THE VISITOR SEASON has arrived! Cruise ships now tied up to the docks daily in our downtown area. The skies overhead are often filled with the varied sounds of aircraft taking guests on once-in-a-lifetime adventures in our backyard. It is difficult to be in any area of our town without seeing some effects of the many visitors to our community. My first summer in Alaska and many more were made possible by the strong visitor economy that exists in this state. My partner also spent many years in the guests and hospitality economy that supported our way of life. For these strong connections to our history the summer visitor season is a time of year that we appreciate.
Just hangin' out on Mendenhall Glacier...
Our oldest son has had exposure to cruise ships since the first months of his life and he prefers to call them “rocket ships.” Although we have had many frustrations with many of the visitors that we have experienced over the years we never cast them in a negative "ugh tourists" light to our boys. For the most part we have many reasons to enjoy and celebrate the visitor industry that affects so many Alaskans in various ways.
Here are 4 reasons to appreciate and welcome visitors to our state.
1. Economic boost. Visitors are renewable resources that leave money in our state supporting local businesses, families, and municipality sales tax.
2. Unique seasonal opportunities. There are restaurants, visitor centers, and tours that are only available during the visitor season that our family can enjoy as well. Many of these opportunities would not be possible and/or affordable for our family without the tourism infrastructure.
3. Reminder of privilege. Every guest that I see in our community reminds me how much people seek Alaska’s grandeur, beauty, and uniqueness. I use this as a reminder of how privileged we are to be able to call this state home and truly experience what this state has to offer.
4. Showing our best. There are many misconceptions about Alaskans. I value the exercise and investment that many people undertake to journey to the state. I know their experiences can give them a better perspective of who we are and what we value.
Visiting the hatchery in Juneau
We are a family that prioritizes travel and new experiences. We strive to treat the visitors to our community with the friendliness and respect that we hope to find when we leave the comforts of the 49th state. Perspective and comparisons for us are valuable along with the experience of travel itself.
Today we set-out for the lower 48 in the quest for warm sunshine and some quality family time together! We hope to be welcomed and appreciated as visitors in another state.
THE EXPERIENCE OF fatherhood has opened my eyes to the breadth and intricacies that is motherhood. As a father I have seen the transformation of my partner from a human who lived life within specific parameters in to a selfless human who cares for others. With this experience I have also gained more insight into my own mother and why she is the way she is.
The biology of a mother and child is a true force of nature! The intensity in the eyes of my partner when she saw our boys for the first time was strong and unwavering. Yes these humans had been a part of her for nine-month terms but for me this connection was difficult to corral and what it all meant. In those first brief moments I began to learn about the intense connection of mother and child. Experiencing this biological connection from the beginning of time outside of the womb to now has been experience like no other in my life. This is one of the strongest bonds in our species!
Since I have known her, my partner has always been dedicated to ideas, goals and the projects in her life. Motherhood has created an intense dedication that is truly something new. Being ready and willing to meet our children’s needs from early evenings that turned into late nights that lead to early mornings are not beyond her mother powers. Immediately she displayed this dedication. There have been many moments and days where I do not know where she finds the energy to be upbeat, positive, providing what our boys need.
Motherhood has brought a fierce protection to our offspring that I did not know was possible. Early on in our first son’s life some interactions we had led to her new moniker: Momma Bear. At the time I saw this fierceness of protection as a negative but now I see it as part of the biology of motherhood and find it as an endearing quality. I still refer to her as Momma Bear daily and it now feels more positive than in those first days of my ignorance.
Momma Bear with her cubs at the beach
Seeing the bonds between my partner and our children has provided me with more patience and understanding to my relationship with my own mother. I now know that moments that I might have been annoyed or frustrated with my mother with her check-ins and constant concern are the powers of this bond that she began to establish with me when I was born. This perspective has made me a more appreciative as her son of 36 years, experiencing her patience and selfless dedication to my life and wellbeing.
Mothers are truly amazing. This is not the first time I have stated this in my life. With another year of experience and with another child in our family my experience and observation of the power of motherhood is beyond the confines of words. Thank you to every mother for all that you are to the world and more importantly your children! I am thankful to you mom and Momma Bear for being such dedicated and inspiring mothers.
Happy Mother’s day to you, every day.
