30 January 2015

Seven Quick Takes

Today our hostess, Kelly, of This Ain't the Lyceum, devoted her SQT to introducing herself, her family and her blog. Which is a great idea, and it's been a long time since I've done something similar, so when I saw it last night I made myself a note to do that this week, too... And now I can't think of anything to say. But since Little Bear was so considerate as to fall asleep right around the projected end of quiet time today, I'll see what I can do here. 

So, hello! Welcome. I'm Rosalie Shiffler. My husband, Matt, and I met at Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2007, and moved to Alaska in March 2011—I grew up here, and he had, not exactly a job offer at that point, but a strong likelihood of a job offer in the near future. He did wind up getting the job, and we were married that August. We have three kids: Little Bear (2.5) joined the family shortly before our first anniversary; Alex, our little saint, was miscarried in April 2014, and baby Kit is due this coming June. I stay home with Little Bear and do some freelance writing on the side, and Matt works in video conferencing (which is huge here, since there are more towns in Alaska without road access than with it.)

"But why Alaska?" We hear this a lot, especially when the thermometers seem to get stuck around -40 for a week or two. Well, for one thing it's beautiful. Even at -40. Cold weather means cloudless skies—clouds trap warm air closer to the ground—so cold nights are your best bet for seeing a spectacular aurora borealis. There's also an effect throughout our valley called the "inversion," where once it gets cold enough, the coldest air settles down low and the hills surrounding town can be 20 degrees warmer than town itself. Now that we live in the hills, we're huge fans of the inversion. Today it's pretty chilly in town, and not quite -20 F here. And who could complain about -20 when it looks like this?

(Everyone's windows get pretty ice borders in the wintertime, right?)

This past summer we moved from an apartment in town to a duplex out in the woods, and we're so glad we did; Matt had been on the fence about liking Alaska enough for the winters to be worth it, but give him an ax and wood to split to heat our house through the winter, and he's sold. And also a garage. Not having to plug the car in overnight and start it 15 minutes before you want to leave has made a huge difference in how pleasant we've found this winter. When it's above 0 we typically light one fire in the morning and one in the evening, and the house stays plenty warm, but when it's cold I've been lighting a fire first thing in the mornings and keeping it going until bedtime so the bedrooms will still be warm-ish come morning. Between heating mainly with a fireplace, hauling our own drinking water, and being far enough out that we can't reeeeally see our neighbors, it's a much different life than we'd had in the suburbs, and we love it.

I made a couple of halfhearted attempts at blogging during college, then started a new blog shortly after our wedding... and neglected it badly enough that I gave up just a few months in. Sed Noli Modo began in June 2012, as I counted down weeks and days to Little Bear's birth. Clearly I needed something to keep me busy; by early June I was so tired of being pregnant, I started reading straight through the 1972 encyclopedia britannica. There were some interesting ancient Persian rulers in the A's... I've always enjoyed writing, and although I sometimes feel like I shouldn't "waste time" blogging, I can tell—probably the whole family can—when I've let too much time slip by without writing, because I become too tightly wound without that creative release.

One of my favorite things to do is spend time in the kitchen. Matt is also a good cook, and we're both happy to see that it seems to have been passed down:

I wish I could figure out how to share the video, but Little Bear is singing and dancing while he beats together the egg, milk and oil for some muffins he helped me make this afternoon. I used to think that I preferred baking to cooking, but I've come to realize that it's not a question of cooking v. baking, but of whether I have to strictly follow a recipe. Anything that I'm comfortable enough with to modify (or totally disregard) the recipe for is fun; anything "fussy" or different enough that I don't feel I can take liberties with is just work. A lot of the meals and baked goods I enjoy and make frequently, I don't even look at a recipe anymore; in some cases, I don't have it written down at all. This does drive Matt crazy when he offers to help make supper and the best I can tell him is "you just put in the right amount of everything and cook it together until it's done!"

Growing and gathering our own food really appeals to me: hunting, berry picking, gardening, etc. Some day when we have our own place, I'm definitely planning to put in a garden! Now that we're renting a place with a sunny south-facing deck, though, I'm hoping to line up a couple of big planters this summer and grow some of our own produce: lettuce, carrots, garlic, herbs, maybe broccoli. We are just minutes from decent blueberry-picking country, and Matt has been getting more into hunting with my father and brothers. Since I'm due in June and it's a generally recognized fact here that you're taking your chances by putting anything in the ground before June 1, we'll see if I can actually talk myself into gardening this year, but I hope it works out!

Have a good weekend! 

29 January 2015

Alaskan windshields and budgeting software

When it's -36 F and you're driving 40 miles per hour, your windshield is effectively being blasted with -96 F air. Assuming that your heater works, the inside of the windshield is exposed to air more than 150 degrees warmer. And when a rock flies up and hits your windshield under conditions like that, the windshield pretty much splits straight across.

Because we didn't have enough bills right now, I guess?

It's not quite high enough to interfere with the driver's vision, so it looks like we'll be sporting a "classic Alaskan" windshield for a while because there's already a list of things we've been waiting until February to buy; semi-essentials like food, a heater, a toilet seat...

So, budgeting. It's not that we don't have a budget, or that we don't try to stick to it, or that we're in anything resembling "dire straits." I'm kind of proud of being able to be creative and use what we have to avoid buying groceries for the last week of the month; it's not exactly something that I'm hoping will change. We last updated our budget when Little Bear wasn't eating solid food and we were in a different house, though, so it's just time to reevaluate. In a way, revising the budget finally made it onto my to-do list this week (as opposed to earlier) because we've been relying on budgeting software; when we were first married, I tracked all of our income and expenses manually, but eventually we switched to Mint, by Intuit.

Mint is a great system, don't get me wrong. It's generally worked well for us to track where all of our money's going. We are both pretty good about not spending money on unnecessary things, though, so I don't often wind up checking how we're doing in any categories other than Food & Drink—how are we doing on groceries this month? can we afford to eat out? etc. And in December and January, Mint said that we were doing a great job on that part of the budget.

It wasn't until I sat down last weekend to reevaluate our charitable giving for the new year that I realized Mint had been filing one of the two grocery stores I shop at as "Charity" for the last couple of months. Oops... Suddenly, we weren't doing very well on groceries or giving.

It's my possibly unrealistic goal, given the date, to have a revised budget in place by February. We'll see. The charities budget, at least, is fixed already; I made a chart of groups and amounts to make sure that we're giving enough, so now I'll be building the rest of the budget around those numbers instead of starting with our material needs/wants and hoping there's enough left over. A little (okay, a lot) more intimidating than starting with numbers like rent and electric as the first nonnegotiables, but it's probably a better way to organize things, isn't it?

28 January 2015

Kitchen kind of day

Second trimester: the part of pregnancy where you have energy and feel mostly not-awful and being productive generally sounds like a positive thing, and then suddenly you have to go lay down and put your feet up because you've exceeded the invisible energy limit and your legs won't hold you up for one. more. minute.

Today I got a lot done. I had a lot on the rolling to-do list, and a few things have been sitting there for a while not budging and they still haven't been touched (sort through maternity clothes, revise monthly budget... my sloppy handwriting on that one looks more like "revive" than "revise," which sadly is a tiny bit too close to the truth...) But this morning there were four in-the-kitchen items on the list, and it seemed like a good day to do them all.

For some reason, it also seemed like a good day to clean out the fridge and take advantage of the almost-enough pizza makings to bake homemade pizza for lunch, so I didn't actually start crossing things off my list until afternoon. But there's a plate of leftover pizza in the fridge now, so it was definitely worth it.

Over the afternoon, Little Bear helped me make banana bread for Matt's office, mix up a new batch of taco seasoning mix, hard-boil eggs, and bake protein snack bars, plus make an Italian sausage pasta sauce for supper. It is so great that he likes helping in the kitchen! I don't know how I would get things done if he was constantly demanding that I come out of the kitchen and play with him. I mean, I'd obviously get things done anyway, but everyone would be much less happy.

He was beside-himself excited about the hard-boiled eggs: I stepped out of the kitchen to mess with the fireplace for a minute before starting the eggs, and came back to hear him exclaiming, "Hard-boiled egg time! All ready!" He proudly showed me the napkin he'd put in front of his chair at the table, with a big pile of salt and pepper on it. "Hard-boiled egg now?" It took a minute to convince him that we had to cook the hard-boiled eggs before we could eat them.

Going through my recipe card file over the weekend, I found a recipe for protein bars that a friend gave to me around the time we got married. I'd never tried it, but the recipe sounded perfect: high in protein, high in fiber, respectably low in sugar. There were lots of ingredients that Little Bear could help scoop up in his measuring cup, which made it more fun for him than the usual "Mama measures everything, then you can help stir." 

Protein Snack Bars

2 1/2 cups rolled oats (I actually used a medley of hard red wheat, soft white wheat, oat groats, barley, rye, spelt, and flax)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup TOTAL of raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, etc
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine oil, sugar, eggs and extract in a separate bowl. Stir everything together thoroughly. Spread in a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Cut when cool. Makes 20 slightly-square bars (are they only "bars" if they're rectangles?)

Yes, they tasted slightly "healthy," but they were good! Next time, I'd like to try using honey or molasses in place of the brown sugar, but they certainly weren't too sweet. I think it's safe to say they received Little Bear's stamp of approval as well: after we'd sampled one and I was cutting up the rest of the pan to put them in a tin, he kept trying to climb up onto the counter to get another "bar! bar!"

Right around the time Matt got home from grand jury duty (late—the last case was long), I hit the "I can't stand up any longer" point and had to go lay on the couch. A half hour with my feet up was enough of a break that I made it through tonight's RCIA class fine, but now it's definitely bedtime.

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.

15 January 2015

Daily dose of adventure

Our car is in the shop today, because the driver's seatbelt won't buckle. Little Bear and I took it in right after dropping Matt off at work. Checking in at the shop, I remembered that our landlord just changed the core on our front door's deadbolt, and I didn't have the new key—he only gave us one, and it's sitting on a shelf just inside the door waiting for me to get a duplicate made. I had time to grab our garage door opener from the visor before their courtesy shuttle arrived to bring us home, so I figured we were fine.

After the shuttle dropped us off I set Little Bear and his car seat on the front porch, walked over to the garage with the door opener, and pushed the button. And pushed it again. And again. Close to the door, halfway up the driveway, it didn't work. The light isn't on, so I'm assuming the battery died.

With Little Bear watching and worrying ("Oh no, Mama going to fall!"), I climbed up and over the two-log-wide, five-foot-tall woodpile on the deck and ran around to try the old key in the deck door. Thank goodness it worked!

"Buy new batteries" and "copy key" are definitely on this afternoon's list now!

Of all the days to get ourselves locked out, though, we sure picked a good one: it's incredibly, unseasonably warm out. I think it was 30 when we got home, and it's still pushing freezing now. I had to remind Matt to grab a coat this morning, because it hardly feels like winter.

13 January 2015

A moose in every shadow

After seeing at least four moose (or one particularly suicidal ungulate) crossing the road or lurking in the ditch on our way to and from town in the past month or so, driving those long empty stretches of road through prime moose country in the dark makes me jumpy whenever I can't have my high beams on. Any dark ditch I can't see into, my brain automatically fills in with nebulous moose-shapes, and when the road dips slightly and the shadows move, I'm just sure a moose is about to jump out in front of us. 

We've never had one step out close enough that we couldn't stop, but winter roads can be slick and even having a moose begin crossing the road 300 feet in front of you in the dark is really scary. Without 4-wheel-drive and snow tires, I wouldn't feel at all confident that I could stop! Not that the driver or the stopability of the vehicle necessarily has anything to do with whether or not you hit a moose, if the moose jumps out immediately in front of you, or even jumps onto your vehicle. (It happens. You'd think they couldn't be stupid enough to do that, but when I was a kid, I was in a Suburban when a moose literally jumped out of a willow-filled ditch, over a guard rail, onto the hood of the SUV. Miraculously, no one was injured. Needless to say, the vehicle was totaled.)

Well, that's helpful: the Alaska DMV driver's manual is available online. Apparently the law only requires us to turn off high beams (switch to regular headlights) when 500 feet from a vehicle coming toward us, or 300 feet from a vehicle going the same direction. Is it accepted as common courtesy to switch off the brights sooner, though? I know it annoys me when a driver coming toward me from the opposite direction keeps his high beams on as he approaches... When there's a half mile of straight flat road between me and the oncoming driver, I don't know how close I'd let our vehicles get before turning off my brights.

10 January 2015

17ish weeks

This morning's visit with my midwife was fairly non-newsworthy, thank goodness! Matt and Little Bear both came with me, Matt so he could meet the midwife at least once before delivery and Little Bear because he always comes. I really like how fond of children everyone I've encountered at this practice is—you'd think that would be a given in an OB practice, but it seems that's not always the case from stories I've heard from friends. Everyone at this practice has always been so happy to see Little Bear with me, though.

My midwife had a med student with her today, and we saw the student first. She was very nice, very knowledgeable, and despite giving me a heads-up that she wasn't always very good at finding the baby's heartbeat she found it right away. It is always so reassuring to hear that heartbeat! She encouraged me to look into prenatal massage to help relieve my sciatic pain, a suggestion my midwife strongly seconded along with seeing a chiropractor trained in working with expectant mothers.

Matt liked the midwife and thought she seemed like a good fit for us, which makes me feel better. And they faxed over the referral for the anatomical ultrasound, so I should be getting a call on Monday to set that up. I'm so excited to see the baby again! Hopefully they have times available on Saturdays or after 5, so Matt can come with us.

I'm still not exactly sure how far along they say that I am, but hopefully the ultrasound will give us a final estimated due date? I know when I think I am, counting from ovulation, and when they think I am according to the little cardboard circle of doom (coughrhythmmethodcough), but I think they decided to go with the in-between date that my first ultrasound gave and I can't remember what that was! So, not that I actually believe that Kit is going to be born on this theoretical due date, but it'll be nice to at least know when it is.

09 January 2015

Seven Quick Takes

Hopefully very quick ones this week, because I'm almost out of nap time... Linking up over at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Earlier this week, it was cold enough outside that our unheated-but-insulated storage room off the kitchen dropped below freezing. We had to bring in the 7-gallon jugs that hold our drinking water because we started getting ice crystals from them... Fortunately it's back up to 20 F outside, so it's 40-ish in the storage room again.

It seems like I've seen a couple of stories over the past year or so showing (or at least trying to show) a firm connection between wedding or engagement ring spending and the length of marriages, but today's was the first that I can remember actually citing a study. Not that I am laboring under the delusion that the random pop news site somebody linked on Facebook is a reliable source of scientific information, but it made me quite happy to see, after all of the data about the horrendous amounts of money the average modern American couple spends on their wedding, that "for the best odds [of avoiding divorce], keep the festivities to less than $1,000." We win! :-)

I've been coteaching our parish's RCIA class this year, and I could not have foreseen how much I'm loving it. There were definitely Wednesdays last semester when shuffling the car and the kid and getting Matt to his night class on time before my class started made for a bit of grumbling, but I'm so happy that I'm doing it, and so enjoying the questions and conversations that we've had recently. We're using the Augustine Institute's Symbolon program, which is great, as well as Matthew Kelly's book Rediscover Catholicism. I'm not sure if/how I could make it work next year with an infant and a 3 year old, but I would like to continue teaching the class.

In an effort to make bedtime easier on all of us, we've been letting Little Bear have an hour of "quiet time" in his bedroom instead of taking a nap on days that he isn't obviously in need of sleep, and cutting off his naps at an hour or so on the days he does take them. It has helped a lot with getting him to sleep quickly at night!

I've been seeing everyone's posts about New Years resolutions, words for the year, saints of the year, Kelly's mythical beast of the year, etc. and trying to decided whether to bother... maybe I have a touch of the "everyone's doing it so I don't want to" bug. Some folks have impressive litanies of resolutions—how do you even keep track of what all you've resolved to do? Do you post a list on the fridge? For humility's sake, I suppose I should at least share my one resolution this year: to brush my hair every morning.

Now that I've appalled you, maybe I can make that sound a tiny bit less awful? I typically roll out of bed in the dark, get dressed in the dark, pull my hair up or back in a ponytail or bun, and most days don't even look in a mirror until at least the middle of the day. Anything more than that feels like I'm wasting time that should be spent getting Little Bear ready, helping Matt get out the door, doing any of a million other things that are always on the list. So I'm put together enough for around the house, certainly, and respectable enough for the grocery store, which is honestly pretty much the only place I ever see people all week while Matt's at work. But that whole "you can't take care of others if you aren't taking care of yourself" thing? It's kind of true. And when I at least take the extra handful of minutes to brush out my hair in the morning, for some reason it's easier for me to do everything else I need to throughout the day, and to be a more pleasant wife and mother.

Little Bear came out from his nap to tell me that "Juan Diego flying airplane to top of moon!" I think that's my cue to be done here.

Have a good weekend, y'all.

07 January 2015


One thing I love about Matt's job is that the university has a "hard closure"—no one is allowed to come in to work without special permission from people quite high up in the administration—from Christmas through New Years. We sure enjoyed having him home for so long! He spent a lot of the break just spending time with Little Bear and me, but he also found time to finally work on a project he's been planning and designing for months: a chest holster for his revolver.

Carrying your bear-defense in a hip holster, where it gets fouled up in the hip belt of your backpack—and you carry a pack with basic survival gear no matter what you're doing or how short your trip is when you go into the wilderness here—just doesn't make sense; we obviously hope to never encounter a bear and practice proper bear-avoidance, but in a hostile situation every extra second increases the risk to your family's lives. 

Matt had been researching chest holsters for a while but hadn't found the perfect one for a remotely reasonable price when he discovered Kydex. A thin thermoplastic, sheets of Kydex can easily be heated to the point of pliability with a standard heat gun and molded to any shape, cooling and hardening again within ten seconds of removing the heat. Several holster makers had adopted the material for holsters, but no one was making chest holsters, so Matt decided to make his own. Not being sure how hard the Kydex would be to mold, Matt decided to buy a sheet pre-molded to his model of revolver from somebody online. As it turned out, he got to play with the plastic anyway: the piece he received was molded to fit a 2" barrel, and his revolver has a 4" barrel and larger sights, so he sliced off a piece for each side and re-molded the channel for the sights.

Next came the leather. The Kydex mold would cover one side of the revolver, holding it sandwiched against a thick piece of latigo leather. Matt shaped and dyed the leather, attaching the Kydex and rectangular "strap keepers" on swivels for attaching the harness. He was initially discouraged after dying the main leather piece, because he could see each line where he had slightly overlapped two strokes of dye, but buffing the freshly-dyed piece helped even it out significantly. We also learned that daubing on the dye instead of stroking/brushing it on like paint gave a much better final appearance, as did being able to say "I'm all done messing with this for tonight" and walking away. :-)

Nickle-coated brass Chicago screws and a big stainless steel saddle ring to bring the straps together at his back give the holster a final polished look.

Sewing the harness and figuring out how to make each strap adjustable was pretty much the only part of the project I helped with, and even then Matt did most of it himself; I stepped in briefly a few times when my sewing machine became temperamental. He also made two removable sets of loops to hold extra bullets, which required a lot of hand sewing because I couldn't get the tension right on the sewing machine to make it cooperate with the elastic. Little Bear had fun helping him attach the snaps to hold them in place on the harness. (He came in from helping Daddy in the garage with a huge grin and a "bracelet" made from spare webbing and snaps. At least once a day he finds it, brings it to me, and asks me to put it on him.)

So far, Matt is really happy with how the holster turned out. It's been too cold to go to the range (bear loads are too powerful to shoot at the indoor range), so he hasn't had a chance to actually practice with it, but just trying it unloaded at home he's found that it holds the revolver well—even turning it upside down, you have to shake it hard several times to get it to budge—but it draws quickly. And it looks pretty great! My dad was admiring it, and laughingly commented that now Matt just needs to get himself a website and start selling custom holsters.

06 January 2015

Happy Epiphany!

+ 20 C M B 15 +

The feast of the Three Kings! I'm rather disappointed that our parish didn't bless chalk this year, and I don't have any chalk (blessed or otherwise) to put the traditional marking over our door. Maybe my parents have some, and I can borrow it once everybody in their house gets over the flu—Little Bear's been very disappointed that we haven't visited Grandma's house in so long, but we definitely don't need to bring the flu into our house! It sounds like this year's strain is particularly awful.

Oops, Epiphany. Excuse the scatterbrained-ness; sleep's been spotty recently. Today I learned, and felt a little silly for never realizing earlier, that there are two different meanings to the "CMB" of the Epiphany door-marking: I'd always heard that we used those letters to signify "Caspar Melchior Balthazaar," the three wise men who visited the Christ Child. But CMB is also an acronym for "Christus Mansionem Benedicat": May Christ bless this home. Which makes perfect sense, because the point of writing with the blessed chalk over the door is to ask blessings through the coming year on the house, household, and all who enter.

As Epiphany marks the close of Christmas, Little Bear and I packed away our Christmas decorations this afternoon, and when Matt got home from work our tree made its exit as well, probably destined for the first bonfire of spring in however many months it takes for the snow to mostly melt. The house always looks a little bare and sad, stripped of its Christmas finery; for as long as I can remember, my mom has transitioned into a snowmen-theme after Christmas ends, but so far we don't really have anything for the time between Christmas and Lent, so there are some pretty empty-looking spaces right now. Having a 2.5 year old running around keeps anything from looking too bare for very long, though. I have no idea how he managed to make messes appear out of nowhere, in no time flat.

I thought about making a king cake tonight, to go with the three kings, but there are still so many Christmas cookies in the kitchen that I really couldn't. Surely there's a rule of some kind that you have to eat all of the Christmas cookies before baking any other sweets? Tonight's supper was very briefly going to be Middle Eastern, because the three wise men probably came from Persia, but I quickly realized that baby Kit has been causing many "fun" foods to disagree with me recently. I wound up making a nice, but more to baby's taste, meal: pork chops, sauerkraut padahae, and green beans. And Christmas cookies.

Not Epiphany-related, except in relation to supper, but I keep meaning to mention this and forgetting: at my last appointment, I commented (no idea how it came up) that the baby seems to like sauerkraut, and my midwife said that sauerkraut is actually a very good thing to eat during pregnancy. Which is great, I like sauerkraut and could happily eat it at least once a week. But I can't remember why she said it was good. Something about it being fermented... Has anyone else been told this?

And to anyone on the Julian calendar who is just beginning their Christmas season tonight, Merry Christmas! Christ is born!

02 January 2015

Seven Quick Takes: Manly tea parties, moon bases, and mayonnaise cookies

Joining the party at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Little Bear, looking at a cookbook: "One cup of butter. Half a cup of sugar. One spoon of flour. Mix mix mix, all done! Fruitcake." Somebody spent a lot of time helping me in the kitchen the past few weeks! I had to laugh when I looked over at his cookbook; his "fruitcake" recipe came from a page featuring sauerbraten, halupki, and roast duck.

Yesterday morning Little Bear and I were both sneezing and sick-feeling, and wound up staying home and taking a nap while Matt went to Mass. I was disappointed to miss Mass for the solemnity! And I probably could have made it through, although I've been growing faint by halfway through Sunday Masses recently so Little Bear and I would probably have spent at least half of the Mass sitting in the vestibule or even outside. But I was reminded just the other day that it's not only a question of "can I live through Mass?," but of "am I potentially contagious and therefore dangerous to those with weak immune systems?" Sneezing? Definitely contagious, so we stayed home. Matt said that the church was packed, though, which is great.


The other day Matt was going through our box of camping/hiking things, stocking his daypack with survival gear and cataloging what we had and needed. Little Bear discovered my red enamelware tea kettle (a huge waste of packing space, but so much fun to bring car-camping!). He promptly ran into the kitchen, found two of the matching "teacups," and pretended to pour water into them for himself and Daddy. Cheers! Almost immediately after this photo was taken...

