Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Beautiful Night

It’s so cold the snow sounds hollow under my feet. I’d just spent 40 minutes sitting in front of our heater trying to get warm and was all ready to go to bed, when I heard the intake valve of our heater crying which means it needs to be cleared of snow (from the outside). Exclaiming a hearty, “Crapola”, I donned my boots, jacket, hat and scarf and went out.

A block of snow was at the base of our stairs and as I kicked it, it clattered hollowly. It’s an amazingly empty sound. It’s beautiful out. The moon is high in the dark sky. Some planet is hanging out nearby the moon. Smoke from people’s houses is rising up and the cold seems to make the chrystalized snow on the edges of the houses even more sharp and beautiful.

I ran around the house, cleared out the intake valve which had a beard of frost around it and headed back for the front, stopping on the street to just look up and see and feel the night. But only for a moment. It’s cold. Though, I did think about how nice it would be to go out walking at night and almost toyed with the idea until I re-remembered that the ground is icy and I am tired.

It’s only minus thirty-five at the moment, but I heard it’s supposed to drop into the negative forties and pick up a wind making it a temp of minus seventy-eight or so with the wind chill. We had our coldest January ever I heard through the weather station. It certainly has been, with gas bills to boot, and it is getting a bit old. But then there are moments when you’re outside in it, and it’s really pretty wonderful – for a moment.


Filed under Life in Alaska

A Puzzle, A Song, and A Dance

February is almost here and I think I might set some goals for the month. Not so much goals, as intentions. That somehow seems less intimidating and more likely to happen.

January has been a good month. It’s been minus twenty and below most of the month so we’ve been inside a lot, but overall, it’s been okay. Our house has been relatively picked up. The kids have done some art projects. We’ve had friends over for dinner and some kids over to play. I’ve managed to blog almost every day. Our water runs and our heaters work.

But there are some things I’d like to do for February:

I’d like to do an adult puzzle on the table without having the kids climb up and pull pieces down.

I’d like to actually learn to play one (just one) kid’s song on the guitar or ukulele.

I’d like to take the kids to Eskimo dance on Sunday nights. (I have wanted to do this for a long time, but Sunday rolls around and our kids head to bed at seven and it’s far easier to stay inside, but I really MISS it and I think the kids would really LIKE it and I REALLY want them to have the music somewhere deep in their bones) – So this one will take real effort and intention.

Others intentions? Oh of course there are, but I figure I should just keep it simple for the moment.

Secret ones (this is where I start to get excited about all the things I could possibly do) include practicing ice hockey on the ice rink with a friend, writing an article, completing a sewing project, learning to play guitar and running a 5K – oh heck, make that a 10K (there’s no way that 5K or 10K thing are going to happen))

So this leaves me with The Things I wish to do before the new month arrives:

Fix the kitchen sink that is leaking out of control (and needs more attention than just a new washer)

Get our Christmas cards finished and out in the mail

Download my camera (and maybe, just maybe backup all the photos on my computer)

The three above items have been horribly neglected and could easily be neglected till March so somehow I have to light the fire of necessity and Make Them Happen. They can all happen. Oh shucks – I thought of two, no three other things I was going to do this weekend and didn’t. Crud.

And this is the nature of to-do lists and goals. So much to do and sometimes they just don’t get things done! Rueful smile as I continue to sit and not get up.


Filed under Life in Alaska, Life with Kids

Forty Five Times!

Forty-five times little girl has climbed out of her co-sleeper tonight. And 45 times I have immediately picked her up and put her back in. This is my little girl to a tee. She practices a skill till she gets it. She’s physically rugged. And she’s almost one and a half. She’s starting to test out the world in a new way and it includes more hugs and cuddles and books and helping out around the house, but also some tenacious sassiness. And tonight, she REALLY wants to go hop in bed with brother.

