Monthly Archives: March 2012

My Son’s Future Leading Retreats Into the Desert

“Friend is a giraffe. Sister is a puppy dog. I am a turtle.”

My son and I walked to the local store this morning to buy a birthday present for a friend turning three. My son knew a week ago that he wanted his friend to have a bulldozer. It’s a fitting present I think and I was impressed once again with my boy’s ability to identify an appropriate gift. This morning on the way to the store, I again questioned my boy and he again said he wanted to get his friend a bulldozer.

The local store had a bulldozer so we picked it up, grabbed some wrapping paper and ribbon and then began walking to the register when I spotted some simple foam hats.

We already had two foam monkey hats that my mom had sent us several months ago. They’re simple very inexpensive visors made somewhere far away and the kids love them. They wear them while they push chairs around the house pretending to go on trips. They wear them as part of dress up and part of non dress up. So I asked my kid if he’d like to get some more.

He said he wanted to get one for his friend and when I asked which one, thinking the tiger was quite cool, or the jaguar, he responded “the giraffe”. “Are you sure? Check out this bear?” My boy was certain that his friend was a giraffe. I didn’t see it, but I also didn’t not see it. And I also did not spend an evening with the kid a couple weeks ago like my boy did. Perhaps my boy just “knows” something.

And then I asked my son if he and his sister would like hats and he promptly chose hats, which again were not the ones I was aiming for, but were quite right. The puppy dog for his sister was fitting somehow and the turtle he picked for himself was also fitting, but really – a turtle? Next to the turtle there were such more splashier snazzier looking hats, but he wanted the turtle.

Later when my husband and I were talking about our kids and sharing observations of things we’d seen them doing, this came up. I know that I don’t want to prescribe what path our kids take in life, but I do have some secret hopes. I hope they don’t become huge football fans or football players because I really just don’t “get” the sport. I also hope they don’t become dog mushers because it seems like a lot of work and a struggle to make ends meet and find the time to care for dogs and family. Other than that, I’m pretty open.

And as we spoke we had a vision of our son in a future role leading people on retreats into the desert to identify their spirit animal. What if this seemingly innocent ability to quickly pick hats for himself and his friends is really an uncanny ability to see something the rest of us miss – I love that idea even if it involves all sorts of things that make me uncomfortable. But then, maybe he just knows that sometimes anything is absolutely the right thing.

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The More the Merrier

I’m an only child who enjoyed being an only child. I enjoyed my friends and playing outside for hours upon hours, but I also enjoyed the time I had by myself. On top of that, I was fairly shy and introverted so I valued my privacy.

When I moved to rural Alaska I was faced with the exact opposite. Many houses are very small and filled with people. When relatives come to visit they know they are welcome crashing on the sofa or sharing a bed. Siblings share sofas and mattresses and sometimes even floor space. When sitting on the sofa, teenagers pile right up next to me and younger kids sprawl on our laps. When traveling with kids for school trips, one sleeps on the same classroom floor as them – or in the same hotel room if traveling to the city. I remember being amazed that students actually know what their teacher’s pj’s look like. It never occurred to me growing up in cities that my teachers even had homes, or lives outside of school, let alone pj’s and specific flavors of toothpaste. It’s nice.

It’s different at first, but there’s a coziness and friendliness and acceptingness that I really have come to embrace.

Yet, I haven’t made any strides to change things in my own day to day life. I’m more open about saying, “come on by”, but I’m also happy when people call ahead so that I can prepare a bit. I like the idea of our house being filled with guests and visitors, but I also really like our quiet space as we get ready to go to bed. I’m torn with images of friendly vibrant busy homes and the quiet peaceful easiness of our own where our time is our own.

And amidst this ongoing conflict, I notice the messages I send to my kids.

Tonight I was lying on the sofa (still am) plum tired with only one eye managing to stay open at any time. Little girl was sitting in my lap and I was reading a book with her. Little boy ran up and asked if he could join in and as he climbed up to also sit on my lap, I heard myself saying some words I’d been saying quite a bit…”The More the Merrier”.


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Respiratory Virus and a Miracle

This morning my father in law asked me at what point we take our little boy to the doctor.  Little boy was oozing snot and coughing consistently a dry barky (but not toooo barky) cough all morning.  I responded with all the knowledge I’d gleaned from my two and a half years of taking care of this little boy who seems to get respiratory infections easily that we probably wouldn’t take him to the doctor unless he had labored breathing.

We’ve got ibuprofen.

We have an albuterol inhaler prescribed for him.

We have a humidifier and plenty of liquids and room for him to “take it easy and rest”.

