Black Hawk Down! NOT!

If you haven’t read the book “Black hawk Down” and you’re in any way shape or form a military buff, you need to get out and read that book Pronto!

IMG_8279 The black hawk airframe, the UH-60 is one of the wonders of modern aviation and comes in many variations: tactical transport of troops, electronic warfare, VIP transport,  and aeromedical evacuation.  We have a few of them in SE Alaska and one that comes into Haines quite often for medivacs.  The coast guard runs them out of Sitka. Mark Daniel is in the orange shirt holding onto the hand-holds on the tail.  I guess they have those there for maneuvering the helicopter while it’s in a hanger or on the tarmac, but I didn’t get to ask the crew.

IMG_8271 On Saturday, we had two of them on the parade grounds for the public to climb around inn.  The military version that we had here today had both wheels and skids for landing pads and had all it’s guns removed.  The coast guard version had two large fuel tanks on the left side, and no spots for gunners.

IMG_8262c I love helicopters, planes, tanks, air-craft carriers, humvees, and military things in general since the second author I got hooked on was Tom Clancy and his military books: Red Storm Rising, Hunt for Red October, and Cardinal of the Kremlin.  I strongly recommend that military buffs read Red Storm Rising if they haven’t yet.  It’s an amazing depiction of how a full scale cold war era third world war may have played out if it had ever come to that and it’s played out in multiple theaters simultaneously.

In all honesty, I’ve never really talked about guns, tanks, airplanes, helicopters, ships, or anything else military or hunting related, except when he asks.  My dad loves guns and has a collection, and my brothers have guns and get new ones from time to time.  I do have a shotgun a “Home Defender” stainless gun, but I rarely shoot it and it has a trigger lock on it when it’s in the house.

I think it’s best when Mark is young to develop a love for nature, so we read him books about animals wild-life almost all the time.  There’ll be time later on to learn to shoot guns and hit targets and such. 

IMG_8282 I did meet the photographer of the coastguard flight crew.  He’s a canon guy who owns his own gear.  The coast guard owns Nikon gear, but he’d rather not use it so he buys his own.  He had a rubber armored Canon 30D with the 17-40 f/4 mounted plus the battery grip. I do talk to the boys about photography quite a bit, as you might guess, and they love posing for photos whenever we go on special outings, as you can probably tell.

TeeBall on Saturdays!

There’s only one week left of Teeball: there’s a Wednesday practice, then a double header on Saturday.

IMG_8251 (2)cToday we went to Teeball and had a great time.  Mark is really coming along, in terms of  enjoying the game, hitting the ball, throwing the ball, catching the ball, and understanding the game.

When he batted, I had him stand back from the base in such a way that he’d hit the ball down the third base line.  You can see he’s a bit back towards the backstop.  As you can probably tell from the green fleece he’s wearing, it was a bit chilly and even a bit rainy this morning, plus we don’t have any grass on the field–but that keeps the bugs down too.

IMG_8303 (2)cToday, we only had four of the teammates show up for the game, so we had five people total on the Reds team.  Almost all of our experienced kids were not there. This was both good and bad, because everyone got to play in an interesting position on the field, and everyone also got to bat three times because we had three innings, and also because we didn’t really field that well, compared with when we have our experienced kids there.

Mark’s favorite thing about Teeball is running the bases at full speed. He knows where all the bases are, how he can get out, where to run, when to stop (when we tell him to) and that it’s not a terrible thing to get ‘out,’ it’s just something that happens to everyone from time to time. 

He does best if I stand right next to him and encourage him when he’s fielding and such.

IMG_8342c Behind the backstop, there’s a huge sand pile that the little siblings like to play on when the older ones are playing ball.  I need to take some pictures of that hill.  Another thing Luke likes to do is pick flowers.  I think that’s pretty cute for a three year old.

One thing you might notice from this picture is that Luke is a ‘lefty’  He’s been that way from the beginning: always preferring his left hand over his right.  He eats left handed, throws, catches, hits, and high fives with it. 

