Besh Cup 5&6

My son entered the last 2 races in the statewide series of cross country ski races. They were held last weekend here in Fairbanks. He’s not done any of these before, and has been skiing against younger kids all season. However, you must race in your division for Besh Cup races, so he was racing other 14&15 year old boys that are the best in the state. The outcome of this weekend’s races determined Team Alaska for US Junior National races next month. Alaska is the only state to have their own team at Nationals. All other states are grouped into regional teams. So, needless to say, the competition was tough.  Anyway, Saturday was a 5k skate race. Sunday was a 3k classic. The skate course was tough. Read this quote from to understand why:

“The trails at Birch Hill are built on the side of, well, a hill (also, there are birch trees). The courses used for this weekend’s races were marked by an impressive Height Difference (the elevation change between the lowest and highest points on the course) of 89 meters within a 5-kilometer course. The World Cup skiathlon race that was contested in South Korea the same weekend, on the trails that will be used for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, featured height differences of only 58 and 41 meters on the two skiathlon courses.

In fact, a height difference of 89 meters is a greater elevation spread than was present on most of the traditional World Cup courses this season, including in Davos (84m), Lillehammer (74m), Falun (69m), and Ulricehamn (57m).”

So considering this was his first race at this level of competition and the difficulty of the course, I’m happy he even finished. He came in last (but not by much). He was mostly doing it for the experience, so I didn’t pay the extra to have him ranked. Plus, they were the last 2 races of the season. Still, that makes him unofficially 40th in the state.

His first high school race

Today was the final cross country ski race of the season in the Town Race series. This year my son has been racing with the 7-8 grade boys as a junior varsity entry. However, this race he did well enough last year that they had him stay with the other high school boys in the B bracket. There were 4 ‘A’ bracket and 3 ‘B’ bracket preliminary boys races, then an equal number of finals for each bracket, so everyone raced twice. It was a ski cross event, meaning there were jumps, slalom gates, and lots of tight turns over a 1km course going up and downhill.

My son came in 4th in his preliminary race, which put him in the second final (B Final). He did well in that, finishing somewhere in the middle. The official results haven’t been posted yet. I’ll update when they are. He’s pretty happy with his results, although he realizes there were some things he could have done better in the final. He got caught up in a pack behind someone who fell. He didn’t fall this time and didn’t seem as tired as when he finished last year. That’s improvement.

Not sure what team he will qualify for next year. He is considering one of the local high schools as well as the private team. Many of the top skiers do that. It means about 3 hours of skiing most days, but they are good, often qualifying for national or international races. We already talked to the local high school’s coach. He agreed to allow my son to join as a homeschool student.

An amusing thing happened to me while we were there. For the last few years I’ve been unofficially helping at this race herding kids, etc. while on skis. This year I wasn’t, and several coaches, kids, and others involved in the race kept asking me why I was not skiing.



The results have been published. He was 3/5 in the preliminary and 5/6 in the final.


Sneaking math

All of my daughter’s school books have arrived. Not all my son’s have arrived, but his math and carpentry have. The high school items from Sonlight haven’t come in yet. (They were very slow arriving last time we ordered from them too. So keep in mind if you plan on using anything from Sonlight to order early as possible.) We still plan to start school on Monday, August 1 and will just catch up on the late subjects as they arrive.

However, the kids’ have both been literally begging to start their math. This is surprising considering how much my son struggled last year and my daughter usually does not like to do it. Night before last I saw my son’s bedroom light still on late so I went to see what he was up to. I was expecting him to be reading or perhaps drawing. Nope! He was doing the second lesson of his geometry at nearly 11pm LOL

When I told him to quit and get to bed, he begged to finish. He says he likes the Saxon math better than the other programs we have used. Hopefully that means less trouble this year with math. However, I knew he needed sleep more than geometry so I praised his enthusiasm for what he had done but told him to finish it at a more appropriate time.



Never stop learning

Starting mid-November, I have been cross country skiing a lot. It’s a great way to get exercise with my kids. Usually I ski for 1-1.5 hours.