So I picked her up and plopped her back in the co-sleeper without saying a word, with little boy giggling in the background from his bed and gleefully chortling, “Sister, stay in your co-sleeper. It’s time to sleep. No playing games.” (His directions didn’t seem to do much good coupled with his giggles) – anyway, as I picked her up, these are the things I wondered:

What did Mr. and Mrs. Ingalls do in Little House on the Prairie? Their kids always seemed so good and they shared a bed, not just a room.

What do parents of multiples do?

What does Octomom do?

Are there other methods that work better?

What the heck are they going to be like as TEENagers?

If girl is ever trapped in the high reaches of some castle, she’s bound to successfully escape.

When will she tire out?

Perhaps I can count this as exercise for the day?

She definitely knows how to get out of the co-sleeper on her own.

Sixty-seven times? Really? (She continued to climb out, though not as steadily during the writing of this post)

Oh my sweet little girl – go to sleep. And my little boy, “Shhhhhh”. He has not stopped talking. This is a snippet from him, “On the banks of New Orleans, turtle and (mumble) cross the river and the loser (mumble) and the winner take the (mumble).” Right now he is talking on and on about purple suits and keys and money and her dress and her jacket and her socks and her shoes and her boots and her glasses. I have NO IDEA what he is talking about.

I rather love it. Except that I am a little weary of this extended bedtime tonight. I think it would be okay if I didn’t fear that it will be like this every night. But yet I know it won’t. Somehow Mr. and Mrs. Ingalls got their girls to go to bed every night with just a, “Girls, that’s enough talking now” and I like to think that they did it similarly to us. But did they?

Did their little girls climb out of bed sixty-seven times?

(silence. quiet whispers from boy. humidifier bubbling. keyboard clicking. silence. shaking my head quietly – how they go from AHHHHH to zzzzzzzzz so quickly is amazing – absolutely amazing!)


Filed under Life with Kids

The Movie I Should Have Walked Out On (Writing Prompt NaBloPoMo)

I remember my mom coming into my room and sitting on my bed after she and my dad went out to a movie. My mom would tell me the story and I’d listen intently. As I grew up, I discovered that my mom and I shared the same taste in films. If she liked it, I was sure to.

Fast forward to my late twenties…I had moved to Alaska, but had just been trekking around the road system camping out for a month. It was summer but it was a rainy cold day and I didn’t want to be in the tent and I was near Anchorage so I talked to my mom and she told me about a movie she recently saw that she really enjoyed.

It was something about a man whose wife flies out of town for a business meeting and the plane crashes and as he learns more about the crash, he discovers that she had a secret life.

Secret Life. What does that say to you? To me, it meant she was some kind of international spy. Or something very Bourne Identity, MI2 kinda stuff.

I went to the theater, bought my popcorn, snuggled into my seat and was all eyes and ears for my great action intrigue couple of hours.

I watched the woman in the film board the plane and I wondered about the man shadowing her. Was she about to be assassinated?

No no no no no. Nothing happened. Really. Nothing. It turns out the woman was having an affair and when the plane crashed, the husband discovered she was having an affair and blah di di blah blah blah. I vaguely possibly remember that the husband met the wife of her love affair and they hit it off. Snorting and rolling my eyes. GAG!

I shoulda left when I realized the movie wasn’t taking the plot turns that I had expected.

But I trusted this movie connection between my mom and myself. I really thought that it was going to change. My mom NEVER would have found such a movie interesting (so I thought). I really truly kept hoping that things would turn and secret agents would appear. But it never happened.

So now I check with my mom that movies she suggests are not like THAT movie and, true to the mother daughter connection, we are back on track with similar tastes.


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Unifinished Projects (NaBloPoMo Writing Prompt)

I dislike unfinished projects. However, there’s a lot of flexibility on the time frame for a project.

Fifteen years ago, I created a To-Do list one New Year’s that included:

Learn to cook Thai food

Hitchhike in Alaska

Learn to country dance

Play guitar

There was a bunch more on that pink scrap of paper placemat from the restaurant I dined at on December 31st along with some grease stains and crumples from being thrown into a box of important papers and miscellaneous stuff.

