27 July 2014

Answer Me This with What I Wore Sunday

Linking up with both Kendra and Fine Linen and Purple on this sunny Sunday afternoon! Sunny but chilly; it was 46 F as we were leaving for Mass this morning, and it's only warmed up about 10 degrees since then.

Maybe it's because it has not been so hot, or maybe turning two brought some slight increase in maturity, but Little Bear has had several well-behaved Sundays in a row now. He stayed pretty still most of Mass, and didn't talk at all except on our way back to the pew from Communion when he walked over the tiled section of floor in front of the votive candles and decided the clattery surface was prefect for tap dancing: "Dance! Dance!" he insisted, but he didn't complain when I made him keep walking.

1. What's your favorite thing on YouTube?
I really enjoy many of the original pieces and covers by a handful of YouTube artists, particularly Peter Hollens, Tyler Ward, Lindsey Sterling, and Tanner Patrick. Right now, my favorite is probably Tyler Ward and Lindsey Sterling's music video of "Some Kind of Beautiful."

2. Who taught you to drive?
My dad did, mostly, although I took a couple of lessons right before my driving test from an airplane pilot who teaches driving in his free time. Driving the instructor's car was a piece of cake compared to driving my dad's huge pickup truck! After learning in the truck, though, I was really good at backing big vehicles.

3. What's your favorite thing to cook?
I don't think I have a favorite; I like making meals where I just throw a bunch of things in a skillet without really measuring or more than glancing at a recipe. There's a higher likelihood of turning out with something a little bit weird for supper that way, so I do try to be good and use recipes most of the time, but I hardly ever follow them exactly. I love being able to know what foods go together, what spices will blend well with what foods, how to make different types of sauces, how to look at a recipe and overhaul it to fit with the ingredients and time that I have available. Creativity; my favorite thing to cook is something creative.

4. Are you a hugger or a non-hugger? Why?
Maybe a little bit of both? I tend to worry that others aren't comfortable with hugs, or that maybe it's not acceptable/appropriate in X setting, and so don't offer hugs at times that I personally would have been okay with it. I don't generally mind when others are the ones to instigate hugs, though.

5. Where do you pray best?
Right now, the only reliable block of prayer time I have during the day is in the evenings when I lay down on the bed next to Little Bear to put him to sleep. I try to make brief prayers throughout the day happen, and we do pray together before meals (and sometimes in the middle of meals, when Little Bear is messing with us), but the only extended time when I'm actually able to concentrate on prayer is when I'm lying in bed at night.

6. When is the last time you saw/spoke to your grandparents?
I grew up thousands of miles away from extended family, so I really never had a close relationship with any of my grandparents. My mom's mother is the only grandparent I have left; I last saw her in August 2010, when Matt and I were in Virginia for a friend's wedding. I spoke with her in April to tell her about Alex. Matt did grow up seeing his grandparents frequently, and we often see his grandmothers when we Skype with his parents on Sundays.

What I wore Sunday:
- cropped sweater: Boden, thrifted
- sundress: Speechless, thrifted
- sunshine! It finally stopped raining!

25 July 2014

SQTF 96: 1, 2, 3, go!

I think I've mentioned that Little Bear likes our garage. A lot. I really don't get it; he doesn't actually do much when I let him play in the garage, just wanders around saying "garage garage garage" and occasionally kicks a ball or plays with a broom, but try to bring him back into the house and he disolves into a kicking screaming sobbing puddle of two-year-old. Doing laundry without getting stuck standing around in the garage forever or having to deal with a meltdown has been tricky so far. Yesterday, though, I managed to stick him (sans boots) in the basket with the clean laundry and "drive" the basket/race car back into the house with him giggling. Later that evening, after Matt was home and I snuck away to write while they played, I heard Little Bear shouting "One, two, hree, go!" followed by the sound of pounding little feet over and over again as he drove cardboard boxes around the living room. 

His obsession with the garage is really helpful when we're in town and he doesn't want to get in his carseat, though; all I have to do is ask if he wants to go back to the garage, and he gets all excited and sits down nicely right away.


My parents' ice cream maker came out on Wednesday when we visited, and Little Bear was very excited to take his turn cranking the churn. He had no trouble doing it all by himself! We made honey ice cream, which had just a hint of a honey flavor to it and was very light and refreshing.