I took a chance and signed up to be a coach’s assistant for youth cross country ski lessons. Lessons meet for an hour 2x/week. I say chance because I’m not the best skier to begin with. (Some of my students are actually better than me.) However, I’ve been practicing a lot and the coaches doesn’t seem to mind me learning along with the kids. I just go to whichever class asks for extra help each day.

Some evenings I have been with the beginners. Most evenings have been with the advanced beginners and once with the intermediate group. I’m not ready to ski with my son’s advanced group yet and did let the coach know that the first night. Mainly I keep the kids from going the wrong way and round up any stragglers. Right now I only have classic style cross country skis. I’m planning to get skate style soon. That will help me be able to participate with groups when they do skate drills and practice. However, then I will really be learning along with the kids since I have never skate skied before.

An old fashioned weekend

This July we were supposed to sail from Kodiak to Seward. However due to engine problems, my husband decided that the kids and I should take the ferry across instead while he sailed the boat alone to Seward. That was ok since we got to stay with our friends while waiting for him. They have a large family including 2 children about the same age as mine.

It turned out to be a good week to visit. We had a lot of fun. The kids played and we chatted.We took a drive up to the mountains and went hiking.

At one point, she laid out some cloth to make a shirt for her youngest son. My son happened to come upstairs then. She asked him if he could guess what we were doing. He quickly and enthusiastically replied (somewhat to my embarrassment) “Oh! You’re making me a shirt, and it’s even my favorite color.” This despite the fact the pattern hadn’t been laid out yet and I’ve never made him a shirt. It was just in a big pile. He got his drink and returned back downstairs.

So my generous friend decided there was enough fabric to make both boys a shirt. We just needed to use the next size larger on the pattern for my son. Since I’ve never made a shirt before, she taught me. It turned out good and fit him well.

Friday evening they were having their church social at the local ball fields. The youth were going to play softball. These are conservative Mennonites. The men and boys were in jeans and button front shirts. The ladies and girls were wearing long dresses. It was almost surreal like a scene out of Little House on the Prairie. However, it was a lot of fun. My son played softball for the first time and I played 2 games of kickball with my daughter and the younger kids.

Sunday morning was church. However, this was a very special Sunday. A bus load of Amish were visiting. That’s right, Amish. Saturday was spent cooking and setting up to get ready. They were expecting more visitors than the normal number of people who attend services.

All was ready when the tour bus pulled in. Guests were seated in the normal pews while regular church members and I sat in folding chairs at the back rented for the occasion. Youth from church and guests were seated on folding chairs up front behind the podium. It was crowded but we all fit.

While the Amish were expected, another group of about a dozen adults also showed up. The women wore headcoverings but not dressed conservatively like everyone else. They left during the Bible study before the sermon. No one I spoke to knew who they were or why they came or left.

After services, there was a pot luck of creamed ham, salads, scalloped potatoes, rolls, chips, and desserts. The Amish said they were glad for the home cooked meal after eating out so much recently on their trip. The kids played on the playground and large church yard while the adults sat and talked. Finally the Amish loaded back into their bus and left. It was among the most interesting church services I’ve ever attended.

Overall, it was a good, old fashioned weekend.

Curriculum fair purchases

Just when I think I have it all planned out, the curriculum fair comes along with interesting things to tempt me (and the kids). I spent over $300 on items at our local curriculum fair. It’s not a bad thing since I had no idea what to do for Alaska history and that’s what most of it is. I also bought 2 items from the Institute for Excellence in Writing: Rockets, Radar, and Robotics for Richard and the student pages of Student Writing Intensive A for Karen. The other thing was from an Alaskan teacher who made a curriculum to help better understand words and spelling big words by breaking them into roots and their other parts. That will be good for both of them and they will do it together. I also picked up a flyer for Real Science 4 Kids. They didn’t have a representative, just the flyers so I couldn’t actually order anything yet from them. 😦

Now we wait until after July for next year’s allotment to come out so I can do purchase orders. The used curriculum fair is next month and the Christian Light Education booth will be there.

