Catch up

So remember that time when I said I would do my best and post regularly here so all of you good readers that are many miles away would have a great picture of what our life is like here in Alaska and it would feel like you were right here with us? Well, something like that. And, clearly, I should never say things like that unless I’m really going to mean it. Great apologies. So herein begins a series of posts meant to bring you up to speed on our lives and then we can get back to your regularly scheduled programming.

I think when I last left you, it was summer and we had just spent some lovely time at a nearby lake. That was perhaps in early August? Right after that last post, we had our second set of visitors to this faraway land…my parents! Yay! Mom and Dad took two whole weeks out of their lives to spend with us and it was so very very lovely. We made the trek to Denali for a day, and gave a grand tour of Fairbanks, but most of the time we spent home-ish. We went to the library, the fabric store, the grocery store…the girls sewed with Mom, Jack played knights and aircraft carrier with Dad, everyone got snuggled and read to. (For all of you who are dying to know, we did go to the dump, yes we did. And, Mom actually spied a really great piece of Polish Christmas pottery, perched perilously on the edge of the dumpster. We snatched it up, obviously.)

It was such a peaceful visit. Mom and Dad got to see what our life looks like here, and we soaked in the time. We got to show them some of the amazing beauty of this state, but also how we frantically clean the house and then squeeze 30 or so people in our basement for Bible study on Sunday nights. We celebrated everyone’s birthday all at once because we aren’t all together for them in Ohio. We showed art work and bought school supplies and frozen vegetables together. We laughed and laughed with them, and cried and cried when it was time for them to leave. The nice thing was just the time spent together. Which was the whole point, after all…









3 months+

We’ve been here for a quarter of a year? Already? Perhaps it is different for those of us who are not, well, us, but for the Keener tribe, this time has gone quickly. We have kept pretty busy, so that’s helping for sure. By the time the looooong, daaaaaark winter comes, we will be old pros.
“What have you been up to?” you may be wondering. There have been soccer games, get-togethers with friends, a vacation Bible school thrown in there, a roof finished, a new window installed, a woodshed built, about 4 billion trips to the library, lots of wood chopped, a small basement flood, bike rides, trampoline jumps, moose sightings, weeds pulled, too many grocery store visits to number.

Basically, we have been living life. There have been many ups, there have been a few downs. There has been, “I love it here!” as well as, “Why in the hell did we move here?!” I am overwhelmed when I take in the vastness and beauty of this place and I canNOT believe I get to live here! Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the gravity of the distance between us and everything and everyone that is in Ohio and oh my goodness what I wouldn’t give for a tomato from my garden.

Overall, I would say that we, all of us, have adjusted to this tremendous change with flying colors. We are settling well. The kids have met some friends, and so have Ryan and I. Our house feels like home. When I pull into our driveway, I realize how much I really really like where we are.

And here’s a random assortment of pictures for you all to enjoy! Ta-da!



















Boy am I behind! But, I have a great excuse for my lack of posts. We had our first visitors last week! Yay! Ryan’s parents came up on the 14th and stayed until the 22nd. We had a wonderful visit. I think we had a pretty good mix of just hanging out here as well as adventuring around Fairbanks. Ryan had a few days off from work, so he and his dad were able to finish our roof. Double yay! It looks great, and Ryan really appreciated having the help. And apparently we have had record setting rain as of late, so we are super glad to have that done.

Some Highlights
Since we, ourselves, are very new to the area, it was nice to check some things out and be tourists, too. While roof work was happening, Beth and the kids and I went downtown and saw some sights.




After Ryan went back to work, we drove about 20 minutes north and panned for gold. Woo hoo! We brought home enough gold specks to dust the bottom of a thimble, but we had a great time. GoldDredge 8 in Fairbanks gave a great tour- we learned a brief history of gold mining in Alaska, took a train ride around the mine, panned for gold, and also got some up close info on the TransAlaskan pipeline which was right on the to property, too. None of us found gold in our poke the first time, so we had to give it another go. But, they do guarantee that you’ll find gold, and we each found a few flecks.