I think I can safely say that we're pretty much moved into the new house now. There's still a box of canning jars and wine glasses waiting to be assigned a home, and a stack of cans on the counter that can't really be organized in the cupboard until I find a small tray to keep spices together, but other than that... I've been over at the old apartment cleaning whenever I've had time this week, and we arranged to do a final walkthrough with the new owners on Saturday. For some reason our mail still hasn't started forwarding yet, but the new owner said she'd be happy to hold anything for us and let us come pick it up. We'll do a walkthrough of the new place with our new landlord on Monday morning, to make sure we're all clear on what the place looked like now as we've just moved in. I'm so glad that we're just about done!


This summer has to be the wettest I've ever seen. It just rains, and rains, and rains. Interior Alaska is officially classed as a desert; we don't know what to do with all this water! Rivers and streams have been flooding all summer. We broke the record for most rainfall recorded in June, and we're less than half an inch away from breaking July's record now too. Being able to take Little Bear out onto our covered deck (or into his beloved garage) once or twice a day to run around and "get the stink blown off him," as my great-grandmother would say, has been the salvation of my sanity this week. The ridiculous amount of rain has given us an incredible array of brightly-colored mushrooms in the woods around the house, though, and the thorough soaking has kept the usual summer forest fires away, so I'm grateful for it.

I felt like quite the Alaskan wife this morning, standing in line outside Sportsman's Warehouse with a bunch of young guys in camo and long-bearded older men all waiting for the doors to open. It's been years now since Alaskan retailers have been able to get enough of many popular calibers of ammo to keep it on the shelf longer than a day or two, even though they've been rationing it when they do have it available. And .22, which used to be the cheapest and most readily-available ammo? Several retailers have had signs posted for the last six months that they don't have any and don't expect to any time soon. The places that have been able to get it in have been selling it in boxes of 25 or 50 instead of the 500-round "bricks" it used to come in. My dad heard from somebody that Sportsman's was getting a shipment at 9 o'clock this morning, though, and they were actually going to be selling bricks, so I found myself standing in line outside a store for the first time since Black Friday 2009.

We still haven't made plans to celebrate Little Bear's now three-weeks-belated birthday. Not that he knows or cares, of course, and clearly I don't feel too badly about it or I would have made something happen this weekend. Maybe next weekend; we're only having my family over, but Matt says we shouldn't make people sit on the floor to eat, so we need to find a couch or some other seating first. One of my sister's friends was moving and giving away her couch last weekend, but she never called me back so that didn't work out. We have our old desk for sale on Craigslist right now... Maybe we should edit the ad to say we'd trade it for a couch?

Have a good weekend! Seven Quick Takes is being hosted by Svellerella this week, so stop on over!

21 July 2014

Terrible Twos

Dear more-experienced-mom,

Please, when you see a stressed mom of a two-year-old, do not laugh and tell her that the "terrible twos" don't really exist and that the real age at which little kids are terrors is three.

You probably think that you're encouraging her, telling her that things really aren't so bad right now. But think about it from her perspective, and from the perspective of building up the culture of life; if her two-year-old has spent the past 23 hours screaming and sobbing about every single thing that has happened—the light turning on, the light turning off, wearing pants, hearing the story he just begged for, mama cleaning up the juice he poured on the floor—and you cheerfully tell her that this is nothing compared to how he'll be acting a year from now, do you think that makes her want to be open to life, to happily anticipate adding to her family? 

Of course not. She can barely handle this, she's thinking to herself; how much worse will next year be? And what if there's a new baby needing her time and attention too? What if she has twins? She will probably only be half-joking that night when she tells her husband that they aren't having another baby for at least a decade.

There are joys and challenges with every age, with every stage of parenting. Intellectually, we know this. But the brinkmanship mentality that's crept into parent-to-parent interactions, the need to "prove" to others that their current struggles are nothing compared to what you've gone through or are going through, ignores the joys and magnifies the challenges into terrifying bogeymen that tell already-discouraged new parents that they simply can't do it. That it's impossible to be genuinely open to life and have any hope of peace and happiness and sanity. And that's not the message you want to be sharing; it's not true.

If the threes are really worse than the twos, she'll figure that out soon enough on her own. What she needs to hear from you right now, more-experienced-mom, what you need to say to build up the culture of life, is that there are good things about having a two-year-old, too. Tell her that your son was two when he learned to put his own boots on. Tell her how much fun it was when your daughter finally started talking in sentences. Tell her about a book your little ones enjoyed at that age, or share your tips for getting crayon off of floors. And if you absolutely have to say something about things getting worse before they get better, hopefully you'll follow up with "so if you ever need a break, I'd be happy to babysit."

