Monthly Archives: April 2012

Monumental Tasks Seem So Monumental

My Table in Response to the Paralyzing Stress of the Tasks at Hand

Have you ever noticed how the things you most want to get done are the ones that you keep putting off?

I had some projects that I hadn’t finished from earlier in the year that I wanted done.  I wanted a sense of completion so I could put things away.  Way back on the second day of April I shared my April to-do list on BlogHer Denise’s blog:

Some of the projects were definitely critical:  My computer was limping along, woefully overloaded with photos, operating with an antique operating system, old school RAM amounts, and without being backed up.  I addressed those issues over the course of the month, but am still not finished.  I didn’t have a small enough screwdriver to replace the RAM that arrived yesterday in the mail so tomorrow I will borrow one from a friend.  And THEN I will be able to tackle another project on the To-Do list which is to update our family’s photo sharing blog and family blog which is for our relatives.

Some projects were not so critical:  Our Christmas cards (Not for this upcoming year).  These are our cards from last December – four months ago.  If we had never started them then I’d be inclined to let things slide as we have in past years, but this year, we had our little photo insert thing completed way back in December.  We just didn’t get it printed up.  And then we had to order ink and then we had to order more ink and then we had to print them and….Now it’s April.  We completed most of them last month, but there were some on my side of the desk that I just kept putting off.

And in my head, the pile of cards still to write took on momentous proportions that would require hours and hours and hours and deep loving concentration and glasses of wine and mugs of coffee and richly flowing words and…..I lost all perspective.

Except that I didn’t.  I knew the task wasn’t that big and that I would feel better once it was completed.  I knew that this albatross that visited every to-do list of mine would not go away until I just did them.  I also knew that I did not want to just wipe my hands of the task.  I wanted to complete it.  I wanted to stand up to the task that was threatening to defeat me.

Well today, after months and months of fretting, I sat down and completed them.  And it really wasn’t so bad.

And now I am feeling that lightness that comes with spring cleaning and fresh sheets and de-cluttered homes.

Our home is still cluttered, but not with our belated wishes of holiday good cheer.

And with that task that seemed so MONUMENTAL out of the way, everything else is easier.

And the kids?  The kids had a great day today helping assist me in all the cleaning I had to get out of the way before I had nothing left on the to-do list EXCEPT the dang Christmas cards.

Sharking the Floor

Carrying Laundry Up the Stairs

 

The Table After I'd Completed Everything Else EXCEPT for the Cards

 

And my lesson learned?  That sometimes the things we resist the most are really far easier to tackle once we just sit down and work through them.

 

Skis and the Camp Chair Definitely Belong in the Kitchen

Sitting Outsides in Sleds Reading Books in the Afternoon Sun

 

 

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Pursuing the Horizon

Sticks and Ernie - What else is needed!

Yesterday and the day before and heck, almost every day since I stopped going to work and began staying home with my kiddos, I’ve been feeling behind. I don’t quite know how the heck I fit it all in before, because I sure as heck am not fitting it all in now.

I also really want to take advantage of being able to be home with our kids which, for me, means getting order into our home and creating a rich warm fun environment for our kids.

Instead, I feel further behind than every before.

“Leave the dishes. Don’t worry about the mess. Focus on your children for they will only be this age once.” These are the messages I hear and I agree with, but…

Can’t I have it all? I was reminded of this poem last night:

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never —”

“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.
                      – Stephen Crane

I’m not great at keeping the house clean. A trail of mess appears in my wake. My husband and children are not any better.

I love new ideas and the prospect of new projects, but it’s difficult to carry things out with two curious kiddos.

I love getting involved in projects with my kids and having fun exploring the world with them and trying new things which sometimes brings more mess into the home.

I feel better when my home is picked up and clean (not super sterile clean, just looking clean). I’m more creative when things feel more spacious. I took to heart Maria Montessori’s messages about beautiful environments when I was a student in a Montessori school and loved every second of it.

