Monday, December 21, 2009

Organized Chaos or Chaotic Organization

As if our renovation weren't enough to deal with, last Friday we had our household goods delivered. And as our military friends know household goods delivery day is stressful and exhausting. Add to that our recent Alaska weather and the hill that we live on and that made for an interesting day. We picked last Friday as according to the long range forecast that was the warmest (high of 20) day in the 10 day window. Not to mention there was hardly any snow forecasted either. Once again, my theory that meterologists are more accurate in restating yesterday's weather than forecasting tomorrow's holds true! Within approximately a 72 hour period we had somewhere between 20-24 inches of snow on the hill where we live. Thankfully, my plow handled our marshmallow world of snow quite handily. On moving day itself however, the high was 2 degrees. So much for the long range forecast. And given the logistical challenges the moving company encountered the first box did not get unloaded until around 2:00 p.m. Needless to say, it was a long day for us and them, but we do have all of our household goods now which now means that instead of a fiberglass castle we now live in a cardboard castle!
Although life has been busy with the house, homeschooling, the Army, hockey, and snow removal (noted above), we have managed to maintain a few of our meaningful family traditions. We attended our annual Nutcracker ballet performance in fine fashion on the first Sunday of Advent no less--notice our non-trailer trash attire! And speaking of Advent, boxes or not we now have a living Christmas tree noted in the background as we lit our own Advent wreath on the fourth Sunday of Advent!
Blessings to all this Christmas season,
Brad, Lori, and the Elves

An Emerging Kitchen

It's been a while, and it's been a long ride. I liken it to riding a bull but for much longer than 8 seconds and the bull doesn't throw you off, rather it just continues to toss you aloof. Occassionally, you end up on top of the bull, but more often than not the bull just seems to drag you along. At any rate, as you can see from these pictures it seems that we may have the bull by the horns for the first time, at least upstairs. The kitchen should be fully functional just in time for Christmas. The downstairs was just sprayed and textured today, but that's a good thing as it should mean that we'll be painting over Christmas! And that means carpet sometime around the New Year!!!

With Yuletide Cheer,
The Lee Family

Monday, November 16, 2009

Getting There

Just a quick note and pictures to update our progress. In our last blog I showed a picture of Chainsaw Tom as he was doing his work. At top, his creation: Bob, the moose (the girls named him and would rebuke me if I failed to mention that detail). For those of you that will come to visit us, you will be greeted by Bob as you enter the driveway. The bears are named Koda and Chestnut, and greet visitors as they walk up the front steps. If you recall previous pictures, the new additions now "live" where spruce trees once resided that have now been put to better use! And as you can also see, the ground has now turned to magical white as the kids have immediately enjoyed the nice slope in the front yard.
In the other pictures you can see the house is coming along. The drywall crew is in full swing and should be here today to begin sanding--Yuck! But that's a good thing as not long after sanding comings spraying and painting. And not long after painting will come carpet. And after carpet will come shouts of joy as we frolic in our bare feet down the hall to the bedrooms where slumber will occur in a real bedroom! In fact, the children have now officially moved to the garage for their sleeping quarters. The low on Friday got down to 3 degrees so Mom and Dad decided it was time. Good call as last nights low was -5. Mom and Dad however, continue to survive sleeping in the camper until said carpet arrives. More to come.
Blessings to all,
The Lee Clan

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Of Moose and Men

I'm attempting to make use of my "extra" hour of sleep tonight by blogging and attempting to catch up a bit on our progress. As many of you know by now, we finally own our house, or at least made our first mortgage payment this past week. As you can see however, we have quite the mess and are not yet living in the house. The 26 foot metal castle is still our nightly solace for slumber and functions as the galley for our regular vegetating and sustenance. Our "schoolhouse" is temporarily in the garage by day. Beyond that, we have tried to make life as normal as possible given our circumstances. We have had some interesting visitors recently. Mother moose and her young adult offspring paid us a visit a little more than a week ago. Kavan and I stumbled upon them in our woods while gathering firewood that we had previously cut. We quickly made our way back to the front of the house where Tara and Marissa were washing the Burb. I had all of the kids climb into the back of my truck where they could see and eventually both creatures ventured across the lawn stopping to check out both the Burb and the camper. Needless to say, it was quite the exciting moment to have had our first moose visit, although we had noted tracks in the garden spot just a couple of weeks before. Speaking of moose, the top picture is Chainsaw Tom. Space limitations do not allow me to add any more pictures but I promise we will soon show the amazing work of Chainsaw Tom and the new wildlife additions to our premises!
Blessings to all,
Brad, Lori, and the Clan

Saturday, August 29, 2009

AAAHH...Alaska: Home, At Home, and Buying a Home!

