Friday, September 30, 2011

Art Reflects Life

Back in February, I shared with you the artwork of my youngest twin. If I'm not mistaken, you were amazed and declared her a prodigy. Here we are, six months later, and she's still drawing colorful portraits. She sketched this fellow in green and blue:

His blue nose is fairly obvious, but 
you may be wondering what the blue object above his eyes could be . . . 

His brain, of course!
Did you learn nothing from your study of Untitled, Mommy with Teeth?

Here's a bald guy rendered in blue and pink, with his brain intact.

And here, we have a subject with a cold or possibly a pierced nose. And a brain.

Finally! Someone without a brain. Look how carefree he is!

A brainless man with crazy eyes and buck teeth. But happy!

Dinner last night: pot roast, veggies

Exactly two years ago:

Exactly three years ago:

Thursday, September 29, 2011


As a young college student, I secretly made fun of the older women who seemed to appear in every core course I took. They must have needed the classes for their jobs or something. They certainly weren’t full-time students like the rest of us who lived on campus and ate at the cafeteria. They were no-nonsense, efficient, good-at-the-chit-chat kind of women, and you could count on them to make a beeline on the first day of class to the front row to claim their center seats. They’d set their floral-designed tote bags on the floor next to the legs of their chairs, place their cups of coffee on the desktop, and settle in for a full round of discussion with the professor. They completed their assignments thoroughly and on time, and reminded the prof to collect them at the end of class.

I have become one of those women.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I enrolled in a college class this semester (I’m required to take a couple every few years to keep my teaching certificate current). When I have to pay HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS for a single course, you’re darn right I’m going to be sitting in the front row where I can see and hear the instructor. I’m not there to lounge in the back and text my boyfriend; I’m there to get my money’s worth. And, yes, I will make sure the teacher collects our homework, because a) I took the time out of my busy schedule to do it, and b) I'm planning on earning nothing less than an A in this course.

I signed up for a nonfiction writing class, not realizing it involves a workshop component. We must submit pieces for our peers to read and then to critique in writing and OUT LOUD. My turn to be critiqued is tonight. No worries, though, because I’m great with receiving criticism. Just ask my husband. And my kids. They’ll tell you how thick-skinned I am. Not sensitive at all, no sirree.

If you don’t hear from me for a couple of weeks, it’s because I’ve taken to my bed in a fugue state caused by depression at hearing my writing described as what? I can only imagine. “You write like a blogger."

. . . and now I’m off to pack my tote bag with my books and papers and highlighters and reading glasses, and prepare my coffee in my special thermos cup with its sippy lid.

Dinner last night: mac and cheese

Exactly one year ago:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

El Dusto de TerminaciĆ²n

First sighting of snow . . . won't be long until it's dusting my driveway.

Dinner last night: sloppy joes

Exactly three years ago:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quit Rapping and Walk the Dog Already

My older girls are going through a slightly annoying phase. They've been practicing their beatboxing and rapping skillz everywhere they go. Everywhere. At the table. In the shower. Through parking lots. Over canyons.

(click on arrow to play)

Dinner last night: lasagna, steamed broccoli, green salad

Exactly one year ago:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Trees, Leaves, and Sky, Oh My!

We are in the middle of full-blown autumn up here. Is it weird that I threw myself on the ground and stayed there for 20 minutes, staring up through the trees at the blue sky? No, not at all! Okay, maybe it's a little weird, but I highly recommend it.

Alright, alright. I'm a total weirdo, but I still say everyone should take time out to lie on the ground and look up at the sky.

* HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sweet mother. You are loved more than you know! *

Dinner last night: tacos

Exactly three years ago:

Friday, September 23, 2011

No More Arguing . . . Until Next Spring

When I was a kid, maybe 9 years old or so, I received a copy of Verna Pratt's Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers. I'd tramp through the woods in Haines, Alaska, collecting specimens of ferns and blossoms and grasses to take home, where I would carefully place them on paper toweling. I'd flip through the pages of my field guide until I found a matching picture of the forget-me-not or dogwood or chocolate lily, and copy its name onto the bottom edge of the paper towel. I'd cover each sample with another sheet of paper toweling, then gently lay the encased flowers between the pages of a heavy book to press them. I'm sure my mother's come across countless dried sprigs in her dictionary over the years.