I wish we would have found this nugget…valued at $75,000. It was found in 1995, which is recent enough for me. I don’t have a gold pan, but I do have some pie plates. I hope Ryan doesn’t mind me digging up some yard…


There was a large-ish man keeping a very watchful eye on that nugget, by the way.

We also took a riverboat tour on the Riverboat Discovery. I think these tours were run by the same company, actually. They were very well organized, everyone knew their stuff. We hopped aboard the stern wheeler with a million other tourists…thankfully someone give my mother in law the skinny and said to sit on the left side. So glad we did. All the good stuff was on the port (?) side. We watched a float plane demonstration. (I have been in one of those, but I don’t remember it being nearly as smooth as this guy.)

Then we scooted on down the Chena River for a sled dog demonstration, run by Susan Butcher’s family. (She was a four time Iditarod champion before she died of cancer.)

After the demonstration, Jack turned and whispered, “I wanna do that.”

Just a bit further downriver, we came to an native Athabascan village. It was set up to look like one might look way long ago. Lots of history, lots of interesting things to see.


It turned out to be a beautiful day. There was a chance of rain pretty much everyday, but on that day it held off until evening.


So, my mother-in-law really really wanted to see a moose. I mean, really. Earlier in the week, Ryan and his dad saw one while they were on the roof, wandering out of our woods and down the driveway. Well, it was getting late in the week, and still, no moose. We decided to drive down to Denali National Park for the day on Saturday. It was pouring rain, but we decided to soldier on through. The kids and Beth and I threw a few snacks in a bag and drove the almost 3 hours down. Let me tell you. I love that place. One of my favorite places. Pretty quickly out of Fairbanks, mountains start to loom far in the distance, and they keep getting huger and snowier and then there is the park.

We hopped on a shuttle bus and rode 66 miles out to Eielson Visitor Center. It was raining, but we were able to see some caribou. The rain was a bit too heavy to see anything else. The mountains and rivers there are breathtaking, even in the rain.



When we got to Eielson, we had about 45 minutes to explore the Visitor Center…we saw where Denali (Mt. McKinley) should be on a clearer day, learned about some of the first summits on the mountain, learned about some of the creatures that freely roam the park.
By the time we were done, the rain had stopped and things were starting to clear up. While we were still at the center, one of our fellow busmates spotted a grizzly bear not too far off. What a magnificent animal. He just lumbered across the road and plopped down to munch. On the bus ride back to the entrance of the park, we found another bear, snoozing.

20140625-110559-39959647.jpgAnd FINALLY, we spied a moose cow, just off the road, chilling in the willows. She took her time getting up and around and finally crossed the road behind us.

There was great rejoicing! She was fun to just watch for a little bit. Closer to then park entrance we saw another moose cow, too. We were so glad that we could finally send Beth back to Ohio with this dream fulfilled. It was a lovely, very long day. But so very worth it. I’m so glad we decided to go.

So, we had a great time with Ryan’s parents. We were so pleased they could come so early in the summer and see some sights with us.

Oh yeah. We hit the dumps, too…



Calling it

You know that song by Kenny Rogers? “The Gambler?” Well, you should. The chorus is awfully catchy…

You gotta know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

There’s more, obviously, but I will spare you the earworm for the moment.

Well we are walking away. I am officially calling our homeschool year done. Over. Final. Ceased.

This year alone, the kids have been in three different school districts and have moved twice. When we near moving time, this mama declares a break for a good long while. A week or so before the move and more than a week or so buffer on the other end. You can imagine how not caught up we are! But it is time. I think every school year I say, “We will be homeschooling through the summer this year, everyone! Because we all love learning so very much and we can’t get enough of fractions! We will maintain a constant environment of knowledge and all of you will do this with a positive and eager attitude! Yay!”

So, guess how many times that has happened.

