Tuesday, December 11, 2012



It’s December in Alaska.  We have been here for 7 months!  We are settled in our new house.  The kids are happy.  It is cold.  It is dark.  And it is beautiful!   I know someone out there is thinking I am crazy.  After 3 years in Paradise (Queensland) I have been waiting for winter.  I need winter.  Christmas is good here.  All those carols about winter wonderlands and sledding. . . They made absolutely no sense in Australian summer/Christmas.  I do miss Australia.  And some times I see a photos of friends at the beach, or standing in a lush green garden, and my heart aches.  Sigh. 

But, we love Alaska.

Top ten things we love about Alaska:

10.  It’s cold and dark.  You thought this was a bad thing.  Ha!  Because it is cold, I can buy my groceries (including meat and ice cream!), and THEN stop at the mall and try on warm clothing.  Ice cream in my car is safely frozen!  And when my fridge runs out of room, my food will keep in the shed just as well.  With the chilly weather, everyone dresses very modestly too.  It’s a good thing.  With it so cold and dark outside, I get a seriously good night’s sleep.  (Not so easy to get up in the morning!)  I will note that we take vitamin D supplements, and I turn on the happy light  – preventatively. 
Sun dogs.  The physical science teacher in me wants to point out the pillars of rainbow to the sides of the sun (called sun dogs).  I've seen plenty of rainbows, but this is my first snow-bow.  Notice how low on the horizon the sun is - it is 1:00 in the afternoon. 

9.  Alaska is the worst dressed city in America!  Trust me.  This is a good thing.  Suddenly, jeans, Uggs,  and a flannel shirt are a fashion statement!  (And with all this flannel, I don’t have to shave my legs as often!)
Bryce kayaking a very cold river.

8.  The Northern Lights.  We have only seen them twice, but it was amazing! - waves of green and pink rolling across the sky.  It reminded me of the ocean.  (Sigh.)
Abby picking blueberries on one of our hikes up Flattop. 

7.  Alaska is full of surprises.  It makes life very interesting.  Just when I think I’m settled in, everything changes.  It keeps me on my toes.  The days get longer and shorter.  The sun comes up in a different place!  The weather changes – one day sunny and cold, then next rainy or warm, and don’t forget that surprising wind (gusts of 130 mph)!  Spring comes and one minute the trees are bare,  the next they explode into leaves, only to have winter creep down the side of the mountains, and turn everything white.     

And we have had plenty of surprises from :

6.  Wildlife!  Nothing keeps you on your toes like wild animals!!  Moose are everywhere.  Drivers beware – moose don’t follow traffic signs!  Shon and I went on a bike ride one afternoon down the coastal trail and ended up sandwiched between a big bull (check out this article about him) and a mother with a calf.  Those lanky legs are really weapons.  We stay away from the moose.  I think we are even more afraid of moose than we are of bears.   
Brown bear in our neighborhood (seriously, just across the street from houses.)

We have seen plenty of bear too.  This one showed up on our drive home from church.  Another surprised me as I was waiting for a friend to come run with me.   I stopped to wait for her at the end of her drive way.  I was reading her newspaper when she calmly said  “Good morning, Juli.  There’s a bear behind you!”   Sure enough – 10 feet away, it stood up on its hind legs, then backed down and ran off into the trees!  No one was more startled than my friend/neighbor, Stacey, who woke early one morning to the sound of a bear eating dog food in her entry way!  It had pushed in her front door and come in for a little pre-hibernation snack.  Her dogs weren’t too thrilled and chased it off. 

Alaska keeps me on my toes.  Just when I think life is getting boring, I see a wolverine just down the street from my house, or a bald eagle as I pick up the kids from school.   Rabbits, porcupine, and even lynx have crossed my path. 
Caleb and Sarah on a whale watching trip in the Prince William Sound.

5.  Outdoor activities!  There is so much to do here, no matter the season.  Summer was awesome!  We hiked Flattop a dozen times, went  kayaking, river rafting, boating, fishing, mountain biking, and ice skating (for free!)  To see what we do in the winter, check out #3!  But with all of this fishing, one of our favorite things is:
The girls ice skating at Potter Marsh before the snow.  The ice was so clear, we saw fish swimming in the water below.

4.  All-you-can-eat wild salmon!  This is definitely a perk to living in Alaska.  We don’t have our “dip net” permits yet since we haven’t been here a year, but when we get them next summer, our freezer will be full of salmon.  Even with the minimal rod fishing we did this year, our freezer is still full.  Shon went on several deep sea fishing trips and we have halibut too.  My two favorite fish – halibut and salmon!  I laugh when I think of what I used to pay for salmon. 
Love salmon.