I know my children are only going to be this wonderful delightful age just once, but can’t I still have it all?

April is coming to an end mighty darn fast. I’ve managed to accomplish a few of the goals I set out for myself like “spend lots of time outside” and “read a book”, but I also managed to forget the ones that irk me the most.

IF ONLY I could get five solid hours to work on the paper tasks that need to get done and the Christmas cards (from December 2011) that I want to finish. IF ONLY!

But the weather has been so beautiful and friends have been so bountiful and kids have been so fun that the month has just flown by. Ay ay ay – This week, though I have big hopes and plans. Big Hopes. Alas…

The weather is sunny.

The puddles are fun.

The roads are clear for walking.

The tundra is starting to show.

But I still keep thinking that I’ll fit it all in. I’ll whip the house into shape bright and early and then take the kids out and then somehow fit all the rest into the day in the afternoon and evening while my kids laugh and play around me.

It hasn’t worked out yet.

But I still have hopes. One week left of April. I’m focused. I’m gonna try to do it all!

Transporting Animals

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Racing into Spring

This is our dog racing over the frozen Bering Sea.  Taking him for a walk where he can run always feels good and is a wonderful tonic for a bad mood.  He doesn’t grumble or stumble or talk of achy bones or the ills of the world.  He just runs full force with a big goofy happy smile on his face.

If you lift up your arms like the starter at a drag car race, he’ll come flying towards you and past you as fast as he can.  He knows we think he’s super amazing for being so speedy.

We went for a walk today while the kids napped at home.  It’s not too often that I can go out for a walk with just him and it felt a bit like “old times”.  While on the ice on this gray overcast day, I remembered a post on blogher by Victoria’s_View where she took photos of a glacier near her.  I took out my iphone and snapped photos of the sea ice.

They didn’t come out anything like the real deal.  In fact, they came out looking like a dingy version of a 1000 piece white on white jigsaw puzzle.  I trashed them.

But then walking back onto land, we noticed that there is the start of The Beach.  Actual sand is starting to appear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a block away, we spied a raven’s nest on the side of an old building.  A raven’s nest!  I love ravens.  They stay here in the winter and play in the wind and somehow manage to survive the crazy cold.  I read a study that ravens can remember people’s faces and I like to think that they recognize me and the kids when we’re walking around town.  We always say hi to them and I always wish we had something to feed to them, but mainly we just send them good cheer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was gray out today, but it didn’t dampen my hopes for a gorgeous spring and summer.  I have such big plans to take the kids out onto the tundra to look for musk ox fur and berries and dirt and out on the beach to look for sea glass and old bones.  Last summer was just gray and cold.  Today was gray and cold, but still held such promise!!!

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The Outhouse

We have running water at our house. The majority of people do here in town, but outside of town there are those who do not. They use outhouses in the summer. Very good friends with an infant daughter live out of town and have running water, but no flush toilets.

I lived once in a cabin outside of Anchorage where I had an outhouse. It was rather wonderful to go traipsing down the trail with my dog to the outhouse. I sat with the door open and looked down the wooded hillside. My dog, a golden retriever, loved those moments because she got lots of ball fetching time. I’d sit and throw the ball and she’d race further down the hill and then come racing back up in seconds flat. Once she had a bit of a run in with a porcupine so she didn’t come back in seconds flat.

That was a stressful afternoon. I was scared she’d been eaten by a bear or gone running out to the road. But an hour or so after she disappeared she came hobbling up the hill, tennis ball in mouth and with a painful grin. I think as unpleasant experience as it was, it was also a bit thrilling.

I spent the rest of the evening extracting quills and she spent the evening sometimes gently mouthing me to say it hurt but she understood.

When the porcupine came to visit the cabin, she greeted him with glee. I put her inside.

