Lessons from a Car Hauler
This week I have been driving my girls to Space Camp. It’s about an hour away, on the coast. I’ve experimented with several different routes, but have settled on the most direct route that avoids tolls as the best choice. I have been driving about 250 miles each day, with one hour there to drop them off, then one hour back, then in the afternoon, another round trip there & back to pick them up. I was viewing the drive as a chore and something I was not looking forward to, (and questioning the sanity of signing up the girls for a camp so far away). However, yesterday, I received an avalanche of revelations on my drive to pick up the girls, and I thought I would share them here, and hope that you find them helpful, or at least somewhat entertaining.
The first thing I realized is that we all have the same bucket of time. Most of us have said at one time or another: “I don’t have enough time. “ However, we are all given the exact same bucket of time. The difference is what we do with the time, and perhaps, more importantly, our attitude about what we do with the time. As a personal example, I viewed the drive to/from the Space Coast as a chore. I let my ever-growing to-do list rattle around my head, while listening to the radio or to audiobooks. It took until yesterday afternoon, as I was heading out to the Space Coast yet again to pick up the girls, when I realized what a gift it was to have this uninterrupted time. I always bemoaned the fact that I was far too *busy* to be able to take time out of my day to commune with God. Pastors have said that we need to be still and listen to God’s still small voice…but there was just far too much noise in my life (especially my own complaining about not having enough time) to be able to hear that voice. And here was God’s gift. I had an uninterrupted hour (whenever I was driving there or back alone), where I could not
do anything else (except drive). No texting, no e-mail, no Facebook…no other books to read, no chores to do…a perfect time to listen, contemplate, and listen for God’s still small voice.
: An attitude shift turns a chore into a gift.
Once I realized that I had a precious gift, I turned off the radio, and enjoyed the silence while driving. I drove out on State Road 46 (not a toll road) which was almost completely straight, and almost entirely 2 lanes all the way to I-95. It can be quite a relaxing drive, if you are not in a hurry. I have to bring up another point here, which is that I am almost always in a hurry. I never seem to leave with enough of a time cushion so I’m always rushing to get places on time. A couple years ago I caught Chip Ingram teaching a lesson on the radio, where one thing he said stuck with me. “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,” Chip Ingram said. He said that by eliminating hurry, you could stop becoming stressed out. I needed to eliminate hurry, but it has always been an area where I had difficulty. Yesterday was no exception, as I was trying to pick up the girls early from camp so I could rush them back in time for Anna to try out a ballet class at another studio. I was stressed, and could feel the tension in my stomach when I was in a hurry. That’s when God intervened—with a car hauler.
I was driving along the city roads, and the road was going from two lanes to one. I was able to pass a large flatbed hauling concrete pillars. However, I was unable to pass a car hauler. It was not driving slowly; in fact, it was driving right around (or just above) the speed limit. Still, I was thinking, even hoping, that maybe, the car hauler might turn off at the next intersection, and then I could drive faster. When I realized that the car hauler was going to stay on the same road in front of me, I began some quiet contemplation, and realized that driving behind this car hauler gave me some good metaphors and lessons for life.
: A Car Hauler is so tall you can’t see past it. God sees the big picture, but we don’t. We can only see as far as what God shows us…or in this case, the back of the car hauler.
: You can’t go faster than the car hauler is driving. (and passing it is often not an option, depending on the road). Things happen on God’s time. Sometimes, God doesn’t want us to rush. Sometimes, he wants us to slow down enough to contemplate what’s directly in front of us. It’s about the journey, not just the destination.
: The car hauler sets the pace, so you don’t have to, releasing you from worrying about whether there’s a sheriff or trooper in your rear view mirror with its lights on because you’ve been speeding. When you try to do things on your own time, you often end up much more stressed and worried. If you let God set the pace, then you can let go of the worry—and you will still end up at your destination, with much less stress.
: Since the car hauler is setting the pace and you can’t see past it, you might as well sit back and enjoy the ride. Once I realized that I couldn’t change my situation, I kind of let go. I let go of the stress, of the sense of hurry, and even of needing to worry about watching my speed. I could just simply follow the car hauler all the way to the Interstate. It was a very freeing feeling, kind of like when we surrender to God. We can give God our cares and worries, and He will take care of them for us. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." –Matthew 11:28 In fact, midway down SR 46, we came up to an intersection, and it looked as if the car hauler might turn off. I had begun to so enjoy the relaxing drive and basically having it lead my drive, that I was starting to get a little disappointed that it might turn off. Fortunately it stayed on the road in front of me, so I was able to take more time to contemplate God’s messages to me that day –in the form of a car hauler.
Great collection of children's songs
from Lake Mary, Florida
Pros: Entertaining, Engaging, Book with words included
Cons: No pinyin
Best Uses: Education, Parents of young children, Entertainment
Describe Yourself: Parent, Chinese Teacher
Was this a gift?: No
This book has a great collection of Chinese children's songs. It's a lot of fun to listen to, and is great to use in teaching young students songs with movements. However, the book uses the Zhuyin phonetic system to help in sounding out the words, but there's no Pinyin. Have a version that has Pinyin would be helpful for those who are better versed in Pinyin than the Zhuyin system and are still learning the characters.
"Treasure Chest" for Chinese Teachers!
from Lake Mary, Florida
Pros: Engaging, Entertaining, Time Saver, Educational
Best Uses: Education
Was this a gift?: No
If you teach Chinese, this is a must-have item! It saves a TON of time preparing worksheets--and it also includes cultural activities, suggestions for crafts, and a variety of activities at different proficiency levels. It may seem a little pricey--but more than pays for itself in convenience!
Useful for teaching in a classroom as we
from Lake Mary, Florida
Pros: Colorful, Engaging, Cute Drawings, Useful basic phrases
Cons: Only simplified character
Best Uses: Teaching phrases, School Chinese Class, Education
Was this a gift?: No
I teach Mandarin Chinese. I have taught both in Chinese School and in a weekday elementary school. I have used this book in both settings. I find it provides a good springboard for additional vocabulary--each page has a different sentence that one can use as a basis for a lesson -- and add different vocabulary. I thought the names for the friends were rather awkward, so I never used it as is. I had the class go around and say in Chinese "I like my friend___________" and substitute names of their friends. The book has cute, engaging pictures, and I enjoy using it to introduce words, phrases, and sentences to the students. Check out the other books in the Mandy and Pandy series too!
