Category Archives: Alaska

Our First Alaskan Snow

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We have had quite the exciting end to our week this week as we finally got to experience our first Alaskan snow. We had flakes fall from the sky previously, but nothing has stuck yet. Snow is here to stay for the winter now. Let me just say, if it is going to be this cold I definitely appreciate at least having the pretty white stuff to look at while I freeze. The other morning I was walking Bug to school and it was 9 degrees. N-I-N-E.

The girls were so excited to finally have snow to play in. From what I gather our snow came rather late this year. I am pretty sure I read that this was the latest in the year the first snowfall has happened since the 80’s or something crazy like that. It is finally here though and I am slightly in love. This is exactly what I dreamed Alaska would look like… and I am thoroughly enjoying it all from the warm, comfort of my house with a good book and some tea!


The girls played outside for hours yesterday afternoon. I found it rather humorous that it was 20 degrees, snowing, and there were still about a dozen kids at the park playing. Only in Alaska, right? The came inside thoroughly tired and cold, but it was nothing a little cup of cocoa couldn’t fix! Oh the memories. My Mom could always be counted on for cocoa, tomato soup, and grilled cheese on our long snowy play days growing up.

Bug didn’t even come in after she got home from school… she just went straight to playing! I hardly even could get her to pause for a picture!


We did have to have a chat about how we don’t need to lay down and lick snow off the ground…. we have some learning to do when it comes to this white stuff.

Okay, but seriously, there is nothing cuter than a bundled up Baby!


I might have overdone it. The girls came in complaining they were too hot outside. I just can’t help all the German running through my veins — more layers!


I seriously cannot get over these cute kiddos all bundled up in the amazingly beautiful Alaskan winter scenery!

I am so thankful that Baby loved the snow. We were kind of wondering what we were thinking moving to Alaska considering this was her the last time we encountered snow:


Side note, looking through that album of our last snow in Deutschland was very bad, bad idea. We have  been so homesick for Germany lately. Seriously, Germany ruined us for Christmas. And seeing my favorite place in the world covered in beautiful snow… it is taking all myself control to not look up plane tickets right now.

This nearly five-year-old is pretty stinkin’ cute in the snow, too!


Seriously though, this was here in our last snow in Germany almost two years ago… how does time pass so quickly?!?


Well, that is all the snow pictures for now. Being that winter will last about the next six months, though, I am sure there will be many more to come.

Baby, its cold outside!

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Happy National Taco Day! The Hays family religiously celebrates Taco Tuesday every single week. However, I am totally failing this week because not only are we not celebrating Taco Tuesday, but also completely failing at National Taco Day. Attempting to celebrate Taco Tuesday would require me to leave my house to get ingredients, but that is not happening. Nope. It is too cold and it is only October. I’d just like to formally announce that Annual Winter Hibernation has officially begun and I probably won’t be leaving my house unless I absolutely need to. So, if you need me, you will know where to find me. Hint: Inside where it is WARM.

I’m not even exaggerating. Okay, maybe a little bit. But I nearly died yesterday walking Bug to school. It was 25 degrees. I realize that isn’t even close to cold for Alaska, but for this lady who is always cold, it was a sign that I need to pull out my wool socks already. Did I mention it is October 4th?!? Welcome to the land of endless Winter! To be fair, Mister walked Bug to school today and I’m pretty sure he came home with snot-sickles. His words to me were, “Wow, it really is cold out there. You’re going to die this winter.” He knows me well. Did I mention that our forecast for next week is showing highs only in the low 30’s. In October. One of these days the shock will wear off, right?

Alaska is truly bringing us new adventures. One of the less-fun adventures this month has been Mister’s insane work schedule. We haven’t gotten to see a lot of him. We are pretty selfish. I think we would really only be content if he never had to work. The craziness of life has just forced us to get creative with our time together. We have broken the rules and stayed up late on school nights, snuck in a few extra moments in the mornings, and most definitely taken advantage of any of his few days off.

Naturally, being the time of year that it is, there has been lots of football watching. How about those Dawgs and Seahawks!? Its been a great start to football season this year!

We read a lot of books in our house. It might be one of our favorite family past times. I am so glad to be raising little book worms because, for real, we aren’t leaving the house except for food and Jesus until May.


Okay, we might leave for the Great Harvest Bread Co. too. It is one of our favorite pit stops while our running errands. And oh my, what a handsome guy I have.


Stealing precious moments with Daddy. And yes, Baby is totally passed out.

