28 June 2015

Answer Me This

Joining the fun over at Catholic All Year again today!

1. How long have you lived in your current home?

Very nearly a year; we signed the lease on our apartment a year ago next weekend. It's a lovely house, warm in the winter, if hot in the summer, and we've become rather spoiled having a fireplace, garage, and south-facing deck... We would love to find a house of our own, though, instead of continuing to rent.

2. How do you find out about news and current events?

Mostly through blogs and Facebook. I do follow Alaska's biggest newspaper on Facebook, though, so they are probably my main source of non-Catholic news and current events, particularly from around the state.

3. Would you be able to make change for a twenty right now? For a dollar?

Not a twenty! Maybe a one, if we're at home and I have access to our spare change stein. (Because we can't be normal people and use a jar.) Instead of carrying a proper wallet, I usually just have my phone with me; the case has room for my drivers license, credit card, and a folded bill or two. 

4. What's the craziest food you've ever eaten?

I can't really think of anything; we eat a lot of wild game unique to Alaska, moose, caribou/reindeer, grouse, etc., and Matt and I enjoy several types of Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, but nothing that's striking me as being all that unusual. Although Matt would tell you that my willingly eating moldy cheese (i.e. Gorgonzola) is certainly crazy. Oh! Well, this doesn't seem particularly crazy to me, but I would think that to people not from Alaska, it doesn't sound exactly normal that we regularly shoot for having a reindeer roast for Christmas dinner...

5. Which of the commonly removed parts have you had removed (tonsils, wisdom teeth, appendix, etc)?

I had all four wisdom teeth removed a couple of years ago.

6. What's your favorite sport to watch on TV?

Would it make me sound terribly old and boring to say the PGA Tour? I grew up loving pro football, but right now, something that moves at a more leisurely pace, to which I don't actually have to pay constant attention to keep up on what's happening, and which usually has beautiful views of the scenery around the course, sounds about right.

I don't think this is still the case in my parents' house, but once upon a time when I was a kid, sports came on after Mass every Sunday without fail. In the summertime, the only sporting event happening midday was golf, so that's what we watched; the siblings closest to me in age probably remember our ridiculous rivalries over which of our favorite golfers (usually split between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods) would have a better day. The kids still at home now have probably never heard either of those names... Okay, now I feel like I deserve the "old and boring" title.

We had a visiting priest today, and unfortunately I was changing Kit right at the beginning of Mass so I didn't catch his name or where he's from, but wow, some parish is sure lucky to have him! His homily, about Friday's SCOTUS decision, was quite blunt. Every major civilization throughout history has destroyed itself from the inside, Father said, by choosing to live without reality, without natural and moral law, acting as though God does not exist or matter. In doing so, they have made themselves ripe for invasion and obliteration. He is a lawyer, and went on to make it clear that the SCOTUS decision invents a "right" not found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or in the intentions of the Founding Fathers. I'm sure that some people in the congregation were offended by the homily, but Matt made a point of stopping to thank him for what he'd said on our way out after Mass.

In 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, issued Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, which was approved and promulgated by St. John Paul II. In it, it is made clear that:

"In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection." (Article II, paragraph 3).

The entire thing is worth a read!

Did you hear anything about the ruling at church today?

24 June 2015


Well, the smoke did leave Monday afternoon, but by the time Matt and I were getting ready for bed that night it was back. We ran around and shut down the house, grateful that we'd at least gotten it a little cooler for the night, but it was still above 80 and stuffy by morning.

Yesterday, Matt did some research into air conditioners, fans and air filtration. At this point, A/C units seem like too inefficient an option; expensive to operate, only able to cool small areas, not really compatible with the arrangement of our apartment (an open floor plan and very few windows that actually open). Fans... work well enough for us to sleep, but with windows closed they are just circulating the hot air; we had fans running in both bedrooms last night, and both rooms held steady at 83 degrees all night.

