30 June 2014

Weekend in photos, and news!

I shouldn't have put that "and news" at the end of the title, because there's no way I can wait until the end of the post to say this: we got the duplex we applied to rent last week!!! It's beautiful, and we're so happy to be moving there, and to know finally where we will be living and what's happening for at least the next year.

Matt got the call offering the place to us if we were still interested yesterday afternoon, and we will be signing the lease in the next couple of days. I'm so glad that the timing worked out the way it did, because around noon today, he found out that someone else was hired for the job in Indiana. Because we didn't know that yesterday, we were really able to make a free decision that "no matter whether we're offered the job in Indiana or not, we want to stay here and move into the new duplex." It's a little thing, and maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, but it seems possible that if we'd heard that Matt didn't get the job before we heard about the duplex, being able to rent the duplex might have seemed like a "consolation prize," and we might not have been as happy and excited about it as we are. Overthinking it? Probably.

Paperwork for our current landlords' sale is messy because they leave partway into July, so we're going to have to pay for July in both places, but I'm trying to look at that as a positive: this way we can move into the new place whenever we're able and still have plenty of time to thoroughly clean the old one.

So that's our excitement right now! Time to start packing up boxes, making a list of what we'll need for the new place and looking on Craigslist/at garage sales, plus lists of people and companies that will need our new address, utility companies that need to be contacted, questions to ask our new landlords... Yes, I need lists to function effectively. It sounds like we'll probably start moving boxes once we sign the lease and get the keys, but won't actually "move in" (furniture, etc) until next week. We have enough going on just with prepping, packing, and getting ready to celebrate the Fourth of July with my family.

As for the weekend photos that I promised... I really thought I did a good job of taking pictures this weekend, and maybe there are more on Matt's phone, but it looks like pretty much all I have are photos from cooking supper on Saturday and Sunday! Sorry I don't have anything more interesting, but both meals did turn out well... And given my track record of photo-taking, having this many photos of anything from a 48-hour period is an accomplishment!

Saturday: bourbon chicken on the grill with peppers and onions

Little Bear made sure Matt had "music" while he was grilling

So much grilled deliciousness! Usually we would just make a reasonable amount for supper that night and put the rest of the pack of chicken breasts in the freezer uncooked. But we figured that we're trying to empty our freezer right now, so we should grill all five and have wonderful leftovers for the next few days. It was definitely a good plan!

Sunday: sole meunière with rice and green salad

Dredge three-quarters of a pound of Pacific Dover sole in flour with a little bit of salt and pepper 

Brown three tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook sole a few pieces at a time, not allowing them to touch, for one and a half minutes per side

My first attempt at French cooking, and a recipe which was apparently Julia Child's first experience of French cuisine, was a success! And it was incredibly easy; I was able to make the rice and salad while the sole cooked, even with a whiny toddler hanging on my knees. I'll definitely try making it again some time if I find sole on sale again.

Using these quantities yielded three largish servings; one for Matt, one for Little Bear to share with me, and one left over. I don't know how well it would reheat, although I'd be reluctant to try... Instead I chopped up the leftovers and added them to my leftover tilapia and vegetable medley from Thursday and made soup. Little Bear ate the soup more eagerly than I've ever seen him eat anything that wasn't straight carbs, so it looks like a fish chowder will be appearing on our supper menu in the near future!

29 June 2014

Answer Me This

Matt and I were talking on the way home from Mass today about how living in Alaska makes it hard for you to live anywhere else, but not just for the reasons you might initially think. There's the natural beauty and ability to get out and do things, of course; the lower taxes; the less restrictive laws on many things. But also, we are comfortable dealing with the threat of large animals, but not with small-but-dangerous ones (snakes, ticks, poisonous bugs and spiders, etc). And we're good at handling cold, but can't take heat: it was probably about 70 F this midday, and we were sweltering. Little Bear was very unhappy in Mass, and I can't even blame him because it was so awfully hot. I do realize that makes me sound like a total wimp, but come January, I'll be happily wearing knee-length skirts to Mass without leggings at -10 F.

(Not that I want it to be January right now. A little cooler would be pleasant, but I'm not ready to lose the sunshine yet!)

No photo for What I Wore Sunday this week since Little Bear was desperate for a nap when we got home, but before I start this week's Answer Me This, I have to show you what we wound up having for dinner for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart on Friday:

So many delicious peppers! This photo was taken mid-preparation; I unfortunately forgot to put the rest of the peppers and the pepperoni (solemnity=meat on Friday!) under the cheese, so the finished pizza was not as impressive. I'll try to remember to do it in the right order next time!

1. How often do you take public transportation?
Never. When I was in high school taking classes at the university here I rode the city bus to work afterward a couple days a week, but since moving back after college outside I haven't ridden the busses once. They only just recently expanded the bus lines to include the area where we live, and since I try to consolidate my errands to just one or two days so I'm not running to town all the time, I typically have to go to far enough apart places that multiple bus changes and long waits would be involved, and it's just not worth trying to navigate that with an angry toddler right now.

2. How many cousins do you have?
Nine cousins on my dad's side, two cousins (plus two step-cousins... is that a thing?) on my mom's, and two cousins-in-law plus their wives on Matt's side. And I don't really know any of them. I've met most of them, but since I grew up in Alaska and none of the rest of my extended family lives here, we never got to know our cousins growing up.

3. Have you ever fired a gun?
Yes, many times. Purely for target practice; I've gone along bird hunting but never gotten anything, and haven't actually been game hunting. Matt has, though, and is looking forward to the upcoming moose season.

4. Do you ride roller coasters?
No. I have what's called binocular instability, which means that my eyes are constantly trying and re-trying to focus independently instead of working together. It's not a problem most of the time--I just tend to perpetually have a slight headache--but roller coasters are definitely one of the things that I can't visually deal with: they move way too quickly for me to be able to see.