We’ve taken little boy to the doctor plenty of times for me to know the spiel and luckily, we have pretty much everything on hand that we would need.  It’s just hard knowing exactly WHEN is too sick to really worry.

My little guy had RSV last year which is a pretty common, but very nasty respiratory virus.  It can do a real number on little ones and it did a number on him, but he recovered.  Viruses seem to settle into his chest a bit more easily than they do our little girl and he’s had some bouts that have been a bit worrisome.

The worst was a time I picked him from daycare and brought him home.  I could see he didn’t feel well.  I could hear his cough.  I knew he had a little temperature.  I put him on the sofa where he fell asleep and I spent the next hour cleaning up and paying bills.

But then I started thinking that his breathing looked funny.  It was weird how his cute little belly was moving up and down and I pondered how odd it was that I’d never noticed it before.  His breathing was quiet and slower than earlier when he’d first come home coughing and teary.  It seemed like he just needed a really hearty nap.

But the tummy thing was odd.  And it was bothering me.

And then I looked at the clock and thought about the day of the week (Friday, of course) and decided I’d err on the side of caution and take him up to the walk in clinic.

“Err on the side of caution?”  HA!

I was so lucky that I did take him in.  Turns out he had bacterial pnuemonia which progresses really quickly.  In the hour that he’d napped on the sofa, he’d gone from a little boy that just looked sick to a boy that was beginning to really struggle to breathe.

At the clinic, they took one look at him – and they looked for things like flaring of his nostrils and his ribs pulling in when he inhaled – and immediately gave him a breathing treatment of albuterol.  And then another one.  And then after a few tests, he was given a shot of an antibiotic, prednisone and then a discussion ensued about whether he should be admitted or not.

We did take him home, but that night I almost wished we hadn’t.  His breathing was SO mechanical and his chest moved up and down like it was attached to a respirator.  It was scary to watch and I couldn’t sleep because I wanted to keep an eye on him.

He ended up being just fine.  We administered everything exactly as we should and we kept a watchful eye on him and throughout it, his body responded valiantly, working very hard to do the needed work to breathe while his body worked on recovering from the infection.

It was scary.

And so now, whenever he gets sick, I google to remind myself of the symptoms and I look for the signs of labored breathing and I check on him frequently throughout the night and I look at the day of the week.

It’s Thursday and little boy is sick.  He has a fever and a cough that got worse and worse.  His breathing got quick and fast, but slowed down once the ibuprofen set in.  It was past bedtime and he was so tired but couldn’t fall asleep because of the cough and so I googled and found “a miracle cure”.

Vicks Vapo-Rub on the soles of the feet?  Really?  I was skeptical, but I’ve used Vicks on myself in the past and remembered thinking my cough was looser.  The directions said ages two and up so I slathered some on his chest and back and soles of his feet (heck, why not) while he brushed his teeth (he’s so dang sweet – who the heck thinks to brush their teeth when they feel like crap) and took him up to bed. 

Within fifteen minutes he had stopped coughing enough to fall asleep.  Or perhaps he fell asleep and stopped coughing?  I rather think it was the first scenario.

Every once in a while he coughs and it’s still dry, but I think a little looser sounding.  I expect that it might be a long night, but I’m also feeling a bit hopeful that there might be some good stretches of sleep for him and for us.

Ibuprofen at one am if needed and another little Vicks Rub as well.  Humidifier pumping away like always.  Gallons of water sloshing around in his body.

Wish us well!  And everyone else out there with the sick kiddos in the middle of the night, we wish you well.



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Three Photos – Three Years

Contrary to what anyone says, I think parenting and relationships is a hard process. I think it’s also a wonderful process. I lucked out to find a great person for my partner and I lucked out again with the births of my kids. I don’t always appreciate the luck in the middle of the night, but at the same time, I even love the hard times because they are part of this entire wonderful package. (It also helps that my kids have had a pretty good week)

Three years ago I was pregnant.
Two years ago I had a darling cute little boy that smiled at everybody. He couldn’t sleep through the night worth a lick, but he was sweet and smiley and fun to carry around anyplace everywhere and anywhere. I was also pregnant again.
One year ago I had a darling cute little boy and a loud little girl that made her voice known far and wide.
And now I have a sweet little boy who loves to do puzzles and loves to cuddle and a sweet little girl who is shy and determined and loves to hang upside down and jump on two feet and plaster me with open mouthed kisses.

My husband and I are still together.

We’ve weathered through the long nights of no sleep, the “discussions” about who is more tired, more exhausted and more in need of compassion from the other. We’ve experimented with how to structure our weekend so that the lack of structure results in a pleasant home, engaged kids and happy adults. It’s been a process!