Here's my last installment of my travelogue, unless there's anything interesting to write about on our flights home...
Day 11: More of exploring Vancouver!
We had Dim Sum today—we went back into Chinatown. There was a restaurant close to our hotel in Downtown, but after checking out the reviews online, we thought better of it. Gotta love (1) wi-fi in our hotel room and (2) online restaurant reviews! :-)
The restaurant we went to was called Kam Wai Dim Sum Restaurant. The décor was plain, simple, and very clean. The flavors were Taiwanese. One of the items on the menu was Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup. However, after all the dumplings and veggies we ordered, we were already full. They somehow forgot to enter our order for the Beef Noodle Soup—which ended up being for the better, because I think we wouldn't have been able to finish it after everything else we ate. Both girls ate really well too—they LOVE dumplings AND Chinese green vegetables!
After we finished eating, we walked around the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Chinese Garden. It was so beautiful and peaceful, with a gazebo, bridge, a pond with water lilies, and fish and ducks. We really enjoyed walking around—you definitely didn't feel like you were in the middle of a big city when you were there!
We ended up taking the Skytrain back to our hotel from Chinatown, after a slight mishap on the sidewalks around Chinatown. I was walking on the edge of the sidewalk, holding Anna's hand. I wasn't looking down, but rather about a block ahead at our destination, which was a pharmacy (CJ had a stuffy nose and we thought we should look for some decongestant for her). I misstepped off the edge of the sidewalk (where there was an uneven part of the sidewalk where a tree was planted) and fell. Unfortunately I took Anna down with me. I scraped both my knees up, while Anna scraped up one side of her hand. Fortunately we were already heading toward a pharmacy so we just added a few first aid items to our shopping list. After a short stop for first aid, we were back off again.
In the afternoon, we went to Stanley Park to the Vancouver Aquarium. One thing we noticed right away—there's a special tax that is assessed on almost everything in Vancouver. It's called the HST or Harmonized Sales Tax. It's over 10% on goods and services. So the tickets for the Aquarium, which should have been $82 ended up being $100 after HST. Yikes! I would have opted for the membership if there was any likelihood of us returning there within a year. But alas, Vancouver is too far away for us to visit more than once in a year.
The main attractions of this aquarium are the Beluga Whale, the Sea Otter, and the White Sided Dolphin. They actually had 3 Beluga Whales that they featured in a short presentation. This included a mother and her calf. Adult Beluga Whales are white, but baby belugas are actually grey, like a dolphin. Speaking of dolphins, there are dolphins that are unique to the Vancouver area called white sided dolphins. I've never seen dolphins with these markings on them. We got to watch the “dolphin show” from the underwater viewing area. It was cool to see how the dolphins can swim so fast as they gain acceleration to jump out of the water. This species of dolphin is supposedly known for their acrobatic abilities. Finally, we got to watch an adorable sea otter. Well, actually, I think all sea otters are adorable. This one was cleaning his fur and was continuing to lay on his back while cleaning various parts of his fur. He just looked so funny doing it, especially when he started doing somersaults in the water while fluffing his fur. This was a really cool aquarium because it featured the sea life in the bodies of water in and around Vancouver. We all learned a lot, and between the girls and I and Mike, we used up all the batteries for all 3 cameras!
After we left the aquarium, we were blessed to have a taxi driver pull up just as we were about to call for a taxi. God is so good! We headed back to the hotel and Mike and I worked on repacking the suitcases just a bit, so that we would be able to bring everything back home without needing extra bags. For all the days that we've been gone and having to pack for so many different types of weather and events, we actually only needed one additional suitcase (which we anticipated). We also came back with quite a menagerie of stuffed animals. We left with one each for the girls, a husky pup named Fluffy (Anna's) and a towel elephant named Della (CJ's). We are returning with an additional bald eagle (named Zack), beaver, Alaskan husky (complete with harness), mountain goat, sea otter, and white-sided dolphin. (We already have a beluga whale, courtesy of Uncle Mitch! ;-) Good things these creatures are light and squishable! We can still make room in the bags for them—which we will take care of in the morning.
Tomorrow we will get things together and head to the airport after breakfast. It's the all-day homeward journey. Two legs of the flight are Vancouver to Houston, and Houston to Orlando. Mike found out that he's been upgraded to first class on both legs of the flight! None of the rest of us are, but we told the girls that they are cute enough that they can probably get away with wandering up to sit with Daddy for a while during the flight. Me, on the other hand, am not quite cute enough for that. LOL
The girls are such good travelers, though, that I'm not worried about the trip. I pray that God will keep us safe and we will have a smooth trip. It has been an incredible journey with lots of very memorable experiences. Alaska and Vancouver are both destinations that we will plan to visit again someday. There is just so much to see and experience. But, as with so many things, this trip must come to an end, but we will be able to return to our own home, our own beds, and be able to do laundry again! I never thought I'd be excited about doing laundry, but considering we have almost two suitcases full of dirty laundry, I'll actually be glad to go home and start to work on getting them clean again!
Flying towards home shortly...
Day 10 (Friday): Back on Land...Exploring Vancouver
Back on Land! We are really enjoying having space in our hotel room, and not having to deal with the cramped quarters and bunk beds that we had on the ship. We walked around Vancouver a bit this afternoon, saw the big Olympic torch by the water. Then we were all exhausted and came back to the hotel room and took a nice long nap.
It's a huge contrast between the cities, towns and villages we saw in Alaska and coming to Vancouver. The cities and towns and villages in Alaska were small—even Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska is dwarfed in comparison to Vancouver. The towns and villages we visited in Alaska were typically dependent on one or two main industries; usually fishing and tourism. The land is rugged and unspoiled, and you really get the feeling that the land is the ultimate master, and the people really respect the land.
Vancouver is a modern city. Skyscrapers and busy downtown streets. However, Vancouver is unique in its location. You can see mountains, the ocean, and the skyscrapers all at once. And Vancouver is no ordinary city—it was so cool watching the sea planes flying out and coming in at a seaplane dock downtown. Vancouver is a really unique city and a blend of different lifestyles, traditions, and cultures. The mountains, water, and tall buildings that you see all at the same time is an example of that. The hot dog cart that sells Japanese style hot dogs is another example of how multicultural Vancouver is.