5. What's your favorite flower?
That's hard! I love the appearance and scent of hydrangea and heliotrope, but they don't grow well here. Bleeding hearts and lily of the valley are so pretty and delicate, and do well in partially shady spots. If I could just scatter something in a flower bed and let it run riot, though, I think it'd be columbine in a mix of colors.

6. Are you allergic to anything?
There are a couple of medications I discovered I was allergic to in college, but so far that hasn't really been a problem; there's usually something similar I can take that does the same thing. I'm also allergic to caffeine, though, which can really be frustrating! Coffee, tea, chocolate... I do still have moderate amounts occasionally, especially of chocolate!, but I can always feel it afterward.

27 June 2014

SQTF 94: Crock pot fish, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, maybemovingeventually?

Is everyone else getting tired of hearing that we don't know what's happening? I'm sure getting tired of living with the uncertainty! Still no word on the job in Indiana; it's still listed as "interviewing." Our landlords sign the sale papers and leave the state in 10 days. We've officially given notice that we'll be out of this apartment by the end of July... even though we don't know where we're going. We submitted an application on the upper level of an upstairs/downstairs duplex on Wednesday, and are hoping to hear on that soon. The ad said it was available "July," so hopefully that means the beginning of July and they'll be eager to get new renters in quickly, and that we'll be those renters!

It would be great, if crazy stressful, to find out that we could move in July 1. Great because friends who've offered to help will still be in town then, and because we'll have a houseguest over the Fourth of July weekend and it would be nice to be at least partially moved in before he gets here. Crazy stressful because July is only three days away, and have we started packing anything? Nooooo. We've wanted to wait until we actually had a place lined up to move into, so that we don't spend a couple of weeks living out of boxes, and I have to pack things differently for moving them across town in the back of someone's truck than for moving them across the country in a conex. But at this point I think I'd definitely take living out of boxes over living with the stress of "if they let us rent this place we'll have to pack everything immediately and I don't have any boxes and there's so much stuff..." And we've decided that whichever happens first, housing here or a job there, will be the one we'll go with. So that doesn't exactly help with figuring out which type of moving to pack for, but it's been long enough since his interviews that we aren't really holding onto too much hope for the job anymore...

Enough of the situational stressfulness. Here's what we had for supper Thursday night: 

"Crock pot fish just sounds wrong," according to my husband. And it kind of does, I agree, but we were both pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. (Okay, this is still tangentially related to moving...) Because we're trying to use up the food we have so there's less to move, and are doing a decent job of it, there weren't many choices when I opened the freezer that morning, and I settled on the package of tilapia filets that we had both agreed were awful the first time I made them. But because I was foolish and got a family-sized package, we had to have them at least once more. Fortunately, we were saved by this book:

which one of my mother's friends recently handed on to me. In what had to be a case of divine providence, the only page with a turned-down corner in the whole book was for Halibut in Creamy Wine Sauce.

I subbed tilapia for the halibut, broth for the wine, and it was wonderful. Next time I'll try it with the wine; I used broth because I didn't think the alcohol would cook off as much since it would be covered through the whole cooking time and Little Bear would be eating it, but he really only ate carrots and broccoli so it didn't matter anyway.

Happy (belated) solemnity of the Sacred Heart (yesterday) and Immaculate Heart of Mary (today)! Forgive my scatterbrainedness; I should have started off with this. Little Bear took a ridiculously early nap yesterday, so we were able to make it to noon Mass. And because it's a solemnity (i.e. a really big deal), there was no Friday abstinence yesterday. We're supposed to feast and celebrate the day! Matt kept reminding me of that all week as I kept talking about making soup for supper.  Catholic Cuisine has a lot of neat ideas for yesterday and today, mostly for desserts.

In just a week, Little Bear will be two years old. That's incredible! How has it been that long? Matt and I were talking the other night about how the past few years seem to have gone so quickly, and yet individual days can feel so very long. Individual half hours, even, like this morning when I was trying to talk on the phone and Little Bear was sticking spoons in the coffee grinder and trying to drink from the jam jar. Sometimes I can look at this stage and call him "curious" and "inventive," but more often it seems like it's "child, you make me crazy!" 

We are planning to spend his birthday at the lake with my family, in a tent outside their cabin if it isn't raining. I'm sure we'll all have fun, and I hope the trip winds up being a needed break from stress for Matt and me. We're waiting to actually celebrate his birthday until after we get settled into a new place, so Little Bear gets to have two birthdays this year! (But he'll still just be 2. I have to clarify that for any of my siblings reading this who would otherwise try to convince our gullible youngest sister that Little Bear is turning 3 and catching up to her!)

I've seen all of my siblings do it, and probably most of the other little kids I've known, but somehow I assumed that sticking your arms out behind you and running around making airplane-type noises was something little kids learned to do by watching older kids do it. Apparently not, because Little Bear has never seen anyone do it, but yesterday evening, totally out of the blue, he started running as fast as he could back and forth between the kitchen and living room, arms outstretched, yelling "Aaaahhh!" with a huge grin on his face. The grin turned to giggles, then laughing so hard he couldn't stand upright, when Matt started copying him. The two of them laughing together is pretty much my favorite sound in the world.

Can't think of anything else, so I'm just going to end with this wholly irrelevant photo of my middle sister mowing the lawn. Isn't she pretty? Somehow she manages to look graceful even while she's doing yard work.

Have a good weekend! Visit Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

26 June 2014


Is it safe yet to say that the problem is fixed, completely fixed? Oh, I hope so!

We left the apartment yesterday before 7 am to be out of the contractors' way. Dropped Matt off early at work, took Little Bear to morning Mass, then spent the day at my family's house. Matt joined us after work for supper and to help my dad and siblings in the shop, and by the time we finally got home at 8 pm, the apartment was quiet and put back together and smelled faintly of spackle.

I called our landlady to check in, see how the day went, find out how early we needed to leave again this morning. "It's done, it's all done!" The water damage from the 7-year leak is completely repaired, along with the two other leaks the carpenter found while he was down there. They didn't have to come back today for anything. All done! 