IMG_8278 (2) Mark wasn’t that way.  When Mark was really young, he never showed a preference for one hand over the other. Then when he got to be about four years old.  Some kids don’t differentiate their hands until, say 3rd grade–that can be a problem, especially when they are writing.  It’s good for the brain to settle in to dedicated rolls early so further development can take place.

Looking at these pictures today reminds me that I need to buy those pictures from Steve Vick that he took earlier in the season.  I really liked the one of Mark Daniel and I at home plate where I was pointing to show him where first base was.

Looking at this last picture of Mark, one thing you might not have noticed is the out-of-focus area in the photo.  To me it has a nice quality to it and in photography lingo, that’s called Bokeh.  Bokeh is a Japanese word which has to do with the quality of the image where the image is out of focus.  For this shot, I was at 400mm on my 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, ISO 400, f/8, 1/500.  These are great settings for stopping action and getting pretty sharp photos of a kids baseball game.  To really stop the threads on the ball and catch the dust in the air in a major league game on a double play with the runner sliding into second base, you’d need a higher shutter speed, say 1/1500 or so, I’d imagine.  but 1/500 is just fine for capturing a teeball game.

John Caleb Meets Senator Stevens!

  I’m not sure what his political leanings are just yet, but we took John Caleb to meet the senator anyhow.

IMG_8255cSenator Ted Stevens is in town to give speeches, shake hands, and dedicate a frog, or some such thing, out at Klukwan.  This is the Second Senator we’ve met this year in Haines.  Cool. Lisa Murkowski was here for the beer festival back near the end of May.

The meeting took place at the Bald Eagle Foundation Building from 7:30 to 9 AM on July 5th and just about everybody who’s anybody (or WAS anybody) in Haines Politics showed up.  Robert  V., Doug Olerud, Fred Shields, Roger Schnabel, Bill Thomas, Tim June, Chip Lende, etc.  It was fun to jump in there at the start of the question and answer time to get a grin-n-click photo with a baby.

PS–in order to get John Caleb to grin at the right time, Holly pinch/tickled his leg, while I made silly baby sounds.

4th of July II (I’m tired)

Haines puts on a great family oriented independence day celebration.  It’s probably my favorite day of the year in our small town.

Haines starts out the day with the Mt. Ripinski Race, which starts at 6 AM, if memory serves: I’ve never been to it, but my hat’s off to those brave souls who get up in time to watch it.  I’ll not say anything about the stamina and the preparation it takes to put forth a good effort in that race.  What could I say? 

IMG_7135cThen comes the Parade.  This year’s parade  was about the best I’ve seen in many years,  albeit with no real genuine IMG_7012floats with chicken wire and paper mache.   There was a ton of entries and Holly was right in there with the best of them: “Catch the reading Bug!” for the Summer Reading Program.  She had kids dressed up as bugs with the slogan,  aforementioned. 

IMG_6895Mark Daniel was dressed up like a spider (I think) and did a great job walking the whole way and smiling too.  Holly Drove the pick-up with the three signs plastered on it.


Bob & Margaret donated the  use of their little diesel Toyota and helped us get it cleaned up for the parade.  It’s a great little truck for the slow speed walking pace of a parade.

IMG_6853Regrettably, her little ‘bees’ walked a little to close to the entry in front of her truck and her whole entry kind of got lost in the shuffle.  Plus some dude with a pet dog joined her group and reduced it’s focus entirely.  Who was the dude with the dog?

Here’s a Picture Hannah, Lilly, & Haley Boron that I just had to stick in here.

IMG_7145After the parade, this year, they held the drawing ($25 per ticket) for the giant doll house that was built  to support the Venture Scouts who took a trip to climb Kilimanjaro, over in Africa (duh).  Mark’s good friend Megan and her family won the drawing so they had a fun time playing house while it was on the trailer. What I think is impressive is the flowers on the shutters.  That’s a nice touch.  Greg Podsiki does a great job with these doll houses.