We went to Chinatown for dinner. We went to a place called Bao Bei 寶貝. It's not a traditional Chinese restaurant, but rather, it seems to be kind of a trendy hangout with traditional foods that have a twist to them. For example, we ordered Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup. Bao Bei's version actually contained tomatoes. It was quite delicious and had a traditional flavor, but also had a slightly different twist. We had dumplings and also water spinach (kong xin cai 空心菜). It was quite delicious, and the girls loved it! Afterward, we went to the Chinatown Night Market. It was basically an outdoor flea market. It was (as would be expected) much smaller than the one in Taipei. There were lots of vendors selling cheap junk, and some that displayed tables and tables of women's undergarments. However, there were a few that sold traditional Chinese trinkets including jade figurines. CJ picked out a horse made form a yellow jade (she's born in the year of the horse). We also bought her a bracelet made from purple jade. We bought Anna a monkey made from jade as well—she was born in the year of the monkey. We bought some tea and a couple t-shirts and a backpack. I bargained a bit, but not too much. Still, I didn't pay the original asking price for any of the items. :-) After all, at a market like that, you have to bargain a little bit!
On the way back to our hotel, we had a hard time finding a taxi, so we took the “Skytrain.” At the Skytrain stop, we paid for our tickets, and then went up to the train platform. Unlike Washington DC or any other rapid transit system that I've ever taken, there was no turnstile or other barrier required to go through to prove that we paid for our tickets. At first we thought that perhaps the turnstile for inserting the tickets were located at the exits of the stations. When we got off the train at our station, we walked off the platform, and then out of the station. No electronic turnstiles there either. So, it was definitely possible that people could simply walk on and off the train without paying. It appears that the Vancouver Skytrain works on the honor system. However, it appears at least for the moment, that the honor system still works for Vancouver. And we surmise that there are most likely random times that there are train authorities that will spot check passengers for proof of payment. Still, I can't imagine any American city operating a rapid transit system without a mandatory proof of payment system.
We have really enjoyed Vancouver so far; we plan to have Dim Sum in Chinatown tomorrow and then go to the Vancouver Aquarium tomorrow!
Here's a 3 day update of my travelogue. I'm caught up again! :-)
Day 7 (Tuesday): Icy Strait Point (Hoonah, Alaska)
Coming face to face with a breaching Humpback Whale has got to rank in my top 5 most amazing experiences. We arrived at Icy Strait Point in Hoonah, Alaska today. It's a tiny whaling village whale watching today and saw a huge array of wildlife. Our main goal was to see whales, but we also saw an adorable sea otter just hanging out (floating on his back); and schools (in this case, called armies) of “popcorn” herring swimming in mats of kelp. The area we were watching for whales was called Point Adolphus. It's an area that has several currents that come together and causing an upwelling of the water. The herring are caught and pushed up to the surface in this upwelling and they end up jumping out of the water in huge numbers—and hence the whales and porpoises come to this area to feed on the herring. We saw several humpback whales, but didn't see the classic “whale tale” that one sees in the photographs so often. However, we did see a female and her calf—and we found out that the female was teaching her calf to lunge feed on the herring. In one instance, she breached the surface and we saw her face to face above the surface. Of course that was the time that none of us were ready for it—I had literally just changed the chip on my camera and was putting the old chip into its case when she breached. Mike did snap a shot of the whale breaching, but he was moving (and so was the whale) so it looks mostly like a blurry black blob. But really, it's a whale of a tale and it's not just a fish story! :-) CJ's best friend Brandon ended up being an excellent whale spotter on this trip! We even saw at least two porpoises, but they were fast and didn't stay around our boat very long.
When we got back to Hoonah, we ate fresh, caught-from-the-sea crab. CJ had a King Crab claw and it was HUGE! One King Crab Leg was about 18 inches long! I had one dungeoness crab, and it was also the largest one I've ever eaten—one crab is enough for a meal. It was definitely different from the Maryland crabs which are quite a bit smaller. We were in crab heaven! I don't think crab ever tasted better! Many people have referred to the show “Deadliest Catch.” I think it has to do with fishing for crabs in Alaska. I think after being here, I'm going to want to watch the show and see what it's all about—and what goes into catching these huge and delicious creatures!
After we arrived back to the ship, we hurried to dress in our formal attire for a very special occasion. Mike and I and Mike's Mom & Dad renewed our vows on board the ship. This year Mike and I celebrate our 20th Anniversary, but more significantly, Mike's parents celebrate their 50th anniversary! We did a combined ceremony, and it was treated much like a wedding. Our guests were my friends Erika and Bland Eng and their kids Brandon and Ava. Mike's parents invited three couples they met on their pre-cruise tour. Two couples were from Australia and one other couple was American; (Jim & Linda Putter). It was a really special experience and wonderful to be able to recommit to our spouses again. We even had flowers, photographers and a short reception (with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries). Almost like a real wedding, only smaller and more intimate.
Later on in the evening after dinner, Mike and I got to try out a bit of our ballroom dancing too. We mostly danced to rumba, which is the step we remember the best. All in all, it was a special day that we won't soon forget!
Next stop: Ketchikan!
Day 8 (Wednesday): Ketchikan, Alaska
Ketchikan is a town located quite far to the south in Alaska. I've observed that we don't get so much daylight at night now—it gets dark pretty much the same time as it does back home now. We did a tour of Ketchikan that included a Lumberjack show and a tour of a Native American cultural park called Potlatch Park. The Lumberjack show was a lot of fun to watch, and the kids really enjoyed it. Brandon and CJ both got a souvenir from the show—a cross-cut piece of a log. The lumberjacks were really strong and fast, and we did get quite an appreciation of how dangerous being a lumberjack can be.
Potlatch Park is a park featuring many Native American totem poles and focused especially on the art and meaning behind the paintings and carvings both on the totem poles and in the lodges. We met a totem pole artist and one of the totem poles she was working on. Some totem poles tell a story. Others are placed in front of houses to show what clan the family belongs to and their status. A potlatch, by the way, is a celebration that one clan holds for another clan, where they basically give lots of gifts and wealth to the other clan. Later on, the second clan is expected to reciprocate in kind for the first clan who threw them the potlatch. It's a matter of pride and status to be able to hold a potlatch—it shows that a clan is prosperous. In this area of Alaska, there are mostly the Raven clan and the Eagle clan. And Raven clan members are not allowed to marry within the Raven clan, just like Eagle clan are not allowed to marry within their own clan. Also, it's a matriarchal society, so the bloodline is passed through the mother.