3.  Skiing.  We are in heaven.  There is a ski area just a few miles from our house - the perfect place for beginners, and a popular middle school gathering place.  Even better – Alyeska is just down the highway.  We can’t wait to go to the big resort to try out our new ski gear which we “are getting” for Christmas (we already took it for a test run).  I love skiing/snowboarding with my family.  My children (and husband) are fearless.  And downhill is not all.  We like cross-country skiing too.  We joined the Anchorage Junior Nordic League.  Three times a week, the younger kids get together with their friends and play in the snow.  (I tag along, wearing my yard sale skis, and learn a thing or too.)  They love cross-country skiing, even at -5 degrees F.  Bryce joined the South Anchorage High School cross-country ski team too.  He is a fast learner and is doing very well. 
In front of the Anchorage Alaska temple.

2.  The Temple.  I love to see the temple!  The Anchorage Alaska temple is just down the road.  (Learn more about temples here.)  We are so blessed.  This is the closest we have ever lived to a temple.  Our ward building is across the parking lot.  Bryce attends early morning seminary  (6 AM) there.  One of the greatest perks about having the temple near by is that our family near Fairbanks comes to visit us every month or so when they go on a temple trip!  The Pattersons, Greg and Sonya, live in North Pole, actually.  Greg (a doctor in the military) is my uncle but he is really only a couple of years older than I am, and we have lots of children the same age.  Did I mention he married my favorite baby sitter – Sonya Lundgren from Twin Falls, ID.  We set them up!  (Yes!  Success!)  It is so nice to have them visit.  Sadly, there are rumors they are moving to Timbuktu in the summer, (sniffle) just like my cousin Bethany and her family, who moved from Anchorage to Japan last summer.  We miss them. 
While we were in North Pole, Alaska, we decided to drop in and see the big man himself.  Caleb, Sarah, and Abby with their cousins from North Pole. 

1.   White Christmas, guaranteed!  Last year, Anchorage received a record 11 feet of snow!   This year, there won’t be that much, but the trees are still flocked, and there is fluffy stuff in my yard.  I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. . . ( cue Bing Crosby.)

Riding the tram up Alyeska last summer.

And, dear friends and family, we wish you a Merry Christmas too! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nature Tour Seward

The DaBells came and visited us this last week.  One of the highlights was going to the temple with them.  It was a great experience and fun to go with them.  The Anchorage temple is small but it is fun to see people that you know there.   The other highlight was our trip to Seward.  We went to see Exit Glacier and then take a wildlife cruise.  It was incredible.  We saw animals from the first moment we left the harbor.  We saw bald eagles, otters, seals, whales, mountain goats, and tons of see birds.  We had a ranger on board and all the kids were able to complete their National Park Jr Ranger badges and were awarded them in a special ceremony by Ranger Rick.  It was an awesome day.  Perfect 70 degree weather and sunny the whole time.

At Exit Glacier just outside of Seward

Before boarding Star of the Northeast

Can you see seals on the rocks behind the girls?

Black bear pelt on C

A bunch of proud Jr Rangers can you see the badges?

One of 5+ whales we saw.  Awesome

Chillin' by an Orca
The only sad thing was that Bryce and Juli had gone to the North Slope the same day so they had their own adventure north of the Arctic Circle.


Alaska is a great place.  We have enjoyed the summer here though having two summers is not recommended for parental sanity.  The wild flowers are incredible.  The sunlight is invigorating.  Wild life is everywhere.  The fish taste incredible.  Everything here is bigger than Texas.  We have seen moose, black bears, brown bears, eagles, porcupines, caribou, arctic fox, tons of birds.  Juli and Bryce are headed to the North Slope Saturday to swim in the Arctic Ocean and see the oil fields way up there. It has been nice to have family nearby.  Bethany and Dwight Weist (who is in the air force) lived very close to us for our first 2 months.  We were sad to see them leave when they moved to Japan.  We are also close to Greg and Sonya Patterson in Fairbanks.  We have seen them every month.  It is so nice to be close to family again!  

We went to North Pole Alaska and we saw the pole.  The sister pole was dropped out of a plane over the pole.

A brown bear (grizzly bear) in our neighborhood
Abby at Santa's workshop.  This was one of his reindeer

Summer in Alaska is incredible.  When we came to look for a house in March, the snow was so deep that the roads were like canyons with snow piled up on the sides.  When we moved here in May, the snow was mostly gone.  The days warmed up and the snow just disappeared!  Spring exploded.  It is so green! And the wild flowers are gorgeous!

