Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Amendment

In my back-to-blogging post a few days ago, the number one thing on my list was basically that a city is a city is a city. Well, I stand corrected. Last night as we sat at the table chatting after dinner, I uttered the following phrase, "Holy moose in our backyard!" because - you guessed it - moose (2!) in the backyard. WELCOME TO ALASKA!

Let me clarify a couple things about our yard:
1. It's not big. It's a nice wooden deck that ends where the foresty part starts, the forest runs another 15-20 feet back and then it drops off at a pretty steep angle. There's not a lot of yard to speak of.

2. These moose just appeared out of nowhere. Apparently they can scale pretty steep angles without issue because they ate off our trees, wandered toward the neighbors and disappeared right back down that slope. No big deal if you're a moose.

Now for proof:

Baby on the left, Mom is in the center of the picture but a little harder to see.
There's no zoom on this picture.

This the view from Natalie's room upstairs. Again, no zoom. Just a moose, eating our tree.

Off they go...

It would be a ridiculous lie to tell you I was calm. I was nothing of the sort because a few things were going through my mind,  namely that a mama moose with a baby is dangerous and that Natalie had spent at least 30 minutes out there playing in what's left of the snow yesterday afternoon. I just kept an eye on her from inside, but I wasn't out there with her. Needless to say we've now had a few conversations about moose safety and what to do if they show up again. It also reaffirmed my fear that if I ever see a bear in nature, it will eat me because I'll be passed out on the ground. Now who wants to come visit?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Clear as Mud

During dinner tonight, Jeff and I were chatting about whether we could have a zip line or slack line in our backyard. Wyatt told us that he thought it would be awesome if it go from that tree to that one to that one (we have no idea where he was suggesting, exactly) and Natalie piped in with some description of a toy (we think?) that she saw that involved zip lines, ninjas, bad guys and walls that break down. She told us about it with her normal Natalie fervor, hand gestures, big eyes and excited face. I didn't know how to respond but Jeff hit the nail on the head by simply asking, "What is a ninja?"

So she took a deep breath, sighed, and said in all seriousness, "Well, Daddy, they're frogs. That can ninja." Then she just smiled and basked in the glory of being a five-year old whose got it all figured out.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Back to Business

I kind of doubt my absence has really bothered anyone but me, so I've made a pledge to myself (incidentally, at about 2:15 am when I was struggling to go back to sleep) to write more. About whatever. That's my way of warning anyone who's stumbled across this that you might not get much that's interesting. I kind of feel like there's a lot of 'whatever' to cover and someday maybe I'll be glad I didn't completely forsake the blog.

So today it's a list, and at some point I might choose to elaborate on any of these things. Or not…we'll just have to see. In no particular order:

1. We live in Alaska now and it's kind of awesome. It's also strangely like living anywhere else, which, after all these moves shouldn't surprise me but somehow does. I ran errands yesterday (kid-free - hallelujah!) in Anchorage which is all of twelve miles from my house. It's just a city, but after being someplace that only existed in my mind it's kind of weird to see that it's like so many other places with its mega-stores. It's just that I keep my eyes peeled for moose and think the mountains are pretty great.

2. Today's April 7th and it snowed all morning. And I'm not bothered by it in the least. Yes, I see all of my Facebook friends talking about the 80 degree sunshine and I see pictures of people enjoying the beach, but I'm content. Quite honestly, that surprises me. I love warm weather, I love the beach. I know that if we were still in South Carolina, we'd be wearing shorts, grilling out, riding bikes, enjoying flowers and leaves on trees, etc. But we're not. Instead we're glad we can at least see the grass that's still brown and I'm a little nervous because the bears are going to wake up in the near future. My house is cozy, the sun is warm (and already stays up almost later than I do) and the people here are nice, so I'm content.

3. We're back in a squadron and after three years away, it feels amazing. I haven't even been to an official function yet (unless you count a ladies' crud tournament) and it still feels like coming home. Ite doesn't hurt to have so many old friends and acquaintances here. Some of our favorite people live here and we seem to finally be reaping the benefits of being the old people in the squadron. 

4. Millie is getting so old and, even worse, really showing it. It's the bell-curve of life, I suppose, but she's up multiple times every night to go outside. I think she aches all the time, her back is shot, we know she has arthritis in her hip and now she seems to be favoring a front paw, too. It's not a good time for us to be living in a two-story house because it seems to be really hard on her. It's so annoying to wake up so much but it's also so sad to think that I can't remember the last time she sprinted across a yard or chased down a frisbee. 