So we slept in until 6:45 this morning, and after I dropped Matt off at work and fed Little Bear oatmeal, I immediately started laundry; it's been a week since they had to disconnect things! Clothes sorted and in the washer, add the soap, turn the dial... nothing. No water.

The contractor was back an hour later, and pulled the stacked washer/drier out to figure out what wasn't hooked up right. A valve didn't get switched back on, and some seals needed new o-rings. He pushed everything back in place, turned on the washing machine, and it worked! No signs of any leaks anywhere, either. I am so grateful that everything is (hopefully) fixed now!

24 June 2014

Hole in the Wall Saga Continues

A spot of previously-unknown background: the previous owner of the duplex we live in apparently drilled through the drain pipe from the upstairs washing machine. Instead of having the hole in the pipe fixed, like a sane person, he just mudded and painted the hole in the wall to hide it. This was at least seven years ago, before our landlords bought the place.

Now our landlords are selling and moving out of state. When the buyers and their building inspector came through, the inspector noticed a puddle on the dirt under the house, below where our washing machine sits. He made a note that our washing machine was leaking, and moved on. Plumbers came and went over the next week or so trying to figure out where the leak was coming from, because our washing machine is fine; by the end of last week, they'd finally discovered and properly repaired the hole in the drain pipe in the wall between our washing machine and bathroom.

But water's been leaking between the walls for 7+ years. The Sheetrock is damaged, part of the bathroom floor is damaged, one of the major beams under the house is rotten... A general contractor came in to look at the mess yesterday, and he's going to have to open up the wall and the floor and replace things. Our poor landlords! They just want to sell and get out of town, and the house just keeps throwing problems at them. 

So tomorrow will be exciting: the contractor and his crew are showing up at 7 am, so we all have to be up and out of the house early. I have to pack up everything Little Bear and I will need all day, and pray that he is willing to take a nap at my family's house... We can't stick around because there's going to be a big hole through the wall and down into the crawl space under the house, and there's a chance they'll find bad mold after so many years of the wood being damp. The contractor believes that they can have the bulk of the work done by the end of the day, though, so hopefully it will only be a minor disruption of Little Bear's schedule. It'll depend on exactly what he finds when they open everything up.

22 June 2014

Staying Up for Solstice (with Answer Me This)

Okay, so we didn't plan ahead to stay up late last night just because it was the shortest night of the year (sunset at 12:57 am, sunrise at 2-something), but it worked out nicely that way. "Nicely" here meaning "a really fun evening, followed by accidental sleeping in and a cranky toddler at Mass," but it was worth it! 

Yesterday afternoon, we bought a charcoal grill. We both love grilled food, and Matt has always wanted to be good at grilling on charcoal. Our first summer married we bought one of those tiny portable propane grills, the ones not much bigger than a sheet of printer paper, and it never really worked very well: it didn't get hot enough, it took forever to cook anything, food didn't taste "grilled" after being cooked on it... and since it was so small and low to the ground, grilling wasn't enjoyable and we couldn't have people over and grill dinner. We really didn't use it often at all. As a belated Father's Day present, we fixed the situation.

Little Bear was very helpful.

He was thrilled that Matt let him use his leatherman.

Matt really wanted something with quality cast iron grates, but nice grills can be so expensive! After looking around, we found this CharBroil grill on a good sale at Home Depot. Matt and Little Bear put it together when we got home while I formed moose-beef burgers—you have to combine ground beef or pork with the ground moose when you make burgers, because on its own moose is too lean and won't hold together. Our friend who is a master of grilling came over, and he and Matt got started. 

I wish I'd learned the secrets of grilling with charcoal too, but Little Bear, who'd had a very short nap, was losing it fast and I took him inside for a late nap while the men cooked. I'm sure I'll learn from Matt as the summer goes on; he enjoyed it, and the burgers and grilled zucchini were delicious! Little Bear's nap totally threw off bedtime, which was okay because we didn't sit down to eat supper and watch a movie, Stardust, until after 8pm. 

And by the time we went to bed at 11, Little Bear fell right asleep and didn't really wake up until it was time to run around like crazy to make it to Mass on time. He was somewhat unhappy during Mass, partly because his schedule was off and he hadn't had time to eat breakfast, but more so because the church was packed and hot and Matt couldn't sit with us and Little Bear caught sight of my family leaving from the previous Mass as we were coming in and so he was just sure that Grandma was close by and for some reason Mama wasn't letting him see her. As soon as we got home he went down for a nap, and I'm sure he'll be happier when he wakes up.

There's still a fair bit on our plate today: checking out an open house nearby, Skyping with Grandmom and Grandpop, and walking around the Midnight Sun Festival street fair. It's a beautiful, sunny day out, and we're looking forward to getting out! While Little Bear naps, though, let me see if I can make it through this week's Answer Me This:

1. When's the last time you got a new bathing suit?
I haven't been swimming or worn a bathing suit since summer 2010, but this spring I decided it's been long enough and I wanted to be able to say yes if someone invited us it go swimming somewhere, so I picked up a suit from Cabana Life when they were on sale at Sam's Club in March. I haven't worn it yet, but a friend just asked if Little Bear and I would like to go to the new artificial lake that's opened south of town with her and her kids, so I'll hopefully be pulling it out soon.

2. Who made the last incoming call on your phone?
Our landlady, asking if they could get into our apartment while we were grill shopping yesterday afternoon. Why is a story for another day, but let's just say that having a 5/16" hole in the washing machine drain pipe for years and years causes big problems.

3. If you receive Communion, do you receive in the hands or on the tongue?
On the tongue.

4. Do you have a tattoo?

5. How many dinner plates do you have in your house?
Ten: four brown ceramic (a wedding gift), four navy-striped stoneware (which I claimed in middle or early high school when my mom got new plates), and two plates I found at an antique sale once and just couldn't resist:

Lest anyone be deluded into thinking I have a reasonably small number of plates in my house, though, I should note that we have many more smaller dessert- or salad-sized plates of various patterns that I've found at thrift stores and such over the years...