So sorry for the lag in time since our last post, but the Fort Richardson Black Spruce Campground lacks wireless internet service. The nerve! At any rate, much has happened in the little more than a week now that we have been here.
Above, the children at home with the Scott family. The top picture denoting the result of dress-up with Aubrie, now a school teacher but former baby-sitter for the girls during our last stint in AK. At least Kavan wasn't wearing a dress! The very bottom picture is the kids making cookies with the Scott's other daughter, Megan. Picture number #2 shows my "chops," of which the family is glad they are now gone as I have officially signed in for duty at Fort Rich. And of much interest is picture #4, which shows our "new home," at least we're hoping so as we have a contract and now await a VA appraisal and the other minutia of detail involved in purchasing a home. More to come on the house but upon closing we will move our camper to our new front yard and continue to live in it while we begin some much needed renovations!
Blessings to all and thanks for your continued prayers as we continue to transition to Alaska and Army life once again!
The Lee Family

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Welcome Back...Almost There!

Welcome Back! Those were the words that the customs agent said to me as he handed back our passports crossing the border into Alaska. That could easily be the phrase of the day although I'll get to that shortly. From Haines Junction this morning we trekked the nearly 300 bumpy but beautiful miles to Tok, Alaska. Note the fourth picture of Kluane Lake, the largest body of water in the Yukon spanning some 150+ square miles of surface area. It truly is massive and amazingly beautiful. Although the kids paused occasionally to enjoy the joy and a couple of moose, they were appropriately engaged in the 3-D version (noted above with their spectacles on) of The Polar Express. The top two pictures were obviously taken at the border. The second however, is unique in that it is the international boundary marker. In essence, I stood with one foot in the Yukon and one in Alaska.
We entered Alaska at 1400 hours local time. Alas, our last time zone change, and we are now four hours behind the East coast. From the border the road increasingly got better although there were still a number of frost heaves left over. For those that have driven in the North, you know what I'm talking about. For those of you that do not heaves occur when the road settles due to the perma frost. At any rate, it makes for a bumpy ride. The two unlucky passengers in the back of the Burb look like bobble heads when we go through the heaves.
We arrived at Tok in ample time set up camp and make a run to the local grocery. In celebratory fashion on the occasion of our arrival in the motherland, we had grilled steak and chicken tonight. Lori will be embarrassed as I share that we had instant mashed potatoes but nonetheless, they went well with superbly grilled steaks on our first night in Alaska!
We are staying at the Sourdough Campground. A rather nostalgic place along the ALCAN noted for its nightly ritual of pancake tossing. The object is to toss the leftover morning pancakes into a bucket. Each contestant gets two pancakes/chances and upon successfully hitting the target, the lucky thrower gets free breakfast. Of all people, our non-breakfast lover, Tara, completed the feat in one toss. We told her she at least had to try a pancake tomorrow morning. The rest of us will pay to watch her eat her free breakfast I suppose. At any rate, this has been a fun campground to stay in. We enjoyed fellowship with two other contestants from Florida, traveling in their retired years. On a side note, I've determined that one must have gray hair in order to own a full size RV. If you don't believe me, just notice the hair color of the driver the next time you spot an RV.
Well, tomorrow our ALCAN journey will come to an end and a new journey will begin. We are slated to look at houses all day Thursday. We do appreciate your prayers as we will soon be faced with decisions concerning where we will live. The blog will continue although possibly not as intensely regular as it has the last two weeks. In any case, thanks again for those of you that have followed us along the way and have lifted us in prayer as well. Blessings to all, more to come from Eagle River/Fort Richardson!
Brad, Lori, Tara, Shayna, Marissa, Kavan, & Reba too!
Phrase of the Day: "Get in Mommy and I drive you to Alaska." (Kavan speaking to his mother shortly after his picture above was taken as she attempted to remove him from behind the wheel. This photo was taken in Beaver Creek, Yukon, 20 miles from the border in Buckshot Betty's parking lot.)