I AM MAXED or stressed in almost every aspect of my life! Deadlines are arriving and staring me down only to be followed with another deadline. My workload is heavy and my volunteerism commitments are expanding and demanding more attention. My partner’s workload is just as heavy as mine which only adds to the intensity of our lives. Our weekend activities are robust and provide no reprieve although they do provide some good family time. Our family vacation is just two weeks away and I know it will come soon because I have lists of things to do every day between now and then.
A weekend stroll to manage some stress
Added to the mix of controlled madness we have had two visits by good friends. We made time in the schedule of our lives because these are friendships with longevity that have remained strong throughout the different stages of our lives. No matter how busy and spent I am prioritizing friendships is a close second to prioritizing my family. The brief moments together also provided perspective, escape and a short reprieve from our lists and Must-Dos.
A visiting friend lends a hand with the bedtime routine
Our family routine is what is keeping me grounded in these frantic days before we have the gift of 2 ½ weeks of time together. Our boys thrive and often demand adherence to a routine. Yes we are flexible and make changes, additions, and exceptions to the routine but maintain a framework that they are accustomed to. Our youngest son, now almost 9-months, seems to be the most sensitive to the routine and he is still painfully teething.
The push to make the most out of good weather has thankfully excused itself with the return of Southeast moisture. I always prefer sunshine but this change in weather has made me less frantic to accomplish a list of things to do outside.
If it's raining in Juneau, get wet inside!
It is now humorous and ironic that in my first years of fatherhood I felt like the family demand and schedule were a hindrance and now it is my haven. A normal night at home with dog walk, dinner, some play time, and bathing is providing a necessary buffer between my alarm demanding attention and the wheels of the day rolling the moments my feet touch the floor. And always in the forefront of my brain is the thought to whether or not our sons are getting the attention that they need and deserve. If they are not in this brief period of heightened demands I know they will on our time OUT as a family.
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can!
I AM PROUD of my memory. Forgetfulness is something that I have always thought was a liability, but then parenthood happened and I now understand what a useful coping mechanism forgetting could be. Our family is in the teething-phase 2.0 and I am quickly remembering similar experiences that I had forgotten. But the fact that I forgot it once before makes me hopeful that I’ll forget it once again.
It truly amazed me how quickly my partner forgot most of the discomfort and inconveniences of pregnancy not long after our first son entered the world. She and I both remember some of moments and struggles with six-months of postpartum but we forgot about its true intensity until we relived it with another child. I forgot about the true discomfort of being sprayed with urine, catching feces escaping the catchment area or being enveloped in projectile vomit until frequent costume changes were again a common occurrence of our days. All bodily fluid-related incidences that I was happy to forget!
Projectile vomit - who me?!
This recent experience with cutting first teeth has been a reminder of some sleepless nights and endless screams of our first son’s experience. It was uncomfortable when it happened and I forgot about most of the hours lost to sleep until we are all now losing sleep again.
It is now my firm belief that forgetting many of the struggles of parenting accounts for why humans reproduce and why some humans want to do it multiple times. Has my forgetfulness been newly enhanced with parenthood? Is it possible that there are just too many good memories and positive feelings about our offspring that I do not have the capacity to remember all of the negatives?
Like grains of sand on a beach, so too do the memories of the difficult times wash away...
I don’t know the answer to these questions but maybe I will discover better answers as parenthood progresses. What I do know is that when I think about our sons I think about their cute faces and their soft, fresh skin. I think about the sounds of their voices and the instant warmth their laughs create inside me. I think about their hugs and cuddles. I think about their accomplishments and how they amaze me. I think about my goals for them to be always safe, successful, and happy. I think about how I would do anything for them and how dedicated I am to their healthy growth and development. Yes, I am forgetting about so many of the challenges that I have had with being a parent, but now I see that forgetting is an asset.
Here's a not unpleasant reminder: you can keep up with Steve and his bunch over at his personal blog, AKDad.com.
OUR CHILDREN CONTINUE to show me how amazing all children are. They also continue to make me more sensitive to children’s issues and youth stories of success.
Thanks to NPR and my local radio station KTOO I recently heard a feel-good story about Caine, the 9 year-old with imagination, a can-do attitude and a cardboard arcade that’s gone viral in the last week. I was happy to hear an uplifting story, which can be rare in the media world driven by negativity and sensationalism. This story gave me warm fuzzy feelings but did not prepare me for the ten-minute movie that it introduced.