Mom of a two-year-old

20 July 2014

Answer Me This

When we got up and turned the light on to get ready for Mass this morning, Little Bear dramatically flopped back onto his pillow, arms outstretched, and declared, "Nap!"

I couldn't have agreed more, child. Why didn't you feel that way at 2 o'clock this morning? Some of this week's questions for Answer Me This took way more brain power than I have right now.

1. What's something you won, and how did you win it?
I'm sure there are better, hopefully more recent, examples for this, but Little Bear was up half the night and I'm exhausted and somehow the only thing I can think of is the school spelling bee in eighth grade. I hadn't intended to enter: didn't register until the morning of. But the year before, my younger sister had won the school bee, the state bee, and gone to nationals in DC, and that morning I decided that I was better at spelling than she was and I signed up, without studying at all. It came down to just the two of us at the end, and we went back and forth over and over again until I was given the word "stroganoff." I completely blanked. Then I spelled it so horrendously—s-t-r-o-u-g-h-a-n-o-u-g-h—that I threw her off, and she stuck a "gh" in it as well when they asked her to spell it to win. I have no idea what word I actually won on, but my siblings still remind me about that misspelling when Mom makes stroganoff.

(Neither of us won the state bee that year; I took fifth (missing "gynecologist") after she missed a word in an early round, and she won and went to nationals again the following year.)

2. Do you save old greeting cards and letters, or throw them all away? Why?
I typically throw them away—I really dislike clutter, and am I ever really going to go back and read them again? But I did save Little Bear's baptism and first birthday cards, and the cards we received after Alex's miscarriage. And I know that somewhere, Matt has many of the letters and cards we've written to each other since we started dating.

3. When you're at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?
I definitely prefer to go barefoot! My feet get cold quickly, though, so I'll wear socks in the winter, and when it gets really cold slippers. But whenever I can be, I'm barefoot; even in the middle of winter, I can't sleep with socks on.

4. Who's the most famous person you've ever met?
I've been around famous people a number of times, especially while writing for Franciscan University of Steubenville's PR department. My favorite story comes from my senior year of high school, though: then-governor Sarah Palin hosted a "Fire and Ice"-themed celebration of arctic life for international dignitaries. One event was a fur fashion show, and I was asked to model for a local furrier. Other than Palin, the one person I particularly remember from the event, although I've forgotten his name, was a young Polish diplomat who complimented my "Russian forehead."

Probably the most widely-famous person I've actually met, though, is Newt Gingrich; I participated in a press conference with him prior to a screening of his film Nine Days that Changed the World.

5. What has been your best work of art?
Can I just say Little Bear? No? I'm pretty bad at visual arts, and there's nothing I've done in any other art form standing out in my sleep-fogged memory as being particularly spectacular. It's been a long time since I've done any writing or music that I could really class as "art"... Maybe this quilt?

I made that the summer before my freshman year of college; I certainly don't have time or energy for projects like that anymore! I was pretty happy with how it turned out, though.

6. What's your strongest sense?
Sight, I suppose. Not because my sight is exceptional, just that nothing else is unusually good and I know that sight is typically the strongest sense in humans. Although, thinking about it, maybe my sense of taste is equally good; I really enjoy playing with recipes, making subtle changes to ingredients and quantities to try to find just the perfect combinations. And last night Matt and I were teasing each other about how we make oatmeal: to one serving of oats, he adds dehydrated strawberries and a drizzle of agave, and that's all; I add up to a quarter-teaspoon each of a combination of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, and maple extract, plus molasses, brown sugar, or honey. And raisins or dried cranberries, and sometimes coarsely-chopped almonds or pecans. It's probably unnecessary to note that Little Bear would rather share his father's oatmeal than mine. I like trying new foods, creating interesting flavors, trying to figure out what herbs and spices go into different foods when we eat out.

18 July 2014

SQTF 95: Settling down

I'm sorry; it has been a ridiculously long time since I've posted, and I miss it! There are still a few too many balls in the air at the Shifflerhaus, but hopefully linking up with Seven Quick Takes today will help me ease back into posting more regularly.

We've moved! Moving day was officially last Saturday—we brought over a lot of boxes on Thursday night and Friday, but Saturday my dad and brother both brought their pickup trucks and carted all of our furniture to the new place. We got the bedroom put together that evening so we'd have a bed to sleep on, and have slowly been putting the house to rights since. Little Bear's had a hard time adjusting to being in a new place: I haven't been getting a whole lot done until Matt gets home from work, because it seems like every five minutes Little Bear is crying and begging to be picked up again. He's getting better about it, though, and I got more organizing done this morning than I was able to do all day yesterday.

After living the last three years in a suburb, we're both loving that our new place is out of town, out in the woods. Our driveway:

It's a little more rural than where I spent most of my growing-up years, a little less "modern civilization" than many places: We can't see any neighbors from any of our windows (and this place has a lot of windows!). Matt is currently pricing out cords of wood, chainsaws, and axes; we'll need to split about three cords before the end of September to help heat the house this winter. Last weekend we picked up two 7-gallon water jugs, and joined the ranks of those who haul their own water. Our well water is okay for showers and washing clothes or dishes, but not for cooking and drinking. More work than city living? Sure. But we love it.

Being farther out of town, it's been a bit more of a challenge to get phone and internet service. Only one ISP covers our area, and we are right at the edge of their coverage for DSL. Because Matt works in video conferencing and has to be able to occasionally work from home, we wouldn't have been able to live here without adequate internet. That finally got set up on Wednesday, and because for some reason it costs the same amount whether you add a landline phone or not, we now have a "real" phone! Cell phone coverage is pretty spotty out here, and Matt's phone can only reliably make or receive calls if he's standing on the corner of the deck, so he's been working with AT&T customer service for the past couple of evenings trying to find a way to fix that. I've appreciated finally having a local number on the landline, because AT&T won't let us change our cell numbers to a local area code and I've felt badly that my mom has had to call me long-distance even though we live in the same town.

What is your least-favorite part of moving? Mine has to be organizing a new kitchen. Every kitchen is set up differently—you can't just put everything in the same place it was in the old kitchen. And things have to be located in the right places: best use of space, convenient to where/how things will be used, easy to access and keep things organized... I spend so much time thinking about it, organizing, reorganizing, it takes me forever to get the kitchen set up. It's still not done, but I think it's getting there:  I finally got most of the dry goods and cans into cupboards this morning.

One of my favorite things about this house, though, is the attached garage. Little Bear and I made our first post-move trip to the grocery store this morning, and unloading the car was so much easier! No more leaving him in the car or house to yell or cause trouble while I ran back and forth: he sat in the doorway and watched me bring all of the bags inside, then helped me move them to the kitchen. He's very interested in the garage (which he pronounces "gah-raj-da"), and spends a ridiculous amount of time hanging on the doorknob and trying to convince me to let him play out there.

Fortunately that door is heavy and sticks just the littlest bit, because the other day he learned to open all of the other doors in the house. He thinks it's the funniest thing in the world to run around opening and closing closets and the bathroom door, shutting himself in and then popping out again with a huge grin on his face. I'm just grateful that he wasn't interested in closing doors at all before this, so he never shut himself in a room and was unable to get out.

One non-new-house take? Okay. This weekend, Fairbanks celebrates "Golden Days," the sort-of-anniversary of gold being discovered here and Fairbanks being founded. It's kind of more a celebration of the gold rush era than a particular event, and there's a lot going on: a parade, a rubber duckie race down the river that runs through downtown, live music and dancing, the Alaska state BBQ championship, the governor's annual picnic, and the annual Red Green River Regatta where people build boats out of mostly duct tape and try to race down the river without sinking... My family's parish is celebrating its 110th anniversary this weekend as well. I hope we'll be able to take part in some of the fun, but I should really try to get a lot of writing done on my current freelance project while Matt is around to help with Little Bear. And of course it would be nice to finish unpacking... So I guess we will have to see.

Have a good weekend!

07 July 2014

Long Weekend

Last week wound up being too busy for blogging, and unfortunately this one is looking at least as crazy! I think I have time for a post right now, and hopefully I'll be able to get back to posting more regularly soon!

Thanks to working for the university, Matt got both Thursday and Friday off for the Fourth of July! He and his friend took advantage of the day off to make sausage: 12.5 pounds each of bratwurst and smoked polish sausage! They were in the kitchen for a good six hours, and the house smelled wonderful.

Also Thursday, we signed the lease for our new place and got the keys and garage door opener from our new landlord. We have a garage! This winter is going to be so much less unpleasant.

