17 August 2014

Answer Me This with a couch

I am being sneaky this week and killing two birds with one photo: my answer for the first Answer Me This question today features our new-from-Craigslist couch and my outfit for What I Wore Sunday!

Little Bear was still and quiet for most of Mass—sitting in the second row from the front, right behind some older, well-behaved kids probably had a lot to do with that. I love that we're starting to feel like we belong in this community: there are several families with kids close in age to Little Bear, and others whom we genuinely look forward to seeing every week. After Mass today we stopped at my parents' house on our way home to say goodbye to my brother, who heads back to college this evening. While we were there Matt got a text back from a guy he'd contacted last night about a couch on Craigslist: if we could come get it now, we could have it for a very good price. Good thing we were with my brother, who has a pickup truck! We are now the happy owners of a big puffy beige couch and four turquoise pillows (which they threw in for free!)

As far as WIWS, I'm being lazy today; I have no idea what any of the brands are, top and skirt are both old and thrifted, but the shoes have a story behind them: Matt was in a friend's wedding in Ohio when Little Bear was three months old, and I found out five minutes into the wedding that the only pair of dress shoes I'd brought with us from Alaska were absolutely too small for my recently-swollen-from-pregnancy feet. Never pack heels without trying them on when you're traveling across the country! I made it through Mass, and then there was a several-hour break before the reception so the wedding party could take photos, so one of Matt's other household brothers took me to a shoe store and watched Little Bear so that I could find some new shoes and my feet wouldn't be killing me for the rest of the night!

1. What is your favorite room in the house?
It's a toss-up between our kitchen and our living room; the kitchen is huge compared to any of the other places we've rented, and has a ton of storage, and it's bright and pretty. But the living room is where we spend most of our time as a family, and I like how open it is—especially with windows cut into the kitchen—and that we have a fireplace, a bunch of south-facing windows, and now a very nice couch:

2. Do you subscribe to any magazines or other periodicals?
We do: there's Catholic Digest, which I honestly couldn't stand before but have loved since Danielle Bean was put in charge and they updated their design; we've been getting it pretty much since her tenure began and I don't remember ever encountering a theologically- or morally-questionable article, which is more than I can say for some of the issues I remember from when I was in middle or high school. We also get Food Network Magazine, which has so many fun recipes. Oh, and it's not a subscription but I do enjoy reading the quarterly alumni magazine Franciscan Way from our alma mater.

3. How do you feel about the sign of peace in Mass? Enriching? Awkward? Overdone? Just right? Some combination of the above?
Overdone, I suppose; I think the best and most charitable word might be "distracting." The Consecration just happened; Christ is literally right there on the altar in front of us, and having the church erupt into boisterous chatter is horribly jarring. I certainly wouldn't say that this is always the case, but I've seen too many instances of people becoming overly enthusiastic to the point of pretty clearly forgetting that they're in the immediate presence of God. I'm so grateful that the Holy See has formally urged bishops to reign in excesses and help people remember to be decorous in sharing the sign of peace.

4. What is your least favorite sound?
Any kid-related noise other than breathing that happens between 1 and 5 am. :-P Okay, honestly? A child crying in pain. It's so awful knowing they're hurting, but being unable to take the pain away. 

5. What was your favorite TV show (or shows) growing up?
As a kid, I loved the Wishbone series about the dog who was so well-versed in classic literature; in fact, I'd probably go so far as to say that watching Wishbone in elementary school is one of the main reasons I love reading so much today.

I also have fond memories of Magic Schoolbus, Reading Rainbow, Kratts' Creatures (their original one), and the Red Green Show. Hmm... one of these things is not like the others. Also, I definitely never realized as a kid that I was pretty much only watching "educational television."

6. What are your favorite TV shows now?
I don't really watch TV anymore... I just don't have time, and in the few spare minutes I do find myself sitting still with nothing to do, I'd rather pick up a book or blog. I have enjoyed watching the occasional episode of Doctor Who with Matt over the past few years, though. And we badly need to catch up on Sherlock; we've only seen through the first episode of the second season, even though we both thought it was great—we really just don't have time.

16 August 2014

Seven Late Takes about two-isms and Saturdays

Little Bear doesn't have a problem knowing how letters are supposed to be pronounced; he just pronounces them however he wants anyway. This became more apparent the other day when he brought me the book Blueberries for Sal and asked to sit on my lap and hear it: "Sal! Wop." Really, child? "Wop"? Don't try to tell me that you can't pronounce l's and a's, because you just said "Sal" perfectly.

