26 January 2015

Welcome to winter

It's only natural that the first -30 F day of the winter, -40 in town (yay for a functioning inversion again!), would be the day that our washing machine loses water, and the day that the only set of twin-sized flannel sheets we own needs to be washed.

Matt and our landlord are still trying to figure out why the washing machine can't get any water; the washer and dryer are up against the wall of the always-cold garage, so I initially assumed that the water line had frozen. It's -30, after all. But they were fairly sure there was only one water line coming into our half of the building at all, and our kitchen and bathroom have water, so that doesn't make sense.

Yet another reason it's wonderful to be 10 minutes from my parents' house: I sorted out the most important things to wash—definitely including the flannel sheets—and ran a load at Mom's house this afternoon. We wound up making a slightly ridiculous number of trips to her house and town today: starting the laundry, picking Matt up and going in for an appointment, taking Matt back to work and finishing the laundry, back to town to see the chiropractor, back to pick Matt up, picking Little Bear up from Grandma's where he'd stayed to avoid spending extra time out in the cold... so much running! I'll be happy to spend tomorrow quietly at home, although I suspect Little Bear will be disappointed to not have aunts and uncles around to play with him.

The landlord just popped back in after checking out the utility room downstairs. All of the accessible pipes, there and in the garage, are room temperature. There's no sign of any leaks or burst pipes anywhere. All of the water sources in the downstairs apartment work fine. Our washer was hooked up properly; there was no water pressure when they unhooked it tonight, so it's clearly not a problem with the washer itself. No one has changed any settings or turned any valves anywhere that we're aware of. It makes no sense.

I'm grateful tonight that we're renting, and that we have an attentive landlord. It's so nice to be able to say, "I have no idea what's wrong, but I know I can trust that he's going to get it figured out as quickly as possible," whether that means him and Matt doing it themselves or him calling in a professional. And that we aren't going to suddenly be hit with a huge repair bill, as I'm already trying to rework and tighten up our budget. It can be frustrating, paying rent every month and feeling like the money is just being thrown away instead of going toward a mortgage on a house that we'll eventually have paid off, but this has been a good reminder of the benefits that come with renting, like not having to pay unexpected home repair bills.

Temperatures are supposed to slowly climb this week, possibly becoming positive by Saturday, but the forecast has changed three times today so I don't really think I'm going to trust any predictions that far out. Given the "everything else works and this makes no sense" conclusion that they reached tonight, it's seeming less likely that the cold is to blame for the washing machine trouble, but who knows? Maybe warming weather will fix it if nothing else they've tried does. Hopefully the washer is running one way or the other by the end of the week! At least I only run laundry on Mondays and Thursdays, so it's not like the down time will throw off my entire week; I did have a second load worth to wash today, but there's nothing we can't live without for a few days.

25 January 2015

A Danish Squirrel Day Smorgasbord

Happy Danish Squirrel Day!

I think it's been a couple of years since I told this story, so if you're looking at that greeting and wondering what in the world I'm talking about, here's the quick version. One cold January day back when I was in middle school, my mom had a big rack of frozen pork ribs sitting on the table, thawing for supper. One of the then-little kids came up and asked what that thing was, and my dad told them we were having Danish squirrel ribs for supper because it was Danish Squirrel Day. Us older kids, having been stuck inside going crazy for several days of cold weather, decided that Danish Squirrel Day sounded fun and spent the afternoon decorating with construction paper squirrels and Danish flags. We aren't sure what the original date was, but have celebrated Danish Squirrel Day on January 25 ever since.

Theoretically I try to make ribs for our celebration every year, but I totally forgot to pick some up this year. I think I'm going to have to transition my annual menu from ribs to "new Nordic" cuisine anyway, though, because Little Bear is the pickiest little kid I've ever met when it comes to keeping his hands clean, and ribs are definitely not a food kids can eat without getting messy fingers.

What is "new Nordic"? I've been hearing little snippets about it for a few years, but basically, chefs and nutritionists from the Scandinavian countries have recently been working to renew their region's cuisine, taking classic dishes and local ingredients and turning out healthy but still uniquely Nordic meals. It's interesting how their governments have chosen to become involved to promote their national cuisines and encourage eating healthful, local foods. Tonight I'm making a loose adaptation of some meals I found online: we're having halibut, carrots from the garden, and linguine tossed with garlic-infused olive oil. And Danish butter cookies, to make sure we aren't too healthy. :-)

The "smorgasbord" of the title was actually referring to the random jumble of thoughts bouncing around in my head, not an expansive spread of hors d'ouvres. For instance, full sentences. (That wasn't one, I know.) It's been so much fun to experience Little Bear's continuously-expanding ability to express himself. Just now he was trying to put some photos back into a little photo book, and said "Need help." I told him to bring it to me; he frowned and said, "Need Daddy help you. I be right back," gathering it up and heading down the hall to Matt.