And it still is, but now it’s easier to see that a night of teething has an end in sight. My husband and I reserve our “discussions” till after our first cup of coffee and we’ve transitioned into a way of being where our lives are second fiddle to our kids. No, not second fiddle – just where now we don’t think of what we want to do, but rather what we want to do with the kids.

I remember being thankful that newborns slept so much and were so easy because it gave us time to adjust our lives to the new little beings. And as they began taking up more time and demanding more attention, they also became more and more fun. Life was so much simpler with newborns that couldn’t roll over or who were content to get carried around to dinner parties and musical events. Now, we are spending our evening DOING things with the kids and there are no more evenings of just flitting around town willy nilly.  We have bedtimes that rule our lives.

At the moment little boy is getting a lesson in putting on socks from my husband. Little boy is producing little sounds of pain as he struggles with this task that he so wants to do. Little girl is throwing the other sock off the table and watching intently what is going on. And now it is time for cleaning up and brushing teeth and the entire nighttime routine.

Our lives are covered and sauteed and filled to the brim with our kids. I love some time away to run errands or go work a bit or take a longer shower than needed, but overall, I can’t imagine anything different. Well, I CAN imagine things different, but this is so much more messy and fun.


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Very Hot or Very Cold?

Writing Prompt: Would you rather have it be very hot or very cold outside?

A number of years ago I went to Italy during the month of July with a couple of friends. July is a pretty hot month in Italy and the place we stayed had no air conditioner. I can’t recall the heat, but I remember how we’d shut the shutters to keep the cooler air trapped in the apartment and we’d lounge in the chairs with our arms and legs splayed. I remember drinking gobs upon gobs of Coca-Cola to quench my thirst. I’m not sure why I wasn’t drinking water. Perhaps I was, but I remember that Coke was like nothing I’d ever had before.

It was so hot that it was just hard to get up and do things and get things done.

I remember the first time I experienced the heat of southern california. It was a dry heat and I discovered I LOVED to sit in the hot car after I’d been inside an air conditioned store and the car had been sitting out in the parking lot. It’s like an amazingly warm hot wrap.

I also remember how much fun I had running in the heat. Hmmm. I wonder if that’s the case. I do, though, remember the sensation of the sweat cooling me off when I ran quickly and enjoying that.

I love sitting next to the heater at night when I’m cold.

The heat can be a nice thing, but it can also just be too hot.

The cold, on the other hand is refreshing. If you dress appropriately then it’s a fantastic feeling to be outside with the chill of the air brushing against your exposed skin. It’s invigorating and full of energy.

I remember returning to Alaska after the summer in Italy and breathing in the cold chill of the early Fall and zipping up my jacket, loving every moment of my jeans and light wool hat.

I also remember a time when I was driving in California over a mountain pass in the winter and had to get out and put on chains. My hands got so cold they just hurt. I didn’t want to give up, but I really sometimes wonder if my hands are not as tough as other peoples’. The cold can be cold.

And when you’re sick or tired, the cold just seeps into your entire being and threatens to dampen the tiny flame of your core energy that is barely making it.

So which would I prefer? The very hot or the very cold?

I live in Alaska. I like a good storm. I love the energy of the Fall. But I’m tempted to say I’d prefer the heat.

Can I have the heat with plenty of clean cool water and no biting insects?
Can I have the cold with no concerns about heating sources?

Oh, I want to say the heat, but I think that’s because I’m tired of the cold. We have yet another round of cold windy weather here where I live. If I had to live outside in the heat or in the cold, then I’d pick the heat without a doubt (if there was clean water and few biting insects.

If it came down to living inside, then I’d pick the cold because the cold is fun to venture out in as long as there is a good safe place to return.

And that will be my final answer for the moment.

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Funerals and Potlucks

So many thoughts today
But I am tired and the alarm is set to go off early
Went to a funeral at the Catholic Church followed by a potluck filled with traditional Eskimo food and then an Eskimo dance
Cried and cried some more
Loved the feast
Loved the music
Missed his voice and seeing him singing
Saw his family dance
And his friends dance
And elders dance
Saw people laugh and people cry and everybody pass babies around from arm to arm
Thought many thoughts
How funerals bring communities together in their grief
How funerals can be both empty and filling
How the swells of emotion are exhausting but cleansing
So many thoughts and feelings
And I’m just going to go to bed


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Get to Bed My Sweet Little Boy

My husband’s parents are here visiting and the kids are soaking it up. They were so full of themselves this evening, basking in all the attention, high on adoration, full of beans that they have it ALL. And with that wonderful high on life and with the knowledge that the grandparents were there witnessing all of their toddler cleverness, they had to give a show worth watching.