The downside of my process is that I misidentified pushki. To my young eye, it matched the picture of Queen Ann's Lace, and to this day I automatically refer to cow parsnip as Queen Ann's Lace. On our evening strolls, I will argue with my husband until I'm blue in the face that no, that is not pushki, that is Queen Ann's Lace. He's right, of course, it is pushki, but I won't admit it. I kind of enjoy seeing him getting all worked up, as he provides example after example of how he knows without a doubt that IT'S PUSHKI. He tells me about the childhood battles he and his little buddies fought in the fields around Homer, Alaska, using stalks of pushki as swords. He reminds me that he received a degree in biology, which ought to count for something. He'll admit a similarity may exist between the two, but then point out the differences between pushki and Queen Ann's lace. Whatever.

I'd take this Queen Ann's Lace home to press, 
but I don't think I have a book that is big enough.
Also, it's kind of dead.
(And it's not Queen Ann's Lace, but you didn't hear it from me.)

Dinner last night: veggie pizza

Exactly one year ago:

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Don't Know, Hamlin. I Think It's Kind of Pretty

Devil's Club

It is a sprawling, hateful thing,
thorny and twisted like a snake,
writhing to work a mischief, in the brake
it stands at menace, in its cling
is danger and a venomed sting.

It grows on green and slimy slopes,
it is a thing of shades and slums,
for passing feet it wildly gropes,
and loops to catch all feet that run
seeking a path to sky and sun.

                                                                               —Hamlin Garland

Dinner last night: barbecue salmon fillets, risotto

Exactly one year ago:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Path to Autumn

I say it every September . . . this is my favorite time of year.

Country road, take me home . . . 

Dinner last night: spaghetti, garlic toast, green salad

Exactly one year ago:

Monday, September 19, 2011

lang can sang

Despite its relative isolation from the rest of the country, Alaska is remarkably rich in culture. There's the native culture, of course, but the natural beauty of the land seems to attract artists from every field. Some stay to live here, while others merely visit for inspiration.

If you are familiar with dance at all, you might be surprised at the luminaries in the dance world who have performed up here, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov (ballet and modern) and Gregory Hines (tap), as well as world-renowned dance companies, like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Living in Alaska, I think I may have experienced more topnotch performances than a lot of people who live in New York or Los Angeles. I'll never forget the evening I attended a performance in Fairbanks, Alaska, of all places, by Martha Graham's Dance Company; the dancers were amazing and the choreography stunning. At the conclusion of the show, as the dancers took their bows, out walked the legendary Martha Graham herself! She had to have been in her early 90s, but she was straight-backed and beautiful, wearing her hair in her trademark chignon. To think that she was still traveling with her dancers, even to the top of the world, blew my mind.

I've sat in small theaters, watching up close and personal as comedian Bill Cosby or mime Marcel Marceau or singer Suzanne Vega performed. Huge acts like Justin Bieber would probably never bring their shows up here—we don't have venues large enough to hold the pyrotechnics and 6,000 screaming teenagers—but Elton John has played in Alaska. He just needed a stage and piano. Traveling Broadway musicals make it to Anchorage several times a year; last fall, we were enthralled by Lion King, and this season, productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Beauty and the Beast, and Rock of Ages will play in our big city. I'm not talking about community theatre, either—these shows are the real deal, with professional casts and orchestra and the Broadway sets and costumes.

This past weekend, k.d. lang played two shows with her 5-piece band, Siss Boom Bang. I was a tad hesitant to attend her concert, mostly because I know that she is quite outspoken about her various causes and I did not want to be trapped at a political rally. As she stepped onto the stage, she said that she and her musicians were there "to give you our best." She was not kidding. The musicians in her band are fantastic. Her vocal ability is AMAZING. About halfway through the set, she sang a rendition of Hallelujah that brought tears to my eyes and the crowd to their feet. STANDING OVATION. In the middle of the concert. She was that good. And she never once brought up her politics or vegan eating habits . . . it was all music, all night.

I know, I know. Photography is not allowed. Can I help it if I was trying to turn off my cellphone and it accidentally snapped a picture?

Dinner last night: pepperjack cheeseburgers

Exactly three years ago:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Camping at Russian River

Click on arrow to play:

(to view in full screen, click on the 4-arrow icon in front of the vimeo logo)

It's difficult to hear, but "that big box" is where we store our food at night to keep it away from critters, particularly bears.

Dinner last night: oven-baked chicken, cheddar broccoli rice

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly two years ago:

Monday, September 12, 2011


I recently hung a star in my window. I love the elaborate design, which is made of colored paper.

This is my THIRD attempt. The first light was a red star that I displayed in the living room window at Christmas. My twin daughters were about 1-1/2 years old at the time, and I didn't think they could reach it. I thought wrong. They had that star pulled down and shredded into a million pieces before you could say Santa's Your Uncle.

