Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Firecracker Babe

We finally got in for our 20 week ultrasound a little late-- and thankfully everyone is healthy and happy.  The baby is set to arrive on or around July 4.   We didn't find out gender so it will be a surprise.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Lovely Life, A Slow Life

Friends,  we are doing pretty well.   We have moments of greatness-- where routines are clicking, people are smiling and we are relishing in the quietness of this life.   However, at the end of the 7 day stretch of Matt working, it might not be the best time to write about the greatness.*

Tonight I am struck by ideas of convenience.  I have spent much of my working life thinking about how to create systems of organizing and logic to streamline a hectic existence.  I have always worked hard, enjoyed my profession and thought it possible to also have a family.  That meant making frequent accommodations for my time so that I could squeeze as much out of my day as possible.  I would schedule my day into 30 minute blocks (including my personal time) and was never far from my phone in case I got an email I missed while attending to the last 30 minute block.  I know for those of you who don't live like this-it's probably sounds silly to schedule in your family time but for us it worked for a long time.  That is- until James said I was his best nanny. . . . and then things probably should have changed.

Life is so different here that I am still reeling with how to approach this new life. **

I am still spending much of my free time dealing with items related to the transition.   There was so much paperwork and logistics related to this move that I am having a hard time relaxing into life here because the to-do list still looks so much like the one we had in Minnesota.   When I go to set up new things here, I find that the system of operation here somehow reminds me of traveling in Europe.   Many amenities*** are set up in a way that seems totally foreign to me but perfectly natural to people living in Ketchikan.    Here are some examples:

  • The water for our house is collected from the roof.  It is filtered but not well enough that people drink it-- just bath, brush teeth, do laundry with it.  Which means that purchasing water is now on our grocery list.  
  • I wanted to join the gym-- which is great, but the best way to do that is to find 10 friends and sign up together as a team.  Super convenient when you just moved to town. 
  • There is one utility company in town-- they pass along with your electric bill a tax for the garbage.  However, there isn't actually garbage collection automatically.  You can arrange that yourself for an additional charge but most people take their garbage directly to the landfill. We are having ours picked up but we need to drive it to a place where the truck can get it. . . and we have already learned the hard lesson of what 'nature' can do to garbage that is not super secured/sealed down.  Bears are hibernating but we are told that they will take your entire garbage can away.
  • They don't recycle at above landfill-- but there are two places to drop off your recyclables-- but they are different depending on what you recycle; cardboard and aluminum are at one site while glass is at another.
  • The house is heated by oil and fireplace. The second option is not really one. . . because the fireplace gets very hot and we have children with a muted sense of survival.  Oil it is!  (Different company provides this. . .) 
  • There is one road to and from town.  The school bus leaves town at 2:30 and stops every 100 yards to do a drop.  It's best to avoid going home during these times.
  • There is no postal delivery, instead we have a post-office with a PO box.  We have been checking mail a couple times a week. 
  • The basement floods-- it's built accordingly but our basement storage is decked out in rubbermaid for when there is a high tide. 
  • The driveway.  This deserves it's own post. Let's just say that I am getting my work-outs in even without the gym membership.  
I think more than anything I am realizing how many times I tapped into the convenience of things simply because they were such times savers and so darn. . . well, convenient.   Things take longer to do and my days are filled with herding kids, doing laundry, organizing meals and keeping the trains moving on time.  There is a lot more thought needed to get the necessary accomplished but I don't totally mind it.  What I find odd though is just how busy I feel despite the fact that I have so much less on my plate.  The deception might just be that the slow life isn't all that slow always.****  I don't know if I thought I would be staring off into the ocean and dusting off my zen practice but I haven't found a way to get there yet.

I do feel content in this little life-- taking things slower, enjoying the process more.   Mostly, except when I need to find 8 friends so that I can use a weight room.

*What I can say is that we are doing much better at the end of the week then we were at the beginning of the week!  We are stuck at the house right now as the driveway is too slick to drive up and down.  The kids all got to try school out at the end of the week so at least we got out a few days this week and got a feel for the new schedule.

** I still check my phone every 30 minutes to see if I got any pressing emails in the last few minutes.  It turns out the answer is almost always no.  Let me re-think- the answer is always no.  Old habits die hard.

