Friday, June 27, 2014

Beyond Normal, and loving it

This week we took a rare day off and headed to the beach.  It was a beach we have not often visited because it is about a 1/2 mile hike from the road, and time seems to be a huge commodity in our house. There is just never enough of it.  We had one day this week where we woke up to clear skies and it was already over 60 degrees by 10:00 in the morning. (I know a real heat wave for us.)  So we quickly finished paper routes, got our bread orders done early (more on that in another post), and finished up chores and school work. 

By 2:00 we had delivered the bread and were on our way to the beach.  We had planned on spending an hour, because Sam had drumming practice at 4:00, but we meant to enjoy that hour.  The kids were excited as we parked the car and gathered up the "stuff".  They sang and laughed and we enjoyed the scenery as we walked through the forest.  And then... we caught sight of the beach.  I knew it was high tide, but going down, and we hoped for at least a little bit of beach.  We came out of the trail to a beautiful white sandy beach (something almost unheard of here in Kodiak), and we could see that the tide had already dropped a bit.  We found a perfect little spot to throw down a blanket, kick of the shoes, and wade in. 

In all our quick preparation I had not checked the camera battery.  We got to the beach and found that is was almost dead.  I quickly began snapping pictured before it was totally dead.

What had been planned to be a one hour trip turned into over three.  Sam texted the drumming leader to let her know that she was tied up at the beach and could not make it.  They ran, they splashed, the made sand angels, and buried themselves.  Alyssa spent some time drawing in the sand, and we all enjoyed a relaxing day away from everything else. 

This was not a normal day, and I can't wait to do it again.

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Monday, March 10, 2014


Last week we tried an experiment with our family.  It might sound hard, some might ask why, all I can say is sometimes you need to do hard things.

But…I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me go back to the beginning. 

We are a homeschool family, with four children ages 14, 13, 8, and 5.  Homeschooling is not anything we had ever planned.  We did not start out our children’s education on a homeschool plan.  It is just one of those things that kind of happened.  It felt right at the time, when our oldest was struggling in 4th grade.  We pulled both girls out of school, and this has been our journey ever since.  It is not glamorous, it is not easy, and there are many  most days when the house looks like something blew up. 

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So, let me get back to our experiment.  Our two oldest girls are students of Williamsburg Academy, an online middle school/high school program.  This is our second year with Williamsburg and I love their program.  Samantha is our 13 year old.  In her STEM class this semester they are focusing on natural disasters.  Her focus has been on studying natural disasters that could happen to us in Kodiak, Alaska.  We are an island in the Alaska Gulf, and are part of the ring of fire; a ring of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean.  As such, volcanic activity and earthquakes are a real threat.  With each of these also brings the threat of a tsunami, which has already devastated the island back in 1964.  As a family we have been learning along with Sam; not only about what happened in 1964, but how we can protect our selves if it were to happen again.  For the past couple of months she has created a video presentation, written down our family emergency plan, and helped to assemble our emergency kits.  In these 72 hour kits, there is food and water to last for three days, flashlights, extra clothing, first aid, fire starter, rain gear, and anything else we thought might be needed.  If you have not assembled an emergency kit, there are many places that can give you a good place to start.  You can even find kits at Walmart and Costco.  Emergency Essentials is also a great place to start for info or to order a premade kit.    We started with this basic kit and added on from there.

That brings us to last week.  Last week was midterms, and for her midterm project we had to do a natural disaster simulation.  The kids all knew this was coming, but our instructions as parents was to keep the details and time of the simulation a secret.  I had shared what we were planning with a few other people, including our bishop.  Emergency preparedness is also something that has been on his mind, and he asked us to extend our simulation.  So on Monday morning we were given the details; to simulate that an earthquake had hit Kodiak Island at 4:09 am, and all commerce is shut down.  There would be no stores, groceries, or gas available for the whole week.  How well could we do without all of that for one week? 

We began feeling fairly confident, with some minor things we knew we would have to figure out.  I generally do my grocery shopping on Tuesdays and Fridays.  However, Friday had been busy and I had not made it to the store; figuring that we would be fine until Tuesday.  As such we began the week out of eggs and with only a little bit of dish soap left.  We had also planned to take dinner to some friends from church,  a family of 7 who had recently had a baby; we were also scheduled to have dinner for our 3 missionaries serving in Kodiak, all on Monday night.  We decided this was not a problem.  In an emergency we could be called on to help our friends and neighbors and we should be able to do that easily.  Our only hang up was that we had told our friends we would come out and make pizza with them, and we were out of pizza cheese.  We decided that we would figure something out, and only a little while later another friend called to ask if we could use two blocks of cheese.  Her son had just be diagnosed with a dairy allergy, and she was cleaning out her fridge of all dairy products.  To me, this was our first little miracle.  Now, we could continue our simulation without interruption and still provide dinner for our friends.  We had a great time that night with wonderful friends as we made homemade pizza.  We also took out brownies made from scratch, and our powdered eggs worked perfectly. 

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And the week continued.  Samantha made bread several timed during the week.  Connor made a large batch of granola for breakfasts, and we continued to make dinners using our stored food. 