Back from our cruise

We got back from our vacation a few days ago. Unfortunately, along with great memories, souvenirs, and pictures we also brought back some things we didn’t want: strep throat and sinus infections. Yesterday we went to the doctor and got antibiotics that should clear it all up soon. Until then, the kids and I are pretty miserable. Luckily my husband didn’t get them too badly and is no longer sick.

We went on a great cruise. It was on Holland America’s ship MS Rotterdam. The cruise left from Rotterdam in the Netherlands (Holland), went over to Southampton England, to Gibraltar, through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, 2 stops in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and the last 2 weeks were Indonesia. As you can guess, it was a long cruise; 51 days. The Suez Canal transit was supposed to be during the day. However, Canal authorities put us in a layby for most of the day while northbound traffic went through. It was late afternoon before we finally were on our way so much of the canal was in the dark.

Since we used mileage tickets, we had to get to Rotterdam a few days before the ship sailed. That gave us time to get over our jet lag. Since it was the end of their Christmas school break, I had trouble finding a hotel for 4 people in our budget. The one I finally found was in a nice town called Lieden. It cost as much for a cab from the Rotterdam airport as renting a car so we rented a car and explored a bit of Holland.

In most of the ports we didn’t take organized tours. We wandered around on our own instead.  There were 4 tours we did go on though. The first was in Kusadasai, Turkey where we went to the ruins of Ephesus and a place where they hand-make rugs. The next was in Athens up to the Acropolis. Those were both beautiful old ruins dating to Biblical times. In fact at Athens, you can still climb up onto the large rock where Paul was. They are actually doing reconstruction of both sites.

Then we went on a long, day tour up through the interior of Bali in a mini bus. Along the way we stopped at a temple where you can hold monkeys. That was fun and silly to see the kids with monkeys on their heads. Then we went up through the mountains to a rural cafe for lunch down a primitive 1-lane road. We stopped at a pullout overlooking a lake. There was a man who had some large bats (flying fox?), snake, and iguana that we patted.

The last tour was on Komodo Island in Indonesia. You were not permitted ashore unless you either were on a ship excursion tour or pre-arranged a ranger guide. It was worth the cost. We went on about a 1.5 mile guided hike. We saw several wild Komodo Dragons. These giant lizard like animals are amazing. They can be very fierce, but usually are quite lazy. In fact, most of the ones we saw were laying down. However 2 were walking around. We also saw a flying lizard about 4 inches long.

In Phuket, Thailand we hired a van for a few hours. It took us up a mountain where we rode elephants for half an hour. We didn’t have any local money so the cab driver paid for our trip and added it to his fare. Then at the top of the mountain there was Big Bhudda. It’s currently under construction but open to the public. The driver asked if we wanted to see monkeys but Richard wasn’t feeling well so we tried to decline. However, the place he wanted to take us to was literally just across the parking lot so we briefly walked over there. They were cute! The driver was chatty and spoke good English so he made a good guide for us.

In Lombok, Indonesia we also hired a van for a few hours to take us around to see the countryside. That was beautiful. This island is one of the most rural that we visited. We saw rice fields, temples, a brick factory, and a brief stop at a beach. Other things we did on our own during the cruise include a horse drawn carriage ride tour and a couple hop-on hop-off tour bus trips. A few places we just walked around near the port because there wasn’t much to see or do locally.

We left the cruise ship and begun our way slowly back to Alaska. Iit’s been a bit of an adventure. We did not have tickets home when we left Alaska because we were hoping for mileage but didn’t have enough yet. We bought tickets to Australia because there are never flights from Singapore on our mileage plan. When Ray checked a week before leaving the ship, there were 3 options available from Australia. The next morning when he went to book, they were all gone. Then we found one that left a day before the tickets to Australia so that wouldn’t be too great. We decided to let it pass and pray for better dates. It worked! The morning we left the cruise, tickets became available from Australia 5 days after we arrive there which is perfect for us. So we have 5 days to explore Australia. Oh, and we have a 12 hour layover during the day in Honolulu too  🙂