Early Friday morning, two of Matt's coworkers came with us to our new house to help Matt bring in the large, heavy, solid wooden desk that he bought at the thrift store Wednesday night. The desk he's had since we got married is a big L-shaped particle board beast with a strange shelving configuration; the footprint is so big that it takes up far more than its' share of a room, and we're glad to be able to put it up for sale on Craigslist and use the more compact 6'x4' rectangular desk instead. It is very heavy, though, and it took the men more than an hour and a half to get it in the front door!

Because we were working on the desk so long, by the time we got back to our old/current apartment Little Bear was clamoring for a nap. I was supposed to have baked brownies before he fell asleep so they could have all the time in the world to cool, but instead wound up rushing to bake them after nap, cool them while I made the two frostings, then assemble them as requested by my brother while Matt ran around finishing the packing and Little Bear hung on my knees whining and I worried about being late to the airport to meet my sister. It's a good thing that our other sister was still in town and planning on going to the airport as well, because we didn't hit the road until the time the plane was supposed to be landing.

After filling gas tanks and grabbing the last few things we'd been asked to pick up (ice, ice cream, beer), the three of us girls got in my family's suburban with Little Bear—Matt got to have the nice quiet Jeep to himself—and we started off on our roughly four-hour trip south to my parents' cabin. We switched drivers in Delta, 90 miles south of Fairbanks, because Little Bear was all done with not being able to interact with Mama, but overall he was really good on the drive. He was quiet, kind of uncertain and intimidated, on the boat ride down the lake, but was very happy to see Grandma waiting on the dock when we got to the cabin! 

That night everyone stayed up really late: I think they shot fireworks off around 10, and sat out on the deck watching the lake and talking after that. It's hard to go to bed when it's still sunny and beautiful out at 11 pm! Matt and I had planned to sleep in a tent since all of the beds in the cabin were spoken for, but as soon as we stuck Little Bear in the tent, it became clear that he hadn't agreed. "Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no!" he exclaimed, a worried wrinkle between his eyebrows as he shook his head back and forth. "Tent? Oh no, oh no!"

We gave the tent a good try, but when he woke up crying for the second time at 2:30 am, we gave in and hauled our sleeping pads and blankets into the cabin and camped out under the table, where Little Bear slept soundly for the rest of the night.

We really enjoyed being at the cabin with the rest of my family, and hopefully next time we'll be able to stay longer—we weren't there even a full 24 hours, but we needed to time our drive home Saturday so that Little Bear could nap in the car and wake up early enough that he'd sleep well at home. We stopped a few times to get out and stretch our legs after Little Bear woke up, and got home, had the car unloaded and everything unpacked and put away, and were in bed by 8:30!

Sunday we got up painfully early to go to the 7:30 Mass with the rest of my family; I'm not sure if Little Bear was so well-behaved because we wound up in the third row from the front or because he was still sleepy, but Matt and I were sure tired... back to the 9 or 9:30 Mass for us next weekend! After brunch with my family Little Bear got a good nap, and Matt did an impressive job of packing far more into the Jeep than I thought it could hold. We made supper for our landlords who are moving out of state tomorrow, and after cleaning up took the loaded Jeep to the new house to put boxes in the garage. (We have a garage! So excited.) while there we discovered that something is wrong with the thermostat; even though it's turned all the way off, the bedroom baseboards were on and the thermostat in the master bedroom is registering 90 degrees. We don't want to be paying for heating fuel already! Matt called and left the landlord a message, and we went home.

It sounds like we might be fortunate enough to have gotten another great landlord in this new place, though; when we woke up this morning, Matt noticed that he'd gotten a text from the new landlord at 12:59 am saying that he was going to head over and try to fix the thermostat problem, and he'd call in the morning to let us know what had been wrong.

So it was a great, full, crazy busy weekend! And the "crazy busy" part spills over into this week: furniture-moving day is set for either Saturday or Sunday, whichever winds up working for my dad and brother, so I have to get everything else boxed and bagged before then and ferry as much over as I can. Plus, this afternoon Little Bear has his 2-year-old well-child checkup and vaccines. And the buyer of our current place was supposed to do a final walkthrough at 2:30 this afternoon before signing on the sale, but this morning she up and changed the time to noon. So she'll be showing up any minute now and cutting Little Bear's nap short... We're going to have a very unhappy boy this evening. Hopefully taking him to Grandma's house right after the doctor's office will help a little bit!

And I will post photos from the weekend, I promise; they're all on Matt's phone or my siblings' cameras right now, since I left my phone in the car at the boat launch while we were at the cabin. Hopefully I'll be able to get some soon.