We also wandered through the shops at Ketchikan. As in most of the other towns and ports of call (except for Icy Strait), there were a ton of jewelry stores. Most of them are affiliated with the cruise industry and will close at the end of the tourist season. Lots of people head up to these towns in Alaska to work for the summer before returning to “The Lower 48” in the fall.
Had a wonderful surprise--the ship's Captain (Captain Bjorn) invited us to the Bridge of the ship to view the pushoff out of Ketchikan. It was so cool and something that not many people get to experience because it is a restricted area.
Tomorrow should be a relatively relaxing day, because it's a day at sea. No ports of call, no appointments to keep. Until tomorrow...
Day 9 (Thursday): Cruising the Inside Passage British Columbia
We were on the ship the whole day today. We all slept in, and had a late breakfast. Every day this week we've been eating at the buffet breakfast place called the Windjammer. It's been really great—I've been able to enjoy smoked salmon every day this week, which I definitely would not be able to do otherwise! We got to watch the kids in Adventure Ocean (including CJ & Anna) participate and perform in a talent show. We selected photos from the vow renewal ceremony. We heard Captain Bjorn talk about this ship (Radiance of the Seas) and have a question and answer session. We sailed past some amazingly beautiful scenery. The Captain pointed out some points of interest, including the world's tallest totem pole (but as Mike described it, from our distance, it just looked like a giant toothpick). LOL Oh, and CJ climbed to the top of the rock wall. Not the kiddie rock wall. The big one. One that has defeated many adults. She tried the “easy” side and only made it about 1/3 way up. She decided she wanted to go up the “hard” side instead. And she did! The rock wall was probably 40 feet tall! The climbing trainer was hugely helpful by talking CJ up the wall, advising her as to the best hand and foot holds to make it all the way up. Everyone was cheering for everyone else climbing. It was the most beautiful day we've had, as well—sunny and warm!Most importantly, we packed everything up, as we will be leaving the ship tomorrow morning.
Packing. It's probably my least favorite part of cruising. It means that our amazing vacation will soon come to a close, and we will have to return to real life. However, on this cruise, the four of us have been crammed into a rather small cabin, and we've been sleeping in bunk beds. I guess it takes having to squeeze four people and all of our stuff into a small space like we have to truly appreciate the amount of space we have on land at home. We definitely were able to make things work—storage in these cabins are incredibly efficient, making me wish we could have such efficient storage in furniture and in closets at home on land! It WILL be nice to sleep in a regular bed again, and not have to squeeze past each other in a narrow hallway called our cabin. I will miss the Captain's morning greetings, though – “wakey wakey” and “easy peasey” were two of his favorite phrases. We also got to hear many animal sounds as he introduced us to some of the wildlife prevalent in this area.
Two animals I'm surprised we didn't get to see on this trip were bear and moose. Actually, we did see one moose from a significant distance when we took the domed train from Anchorage to Seward. However, because all I saw was a dark brown dot, I really couldn't confirm it was actually a moose. I loved the fact that so many people on this trip were, like us, wanting to see the wildlife and sights. I definitely felt there was much more excitement over seeing the sights and especially wildlife and natural phenomenon (like glaciers) while cruising than I ever have on a Caribbean cruise. Perhaps that's the nature of this cruise—the focus really is on the wildlife and the majesty of nature. Alaska is a beautiful and wild, unspoiled land. We'll definitely be back, and plan to explore more of Alaska's natural wonders in the future!
Next stop: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
July 13, 2010 at 11:49am
Day 6: Skagway
Just a side note about computers and e-mail on this trip—we signed up for a Wi-Fi package when we boarded the ship. I discovered because of spam, I need to log onto my e-mail at least once every two days to avoid having my e-mail box be jammed full. I logged on our first full day on the ship, which was almost 2 days after my last login and had 644 e-mails! I didn't check e-mail yesterday and logged on today and had 725 e-mails waiting for me! Of that, there's less than 100 that I will want to keep. The thing that's a bit more of a hassle on this trip is that we don't have Wi-Fi access in the cabins of the ship. So I have to leave the cabin, go to a public area (like the internet cafe or bar areas midship) and find a place to plug in my computer so I can access my e-mail. I've become a bit of a morning fixture in the sitting area next to the Internet cafe on Deck 5 because I have a place to sit as well as a plug. It's amazing how dependent we become on technology!
We arrived in Skagway this morning. Skagway is a small town (800 year-round residents; during the tourist season, it increases to about 2500). You can tell Skagway depends on tourism for its main industry—for such a small town, there are over 30 jewelry stores! Most of them close down at the end of the season. Skagway exists because of the Klondike Gold Rush. Now there was never any gold found IN Skagway, but gold prospectors had to go through Skagway in order to travel to the Klondike area.
We learned a bit about the history of the gold rush and even had a chance to pan for a bit of gold ourselves. CJ had a great time and really developed a knack for the panning technique. The girls both got necklaces containing the gold bits that they were able to retrieve from the “Pay Dirt” from the Klondike area.
In the afternoon we had an opportunity to see, learn about and interact with Alaskan Huskies. These sled dogs are especially bred for strength, speed and endurance to enable them to pull heavy sleds a long distance. We had a team of 16 sled dogs pulling a golf cart with 6 people on it! These dogs were not quite what I expected—they are not purebred Siberian Huskies or Malamutes, so they didn't have that classic look that we expect to see as sled dogs. The Alaskan Huskies are cross-breeds that are part Siberian Husky and part other breeds. One dog we met, a 5 year old named Zinger, was a Siberian Husky crossed with a Greyhound. She was the fawn color of many greyhounds and had the face/head shape of a greyhound. She had already run three Iditarod races in her short lifetime! The Iditarod race is an 1100 mile race from Anchorage north to Nome. These dogs are strong and have a LOT of energy! It was a really fun experience and the girls' most memorable experience was holding a 12 day old Husky puppy.
Later in the evening, we saw (and heard ) sea lions as we sailed along one of the channels, and also saw a whale (or at least the spout of water when it blew out of its blow hole). Finally, we learned some more about glaciers—and found out that there are smaller glaciers called cap glaciers throughout the mountains that we sailed by. It was neat to be able to identify them as we sailed by.