This week, I finally stopped saying the sign of the cross for him while I moved his hands and instead asked him to say the words himself, and he knew them all with very little prompting. I start him with "In the name of the..." and he fills in "fawa, hon, howa piwit, Amen!" with a huge smile on his face. Yesterday at the end of Mass we found ourselves in the vestibule while they droned through unnecessary announcements, and Little Bear was very happy to keep dipping his finger in the holy water font and making the sign of the cross over and over.

My favorite of his mispronunciations, though, has to be thermometer: he calls it a "wampa," pronounced exactly like the Star Wars snow monster. It's just too funny to hear myself slipping into his pronunciation and saying things like "Sit still so I can put the wampa on your head," or "No, we can't play with the wampa; it's bed time."

Thursday night when we were trying to put him to bed, Little Bear decided that it was the perfect time to practice counting. "One car, two car. One bus, two bus. One car, two car, three car, four car, five car, ten car!" Kind of like counting sheep? Maybe. It took quite a while for me to get him quiet enough to fall asleep, but it worked for somebody: Matt fell asleep while Little Bear was still counting. 

Matt's been home from work recovering since his oral surgery on Wednesday, and at this point I well and truly don't know what day it is. Wednesday felt like Saturday, because he was home. Thursday felt like Saturday again. Friday felt like Sunday, because we went to Mass midday. And now today's Saturday again? My internal calendar is so confused, especially because Matt was gone when Little Bear and I got up this morning. He and my brother left at 6:00 am to go grouse hunting again, so when I woke up at 7:30 and he was gone, I initially assumed that today was Monday. Long weekends sound so nice in theory, but before they're over I always find myself wishing for the stability and rhythm of a normal week.

What is your Saturday philosophy? Every Friday night or Saturday morning, I write out a list of everything that needs to be done over the weekend, and I try to cross everything off of the list on Saturday—preferably, Saturday morning. And every weekend, Matt sees my list and groans because to him, the weekend is for relaxing, and a few things will get done but they should be spread out over the weekend so overall it's still relaxed. I can understand his perspective; he went to work all week, and played with Little Bear or helped in the kitchen when he got home each night, and now he wants a break. And he knows that I work around the house all week while he's gone, so he wants me to take a break too; he's not just expecting me to work on Saturdays so he can rest. 

But if there are things to be done, I can't just sit down and relax. That's not how I'm made; I can't relax when my house is a mess and I'm aware of chores waiting for me. And so I feel guilty for having so much to do on the weekends, but it's hard for me to express to someone who hasn't experienced it just how difficult it is to accomplish actual housework during the week when every ten minutes there's another mess to clean up, or stinky diaper to change, or toddler hanging on my knees and whining because he wants to flick the light switch on and off. I don't think it's actually possible to keep the house perfect and take care of a toddler all day by yourself. So there's always a pile of chores left over by Friday night.

And to me, cleaning the house and doing chores that could have been accomplished on Saturday isn't Sunday-day-of-rest behavior. Just because I've already dusted, vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, taken out the trash, etc., by midday Saturday doesn't mean that I should just put off whatever else is on the list until Sunday when I could do it Saturday afternoon. To my mind, at least. Growing up, my siblings and I had a strong sense of Sundays as being different, a day of rest, because we had Saturdays as an immediate comparison: Saturdays were for working. Housework in the morning, yard work in the afternoon, or in the evening once we were in high school and had jobs Saturday afternoons. Sundays were for Mass, family time, reading and relaxing and getting out in the woods and doing enjoyable things. And that's a distinction I'd really like Little Bear to have as he grows up, too.

Have a good weekend! For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary! 

14 August 2014

Grouse hunting

Last Sunday was the opening day of grouse season, and Matt spent the afternoon out hunting with my dad, my brother, and our pastor. He agreed to share his account of their afternoon here:

We didn't actually see any grouse at all. The middle of the day is not a prime time to find grouse, as they usually come out to eat in the morning and evening. They are generally found near roads or trails, because they eat little pebbles from the road, to fill a crop in their throat that pre-grinds the food they eat. My understanding is that most grouse hunting is done by walking down a trail until they scare out of a bush and fly into a tree. 

We ended up exploring a road that goes out of town quite far. Well, it isn't really a road, it's more of a trail for ATVs or snow machines (mobiles). A lot of people use the trail to get to their favorite moose hunting spots in the fall and winter, including a friend of Rosalie's dad, who said we were welcome to use his spot whenever we would like to. The camp is over 20 miles off the main road, but we weren't sure EXACTLY where it was, so we didn't get all the way to it. 