We did have a bear come to visit once and that was a scary thing. The cabin had a door, but the window on the door was missing and any bear who wanted to could certainly get inside. I recalled the messages from the billboards at the nature trails and stood tall in the doorway of the cabin with my arms stretching out to the frame, used a deep voice, made myself as large as possible and said, “Bear. You are not welcome here. Please move on.” (I really did say please)

The billboards don’t actually suggest those words. They say don’t run and shriek.

The bear, a two year old (as if I really can gauge these things!) looked at me and then quickly turned and lumbered down the trail to the outhouse where he slowed down. I banged a pot to get him to keep going but he ignored me and hung out exploring the outhouse for quite a while. I think he might have known that I wasn’t really as gruff and threatening as I seemed.

So it was nice to have a dog go with me when I went to the outhouse.

Living in one of the rural communities in Alaska, I had running water and toilets except when the pipes broke or things froze up. And then we used honey buckets which are plastic five gallon buckets with toilet seats on them conveniently placed outside of your main living space. Many people use them. And there’s some etiquette involved.

If I had to just go to the bathroom, I might use the honey bucket at a good friend’s house. But if I had to GO, then I’d run home and use my own. In the village this is easy because everyone lives really close. We don’t live in the village anymore, and are now in a full fledged town.

A couple weeks ago we went to visit some friends who live outside of town who don’t have toilets. They have an outhouse they use during the summer and a honey bucket for the winter. They had a number of guests over and of course, if one has to GO they can’t just run home because they are a good 25 minute drive from town so in those cases, it’s okay to GO in their honey bucket.

Well, I had to GO. And I just felt awkward using their amenities so I put on my boots and decided to trek out through the snow to their outhouse. It was no easy task let me tell you!

It’s also not something I’d do without a dog, nor in the dark. There were moose tracks everywhere and moose, as cute as they are, are not to be reckoned with or startled. They’re big creatures with a bit of a kick. There was also a lot of snow.

It’s springtime so there wasn’t too much snow to get there, but there was enough for me to be thigh deep in places. I did get there, only to discover that the door was snowed in so I had to kick and shove and kick some more, but I got the door open and finally all was good.

No mosquitoes. Fresh air. My dog romping merrily around. Privacy and the joy of being outside on a gorgeous Alaskan day.

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Spring Time and Snow Boots

  One week ago, we got a phone call from a friend asking if the community Easter Egg hunt was still on.  It’s Alaska and regardless of the weather, we assumed it was, though things did look a bit blustery outside our window and we had already decided to forgo our family outing to the frozen ocean for a walk.

The temperatures were in the 20’s, but the wind was brisk.  There was snow coming down and the wind was blowing it back up making it hard to see.  It is Alaska and the Easter Egg hunt was not canceled.

We bundled up the kids and made sure they had on face masks and walked down to the local park.  Kids ages 0-2 are allowed to have parents helping.  I helped my little boy and my husband helped our little girl.  Both of our kids did great!  Of course, it’s not about doing great or not doing great, but it’s nice when you’re a wee one to understand what you’re doing and to have fun doing it.  They both did.

Little girl couldn’t always pick up the eggs with her awkwardly mitted hands, but she tried and sometimes was successful.  We still have a large bowl of hard boiled eggs in our fridge from their collection efforts.

And now, only one week later, it’s still below freezing in the mornings, but by early afternoon, the frozen streets are covered with puddles and rivers and ponds flowing down the drains that the city crews have been working on de-icing.

This morning we bundled the kids up in snow pants, snow boots, fleece jackets and outer jackets and went for a walk and a picnic down near the frozen sea.  This afternoon our kids only needed rubber boots and simple jackets to play in the water that lined the streets.

The snow in our back yard that went higher than our 6 foot fence (conveniently allowing our dog to walk over the fence) has receded a couple of feet in just a couple days.  The evaporation of the snow leaves the snow empty and hollow looking and a horrible drag to attempt to walk through as it collapses beneath your feet.

It’s still chilly, but the sun is bright and wide awake at seven am and still up at 11 pm and its warmth is stunningly powerful upon your skin.