Probably the biggest news and bit of excitement as of late is that our Bug got baptized! Mister got to do it and it was seriously such a special moment. We are so thankful for such a wonderful church family.

And, oh, the shenanigans. I cannot even begin to describe the silliness that the Irish Twins get away with during the day…


Seriously, two peas in a pod. I think another favorite Hays Family activity is nap time! That and this past month it was catching every.single. strand of the stomach bug known to man-kind. My adventures have gone from carsick kids puking their way around Europe to this. It all involves puke. Being a Mom is clearly the most glamorous job on the earth.


Oh, and we are actively working on building a time machine. My Baby turned 4. FOUR. It needs to stop. I told Mister it is more babies or a time machine. For whatever reason he thought a time machine was a better option. I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t want to live with any more little ladies!
Its not like we are dramatic, emotional, or wanting all his time and attention or anything….

And we got to decorate for FALL this month. I love it. Baby really, really wanted a light up pumpkin for her room. She might be a little spoiled.

And all the fall baking and recipes. Mm! Might be my favorite time of the year. And, naturally, my little shadow is always there to help!


Sneaking in those late night snuggles and loves with Daddy!

My Dad came for a weekend visit for Baby’s birthday and so we prepared a couple surprises for him! This is the most beautiful apron in the world for der Grillmeister and his new Grillhutte!

So, we were really living on the edge one night, and went grocery shopping as a family a half hour before bed time on a school night! Mister was not quite as amused or entertained by my spontaneity as I was. I’m not really sure why he’d be so tired after all the long hours he has been working?! Anyways. He and the Bigs went to look for a birthday gift for Baby while she and I got food. Well, a few days later this following picture was produced. I think we can all agree that Mister enjoyed the trip a little more than he led on….


These were my very last 3-year-old snuggles… sniff sniff

Special lunch out with Papa on his visit with us!


Papa brought some sunshine and warm-ish weather with him! We saw 55 the weekend he visited! So, naturally, my kids decided it was summer and didn’t wear a coat at the park. Also, some things never change. Baby has always been our dare devil.

Someday when the girls are grown I am sure there will be much discussion about how Baby was clearly the favorite because all the picture are of me and her. To be clear, I base my favorite based on the size of their dirty laundry piles, so this varies day to day. However, when you are Mommy’s little shadow and taking selfies are one of your favorite past times, well, there is lots of photographic evidence in your favor towards a claim for favorite child.


Oh, and being October, I let the girls have their Halloween shirts/socks. It may only be October 4th, but they could.not.wait. And they are oh so adorable so I don’t even care if it is too early.


Sassy Kitty!


In about 10 years when they are fighting over who gets to wear what shoes and boys and all things nonsense I am going to pull out this picture and remind them that once upon a time they really did love each other and that shoes and boys should never come between such an adorable set of sisters….

So, our adventures may not be taking us to see beautiful beaches or cathedrals that take our breath away, but trying not to freeze to death in October is certainly a new adventure for us and all adventures are with experiencing when it means I get to do it with this lovely bunch!

 

 

Autumn Lovin’!

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Autumn is my very favorite season of them all. So, naturally, it is hardly even a season here in Alaska. I’ve been told it lasts about two weeks, give or take, around here. Winter should be rolling in at any time. BUT! That won’t stop me from enjoying the beautiful colors while I can! Which is why I decided that today my girls all had to match and pose in the frigid morning air to take some fall pics before church! Enjoy!

Happy Autumn!

Anchorage, Alaska!

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I’m going to take a few minutes today to play a little bit of catch-up! If you missed my crazy “this is what we’ve done the last six months” post a couple weeks ago you can get a brief update HERE.

Today, though, I want to share more in-depth about our little excursion down to Anchorage that we took in June. Mister needed to have a medical procedure done (nothing scary or serious, just something he couldn’t get done at the hospital here) and so his employer covered our travel down to Anchorage. It was a pretty sweet deal!

The drive down was absolutely gorgeous. For my WA friends, the best example I can think of is the stark difference between the West side of the mountains and the East. Fairbanks isn’t Eastern Washington, by any means, but the contrast between Fairbanks and the Anchorage area is similar as far as weather (Fairbanks is much dryer) and foliage (Anchorage has more evergreens).