One of the fires closest to town (although still more than an hour's drive away) grew by more than 14,000 acres yesterday, and that's just one of the more than 200 fires actively burning across the state right now; we're not likely to see an end to the smoke for a while, not without a whole lot of rain. Our Air Quality Index is now a solid Unhealthy, and I'm starting to feel it in the back of my throat, a dry scratchiness that has me being extra careful to keep Kit and Little Bear out of the smoke. 

Matt and Little Bear built two window air filters yesterday afternoon out of box fans and two layers of A/C filters, first a standard filter to block dust and large particulates, then a very fine filter for the smoke. They have been working pretty well, bringing in cooler air but keeping out the smoke. This morning the smoke outside is visibly heavier, and some is getting in around the edges... Running the air cleaner in the middle of the living room seems to be filtering out most of the smoke that's getting in, so I'm keeping Kit on the far side of the air cleaner.

The sheet hanging over the doorway, combined with the strong pull of the fan, works startlingly well to block the smoke.

This afternoon we'll put one fan/filter unit in Little Bear's bedroom window, move the air cleaner into the room, and then close the door and hope to get the room cool enough for him to sleep with the window closed tonight. It's unfortunate that we can't run the fan/filters at night, because the air is coolest then, but we live in Alaska—it's sunny all night! The window shades have to be closed.

Apparently there is a "dense smoke advisory" in effect until noon today, so hopefully it will lessen after noon?

Oh, one other fun wrench in everything: We learned yesterday that due to the extreme fire danger, the burn ban encompassing most of the state has been expanded to include charcoal grills, among other things. We'd intended to grill all week, to avoid heating up the house because we can't cool it back down! Sometime today we're going to run over to my parents' house so Matt can cook a bunch of chicken on their (gas) grill, and I'll work on finding cold chicken meal ideas. Suggestions would be welcome! So far all I can come up with is chicken salad.

There are possible thunderstorms in the forecast for tomorrow, and more over the weekend; pray that they bring lots of rain, and that lightening doesn't start any more fires!

22 June 2015

Te Deum

Thank you, Lord! We can open the windows this evening.

We're forecast to stay in the 80s until Friday. Living in Alaska, we don't have air conditioning, so 85 outside means 85 inside. Being able to get a crossbreeze through in the evenings has been the one thing making bedtime bearable. This morning, we woke up to rust-tinted sunlight, a haze obscuring even the far side of the driveway, and one of my least-favorite scents of summer: smoke.

Summer is "fire season," but in our part of the state we really haven't seen any smoke or fires yet this year. Last night, though, a lot of smoke blew in from a wildfire about an hour and a half south of us. Our Air Quality Index this morning was moderate-to-unhealthy, and forecast to get worse in the evening. With Kit not even a week old, we couldn't risk bringing that smoke in by opening up the house like we usually do to cool everything down, and by midday everyone was hot and grumpy. Matt picked up three bags of ice from the gas station around 3, and we tested out the common suggestion of setting a bowl full of ice in front of a fan. It sort of worked... for ten minutes at a time, and then the bowl was full of water. We were not exactly optimistic about the coming night.

At 5, Matt went out to start the grill (no way are we turning on the stove/oven in this heat!) and quickly called me outside: the smoke was gone! The light is definite still filtering through smoke—the sky is still grey, and the light has a ruddy cast—but the smell of smoke is gone, and the haze is off toward the next hill rather than right across the driveway. We quickly opened doors and windows; the house will be cool enough for sleeping tonight! Thank you, Lord, for shifting the wind!

21 June 2015

Answer Me This for Father's Day

Happy Father's Day! Matt's Father's Day and our first time bringing two kids to Mass was a little more exciting than usual; Kit nursed or slept the entire time, but Little Bear was having a hard time handling the heat (it's been horribly hot, and is expected to remain so up until next weekend... ugh) so he and Matt wound up in the cry room so they could be next to an open window.

We had a pleasant, fairly calm day at home, punctuated by wild wrestling matches between Matt and Little Bear, and to avoid heating up the house any more than it already was, we decided to have fun with supper and made a pizza on the grill.

I did wind up typing this out on Tuesday evening, "just in case," so I actually have a post for Answer Me This today despite the foggy brain from dear Kit not knowing day from night...