Rosalie's brother rode with me in our jeep, and her dad rode in Father's jeep. Father's jeep was much more customized for things like this trail, with things like extra wide/large tires, and a winch on the front, but our jeep didn't have much trouble either. Since Father's jeep also had a CB radio in it, Rosalie's brother got his CB from his truck and put it in our jeep for the trip. This allowed us to communicate between the vehicles while we were moving. Her brother and I followed the other jeep out and back, 17-18 miles each way. The drive was fun, challenging, and beautiful. The majority of the trail runs from overlook to overlook, along ridges and hillsides, with woods and more hills as far as the eye can see. To the north, very far off in the distance, we could see the peaks of the White Mountains, that run across the northern part of the state from east to west. When we got out the binoculars, we could barely make out the radio towers that are back where the trail started, at Cleary Summit. Here are some pictures from the farthest point we made it to.

The trail there and back was pretty well maintained, but heavily rutted from constant use of ATVs during the summer and fall. This meant I had to drive with one wheel on the center ridge, and the other on the side of the trail, to avoid scraping the bottom of the jeep on the many rocks and roots there. We crossed a number of shallow streams, and climbed more than a few very steep hills. Had we known the way to the moose camp, I have no doubt we could have made it there in our vehicles. 

Trucks tend to be what everyone in Fairbanks drives and believes is the best vehicle for everything, but there is no way a huge truck could have done what the jeeps did without getting stuck. It was fun to find something that our vehicle could do that a truck could not.

When I pulled into the post office parking lot the other day, the jeep still covered in mud from their adventure, a guy parked next to me in his nice clean jeep and laughed. "That's the sign of a happy jeep owner," he said, nodding to the mud on the roof. "I have to go get mine dirty again." It's too bad they didn't find any grouse, but there's still plenty of grouse season left, and I'm glad they got out and had fun!

Overtired rabbit trails



I stuck my head out of the shower to see that Little Bear was no longer in the bathroom, and the drawer which houses my makeup bag was standing open, empty.

There are windows everywhere in our new house, and of course they were all open because why would I expect to need them closed in the middle of the day? So by the time I was decent enough to chase down my errant makeup, the container of blush was open and scattered across the light beige living room carpet. Cleaning suggestions, anyone? I'm seriously thinking about just throwing all of my makeup away; I never wear it, and Little Bear keeps causing trouble with it, and there's no good place to store it out of his reach in this bathroom. 

So that was Tuesday. Other things probably happened Tuesday too, but I can't remember them because when I don't sleep my memory stops working, and the last two nights... Tuesday Little Bear had a good night, but I lay awake for hours worrying about Matt's impending oral surgery and him having a reaction to the IV painkillers, because they were giving him a narcotic in the same drug family as codine, which he's had an allergic reaction to before... Everyone assured me it would be fine, and it was, but I still worried. 

Wednesday morning we were up early to drive across town for Matt to get his last two wisdom teeth out; Little Bear and I played and read books in the waiting room for about an hour before the nurse brought us back to see him. The surgery went well, and he has been feeling fine, energetic, "with it," etc, unlike his wife last year; it took me a long time to come out of the general anesthesia, and I don't remember much about that day or the next.

Little Bear went to sleep quickly last night, but he woke us up at 11:45 pm screaming and sobbing. I hate it when he gets night terrors! He's so upset and there's nothing I can do to make it better—he won't wake up, and it seems like everything I do makes it worse. Someone once suggested that night terrors in toddlers might be linked to teething, and I wonder if that's true: I'd been wondering earlier this week if he is starting to get his two-year molars. I finally got him to sleep by going through a litany of every single saint I could think of... And not an hour layer, it happened again. By 2:15 am, I think he was finally asleep for the night, but by that time I was frazzled enough that I didn't really sleep much for the rest of the night. 

One day post-surgery, Matt insists he's feeling well enough to tackle projects. I keep trying to get him to rest, and he is to a degree, but every time I say, "X is too much physical labor, you should wait," he reminds me that my brother went backpacking, overnight, by himself, hundreds of miles north of town, two days after getting one of his wisdom teeth out a couple of weeks ago. He has conveniently forgotten how foolish he thought that was at the time.

And tomorrow is a holy day of obligation! The Assumption(/Dormition) of Mary. I'm so grateful that Matt is still on sick leave tomorrow, recovering from surgery, so that we can go to the noon Mass as a family and not have to try to make the evening Mass work! 

10 August 2014

Answer Me This with a rainbow-y anniversary adventure

"It just wouldn't have been right without some kind of... adventure." 