But when I came across the paper a bit ago, I realized I had achieved every one of those goals – just over the course of a decade or so. It felt good.

There is some room to argue on the guitar goal. I still can’t really “play” but since I didn’t define it very well, I figure “play a few chords and strum a touch” can suffice.

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Today’s Definition of Sharing

Little big boy reaches into little sister’s bowl and scoops up some yogurt and cereal and says, “Look Mom. I’m sharing with sister”. Sister continues eating and doesn’t seem at all bothered by his foraging. Boy is smiling.

I think we have to work on the definition a bit more.

Later in the day, little girl has the two monkeys. Little boy wants one. He hands her his pretend cell phone which she takes and he proceeds to unpeel her grip on one of the monkeys. She acquiesces. He tells me he has shared.

I again think that the definition of sharing needs some fine tuning.

In the afternoon, sister is pushing the yellow dump truck with the monkeys in it. Little boy sees her and runs over and puts his cell phone in the back with the monkeys. I’m about to comment on how well they are playing together when I realize he has taken control of the dump truck and left her behind with a monkey on her lap. She didn’t complain, but I think it’s because he was so sly.

“Give her the dump truck”, I instruct and I raise my eyebrows. He says, “It’s MY dump truck. Birthday present from Grandma”. This is all true and it is his, but at our house we share and everyone can play with it. He takes it back, but now she is stacking monkeys on the books and doesn’t want it back. So I guess he can use it.

Somehow that scenario did not feel very good.

And then tonight she has her teddy bear and he wants it. He tries to take it. She resists. He says, “Mom! Sister isn’t sharing. It’s my turn.”

What do I say to that?


Filed under Life with Kids

No Coins in the Mouth

Our household is pretty liberal in many ways. Our kids are allowed to climb and stand on stools and help cook at the stove. They get to hold butter knives and forks. They fly up and down the stairs. They carry their plates and cups to the table. The result is that they make a lot of messes which we help clean up, they understand that one needs to be careful around the stove and they learn some impressive balancing skills.

For the most part, all of their bumps and bruises (of which there are many) happen when they are walking or running across the floor. They’re almost one and a half and two and a half. They’re careless on the flat floor and careful on the higher elevations.

When they are climbing a stool or balancing without supports, we try to give suggestions rather than warnings. We try to say things like, “Use the counter to help you balance if you need to” instead of “Careful – you might fall.”

It’s pretty good stuff I think.

But there are those few things where we really intervene and do some major Serious Voices backed up with time-outs if need be, such as playing with the outlets (luckily it doesn’t happen) or wrestling in the tub.

Today another one came up – money in the mouth.

When I was in elementary school, somehow I got it into my brilliant mind that I could use my mouth as a coin purse. After lunch, I’d pocket my extra change in my cheek. (It sounds so gross in hindsight!)

This worked well for me for quite a while, until one day when I had three pennies in my cheek and I started to laugh and the pennies got stuck in my throat and I couldn’t breathe. I remember going into the office with a friend next to me and I also remember not knowing what to do. I couldn’t talk and even if I could, I was so dang shy, I don’t know if I would have said anything. I suppose I probably was able to get some air down because I was able to cough up the pennies onto the floor of the office where they sat in a pool of bubbly saliva. But before that happened, I remember being scared and realizing that nobody knew how close I was to dying. They just saw a shy girl standing in the office. The experience spooked me and I stopped using my cheek as a coin pocket.

So when little boy put a penny in his mouth yesterday, I felt those fears shy up. I gave the wide eyed talk of “Oh this is very unsafe” and I gave two reasons (germs and choking). But it didn’t seem to gel with him because today he discovered another penny and he put it in his mouth. I did the very serious talk and I took it away and put it away. Later, he asked if he could play with it and said, “Mommy. Money not go in mouths. Money not for eating.” Figuring he got the idea, I took the penny out and he played appropriately with it until he was seduced by it’s coppery allure and began licking it and biting it.

Do all kids do this?