6. Do you have an accent?
My husband says, "Only when you sing..." Apparently my vowels can significantly overshadow my consonants when I sing, to the point that some words become fuzzy, which Matt attributes to my Gregorian chant background and tries to assure me is "not a bad thing, unless someday you decide to only communicate with me by singing; then it would be a problem."

Happy feast of Corpus Christi!

20 June 2014

SQTF 93: Exciting times while we wait

"No" is, of course, not my favorite of Little Bear's words, but it made me kind of ridiculously happy the other day when he used it in the right context to give the illusion that we were actually having a conversation:

Me: "Can you please come here so I can put your pants on?"
Little Bear: "No! No pants."

I said something, and someone actually answered me! ...Clearly, I need more adult interaction.

We are all getting healthier, but this nasty cough is hanging on, and I need some advice from seasoned parents: How do you teach little kids to clear their throats? Little Bear's modus operandi for when he needs to clear his throat is to cough until he gags and throws up. While I can't blame him for it, because he doesn't know any other way to deal with it and I don't know how to help him learn, I'm getting so tired of dealing with multiple incidents a day. 

On the questionably positive side, it's yielded such unexpected parenting comments as "There's only a little bit of vomit on our bed; don't bother changing the sheets until morning."

We are reeeaaaally hoping that we're done seeing plumbers for a while; when our super shy child is comfortable enough to watch over the plumber's shoulder, and wave and say "bye-bye" when he leaves, you know it's been an extraordinarily leaky-pipe-filled week. We've had the plumbers here last Thursday, this past Tuesday, yesterday, and today, trying to get to the bottom of a leak the building inspector noticed under the house. Yesterday they pinpointed roughly where it was; today they opened up the wall and ceiling, found the hole, and fixed it. Apparently, when the drywall originally went up, somebody was predrilling holes and put a 5/16" drill bit right into the drain pipe coming down from the upstairs washing machine. How did it take 30 years for someone to notice that?


Little Bear has been loving this hat, handed down from a friend's little boy, this week. He's constantly bringing it to me and asking to wear it, and whenever we go outside, he's sure that he needs his hat and I need my baseball cap, too. It was very convenient yesterday, because it rained all day long and he didn't want to keep his hood up.

"Rained" is kind of a misleading term for yesterday. It misted, it drizzled, it poured, it pelted down like it'd leave dents in the asphalt. But there was never any plain, steady rain. When we went to pick Matt up from work, the rain was coming down hard enough that it hurt when drops hit you! It rained itself out by the time we finished supper, and we took a walk through the neighborhood and let Little Bear splash in all of the puddles. Earlier today it was bright and sunny, but clouds keep coming and going; hopefully we will have a clear, pretty weekend.

We still haven't heard anything following Matt's interview last week; the HR website still lists the position as in the interview process, but they said that they wanted the person they hire to start working at the beginning of July... That's getting pretty close! It's feeling less and less likely that they will offer it to him, but we're still hesitant to go back to looking at apartments here and sign a new lease somewhere until we know... Hopefully we will know something for sure soon.

I don't know that we'll really be able to step back and stop thinking about all of the up-in-the-air things this weekend (job, staying/going, housing), but it should be enjoyable nonetheless—especially if the weather is nice! Tonight we'll be seeing my family, although I've been warned that most of them may disappear shortly after supper because it's the night before the big 10k race and they take their training very seriously. Tomorrow... lots of possibilities. Maybe looking at an apartment or two or three for rent, if I can get that lined up. Maybe having a friend over in the morning. Maybe vespers in the evening. Hopefully it's sunny, because the one thing Saturday that isn't a "maybe" is grilling moose burgers for supper! The 10k Midnight Sun Run starts at 10pm, and it's fun to watch the start, but not this year. Some time when Little Bear is older. Sunday should be less crazy, but the Midnight Sun Festival street fair runs from noon to midnight, and we are definitely hoping to walk around, eat supper there, and maybe catch the Army band or another concert.

Have a good weekend! For more Quick Takes, visit Team Whitaker!

18 June 2014

Most expensive ibuprofen ever

Day four of this nasty cold: Matt wound up taking Monday and Tuesday off work and doing lot of sleeping. He's back at work today, finally feeling somewhat better. He and Little Bear have been fever-free since last night but still have coughs, and I'm in my third day of a bad sore throat and headache but no real fever. Little Bear thinks he has the energy to run around like a wild thing, and we all certainly seem to be on the mend, so hopefully we will all be healthy again soon.

My throat didn't get the memo that it was supposed to be all better this morning: thanks to timezone differences, I had to interview a contact for a freelance project at 6:30 am, and had a scratchy frog-in-throat voice for it. Oh well.

The real excitement of this bug, though, came on Sunday. Matt and Little Bear were both laying around feeling miserable and feverish, and at one point, Little Bear got himself too worked up and coughed too hard and threw up... all over the fancy forehead thermometer. We rinsed it off quickly and cleaned it up (and him, of course), and it seemed fine. 

After Little Bear woke up from his nap, I took his temperature-- 102.2 F --and gave him Tylenol. A half hour later he still felt so hot that I decided to check him again. The thermometer read 106.8 F the first try, 107 F the second. The possibility that the thermometer was broken niggled, but with no way to double-check, we couldn't risk not doing something about it. Of course it had to be a Sunday, so there was nowhere else to go but the ER.

The ER nurse scanned his temperature at 102.2 F again, and the PA gave him ibuprofen, checked back in an hour and saw that he'd gone down to 100.2 F, and sent us to buy a new thermometer on our way home. She told us to overlap giving him Tylenol and ibuprofen for the next couple of days to keep him comfortable; sometimes little ones need both to help bring down a high fever, she said.

I think we did the right thing by going in, based on what the thermometer showed us, but oh, that's going to be a lot of money to pay for one dose of ibuprofen!

15 June 2014

Answer Me This

Happy Father's Day! Unfortunately Matt and Little Bear are both sick, so no long post today; I'll just answer these quick and link up with Catholic All Year. Hopefully they both feel better soon, and I'll have a real post one of these next few days!