Matt and I have pretty extraordinary luck when it comes to having enough excitement in our lives. The farther away from civilization we go, the higher our chances of having an "adventure." So when we decided to celebrate our third wedding anniversary with a picnic up on Murphy Dome north of town, the same place where I sunk my mom's suburban above the axles in snow the night Matt proposed, we were just asking for something more exciting than a quiet dinner out. 

We dropped Little Bear off at my parents' house around 4:30 and headed north, watching as black clouds steadily accumulated on the eastern horizon and convincing ourselves that "they're way over there; we're going the opposite direction." A couple of miles from the top of the dome, long after the pavement had ended, we came upon two guys trying to load a motorcycle onto a trailer. The bike had died on the way down, so Matt got out to help them lift it on and secure the trailer. As we drove off, we talked about how we liked living here where if you break down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, people will stop and help you because it's not really dangerous to do so.

Right before the parking lot at the top of Murohy Dome, we turned down a side "road" (our jeep had no problem with it, but a little car probably couldn't have handled some sections) and skirted the ridge line a couple more miles until we found a pull-off my dad had told us about. The clouds were covering most of the sky by that point, and the wind was blowing something fierce, but we hiked around a bit and enjoyed the view of the Chatanika river valley and Minto Flats before the rain started falling.

As dark as the clouds were, we decided not to risk having the steep sections of the road turn to mud before we got out, so we got back in the jeep and drove until we found an empty pull-out along the main road, just a mile or so before the pavement started up again. As we were coming down, we saw something incredible: a triple rainbow, with another normal rainbow arching over it!

I don't think you can see the second and third iterations of the spectrum under the brighter rainbow in this photo... We sure wished we had a camera that could have actually captured it! It was beautiful.

We parked in the pull-out and ate our picnic in the car, watching as fat raindrops spattered the windshield. As we finished eating and talking, the car made an odd dinging noise. We'd left the lights on; the battery was dead. "We dint have a great track record with cars on this road, do we?" Matt laughed, as he went to dig the jumper cables out of the back and I walked out to the edge of the road to flag down the next passing vehicle. I didn't have to wait long at all before a couple came by, and they were happy to pull over and give us a jump. 

We made it back to my parents' house to pick up Little Bear sooner than we'd expected, so we finished off the night by taking him with us to the ice cream parlor. Being his parents is certainly one if the great things about being married, so it made sense to include him as we were celebrating our anniversary.

Now for some Answer Me This:

1. What do you still want to do this summer?
Goodness, so many things. I need to pick more berries, to freeze them and make jam; ideally, while it's summer and produce is cheap, I should be processing as much as I can and storing it for the winter. Matt is actually out hunting right now—it's the first day of grouse season—so we're hoping that soon we'll have some meat in the freezer. Before the snow flies we also need to figure out a semipermanent gate for the deck, so I don't have to worry about Little Bear falling down the stairs. Oh, and wood. We talked with a guy selling wood a week ago and he was supposed to bring us three cords, but he hasn't yet and that definitely needs to happen ASAP.

I want to get out as many more times as we can: up high like on Murphy Dome, and alongside rivers or lakes so Little Bear can throw rocks. We still haven't made it to the new artificial lakes south of town. Two of my siblings leave for college next week, and we really need to do something fun with them before they go! I want to take Little Bear on the carousel at the park, and we were talking last night about how long it's been since we played mini golf. And we need to grill as many times as possible before it gets too cold!

2. What's your favorite kind of pie?
Rhubarb custard pie, but mincemeat and pecan are tied for a close second.

3. How much sleep do you need each day? How much do you get?
Need to function? Just a couple of hours. Need to be pleasant and optimistic and get more than the bare minimum done? I'd say six to seven hours, preferably with only one interruption. Most nights twenty I've probably gotten five to six with two interruptions, so that's not bad. Last night, though, I got maaaaaybe four hours with at least as many interruptions. Unhappy mama this morning.

4. Do you prefer to swim in a pool, lake, river or ocean?
Hmm. Lake. I've never swum in the ocean, rivers here are definitely too fast for swimming, and I don't like the chlorine in pools. I loved swimming in lakes when I was younger; it's been a while, but if we lived closer to one and we hadn't been so busy with moving and everything, I'd probably have taken Little Bear to a lake many times this summer. I suppose there's theoretically still time.

5. Do you know any poems by heart?
Lots! Mostly little kid poems, nursery rhymes, that sort of thing. But I used to organize poetry recitals for local homeschoolers when I was in high school, and I still know a fair number of the poems I learned for those, particularly some by Keats, Tennyson, Frost, and sections of Chesterton's epics.