Last night at 3 am when I got up briefly, I looked out the window and saw the stars and wished them well.  They’re like special friends that we won’t be seeing until the Fall.

Tomorrow morning we will again dress up in our winter gear to meet the 14 degree temperatures, but afternoon will be a whole different story.  Spring is possibly on the way.

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My Little Girl

Little girl snuggled in behind me under the down comforter and I could her her quiet breathing. She’d woken up too early due to a wet diaper and wet pj’s and after I changed her, I decided to bring her into bed with me where I thought she’d have a better chance of falling back asleep, and thus allowing me to fall back asleep.

She snuggled in closer to my back and I began to relax. I heard her breathing start to change and then I let myself begin to doze off to sleep.

And then I heard her whisper, “Kick”.

I froze and held my breath and at the same time tried to keep my breathing as steady and slow as possible so that she would mimic my deep relaxation and slumber off herself. It was to no avail.

I heard her whisper, “Kick” again and this time it was accompanied by a little flutter of her feet kicking my back under the covers. Sleep was not in the cards.

I rolled over and placed my hands under my cheeks and looked into her eyes just inches away looking at me with her head on my pillow and her hands under her cheeks. The binky was in her mouth at a cockeyed angle so she could speak. “Kick.”

My little girl is nineteen months and she understands gobs of things, but only says a handful of words and those handful of words are not yet very clear, but this word was very clear.

“Are you remembering the other day when we went swimming at the pool?” She smiled and kicked her feet.

And so there, lying almost nose to nose, nice and cozy, under the warm morning blankets she and I shared a wonderful magical conversation about our day at the pool.

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Creating Art

 My boy announced he wanted to make an art project and use his new scissors. His sister was asleep so it was a perfect time for him to work quietly on something and I pointed him in the direction of the box of scraps.  I went into the kitchen to do some dishes and when I returned I found he had taken out the Elmer’s glue, opened it and begun a very intense and special project.

He glued a picture onto a plain piece of paper (it’s always good to have a backing) and then glued something else onto that and something else onto that. Each thing was covered by the new thing. And then with great delight he glued on part of our Christmas card and proceeded to ooze glue onto the pictures of our smiling family.

My internal reaction was to say, “Wait – no – don’t cover all the cool things!” But I didn’t because somewhere in his beautiful head of artistic creation, the art is That Much More Special because it is layered. I don’t quite get it, but I love that it is so. And then it makes me think of how our lives are made up of layers upon layers and there is something beautiful about the whole of it and the knowing what is inside that makes it okay to not display every wonderful detail.

Minutes after I pondered all this, the smiling faces of our family were covered with an animal from a magazine and then another animal that starts with the letter J and then a very nice piece of cardboard.

Soon after he explored a new media and glued on colored tissue paper. This was a first. In fact, this entire project was a first. Little girl was also doing a lot of firsts. Today was the first day she peeled stickers off all by herself and didn’t remove them from her project after putting them down. She also used the glue after carefully watching her brother and then tried out many scraps before settling on two things that could remain glued down.

Previous to today, the art projects have been primarily based off of a prescribed model via an art kit or the craft activities for toddlers at the library.

I don’t love these activities which seem to say there is a Right way to do things and which require so much help from adults, but my kids love them so we proudly display every single thing they make on our walls and I revel in the small parts such as upside down tusks and spots too close and scribbles that hint of my children branching out on their own.

I do appreciate that the activities we have done up till now have given them the opportunity to practice with glue, have given me an idea of what works and what doesn’t, and has allowed them to make things to share and refer to during conversation, but they are not the ART projects that I envision are manifested from truly creative focused energy.

And today my little boy, and my little girl, both made ART.

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My Smart Little Cookie

“Do you have a poopy?” I asked my boy as he made his way into my room again when he was supposed to be in bed.  I detected an odor and was pretty certain he’d respond with a “yes”.  He did not respond affirmatively, but my nose was pretty certain of what was going on so I asked again, using the more serious voice and the eyebrows.  He said he did have one.