This year especially we are really feeling it. We hopped right back into school very shortly after we arrived here, and I do not regret that one bit. It was essential that the kids have just one thing that was a constant for them. Their entire world was upheaved and for them to pull out the same old pencils and read the same old books…it was oddly comforting. And so I thought out of complete necessity, we would be schooling right up to the new school year in August. Maybe a day off before. But, these kids need a break. This mom needs a break.

This was not at all a smooth year for us. There was a LOT going on with us. We did not finish our books. We are, in fact, academically behind in some areas. But we need to be done. I wish I could tell them, “This is the end of our school year, go run and play and we’ll see you in the Fall.” Unfortunately for them, and me, our break is not quite that clean of a snap; we’ve still got a few strands hanging on. I am requiring all of us to do something. So I marched myself over to Barnes and Noble yesterday and bought everyone brand new clean crisp summer school workbooks. Because who can resist brand new workbooks, I ask? It is not the Keener kids, I assure you. Those workbooks and I were met with cheers and “I love summer school!” And all sorts of excitement. I made sure there was no question that some sort of pencil and paper learning was going to happen throughout the summer. I certainly do not want to find, at the beginning of next year, that everyone’s brain cells had drained out their heads and now we will have to start at the very beginning. (A very good place to start. Another song for your head.) Are we going to do every page in these magical workbooks? No, I’m sure we won’t. There are other things going on this summer that trump even magical workbooks, but we’ll do a lot. And there will be reading. Lots of reading. The library has programs happening twice a week all centered around science and robots for the whole summer. We have some friends to hang out with, day hikes to be hiked. And for Heaven’s sake, let’s learn about Alaska.

I feel somewhat hesitant and have the terrible feeling of lack of closure. Like we are just dangling in the breeze. But I do believe we need to just not anymore.

So I’m just going to check my cards, pour myself a drink and put my feet up.

Mr. Rogers will sing us out…

Memorial Day

I was going to write a great post full of humor and wit, and all of you would be entertained and therefore craving more of my blog…alas Dear Readers. You will have to wait for more wit another day. The kids have been battling assorted bugs this past week, and I’ve had these beautiful creative ideas for posts, but no such luck, you guys. I’m pretty pooped out today, but all as a result of a great day.

Ryan had the day off today, and we all rejoiced! The forecast seemed to be indicating some coldish cloudy weather for today. We were pretty bummed, as we had video chatted with our families yesterday and they were all experiencing lots of lovely heat and sunshine, typical Ohio Memorial Day weekend. However, the sun was shining all day today, and it was probably in the 70s. Perfect, beautiful weather! We definitely soaked up the vitamin D.

Flashback a few weeks ago: A little girl and her mom stopped by to introduce themselves. They live just around the corner from us, and the girl is 10. They both seem so very nice and we were definitely excited that they live so close.

Okay, so yesterday, this little gal road her bike over and played for a while outside with the big girls. Hope and Elly had a lot of fun and when Emily had to go home, we invited her to come back today for lunch, and she did! She stayed for a bit, had a hotdog, and hung out. It was great fun for our girls.

After she left, we spent the rest of the day outside. Ryan broke some ground for our garden. I planted my flowers that I got for Mother’s Day. The kids and the dog wore themselves out running around.

But then a glorious thing happened! As with many moving situations, the sellers sometime leave some things behind. Lots of junk, usually, but sometimes there are things left that are useable. In our garage, there was a large box full of some tarpy looking parts and various metal springs and whatnot. The label on the box led us to believe that this was a carport and we were really just waiting for the right time to cart it off to the dump. HOWEVER, upon further inspection, this was not at all a carport, but a TRAMPOLINE!!! And the Keeners rejoiced so much further! We had a trampoline in Ashland, and it was bounced and bounced and bounced. To say the kids loved it is a gigantic understatement. We did not move it to Hilliard and we missed it very much. So this was like finding gold in the garden. We got it out, set it up…it looks like it has never been used, or else the bouncing part (You know, the part you jump on. The “non-frame,” not metal part. Don’t judge me.) has been replaced. The springs are perfect. It was missing one part, which Ryan was able to make. It was great. We all jumped and jumped (me too) and it was lovely.