They were horrible at dinner!

Little boy took spoon fulls of his food and put it in his sister’s bowl. We admonished him. He took some back. He did it again! Big sigh. We did the time out thing. He thought he was clever sassy clever boy. But he kinda knew he wasn’t.

After they finished eating (more like, after they left their food uneaten), they ran around with napkin holders up to their mouths singing and bellowing great tunes of their own creation. They were on cloud giddy nine.

I sat back in my chair and just watched my children run around and wondered how different it would be if we lived in a different setting, place, or time. “Seen and not heard” definitely did not apply here. They seemed so loud and brazen and in imminent danger of banging into a table leg or a wall, but they didn’t.

I wondered in the back of my mind what the Tiger Mother author would say of our household if she was watching. I’ve only read a couple pages of her book and I’m totally curious about more – I have a sneaking suspicion that we might be who she thinks of when she refers to as “western parents”.

Our kids were SO loud and so very much the center of attention, but when it came down to it, they knew the routines and expectations and the sense of right and wrong and they calmed down and brushed their teeth and hugged their grandparents and gave them real good-nights and went to bed feeling pretty on top of the world.

Which, of course means, that little boy did not fall straight asleep, but rather got out of bed several times to come check on me regarding Important Matters and have me say in a semi-serious voice with a smile on my face, “Get to bed my sweet little boy!!”

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I’m In The Middle of THREE Books

There was a day, pre-children, when I had many books around the house all in the midst of being read. I’d move from room to room picking up books and reading and books would sometimes move with me and within a very quick period of time, all the books would be read.

This is much like my experience living in a farm house with a bunch of cats. I’d go outside and there would be a cat on the fence post, one on the truck, another in the grass by the chickens. None would be moving. They all looked asleep. I’d walk around doing some non-important task and when I looked around again, the cats still looked asleep, but they had all rotated positions.

That was my home with my books in the olden days.

Now that I have kids (young toddler kids) I don’t read. I go to the library and I bring books home, but I just can’t seem to even get to the first page. I try placing books in the bathroom because that is sure to afford a few minutes of privacy, but there is no privacy for me. The dog and both children always join me in the bathroom.

I did read a book on my iPhone in the middle of the night. I loved it. But the next one I downloaded was too difficult. It was a murder mystery.

There was a day where I would have been embarrassed to say that a murder mystery was too difficult, but now I just don’t care. I’m too tired. And if I’m not too tired, then I feel like my energy is going towards so many other things, that it just doesn’t have any room to decipher the confusing motley assortment of characters and settings.

So I read yahoo news on my iphone at night. It’s quick and easy and I understand it well enough to be appropriately annoyed by the terrible journalism, terrible stories and poor links.

But recently, things began taking a turn…

I received some books for my birthday. Yay. Except that I can’t read them because it’s all just too hard.

However, I FORCED myself to read the first four pages of the book Snow Child on Earth Day when the kids were settling in for a nap and that was enough to hook me in. I haven’t made much progress, but the book is In My Head.

And then I finally figured out that I could download a kindle app for my iphone. I thought I had to have an actual Kindle, but I don’t. I feel like everyone in the world knows this, but not me. I just figured it out.

So I did that yesterday afternoon and then immediately downloaded Bad Luck Officer by one of the BlogHer bloggers. I am loving it and stayed up far too late reading on my iPhone last night in bed.

And then today my husband brought me back the book The Fault in the Stars which I requested while he was in the city. I’d read an excerpt on BlogHer and got it stuck in my head.

I now have THREE GLORIOUS BOOKS stuck in my head and it feels so good.

AND, my in-laws have just arrived.

In the olden days, they’d want to hang out with the kids and it was hard for me to let the kids go because I wanted to hang out with the kids too. But now, I’m okay with them going off to grandparent camp for the week (here in our home of course!) and I have SO Many Plans – one of which is to READ.

And so I must finish up this entry so I can go read for a little bit, being ever mindful that my children still wake up throughout the night and are ready to go bright and early and I am not truly on vacation, but still….it is so nice to have books back for a visit!


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The Frog is Alive. The Dishes are Done.

  My busy bee children started the day with great quiet cuddles in bed with me.  Little boy is a fantastic cuddler.  He just knows how to do it.  Little girl never really got the hang of “chilling”, but she is making up for it with lots of focused diligence.  She lay in bed with her head on the pillow facing straight up, every once in a while, grabbing my face to plant a currently-practicing-kiss on my face.  Brother just nuzzled in and chattered away about the alphabet, the dog, the grandparents who are bringing chewable vitamins and the father who is going to bring new toothbrushes.  Little girl worked on snuggling.