It’s a really nice house and Lisa & Gordon are still trying to figure out the best place to put it.  Frankly, it’d make a nice little guest room given some insulation, wiring, sheet-rock, and a little Toyostove. Somehow, I missed buying a ticket, so we didn’t have a chance at winning it.

IMG_7185Then, after the parade, there’s always a HUGE barbecue put on by the Haines Friends of the Library in the Tlingit Park.  $3 for Burger and chips, $2 for a hotdog and chips, plus $1 for a pop (soda).  Those are my kind of prices!  I hated buying those $12 lunches down in Nashville–what a rip-off.  It had rained all night morning, so the grass was wet and we were blessed to find a dry spot on Mark Fontenot and Lenise Henderson’s white and blue checkered blanket!

At the same time the Barbecue is going on, there is a mud-volleyball tournament held in front of the Senior Center Housing (on Church land).  This is quite a spectacle, but I didn’t take any pictures of it because I was walking too fast to get back and forth, plus I didn’t really know anyone on either team that was playing at the time very well.  This year I wasn’t shooting for the paper (just my blog).

Then there’s one of the crowd favorites: the hose competition, hosted by the Haines Volunteer Fire Department, which is held in front of the Presbyterian IMG_7170Church each year.  In this event, K-4 graders dress up in little kid versions of bunk gear (PPEs) form teams and compete on pushing a buoy ball back and forth along a rope held up between two loaders.  I really like this and wanted to get Mark Daniel involved, but he was so busy playing with other kids, I didn’t want to disturb his fun time.  Plus he’s too young to hold the nozzle anyway. That’s Dylan Swinton at the head of the team on the right with his shorts on.

IMG_7237c After the Barbecue comes the field races: Crawling, hopping, gunny sack, Running, wheel-barrel, backwards running, backwards hopping, for all age groups. Actually, my age group was a bit large this year, as I was stuck in the 15+ group for many of the races. 

Mark Daniel is quite a speedy little guy but was in the 5-6 year old races this year, so he was out-sized by last year’s kindergartners.  But that didn’t faze him.  He still jumped in there and did his best in each of the races. Luke was stuck wondering when he was getting his nap, and was so tired he really couldn’t think straight.

IMG_7294c During the races, I left John Caleb with Mark Fontenot (Mark’s namesake) and was able to break free to shoot the field races.  Later on, when I found a spare moment, I looked over and was surprised to see that Mark F. was empty handed.  I was a bit shocked, but not truly worried, when I thought about it. 

I asked him who had JC and he said, Deb Kemp.  Immediately, my mind was at ease.  If she can raise up two kids of the caliber of Iris and Chandler, then John Caleb is probably in better hands with her than she is with me (at least for a little while)! 

That’s one of the things I really love about Haines: there are so many good people here who we can trust and help us look out for our boys, that it really makes me want to stay here forever.  Haines is a great town for families and I’m thankful to be raising my family here.  As divided as we are about any particular topic that may arise, we support each other and help each other.  We really are a great small-town community.

There are many decisions that can pop up in life that have a big impact on the rest of life.  One of the big ones is “Where do you want to live?”  Don’t take this question and it’s answer lightly: Where you choose to live and what type of community you want to be a part of have are important things to consider and weigh.  I think it’s best to take a purposeful approach to many decisions in life, and while I haven’t always done this myself, I’m thankful for the big decisions I’ve made so far, and when I look back, I am amazed at the number of places I could have gone on a very different path.

4th of July Family Picture!

Every year, we take a picture of the family on Independence day before we go to the  parade.  There are some guidelines we follow:

  1. Matching clothes (if possible);
  2. red-white-and-blue clothes (also black works);
  3. plain background (usually alders);
  4. Everyone smiles;
  5. Do when we first walk out the door;
  6. Use the self-timer feature with the camera on a tripod
  7. Don’t move the camera or change the settings so we can Photoshop a face or two if we need to.
  8. Enlist the help of ‘Blacky’ (if possible) to help us get some smiles.

This year’s picture is pretty good.  I should have worn blue-jeans or black pants.  In the photo above, John Caleb’s face has been photoshopped.  I had to hold Luke’s hand away from his face because he kept covering up his smile with a ‘nervous tick.’