1. What's the best thing about your dad?

His readiness to help his family with anything, combined with a sense of when to offer help, and when to let us figure things out on our own and only give help/advice if it's requested.

2. If you've got kids, what is the best thing about THEIR dad?

Even after a long, stressful day, when he really just wants to zone out, he is always willing to wrestle with Little Bear, have a water gun fight, or even get Little Bear to help him in the kitchen making supper if Kit needs me to be sitting down and nursing her.

3. What's the best advice your dad ever gave you?

I don't remember any exact words, but he did a thorough job of instilling a solid work ethic and an awareness of the importance of saving money from the time I was young... and then let me know when I'd taken him a little too literally and wouldn't buy decent running shoes in high school "because I'm saving for college," promising that if the price of a pair of running shoes was all that stood between me and college, he'd make up the difference. And he didn't even let me see him roll his eyes at my ridiculousness!

4. What's something you have in common with your dad?

Matt says, "You both make lots of lists. He has lists for every kind of trip, every season of every kind of trip. And you make lists of everything... You even make lists of lists." Which is very true, and yet I never would have thought of it as something we had in common.

5. What's the manliest thing you know how to do?

Turning a 1/4"-thick sheet of plastic into a freight sled by hand... Does that count? 

6. Who is your favorite fictional dad?

I'm going to go with Commander Ted Walker, of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series. He's very rarely seen as a character, as he's frequently deployed, but he has clearly done an excellent job of raising respectful, confident and capable children. It is his telegram, "Better drowned than duffers if not duffers won't drown," that allows the Walker children to begin their adventures. His children all clearly look up to him, desire to make him proud, and have great respect for the things he's taught them.

18 June 2015

Introducing Kit

Meet Kit! She was born yesterday morning, just two and a half hours after we got to the birth center. At 7 lbs 2 oz and 20" long, Kit is a little bigger than Little Bear was. So far she definitely has day and night mixed up; she was wide-eyed and wanting to nurse pretty much straight from 10 pm to 4 am. She and I both got a solid four hours of sleep after that, though, and she's been a little more alert today than yesterday.

More later when I'm more awake. We're all doing fine, and so happy to have Kit here with us!

14 June 2015

Answer Me This returns! with What I Wore Sunday

Hooray for Kendra! Her linkup Answer Me This is back for the summer. 

1. Any big plans for the summer?

Like Kendra, the biggest thing I have happening this summer is having a baby... hopefully soon! I've been pretty hermit-y so far this summer because prodromal labor has made going places, doing things, and seeing people difficult. I don't really anticipate becoming much less reclusive for a while after the baby comes, what with having a brand-new tiny person in the house, but it'll be nice to eventually be able to get out and enjoy the summer!

2. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

That the Easter bunny wore bunny boots. They're the winter footwear of choice for many Alaskans, and here Easter is definitely always still wintry. And with a name like that? My dad didn't have too much trouble convincing us as little kids, which was good for him, otherwise the bunny boot tracks all over the snowy back yard where he'd hidden the jelly bean-filled Easter eggs would have been a dead giveaway as to the bunny's identity!

3. What is your favorite amusement park ride?

None? I've never actually been to an amusement park. With such a short snow-free season compared to the rest of the country, it wouldn't make much economic sense to build one in Alaska.

4. What's on your summer reading list?

I just recently finished Catholic Philosopher Chick Comes On Strong, by Regina Doman and Rebecca Bratten-Weis. It was a fun read, and I enjoyed it (especially Cate's philosophy classes), but I didn't enjoy it as much as I did the first (Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut). I'm optimistically looking forward to the next one coming out, though.

Currently, I'm working my way through Light from Heaven by Jan Karon and Parenting With Grace by the Popcaks. I keep setting the Mitford book down and losing it, so it's taking me a while. Parenting With Grace has been great; they cite current research into young children's developmental capabilities, which I appreciate, and we've already seen improvements as we have started trying to implement their "self-donative" parenting style. I love that it's based on a TOB understanding of relationships!