***I must be tired because I misspelled that three times. . . anonomone, annnnnonononome, anemone Don't hurt yourself.

**** Part of this is self imposed.  I am purposely taking a longer path at times because that is what I want from this little life.  Book your travel now folks, the cafe is serving home made bread and has an ocean view.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Prenatal Yoga

I am trying to step aside here and there to take care of my physical needs--including the baby's.  I popped in a prenatal yoga video during nap time and spent the next sixty minutes breathing deeply, sending blessings to the baby, and negotiating, sharing, forfeiting space on my yoga mat.*

Breath with me. 

"Let go of the chatter of your mind" and your four year old. 

Downward Facing Puppy

Race Track

*But mom, we always share.  There's room for me right there! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

The New Routine

We are settling in.  Matt started work today and in some regards will have more responsibility during his shifts.  His shifts are 12 hour blocks for 7 days.  It's going to be great for him but it means that he will miss the waking hours of our kiddos for 50% of the time. . . . Which also means 7 straight days of parenting for me.   It's going to be all mom, all the time.  I am not sure if anyone thinks that's a good idea.

We have talked a bit around these parts on how to make this work for everyone. . . aka. how do I keep from going batshit crazy with 3 (and 1/2) little people in my custody without a break during during the week-- especially living as remotely as we do.   Matt is probably more concerned about this than I am. . .
Sing along.  Cute. . . but you can see everyone could use a little stimulation. .  .
Most of the time my kids are great- but it can be exhausting to be "on" with them for that many days in a row.  I am still relatively new to the stay at home game and so far my biggest challenge has been the endurance needed to get through the whole day with patience and humor.   I am usually a great mom* until about 4:00 but then the witching hour starts, blood sugar drops and my F-bomb usage skyrockets.  I'm human-- and thankfully the kids don't seem to notice my mutterances.

We have made some great strides in getting a game plan underway to add some structure during these weeks of solo parenting and I feel really good about it.  Really good in fact.

For starters-- we are putting James into a pre-school.  His IEP transferred up here without issues and he has been accepted into a public school as an early admission (he is slightly young for the program) but since he has a known disability they allow him to start early so that he gets the support he needs.  The new school schedule is pretty busy-- 4 hours every day.   It feels like a big step up from the three days week he did before but I think he's excited about it.**  I do think James needs the structure of school and although I may have opted for a 3x a week program-- I am willing to give it a go and see how it benefits him.

A few days a week we are also going to put the other two into a structured day care during the same hours James is at school.  I think this is going to be great for everyone as well. I think day care can bring some needed socialization for kids and really help their development.  Daisy is excited about her "school" and our little extrovert has been talking about going.  We really wanted our kids to bond while we are here but I don't want that to come at odds of their social life, health and development.

I am going to pick up a few hours of work during the time when the kids are in "school."   I will probably go into this at greater detail down the road but I am excited.  I am also thankful for some time to work out, meet people and do those crazy things that people without kids do.  . . you know, like have a conversation or pee with the door closed.   It's a bit of a luxury to have the little ones in school a few hours a week but I think it will make this whole experience much more gratifying for me and better for our overall family dynamic.  Happy wife, happy life.  Happy Mom. . . I don't know how to finish that.  But it's good, right?

We have made some great strides in the past couple days in terms of making a life for ourselves here. It feels like we are moving from a perspective of vacation to a permanent life here.

*James once said I was the best nanny.  A good catalyst for making a change. . . no?
**The school has a football field and a baseball diamond and my sports enthusiast is fired up.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cabin Fever

Like many of the rest of our friends in Minnesota and out east, we are feeling the effects of cabin fever.  We are snowed in!

It's still pretty warm (high 20's) but the snow coupled with the location of our house has made it too challenging to leave with our littles.   It's all good though, we parked one car at the top of the driveway* ** so that Matt could get to work.  Today he took a sled so that he can pull down the dog food that he bought yesterday.