5. Natalie has suffered the brunt of this move. She's not enrolled in school up here for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that there was so much other stuff to figure out and preschool fell by the wayside and the options are few. Therefore, she's stuck with me all day every day. We're making the best of it, but a five-year old really shouldn't be having to help unpack a house. I feel kind of cruddy about it, but it is what it is. The house is close to being settled-ish so hopefully we can make up for lost time with some fun outings pretty soon.

6. Speaking of Natalie being five, she's been pretty funny since her birthday. She woke up that morning and asked if she looked bigger, she's told me that there are words she didn't know when she was four but now she does and she truly believes that she was instantly bigger, smarter, funnier, etc. on March 15th. I wholly support that notion because, why not? It also marked the first time ever that I had to buy my kid's birthday cake. We'd been in Alaska for 36 hours when her birthday rolled around, so no baking was happening. She was upset until we went to the store and I let her get the one that was completely coated with sprinkles. To quote her, it had at least a thousand hundred sprinkles on it and was awesome.

7. Wyatt is kind of awesome, too. We yanked him out of a class he loved in a school we all loved and dropped him off in a brand new place with brand new people and a different way of doing things and he has flourished. I think the first few days were hard on him but he kept a (very) stiff upper lip until he really felt good about his new school. I'm not sure I would've been brave enough at his age to do what we asked of him and I'm really proud of how he's handled it. 

8. Moving is hard. We've moved three times in as many years and for the first time this one has kind of kicked my tail physically. It doesn't help that something about the ferry seems to have triggered a serious round of migraines that I can't quite shake, but I almost feel like I'm getting too old for this. I'm really hoping Alaska turns out to be a three-year assignment as promised because we all need some time to actually settle in. 

9. South Carolina was the first assignment I was ever mad about. It wasn't a place we wanted to go, it wasn't a job Jeff wanted to have and (surely you know where this is going) it was so good. I'm slow to learn! It's always the people that make a place, and Sumter was no different. It stretched us in new ways, specifically teaching us how to put ourselves out there a little more to make friends since we didn't have a squadron, and it was just so good. I don't necessarily miss the place, but I sure do miss the people.

10. America is amazing. Not as in 'America is the best country in the world' but it is, geographically, amazing. Our driving adventure through 13 states was a huge bonus to us. Rest assured, we realize that we're lucky to be afforded the opportunity to spend nearly three weeks traveling and we made the best of it. I hope the kids remember some of it but moreover I hope we're raising them to appreciate the diversity of our country and its people. All four of us are already plotting the return trip to the lower 48. So as much as this lifestyle is challenging and, at times, exhausting, it is also full of unique opportunities that I never would've imagined for myself.

11. This is the first time we've rented a house sight-unseen. It's also the first time we've moved someplace without having visited first. It's worked just fine, which is great. What's even better is that our landlord gave us permission to paint the kitchen. I know some of you enjoy red walls but I never have and probably never will. It's just not me. It's even less me when the adjoining walls are verging on mustard. With exception of having our entire house painted in Virginia, it's the first time Jeff has suggested hiring a painter. I'm delighted to say that a funny little gentleman named Mark is hard at work in my kitchen, eradicating two red walls and two mustard walls while I'm going about my day.

12.  Like a mullet, our house is business in the front (normal neighborhood) and a party in the back - a forest that quickly drops to the river. I love the sense of living in the wilderness but I'm a little sad we can't have bird feeders because of the bears. I'm also a little paranoid that I'm going to look out and see a moose on the deck, but until then it's good. It's also a little ironic, because as I was unpacking our pictures I came across the woodblock print from Japan that my parents bought me for my 30th birthday and it looks strikingly like the view out my current back door. Maybe I was subconsciously choosing this for myself way back when.

13. It's been nearly a decade since we moved to Japan. How can that be? I'm plotting a return visit courtesy of space-a travel and the assignment gods who've placed a handful of good friends in Okinawa for the next few years. Wyatt is pretty excited to see his first home, too, and to visit said friends. I really hope we can make it happen.