Next up, Molly Sabourin's Close to Home: One Orthodox mother's quest for patience, peace and perseverance. It's been on my wishlist for at least a year, and it only just recently occurred to me to see if it was available on Kindle... It is! I'm looking forward to picking it up during middle-of-the-night nursing sessions.

5. Have you ever fallen asleep in public?

If planes count as "in public," then definitely yes. Same goes for airports. I don't think anywhere else, though, and in neither planes nor airports was it ever unintentional.

6. What is your favorite smell?

Fresh-baked bread!

And, because I knew that I was going to find some way to get a post written today no matter what, because I was so excited about Answer Me This being back, I actually remembered to have Matt take a photo on our way out the door this morning so that I could link up with Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday as well!

(Okay, if I'd gone into labor for real midday, it might have taken an extra day or two to get my Answer Me This written... but not for any lesser reason! Hmm... now I might have to go fill out my answers to next week's questions, just in case, so that I'm ready :-)

Seriously, though, What I Wore Sunday:

Dress is from Motherhood Maternity; it was actually my Easter dress, but I hadn't yet gotten a picture of myself wearing it. It's so comfortable! And wow, Matt found an angle to take the photo from this morning that totally does not capture my "I look like a beached whale" feeling every time I walk past a mirror. It was oh-so-glamorously paired for Mass this morning with black flip flops borrowed from my mom, because with my ridiculous hobbit feet right now none of my shoes are even making an attempt at fitting, and none of the real shoes my mom and sister let me try fit either. Oh, and a very lightweight cocoa-brown sweater to cover my shoulders, which I was very very happy to take off after we got back in the car because it's getting hot out again!

Have a blessed new week!

13 June 2015

Several Quick Takes

Oh goodness, it's Friday again already. I got close to no sleep last night—not Little Bear's fault; baby is "helping" me get ready for her arrival, I guess—so I don't know if I have the brain to make Seven Quick Takes happen today. Let's see how many I can get through...

Since moving Little Bear from his mattress on the floor to the bottom bunk on Sunday, he's fallen out of bed once a night every night except for last night. We stick a couple of pillows on the floor each night, and he doesn't even really wake up when he falls out of bed... We just hear a "thump" over the monitor, and one of us goes and puts him back in bed. I'm so grateful that he's been sleeping well! He's an Alaskan kid for sure: we're within ten days of the summer solstice now so it's pretty light all night long, and having light coming in under and around his window shade all night hasn't seemed to affect his sleep at all, even now that he's closer to the window in the big bed.

In the last 24 hours both my midwife and my chiropractor have made comments about "oh, your poor feet!", so I'm feeling a little better about being unhappy with how swollen they are. I'd kind of assumed this was normal and I was just being a wimp and hadn't experienced it to this degree with Little Bear because he was born earlier than this. I'm sure that's part of it, but also I might just be more-than-typically prone to edema and didn't discover it with Little Bear because I spent a huge percentage of the last few weeks pregnant with him sitting down with my feet up. That doesn't work when there's a little kid to chase around everywhere! It would be lovely if baby decided to come before we jump back up into the mid-80s next week and I get to deal with end-of-pregnancy hobbit feet combined with hot-summer-weather hobbit feet.

A couple of weeks ago we signed Little Bear up for the public library's summer reading program. This year they have a superhero theme, and he's excited beyond words every time we go in and he sees the larger-than-life Spider-Man balloon crouched on the ceiling. Yesterday we stopped in on the way to my midwife appointment to get his weekly stamp, and on the way out he spotted a giant book of "5-minute Marvel stories." I've done a little "editing" as I read to avoid defining concepts that just don't break down into 3yo-friendly language or to spend less time/emphasis on superheroic battles, but it's been a fun introduction for me to some Marvel characters I hadn't yet come across.

...and now it's late Saturday night, and I have nothing, because baby thinks it's more fun to start and stop contractions than to let me sleep, and bedtime for Little Bear was rough tonight. Rather than pulling thought fragments of of my fuzzy brain and tossing them haphazardly down on the page, let's just let this be finished and try again next week, shall we? Since I'm cheating this week I'm not going to link up with Seven Quick Takes, but don't let that stop you from checking out others' posts!