It's a very different lifestyle and the snow has quickened the way we adapt to this way of life.  For example, we don't drink the tap water because it's collected rainwater from the roof.***  So to prepare for the eight inches or so that we got, we needed to run to town quick to buy ten gallons or so of water to get us through until the melt. Once you start buying water you quickly realize just how much you drink.  (I drink almost a gallon a day by myself. )

It's about a twenty-five minute drive to town from the house which meant that we should probably also get milk and the rest of the groceries needed for the meal plan.  Our little trip to town lead to a multi-hour excursion with multiple stops at the grocery store and Walmart.  Prices are higher for all foods-- most of our groceries are almost a dollar more depending on the staple so it does make sense to make multiple stops in order to hit the sales.  It's going to take a little more planning and a great deal more foresight to not make our life full of trips to and from town.

I have always been jealous of those of you with meal plans so any tips or tricks you want to share are welcome since it's not super easy to just pop over to the store to pick up a forgotten ingredient.  There is a little convenience store about eight minutes away but the prices are prohibitively expensive. . . but they sell Pyramid beer. . . . so trade-offs.****

It's a cool little life we are living; simple and rustic.  But for all the differences in convenience, you can't beat the view.

View from the living room.

One the way down the driveway.  I love the tracks in the hill marking the path.

View of the house from the beach.
* Steep, steep hill.  About a five minute walk.
**This is my new work out.  Walking up and down the hill.
****Looking forward to July!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Have you Ever Seen a Daisy Acting so Crazy?*

It's hard to believe another of our little ones is making that march from babyhood to childhood.

Daisy has been a little under-represented on this blog and that fact doesn't reflect our daily life in the least.   Daisy is our captain, our instigator, our clown, our fashionista and perhaps the most independent two year old I have met. Just ask her, she will tell you all about it.

Daisy has had an unbelievable year-- she started very much a baby finding her way.  She was a very quiet baby by most standards-- agreeable but serious.  One day that all changed and I think Matt and I are still in awe of this funny character we now live with. 

Daisy is a bit like living with an adult that is under three feet tall (albeit a very determined, confident adult who sometimes misunderstands complex thoughts.)  Her vocabulary is in full sentences but the variety is often limited to her frequent requests for Down by the Bay, Pink, Dora and Elmo.  She is our clear extrovert of the bunch and on a recent trip to a pizza place in Bozeman stopped at each table on the way to the car to say "Hi,  I have to leave now. Bye," all complete with her best parade wave.

Most of the time she is a joy with frequent pleases, thank you's, funny faces and plucky marches.  However, at the expense of being negative about my child I would be remiss if I didn't also point out to this determination and confidence can also reflect itself in some volatility.  Right or wrong, never in doubt.** ***

The resemblance between her pictures and my pictures at the same age is uncanny.  Several people have commented on Matt's "mini-me" in James and my "mini-me" in Deirdre.   That said, my mini-me is like looking into my own eyes and seeing a better vision of myself.   She is the more joyful, self-assured, fun and pragmatic Dana 2.0.  She can light up a room and engages strangers like they are old friends.  She leans into conversations expecting wit and entertainment and somehow people sense that challenge and raise their game. She has an attitude of competence and enthusiasm that will git 'r dun. She embodies a true joie de vivre. ****  In addition to other things, Deirdre may just have been put on this earth to teach me how to be a better me.

We are celebrating her birthday as a smaller family unit today-- aka: we will watch her video all day as she narrates for us the events of her life. Pop Pop, Deirdre, Jame, Sime, Happy, Sad, Dad.  I funny mommy.  I am missing our extended friends and family on the first of our 'holidays' but we are are doing our best to fill the day with decorations, favorite foods, Raffi and merriment.

Happy birthday not-so-baby girl.  I can't wait to see what next year brings for you.
Daisy Year 2:

Daisy Year 1 Video

*Down by the Bay. . . 
**For example, I said TUTU. TUTU.  TUUUUUTUUUU!!
***She is a little loosey goosey on authority.  Often walking away when we put her in time out or call her out. Often she will stare, give a side-ways smile and then slowly march away from the issue she just created.  Matt calls the smile the "fuck you face."  I am secretly squirreling away money for our future legal fees for the inevitable brush with the law.
****I am also really looking forward to conversations with her as she gets older.She is clearly an older soul than I am. When is it appropriate to invite her to coffee for an informational interview and ask her mentoring advice on interpersonal issues and my career?  I'm thinking 4? 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Journey

Matt already wrote a bit about our journey to Ketchikan but I thought I would take some time on this lazy Sunday morning to show some pictures of our trip and arrival at our new home.  We are getting close to settled and once we do I will post a little more about what life is like out in the sticks.  (We are less than two miles from the end of the road.)  It's almost funny because we are at the end of the road but really hoping that it is just the start of an incredible family journey. 

