Monday, December 15, 2014

Dreaming of a White Christmas

When we moved to Alaska, I certainly didn't think that lack of snow would be a problem! It seems that I am going to have to move to Minnesota if I want a white Christmas! As we packed up to travel to Texas for Thanksgiving, there was still not a flake to be seen. We had a couple of barely-there sprinkles of snow, but nothing that stayed on the ground more than a few hours. As Thanksgiving week approached we started breaking warm-weather records. Unfortunately, even though the snow held off, the dark did not. Without the snow to reflect any light it has been a darker-than-usual winter so far.

Fortunately, we got a short reprieve from the dark as we headed to Houston to celebrate Thanksgiving with the newest member of our family: my little niece, Samantha Jane.

The first time we met Sammi

The kids were instantly in love with their new cousin

It was so wonderful to see all of our family! Living in Alaska makes it difficult to get everyone together, but our whole family traveled to Texas to be together, so we were able to see everyone in one fun week.

The Hallam/Allen/Ball/McDonald clan at our Thanksgiving dinner table
 Grace decorated everyone's napkins with customized napkin rings (curtesy of Nana Marsha) and her own creative touches. No one wanted to use their napkins, which made for an interesting dinner etiquette-wise.

Steve was as helpful as ever in the kitchen. His usual job as "turkey-carver" hit a snag when I bought a ready-made turkey breast and stuffing combo from Costco. No carving required! :)

The day after Thanksgiving our family threw a "sip & see" shower for baby Samantha. Friends from the neighborhood joined us to ohhhh and awww over our precious little girl.

Mary, the sweet woman I work with in the library at ACC sewed a kuspuk and some booties for me to give to baby Samantha. She makes one cute Alaskan baby!

While we had everyone together we took some family photos to commemorate this phase of our life. I will treasure these pictures, especially the multi-generational ones, for years to come.

The trip to and from Texas was a long one! I have decided that there just is no easy way to get to Alaska. I honestly traveled fewer hours when I went from Hawaii to Australia in high-school. Any trip we take starts with the 3-4 (in the winter) hour drive to Anchorage. Often we overnight in Anchorage because of early morning (or middle of the night) flights. Then, there is the 3 1/2 hour flight to Seattle, and then however long of a flight from Seattle to the final destination. In this case it was a 6 hour flight from Seattle to Houston. 36 hours of traveling really cuts into your quality visiting time, but every hour is worth the hassle if it means seeing our family and friends. Our kiddos were troupers, but by about 3am Texas time Noah was ready for the lights on the plane to be out. :)

 On our return trip we stopped by Costco (as we do whenever we are in Anchorage) to stock up on things like toilet paper and school snacks. This time we also purchased a few flowers as gifts for friends here in Kenai and a few other Christmas gifts. As we were shopping we did not think about fitting everything into our already packed-to-the-brim car. While standing looking at the full car, and the overfull cart a (slightly condescending) passerby commented "you'll never fit all that in there." Challenge accepted!
 Noah is still going strong with his hockey. I am learning a lot in my role as team manager (usually a day late and a dollar short, but I will know more for next season!) It is wonderful quality time spent for Steve and Noah.

The days are getting much shorter now, the shortest day of the year (December 21) is coming up next week. The sun comes up around 10:30 am, and then sets at about 3:15 pm. This picture was when I was leaving campus at 2 pm a couple of weeks ago. Now it looks like that at around 12:30. It takes some getting used to, but we have been having some beautiful sunrises and sunsets, so that helps soften the blow.

Noah's birthday (7!) was last week. I went to visit him at his school for lunch. It was Taco Thursday, and I think I have been put off of tacos for life (or at least this week) after watching 50 first graders "build" their own tacos.

Noah wanted to have a "camo" birthday so we kicked it off with a camo ice cream cake the night of his birthday. He asked me to buy the camo decorations that he saw at Walmart (these are not the cute kiddy decorations... it took me awhile to figure out how to work them in, but they were cheap!) and we had a party at Jumping' Junction with some of his classmates and hockey friends.

For his birthday Noah asked for a specific Lego Technic plane. We found one at the Lego store in Texas on sale on black Friday. I was busy getting ready for the baby shower, so Steve's mom and dad took the kids and managed to buy it without Noah seeing. Then, we had to get a suitcase big enough to fit it inside. When we got back to Alaska and opened up the suitcase we found that TSA had not only unwrapped the gift (I knew that was a risk) but they had opened the entire lego box and pulled the bags of individual legos out. I was so disappointed! We did our best to tape everything back together and said a prayer it was all there. Steve got the pleasure of building the 13+ recommended- age Lego for Noah. It only took him 3 nights of intense concentration before Noah finally had his plane. The smile made it all worthwhile!

Before leaving for the semester I had my mentees over for a "goodbye to Marlene" dinner. I really love spending time with these girls! We had a great dinner of grilled salmon and green bean casserole (their request) and then watched a Christmas movie together.

 As we neared the end of the semester there were lots of fun events on campus. At our annual "singspiration" we got to hand out gifts from a church in Plymouth Minnesota. Members of their church each selected a student and filled a whole box with gifts for that student. Everyone was grinning ear to ear as they showed each other their gifts.

We finished the semester with a graduation recognition for the 6 students that graduated with their AA degrees this semester.  Marlene was thrilled to show off her diploma cover after receiving it from Jeff, our academic dean. (She was crying all morning and wouldn't take off the sunglasses, even for the group shot. Keep her in your prayers as she heads home.)

Last friday we sent our students on their way. Most return home for winter break, while others stay with friends and family in Anchorage or around town here. It is always bittersweet saying goodbye to these great people!

With rain in the forecast instead of snow, I am truly dreaming of a white Christmas this year. I hope that your Christmases are filled with hope and joy, family and friends, whatever the weather outside!

We have mailed out our Christmas Cards, if you did not receive one and would like to, or if you have moved, please email me your address ( and I will get one in the mail to you. We have loved reading the cards that you have all sent, keep them coming! They make us feel like a part of you is here with us -even if it is just your picture hanging on our Christmas-card-covered-door.