And as soon as little boy said, “Shall we go downstairs?”, she rolled over and up and out of the bed.  I thought she was going to fall out she moved so quickly, but she landed on her feet and then went to her room to find some treasure to bring down.  I used to think she just wanted to bring fun things down, but now I suspect that she is trying to follow protocol.  There are always things to carry downstairs such as water bottles, dirty clothes, or diapers.  She has included into that list other things that might be on the floor: stuffed animals, dolls, pieces of paper, and photos taken from the shelves.

Downstairs, I noticed the frog was floating at the top of her tank.  She was quite still.  I dropped some food in and she didn’t move.  I reached in and touched her back and she didn’t move.  I thought, “Oh no.  She has died.” and I took a deep breath to prepare myself for the process of sharing this with little boy.  He still remembers clearly the passing of our other frog last summer and he talks about it.  I looked outside at the snowstorm and the cold nasty wind and wondered where the heck we were going to bury this frog.  Our other frog went into the earth with a purple flower on top of him.  Our backyard is six plus feet in snow.  I did remember that I had an extra Altoids tin in the car and felt some relief knowing that I at least had a  good burial container.

And then, I saw her leg move slightly to which I thought, “Oh no.  She’s alive, but close to dying.  Oh, what if I can’t save her.  How sad that will feel.”  I walked over to her tank and….she kicked into gear and flew down to the bottom corner.  She’s totally okay.  I felt huge relief.

This frog story does not connect to anything except that I thought the day held such promise, then had the promise dashed at her demise, only to have everything right itself up again, only to find that I could never really get ahead.  My in-laws arrive tomorrow and the house looks just like it did this morning, which isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t my version of ready for in-laws.  I hope tomorrow, the cup of coffee I drink in the morning is much more powerful than the one I drank today.

And so our day progressed.  We baked a cake.  I wanted the baking to be done by just me, but there was no holding back the troops so we did it together.  We played.  They played.  We cleaned up.  We had guests.  We spent alllllllllll afternoon trying to get both kids to take much needed naps (underline that word “much”).  And then we went out visiting and then went to the store and then came home and cooked up dinner and huddled around the kids’ table and feasted before brushing teeth and heading up to bed.

My children were wonderful beautiful little beings today.  Little boy was sweet and helpful and ornery and lazy.  Little girl was messy and independent and helpful and earnest.  They both chose green pj’s for bed and after the ridiculous, but sweet routines, of making sure every stuffed animal is properly in place and every blanket is lined up just right, they went off to sleep.

And, little girl learned how to scrub the plates!  (She’s thinks I don’t know that she’s getting to play in the water by washing the dishes.  She was pretty tickled.  And pretty wet.)

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Cooking and Sitting Shiva

The words “Sitting Shiva” have been in my head so much of today.  The family who is grieving the loss of their son is not Jewish and nor am I, but the words are the ones I know best for explaining the process of going to one’s home and just being there to support.

A few years ago there was a death in an Inupiaq village while I was there.  I went to the home of the family even though I did not know them well because that is the custom of the village.  I sat on the sofa between two elders and received very gentle subtle guidance on what to do and how to just be there to support.  It was a very powerful and beautiful experience and I was very thankful to have those elders there to teach me.

I grew up as an only child.  I’m shy and my extended family lives around the country.  We’ve been very blessed that there have not been major tragedies in our lives and I have managed to grow up unpracticed in the way of mourning with others.

Frankly, I think it sounds exhausting and I’d far rather go off by myself and cry than go to the home and struggle to hold back tears and feel stiff and exhausted .

We baked a couple casseroles this morning to take to the family.  There was a part of me that wanted to run to them as soon as I heard the news a couple days ago and another larger part of me that wanted to just stay home in the quiet easiness of my home.  My kids were sick so that trumped everything, but even if they weren’t, it didn’t feel right.

I selfishly didn’t want to get caught up in my own emotions.

It acutally feels really good to go and just see people and visit and cry and watch kids play.  It feels good and it feels right.  It’s exhausting, but not in the way repressing those feelings is exhausting.  And so that’s what we did.  And tomorrow we will bake cakes and go up again.  And hopefully folks will come to our house to visit and we will have food and drink to offer (and a clean bathroom and a relatively picked up living room) and just plain old friendship and shared memories and compassion and time.

As for my kids – they loved visiting and my little girl lit up and smiled each time one of the elders spoke to her.


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