"Go outside? Go outside and play in the snow and go sledding!" It is cold, cold, cold outside, but Little Bear was still sure that he needed to go out to play while Matt hauled wood. This morning it was -16 F in town at church, and now it's about -21 here—our inversion, warmer temperatures up in the hills than down in town and the surrounding flats—isn't kicking in today for some reason. Matt bundled up well to go haul logs and replenish the woodpile for the week, since it's supposed to stay cold for at least a couple of days here, while Little Bear and I sat by the fire and read stories.

My self-proclaimed Arctic Ninja, off to sneak up on some logs.

Little Bear has been on quite the superhero kick again lately. "Captain America is very, very happy, Mama," Little Bear informed me. Why? "Because... um... freedom!" Not a bad answer... If he had his choice, I'd pretty much spend all day reading him a rotation of little golden books about Captain America, the Hulk, and other Marvel superheroes. "Big Cap" and "Little Cap" play with him during his daily quiet time, and he's loved having Daddy home to play superheroes with him this weekend.

Ultrasound and chiropractor tomorrow, hopefully getting the jeep in to the shop soon, and so many random chores around the house that pop into my head and then disappear before I can write them down... It should be a busy week around the Shifflerhaus. Hopefully I'll have good news to report after tomorrow's ultrasound! Have a good week, y'all.

Do you celebrate any holidays unique to your family?

23 January 2015

Seven Quick Takes

Let's just start with the best news of the week. On Wednesday night, the RCIA class I teach ran late and by the time I got home Little Bear and Matt had said prayers and were finishing stories. Little Bear gave me a hug and kiss, then told me to leave so Daddy could finish putting him to sleep. Ten minutes later, Matt slipped out of the room: for the first time ever, Little Bear went to sleep for Matt instead of me. And he slept straight through the night, only half-waking once because he'd pushed off the covers, was cold, but hadn't woken up enough to pull them back over himself. 

So that was the highlight of my week, but Wednesday was full of all kinds of excitement. Matt started grand jury service that morning, and as Little Bear and I were driving him to the courthouse, we were rear-ended by a pickup truck. The other driver was super apologetic, gave us her insurance information, and called the police, and our jeep is definitely still drivable; the spare tire mount is bent, and the tire/mount rather pushed into the back door so the door hinges are slightly off-kilter. The claims adjustor expects we will have to replace the whole back door.

Matt and Little Bear were perfectly fine; my midwife had me go to the ER because I had abdominal pain where the seatbelt had been. Matt was at jury duty, so Little Bear got to go play with his aunts and uncles while I spent a few hours in the ER. The nurse couldn't find a steady fetal heartbeat, which had me pretty scared, but an ultrasound showed a very active baby so Kit must have just been running away from the Doppler. I have some bruising on my uterus, but baby is fine and there's nothing else wrong with me. Our 20ish-week anatomy scan is already scheduled for this coming Monday, so they'll check then to make sure my swelling is going down.

Since yesterday, the Roe v Wade anniversary, is a Day of Penance in the United States, I made a meatless pizza for supper: olives, red and green peppers, tomato sauce and cheese. We were happily surprised to see Little Bear eat all of the vegetables, even carefully picking up any peppers that fell off and eating them with his fork. 

It took two hours to light a fire in the fireplace this morning. I have no idea why, but it was beyond frustrating... And because when Little Bear first started whining and begging to watch Daniel Tiger I'd told him to stop asking—he could watch after I had the fire burning, I couldn't use Daniel Tiger to keep him quiet and happy while he wanted attention and I needed to focus on lighting the fire. 

My parents were out of town most of this week, celebrating their 30th anniversary. When my mom called today to say they'd made it home safely and offer us a ride to noon Mass, Little Bear was so excited: "They're home! Grandma and Papa home! Home from airplane!" He ran around the house happily shouting variations on "They're home" for the next half hour.

Despite a few instances of too-loud whispering and not wanting to stay still, leaving Mass today I felt pretty vindicated in having stuck to our anti-cry room stance (as in starting out there; we have always taken him out briefly if he gets disruptive, then brought him back when he was able to behave again) even though for the past year or two Little Bear has been one of the only kids his age not in the cry room at church. He's only two and a half, and he says pretty much all of the responses throughout the Mass—even the Greek. I didn't realize he knew the Kyrie until today. We certainly haven't done anything to teach him any of the responses; he's just learned them by being surrounded by other people saying them every time we go to Mass.