Because we store the food we eat and we eat the food that we store, this was not a big challenge for us.  We did watch some of our consumption.  We tried to conserve gasoline where, Chad began walking home from work for lunch every day. and the kids all walked their paper routes.  We did not cut out any of our activities as we would have during a real disaster, but we conserved where we could and the fuel lasted well past the week.   I was a little more careful with the bottle of dish soap, and again another little miracle.  Like the cruz of oil or the loaves and fishes, the bottle of dish soap, while nearly empty, did not run out. 

Each day the kids would ask when the big one was coming?  The big earthquake with tsunami that would knock out the power and that water.  On Friday, at 11:19 am, the call rang throughout the house.  It was an earthquake, get to your safe places.  Most of the kids scrambled to door ways, Connor (8) just rolled on the floor laughing.  I think he had been the most excited for our mock disaster and was glad it was finally here.  I flipped the breakers and the power was off.  Connor crawled under the house and turned off the water and our 24 hour disaster had begun.  I texted Chad to let him know we were all ok, and then put the phone up to be used for emergencies only. 

The first thing we had to do was treat the “injured”.  Samantha suffered a “broken leg” from falling over some debris, and Alyssa had  a deep cut on her hand.  Connor should have been injured, but I don’t think he could have kept up the charade so he and Kaylin scraped by with just bumps and bruises.  Mom was very ill, something that did not need simulated as I was pretty well down with a bad cold.    We pulled out the emergency kits and dug out the first aid kit.  Here was our first lesson, the first aid kit should be on the top of your kit not at the bottom.  We put a splint on Sam’s leg and left her laying on the couch while we bandaged up Alyssa.  We roped off the stairs, as that area of the house was no longer “safe”.  That meant no extra bedding or clothing, what was in our kits was all we had.


We have about 20 gallons of water stored under the house, and another 120 in water barrels outside, so we were ok for potable water.  We did not, however, want to use the good water for sanitation.  Alyssa helped me to collect a bucket of water from the small pond behind the house, and we brought that inside to use for sanitation. 


The fire was still going in the wood stove, for now, so the kids made lunch that way.  Connor got his mess kit out and heated up some left over rice from the fridge, and Alyssa put a pan of water on to boil and cook a box of macaroni and cheese.  
Connor had practiced a week earlier cooking an egg on the wood stove.


The kids all settled down to eat and dig through their kits while mom huddled in a blanket, and fell asleep.  We left a couple of windows open to simulation broken windows, and had to let the fire got out because the chimney might have been “damaged”.

The afternoon wore on with the kids finding things to do for entertainment.  They found a deck of cards in one kit, and later Alyssa pulled out a puzzle.  They played while mom “slept” and Sam had to be reminded that she had a broken leg and could not move around as much as she wanted.  Eventually her injury moved to her arm which had to be tied down to her body. 


Dad arrived home five or six hours after the “earthquake”, and every one celebrated that he was ok.  Preparations for made for dinner and we started to light the lanterns as the house slowly grew darker.  Water was siphoned from the barrels outside and the emergency stove was set up to cook dinner, freeze dried soup mix from the 72 hour kits.  Two small pots of soup were cooked and everyone got mess kits out and gathered together to eat.  We then needed more water to clean up the dishes. 



The house was getting cold now, and we were layering on our hoodies and sweat shirts from out kits.  (We did close the windows at this point, no reason to make everyone else sick.)  And everyone began rolling out sleeping bags and getting ready for bed.  We had several lanterns and candles burning, but it was still too dark to do anything, so everyone settled down in one room together.  We discussed what it would be like if we had to evacuate to an emergency shelter.  How much food and water could we take with us, and how could we stay safe? What would we do if this went on for days for weeks?  How long would the food and water last?   Before long conversation began to die down.  It was probably the first time that everyone willingly was in bed and lights out before 9:00.


We pasted the night fairly well, if a bit uncomfortable.  Dad snoring, mom still sick and coughing, and the kids curled up on the floor.  Morning dawned dark and cold, and Dad was the first up, and started a pot of oatmeal and another pot of water for hot chocolate.  Everyone started moving slowly and we ate and cleaned up our last meal for the disaster. 


By 10:00 the power was back on and Alyssa was headed out for a 4-H archery training.  We put away the sleeping bags and assessed what we needed to replace in the emergency kits.  We had gone nearly 24 hours with no power or water, and were non the worse for it.  We learned where our gaps were in our preparations,  We had used about 15 gallons of water, about 10 of that for sanitation. In a real emergency that would be too much water usage.  We have a camp toilet (a bucket with a seat on it) that we would have to use instead.  We packed more ready made food like granola bars and premade tuna fish into our kits for meals that required less water and less clean up. 

All in all we learned from this experience, and we will hopefully be better prepared next time.  Odds are we may not experience a major natural disaster, but we will hopefully be prepared if we do.  We are not done preparing, we will always have to reevaluate and replenish our storage, but we are a little more confident now.  We know what we have, and we know how to use it. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Family Night

I love the sunny days in Kodiak!  We don’t see the sun often, but when we do it is almost magical.
Tonight after Connor’s soccer game, we hung out at the park for a little while; with the camera.  Here are just a few of the pictures from that night. 

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Everyone got in on the fun with the swings.

Afterward, we came home to try out a new treat. 

Chocolate waffles. 
it is really simple, make your favorite cake batter, from a box works great.
Then cook in the waffle iron, as you would a regular waffle.
Top with some homemade ice cream (because that is how we roll)
And Enjoy!
Believe me, we did!