Tomorrow we go whale watching!
7/12/2010 -- Alaska Day 5: Juneau
What's the significance of Juneau? Well, it's the capital of Alaska. It's originally a gold mining town. It also is unique in that there's no roads where you can drive into Juneau. You enter Juneau via either airplane or boat. Today we went up the Mt. Roberts Tramway—a cable tramway that took us up about 2000 feet directly up Mt. Roberts. The tram car gave us spectacular views and allowed us to skim by old growth Sitka Spruce trees that were about 150 feet tall. In fact, Sitka Spruce trees are the second tallest species of tree, second only to the redwoods. We saw a bald eagle close up—she was in the wildlife refuge at the top of Mt. Roberts. “Lady Baltimore” somehow lost an eye somehow and is being rehabilitated. What a gorgeous and majestic bird. Definitely an apt choice as a symbol for our nation.
In the afternoon we went to see Mendenhall Glacier. We found out that you can only access the glacier itself via helicopter. It was raining all day and we didn't actually pay for the more expensive helicopter package, so we didn't get to walk on the glacier. What we were able to do was see the glacier from across Lake Mendenhall, and even touched the cold glacial water in the lake. This lake has lots of small chunks and pebbles made of granite, rounded and smoothed by the glacier.
Alongside the glacier, Mike observed a river of water rushing out from beneath the glacier. In the same area is a waterfall called Nugget Falls. There are lots and lots of waterfalls all around Alaska; some are little trickles that flow slowly, and some are more like little streams of water flowing down the mountains. Nugget Falls is a pretty fast flowing falls where it empties into Lake Mendenhall. You can also follow the stream up the mountain close to its source. The wild thing about Mendenhall Glacier is that it's only about 15 minutes drive from downtown Juneau, and people live quite close to it—it's like driving to a state park elsewhere or Metropark in Michigan...only instead of a lake and a playground, you have a glacier, calving, icebergs and all.
Alaska is full of wild majestic rugged and natural beauty. When people say “God's Country” they must have been talking about Alaska. This is truly God's Country.
Tomorrow, we go to Skagway. It's an old gold mining town. We're taking the girls to pan for gold, and then go to a musher's camp and see the sled dogs! Have been taking lots of photos—good thing I brought extra SD cards!
7/11/2010: Alaska -- Day 4: Hubbard Glacier
Majestic. Awe-inspiring. Beautiful. Amazing. Extraordinary. Awesome. Wow.
How can one even begin to describe coming face-to-face with a glacier...and watch it as it is calving? To hear the cracking sounds and the thunderous roar while watching the face of the glacier as ice falls (rather than waterfalls) rain into the water and boulders of ice hundreds of years old splash into the water—and watching icebergs float past one's cabin window so close you could almost touch them. It's like being inside one of those science movies...only it's just so much more incredible close-up and personal. Watching it in the nature movies, seeing the stark beauty of a glacier seems unreal, and it's difficult to connect with what you see on the screen. Seeing a glacier close-up and watching it calve in real life is surreal. It surely gives one even more of a feeling of the awesome power of nature and the wonder and glory of God's creation.
So today, we spent all day at sea, but we sailed within 600 feet of Hubbard Glacier and spent about 4 hours slowly sailing around the face of this glacier, watching it, admiring its beauty and marveling at the extraordinary. It's something I never would have believed or imagined that I could experience for myself.
Of course I took copious photos and even caught a few of the calving events on video. In fact I took so many photos and videos that I drained two batteries in my camera—and had my battery run out of juice in the middle of shooting video of the largest calving event of the afternoon! I could have stayed out there and watched the glacier for hours continuously and not be bored. Glaciers are so much more than big hunks of floating ice. They are alive, always in motion.
We attended a lecture on glaciers given by a professor from British Columbia before we arrived at Hubbard Glacier. We learned that before you see a glacier, you will observe glacial fog. The water as you approach a glacier is a deep turquoise in color. Glacial ice is blue because the ice is so dense that the only color reflected by the material is blue; all other colors are absorbed. Glaciers move because the bottom layer of a glacier has the consistency of toothpaste, and it carries the ice layer with it. Crevasses form when the bottom layer moves and the rigid ice layer above cracks as the glacier moves along a curve. It was cool to have attended the lecture, because we really gained more of an appreciation and understanding of what we were observing when watching the glacier.
Tonight was the first formal night on the ship. It's a great excuse to get dressed up in all our finery. We posed for photos (and will see them later on—when they'll be available for purchase, of course)! Tomorrow, we arrive in Juneau. Hoping to have an opportunity to watch for whales and actually go on a glacier.
7/10/2010 Anchorage to Seward and boarding the Ship!
Yesterday we boarded a bus that took us to the airport, where we boarded a train, that then took us to board a ship. That's 4 different modes of transportation in one day!
One thing we noticed about downtown Anchorage, and we're not sure if it's by design or by accident, is that we didn't find any chain fast food or convenience stores. We didn't encounter any McDonald's, Burger King, 7-11 or even CVS or Walgreen's. There was a Starbuck's though.
The train ride from Anchorage to Seward was beyond description. It was like riding through a postcard, where the scenery was constantly changing. We saw even saw Mt. McKinley (the Native peoples call this mountain Denali) which is over 150 miles away from Anchorage! We saw several different glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, rivers, mud flats, the effects of the tides, wildflowers and even some wildlife. I took LOTS of photos, but even the best photos don't give you the full effect of scale and dimension.
We had picked up some brochures about Alaska's wildflowers, birds, and other wildlife. CJ had a great time identifying the different wildflowers she could see outside the train. We also saw a type of mountain goat called a Doll Sheep and a moose from a distance. We saw a bald eagle sitting on a light pole near the ship's dock.
We heard stories about how dangerous the mud flats are (it's not solid ground—it's water underneath and the currents pull you under very quickly—just like quicksand). We heard stories about people trying to cross some of the glaciers in Alaska...this is a beautiful and wild country. It is a vivid demonstration of how humans are ultimately not the masters of nature; nature is far more powerful. And a line from one of the church choir plays that CJ & Anna did comes to mind: “How can anyone see all this and NOT believe in God?”