Coming back from Australia has been an exciting challenge.  I (Juli) spent the first three weeks walking to the wrong side of the car.  The other funny thing was that I kept thinking I saw geckos!  (Just for the record, we have not seen anything at all climbing up the walls of our house.)  I was so happy I almost cried the first time I went shopping at Costco.   I miss standing at the window by my kitchen sink, with the breeze blowing through.  I miss having all of the windows open in my house.  (It has only gotten over 70 degrees a couple times since we have been here, so we don't usually have the windows open.) We miss our friends in Australia most of all.  I miss hearing people speak with an aussie accent.  We watched a cheesy mermaid show made in Australia and I sat and enjoyed the whole thing, listening to the actors speak!

We had a great visit to our family in Idaho and Utah over the Fourth of July.  It is so much fun to be in the US for the Fourth!  I have to admit that I was happy to be down south for the fireworks!  It doesn't get dark in the summer in Anchorage, so fireworks are a bit anticlimactic.

Bryce has had a great summer, going to youth conference for church, then a high adventure scouting river rafting trip, and finally a week at the Alaska LDS scout encampment!  After being a "Lone Scouter" for three years,  scouting is finally fun!

Emily has made great friends and is serving in her Beehive class presidency.  She is such a helpful girl and has made many cakes and cookies.

Sarah has adjusted well and she spends most of her time outside playing.  It is light until 10 PM even now in August so many times they are out playing extremely late but they have so much fun and the other kids are out as well.

Abby is excited for school to start this week.  She has enjoyed piano lessons and is doing well reading. She still reads almost every night when she goes to sleep.  She also plays outside all the time and has made a fort that she loves to play in with Sarah and Caleb.

Caleb is also getting excited for school.  He has some great friends here and loves to play with the neighborhood kids outside.  I think he doesn't understand what shoes are for since he rarely uses them.  He and Abby ride their bikes constantly.

Juli and Bryce got to go to the North Slope of Alaska and get in the Arctic Ocean.  My company has a lotery for employees and I was able to send two guests to tour the facilities up there.  They had a great visit.  Bryce was most impressed with the camp with all you can eat EVERYTHING including donuts.

Shon got to go on a charter fishing trip and caught lots of fish.  The freezer is full already and we love to eat fresh and smoked salmon as well as halibut.

We all look forward to moving into our permanent home by the end of August.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I still call Australia home. . .

We are all packed up and ready to leave on a jet plane.  

We are going to bow out with an excerpt from the great Aussie poem, "My Country" by Dorothea Mackellar:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts . . .
and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty . . .

and her terror,
The wide brown land for me.  

It has been a wonderful 2 year 7 month holiday!  I am happy to go back to my home country, but Australia will always have a special place in my heart.

Coming soon:  Meet the Robinsons, Northern Lights Edition!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

We're moving. . .

Our days in Australia are limited.

It's April.  Autumn.  The temperature dipped below 22 C (70 F) this morning.  Students wore sweaters (jumpers) to school.  It made me laugh because I remembered a time when we lived in Nova Scotia and it got up to 50 degrees.  We all ran out in our swim suits to get some sun.

I know it will happen again, because we are moving.  Somewhere cold.

We are moving to Anchorage Alaska.

It's all a bit of a shock really, though I don't know why it should be.  From the time we arrived here, I knew we only had three years.  At first, it made it hard for me to make Brisbane home.  Why make friends if we are just going to have to move again?  Then I met really nice people, and I couldn't help making friends.  It is the same story wherever we have lived.  I start to lie to myself after a few months.  I tell myself that I am home.  This is the place I am from.  And then it's not a lie anymore and I am home.

It is hard for me to leave my home.

I'v decided it's ok to put down roots.  I'm a jade plant - a succulent.  Just pick the leaf off a jade plant and stick it in some soil.  A couple months later, it's a full fledged plant with a home of its own.  I am a succulent.  Uprooting is not so bad.  Wherever I go my roots will grow. We don't say goodbye, only see you later.

The last couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster.  We are so excited to go somewhere new, but it breaks my heart to see my children sad to leave their friends.  The older my children get, the harder it is for them.  Caleb doesn't seem to be sad at all.  The older children on the other hand. . . it breaks my heart to cause them so much pain.

But we had to move sooner or later, and in some ways, it is easier to move sooner, before Bryce starts high school in the US.

We have been very busy lately.

A month ago, we learned we were moving.