The kids are doing okay-ish.  We are seeing some incredible moments between the three of them-- Simon is shining in a way that we haven't seen yet, James is really growing into his big brother role and Daisy is doing her best to show how much of a big girl she is.   We have seen some really beautiful interactions between the three that at least for me make me think this journey was already worthwhile.    However, it isn't without struggles- the kids at times seem a little unsure and we are having more breakdowns than usual as they learn to navigate each other and having us around all the time. 

The Journey from Mid to West:
F in the hill. . . . God says yes?

Time to get out of the car
I agree

Me three

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Tiger And a Blue Jay

Daisy has recently started going nakey at night. Here is a day in the life as Matt brings down our little streaker for the second jammie time. (Not potty-trained)....

Friday, February 7, 2014

Team USA

We are getting settled and will hopefully have some pictures and the whatnot shortly-- but we are finally taking a break to watch a little Olympic action!  I am not a true sports fan (no surprise for many) but for some reason once every two years I get fired up about watching curling, fencing or whatever NBC thinks I will find interesting. 

Yesterday while sitting on the couch during team ice skating James said to me:

"Mom, I love you.  But. I like football, baseball and basketball."
"Do you like ice skating?"
"Not really."  As he snuggles in.

If you choose, you will make one hell of a husband some day, kid.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Day 1

--Matt Here--

We arrived into port at Ketchikan at 7:30, raring to go.  After some breakfast (James had the waffle wrapped sausage – not surprisingly a hit as it lies somewhere between state fair cuisine and instant atherosclerosis) we picked up the keys and finally made it to “the cabin”.  The rest of today’s details are somewhat irrelevant.  Mostly picking up essentials at the store and unpacking what we had with us.  We also went to a local pizza parlor / gas station and caught the first half of the Super Bowl.  The pizza was much better than the game, but I will let you decide where the praise/blame lies on that one.  For what its worth, James and Daisy are now Seahawks fans, not that they had any idea who won. One thing that takes a little getting used to is the timing of things.   For instance, the game started at 2:30 Alaskan time.  Thus, we were home before 5pm and ready for bed by 6.  At least I should say we were ready for the kids to be in bed by then.  They had other thoughts at the time.

Along those lines, the kids remain a little discombobulated from the frequent changes and new locations.  Simon has probably handled it the best, and is as cute as ever. I cannot wait for some more bandwidth to enjoy him more.  James is probably the most emotional with it all, which is understandable, as he has really been looking forward to this.  He may also benefit from some good sleep and settling in some.  Daisy flat out stunk today.  The terrible twos have deserved their moniker.  When she is pleasant, she lights up the room with her radiant personality.  But she is more interested in pushing envelopes and buttons.  One can only hope that the magnitude of this phase (I would be surprised if she wasn’t always a little sassy) will recede soon.  Fortunately, we remain at least a little bit in charge and all are asleep now.

The house itself is pretty great.  It remains relatively empty apart from our madness, and retains that echo of a move.   The owners sold us a couple of beds, and so we are camping out tonight.  Kind of a fun memory now that the house is quiet once more.

For those who do not know, we lucked and found a beautiful place right on the water (it lies on a passage north of the town).  I can see just hanging out looking out the window, staring at the boats going by and waiting for wildlife to show up.  James and I went fishing for the first time, by which we took out his Fisher Price rod and walked to the water’s edge.  We didn’t have any luck with the fish (may try a hook or bait next time), but we did catch a glimpse of two sea lions about 50 yards off shore doing some angling of their own.  James may never remember the sight and they were too far for any worthwhile photo, but moments like those are an affirmation of why we undertook this insanity in the first place and a memory that I will cherish for a long time.