Today we walked around and explored Anchorage a bit. The girls woke up at 5AM Alaska time, which was the equivalent of 9AM Eastern time. It was nice to have so much time in the morning—when you wake up really early it makes you feel very productive! :-)
Anchorage—at least the downtown area is really quite small and walkable. The air is fresh, and we felt really safe walking around.
This area was known as Hannah Cove.
We walked down near the water – Cook Inlet (not the water's edge though)--and saw something we've not experienced elsewhere—the mud flats.
Mike, CJ & Anna posing in front of the mud flats. The body of water in the distance is Cook Inlet.
CJ & Mike looking at some little creatures living near the mud flats.
The mud flats look inocuous, but they're not. There's warning signs posted to stay off the mud flats because even though it looks solid, you could get stuck if you try to walk across and in the mud flats. We found out later that it's not just getting stuck in the mud--but the tide goes out so quickly that if you get stuck, you can literally get sucked into the mud from the undertow beneath the mud similar to quicksand, so they can be extremely deadly.
We saw a bunch of mountains in the distance—some of which were over 60 miles away! It demonstrated that the mountains were just that big and the air was just that clear. I can't imagine that we'd be able to see mountains that far away through the fog of Los Angeles!
Another thing that really was spectacular was standing on a downtown street with tall buildings on both sides, and looking down the street to see mountains in the distance. It's definitely something to enjoy and savor, as we don't see anything even remotely similar either in Michigan, Ohio or Florida!
View of mountains from downtown Anchorage
Tomorrow we board the domed train that takes us South to Seward, where we then board the ship for the cruise. From what I've heard, the trip on the train will be spectacular, with panoramic scenery the entire way and also lots of wildlife in its natural environment. We're definitely looking forward to that!
Last month we took an amazing trip. One that we won't soon forget, and one that really changed us.
We went to Alaska. We took a cruise, but spent a couple days prior in Anchorage, and a couple days afterward in Vancouver. During our trip, I wrote a "travelogue" and only e-mailed them in real time to a few people. I wanted to include photos and videos in my blog to complement the text. So here it is! I will post in installments just as I had written them.
We arrived in Anchorage last night! Rather, it was very early morning Eastern time. There's 4 hours difference here from Eastern time. We got delayed for a couple hours in Houston because of bad weather--and the weather systems didn't want to move. We were blessed with good pilots who were able to find a hole between weather systems through which we could finally take off.
The flight was actually very uneventful, other than the delay in Houston. The flight to Houston from Orlando was very fast. The flight to Anchorage, while long, (with the delay we were probably on the plane about 9 hours from Houston) but went well. The girls did great. CJ read and did a LOT of origami that she figured out herself (with the book we bought her). Anna played and slept and read a couple books as well. We all got a turn playing the Nintendo DS but it didn't take over the whole flight time which was good. In fact, CJ turned down an offer to play the DS in favor of making new things with her origami paper and book!
As we flew over Canada and Alaska, the scenery was spectacular. Snow-capped mountains and snow-covered glaciers. It was simply gorgeous and awesome, even when viewed from 32,000 feet. I can't imagine what it will be like to see one of these glaciers close-up. We'll be doing that on our cruise--one of the ports of call includes Mendenhall glacier.
Mike & CJ sat next to a man who works for an oil company and alternates between Texas and Prudhoe Bay Alaska. Anna and I sat next to a real live Eskimo! She's from the Inupiaq nation, and had traveled down to Alabama for two weeks to help work on cleaning up the oil spill.
We ended up arriving in Anchorage at 9:00 Anchorage time (about 1 AM our time). After getting luggage, going to our hotel and settling in, we finally went to bed about 11:00 Alaska time (3:00 AM Eastern time). The wild thing was that there was still light at 11:00 at night. We're far enough north that we have the VERY LONG days of daylight here during the summer. I sure wouldn't want to experience the LONG nights in the winter though. Our room is on the 3rd floor and has a view of the roof. However, we can see the mountains in the distance.
View from our hotel room--Anchorage with mountains in the distance
Sunrise over Anchorage
It's not too cold here; temperatures are in the low 60s. We needed long sleeves and light sweatshirts/jackets, but lots of people here just wear short sleeves! I guess living in Florida for 8 years had really reduced my tolerance to even cool weather! We have brought heavier and warmer coats for some of the stops later this week on including going on the glacier.
Mike, the girls and I all woke up at 5AM Anchorage time and surprisingly enough, don't feel tired! We don't have any specific plans today, but tomorrow we board the glass domed train that takes us from Anchorage to Seward where we'll board the ship tomorrow night. The train ride should prove to be spectacular, with many photo opportunities for both the scenery and the wildlife.
Since we're up, we may take some time after resting and having breakfast to explore a bit. We'll see what we find! More later...
A couple months ago, we were driving back into our neighborhood when we saw that some of the kids in our neighborhood got together and were running a lemonade stand. CJ noticed that, and said that she wanted to run a lemonade stand too. She didn't pursue it, so neither did we. A few weeks later, CJ brought up the lemonade stand again, but this time, she said that she wanted to take the money from the lemonade sales and donate it to church!
Well, we couldn't discourage that kind of charity entrepreneurism, so we started working on the details together, including having CJ make a sign, and making sure we had the ingredients needed for lemonade. We also decided to give people a choice by offering bottles of water (conveniently, they were on sale at the grocery store for $2.99/flat) as well as cups of fresh-squeezed lemonade. I assisted CJ by making some signs indicating where the proceeds were being donated, the Florida United Methodist Children's Home
. (This was the charity for which the Chapel Day donations were being made when they were attending Preschool
For several weekends afterward, however, every time we'd think that it was a good time for the lemonade stand, the weather would dictate otherwise, and rain would delay our efforts.
This afternoon, however, the weather (finally) cooperated (no rain in the afternoon--unusual for Florida summers) and we didn't have any other appointments or errands, so we decided it was a good day to attempt the lemonade stand.
We selected a corner near our neighborhood which is an intersection of the main road that runs through our community and a street that goes into three different neighborhoods. There is also a stop sign. We weren't sure how well the lemonade stand would work, but we figured that this location might have enough traffic to sell some lemonade.
The girls hard at work...thankfully we had an umbrella for some shade, because it was a VERY hot and sunny day!