My second try was a beautiful purple star that I hung when the twins were three years old. I was confident in my training of my toddlers. Surely they would obey my orders to NOT TOUCH. One day I walked into the living room to a bare window; the hanging star was gone! I asked my precious angels what they had done. They looked at me silently, feigning innocence. I later found the purple star ripped in half and stuffed under the loveseat.

This time around I've hung a bluish-green and yellow star in the guest room, where I can lock the door. We'll see how long it lasts.

Dinner last night: pork chops, stuffing, rhubarb crisp with vanilla ice cream

Exactly three years ago:

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Fireman, an Airplane Passenger, and a Trapped Office Worker Walk Into a Bar

Last night in my nonfiction writing class, the instructor was discussing how tragic events require a significant passage of time before one is able to write about them. A woman who miscarries, a victim of crime, or a soldier returning from the battlefield sometimes need years to process and to heal before they can begin to express their points of view through their writing. She used 9/11 as an example—how after a decade we are starting to see a slew of essays, books, and films on the subject, and comedians are now able to parody the events of 9/11 . . . hold on . . . whoa . . . back up, lady. WHAT?

My professor was in the middle of her lecture to the class, so I couldn't interrupt her, but I really wanted to ask her for her sources. Comedians? JOKING? About 9/11? Now, I can believe that some moron might post stupid, profanity-laced quips on his facebook page. I can imagine a group of wannabe Al-Qaedas chilling in a basement somewhere, chugging down fermented cactus juice and drunkenly bragging about all the Americans they're going to kill some day. But a professional performer attempting to find humor—even the darkest—in an event that ripped the heart out of this country? Career suicide, if you ask me.

Maybe someone is standing on a stage somewhere riffing into the mic about radical Islam or US government conspiracies or orphaned children. Perhaps a sketch comedy group in Los Angeles or Chicago or New York City really believes that there's nothing too sacred to joke about. I don't believe it. I WON'T believe it.

If you're not laughing yet, you can read my notes from a couple years ago on where I was and what went through my mind on 9/11.

Dinner last night: pork chops and stuffing

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly three years ago:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Poor Little Garden

When we moved into our house five years ago, I was delighted to discover several small garden beds around the property. One of them sits in a corner of the back yard, and is fenced to keep the moose out. HA! HA! That's a good one, Kim. Maybe it keeps out rabbits? I don't know. It sure doesn't keep out the kids.

I suspect that when that particular bed originally was put in, the area was cleared and in full sun, but over time the birch have grown very tall and thick wild rose bushes have encroached. The little garden receives dappled sunlight at best, which isn't good for growing much of anything. For the first two summers, I was able to harvest potatoes and a few lettuces in that spot, but I've since given up and just let it go wild. It's turned into a messy rhubarb and daisy patch.


Finally, after my lengthy complaining, my husband has agreed to help me get rid of it. We are going to transplant the rhubarb to the side of the house, where they'll get lots of sunlight during summer and plenty of warmth and protection during the winter. I should have transplanted them in early spring, but I was busy . . . ahem. From my experience, rhubarb is hearty and I'm hoping they'll survive a fall transplant.

Artist's rendering.
I plan to recycle the little garden's wood frame by making small boxes under the windows at the back of the house, where I will plant bulbs. I would love to walk into the family room next spring and look out the window at tulips and lilies and daffodils. Tick tock! Each day brings cooler temps and I don't have much time.

I'm off to the mill and feed to search out some bulbs . . .

Dinner last night: shepherd's pie

Exactly one year ago:

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Walk at Dusk

The past few weeks have been damp and cool. The rain stopped today for a few hours, so I headed outside for a walk.

A tree in my front yard is beginning to drop its wine-colored foliage.

The birch leaves, way up high, are starting to turn yellow . . . 

. . . while the ground cover, way down low, is reddening.

I could see my breath as I walked. September. Wet, cold weather . . . 

. . . warm, cuddly house.

Dinner last night: sweet and sour shortribs, fried rice

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Change is a Good Thing. Right? RIGHT?!

Dearest Reader,

I am out of the loop when it comes to social networking. I don't tweet and I don't Facebook. This refusal to join modern life is based partly on my contrary nature and partly on my computer's antagonistic attitude toward me. I tried to publish a Facebook page that ties into this blog, and it worked for awhile, but then froze in obstinate silence and now sits there staring at me blankly. The page refuses to publish new posts, despite my daily prayers and self-immolation. Bless your heart, Ma Teakettle at the Teakettle Corner, for signing up to the Facebook network to receive blog updates, and I'm sorry you wasted your time.