And as I changed my little boy, he looked up at me and chatted away with a smile about the time outs he had yesterday.  “I had two time outs,” he said.  “I had one for taking food from sister and eating it and I had the other for a poopy.”  I questioned him about the poopy time out because we don’t give time outs for pooping and I wanted to really make sure he had the full story behind the time out.

“I said I did not have a poopy and that was a lie.”  Ha – he does get it!  Yesterday, he clearly told me TWICE that he did not have a poopy and I even asked if that was the truth or a lie and he said it was the truth.  But some things are not so easy to hide.  So we changed his diaper and he had a two minute time out and then later a talk about telling the truth and it’s always better and we tell the truth in our house and so on and so on.

Yesterday had its challenges.  Notice that his other time out was for taking food from his sister and eating it.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if he took something off her plate without any warnings, but he took it straight from her hand (after already having a warning) and popped it in his mouth super fast.  He’s clever he is.

So today I’m changing him and we’re reflecting on the time outs from yesterday and making good choices even after we mess up and then he goes and rehashes EVERYTHING in great detail, including the part of the day where, “I ignored you and then went to the stairs and then you said…”

Wow.  He really really gets it.  And as I listened to him tell me about yesterday in great detail, I realized just how much my little boy has got the system figured out.  He knows exactly how many times he can sucker me into tucking him into bed and at what point he’s on his own.  He remembers what the consequences are for certain actions and he can predict what they might be.

We were at the frozen ocean playing the other day and I asked him to climb down the snow hill so I could have him closer to me and his sister.  He dilly dallied.  I said there would be a consequence and the little guy said, “I will stay on the snow hill and when we get home I will have a time out.”

Gasp – he is calculating the consequences!  And with such self-assuredness! .  And then in a touch of sas, I responded, “Oh no it won’t be that simple young man”.  And before digging things in any deeper, I repeated my reason for having him come down the hill and I traipsed through the snow in my tennis shoes and scooped him off the hill while he climbed down to meet me.

He’s a sharp little cookie.

And he knows we think he’s adorable.

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Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution

Little boy’s spoon fell to the floor while he was eating his breakfast.  He looked at me and asked if I’d pick it up.  “No way, Jose” I replied.  He asked me again using a please and a “will you” and sweet little voice.  I laughed and again said I would not and then demonstrated that he was much closer than I was to the spoon by reaching forward from my spot on the sofa.  He laughed.

But he still did not get his spoon.

He whined that he needed help and then turned to his dad.  His dad pretty much did everything I did, adding something to the effect, “Oh, I know this is something you can do”.

Is there any doubt at all that our sharp little boy can get off his chair and pick up his spoon and get back in his chair?  Ummmm.  No.

So dad and I proceeded on with our conversation and then Dad began putting on his jacket to head out.  Little boy was now whining and oh-so-weak-and-unable.  He sat in his chair facing his cereal bowl refusing to get the spoon himself.  When we did say anything, he quietly said, “I don’t want to”.

“I don’t want to.”

How the heck does one teach a kid that sometimes we want to do things more than we don’t want to do them?  I did not want to do the dishes last night, but I did and really they did not take that long and it was SO Much Better once they were done.  I said something to little boy about maybe he wants to get the spoon to eat more than he wants to not get the spoon.

No reaction other than another whine and slump of the body.

Husband put on his hat and little boy pumped up the volume of his distress with a much louder, “I don’t want to.”

Husband and I exchanged looks – this could be a long morning for those at home (me).

I smiled at little boy and said, “I understand you don’t want to.  Seems like you can sit there and be miserable or solve the problem.  Which do you want to do?” fully excepting more whines and cries of distress.

“Solve the problem” he said is a quiet little voice.

Husband and I stopped breathing and exchanged very subtle eye contact and smiles of shock from across the room as little boy got off his chair, picked up his spoon, got back in his chair and resumed eating.

Wow.

If only all problems could be solved so easily.

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