We were really hoping to see Denali since we drove right past the entrance of and along the edge of Denali State Park. However, both our trip up and down proved to be extremely foggy, rainy, cloudy days and so the majority of our views looked like this:

Still pretty, but obscured by clouds just a bit. The drive took us about 7 hours with some potty breaks, a lunch break, etc. We thankfully didn’t hit any construction. It really opened our eyes to just how different living here will be. Fairbanks and Alaska are the two biggest cities and yet it takes the majority of a day to get from one to the other. Alaska is huge. People joke about Texas being huge, but Texas is a little tiny baby compared to Alaska. Fun fact, land-size-wise, Alaska is bigger than Montana, California, and Texas all put together. And then the population of the whole state is roughly that of Seattle. It truly is the last frontier!

On our first night in Anchorage we took the girls to see Finding Dory since they had been asking and asking. They really loved it — and it was a fun way to spend an evening together.

One thing that Fairbanks really doesn’t have is chain-anything. We have Old Navy, McDonalds, and Walmart here and it doesn’t go much beyond that. Thankfully, though, spending the past three years in Germany really prepared us for doing without. However, Anchorage HAS. IT. ALL. So we really enjoyed getting to eat at some old favorites that we haven’t been able to in quite some time! Mister got a big, ole juicy steak at Texas Road House and the girls devoured insane amounts of ice cream from Marble Slab Creamery…. just to name a few!

We (and by we, I mean I) also made sure to visit Target. It is kind of sacrilegious to be near a Target when you don’t live one and not visit.

On our first full day in Anchorage we visited the Alaska Zoo! We are totally zoo people! We visited countless zoos while we were in Europe. It is just a great activity for our entire family at this stage in our lives! One thing that is special about this particular zoo is that while they don’t have a lot of big-animal attractions, they are a zoo that really exists just to care for injured and abandoned animals who wouldn’t survive in the wild. They also re-home a lot of animals out to other places throughout the country. It was neat to see that they have sent a lot of animals down to NW Trek since we had just visited in March when we were in WA!




Never a dull moment with our crew! So much fun. After a long day of driving the day before it was so nice to let the girls out to run and burn off some energy. Plus, the Zoo itself has some gorgeous scenery that proved to be a great back drop for some shots of my girls. Someone please tell them to stop growing up so fast!

I have a friend who I grew up with (literally K-12!!) who currently lives in Anchorage and takes amazing pictures! So it was super, super fun to meet up with her one afternoon for coffee and catch up! She is super, super adventurous and has done and seen amazing things in Alaska and provided me with a great, family-friend hike idea to go across a river on a hand-tram. I think I’ve mentioned before that we aren’t super outdoorsy people, so this was big for us! The girls had a blast, the hand tram was seriously a cool experience, and we can now say that we’ve hiked in Alaska, right?

Did I mention that Alaska is so stinkin’ beautiful? Oh. But wait. There is more! So, in order to even get to the trail we had to drive a bit and that forced us to drive to Beluga Point… life is rough with views like these!

I’ll just leave that right there. You’re welcome. It is unreal, right? Totally takes your breath away. The blistering, chilling wind helps with that too. But seriously. Even on a super cloudy, cold, rainy day this place just amazed us.

The Northern Lights.

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Let me take a moment to be brutally honest about our first hour or so (read week or so) in Alaska. We are from the ever-beautiful PNW. Mister and I both grew up gazing upon the majestic Mt. Rainier daily (weather permitting) and just the beauty of Puget Sound, evergreen trees, and so on and so forth. When it came time for us to leave Germany things were a bit chaotic and last minute and the decision came down to Hawaii or Alaska. I can’t even begin to count the number of people who thought we were insane (I’m sure you’re thinking it too right now) for choosing Alaska over Hawaii. For us, though, it was so much closer to home and we felt like the closest we could get to living in the PNW again. We had these visions of gorgeous views of nature surrounding us. Surely we’d have a beautiful view of Denali from our house. Fast forward to April when we actually arrived in Fairbanks. Hello wide open spaces, no mountains in sight, and everything was brown. BROWN! We lived through brown in El Paso and surely we hadn’t come to Alaska to see more brown. Thankfully we quickly learned that the grass was still dormant and it sprung back to beautiful, green life shortly after we arrived. However, to say that this was a shocker compared to what we idealized in our minds is a bit of an understatement. After visiting Anchorage I think I can easily say that Anchorage is more what we had dreamed Alaska would look like. So it took some adjusting.

However, we have grown to love this beautiful place. We haven’t gotten snow yet, but I am sure we will just be crazy about it when we have a beautiful snowy view. I love snow so much. We have truly grown to love the slower-paced, easy going life style. Its a good life here.