We ran the lemonade stand for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until we ran out of lemonade (we had made a gallon and sold EVERY drop)! and only had 5 bottles of water left from the entire flat that we had in the cooler. People not only stopped at the stop sign to get lemonade, but many people ended up turning around so they could stop and purchase lemonade or water from the girls. Many people gave more than the price of their purchase, told us to keep the change, and several even made donations without wanting a beverage in return!
The total amount raised from the lemonade stand ended up being $46.14!
We are considering making a trip to the Florida United Methodist Children's Home
(not too far from us, in Enterprise, FL) so that CJ can donated her hard-earned proceeds in person.
I am so proud of my girls! They did all that hard work, not for themselves, but to donate the money to help the children in need! They proudly told everyone what the money from the lemonade stand was for. I am most proud of them because they came up with this all by themselves, not as a result of any prompting or suggestions from us! They truly have learned to have a generous heart. A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. Proverbs 22:9
Do you remember this photo? It was taken 20 years ago, in 1989, after the supression of the Tiananmen Square Democracy Protests in Beijing, China.
(c) Jeff Weidner, Associated Press
The tanks were attempting to drive out of Tiananmen Square. As the column of tanks approached an intersection on a road ironically named Avenue of Eternal Peace, an unarmed man stood in the center of the street, halting the tanks' progress. He was reported to have said, "Why are you here? You have caused nothing but misery." As the tank driver attempted to go around him, the "tank man" moved into the tank's path. He continued to stand defiantly in front of the tanks for some time, then climbed up onto the turret of the lead tank to speak to the soldiers inside. After returning to his position blocking the tanks, the man was pulled aside by onlookers who perhaps feared he would be shot or run over. (Photos and some text from Wikipedia)
Prior to this, students and Democracy advocates began to speak out more freely and demand more freedom of speech and political freedom. This began first as posted handbills on a "Democracy Wall" and then grew into live demonstrations. Tiananmen Square became the gathering place for those who yearned for freedom and chose to speak out. The peaceful demonstrations continued to grow and gain support and momentum, both within China and throughout the rest of the world.
Many around the world watched and waited, with trepidation and hope, to see if Democratic reforms would actually be enacted, or what response, if any, the repressive Communist regime in China was going to take. Some of us really hoped that this might be the beginnings of a free China when the students erected the "Goddess of Democracy" in Tienanmen Square on May 30, 1989.
However, the Communist government responded by declaring martial law and then responded with violence. They rolled toward Tiananmen Square in tanks and armored personnel carriers. They began their attack on the square at 10:30 at night, when many of the students were going to sleep in their tents and makeshift shelters. By dawn the next morning, the Square had been cleared. The Goddess of Democracy had been torn down and crushed. What happened to all those people? We will probably never know the full extent of the violence and bloodshed that took place in that Square that night. The Communist Party of China denies that there were any deaths inside Tiananmen Square. However, based on eyewitness accounts and reports from journalists and other sources, it is much more likely that several thousand died in Tiananmen Square that awful night. And all for what? To prove a point. That the Communist Government was in charge--and no one, not even tens of thousands of students in Tiananmen Square and around Beijing, nor the millions who supported their efforts around the world were going to sway this repressive regime. This student "rebellion" ended in bloodshed and deaths. However, the desire for freedom will continue to live in China's people. We may not see a free China in our lifetimes, but one crushed rebellion will not crush the spirit of a people.
The photo of the lone man in front of the line of tanks still gives me goosebumps when I look at it. I have a framed copy of a poster of this photo in my office above my desk. It reminds me of the lengths people are willing to go to speak out and defend the need for freedom.
It reminds me of just how lucky I am to live in a free country where I am able to speak out and not have to face a row of tanks in order to do so.
By the way, if you are interested in reading more about the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, there is a great summary found on Wikipedia at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989
Note: Some of you may have read this article previously, as I posted it to my CafeMom account, but in the wake of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, I thought it would be appropriate to repost it here and to my other online writing outlets.
LET FREEDOM RING ALL AROUND THE WORLD!!!
Incidentally, CJ lost her tooth after her balance beam routine and before her floor routine during her gymnastics performance! Appropriately enough, the Tooth Fairy brought her a new gymnastics leotard. :-)
- Current Mood:happy
It's been well-known to most family and friends for a while. When CJ grows up, she says she wants to be an artist, a SCUBA diver, and an astronaut. In other words, she could be following in the footsteps of Alan Bean, who is all three (though his renown as an artist came after he was well-known as an astronaut).
At any rate, the other weekend, we went to the Kennedy Space Center, and took the tour, which included a short movie of the history of the space race. The movie showed the Soviet Union being the first in space and some of the many problems that NASA encountered in the early days of the US Space program. Then came the success of the Gemini astronauts, and then the quest for the moon. In typical movie-dramatic fashion, the narrator recounted the tragedy of Apollo 1, when the astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee died in a fire in the cockpit during a practice launch. The narrator made the point that "These brave astronauts PAID WITH THEIR LIVES."
At that moment, Anna looks over at CJ and asks:
"CJ, are you SURE you want to be an astronaut?"
...CJ did reply yes, by the way. She's not deterred by the danger involved at this point, though the rest of us are! :-O
We were watching the Kentucky Derby on TV. That led to lots of discussions between the girls and Mike and I about horses, and questions about different kinds of horses and all sorts of other questions that involved more information about horses than Mike and I could provide off the tops of our heads. So at one point Anna asked something else that we admitted we didn't know the answer, to which Anna replied...
"Don't worry! I'll just look it up on Horse.com!"
It doesn't matter how you view Barack Obama. You can like him, dislike him, believe he's the Second Coming, or believe he's the Antichrist. Or you can be completely indifferent. But there's one thing to be sure...today, when he was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, that was a historical moment. Certainly something I didn't expect to see, perhaps even in my lifetime.
Anyhow, because this was such an historic moment, I wanted CJ & Anna a chance to see it too. We happened to be at the Ice Rink today at noon. Fortunately, there were multiple TV screens in the lobby of the rink. Adjacent to the lobby is a game room where the girls like to play. After we finished skating and got all of our skates off and put away, the girls ducked into the game room to play (or pretend to play) the video games. At just about noon, I realized that they were getting ready for the swearing in ceremony. So, I called CJ & Anna into the lobby (more importantly, out of the game room) to watch Barack Obama get sworn in as President.
To their credit, they came without much fuss, and I directed them to watch the swearing in of the new President.