Three weeks ago, Shon and I left our family under the care of my brother Tom and his wife Lindsay so that we could fly to Alaska and look for a house.
Tom and Lindsay, and a koala.  They color coordinated!

Two weeks ago, we came home to Brisbane, and welcomed my sister Becki and her husband Jeremy and son Ethan to visit us! It was so much fun to have them visiting.  It was such a great excuse to ignore all of my packing responsibilities and be a tourist one last time.  (I'll post pictures another day.)

Three days ago, my family left.  And the work began.  The packers came today.  My house is a box city.  I don't know why it is so disconcerting to see everything in boxes.  The house feels empty.  It even has an echo.  Actually the acoustics are nice.  Sarah keeps singing.  She must like the acoustics too.

We are really going to miss it here. . .

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Still catching up. . .

Continuing on from our last episode, the Robinsons return Down Under.

We miss our cousins!

And friends.

After we returned from our trip to the US, Bryce took a shower and went straight to EFY at the University of Queensland.  Kids flew in from all over Australia.  They had such a great time!  I remember how fun it was to go when I was 14.  The dances were awesome!  I can only imagine how much more fun it is here.  Most of the kids here are the only members of the church in their schools.  (When I drop Bryce off at early morning seminary, it is a mishmash of colorful ties, blazers, tartan skirts, and shorts with knee socks - so many uniforms from different schools.)  Getting together with other youth who believe the same things you do - now that is just good fun!   Bryce came back more confident, and capable of articulating his beliefs.

When people ask me about the church in Australia, I tell them that if you meet active member of the church from down under, they deserve your respect:  they're not just good people, they are stalwart.  Everyone who continues to "keep the faith" here has made sacrifices - whether it be turning away from social drinking, saying no to friends who want to go "clubbing", not dating people who don't support your standards, giving up rugby or rowing (or marathon running!) or soccer because the games are all on Sunday, or wearing modest clothing even though it is way too hot.

It broke my heart the first year we were here and Sarah had to say no to 7 or 8 birthday parties in a row (never getting to go to a single party that year!) because they were all on Sunday.  There were a couple parties I thought might have been alright, but then that would just get confusing, having some be ok and some not, so we just decided to have a "no parties on Sunday" policy.  At first we used to just say, "sorry, we can't come," but I felt a bit rude, like I was hiding something, so I now tell people, thank you, we appreciate the kind invitation, but that we decided as a family that we wouldn't go to parties on Sunday because that is our Sabbath day.  Last month, Sarah's best friend's mother called to see if there was any way Sarah could come to a party on a Sunday.  When I said "not really" she said, well, we'll just have to plan the party on a Saturday then.  Sarah was so happy!  (By the way, it was an awesome party - a trip to Dream World - the Aussie equivalent to Disneyland!)  It has happened several times now, and not just with birthday parties - Emily's soccer party, Bryce's volleyball dinner, they all were changed from a Sunday to a Saturday because our children couldn't come.  People here really are so kind and thoughtful.

So. . . We got back from the US and had a couple weeks to kill getting ready for school.  It rained most of the time.  That doesn't stop us from swimming in our pool - if you're wet you might as well get wet, but it does stop us from visiting the beach.  The surf gets really crazy with all of the water pouring in from the streams and rivers.  We tried the Gold Coast one day and didn't last long after several kids got pulled out on a rip.  Watching the life guards drive out on their jet skis gave me a traumatic flash back to last year's rip experience.  So, with the rain, we spent a couple days exploring the museums down at the southbank.  (If you're ever in Brisbane, definitely check them out!)  Here are some cheesy pictures I took at the Gallery of Modern Art, using my phone.

This exhibit was called "We Miss You, Magic Land" and everything was made with sugar and icing and such!  A little too pastel for my taste, but the kids loved it.
  Everything in this exhibit had to do with spots.  I liked it.
(If you want to See Forever, you have to open your eyes, Caleb!)  

We loved the Obliteration room!  The kids were all given a sheet of spot stickers and told to stick them anywhere in the all white room.  Everything was white - a piano, computer, kitchen utensils and house plants!  By the time we saw it, there were more spots than white. 

More spots.  
And then, suddenly, school started.

Is that a missing tooth?!

Did I mention how much I love back to school shopping in Australia?  This year I had to buy a couple pairs of new shoes, some socks, a back pack, one $200 calculator, and heaps of stationery and books, which according to Australian tradition, must be covered in book covering material.  I am a pro at covering books.  Trust me, I have spent hours practicing. One big plus about having to wear shorts is that when your son grows 6 inches in one year, his shorts still fit!  Nothing else I bought him has lasted so long.  I am all for shorts and knee socks.