14. I saw this quote by Gabrielle Zevin last summer and it summarizes my life, and my kids' lives, so well. It's so perfect I might have to redesign the blog header.
They should tell you when you're born: have a suitcase heart. Be ready to travel.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Back When I Was a Blogger

I used to record funny little things my kids said and did. Now I just try to remember them, but who am I kidding? I'll forget even these little gems from the last three days.

Natalie tends to wake up talking and only takes breaks for eating, drinking or television-watching. Those activities don't eat up much of a day, so there's a lot of talking. She's especially verbose on our rides to school - those ten to twelve minutes are jam-packed with every random thought that pops into her head. Sometimes I can see where she got the topic, sometimes I can't, and sometimes I tune her out. Don't judge;  you would need a little break, too. Imagine my delight two days ago as I was half-listening and I heard this:

…and there are koalas and kangaroos, and sometimes sheep or lions or horses or cows. And some of these animals will be females. And some females, like the lion, will pee backwards.

Woah, what?! So I asked her what she said and she repeated it. So, of course, I burst out laughing to which she replied, "Mom, I'm serious. Do you not believe me?" I assured her she's probably right, but that I was surprised and she makes me laugh. She, in all seriousness, said, "well, Mom, I try to make you laugh at least once a day, sometimes more, sometimes not as much, but I'm glad I made you really laugh just now." Indeed.

So then today, before we'd left the neighborhood, she'd already covered the topics of who will be line leader (she desperately hopes it's her), explained how they handle show and tell (it's after everything else because then they can play and it's a secret) and led straight into, "Mom, can we sing the Bambi song? What is the Bambi song? You know, one about him being shiny? Or having a shiny head?" Note: those questions are rapid fire and impossible to answer one at a time. I got three-tenths of a second to process the inquisition and realized she wanted to sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Makes sense, right? Shiny-headed baby deer equals famous reindeer with light-up nose. Anyway, she could remember the first part, but not the rest so I sang it for her a couple of times before she told me she had it and to please stop singing.

Now, Natalie has always been adept at rephrasing (i.e. I ask her to tell Wyatt dinner is ready and it turns into "Wyatt, go wash your hands so you can eat") so she relied on those skills when she realized she didn't quite remember all the words. It went something like this:

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose, and if you ever saw it you would even say it glows. The other deer friends used to make fun of him then tell him he couldn't play and that wasn't nice...

Not quite, but she's two-for-two on making me laugh.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Fair is a Smorgasbord!

Does anyone else remember that song from Charlotte's Web? Or at least I think that's where I learned it…that's a prime example of why I can't remember to take chicken out of the freezer for dinner, by the way. My brain is full of useless lyrics and random information that has no bearing on real life. But I digress.

So. The fair. While it is, indeed, a smorgasbord, we didn't partake of the food this year. Much to my dismay, we didn't time our visit well so I wasn't hungry for any deep fried goodness or even the homemade salt and vinegar french fries. We did, however, make multiple appearances at our county fair and started with opening night. As we whizzed around on the ferris wheel, I wondered if maybe we should've let a few more people ride first to make sure the kinks were out.
The kids' expressions might tell you a little about the speed.
the view from the top - it's a humble little fair but packed with fun!

I was smart enough to pre-purchase our all-you-can-ride passes this year so we wouldn't be shell-shocked at the gate. The kids got our money's worth out of their handstamps, maybe on the giant slide alone which Natalie did at least five times in a row.

Both kids remembered this roller coaster from last year.

Natalie was really excited to ride the bumblebees but Wyatt declined.
I think he'd had enough of the 'going around in circles up and down' by this point.

Ah, the beloved frog hopper that takes them up, up, up and then 'drops'
them from varying heights.

Horribly blurry, but I love that Wyatt's just a flying, wide-armed, green-shirted blob in this.
Nat's right behind him.

They had so much fun! Natalie also took a turn on the bumper cars with me as her driver and Wyatt and Jeff took a couple turns on the hang glider. We rounded out the evening with a stroll through the swine and equine barns. Piglets are cute! I was humbled when a percheron (whose owner was there, tending her horses and telling us about them) stuck her head out over the rail for me to pet her. We had a great night and thought that was a pretty great way to do the fair, but then….