I wasn't always this disabled when it came to technology. I was at one time quite skilled in all things computer. But those days are long gone, and now I sit in front of my monitor, nervously rubbing my fingers together, mumbling to myself as I hunt and fearfully peck and try to figure out which link I'm supposed to click on.

Considering my negative energy around anything electronic, I am probably a fool for what I am about to do: change the name and address of my blog.

I've had to change the name because is taken by a placeholder who wants to make money, and I'm not willing to pay. It's time I improved the title anyway. When I started blogging three years ago, I had no idea what to call my site. I tried my personal name (taken!) and anything clever I could think of (taken!) before impatiently typing The Mommy Machine. Shockingly enough, no one had bothered to use that title. "Mommy Machine" meant something to me at the time—I was part robot, part human after giving birth to twins and then existing on an average of 3 hours of sleep per night for the next two years—but turns out it really doesn't have much of a ring to it, and I suspect the heading of The Mommy Machine actually repels people from even looking at my blog.

Since deciding to move to a custom domain, I've once again begun the name search. I am so sick of trying to come up with something original (taken!) or funny (TAKEN!!) that I've finally thrown up my hands in despair and settled on something that is available: Alaskim. It's a play on Alaska and Kim, not Alas, Kim (although that phrase is probably more appropriate at the moment.)

The two of you who subscribe through an RSS should not be affected and anyone who types in the old address should be automatically forwarded. Or so I've been promised.

Alas, Kim

Dinner last night: fast food

Exactly three years ago:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Last of the Fair Talk, I Promise

The Alaska State Fair ends on Labor Day. My 13-year-old will be going one more time with her friends on Monday to attend the Colbie Callait concert, while the rest of us stay home to enjoy the holiday. We have our favorite memories of the fair to hold us over until next year, including . . .

. . . buying a cute hat that actually fits my head. Yay for booths that sell hats! Hey, man, it's the little things in life. I need something to cover my bedhead in the morning when I drop my 8th grader off at her school. Not because I care what I look like at o'dark thirty, but evidently she does. The horror! should one of her fellow junior highers catch glimpse of my unkempt appearance. Speaking of hair . . .

. . . no more fair hair for my older girls. Now they want feather hair. I don't know how she did it, but a hair gypsy wove(?) glued(?) in a feather that's supposed to last for a couple of months.

We watched a lumberjack show . . .

. . . and oohed at the baby goats. And piglets. And tiny rabbits!

This is for my Texan bloggy friend over at Table for Nine.
Has the weather cooled yet?

I think it's fair to say that the girls had fun. Until next year . . . 

Dinner last night: tilapia fillets, green salad

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly two years ago:

Exactly three years ago:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Only Relationship I'll Be Writing About is My Love–Hate Toward Moose

Although I no longer "work outside the home," as they say, being the anxiety-ridden worrywart Plan-B-ready-in-case-of-disaster type of gal that I am, I've kept my teaching certificate active all these years. You know, just in case I ever feel like I've got too much time on my hands, I can run on over to the nearest public high school and whip a few juvenile delinquents into shape.

In order to keep the Department of Education happy, I'm required to take a couple upper-division college classes every 5 years to keep my brain sharp (yeah, I know, good luck with that) and my teaching credentials current. I'm guessing that this lengthy period of time allows a person plenty of options; you've got FIVE YEARS to select, enroll, attend, and complete two measly courses. Ah, yes, well. I've been busy this last half-decade. Ahem.

So now I'm down to the wire and must get serious about my schooling. I was hoping I could find a good online course, but this semester's options do not appeal to me. Nothing against math or statistics, but . . . yuck. The local campus offers lots of classes that I'd love to take—cooking! aerobics! photography!—but they're lower division and only 1 credit. Alas, I'm forced to choose from among subjects involving reading and research and discussion (shudder) and the dreaded essay assignment.

I finally found something that looks promising: a nonfiction writing course—NOT expository writing, because, well, YUCK—that meets one night a week for 3 hours. I don't like sitting on my tiny derriere for 3 hours at a time unless I'm watching a Lord of the Rings movie, but it's much easier on the family schedule for me to disappear a few hours one evening than if I took the other type of class that meets 3 separate times throughout the week.

All of this blather is to say I attend my first class of the semester tonight. Please, dear Lord, don't let "nonfiction writing" mean I have to read a bunch of 20-year-olds' world-weary thoughts on relationships.

Dinner last night: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly two years ago: