to expect when we got to the glaciers. Maybe I was thinking something more North-Pole-like. They were so incredible. The mountains were about halfway covered with snow, with lots of trees and granite. Right in the middle of all the green, brown, and white would be a huge slide of dirty turquoise blue ice that was thousands of years old. It was really cloudy so we couldn’t see the tops of the glaciers. But we saw a big calving and several smaller ones. All of a sudden you could see a mound of ice start to fall into the ocean and make a big splash. Then you would hear a loud crack and splash.

When the ship turned around, we went back to our room and sat out on the veranda to view the glacier. It was just awe-inspiring. In the midst of the view, we could still hear people moving about on their verandas or going to get more food. I inwardly wished everyone could just be still and quiet and appreciate this natural beauty. I almost could imagine some of them standing before their great Maker, but only worried about food and comfort instead of the beauty of God. When we left the glaciers, sea gulls came right up to our veranda to take bread from our hands. We found out later that we weren’t supposed to feed them. Oh well...

Alaskan Cruise Day 2

We woke up the next day and had to use the hand rails in the shower. We were rocking so hard that just walking down a straight, narrow hallway was difficult. After commenting at breakfast how nice it was that we weren’t seasick, I started feeling woozy. At lunchtime, it wasn’t getting any better and we noticed that there didn’t seem to be many people out and about. They even had a supply of barf bags at the elevators. I sent Tim for some ginger ale and motion sickness meds. He said they were handing it out like candy. Hmm… Finally, at dinnertime I was feeling much better so we ventured out to the “formal night.” We were seated next to our friends and one of their daughters was also very seasick. They went running out of the dining room before the food even came.

Tim was not bothered at all by the motion and, in fact, enjoyed it quite immensely. He went up to the top deck in the front of the ship and had fun listening to music and reading for hours at a time. He asked the crew about the rough seas and they said it was quite bad. It was funny to watch people because everyone would catch their step and lean one way simultaneously. There was not a whole lot to see in the way of scenery since we were at sea all day.

We seemed to stay in our beds, although it felt as if we could roll off at any minute.

Alaskan Cruise Day 1

We flew to Seattle from Fresno at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning. We each packed a suitcase and carry-on, and Tim brought his mandolin along. The flights were uneventful and we caught a taxi from the airport to the cruise terminal. Once on the ship, we grabbed some lunch and then went to our stateroom. We got a “veranda” with our room and could sit outside to watch the scenery. On the starboard side we watched all the food and luggage get loaded on the ship with a crane. The first event with “Michael W. Smith and Friends” happened at 4:30 and the ship was just pulling out at that time, so we stayed on our veranda to watch it instead of going to the show.

Dinner was nice with lots to choose from. We have been eating lots of seafood by choice and it has all been delicious. About the time dinner was over, we were hitting the “high seas” and it was rough. Lying in bed, we were rolling up and down and back and forth. The curtain was swaying and the closet doors were banging. I kept waiting for it to get still, but it never did.

Alaska Cruise Pre-trip

Wow, it’s been so busy this summer we’ve hardly had time to prepare mentally for an Alaskan trip. We went from a week of VBS at church to a week of vacation up at Hume. Then we came home and spent time with Tim’s sister and family. Preparing for an Alaskan cruise was hard to find time to do, but we managed to review a few tips about what to pack. Several (unlikely) things were suggested like bug spray, waterproof shoes, and a rain jacket.

We visited REI to get some items and I found some waterproof shoes to try out. After a day, I had bruises on the tops of my feet so I took them back and tried another pair. The next pair made me trip over my toes, so I exchanged them for a different pair. Those still weren’t comfortable, so I finally went to a different store and purchased a pair of trusty Asics and a can of waterproof spray. The shoes are great, but I haven’t yet had a chance to see if the waterproof spray works. A new rain jacket was necessary, too, since my 15 year old one is not rainproof anymore. We found that out when we went to Gilroy Gardens in December and it rained. I also purchased a pair of REI travel pants which are worth their weight in gold because they are so comfortable and functional.

Let’s go to Alaska!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Worship Team Farewell Party

The NFC worship team had a farewell party to celebrate Tim's 10 years as the worship leader. It was a lot of fun with a lot of good food and a lot of happy kids. Thank you to everyone for the nice gift!