Wyatt came home from school on Wednesday afternoon saying he had art at the fair. And I had already remembered a note coming home saying something about art, the fair, etc., yadi yada, with his name on it. I kind of thought every kid got a note home about art at the fair, quite honestly. I had already done a little research of my own on Wednesday morning questioning other first grade moms if they'd received such a note, so let's just say it was no surprise when Wyatt said his name was called on the announcements and that we'd missed his art debut. As any guilt-ridden mom with a husband working ridiculously late would do, I decided to take the kids back to see Wyatt's art. And no, for those wondering, it was not well-received that I didn't pony up for rides a second time.

W's art is the top left. 

We missed the poultry house the first time, so it was fun to go through
and look at all the chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, quail, guinea hens and pigeons (weird, right?).
The kids were delighted when offered a chance to pet a baby chick.

Last but not least, Wyatt went a third time with his friend Xavier yesterday afternoon. Lucky kid! Natalie was crushed, of course, that her brother was getting to go ride everything without her so I did what any self-respecting mom would do and bribed her. Between that and some back-to-back episodes of My Little Pony, she was good to go in no time. Xavier's mom reported that both kids had a great time; Wyatt convinced Xavier to go on the hang glider (no surprise), they apparently rode some things we missed on our visit and Wyatt was still laughing about the pig races today (his favorite part: pig #1 was named Kevin Bacon). My personal victory is that despite all these trips to the fair, we managed to leave without a fish! Both kids have already asked about the fair situation in Alaska, so I think it's safe to say we'll be looking forward to the state fair next year. I can't wait to see what animals are on display there!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Neglect is Starting to Show

Natalie suffers from second child syndrome. We all know it's not a rare disease, nor is it fatal (I'm proof  of that), but it is a condition slow to show itself until - dun, dun, dun - it's too late. Or nearly, anyway. Common indications of this syndrome include, but are not limited to: a lack of baby pictures displayed in one's home, a tapering of blog posts chronicling milestones, increased screen time in comparison to the first born, earlier exposure to sugary cereals and fizzy drinks, and often a delay in starting extra-curricular activities because the parents are "too busy" carting the first born to its lessons and such. And finally, it can show itself in more academic ways (as it's begun to around here, much to the father's dismay). I give you the following examples:

1. When asked what city we live in, Natalie is likely to answer any of the following: Souf Taroyina, America, Da Unided States, Norf Taroyina or Ayaska. She is highly unlikely to say Sumter, unless given the prompt of, "what's the name of your soccer team?" in which case she says we live in Sumter Soccer Club.

2. Tonight she announced she wanted to count by tens. It went like this, "ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, free, two, one, byast off!" Wyatt and I smiled, I applauded her counting backward from ten and she beamed.

3. Then she announced she wanted to count to one hundred. It went like this, "one, two, free, nine, twenty, huh?" We laughed.

4. Then she announced she wanted to count by M's. That's when the severity of her condition hit me.

As her mom - of the stay at home variety, to boot -  I take much responsibility for her lack of academic prowess. Maybe I should've been willing to put her in preschool as a two-year old; I mean, Wyatt got three years of preschool and he knows all this stuff. Maybe we should be doing worksheets in the afternoons. Maybe Nick Jr. isn't actually preschool on tv like it claims. Or maybe it's just that our adult brains are older and slower so we think Wyatt knew these things at four-and-a-half but he really didn't. Or maybe…brace yourself for this one because it's a wild theory… my kids are really different from each other!

I mean, Natalie could make you scrambled eggs or macaroni and cheese from a box without much adult assistance. She's been riding her bike for well over a year, can run like the wind, is mastering the scooter, knows the habitats of a lot of different animals (thank you, Wild Kratts), is a master frog-catcher, showers herself pretty effectively and can clean a bathroom with the best of them. Not bad, I guess.

Like most kids with second child syndrome, I suspect she's sandbagging on a few of those academic questions just to keep us on our toes. Or maybe she thinks she's funny and just wants to make us laugh.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

So Young, and Yet...

Wyatt has a friend over this afternoon and, after having been outside for a bit, they came in to play. It got awfully quiet, so I decided to double-check what they're up to. Sure enough, the door was closed. When I tried to open it, I could tell something or some things were in the way. I reminded them of our doors-stay-open policy and the barricade was promptly removed. Wyatt began to protest by telling me that the door wasn't locked. I restated the policy of no closed doors and added "no barricades" to the list. His reply? "But Mom, we're trying to build a man cave!"

Ai yi yi. Good luck, boys.