1. What's something you intended to do today but didn't?
Sleep. I woke up at 2 am, and could not fall back asleep no matter what I tried. It's going to be a long day.

2. What is your favorite grilling recipe?
We don't have a working grill right now--haven't since we got married, really--so I haven't had the chance to find good grilling recipes. I really like grilled vegetables, though: asparagus or zucchini wedges tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled just until they're soft. 

3. What movie did you see most recently?
Matt and I watched two-thirds of Iron Man the other night. Maybe tonight we'll be able to watch the rest.

4. Would you say that your tendency is to overreact or under react to medical situations?
I guess I tend to initially overreact, but because I'm aware of that, I usually don't have too much trouble stepping back and saying, "Is this really that big a deal? Probably not."

5. Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube or roll it?
Both. Squeeze from the end, then as it gets more empty I start rolling it.

6. What are you doing for Father's Day?
The plan was to spend the day in Denali with Matt's coworkers, but he and Little Bear both woke up with fevers and coughs this morning. Little Bear perked up after Tylenol and a bath, but Matt is asleep on the couch and I don't think we're going anywhere today. I'll have to think of something nice for supper.

14 June 2014

Race Day

I was doing the math in the car while I drove home this morning, and it's been six years since I've been running, y'all. Six years! No races, no treadmills, no jogging around the neighborhood... occasionally I've gone for walks, and within the past month we've started going to the gym a couple of times a week, but it's been a long time since I've been in racing shape. So I have no idea what possessed me to sign up for the 5k this morning. 

I even considered not doing it at the last minute; I woke up sore today after using the rowing machine for a half hour and then dislocating my shoulder on Thursday, and surviving an ab workout on Friday. No one would have known, or even cared, if I'd stayed home. But I was looking forward to it, to seeing what I was capable of and being back in a race environment, and I'm so glad that I wound up going.

Little Bear didn't mind being buckled into his stroller until we reached the starting line crowd, but the loud music as they prepared to count down upset him and I spent the last minute or so crouching down next to the stroller with him clinging to my neck and wailing. Thankfully, he calmed down once we started out and got away from the noise. We got a slow start: strollers start at the back of the crowd so other people don't trip over you in the crush leaving the gate, which I understand and have been thankful for in the past as a runner, but it was a little bit frustrating today to be stuck behind all of the people who only wanted to walk slowly. It may have been a while since my last race, but as I discovered this morning, the need to start strong, find the edge of the crowd and work ahead, setting a faster pace for the first stretch, is definitely still there. 

Between the extra weight of the stroller and my total out-of-condition-ness, I knew from the beginning that I'd be walking more than running. I probably did run close to a third of the total distance, though, and it felt surprisingly good to stretch out and feel myself falling into a steady rhythm while I ran. Little Bear chattered about things he saw along the course and about the people he wanted to see (Dada, Gramma, Em). I ran into my best friend growing up whom I haven't seen in years a little ways into the second mile and we walked and ran together the rest of the way; it was so much more enjoyable to be able to talk together in the stretches we walked, and it helped to have someone else to keep pace with both running and walking.

I completely forgot to look at the clock as we finished, but after we got water, exchanged phone numbers, and tried to get Little Bear to eat a slice of watermelon (what kind of kid won't even try watermelon??), the clock was at 55 minutes, so I'm guessing/hoping for something a little under 50. That's a far cry from my high school self's 45-minute 10k runs, but it's an improvement on my 61-minute 4.8k trip to Matt's office a month or so ago.

So I'm happy with my time, and I feel amazing after getting out and running this morning. Sure I'm sore, but it's a good feeling, and that burn when your lungs are demanding more oxygen because you're putting everything into your run? Oh, I've craved that. Little Bear is going to learn to like his stroller this summer, because I'm definitely planning to start running more.

13 June 2014

SQTF 92: All the things

I meant to post this week, again, but... stuff. Life. All the things. Here's a taste of it; linking up with Seven Quick Takes, being hosted by Kathryn at Team Whitaker this week.

Our wonderful landlords are selling the duplex where we and they live, and the buyer and her agents are making life so frustrating for all of us. Their engineer forgot to bring a ladder last week, so they want to kick us all out again and then reopen negotiations. We've been told that the buyer plans to raise our rent significantly, so we have been looking for another place; we really need to be out of this apartment by the end of July. But it's not as simple as just going and finding a new apartment, because...

...We've been thinking and talking for months now about the possibility of moving to Indiana. In April, Matt found a job listing for a video conferencing position specifically looking for someone with knowledge of the particular technology he's been using the past couple of years. It sounded like a good fit, and he applied. We didn't hear anything, and assumed he'd been passed over. Then, two weeks ago, he got a call asking to set up a phone interview for last Tuesday. The day after the phone interview they called back, asking to set up a video conference interview this past Wednesday. Matt thinks it went well; we are waiting to hear from them. They want whoever they hire to start ASAP, but said they can probably be flexible enough to give Matt a month if he's hired...

So we can't sign a lease on a new place here until we find out whether they are offering Matt the job, and we decide whether to accept it. And if he is offered it and does accept, we'll have a matter of weeks to suddenly move everything across the country, which will be... fun. We know they aren't going to offer as much as he makes now, but because the cost of living is so much lower there, depending on what they do offer it could still be an effective increase in income. There would be a lot of good things about moving to Indiana, a lot of reasons why it would logically be a better choice for our family at this stage. And I know that Matt wants my levelheaded support and input on the final decision, if they do make him an offer, and so I'm trying hard to be rational and look logically at what's best for our family and not just blurt out the instinctive emotional response of "I don't want to leave!!!" ...but it's hard. And there are good logical reasons for staying here too. Prayers for our decision-making (if an offer is made) and that we can quickly find housing wherever we end up would be really appreciated!