Halfway through this short video my eyes were fully pooled and by the time the credits rolled, more tears were flowing down the path of previous tears.
This inspiring nine-year-old boy has imagination, passion, and creativity to create what he enjoys. And beyond Caine, the primary subject of the film, there are so many others involved that make this story amazing, too.
I want to know more about Caine’s father George. He says that the cardboard arcade keeps Caine “out of his hair” but his influence is clear. I can see pride in his face when he talks about this son. I am sure that Caine’s father purchased the shirt that Caine designed for his arcade continuing to encourage his endeavor as a young entrepreneur. He is shown checking in with his son and his fledgling enterprise. Good work George. You deserve some credit for Caine’s success.
This sensation would not have happened without the good hearted efforts of Nirvan Mullick. He is the filmmaker who literally stumbles into Caine’s world and thrusts the story of Caine and his arcade out into the You Tube universe. Nirvan deserves credit for his recognition and an appreciation for the creations of this kid. Nirvan’s ideas and positive efforts have undoubtedly changed the trajectory of this boy’s life.
The final credit belongs to the 2.5 million plus people who have viewed this film and donated to the scholarship fund to send Caine to college. To date over 150K has been donated to the scholarship fund to send Caine to college! Additionally the support has been so overwhelming that a foundation for other creative children like Caine has been created in his name.
Yes this story is unique and Caine is special, but so are all children! I am in constant amazement of my own children and their growth and accomplishments. They have fully opened my eyes to how amazing all children are. This story is a good reminder to be supportive of the future endeavors and ideas they have. At the same time this shows how much of a difference I can make in the lives of other children around me by noticing, encouraging and promoting their efforts as well.
ABOUT THIS TIME, four years ago, my partner and I were holed up in a hotel room waiting to meet our first offspring. We were excited and uncertain about this next stage of our lives. Parenthood. The car seat was installed in the car, our birthing comfort supplies were staged; we were ready to move at a contraction’s notice.
Our son was born at 3:07 pm April 14th. After ten active pushes this hot, wet, crying, beautiful boy arrived in my waiting hands! It was the best Monday of my life.
I have known for most of my adult life that I wanted to bring a child into the world. There was nothing to prepare me for the power of another human that was partially made of me and my partner. There is no collection of words that can describe my feelings, love, connection and adoration for this human, all of which I felt immediately. When he arrived into the world he was perfect and he completed my existence.
Four and counting!
Since these first moments of his life our firstborn continues to daily entwine his existence into my life and being. The sound of his voice brings warmth to my heart and his laughter is infectious. His humor is complex and enjoyable. His thoughtfulness, concern and sensitivity seem unreal for a being that is this young. At night his laughter in his sleep or a simple yawn is my comfort that he is still here.
Watching our son I see attributes of myself in his mannerisms and thankfully not too many of them are the negative ones I possess. His wit, sense of humor and sideways glances are similar to mine. I also see aspects of his mother in his personality. They both enjoy order and can be stubborn; he is sensitive and kind like her as well. Yes there are similarities between him and his parents but this being is undeniably his own person.
Happy birthday boy
It has now been four years since this human has been a daily part of my life. This period of time has not been challenge free but it is amazing how quickly I have forgotten many of the negative moments after learning from them.
Birthdays are events that are markers in lives. We will celebrate our son’s fourth birthday with his friends and our family. We will remember how his first moments of life firmly connected him to us and how this connection is strengthened daily. I also celebrate every day of his life as an enhancement to my own.
Happy fourth birthday son! You are an amazing being and I feel fortunate and blessed to be one of your guides on your journey.
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE of living in Alaska was in a community with a population of less than 1,000 people. Living there for ten years taught me many new lessons and reinforced many of the priorities that I already had in my life. The importance and power of volunteerism was one such reinforcement that occurred during this period of my life.
I volunteered at the school, with the local chapter of Alaska Travels Industry, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and at many other community organizations and events. I could see the positive effects of my volunteerism. These experiences made me feel good and more invested in the community.
Tiny bowler for kids sake...