I thought I was going to wind up photo-less this week, but just as I was trying to come up with a seventh quick take, I looked down in time to see Little Bear's slice of leftover pizza tumble out of his hand. He fell asleep, sitting on my lap, while eating pizza: 

Poor munchkin. He doesn't want to nap, and he sleeps so well at night when he skips naps that we've been encouraging quiet time instead, but he's so cute I'll let him doze here for a little bit.

Have a good weekend! Check out more Quick Takes over at This Ain't the Lyceum.

20 January 2015

No-bake peanut butter granola balls

No more football posts for a while, I promise. ;-)

I've been having the hardest time coming up with snacks for Little Bear recently, because we're trying to limit his dairy and increase his fiber right now and he's always running into the kitchen asking for yogurt or cheese and crackers. He agreed to apple slices with peanut butter and raisins yesterday, but then only ate one slice. Raw broccoli is always popular, but he only eats the tops and leaves the stems (where all the fiber is) on his plate.

But baby Kit has finally accepted peanut butter as a food I can eat! Seriously, hallelujah. I've been having trouble getting enough protein into myself, but now that peanut butter is back on the table, I had a great solution for a snack that would meet both (all) of our needs: peanut butter granola bars.

I looked at a couple of recipes, found one I liked, and then adapted it this afternoon with Little Bear. He had a blast helping to measure and stir everything together, and kind of pretended to help roll it into balls but really just ate it... which was the goal, finding something he would eat, so I wasn't going to complain. I put the finished balls in the fridge, because it seemed like they would hold together better when cold.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Granola Balls

1 cup oats
2/3 cup coconut
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup toasted chopped nuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients. Roll into balls and store in the refrigerator.

19 January 2015


I was startled and disappointed by the many snide and gloating comments about the NFC championship game that I saw on Facebook last night from fans of the Minnesota Vikings. Yes, Green Bay lost. And yes, the Packers and Vikings are rivals. But the rudeness didn't make any sense.

I grew up in a house divided, split pretty evenly between Packer and Viking fans. We took football seriously, watched all the games, knew our players' stats, took pride in keeping track of our team's regular-season standings. Packer-Viking games in our house were events. But when the playoffs came around, if the Packers were out of the running it was a given that we would join them in rooting for the Vikings, and vice versa, because we were still the same division. You cheered for whoever in the NFC North was still a Super Bowl contender, because obviously you want to be able to say your team is from the best division.

In the same way, it seems absurd to me that people assume I'll be cheering for the Patriots in this year's Super Bowl because the Seahawks beat my Packers. Of course I'm cheering for the Seahawks, because they're from the NFC. Loyalty to my team means loyalty to their division and their conference. On February 2, I want to be able to say that the Packers lost in overtime to the strongest team in the NFL this year (but we'll be better than them next year).

Cheering for a team is good. Morally neutral, I suppose, but a fine thing to do. Cheering against a team, though, saying "I don't really care about team X winning but I hope team Y loses because I hate them," is unsportsmanlike. 

Yesterday's was a good game, exciting to watch, keeping our attention down to the last minute. I'm not sure how many times we commented that "it's not over yet" in reference to both teams' chances. The Packers played very well right from the beginning, despite the poor weather conditions. The Seahawks made an impressive comeback—I think one of the commentators said it was among the biggest conference championship comebacks on record. The last few minutes of regular game time, it could absolutely have gone either way, and then overtime. If the only thing you enjoyed about the game is the fact that the Packers lost, I can't imagine that you actually like football.

Or that you really like the Vikings, for that matter, except as a tool for expressing a petty sort of statism. "Ha, my team's rivals lost, because they're losers from Wisconsin." Seriously?

18 January 2015

Party time

The Green Bay Packers (my favorite team) are competing right now with the Seattle Seahawks (our "local" team) for the National Football Conference championship and a Super Bowl berth. Green Bay and Seattle both play in open stadiums, so fortunately the nasty weather in Seattle today hasn't been any hindrance to the Packers. Unfortunately, we're having a ridiculous amount of trouble with reception—Matt fixes the antenna, picture and sound are perfect, five minutes later we can't hear or see anything. We haven't missed any big plays yet, so it's not a huge deal, and it obviously wouldn't be the end of the world if we have to just give up and keep checking the score online, but it's sure fun to watch the game. Especially while my team is winning. :-)

We will have fun with a Super Bowl party regardless of who is in the game, although I certainly hope it's the Packers. But since they did make it at least to the NFC championship, game, we're having a mini party while we watch:

Any other Packer fans? Enjoy the game today!

16 January 2015

Seven Quick Takes: Temperaments, math books and cutting caribou

Little Bear walked into the house when we got home last night, realized that he still had his boots on, and became very upset.
Little Bear: "Oh no! Oh no! Boots on!"
Mama (taking them off): "Why did you walk into the house with your boots on?"
Little Bear: "Boots on!"
Mama: "I know; I asked why."
Little Bear: ..."I said because."