Wednesday was a very long day, especially for Matt: he woke up at 6am to go in and set up for the interview, which lasted 40 minutes, and then they surprised him by saying that there were more people with questions for him and they'd be calling back in 20 minutes. The second panel of interviewers talked with him for another 30 minutes. Then he had a full day of work, with a shortened lunch to make up for the surprise second round of the interview. And as soon as he got off work, we had a funeral Mass and buried baby Alex. (It takes a long time for the ground to thaw here.) The funeral and burial were... "nice" feels like an inappropriate word to use here. But it was relieving to finally have it taken care of. I'm sorry; that sounds horribly utilitarian. But we're both at peace with her death, at least most of the time, and maybe now people will stop expecting me to be sad all the time? Alex is in heaven. I'm not going to be sad about my daughter being in heaven. I'm very grateful for her beautiful funeral and burial service, and to God for giving us a little saint to watch over our family, and I hope that I will get to meet her one day.

After Wednesday, I was ready for some quiet. Then the plumbers came a day early and woke Little Bear up from his nap, and I had an angry monster hanging on me while the plumbers decided that there may be a pipe leaking in the wall between the washing machine and the bathroom sink and they need to cut the wall open and look next week some time. And then after Matt got off work and we spent an hour and a half at the gym and were finally heading home for supper and early bedtime, I dislocated my shoulder. Because I needed more excitement, apparently. I got it back in, but it didn't go in quite right or a nerve got pinched or something, because it still hurts and there's pain radiating up my neck and making it hard to turn my head to the left. We'll see if I can get an appointment with a chiropractor soon.

This weekend won't be any less busy, but it should be a lot more fun. I'm doing a 5k walk/run to benefit Fairbanks Counseling and Adoption on Saturday morning with Little Bear; I was hoping to stick him in the stroller instead of the Ergo so that I could run at least part of it, but now that my shoulder is unhappy with me I'm not sure which would be better. That's not true; the best option for my shoulder would be to leave him home with Matt and just run the whole thing. But having Little Bear with me is my excuse for the awful time I know I'm going to get; if I don't bring Little Bear, I lose the excuse! That evening we're celebrating a friend's birthday at the local brewery (so skipping the race this year entirely isn't an option: I have to be able to justify the evening's carbs to myself :-). Sunday after Mass we'll visit with my family for Father's Day before meeting most of Matt's coworkers to caravan down to Denali Park for the afternoon. Little Bear will be the only kid, so hopefully he gets a good nap on the drive down and is a happy child when we get there.

Ha... I was supposed to try to come up with seven photos for this week, wasn't i? Maybe I'll try again... as in actually try, not just forget all week... next Friday. I just went through my camera roll, and other than the 317 self-portraits and shirt-portraits and ceiling-portraits and solid black photos of the inside of my case that I deleted--thanks, Little Bear--I only have this one shot of Little Bear being silly:

He climbed up here and lay down all by himself, then got our attention by proclaiming "Pillow! Nap!" with a huge grin. He's not usually much of a climber, but maybe that's about to change...?

Have a good weekend!

08 June 2014

WIWS Pentecost & Answer Me This

Blessed Pentecost! Linking up with Kendra at Catholic All Year and the What I Wore Sunday crowd at Fine Linen and Purple on this beautiful feast day.

The secret to Little Bear behaving during Mass today? Sitting next to another toddler who definitely wasn't behaving. I know the common wisdom is that kids will follow the example of the worst-behaved child, but so far, loud and wild kids tend to intimidate Little Bear and his response is to sit still and be quiet. We were so glad to be able to focus on Mass today instead of spending all our energy trying to make him behave! 

There was so much red at Mass today for Pentecost! Someday I'm going to find a pretty red dress, possibly with white polka dots, so that I have something red to wear for days when that's the proper liturgical color. Also because I'd love to have a red dress. But this morning, I was thrilled to realize that I fit into this dress:

My mom brought it back for me when they visited Hawaii last year, but it's been languishing in my closet because it hasn't fit. Now that I've been making it a priority to go to the gym three days a week, and Little Bear is weaning, it fits perfectly! I'm so glad I pulled it out and tried it on.

Dress: Hibiscus Collection Hawaii
Sandals: the same Danskos you see every week :-)

1. Do you have a landline?
Nope. It doesn't make sense to pay for a second phone, when we can just as easily use our cell phones. 

2. What is your least favorite food?
I don't know that I've encountered any food that I will not eat at least some of for the sake of politeness. And if I was given the opportunity to forever ban one particular food from my kitchen, no likely candidate springs to mind. No, wait: baking powder with aluminum. Elevated aluminum consumption has been linked to Alzheimer's development, and Alzheimer's does run in my family. What puts standard baking powders in my "least favorite food" ranking, though, is that I can usually taste the aluminum; for some reason I'm particularly sensitive to that metallic taste, and it ruins many baked goods for me. Fortunately, there's a simple solution: you can make your own baking powder simply by combining 1 part cream of tartar and 2 parts baking soda.

3. What's on your summer reading list?
Right now I'm working on On Marriage and Family Life by St. John Chrysostom. I need to go back and finish Everyday Saints by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, and should probably re-read a few chapters of The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. I'm also looking forward to three books meandering their way here from Amazon: Simcha Fisher's The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning, Aidan Nichols' Rome and the Eastern Churches, and Fr. Roderick Vonhögen's Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer. And next time I have book-money, I can't wait to pick up A Crown of Life by Brian Patrick Mitchell.

4. Is there something that people consistently ask for your advice on? What is it?
I have a degree in communications/journalism and experience in public relations and radio, so I tend to get a lot of questions about media, evangelization through media, reaching young people with Church teaching, that sort of thing. Having a solid background in Catholic teaching certainly helps, and I appreciate being able to put my skills to work helping local parishes and organizations.

5. What's the most physically demanding thing you've ever done?
Have a baby, probably. I can't think of anything else I've attempted that compares to unmedicated childbirth, although everyone tells me that Little Bear's birth was absurdly easy and non-painful, which let me tell you is reeeaaally helpful in encouraging me to skip the meds again next time... not.