Why do I share all this? Well, basically, because we had a lot of preconceived notions about Alaska before we came. So we had created a sort-of “bucket list” for all these amazing things we’d do and see here. These included, but were not limited to, seeing Denali, seeing a moose, and seeing the Northern Lights. So, mixed in with our adjusting views of Alaska were the fact that NONE (yes, zero) of these things were happening. We even drove all the way down to Anchorage and back and because of the weather didn’t even get a peak at Denali despite driving right past it. Andy has seen a moose, but I am still somewhat convinced that it is all just a big conspiracy. However, this past week was a big game-changer for us. We actually had somewhat of a perfect storm-lucky day!

As we were driving to meet Andy’s family at the airport, guess what? Beautiful clear day… beautiful clear view of Denali! Our first! And we’ve had the pleasure of seeing it a few more times since. I’m also pretty sure we have a view from our house! It might be another mountain. Or something far in the distance that is white and round. But I’m still claiming it is Denali. It might not even be the right direction, but it counts.

THEN! That evening we just randomly happened up…. drum roll please…. a moose. No, just kidding. STILL haven’t had the pleasure of meeting one of those yet. Unless the zoo counts (it doesn’t). We got to experience the NORTHERN LIGHTS. And it was an amazing show. I was out with my neighbor and she just kept saying how lucky I was to have this good of a show for my FIRST. Did I mention we were just in the backyard?!? The Northern Lights were above our house?!?! How insanely cool is that?

So, this week Alaska completely surprised and bewildered and amazed us — just like we always knew it would! Cameras, even super fancy ones, don’t do the lights justice. I’ve yet to see a picture that even begins to capture how incredible they truly are. To have them dancing over head, swirling beautiful colors. It is breath taking! However, I can’t just tell you all about them and not at least attempt to share. If you follow me on Instgram/Facebook some of these are going to be repeats. And they were all just taken on my phone because I didn’t want to leave and get my real camera that I really don’t know how to use that well anyways. So, you’ll just have to deal with them. Or maybe come visit. But only if I actually know you.

Pretty incredible, right? Now times that by 1 billion and you know what it is like in person. Special thanks to my amazing neighbor who tipped me off to them being out, gazed with my on the trampoline in the cold, and didn’t judge my girl-ish squeals of delight!

Hello from ALASKA!

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Hello there, it has certainly been a while! I have really struggled with the decision about whether I should, or shouldn’t, continue on with our family blog. It felt easy and necessarily when we lived in Europe and were exploring amazing countries and places all of the time. It truly felt like an adventure. While Alaska has proven itself to be insanely beautiful and full of adventure, too, the adventures available are of a much different kind. Initially we felt like, okay, we are here we have to dive in and embrace this life. However, I think we very quickly came to the honest truth about what life is like in a house full of women who don’t like bugs, getting dirty, or being physically uncomfortable. We just aren’t hikers, fishers, hunters, or wilderness campers. We prefer adventures that include walking around ancient castle ruins or admiring the beauty of a centuries old piece of stained glass in a cathedral. So I haven’t written and I haven’t posted because I felt like there wasn’t really anything worth sharing about our lives here in Alaska so far, nor did I think I would have much worth sharing.

Until…… I came to the realization this week that adventures are simply exciting tidbits of life waiting for us to claim them. Our adventures may look a lot different now — they may not be checking wonders of the world off our bucket list — but they are still adventures. We may not be traveling much anymore, but we are still growing and exploring what it means to be a family in this new, beautiful place we are calling home-for-now. And I think it is worth sharing — even if my sweet Grandma Lunchbox is the only one who cares about reading it. So, Grandma, if only for your sake, may the blog live on!

(Warning: This will probably be a LONG one.)

In February the girls and I bid Deutschland and all our many friends there farewell! It was so tough and full of lots of tears. It was a long day of traveling many, many miles with three little ones on my own. But we survived — and no one puked! So I consider that a success. And, really, moments like this where we are reunited with family make all the stress of moving and traveling completely worth it! :

We had many, many sweet moments with family. The girls and I were lucky enough to get to spend just shy of two months in the PNW!

We were able to be there for lots of birthdays while we visited which was a real treat since we normally miss out on celebrating those (and most holidays) with our families. I think one of my favorites was being there for my Grandpa’s birthday. This has to be one of my favorite pictures of all time:

I got to go on a Ladies’ Retreat with my Mom and what we consider our home church in WA. It was located in the beautiful Leavenworth which I had never visited before! It was a beautiful and super fun weekend.