Ryan and Hope also picked up a couch at the dump for us today…I’m telling you…the dumps! They. Are. Amazing. Amazing, I say. Don’t be freaked out.

Finally, a gal that Ryan works with invited us to have dinner with her and her family tonight. They have three kids and live not too far. We went to their house and had deeeeelicious caribou and moose kabobs. So finger licking good. And s’mores. We played baseball and tag and visited and had a fantastic time.

Happy sigh.

So, that’s a recap and I thought I would include some pictures of the fantasticness.

My flowers…looks like good moose food, yes?

My favorite gardener

Happy dog with a moose rib. Nom nom!


Setting up



Hey! Here’s our house!


Out and About

Today was a pretty good adventure day for us. Ryan had to work, so he missed out. But that’s okay…I have learned that many of our adventures do not coincide with his work schedule, so we can either sit at home and be lumps, or we can strike out on our own. We are lumpy lots of times, by the way. Sometimes the thought of striking out when, in 20 minutes, everyone is going to have to start using the toilet at intervals of 12 1/2 minutes each and the only available option is a port-a-pot and it’s just me…well, sometimes I just don’t have it in me.

So anyway, I had read in the paper that there was something called The Really Free Market at the University of Alaska Fairbanks this morning. I tossed the idea around of going, but I wasn’t set on anything. The kids have been battling some sore throats and slight fevers and general snot issues, so I was going to wait and see. Everyone seemed to have handled their Cheerios without incident, so I said, what the heck. “Everyone! Get dressed and be presentable to the public! We are going somewhere fun! And we’re leaving in 10 minutes.” Miracle of miracles, we were all set and ready to go.

We headed out of North Pole and across Fairbanks over to UAF. There was a small parking lot FULL of stuff. Any sort of stuff. You name it. Clothes, TVs, random Easter decor, books, toys, hangers, bedding. And. It. Was. FREE. Apparently, the students of UAF, upon their semester completion, had a lot they didn’t want to cart home with them, and the public can contribute as well. Anything that anyone wanted to give away. (May I also say that the dump transfer stations here in and around Fairbanks are amazing. They are happening places. And again, you can dig through other people’s stuff for free. We meander through regularly, and we found some really great books today, actually.) As some of you may know, dangling anything free in front of my children, particularly my eldest, can be quite dangerous. If it is free, by golly, we can find a space and/or use for it. So there were some rules. Nothing that someone used to sleep on. Nothing that someone used to put on their head, unless it is a very washable hat. In fact, unless it is made of paper, you can’t have it unless I can wash it. Mom has the right to veto anything you pick up. “No, you may not have those high heels.” “No, you do not need a pinecone with glitter glue on it. We live amongst spruce trees.” “Sure you can have 40 hangers and a stack of post its.” “No, because all of the heads are missing on that nativity set.” All in all, we came away with some fun books, some washable hats, some random bags, and some hangers, which we really did need. What a great way to get rid of stuff!

On our way home, I thought we might stop at the farmer’s market, but it looked way more crowded and much more expensive than what we had just left. So, as we pull up to a stoplight, I see a sign that says, Alaska Fish and Game Kids Fun Day 11-4.

Huh. I’ve got kids. They could use some fun. And it’s just after 11. Hang on to your washable hats, kids! More excitement awaits!

We pull in and what a great time we had. The Department of Fish and Game did a great job…the kids went fishing, got some new duck calls, learned about different animal skins and scat (which I am proud to say, the kids knew all of Alaskan skins on display. Not bad for some outsiders.). They sat in an Alaska State Trooper airplane, saw some gun dog demos, got to shoot BB guns at pop cans and got to practice a little archery. And hot dogs for lunch. I mean, really. What could be better? And, let me say it again: It. Was. Free. They got to go on a “hunt” demonstrating how to track an animal with a tracking collar on, which led them to some candy…they reeeeeally wanted to try that one again. Nice try, guys.

It was great day! They had some fantastic fun and it was great to be out on a beautiful day in a really great community.

And, here are some pictures!