Good Morning from Haines Junction and the Kluane Range

Good morning from our stop here at Haines Junction where the temperature is currently 37 degrees. Above are a couple of shots overlooking our "residence" with the Kluane (pronounced kloo-WA-nee) mountain range in the background. And yes, those white patches in the upper valleys are snow. The long white strip along the top of the mountain is a cloud patch. Although there are prettier mountains, this is a pretty cool sight to wake up to.

Well, the morning bustle hasn't quite begun yet, although Marissa is up enjoying the raspberries that we picked yesterday. Lori and I are moving slow as we stayed up too late looking at houses online as we anticipate our soon arrival in the motherland. We are currently three hours behind most of our family. Upon our entrance into Alaska, we will once again "gain" another hour making the time differential of four hours between us and the East coast. Thanks again for your continued prayers as this has truly been a great trip so far. More to come with our next planned stop in Tok, Alaska, which will put us 328 miles from our final destination. Blessings to all.
The Lee Clan

Monday, August 17, 2009

At Home in Watson Lake

How do I describe our stay in Watson Lake? For starters, our arrival there was the usual. The kids ran off on their bikes, Mom sets up in the camper, but Kavan and I went for a drive "downtown. Mind you, Watson Lake boasts a population of 1,563. Watson Lake is also home to the famous "Sign-Post Forest," interestingly started by a U.S. Soldier, Carl Lindley, from Danville, IL, during construction of the ALCAN. He posted a sign noting the distance from Watson Lake to Danville and thus began the practice of posting various signs, particularly license plates, all through a forest of sorts made of wooden posts that host the more than 65,000 signs. Noted above is the sign that we posted (NC: CH LEE) on our way to Alaska back in 2002. Marissa is frowning because I had offered a loonie to the first child who could locate my old license plate when we visited again on Sunday afternoon. At any rate, Kavan and I stopped by the visitor's center for a few minutes. The host there was beyond informative. I inquired about fishing and she drew me maps to at least four different places and even offered to allow to dig for worms in the compost pile in her back yard. She also invited me and the kids to pick raspberries from her garden as well, more on that in a bit. Meanwhile, back at the camper all is well. We opt to eat "downtown." I do not recommend Tags Restaurant and will not waste time explaining why. Our return to the camper was met by a celebration of sorts as today is actually the Yukon holiday known as "Discovery Day," noted for when gold was first discovered in the Yukon. There seemed to be several locals staying at our campground and at first, we thought they were actually shooting firearms into the air. Thankfully, the thunderous booms were merely fireworks mixed with old Hank Jr. hits as well.
Sunday morning, 0700 hours, Albert Creek. The lady at the info center had directed me to this spot. Minus a handful of cars that passed in nearly an hour the spot was quiet and serene. No fish however, just a beaver that let me know--by slapping his tail--that he was not happy with my presence. Heading back toward the camper I stop at Ratina Lake, stocked with Rainbow trout. A pair of loons, one of which is noted in the picture above, seemed to welcome me, unlike my beaver friend, as I began my quest to land a fish in the Yukon. In short, no fish but sheer pleasure in the serenity of the moments spent there. The best however, was yet to come.
0920, back at the camper, shower, dress, everyone ready. We arrive at the Evangelical Free Church, a mission church in downtown, at 0955. The church is a true log church which had been moved from another location many years before. It reminded me of the one-room schoolhouse on Little House on the Prairie, except with real chairs with arms. We were warmly welcomed and chuckled as there seemed to be no more than four chairs to a row/pew. I've often mused about the family that went to my church growing up. I don't recall how many kids they had, five or six maybe, but we referred to them as the "fill-a-pew family." I now muse that we are the fill-a-pew family. In this case however, we filled a pew and a