He's actually listening when I think he's just asking "why" over and over again to drive me crazy.


My brother got a caribou on Wednesday—he's enjoying having an extra-long break between semesters this winter! Matt was disappointed that he couldn't join them on their hunt, but they went the day before the start of the new semester at the University of Alaska and no one in OIT was allowed to take leave. He and my dad were both very sure that I needed to learn to cut up a caribou for the future, though, so I ran over to my parents' house this morning to watch and help my mom cut and pack meat. Caribou are much smaller than moose; in Alaska we have the subspecies known as Grant's caribou or porcupine caribou (from their calving grounds near the Porcupine River), which average 150 lbs for males and 90 lbs for females. Our moose, in contrast, can be up to 1,000 lbs. A caribou carries very little fat, though, so the meat you do get from them is lean, easy to process, and delicious. Mom picked Little Bear up so he could watch me cutting this roast, telling him that Mama was cutting caribou. He excitedly replied, "Eat for supper!"


Quiet time and bedtime are working well. Matt told me to pick a date upon which Little Bear was no longer going to come into our bed, and I picked last Friday, deciding that I was finally far enough out of the first trimester that I had the energy to deal with any middle-of-the-night battles. That night we explained to Little Bear what was happening, put him to bed as usual, and he hasn't once tried to come get in bed with us since. And giving him "quiet time" in the afternoon instead of a nap most days has more often than not meant easy bedtimes like tonight, where we all say prayers, I read Little Bear two stories, then I turn the lights out and sing him one song and he's asleep before the end. Waiting until 2.5 to transition him to his own bed had the definite advantage of us being able to explain things to him, and have him understand what's happening. 

(And chances are the next kid will have a completely different temperament and the whole process will go differently, but that won't affect us for a while!)

Temperaments. I've been reading The Temperament God Gave Your Kids, by Art and Laraine Bennett, recently and have really appreciated their insight into the ways different temperaments manifest in children's behavior. Some of Little Bear's recent behavior, and the lack of effect discipline has had, has been frustrating us, and reading through their experiences with children of each temperament has helped me see that certain things he does that make me crazy because they just don't make sense to me are actually stemming from differences in our temperaments. Matt and I appreciated their perspective on how the characteristics we're seeing in him right now will develop to both benefit him and need particular types of guidance from us as he gets older. The Bennetts are definitely writing from a Catholic perspective, emphasizing that your temperament doesn't define who you are and the choices you'll make, but rather that understanding your (or your child's) temperament can help you be aware of what virtues do not come as easily for you and will take extra effort.

Little Bear, we're pretty confident, is sanguine with a liiiiiiitle bit of phlegmatic. Reading their descriptions of parenting as each of the temperaments, we're thinking that I'm choleric/melancholic and Matt is sanguine/melancholic. Now I really want to read another of the Bennett's books, The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse!

This afternoon I was looking at the disaster that somehow befell my kitchen and trying to convince my sciatica to go away so I could clean (or possibly just convince myself to get off the couch and get started), when FedEx dropped off a small package. I didn't think we were expecting anything... I opened it to find my order from Norwex, microfiber cloths for cleaning without chemicals or wasting disposable paper towels. Talk about a not-so-subtle shove in the right direction! The house is pretty darn clean now, down to the freshly-scrubbed dining room floor. Which Little Bear promptly spilled his milk on at supper... Oh well. I really liked the Norwex cloths: we got two of their all-purpose microfiber "envirocloths," one for bathroom-cleaning and one for dusting; a kid-sized envirocloth for Little Bear to help dust; and a very fine-weave microfiber "window cloth," which I assume will work as well on windows as it did on mirrors. Little Bear initially assured me that his cloth was not for dusting, it was for sitting on, but as soon as I started dusting he ran over happily to help.

Matt started his long weekend a little bit early today, coming home sick in the middle of the day. Hopefully he is feeling better soon, and Little Bear and I don't get sick so we can all enjoy his mini-break together. We weren't expecting a long weekend—I don't remember him getting MLKJr Day off last year—so finding out on Thursday was a nice surprise.

And... I'm so tired, I can't think of a seventh. Anyone have experience with Right Start Mathematics, levels A and B? I've looked thorough the beginning of the B book, haven't seen A, but am wondering if A is actually worth getting. The first lesson in B only counts up to 3...  Little Bear is counting up to 29. What do they do in A? We're obviously not going to start doing daily schoolwork—he's only 2.5—but I want to start doing some super basic whenever-we-feel-like-it work with tally sticks and the abacus to encourage his interest in numbers right now.

Have a good weekend! For more Quick Takes, stop by This Ain't the Lyceum.