The opportunities to volunteer were endless, overwhelming, and at times demanding. One of the first opportunities for volunteerism I participated in was the building of a café business. This led to a job opportunity at this café and 5 years later it led me to my life-long partner.
Teaching our boys the importance of volunteerism and advocacy is a priority for my partner and me. At the ages of four years and eight months this is a challenge. Our working approach to impart values and priorities to our boys is to just do it - and as a family - when we can. We know that they will only absorb a portion of the value but we think that it is important to start these experiences now.
Knocking 'em down with dad...
This weekend our family is teaming up with another family to Bowl-For-Kid’s-Sake, which benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. Big Brothers Big Sisters provides positive and safe adult mentors to youth in many communities around Alaska. Our family believes strongly in this mission and we contribute in a variety of different ways. My partner, our son and I have all solicited donations for our team. At our son’s daycare we provided a pledge sheet for parents and emailed parents of his classmates to tell them about our team and our son’s involvement. This week our son and I toured my workplace together talking with co-workers about the Big Brothers Big Sisters mission and soliciting donations for our team. He was very tentative about the activity at first but warmed-up very quickly. Plus, the guilt of disappointing such a cute kid by not pledging was a powerful motivator!
Our son understands that our team is raising money so children can have special and meaningful friends in their life. I know he does not fully understand what we are doing but I feel like we are off to a good start to imparting a spirit of giving, volunteerism, and advocacy.
I FALL IN love with Alaska every time I am flying over, seeing it from above. So too do I fall in love all over again with my family every time there is distance between us. This week a work trip has provided the opportunity for both scenarios to happen.
There is no replacement for traveling in the sky above the 49th state. My flights that took me from Southeast to the Interior were surrounded by clear visibility of the landscape for the entire journey. During this season in Alaska the mountains covered with snow look like giant piles of powdered sugar stabbing at the sky. The river beds are ribbons and bands of endless and contiguous white. The glacier ice is hidden but small shades of blue still show-through randomly. The sun is still low enough on the horizon for the mountains to cast deep and dark shadows on the valleys below. Hundreds of peaks dot the horizon in every direction. Although I have been flying around the state for 13 years I could not help but take a break from my reading material and gaze at the awesomeness and grandeur of the state I call home.
I feel like I am missing something and slightly alone just hours after saying my goodbyes to my partner and our boys for this short, three day work trip. Getting some distance between myself and my family allows me time to reflect and to process all that happens day-to-day in our lives and its integral part of my life experience. Space also allows me time to think about what my partner and our sons mean to me and how much they have enhanced my life.
Viewing family life from afar, I can now see many of the peaks that we enjoy together. There is love and care for one another that manifests itself in so many ways: hugs, cuddles, smiles, giggles, coos. Thinking about my son now getting himself dressed seems like such a grand accomplishment from this distance. This mundane task thatonce was such a battle is now testament to how much he has changed and grown in just four short years. There is the immediate smile of our youngest when he sees me in the room that I adore and miss. This is testament to the bond we share after just eight short months. There is the love, compassion and care that my partner exudes towards our sons and I feel very fortunate to have a front row seat to watch it happen. My parents becoming such an active part of our family and daily family life is another facet that I can appreciate even more with a little distance. These are only small instances and thoughts that fill my head in this brief time for reflection.
Just like the landscape of Alaska I know that there are valleys in the landscape of my life and our lives as a family. When they occur they can be challenging, overwhelming, and endless. Fortunately I can see where these valleys ended. Even more importantly there are always the peaks that tower above that are so much more noticeable and awesome with a little distance.
DOES OUR FAMILY have spring fever? HA! We are beyond the fever - we have spring FRENZY!
On the weekends the milder weather of early spring is pushing us out of our home haven with a sense of urgency. When the workdays and school days are finished the extended light pulls us out of our buildings and vehicles, daring us to bask in the sunlight or inhale many moments of fresh cool air before returning inside.
Southeast Alaska has a well-deserved reputation for inclement and inconsistent weather. With temperatures in Interior and Western Alaska still entrenched in the negative regions and the Southcentral lows flirting with the negatives makes high temperatures in the low 40’s here feel decadent! During this season of the year I have a spring in my step with even more Southeast Alaskan pride.