half. The service was meaningful and enjoyable. Before the sermon the lady seated behind us and with the other half of the family invited the kids to join her in the basement for children's church. I was impressed that a church with no more than 20 or so people would even be prepared to provide ministry to children. At the conclusion of the service the pastor invited everyone to stay for coffee and something to eat. We were especially hooked when he announced that someone had brought Tim Horton's donuts. Tim Horton's is to Canada what Dunkin Donuts is to the U.S. Into the small basement we crammed with nearly everyone. We joined the lady that taught our kids and her husband. In usual fashion it was hard for me to shut up long enough to eat, but the fellowship there among these wonderful Christian people was especially sweet. Near the conclusion of lunch, the lady and husband, John and Naomi Hall, invited us to their home for the afternoon. The Hall's are retired educator's and continue to serve as missionaries both in the Yukon as well as Latin America. The Scripture tells us that sometimes by entertaining strangers we have been with angels. I'm not sure that it works the other way but it felt like the angels were entertaining us. John and Naomi opened their hearts and home to us in a way that made me want to stay much longer than a day. John took Tara, Shayna, and myself out fishing on Watson Lake, where their beautiful home resides. Note picture above. We didn't catch anything then either but the sheer joy of being out on the water in the clean air, well, you just have to experience that for yourself. Meanwhile back at the house, Lori, Marissa, and Kavan, were entertained by Naomi. Our stay with the Hall's was special to be sure (Note the picture with John and Naomi above in front of their beautiful home), and we hope to see them again soon. Thanks again John and Naomi, and blessings to you in your ministry.
Back at the camper, the party crowd has gone leaving their wood to be scavenged so that we enjoy a campfire, our first along the trip by the way particularly as British Columbia had a burn ban in effect. Mommy and I sit by the fire reflecting on the day and the reality that we are barely a 1,000 miles from our soon to be new home.
Monday morning, 0630, the alarm rings. Snooze button. 0638, again. Snooze button. 0646, again. Rain drops on roof. Alarm turned off. Offspring enter bed at 0715. For some reason, I feel free today not to engage in my bustling routine. We only have three days of driving left. Haines Junction will be there just the same whether at 7:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. Besides, the lady at the welcome center had invited us to pick raspberries. We finally leave the campground at 0930, and though Mom is not at all excited about the venture she offers no rebuttle or even warning not to get dirty. Rain drops are falling. The temperature is barely above 50 degrees. But in the backyard, near the walking trail bordering the lake, is a raspberry patch with berries beckoning to be picked. I seem to be more concerned with the rain than the kids as they begin to plunder the hordes of ripe and oh so sweet berries. I have a bowl for all of us to place our harvest in. However, it seems that I'm the one doing the harvesting and the kids are doing the sampling seeming to ensure that each berry is suitable for human consumption. What a joy. Picking raspberries in the rain. Eating as many as we pick. Mom waits for us in the Burb, as if she knows to be waiting for each child to help dry them off and get dry clothes. But no one seems to complain. We chuckle at the absurdity of what we have just done the taste of sweet raspberries in our mouths, as I try to pick the seeds out of my teeth with my tongue. Life is a Highway plays as we pull out of the driveway. And once again, we are blessed beyond measure.
Tonight we're in Haines Junction, which is still in the Yukon, but we are barely 200 miles from the promised land of Alaska. Tomorrow some pictures of the beautiful mountain range seemingly just beyond the parking lot of our campsite. Blessings to all and goodnight.
The Lee Family
Phrase of the day: "Oh my word, that is a big booger!" (Mommy responding to the shrieks from the back of the Burb as she turned to witness Kavan attempting to share his own Yukon gold digging expedition with his sisters.)