So I promptly took the penny away and put it out of reach where he couldn’t get it and choke on it like I did three and a half decades ago.

My boy is pretty cautious by nature so teaching him to be conscientous and careful is pretty easy (little girl is a different story). Later today, after the money incident, little boy and I baked a cake. When it was time to come out of the oven, he used a sharp knife (with me supervising) to check that the cake was done. He did great! He kept a careful distance from the stove and held the knife with respect. He was quite proud of “his knife” because he knew that it was a special event that warranted great responsibility.

But he just doesn’t get why money in the mouth isn’t okay and I didn”t really know what message to give other than “I coulda died when I was a kid!” or a lot of consistent “not okays” (I’m opting for the latter which will probably work over time).

We live in a time where people seem either too lenient and neglectful or far too controlling (I’m specifically thinking of some of the blogs that have arisen in response to these times). I like that I grew up exploring the outdoors and crossing fallen logs over the creek. I don’t like some up the bumps and bruises that happened along the way, but they seemed like good lessons for the next time I was climbing a tree or biking too quickly down a hill on my friend’s handlebars.

Money in the mouth is another lesson I learned all on my own.

But I also appreciate the adult guidance and the boundaries and rules that existed in my life. They kept me from making some dumb decisions – or from being very, very careful when I proceeded anyway.

Today, I bombed at conveying the seriousness of coins in the mouth. Perhaps it’s not really that horrible a thing, but it sure seems scary to me. Tomorrow he will probably find some more loose change and we’ll put it up in a jar to save or something else that will appeal to his two-year-old ways – we’ll find a better way to keep money out of his mouth, but overall…

it leaves me pondering what other scary experiences from childhood will impact the lessons I share with my kids.

(Don’t touch fuzzy caterpillers because they could KILL you! Is that really true? I was terrified of them as a child.)


Filed under Life with Kids

Dogs in the Bed

We only have one dog so the title is a bit misleading, but sometimes it feels like there is more than one. The dog – a 45 pound short haired whippet looking mix – curls up under the blankets right where my legs should be.

I put my legs around him. I put my legs over him. I slide one leg under him and the other behind him. He doesn’t mind.

I mind, but I feel bad for him otherwise and I want him to feel like he’s part of the family.

He’s been somewhat neglected since we’ve had kids. Not neglected so much as just not the main show. And now he has to always be on the lookout for grabby hands and he has to monitor the moods of the toddlers as they approach him where he’s sleeping.

I gave him a kiss on the forehead today while he slept on the sofa and then little girl immediately wobbled over and gave him A Forehead. He licked her face. She did it again. I cooed how sweet she was and picked her up and hugged her and gave the dog another kiss (and a break from the kids).

So when we go to bed, I want the pooch to feel welcome and loved and special and warm. Thankfully, he only hangs out under the covers for twenty minutes or so (most nights) and then slides off and sleeps in his cushy dog bed.


Unless I have to go hang with the kids in the other room. Inevitably, when I return to the room ready to get back to my sleep, my husband has rolled over leaving me enough room for the side profile of my body and the dog has moved up to where my lower half should be. If I’m in a good mood, I just somehow wedge my way in. If I’m not feeling so loving, I consider….well, I don’t know what I consider because on those nights I’m too tired and inflexible to consider anything.

So I usually speak up and my husband rolls over and the dog stays. And twenty minutes later he slides off the bed into his own.


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Cowboys and Aliens and Me

As we sat curled up on the sofa watching Cowboys and Aliens on the laptop, I commented that I just didn’t think I’d cut it back in the Wild West days.

In the movie, there is the hero dude walking across the middle of nowhere carrying the heroine who’s got to weigh at least 120 pounds and he seems to know where he’s going, he’s not acting concerned about the lack of water, food or shelter. He’s just steadfastly moving alone with an aura of confidence in his mission.  Of course, he does get worn out and she doesn’t fare so well, but still…I don’t know if I’d have been able to pull that off.