6. How do you feel about massage?
In the last eight years, the only times I've been completely pain-free for more than 24 hours have been after seeing a massage therapist. After working with a chiropractor for the better part of a year after Little Bear was born, I've pretty much accepted that my back is always going to hurt and I just have to deal with it. Those few times I've been able to have a massage, though, it's been so great to not hurt!

Have a wonderful Pentecost!

Come Holy Ghost, creator blest, and in our hearts take up Thy rest; come with Thy grace and heav'nly aid, to fill the hearts which Thou hast made!

06 June 2014

SQTF 91: Swiss Cheese, Slow Cookers, Summer Crazies, and St. John Chrysostom

I am truly awful at taking photos. Would it really be so hard to take a handful of photos during the week so that my Seven Quick Takes could be less block-of-text-y? Clearly, yes, it is... but it shouldn't be. Goal for next week: seven photos, one for each Take. Can I do it?

Slow cookers seem like an exclusively fall/winter appliance to me, but as we've been going to the gym regularly a couple of times a week after Matt finishes work, I've found myself looking for suppers that can be made ahead. This week, that's meant two slow cooker meals: calico beans on Tuesday, and Monterey spaghetti tonight. Calico beans are definitely not a summer food, but it was a chilly rainy day and Matt and Little Bear both love them, so it worked out. Monterey spaghetti, pasta with cheese and spinach, is more summer-appropriate, especially since it's still cool and cloudy out today after all the rain we've had. I'd love ideas for other summertime slow cooker meals!

I think I've mentioned that our landlords, who live in the upper level of this duplex, are in the process of selling. The realtor called on Tuesday to let us know that the building inspector would be coming by at 4 pm Thursday, and we needed to be out for two hours. Okay, I could do that. We had a lot going on throughout the day and evening, so I had everything planned carefully and everything was going smoothly... until the building inspector and buyers showed up at 3 pm. An hour before we'd been told they were coming. And we had to leave, immediately. If I had spotted the redheaded realtor on my way out to the car, she would definitely have been informed that I'd be looking for a hand-written note of apology today. This same realtor shows up late for appointments, has called to schedule showings with less than 24 hours' notice despite our landlady insisting on at least that much notice, and forgot to tell us that the appraiser was coming until he showed up and he and I waited outside until she got here. How unprofessional can you get?

After I got over being grumpy about the realtor, though, we wound up having a nice evening. Little Bear went to play at my parents' house. I picked Matt up at 4:30--he's working a slightly earlier schedule this week--and we sat and talked for more than an hour before meeting his coworkers for supper at a new-ish hibachi restaurant. We'd planned to go to the gym, but being kicked out of the house suddenly meant I hadn't had time to grab my gym clothes; it was good to have time to talk through some big upcoming decisions, though. Dinner was very good, and very fun, and it was nice to spend time with a group of other adults and actually be able to relax instead of running after Little Bear constantly and worrying about him bothering people. 

Okay, I did take one photo this week. Little Bear learned about Swiss cheese the other day: 

Clearly, this is what the hole is for, right?

I've been reading a collection of St. John Chrysostom's homilies on marriage and family life, and they are wonderful! Chrysostom's voice on these subjects is an important one; the idea of mutual authority between spouses, and of marital relations being a good rather than an evil tolerated for the sake of procreation (St. Augustine) sound much more like St. John Paul II than what many of us, I think, tend to see as the historical teaching on the role of a woman in a marriage. Somewhere along the line, likely--don't hate me, homeschoolers!--influenced by reading so much classic literature full of proper sensible obedient housewives, I internalized a very Protestant (and, in some circles, Catholic) view of what St. Paul means by "wives, submit to your husbands".  Trying to be the kind of good, obedient wife who never disagrees or has her own opinion makes me interiorly resentful, and makes Matt crazy because that's absolutely not what he wants from me... But there's still a strong "voice" in my subconscious that tries to shame me into quietly agreeing "because that's what a good wife is supposed to do" whenever something serious comes up about which we substantially disagree. Chrysostom's words have been wonderfully helpful for bludgeoning that voice recently.

We might have a calm, relaxing weekend coming up here; honestly, I've been afraid to stop and think through it in case I'm wrong and I suddenly realize there's a whole mountain of happenings waiting to fall on me when I wake up tomorrow. There's just so much going on right now, so much stress and uncertainty and summer craziness, I need to spend at least a few more hours believing that I'll have breathing room this weekend. I'll probably be horribly disappointed tomorrow, but at least the rest of today will be less stressful! 

03 June 2014

Picture of a Weekend

(Meant to have this up yesterday, but I only finally got the photos from Matt. Better late than never, right?)

Weekends are always too short! We made pretty good use of this past one, though; lots of fun, and still enough time to unwind and relax. Saturday morning Matt watched Little Bear so that I could go grocery shopping and get my hair cut. 

It hasn't been this short since college, and I love it! Looking in the mirror the first couple of days was a shock, but it's so much lighter, so much more comfortable; I left it just long enough to pull up in a scrub brush of a ponytail, but it's short enough that I can wear it loose and it doesn't get in the way.

Saturday afternoon was super windy: the power kept flickering off and on. We took Little Bear down to the boat launch and discovered that the river is really low right now. The 20'x50' puddle trapped by an exposed gravel bar was perfect for throwing rocks into. Little Bear had so much fun! We probably spent an hour there, him throwing rocks and us skipping them. The gusting wind finally sent us home, and when we got there we saw that half of one of the chokecherry trees in the front yard had blown down!

Little Bear spent the evening playing with his aunts and uncles while Matt and I had a nice, quiet dinner with my parents. We'd wanted to sit on a deck and enjoy the warm weather, but with the strong wind, it's probably for the best that all of the restaurants I checked with weren't seating people on their decks that night.