“Look Daddy it’s sunny out!” has been a phrase that has been uttered with more frequency in my son’s recognitions of the weather around us. Our 3 ½-year old does not need a doctor or nurse to tell him the importance of vitamin D. He has just completed his fourth Alaskan winter and he can feel it. Although his vocabulary is diverse he cannot fully describe what he is feeling, but it is obvious. The difference of light and temperatures in his body is making him more active and chipper. He is embracing all of it with zest!
The past two weekends our ski outings have been accompanied by sun and warmth. So much so that I have felt some guilt for overdressing our young skier. What used to be hour-long trips to the beach and playground we frequent have now become two hours and beyond. Recently I caught a glimpse of our oldest on the playground with his peers, without snow pants. It made me smile. Our neighborhood playground is getting much more use and a slight mention of it is enough of a prod to get our son there. Grandma who just completed her first Alaska winter is more daring in taking our boys on outside adventures and her emails reach my inbox with titles such as: Isn’t this Sunshine Amazing? and What about this Sun?!
Our youngest son - who is more alert now than ever before - seems to be at peace in the outdoors taking in the seasonal changes. We are all grateful that outdoor life is more comfortable for him in this season allowing for even more time outside as a family.
We are looking forward to more trails opening up with the melting of the snow, looking for skunk cabbages and other spring greenery. We also look forward to spring king salmon arriving in our waters and better access to other outdoor adventures. Until then we will just enjoy being comfortable outside and basking in the light of spring.
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE with organized faith happened within my first weeks out of the womb. My family was anchored by the beliefs of my parents and the Bible church we attended religiously every Sunday morning and evening for a total of three hours. My brother and I went to a weekly Bible club, a church youth group weekly when we were older; Vacation Bible School was a staple to our summer schedule and we occasionally attended church camp.
For the first seven years of my educational experience I attended a small Christian school. Most of my education was surrounded by the teachings of the Bible and life lessons rooted in interpretations of its teachings. When I reached high school I started attending a Catholic school. I will never forget the feeling of liberation making this transition. Catholic school felt like I was no longer surrounded by the strictness and constraints of the past seven years of school. Yes, there was a mandatory religion class that had to be taken and I felt like I could have taught my own at this juncture in my life. I was very relieved that many of my other classes were centered on a subject matter with no mention of faith or the Bible.
Close to my 17th birthday my father informed me that I now had the option of attending Sunday service with the family. At this point this was the only staple of church in my weekly life. I wish I had said, “I will be sleeping-in next Sunday.” I cannot remember my exact words but this is how I felt.
Atlas goes to church with an uncle
This Jesus-centered environment came along with strict living at home. We didn’t have television, instead religious radio was a staple in the rhythm of our daily lives. Moody Bible Institute was a household name and Pastor James Dobson’s voice still reminds me of evenings beginning the daily bedtime routine. Every book or music cassette that came into the house had to meet the approval of my parents. “Secular music” was not allowed but bootlegged tapes from friends did make it to my Walkman.
Moving into early adulthood attending church became less of a consideration for me. Occasionally I would attend with my parents when home from college because I knew how much it meant to them and I knew that this was an avenue to show-off their offspring to their community. Because of my extensive experience in the surroundings there is always a level of familiarity in church. But there is also a level of apprehension that occurs in me – it’s a byproduct of the constraints that ruled my life for so long.
In my early 20’s I did harbor some small level of resentment towards the vacuum of life in which I was raised. I felt like I had missed out on other life experiences and options that so many of my counterparts had gotten to experience. I also felt like I had no comparison and very little exposure to other faiths. Becoming a parent has tempered these feelings.
My faith-based upbringing taught me respect, honesty, humility, charity and volunteerism. My parents are the best living testimony of faith in my life! In becoming a parent I understand that focus and parameters are important and I see that my parents’ faith aided them accomplishing this. Sometimes I feel like I lack focus and direction in how I live my life and guide the life of our boys. I can now see how this faith and Biblical basis of values provided this guide for my parents when I was a child. I have no intentions to raise our children in a similar vein, but I am grateful that Grandma and Grandpa are alive and very involved to provide another outlook on life.
Steve SueWing lives in Juneau, Alaska with his partner, Susan, and two young sons, Meade and Atlas. He regularly posts to his personal daddy blog AkDad.com where he discussed everything from football to ski lessons to dealing with poop.