Tim was given a shirt with one of his frequent sayings on it. It was really neat to be in a group of people where every person immediately understood the humor of the shirt (inside joke, I guess you could say).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Cover Girl Challenge

Here is my review on a couple new products from Cover Girl. I got samples to try out from which is a word-of-mouth marketing network. I report about my "word-of-mouth" about the products, and they give me free products to talk about.

Cover Girl has an eye shadow stick called Smoky Shadowblast for eyes. For lips, they offer Shineblast Lip Gloss. I received Silver Sky for eyes and Smolder for lips.

I started out with clean, makeup-free eyes and documented each step with pictures. (And it is not easy to take your own picture without looking cross-eyed, ha ha.)

Here is the "Before" picture:

Here is after "Step 1" which is a rounded end for shading the lid:

Here is after "Step 2" which is a tapered end for lining the crease and lids:

Here is after adding my own eye liner and mascara:

Here is ONE HOUR after application:
Here is TWO HOURS after application:
Yuck! This product is not worth the time it took to remove it!

Here are my naked lips:
Here are my lips with Shineblast Lip Gloss:

So, a little gloss and not much color. I think I'll stick with other glosses. I don't need to apply color and then apply gloss. A one-step product would be much better.

I would not recommend either of these products. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hot Wheels and Ebates

For a fun look at how Daniel sorts the Hot Wheels cars at church, see Jessica's blog. She loves to find things that come in every color, so when I saw the cars lined up according to color, she is the first person I thought of.

Do you need to make an online purchase? If so, do not proceed until you go through Sign up for free (with a $5 bonus) and start earning little rebates each time you make a purchase online. Most stores you would ever need are available (with the exception of Amazon). They mail you a check about every 3 months. When I signed up a couple of years ago, there was a $10 Target gift card bonus and they mailed it within a week. Different stores have different rebates and they have different incentives from certain retailers. I have ordered from Dell, Expedia, Ebay,, Old Navy, Sephora and more! Just ordinary online shopping has earned me about $100 in free money each year. Follow "my" link below and sign up! It's free!

Tracy's Ebates Link to Sign Up

The hard part is remembering to ALWAYS go through ebates.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Track Meet

Today Michael had an in-house track meet where just the one school competes before going area-wide. He ran the 100m, 200m, 400m, and Long Jump. I think my arms and legs would fall right off if I had to sprint 100 meters. The top three in each category get to go on to the area-wide meet with all the Clovis West feeder schools. Michael will find out next week if he goes on; they have to place all the heats first.

During the meet, they have several events going simultaneously, but none of them are in any hurry to start the next race. It's a lot of standing or sitting around interrupted by short spurts of speed. Music is blared out of the sound system while an occasional voice announces, "5th grade boys 200 meter, report to the starting line."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Toothpick Shudder Story

Tonight Daniel found a toothpick lying on the counter. He picked it up and turned it around a few times before tossing it across the room on the floor. I said, “Go pick it up. Never leave a toothpick on the floor.” He asked why not. I replied, “Don’t you remember the story about Nana and the toothpick?”

A few summers ago, Nana stepped on a toothpick. It was at the cabin. The cabin has barf-colored indoor/outdoor carpet that hides a lot of things, namely toothpicks. The toothpick broke on impact and neither Nana nor Papa could tell if part of it lodged in the wound. They went to the Hume infirmary. Then they went down the hill to urgent care. Then they went to the ER because urgent care could not do surgical type injuries. After numbing the foot and digging around for a toothpick fragment, they stitched the wound and prescribed pain meds. After all that excitement, they needed a vacation, so they went back up to the cabin.

I was telling Daniel this story and I got to the part about Nana having to go to the hospital and numbing her foot with a needle, when he quickly covered his ears and shuddered horrendously. Full-body, face-scrunching shudder. “No! Don’t tell me anymore!”

I don’t think he will throw toothpicks on the floor anymore.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Good 'Ol Days

Last night we ate dinner with my parents and grandparents. My grandpa was a boy when he emigrated to the U.S. from Russia. We sometimes get him to talk about his World War II days or even further back to when he first moved to America and only spoke Low German. But most frequently, the conversation will revolve around the local Mennonite Brethren church. They like to compare the church my family attends with the church they attend since both are of the same M.B. denomination. It’s never in a competitive spirit (my church is better than yours), but more of a quantitative comparison. They want to know the ages of members, the race of members, how many families attend, how many children go to Sunday school, what songs do we sing, how many organists there are.