I can’t help but imagine myself in the same setting. I’d be concerned about how heavy she was.  About water.  Food.  And getting wet. I don’t want to be sopping wet and then cold later on while sleeping.  AND, what about bullets.  Everybody is busy shooting their guns.  Where the heck do they get more bullets.

I just don’t think I’d make it in the setting I was watching.

My husband put a hand around my arm and said, “It’s just a movie, honey”.

But the funny thing is – I still feel like there are people out there who are THAT tough – lots of them.  And I don’t think they include me.

My hands get cold.  I get bad coughs that I can’t shake.  I get really concerned about clean drinking water.  I’m not terribly strong.  And I don’t like having cold feet.

The even funnier thing is, is that I have this faint suspicion that some of my friends and relatives might describe me as tough.  There are a few things I’ve done that might possibly qualify, but because they are part of my path, they just don’t seem so tough – more just my kind of normal.

But I still don’t think I have what it takes to be a real frontiersman.

Or maybe I do. I can’t help but think that if I lived back then, I might just be one of the people that leaves my home to check out some new adventure – like a gold mining town.  I’m not super rugged, but I imagine there might be a place for me.  What would I be?

Maybe a cobbler or an ironsmith, except that I’d probably have to be stronger than I am.

Certainly I wouldn’t want to be a sheriff or deputy.  But a mayor?

Maybe I’d run a brothel.  Or a hotel.

I think I just have to avoid the long unplanned stints in the desert where people are shooting and fighting every which way.  Other than that (well, and the aliens), I think there might be a place for me.  It’s a bit exciting.


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Sharing and Caring and a Touch of Guile

We’ve been working on this sharing thing for a while now – it’s totally developmentally appropriate stuff and little boy takes great joy in passing his water bottle to sister and getting her a teddy bear vitamin each day.

But very early on, he learned that he could get toys from her (under the loophole of sharing) if she was distracted by something else.  So when he wanted her book, he’d show her the car.  When she reached for the car, he could technically take the book.

But she’s older now and sometimes the two washcloths that were headed towards the bathroom shelf are something that she really wants to hold on to.  And then for some reason they become something that little boy really wants to hold on to.  And sister is not about to be distracted with any sort of car like the olden days.

So little boy takes them.  She hollers.  I “ahem” and he gives one back to her and says, “I’m sharing with sister”.

But it’s not quite sharing because he took BOTH and still has one.  So I give The Look and he throws the washcloth DOWN the stairs AWAY from sister.  I ask him to pick it up and give it back, “in one…two…” and he says, “No” (with a slight smile!).  I get to three and ask him to take a time out to which he immediatly responds that he wants to say sorry to sister.  Out of luck kiddo.

He takes a time out and then comes back up and plays merrily.

After dinner, he takes her plastic tiger (very distressing stuff) and threatens to throw it behind the sofa.  (Is little boy not being sassy!!!)  I do the eyebrows up, the chin down Look and start counting and lo and behold, he returns the toy at three.  Close call!

And then, he’s just fine.

But we really do struggle with what sharing is, what bullying is, what “mine” means because sometimes a toy is “mine” in the moment, but as soon as I pass it to you, it is “yours”.  These are big concepts that take lots of discussion and practice and feedback and I really wonder what magic words help kids figure it out.

It seems like when we tell a kid to “share” they think we are telling them “Give up something you want”.   It’s hard stuff being a kid.

But as much as I think it’s hard, I also think little boy has a pretty strong glimmer of right and wrong.  Those little twinkling eyes and sassy behaviors scream of a little boy just testing what he can get away with.  Oh, my dear sweet clever innocent boy is beginning to show signs of guile.  I just have to have my wits about so I don’t fall for the, “I’m just in the kitchen sharing tangerine – sister wants snack” ruse, while in reality he’s giving her one piece and pocketing (because he’s bound to pocket gross things like tangerine pieces) the rest.

And his retort will be, “Sister is smaller.  She only neeeeeds one piece.”  Ha.



Filed under Life with Kids