As we were driving to a birthday party on Sunday, we had the most beautiful, incredible sunset (at 3:30 mind you) over Chena flood plains. The sky was gorgeous, and the reflection made the snow just glow beautifully. Truly, sunrise and sunset are always incredible here in the winter, but this one was especially so. You could see the moon in the glow as well. I was driving along, thinking how lovely everything was, and just enjoying the moment and appreciating Alaska. Just as I left the bridge, I realized that I had my camera with me. I could have shared it with you. If we hadn't been on our way to a party, I would have turned around and taken some photos. Instead, I have a couple that I took from my car with the window rolled down after we got to Eielson. You can kinda tell how pretty it was.
I can put BOTH of my feet on the counter!
What, Mom? Why can't I sit on the table?
On Tuesday we had a VTC with the guys in Iraq. We found out official dates for the return. 80% of the battalion will be here between November 28th and 30th. The rest will be here between December 3rd and 5th. Allen had already told me that he expected the first part of December, so this was just further confirmation of those dates. On Wednesday he called and said that he would not be coming home with the second group after all, but would be here with the first group. So, that means, Allen could be here in just over two weeks! I am excited that he is expected home so soon. I am stressed that I am not going to have time to clean my house, get in shape, get my hair, nails, etc. done, finish the rough draft of my thesis, make his favorite foods, and finish about a dozen other projects that I had planned to do before his return. I am anxious because we have been this close before. I am worried that we will both have certain expectations that might not be met. I am afraid that I will be jealous of how much Ashlyn will want to be with him, though that is also what I want most in the world. Whew. But, mostly excited.
We had an incredible opportunity this week. MWR sponsored "Operation Breakaway" for families of Stryker soldiers. Basically, we had a FREE trip to Anchorage. We flew down either Thursday night or Friday morning, spent Friday and the night in Anchorage and then took the train back on Saturday. This was available to 250 family members, so, about 2 or 3 weeks ago, we stood in line for the tickets. At the time, I was a little bit iffy about going, but knew that I had a week or two to cancel if I changed my mind. Heather and her boys were going, so we were planning on hanging out. Last Monday, we received our little packet of information about the trip. We saw how early we would be leaving. Both Heather and I considered canceling that day. She had already told her boys about it, though, and they were excited. We had a super busy week, and I was just so tired, and wanted to be at my house. So, on Thursday, I again considered canceling, but we were supposed to cancel by the 6th. I was afraid that it was too late for them to find others to fill our spaces. After packing and everything, I started getting kind of excited about it and thinking that it might be fun after all.
Ashlyn on the train
Ashlyn woke up in such a great mood at 3 am. She was talking and playing and excited to be going somewhere. She had her own seat on a plane for the first time ever, which we both thought was great. She started getting cranky as we took off, so I was hoping that she would nap on the short flight. However, the childless woman next to me turned her stupid light on, so she could get on her laptop for the flight. I was totally wishing bad karma on her for the rest of the trip and any other trip she takes in the future. I sang to Ashlyn and kind of tried to shield the light, but there was no napping to be had.
Busses from Holland America had been donated to shuttle us from the airport to the hotel to the mall. Heather and I rented a car for the day, just so we could go places that weren't on the shuttle tour. Plus, we could go places on our own schedule. Our big plan for the day had been going to the indoor water park. We realized the day before that the water park didn't open in the winter until 3 pm. This kind of threw a wrench in our plans for the day, but we figured that we would just do other stuff first. So, we went to the mall. The zipper on Ashlyn's coat had broken at breakfast, so I bought her a new coat and a few other Christmas gifts. This mall has a bowling alley and skating rink, which were all FREE activities for us that day, so that is what Heather and her boys did. Ashlyn actually went to sleep in her stroller. Oh, we were also given $10 a person in mall gift certificates, FREE. Other FREE activities included an ice cream sundae, childcare at the mall, and a video to send to our spouses. There may have been others, I'm not sure, because we didn't take advantage of anything else. Our plans were to go to Chuck E Cheese for lunch and then go to the waterpark. Nicholas and Alex started saying that they just wanted to go back to the hotel, which by the way, was also FREE. We talked them into going to Chuck E Cheese. What were we thinking? I will never again even suggest to a child that they should go to Chuck E Cheese. I don't think any of us had any fun at all. Ashlyn enjoyed holding the tokens, putting them into her mouth, and going down the slide while holding them. She was scared of the ride on toys that we used the tokens on, and actually puked while there. Lovely. The pizza was so nasty, that I couldn't one piece. Ashlyn ate part of a crust and all of the olives. So, the kids decided they definitely didn't want to go to the water park at this point. We agreed. We went back to the hotel, where Ashlyn screamed in my attempts to get her to sleep. I gave in too easily, and regretted it for the rest of the evening. Ashlyn and I went across the street for dinner, but I ended up having them pack our dinner to go and eating in the room. Ashlyn was in bed by 6:45, and I went to sleep shortly after 8.
The four of us
The next day we got on the train at 7 am to travel back to Fairbanks. We were some of the last people in our group of women, children, and 1 man to board the train. The train didn't leave the station until 8:45. We arrived in Fairbanks at 7:15. It was a long day, and I was actually dreading this part of the trip from the beginning. It was actually a pretty good day. Ashlyn liked being on the train. She loves big kids, and there were a few older girls that entertained her at various times. She also started waving and saying, "Bye," which she just hasn't been very good at. Several times we walked from one car to the next, just for some exercise. We would stop to talk to different people that we knew along the way. Plus, the views on the train were just absolutely beautiful. I had taken the train before, but I had morning sickness at the time and so didn't care about the view. We also were in different type cars this time, since this was a charter train. These cars had glass all along the side and the ceiling, which allowed for awesome views.
View from the train. The mountain on the right is Denali.
Hurricane Gulch. (Excuse the reflection, it was taken from the train.)
So, we were in these cars with glass all along the side and the ceiling. These are the cars that the Alaska Railroad uses for tourists, generally. In the winter, they use their regular passenger cars to travel to Fairbanks, smaller windows, much warmer. The closer we got to Fairbanks, the colder it got. Plus, some of the cars were having problems with heat all day. But, this was all FREE. When we arrived at the train station, we were given a packet (for FREE) with crayons (washable, AAAHH) and a travel activity book. Our day included FREE breakfast - doughnuts, coffee, juice, bagels, muffins, fruit etc. There were so much of these that some kids were eating doughnuts all day long. We had a box lunch, again FREE. Snacks all day, FREE. Dinner from Subway, FREE. Then, all of the children were given a bear at the end of the day, for FREE. It was a long, long day, but overall, we had a good time. Thank you, MWR!
Heather and Ethan
What Nicholas and Alex did on the train
I had neglected to take the trash Thursday night before we left. When we got home, the house smelled like sour milk and diapers. Ugh.
This morning, Ashlyn had some kind of allergic reaction and we went to the ER. Of course, the rash was completely gone by the time we saw the doctor, so I felt a little silly. He gave us Benadryl and sent us home. The Benadryl knocked her out, so she didn't have lunch until 3:30. Hungry baby. Tonight, we are going to pick up Ranger from the kennel. I have missed him. It is weird to me to hear strange noises and not have a dog alert me first. Plus, I am more concerned about the strange noises. Not that he would protect me, but he would make a lot of noise while someone burgled us. He might pee on their shoes, too. Also, there is food on my floor. He needs to be here to clean it up.
Ok, that sums up our week. Bye.