Where the Water is always warm...Liard Hot Springs

From Summit Lake we ventured on our shortest drive of the trip, 241 miles on our way to Watson Lake, Yukon. Along the way, and certainly a highlight of our trip, we stopped at the Liard Hot Springs. I'm inept at the moment to offer scientific explanation but the springs are a natural hot spring with temperatures ranging from 108 to 126 degrees within the pool. The hottest point of the pool--the 126 degrees or so--is where the water bubbles into the pool. The water cools somewhat as it begins to flow downstream where temperatures are more tolerable, especially for the kids. Lori and I ventured to the initial point and "touched the rocks" where the water is hottest, a feat which now distinguishes us among other ALCAN travelers. I understand that and two loonies will get us a cup of coffee at any stop along the way. At any rate, our experience as a family in the hot springs was beyond delightful and made the trip worth the effort to that point alone. And no, we did not see the problem bear noted in the second picture as we attempted to walk up to a higher point of the springs!
There were ample buffalo along the way after leaving the springs as well noted in the middle picture. And if you look in the mirror, no I did not have both hands on the wheel Mom! Actually, Lori did as I snapped what I thought was a decent picture despite the presence of the mirror. The other animal is a stone sheep, which are indigenous wildlife along the wildlife. Lastly, you will note our ultimate arrival to the Yukon Territory--Woo Hoo! Only 30 miles from Watson Lake, which I will get to hopefully tonight. Right now, the routine is in full swing and it's time to get moving. Blessings to all. Next stop, Haines Junction.
The Lee Clan
Phrase of the Day: "I don't need to go pee, I went last night" (Kavan exclaiming to his mother at her urging for him to utilize the washroom).

On the ALCAN and Summit Lake

Hello again everyone. I can't tell you how liberating it has been to be without "connectvity!" At any rate, this will be a short post as I have to catch up on the last few days. We began our journey from Mile "0" on Friday traveling to Summit Lake, BC. There we stayed at the Summit Lake Provincial Campground. The uniqueness of our stay there is that Summit Lake touts the highest elevation on the ALCAN at 4,250 feet. You can notice the "bald" mountains in the background void of any "green" life. The serenity of Summit Lake was more than endearing. The very top picture was atop a bluff in our vain attempt to find a waterfall that was allegedly nearby. Oh well, we still found a beatiful spot to take the picture.
From there the road gets pretty rough and winding as well. The scenery is astounding and the "residents" along the way are well within range of conversation or well, in range. More to come soon...
The Lee Family
Phrase of the Day: "There are no tame moose!" (Tara exclaimed to Shayna after I offered to pay a loonie to the first person who spotted a moose to which Shayna asked, "Do they have to be wild?")

Friday, August 14, 2009

Glad the Heater Works!

Good morning all! Just a quick note before we depart. We awoke this morning to a cool and current 31 degrees. And yes, we are quite glad the heater worked and again, that I removed Kavan's light stick from the duct work! Otherwise, we might have had a melted mess.
At any rate, the routine has begun and as usual I will probably want to pull out before that is actually feasible!
Again, no wi-fi tonight so we will make contact again in Watson Lake. Yukon here we come!
Blessings to all.
The Lee Clan

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A New Journey Begins...