Tomorrow is another big day.  Dia del Stuff.  Our remaining possessions (at least those that made the cut) are currently packed in the shipping container at the top of the driveway.  The path from the road to the house is insanely steep and winding.  As such, we have enlisted the help of a moving service who knows the place to get our belongings down safely and into the house.  It will be curious to see what the place looks like with our furniture.  Oh the joys of moving

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

On the Road

--Guest Blog by Matt on our travel to Ketchikan.  We are landed now and are back on the grid!  More posts to follow hopefully, this one was written mid travel.--

Hello.  Matt here. At this point, I suppose I am just a “guest” writer on the blog, but
we are both hoping to  post more during our time in Alaska. And maybe two writers means more info.  At the time of this writing (not so much posting, as there is no internet on the ferry) we are set to finish our journey in 12 short hours and arrive in Ketchikan in the morning.   Just wanted to get a couple thoughts in before arriving, as much has passed and even more will change with the rising of the sun.

In retrospect, the trip has been as good as one could hope for a six day, 3,000 mile (very rough estimate – to the point of being made up) journey in the middle of winter for a pregnant woman, her three children four and under, and her husband who had just come off 14 days of work.  Seemed like a good idea at the time, eh?  We left the Twin Cities last Monday evening after I finished work (which was mercifully quiet for the first time in a fortnight).   Temperatures were hovering around -15 or so when we set off at about 6pm.  They showed no improvement as we sprinted the sleeping children out of the car at a Days Inn a couple hours west of Fargo.  There are a lot of things that could be said about Jamestown, ND in late January, but “cold, flat, desolate” seem to sum it up for me.

After a short siesta, we were back in the car and headed West to warmer pastures.  We had planned on stopping in Bozeman the next night, but a poor forecast prompted us to continue on to Missoula.  This appeared to be the correct call, as anywhere from 6-12 inches of snow came down as we headed out the next morning through the mountains of western Montana.  Road conditions were suboptimal but not yet treacherous, and Wednesday was a shorter day to Spokane. There we stayed the night with Jason, Emmy, and their wonderful family.  Their son, Simeon, spent the better part of his life in Ethiopia with Simon prior to their mutual adoptions and eerily similar name changes.  We had the pleasure of getting to know Jason and Emmy on both of our trips there, and love them to pieces.  Just wonderful, welcoming people, and a night in their home was a great chapter to this trip.

The following day took us from Spokane to Seattle, where we spent the evening with my brother and his family.  All too short a visit with them, but the kids had a blast and we were able to catch up on life at least a little.  Glad to have them in the neighborhood (Seattle is a 1.5 hour flight from Ketchikan). 

Yesterday, we made the final road portion of this trip and hopped on the ferry from which I write.  It is part of the Alaskan Marine Highway, which runs from Bellingham, Washington to . . . well . . . really far away (I am not sure exactly how far down the Aleutian islands it goes, but anywhere there is far enough in my book).  Ketchikan, by contrast is the first stop.  A mere 37 hours later.  Out path follows the Alaskan cruise ship lines through the inner passage and the scenery is immaculate.  The ship itself may not be so valued, but it is indeed functional.  We have more room in our birth than expected, and the kids are enjoying running down the halls to the play room.  Still, I think all of the travel is catching  up with us all, as they are getting testier and our patience grows less by the day.  We spend more time in our room than expected for these reasons, as well as helping other travelers enjoy their own rides.  Still, the Alaskan Marine Highway is a fascinating experience, and I highly recommend it to those keener on experience than comfort (if you are the latter, you may want to check out Carnival or one of their competitors).  The ship is just fine, but in addition to the scenery, the real charm is the clientele.  Great stories are evident, and if we were more extroverted and not so consumed with our own sanity, I would love to find out more about what makes the folks sleeping outside on the upper deck tick.  Or the old guy adorned navy gear (although I believe one only needs to sit by him for a half hour to hear it, the guy can chat like nobody’s business).  As it is, we are like many on this boat, on board because we are on a journey of one sort or another.

Which leads us to tomorrow.  Oh tomorrow.  While the travel is always exciting and full of wonder, the real adventure begins when we disembark and find ourselves with “well, we’re here.  Now what?”.