They talk about the days when their church used to be made up mostly of “our people” (Mennonite Brethren defined as being Germans from Russia or their descendants). They lament the smaller choir and lack of organists and pianists. They mourn their friends who once overflowed the Sunday school classroom. They miss the special music at youth night and Sunday evening services. They are hesitant that you can really learn the Bible sitting in the living room of someone’s house (unless it’s the youth group). They don’t understand why people now walk in and out during the church service; people didn’t do that before.

Of course I don’t debate with them. I never do. This is their faith; in a world that has changed so radically they want to wear their faith like a favorite sweater. It really has nothing to do with fear of change as some may think. It’s more that they’ve embraced so much change already, their faith is the steadfast rock they turn to. Life’s complications can be endured as long as there is a pulpit and an organ on Sunday mornings.

The church my family attends is hard to quantify. Just taking attendance on a Sunday morning reaps questions. Does it count if people come in for the last 20 minutes? Last 10 minutes? What if they tried to make it but the bus was late? Does it count if they are “here” but not sitting in the pew? We frequently hear the phrase “I’m a member of your church” from strangers. We know they have not taken the membership class and been officially received into membership, but their children come to the sports club or tutoring club. What if you only come on Wednesday nights, but you come every week. Does that count for anything? What if (gasp) you worship on Saturday nights so you can have Sunday free? I’ll take it one further: what if you attend every meeting put on by the church at your apartment complex, but you’ve never actually set foot on the church campus?

What is church? By defining church, are you being exclusive when you think you are being inclusive? What influences shape a church compared to the direction leadership wants it to go? What about defining the legal aspects of being a “religious institution” 501(c)(3) and yet living in a world that separates church from state? I think it is going to be harder and harder to define “church” in our society, but the followers of Christ will continually turn to the Bible (Acts) for foundational guidance. Forgive my rambling thoughts, but this doesn’t even address the biblical issue of resting on the Sabbath. Can you go to the Saturday night service so you can sleep in on Sunday morning? Does that count?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

All Scripture is God-Breathed

Last night I was reflecting on life and thought about the passage in 2 Timothy 3 that says all scripture is God-breathed (NIV), as in living and breathing; alive. So I looked it up to get the context and see what else Paul had to say to Timothy. I like the New Living Translation:

15. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.
16. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
17. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

Wow. So instead of fretting over what to talk about with my boys regarding life and death, I can help them learn the scriptures. They will gain wisdom, truth, and righteousness. They will be prepared and equipped. And I particularly like the part about, “it straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.” I’ve got a 7-year-old that could use some scripture teaching lately…

Monday, April 05, 2010

Talking to the Boys

After attending three funerals in two months, death seems to be on the brain. But more so, talking to my kids about death seems to be on the brain. Here are the things I want them to understand:

Everyone dies. My sons seemed to be sincerely amazed when I told them this. But I shouldn’t be surprised. What child would want to think about it? And when you’re young, old is old, whether you are 25 or 85. To a child, life span means nothing, and when a grandparent dies, it is the exception and not the rule.

You will feel bad when someone dies. You will be sad. When you think about that person, you will remember they are gone and it will hurt bad. Remember when we dug up that plant and there was a hole in the ground? Our heavy soil left the hole with sharp, defined edges. We could even see marks from the shovel edge.

But it won’t hurt this bad forever. Just like a skinned knee or bumped head, bad pain from grief won’t last forever. While grief doesn’t go away as fast as a skinned knee, eventually the pain is duller. Kind of like that hole in the ground, the rain will soften the hard edges and the crumbling soil will fill in the depth a bit.

It’s okay to be happy when you’re sad. You can go to school and play with friends. You can learn math and music and make believe. You can be happy and sad at the same time; it will just be a different kind of happy. Like when we planted a new plant in the hole. We could still tell that the old plant used to be there, but the new one brought anticipation.

Love Jesus, don’t fear death. It’s scary thinking about dying, but Jesus tells us he has a really cool place for us when it’s time for us to die. That’s how faith works. None of our ancestors have ever come back from heaven to say, “It’s really true! There really is a God and a Heaven!” We have to believe it even though we haven’t seen it yet.

Sigh. I wish I was one of those great moms that could teach all of life’s lessons in full comprehension to my boys. I wish they could have an in depth adult conversation with me so I would know how much they understand and what I still need to work on. I wish they could download everything I want them to know, like Neo in The Matrix. Most of all, I wish impossibly that they would not have to experience the pain of grief.