Immediately after the words "So help me God." and "Congratulations, Mr. President." were uttered,
CJ turns to me and asks: "Can I go play NOW?"
I've been assured by my friends that years from now, my girls will thank me for "making" them watch that historic moment.
I think back and remember a similar experience in my childhood. I was probably about the age between CJ & Anna, perhaps 4 or 5. I don't remember exactly. However, I do remember my Mother rousing me out of a sound sleep very early one morning. She was so excited and I remember wondering just what the big deal was? Anyhow, she sat me in front of the TV, and I remember seeing some fuzzy black & white pictures. All the time, I just remember thinking "What's the big deal? Can I just go back to sleep now?"
Looking back, I'm pretty sure I was awakened to see Apollo 11 launching. And that was definitely an historic event. And nearly 40 years later, I still remember seeing it, through fuzzy memories and black & white TV images, I still remember. It was an historic moment and I did get to witness it, in my own small, childlike way.
And this, I hope, is what my girls will remember--that they did see the moment when Barack Obama became the nation's first President who comes from an African heritage. I believe that this will be one of those "Where were you when..." defining moments. You know, like "What were you doing when you heard Kennedy was shot?" Or when the Pope was shot? Or when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up on launch? Or when the planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001? Regardless of how one might feel about Barack Obama, it is an indication that here, In the United States, anything really IS possible. Regardless of what other problems we might face in this country, we still live in a country full of possiblities and dreams, and nothing is impossible.
OK, today it was raining. I had the van door open and Anna was in her car seat. She stuck her hand out of the door and said:
"The rain tickles my hand. The raindrops look like jewels in my hand."
Well, you know, I wouldn't have thought of it that way, but that's a pretty accurate description!
Last week Anna's class (Pre-K 4) was learning the Pledge of Allegiance. Most kids have problems with the word "indivisible." Apparently their teacher was explaining what "indivisible" meant, (you can break it apart) and Anna replied: "My FAMILY is indivisible!" Ne'er a truer sentence was spoken! :-)
Over the weekend, the girls were playing. They get pretty imaginative sometimes. So...they were playing with a flashlight. At one point, I hear them saying "You be the shepherd, and I'll make the Star of Bethlehem with the flashlight." So I watch, and one moved the light of the flashlight around the room, while the other followed the light. Then, of course, the girls got silly, and the one with the flashlight started to spin around faster and faster, so that the other girl had to run around in circles to follow it!
Yesterday, Anna was in gymnastics. I had put her hair up in pigtails to keep it out of the way. Anyhow, she told her gymnastics coach that she was "level-headed" because she had pigtails! She told me that the pigtails made her level-headed! Where do kids come up with this stuff? ;-)
My children have been brought up around technology and has perhaps taken for granted what is possible (or make assumptions about what should be possible).
While I still remember the days of our first computer (the Commodore VIC-20) that we purchased my SENIOR YEAR IN HIGH SCHOOL!
We've sure come a long way, baby!
CJ will ask about something and I won't necessarily know the answer, so she responds, "Look it up on the Net!"
One of the girls will talk about a specific toy or book or game that we don't have. CJ will quip: "See if you can find it on Ebay!" :-)
One of my favorite ones was from Anna, who had drawn a picture on a miniature "magna-doodle" pad. It was really pretty and we were oohing and aahing over it. I said "too bad we can't keep it." That's when Anna responds:
"Send it to the phone." (!)
Ah, from the mouths of the babes who are techno-savvy...or think they are!
...CJ now wears glasses.
We figured genetics were really not in her favor in the eyesight department. With Mike's severe nearsightedness (which has since been corrected by Lasik) and my nearsightedness and pretty significant astigmatism (which actually makes me a poor candidate for Lasik), it was pretty likely that CJ and Anna would probably need some form of eyesight correction before long.
I thought it might take longer than it did--I didn't get my glasses until after 4th grade, though I think I probably needed them long before that (I have memories of coming up the aisle between the desks and squinting at the blackboard in class, and still not being able to see clearly), but apparently she failed the vision screening test at school, and so we took her to the eye doctor.
She is slightly nearsighted in both eyes, and does show signs of developing astigmatism. It's not too serious right now, with 20/40 vision in one eye, and 20/25 in another eye. She was actually excited about getting glasses and begged to get them the same day as her appointment. Thank goodness for Lenscrafters! Turns out she's the 3rd or 4th kid in her 1st grade class to wear glasses, so it's actually COOL to wear glasses in her class! :-)
Anyhow, here she is with her new glasses!
She picked the frames out herself!
Just had to share this one...
A couple nights ago, at bedtime, the girls and I read "Amelia Bedelia" together. Now, Amelia Bedelia is supposed to be a maid/housekeeper, I guess. But she's not very good at the housekeeping part. She has to have her instructions in "plain language" or else she will take the instructions very literally! BUT, one thing Amelia Bedelia IS very good at is baking. So anyhow, Amelia Bedelia made a lemon meringue pie for her new employers, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, and that's what saved her job!
Anyhow, after reading Amelia Bedelia with the girls, CJ asked if we could make a lemon meringue pie. I told her that we could, but we would have to buy...um...the lemons or lemon pudding, the pie crust, and enough eggs to make the meringue. :-) But, today, we did just that. We are getting some of the outer rain bands from Hurricane Gustav. So most of the day it was a day to just hibernate. Later in the afternoon, though, to stave off a creeping cabin fever, we decided to go grocery shopping. CJ made the shopping list (and did a great job, too)! We picked up all the ingredients for making a lemon meringue pie. We used Jell-o lemon pudding mix instead of making lemon pudding from scratch. BUT, not wanting to drag out our Kitchen-Aid mixmaster, we made the meringue by whisking by hand.
Anyhow, we had the girls fill the miniature pie crusts themselves, and then they got to put the meringue on, including making the peaks. They loved it! We even had enough filling and meringue left over to make a full sized pie, but I cut up a pint of strawberries so that the full-sized pie would have more substance than a half-filled pie. Then after dinner, the girls each got a chance to eat a mini pie. CJ at all of hers and LOVED it! Anna ate the meringue off of half of the pie, then decided she didn't like the lemon filling. So Mike and I finished it. That's OK, though...the main part of this exercise was doing it together, as a family project. And for that, it was a RESOUNDING success! I only wish that our weekends had more of these days with no scheduled activities, where we can just leisurely take the time to do a project together!