I realize as I blog from day to day, especially when I look at the pictures we take, that one might get the idea that our journey is a rosy one. We've seem to hit a routine now to be sure. The alarm usually goes off at 0630, although my bladder is usually going off slightly before then. The first priority of the day is coffee. I attempt to be quiet in our fiberglass haven but that's like trying to quietly crush a plastic water bottle. I even grind my coffee outside the camper but as I "quietly" step outside a loud whisper from the bed urges me to do it quietly as not to disturb the neighbors. Need I say more about that subject? Once the coffee starts brewing I usually start my computer to check email and blog if I haven't done so the night before. Lori's up now that the coffee is brewed. Her computer starts as well. Who would have ever thought camping would include wi-fi as the two of us embark upon our morning ritual together. Time seems to go quickly. I want to pull out by 0830 but the kids are sleeping so well and it's so quiet. Somewhere around 0730-0745, from behind the curtain stumbles out an offspring. Looking dazed and confused about what province we are in. Alas, once one is up the others soon follow. So much for quiet hours. My anxiety begins to rise as in order to pull out by 0830 everyone needs to finish their cereal in the next four minutes. It ain't happening. Today, 0830 was my target for departure. Somewhere around 0920 we finally pulled out of our Edmonton hide away. One of our other rituals includes the playing of "Life is a Highway," by Rascal Flatts, every morning just as we pull out of each campground. Soon after that, devotions and on with the daily schedule. As I think about it, I don't think I've yet heard the question, "Are we there yet?"
So far it does sound rosy enough. Actually, the real fun begins once we arrive at our nightly destination. Letting the kids out the Burb after nearly 400 miles is like opening the can of fake nuts with the spring loaded "snake" in it--BOING! And away they go. The older three usually go for a bike ride while Kavan goes on his rant from one end of the palace to the other. I secretly muse to myself when we have neighbors that seem to be "childless" as our four begin to simply be themselves, which is a delight in and of itself. As I begin the de-hitching and hooking up of utilities, I realize just how un-soundproof our fiberglass castle is. Lori usually needs help with something, usually Kavan as she begins to prepare supper, and needs him elsewhere. Maybe I should try the dog kennel? One of my own peeves is that kids don't realize that living in a camper is not like living in a house. I can hear myself, and will probably be quoted years from now to my grandchildren, repeatedly proclaiming in my lecturing voice, "This is a camper not a play place" (exclamation point intentionally left out). I didn't mention that I had to dig into the heater in order to remove a light stick that Kavan decided to put down inside the vent.
I pause with that thought as I realize however, that in light of my peeves as well as myself, I am a blessed man. I have four healthy, beautiful, talented, witty, sensitive, rambunctious at times, "normal" (in one sense or another), loved and loving children that simply do what they know to do, be kids. And in one sense, to them a house is a camper as a camper is to a house. During the morning movie, which usually equates to a good hour or more of quiet time for mom and dad during the drive (note picture above of offspring with headphones), Lori and I were discussing the challenging circumstances some friends of ours are facing. The thought occurred to me that sometimes we might be tempted to think that being blessed is merely the absence of heartache or trials. But being blessed is much more than that. One of our biggest stressors right now is the fact that we do not have permanent housing upon our arrival in Alaska. I say permanent as we do have housing that currently follows us everywhere we go. The fact that we can even consider buying a house is a blessing in and of itself. And in Alaska to boot!
Back to the kids, take the bottom picture. Mile "0" of the Alaska Highway. The place where it all began March 9, 1942, during World War II. I wanted to get a picture of everyone at Mile "0". Mom thought it a better idea to give Kavan a bath while the girls and I get the photo and run the errands. Smart woman. Once in the grocery store it was apparent that the girls needed to burn off some penned up energy. Even Tara took a parental role as Shayna shook the cart in the produce section. "Stop jerking the apples, you're gonna bruise them," was her stern warning. For a split second, I felt the triangulating conundrum that occurs when two children wonder which side the parent will take. Tara, seeming to wonder if I would back her position, and Shayna, anxiously awaiting encouragement or maybe consequences. The fact that we were nearly by ourselves, aside from a stock boy attempting to arrange bananas while two girls seemed to be flirting with him, was irrelevant as I could not contain my laughter. Lori found the incident worth hardly more than a chuckle, but even in that moment I was blessed to not choose one side or the other but rather, both. My laughter seemed to only fuel the looniness to follow. At one point, while Tara and Marissa found the washroom, Shayna and I hid in a far corner of the store and avoided detection for a respectable amount of time. Shayna, soon after while returning the donuts that she hoped I wouldn't find in the cart, found herself looking for the three of us as well. She exclaimed that it wasn't fair as she was by herself looking for us but otherwise seemed to find amusement at the ordeal.
Well, here I am, late again. An early day tomorrow. 371 miles to the middle of nowhere, Stone Mountain Provincial Park, to be exact. No wi-fi there so no blog until we reach Watson Lake two days from now where we'll take another day "off." I almost forgot, the top picture was in Grand Prairie, Alberta. Another place in the middle of nowhere, but one that was blessed with the nectar of the gods, otherwise known as a Carmel Macchiato with an extra shot! The middle picture is one that we've seen ever since Saskatchewan. Miles and miles of yellow flowered weeds, beautiful and intriguing as I'm not sure what they do with them.
Phrase of the day: "Look, it's Chewbacca." (Kavan, pointing and commenting as we passed a herd of buffalo.)
Blessings to all, and thanks to those of you praying for us on our journey. Pray that we keep warm tonight as Lori just informed me it's already 44 degrees outside. In fact, it hardly got above 60 during the drive today. I'm glad I found the light stick! More from Watson Lake in couple days.
The Lee Clan