6. Do you use the public library?
Not as much as I should. When I was in junior high and high school, I would come home from the public library every week with a stack of 10-15 novels. The little kids would regularly have two full canvas tote bags of picture books, early reader books like Henry and Mudge, etc. I haven't even gotten Little Bear there once a month! It's hard, because I usually do my errands right after taking Matt to work in the morning and the library doesn't open until 10 am. I'm home by then, and especially now that we've moved, it's too far to make multiple trips to town in one day. I want him to learn to love the library and reading as much as I do, though.

Have a good week!

08 August 2014


We have had three straight days of sunshine! It's wonderful. It's also incredibly odd that I'm even noticing three days of sun in a row... It's been such an oddly wet summer. I saw in the newspaper the other day that this has already been the second-wettest summer on record, and we only need another 6mm of rain to set a new record. Given that August is usually the rainiest month of the summer, we're probably going to get there.

We have made good use of our not-rainy week: Tuesday the rain let up in the afternoon and we had my family over for supper to celebrate Little Bear's baptism day (and belatedly, his birthday); Wednesday Little Bear and I went to tea with my mom, sister, and a family friend who is moving out of state; yesterday my mom and I took Little Bear and my youngest sister to a park, and we had a good friend from Matt's office over for supper; and tonight, as long as it stays sunny, we're going to walk through the Tanana Valley State Fair. It's been a great week: I love being able to get together with people and get out and do fun things in the summertime! 


Ever since Tuesday night, Little Bear has been having a blast with his pony from Grandma and Papa. He probably spends equal amounts of time riding it around the deck and house, and dragging it around by the tail.

Poll: Walking around the fair tonight with roughly 27 pounds of child, should I bring the Ergo or the stroller? Honestly, I hate using the stroller in crowds, and Friday night of fair week is definitely going to be crowded! But the stroller would let him eat or drink while we walk without pouring anything down my back... Which would you use? He's heavy and squirmy enough that alternating between just letting him walk holding my hand and carrying him on my hip probably isn't a good option.

Is there a difference between a kid "speaking in sentences" and "using words together"? It seems silly to say that a kid isn't "talking" because they don't use articles and transitions, but where is the line? Is there some actual definition the pediatricians use? I told Little Bear's doctor last time we saw him that no, Little Bear wasn't using sentences yet, and received a referral to an audiologist for his "speech delay." We haven't gone, because it's going to be expensive and I don't agree that he has a speech delay: in the car heading home this morning, for example, he said "Home garage button garage door beep beep beep," clearly (to me) expressing "we're going home to the garage and I'll push the button to close the garage door and it'll say beep beep beep." (Our garage door beeps before and as it closes.) I frequently hear "Dada, work," when Matt's at work, or "Grandma, car? Nope." when he's looking out the window at the driveway. Not "sentences," but surely that's not "delayed" language development for a newly-two-year-old?

The cheese snob is back: When Little Bear was younger, he went through a phase where he would only accept sharp cheddar and would turn up his nose at medium. He's always liked Parmesan, and it's pretty clear that he can tell the difference between freshly-grated and from a canister ("shakey cheese"). He's been pretty good about eating the more affordable medium cheddar recently, but last night I set out a plate of Gouda, Brie and smoked salmon for the guys while they were grilling, and apparently Little Bear managed to eat as much of the Gouda as his father did. Today as I made lunch he was dancing and singing about cheese, but when I offered him a slice of cheddar, he let me know that that was not the cheese he wanted.

Someday, it would be lovely to have a pressure cooker so that I could can food without using the boiling water bath method. I have a big pot of pasta sauce sitting in my fridge that needs to be portioned out for later use, and we have such a small freezer that I really wish I could can it! Tomatoes and meat both fall in the "pressure cooker required" category, though, so I'll have to do some creative freezer reorganization this afternoon.

Sorry I'm so boring this week! For many more interesting batches of Seven Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

06 August 2014


"And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. ... But Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Rise, and do not be afraid.'"

We thought the image of transfiguration was a pretty great metaphor for marriage. Three years later, I'm so glad we have this feast as our anniversary! It's a good reminder that the first purpose of marriage is to help each other be transformed in Christ, and to one day make it to heaven. 

Happy anniversary, Matt! I pray we'll have many more.

(Reeeaaally low-quality photos alert, because I had to use screenshots of thumbnails from Shutterfly, but I wanted to have something!)  

Blessing after Communion

Wedding party

Memorare at the Lourdes grotto