Sunday we drove out to North Pole for Mass. Little Bear did better with the car rides than we expected, and was very good and quiet before Mass and up through the homily, but then he was all done being good and we spent pretty much the rest of Mass taking turns out in the narthex. Next time we won't get there so early--there's no sense wasting his good behavior just sitting and waiting for Mass to start. Mass was celebrated by Fr. Joseph Mary, CFR, who was visiting Fairbanks before heading down to Anchorage for the Alaska Catholic Youth Conference this week. His homily was so good! We talked about different points from it all the way home, but somehow the only thing I can bring to mind right now is that he talked about the parable of the talents in light of mercy: when the master took the one talent from the servant who hid it instead of using it, rather of giving him more talents like he did the other two servants, it was a merciful act, Father said. If the servant had been given more talents and had wasted those as well, in the end he would have been judged even more harshly because he'd wasted more. If we use the gifts God gives us, He gives us more to use; if we don't use what we're given, He won't keep forcing us to take the gifts, because we would be judged more harshly for having wasted more of God's gifts.

Is grunting while trying to move a heavy object a masculine instinct? I don't know where Little Bear picked it up otherwise, but it was hilarious watching him grunt as he tried to push this massive dredge bucket.

In celebration of June/summer/my finishing my most recent freelance project/Little Bear being good in the car/etc., we stopped for brunch on our way home, and had fun looking at this old mining equipment on our way back to the car. Little Bear was very well-behaved and happy at brunch; he was excited to share my fruit, cheese, and ham. Especially the ham. I've never seen him eat any other meat the way he eats ham.

And Sunday evening, after watching a movie with some friends from work, Matt brought them back to the apartment and we all played cards while Little Bear ran around borrowing "car-dah"s from everyone. It was a perfect, low-key end to a great weekend!

01 June 2014

Answer Me This

Kendra of Catholic All Year is back from Lourdes, and hosting another round of Answer Me This! Check out her stories of Lourdes with kids, along with everyone else's Answers, over there.

1. Do you have a smartphone?
I do: an iPhone. My dear husband was very sure that I needed one, and I certainly do appreciate the convenience! I'd probably never ever get the chance to blog if I didn't have one, for example. But I don't need it, and if we ever have to pare down our monthly budget, I like to think that I'd go back to a brick phone without too much reluctance. Actually, I might be sadder about giving up my case than the phone itself: 

A leather "book," with slots/pockets inside for my ID, credit card, gym card, library card... As long as I won't be gone for hours, any time I leave the house I really just have to grab my phone and there's no chance of my having forgotten anything. So convenient!

2. Which is your favorite meal of the day?
Definitely supper! Breakfast is usually a haphazard affair, lunch for Little Bear and I winds up being crackers and cheese and fruit more often than I'd like to admit, but supper is a proper meal: planned, shopped for, prepared over the course of sometimes several hours... Grilling makes summertime suppers spectacular. Cozy casseroles are a highlight of my winters. And I really enjoy taking a meal idea and playing with it to come up with something new and delicious, like Friday's zucchini faux-lasagna and tilapia parmesan. That supper is usually the only meal Matt is here to eat with us is a part of my preference for it, I'm sure; I'd probably put more effort into, and draw more enjoyment from, making lunches or breakfasts if I was sharing them with someone who wasn't likely to drop half the food on the floor.

3. Shower or bath?
Shower! My back always hurts, and a hot shower is pretty much the only thing that regularly helps (because chiropractors and massage therapists are expensive!). I know showers aren't as economical a use of water, but growing up with six siblings, I learned to take five-minute showers... so that's not a terribly extravagant use of water. Baths have always bothered me; the dirt and dust and sweat all wash off your body and just stay there in the water with you. Am I actually all that much cleaner after a bath, or did I just get wet? 

4. Think of a person you love. How many days have you been in love with that person? (Don't worry, this site will do the math for you. And, hey, now you can order this card!)
So, I came to this question, and read it twice. Maybe three times. Then I texted Matt, and we managed to pin down the circumstances of the first time we said "I love you" to each other, but we can't remember when exactly it was. Sometime shortly before Easter 2010, most likely during Triduum. But the phrasing "how long have you been in love" keeps jarring me out of trying to figure out when I first realized that I loved Matt and sending me into philosophical/linguistic musings on the meaning of "in love." What does that mean to be "in love"? Is "in-love-ness" a particular subcategory of Eros or Agape, or completely separate? Why is a locative preposition involved? I finally gave up and just plugged in the date that we found out I was pregnant with Little Bear: We've loved this wonderful, frustrating, hilarious little boy for 930 days.

5. What's the best church you've ever been in?
No real question here... by far the most beautiful church I've been in was St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral of Parma, Ohio. 

Photo from www.tccweb.org

I've never seen an iconostasis like that anywhere else. Among Roman-rite Catholic churches, perhaps the most beautiful I've been in is St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Photo from pittsburgh-love.tumblr.com

6. Happy Feast of the Visitation (on Saturday)! Has anyone ever come to help YOU?

Visitation on Saturday, belated-Ascension today (Counting: you learned it in kindergarten. If Pentecost Sunday [Whitsunday] is ten days after Ascension, how can Ascension be celebrated on a Sunday? Bah.) and a bunch of feast days this coming week leading up to Pentecost! Including St. Boniface, patron of breweries, on Thursday... I'll have to remind Matt. So much going on right now!

No, I've never had someone come stay with me to help. It seems like it would be uncomfortable, having another adult in the house right after a major life change like having a baby... I know I'd spend way too much energy stressing about the person judging me as being a bad wife/mother because I couldn't take care of everything, even though whatever it was that had me unable to take care of things would be the reason that were there... That was a confusing sentence. I don't actually think that someone who cared enough to come stay and help would be judging me; I just know that I would probably be stressing about them doing so regardless of logic.

Matt has a very generous leave package from the university, though, and has been able to take off as much time as we needed after Little Bear was born, when I had oral surgery, after Alex's death, etc. We've also been blessed to live in the same area as my family, and my mom has always been quick to offer to take Little Bear when I need a hand, or to send a meal over at times I'm having trouble cooking. There have been a bunch of times the last few years that I really don't know what we would have done without her help.