We got to attend a fun round-up that our home church put on! The girls loved dressing up… Baby insisted on going as gangster Sassy Kitty, naturally.

We also took the girls to see the musical ‘Hairspray’ put on by the high school I graduated from that has an absolutely incredible drama department. Baby slept through it, but the older two loved it to pieces. They even got to get autographs afterwards — which I think may have excited the actors and actresses more than my girls!

Naturally Grammy & Papa spoiled them and loved on them with every ounce they possibly could. Papa, knowing Bug is super into dinosaurs, buried some mini-dino skeletons in their garden and let her play archeologist. Consider her life-made at this point.

My Christmas present from Mister had been his blessing for me and the girls heading out of Germany ahead of him so I could be apart of so many special birthdays, ladies retreat, and other happenings. As well, it made the move slightly less stressful for me since he took care of cleaning and handing back over our home as well. After three long weeks, though, we were beyond ready to have him with us to enjoy a month of family-time!

We enjoyed so many fun things while we were in WA. We took the girls to the Great Wolf Lodge for a mini-vacation. We visited the Children’s Museum in Olympia which was incredible. Mister and I got to go on our first ever sibling-date with my siblings to see Ben Rector in concert in Seattle:

We also got to visit with a lot of Mister’s family on the eastern side of the state, most of whom we hadn’t seen in 3+ years. Many who hadn’t even had the pleasure of meeting Baby yet.

Another bonus of our trip was that it fell over Easter Sunday and we were able to spent an actual holiday with extended family!

Easter Sunday was an especially special time with family because we were also able to help my Grandparents celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary! SIXTY! I am so thankful to have grown up with such an amazing example of marriage!

Our time home was simply incredible. It was refreshing, full of love, and joy. It was so hard to leave. I know I cannot wait until the day when we fly into Seattle and just get to stay. Until then, though, it was time for our Alaskan adventure to begin!

We spent almost exactly a month living in a hotel before we got our home here. I will be honest, it has taken me some time to love our home. Our days still occasionally are filled with little ones asking when we are going back to Germany. Moving is never easy. BUT! We have been so blessed in so many ways. We have great neighbors. God led us to an incredible church that simply feels like home to us while we are here. We have started making amazing friends. It hasn’t all been butterflies and roses, but slowly and surely the positive and the good that awaits us here in Alaska has outshone the tough stuff.

One perk of our new home is a giant basement that provides us sweet relief on the rare-hot Alaskan summer days. Family camp-outs in the basement have become a fun tradition!

In June we needed to head down to Anchorage for a medical procedure mister needed done. We got to spend the whole weekend there despite only actually needing to be there about about 2-3 hours total. It was a nice mini-vacation getaway for us. A break from the unpacking and settling in. And it sure was a beautiful drive and beautiful weekend!

A couple weeks ago my parents and sister came up for their first visit. What a huge blessing that we are only a short, 3 hour flight away now. We are thrilled to be getting to see family more often these days! We did a bit of local sight-seeing with them. We visited the pipeline for the first time, the Alaska bowl company, the Farmer’s market, and a few other places around town. We mostly just enjoyed their company, though.

Lots of snuggles were had during their week with us. We also visited North Pole, Alaska and got to see Santa which was a fun little trip. My sister is a Christmas-crazed woman and so it was a little slice of heaven for her, I think.

So fun. And another perk of their visit was that it fell over Bug’s birthday! She turned SEVEN! We had so much fun celebrating her! She got her ears pierced and had an insanely cool Jurassic Park themed cake.

I simply cannot believe our Bug is already 7! She even started 2nd grade last week! How do these things happen so quickly? I seriously blinked.

And! Mister and I celebrated our 6th anniversary this past month, too!

So thankful for this sweet guy. Even though our adventures are changing, I am so thankful that I get to share them with HIM. Life is never dull with him by my side!

We are looking forward to more family visiting this upcoming week! And I will do my best to continue to share our new and different types of adventures these days in a more timely manner. Like how crazy light summers are in Alaska! We had 22 hours of daylight on the longest day of the year — I will definitely have to share about that phenomenon next summer! In the nearer future, though, we are about to enter into our first winter here. That will surely be a new and mostly likely comical adventure for our family! So stay tuned!

 

 

If you would like to see more of what we have been up to, you can visit our Photo Share Site HERE.