We spent 3 nights in Batam, Indonesia. That’s not exactly where we wanted to be. I thought I was booking a resort outside of Singapore since it was listed with all the other Singapore resorts. However, not only is it not near Singapore, it’s in a totally different country! We had to take a ferry that’s 45-60 minutes long, then a 20 minute drive to the hotel. Plus you have to go through customs leaving Singapore then again when arriving in Indonesia. So this $100/night resort is costing a lot more because of the ferry ($180 round-trip for the 4 of us), visa ($10/person each trip), time, etc. However the hotel itself is great!

Our friends from Sri Lanka were supposed to join us here but they couldn’t get an Indonesia visa on arrival and the embassy is closed on weekends so they had to stay in Singapore. Luckily the hotel here was understanding and is allowing us to leave tomorrow and only charge the one room for the few nights we actually stay here. We decided to stay here today and meet in Singapore tomorrow. Definately a study in flexibility, but I think it will work out ok even though it’s going to cost a bit more to stay in a hotel there on short notice at least we will all be together. Plus we will not need to spend so much money and time going between Singapore and Batam. We were spending about 3 hours each way including getting tickets, waiting on ferry, immigration, and the actual ferry trip. Plus there is a time difference so it’s an hour later in Singapore.

We moved over to a resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore. That was a lot of fun. However, the air conditioning had a problem. It made the room smell like a rotten sponge and caused Karen’s cough to get worse. I call the front office and they sent someone to clean the filter, but that didn’t help. We had to leave the balcony door open and just use the ceiling fan instead. There were peacocks and monkeys roaming the resort. One morning, there were monkeys on the roof of our hotel.

The day before our friends joined us, we played at some attractions on Sentosa. They have a luge which we did several times. That’s a cross between a sled and a go-cart. Then we went to a zip line where my son and husband convinced me to try it. You go zipping down a wire wearing a harness at about 30 mph. First you are over jungle then over the ocean to a small island. It’s about a minute ride. Amazingly we all (including myself!) enjoyed it so much we did it again. Karen was too small to go by herself so she was clipped with my husband. That meant we could all go down together since they have 3 lines. After the second descent, Karen wanted to do a bungee bounce. When the clerk asked who was going to be doing it, and I said my daughter, she didn’t charge us. I guess Karen’s huge grin was payment enough.

They really take good care of you on Sentosa. I had my walking stick and was slightly limping because my knee was sore that day. We were about 1/4 of the way up the hill to the zip line when a cart came by and asked if I needed a ride. I hopped in expecting him to turn around. Instead he went zooming up the hill in reverse the whole way 🙂 They met me at the bottom in another cart to get across the beach. Then they took us all up the hill. That was quite a ride by itself. Full throttle all the way, zooming around bends and twists in the narrow road. Later another cart picked us up after lunch for a ride back to the tram station.

We flew from Singapore to Sydney via Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines. We rented a car and headed north to visit Karen’s friend in Brisbane. It turns out they never got the postcards telling them of our visit so it was a complete surprise to them. They weren’t home when we got to their house. We were just deciding what to do when they arrived. It was a great day together. Then we drove back down to Sydney. We spent a little time at a wildlife park where they had native Australian animals including kangaroos and koalas you could pet. Finally, we spent an hour looking at the Opera House before it was time to return the car and get to the airport.

Our vacation didn’t end when we left Australia. We had a 12 hour layover during the day in Honolulu, Hawaii. It took us a bit extra time at the airport because we had to transfer our own bags to the next airline after clearing customs. Then it took some time to figure out how to rent a car since there was no one actually in the terminal at any of the rental counters. Nor did any of their counter phones actually work. Finally we had our car and headed out to go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. I was feeling pretty lousy but went snorkeling anyway. It was worth it watching the kids reaction to seeing all the colorful fish. We were in the water about an hour. We took a scenic drive on the way back to the airport. Our flight was delayed so I managed to get some sleep at the airport. The flight back to Alaska was spent sleeping.