It’s 6:30 PM and we are tired.  We just woke up from a 2.5 hour nap and we missed out, entirely, on the mad river race–as we usually do each year–Bummer.  At 5:45, Holly and I looked around and all three boys were asleep and we decided to stay at home instead of wake them up for a 20 minute car drive.

I’ll post some pictures soon of the mayhem at the Tlingit Park: the races and such.

Moose: One Cow & Two Newborn Calves!

So far, this year, I’ve seen seven moose in our neighborhood.  But tonight we something very special!

IMG_7926 Tonight I got a call from Bonnie Scharnbroich who has a sister that lives on our street.  She said there were two newborn calves who were still damp yesterday sleeping in the yard, two houses down from us.  Wow.  I’ve only seen three other moose in recent memory and ever since we’ve had the boys I have not had the time to case out any wildlife for any stretch of time to speak of.

It was time for bed so I went over there with my 70-200mm f/2.8 IS, and my 100-400mm  f/4.5-5.6 IS.  IMG_8049Sure enough there was  a very tired looking cow moose and two newborn twins there who could hardly stand up! 

They were just lying up against the alders at the edge of the lawn minding their own business.  To view them perfectly, you could just go out on the porch and look at them.

At one point, when we had about four people out on the porch and there was a bit too much talking, the moose had the hair onIMG_8039 their backs bristle up and they tried to get motivated to stand up, so we went inside. 

After seeing how calm and serene the whole thing was, I went around to the side of the house that face ours and I could hear what I thought was Holly talking to the boys out on the porch, so I got out the cell phone and invited them over.  Holly and the boys got really excited to come over, so they got on their shoes and walked down the empty lot down from the road to the porch.

IMG_8023Of course, it’s always cool to get to see newborn animals, but it’s especially cool to see them in the wild, and doubly cool to see them from the safety of a civilized porch.  We made sure not to bother them.  Any time it seemed like they were even the slightest bit bothered, we went inside and gave them some space.  Of course I couldn’t help posing the boys in a picture with them!  At two different times, the little once stretched out their legs and once it looked like the nearest one was trying to stand up.  But it was only a half-hearted attempt.

IMG_8034Here’s a shot of Mark posing for a shot backlit by the setting sun.  I like backlit shots like this.  At first he had on a huge smile, that wasn’t really a smile,  but actually an attempt at a smile, so I asked him to smile with his mouth closed.

IMG_8033To me, the mother looked pretty tired and was breathing in a rather labored fashion, in my not so humble opinion.  I think we can all cut her some slack though.  I imagine that giving birth to twins, naturally, while all alone can really take it out of you.   I suppose this is another good argument for birth control.

IMG_8059Actually, I have to admit that I know almost nothing about the proper resting breathing rate for a moose who has recently given birth to twins.  I do know that it is very common for moose to give birth to twins, and that it’s not uncommon for only one of them to live to be fully grown. John Caleb really enjoyed the evening too, although I’m not sure he understood much of what was going on.

John Caleb can pull himself up to Standing!

I was gone for a week, but he’s really changed in that short amount of time.  His smile is thankfully the same.

IMG_7870When I left to go fishing and to the conference, John Caleb was just about to sit up by  himself.  He could stand up if you placed him in a standing position, but wouldn’t stay there for long.

Now he’s doing so much more.  His favorite thing is to crawl over to something he can stand up with, and literally pull himself up to standing and look around for a while.

After that, he tries to grab onto stuff and suck on it some more: thankfully, he still has no teeth so he’s not destroying stuff yet.  The down side of having no teeth is that he can’t chew up stuff yet, so it’s all it’s nothing but pablum still.

In the evenings, when Mark and Luke take their baths, he loves to stand next to the tub and watch the meyhem.  After the bath comes the tooth brushing, then the piano playing, then it’s bed-time story, then time to sleep, which is usually around 8:30 PM.  Holly is doing a great job with the boys over the summer, with Margaret pitching in a GREAT deal while Holly is working at the library.