Me: "We don't wrestle during tea parties."
Matt: "This is a manly tea party."

Is your Christmas tree still up? We're leaving ours up until Epiphany, but haven't actually discussed whether that means Sunday or Tuesday this year... It makes me so crazy when they move feasts where there is an actual numerical reason for them to be where they are! Like how the Annunciation (March 25) is exactly nine months before Christmas for obvious reason. There isn't quite that pressing a reason to keep Epiphany on January 6, but moving it certainly messes up the centuries-old tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas! 

As promised, a better photo of our padahae (Ukranian pierogi):

One recipe made 18 potato padahae and 30 sauerkraut padahae. I separated them into quart freezer bags for individual meals this evening; just seeing them all in the freezer makes me so happy!

I haven't found a ton of information about this on English-language websites, but apparently there's a Russian company that believes they can have a functional moon base within ten years of receiving government approval. It sounds like the Russian government is saying that it's too soon to say whether their plans will be approved and/or will work, but it's sure neat that someone is taking actual steps toward an extraterrestrial colony! I very much doubt that I'll ever make it to space, but space travel, interplanetary exploration, all that good stuff has captivated my imagination ever since I was a kid.

Earlier this week we had a priest who is a friend of my family over for supper. As he saw Matt pulling the chicken out of the oven he said (joking!), "I told you I'm vegan, right?" A discussion of foods liked and disliked ensued, and when he said that he would eat anything but mayonnaise, I remarked that I thought I'd seen a cookie recipe somewhere that called for mayonnaise. Father and Matt both quickly agreed that such a thing couldn't exist because it would be ontologically evil. So of course I was curious and Googled it that evening... and because Google can find anything, now there's a recipe for Mayonnaise Cookies open in a tab in my browser. Has anyone ever made or tasted such a thing? I'm intrigued; what effect would it have on the flavor? The texture? I kind of want to try out the recipe, but Kit still doesn't really like sweets, and I'm pretty sure Matt wouldn't touch them if I told him they had mayonnaise in them...

01 January 2015

Padahae for the New Year

Happy New Year! (I'm not quite late—it's still January 1 in my time zone!)

I'm pretty sure we haven't once stayed up until midnight on New Year's Eve since getting married, and that record stands another year: we pulled out fun cheese, crackers, fudge and sparkling grape juice after Little Bear fell asleep last night, but by 10:30 we both agreed that we were too tired to put off sleep any longer. Parenthood... We feel so old sometimes, especially compared to people we know our age who aren't married/parents! :-)

We'd kind of planned to spend the evening with my family and watch the university's annual fireworks display, but between Little Bear not napping and thus losing "Grandma's house privileges" and two of my siblings potentially coming down with something, a quiet night in wound up being the right decision. We talked about also giving up our afternoon plans because of Little Bear's lack of nap, but I'm so glad that we decided not to!

Matt, Little Bear and I all spent New Year's Eve afternoon at my "adopted grandmother"s house learning to make padahae, Ukrainian pierogi. We had such a good time, learning by making them ourselves under her guidance, and hearing stories of her learning to make them as a girl and passing on the tradition to three more generations of her family. We feel so blessed that she was willing to spend an afternoon sharing the tradition with us!

I made the dough, Matt rolled it out, and we all filled and tightly crimped the padahae before boiling them. Some people freeze the padahae before boiling them, but I like the idea of having them pre-cooked: we'll be able to simply thaw and reheat them, either in the microwave or a skillet. Before rolling it out, we divided the dough roughly in half: the first batch was filled with potatoes, the second with sauerkraut. The sauerkraut was cooked in a skillet with a bit of oil and salt and pepper, we assume for the sake of cooking off liquid, but she said she didn't know for sure—she always cooked the sauerkraut first, because her mother always did. That's a good enough reason for me!

Right now the padahae are layered out flat in the freezer so they won't freeze all sticking together, and tomorrow I'll portion them into bags for meals. We fried up a few of the potato-filled padahae with some onions and homemade kielbasa for supper last night, and they were delicious!

(Better photo tomorrow; standing over the open chest freezer in our 45-degree garage was too cold to take the time to get a good picture tonight!!)