The house felt so empty when the kids went off to school, especially with the rain.  I turned on the TV, but that was just distracting, and I really did have a lot of work to do, especially with my washing machine broken.  (It took four weeks to get the right part installed, just this morning. Yeah, no more hauling the laundry to the laundromat!)  So, to give myself a little background noise, I started listening to pod casts.  I LOVE it!  My favorite right now is "Things You Missed in History Class" from howstuffworks.com.  I especially love ship wrecks, art history, music history, and historical medicine.

Just for the record, I actually really enjoy the laundromat.  I can get 8 loads washed in half an hour!  The problem is drying.  Here, most people use a clothes line, so the laundry place may have a dozen washers, but only 2 or 3 dryers; and my dryer wasn't broken, my washer was.  So, rather than sit around for hours and dry my laundry, I just hauled it all home.  The clothes line works great - when it isn't raining, or extremely humid, which it is, most of the time.  Using a clothes line in a rainy place makes for interesting social experiences.  The sun comes out and mums walking their children to school suddenly run off saying "I'm going to put my laundry out!"  It gives new meaning to the song "Today while the Sun Shines, work with a will. . ."  Some day, someone clever will invent a solar/wind powered clothes dryer (only $599!) which will become all the rage in California, where people are so environmentally conscious, and the rest of the world will laugh and point!

One of my favorite things about laundry is that I feel like I am working when I am really just waiting - and what better to do while waiting than read a book!  I have been eagerly waiting for this book:  Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale.  I love reading Shannon's blog.  She is so witty!  Several of my favorite books are hers:  Book of A Thousand Days, The Princess Academy, and of course, Rapunzel's Revenge, my most loaned book ever.  I finally just begged the school library to please get a copy so I could have mine back.  Sarah even went as Rapunzel for book week.

Rapunzel from "Rapunzel's Revenge" by Shannon Hale

 There is so much to look forward to right now.  My cousin, Jennifer Wolf, has a young adult novel coming out in April, Breaking Beautiful, which I can't wait to read.  Also, the movie of the Hunger Games.  I'm going to have to find my mockingjay pin again!

Ketchup. . . I mean tomato sauce

It's time to do a little ketchup, only we call it tomato (say tom-ah-to) sauce here.  Things have been very busy since the new school year started.  It will have to wait for another post though.

We had a fabulous trip home for Christmas.  We asked our children what their favorite part was, and they all agreed that playing with their cousins and friends was the highlight of our holiday.

We spent time in Los Angeles, Farmington New Mexico, Salt Lake City Utah, and Twin Falls Idaho.  

The week after Christmas, we had our Patterson Family Reunion at the Albion Campus Retreat.   It was awesome.  Growing up, we always drove past the Albion State Normal School on the way to Pomerelle ski area.  There is an old state college for teachers.  Built in 1901, it was used for decades to teach teachers, but has been completely vacant since the 60's.  I used to day dream about going inside the old buildings.  

Not only did we get to stay in the restored Miller Hall, we were given a tour of the other buildings, which are now used only at Halloween as a haunted house.  We explored the orchestra pit and dressing rooms under the stage in the theater.  The gym was pretty cool too.  I always feel bad seeing things in disrepair - especially something that used to be so beautiful.  But we had an awesome time exploring.  I think it would be a very scary haunted house!

The weather was unusually warm, but we still managed to have a great time skiing!  It was Caleb and Abby's first time.  They did great!  I think they are our first children to not cry their first time on the slopes.

When we weren't skiing, eating, or playing games in the rec room, we were in the hot tub!  The best part of course, was just being with family.

But, before we headed up to Idaho, we spent a week in Utah.

We had a special visitor.  Brother A was visiting from Arkansas!  It was so good to see him again.  I miss Brother A.

Me and Brother A.

Go BYU Basketball!

At Temple Square.  Can you tell Caleb was tired? 

Christmas Eve with Shon's grandparents.

 We got to see the Tabernacle Choir Christmas broadcast.  The choir was amazing.  Jane Seymore was a witty narrator.  Everything was great - especially the super nice college student who paid for our parking when I realized that I only had Australian cash!  I offered to get his number to pay him back and he wouldn't have it.  Merry Christmas to you too!  Living in Australia, I sometimes forget there are so many LDS members in the world.  To see so many people - including President Monson - in one room was overwhelming.
Sarah and I in the Conference Center.

It was so much fun to spend Christmas Eve with Shon's family.