Friday, December 5, 2014

Bad Mood Thwarted

For several weeks now, we’ve been waiting for our passports and visas to arrive from London.

What we didn’t know was that the process of getting a visa approved was the quick part.  The process of sticking said visa into your passport and mailing it to you could take upward of a month. That’s a long time to wait when you didn't realize you'd have to wait so long.

I woke up last Monday feeling like my life was moving at a glacial pace – like the universe was trying to teach me an unwanted lesson in patience. I was stuck in a situation I could do nothing about and was feeling anxious to move forward, even just a little. I was feeling awfully sick of making the best of things.

No doubt I was the thundercloud in the house that morning. I got up, made the kids breakfast then left them with Hunter so I could take my car in to have its winter tires put on. I drove down the street feeling pent-up and miserable.

My winter tires happen to be in the back of a friend’s truck. As I pulled up to her office , I saw her working away inside. Then it struck me, “She’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. I’m sure going to miss her.”

I loaded up my tires, gave my friend a wave, and drove out to Tire Town as the sun rose in Kachemak Bay. It was spectacular. I love sunrises in Homer. No two are the same and each one is breathtaking. I thought, “You can’t beat this view, I’m sure going to miss it.”

I pulled into Tire Town and the men working behind the counter greeted me with a smile and laugh. We chatted about icy road conditions and they promised to have my car back in a half hour. I thought, “There are some really cool people in Homer. I’m really going to miss them.”

I walked over to the coffee shop two doors down for coffee and some wifi time. Along the way, two people I knew passed me on East End Road. They waved. I waved back. I love that about small towns. Love it.

Got to the coffee shop and found that the coffee was excellent and the wifi was strong…DAMMIT!!  I really just wanted to be in a bad mood over my stalled-out adventure. Homer wrecked it. Waiting out my trip to New Zealand in this lovely place isn’t so bad after all.

Update: Our visa’s arrived a week after my ruined bad mood. Our flights are booked and we leave on the 9th. We’ll spend two days in Honolulu, letting the kids stretch and play, and then we’ll get on that long haul to Auckland and finally down to Christchurch.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Alaskans Down Under

I decided to turn my life over to chaos. I tend to do that every few years. Must be from growing up with a Mountie for a dad. We moved a lot and I think I got used to shaking things up.

We’ve been in Homer five years and I’ve been yearning for a shake-up. Luckily for me, the fates agreed and handed our little family a very cool opportunity.

Hunter’s contract with his last employer stipulated that he could not work in his field for 12 months after said contract’s end. As we neared the end of his contract, we had a few options. I was drawn to going back to Canada to cover a maternity leave in communications (for my US friends, Canadians get 12 months maternity leave, creating some interesting opportunities for short-term work). Hunter considered a few options including going back to Florida for a spell. In the end, we decided to find an adventure.

Long story short, a contact of a contact knew a thing or two about working in New Zealand. He put us in touch with a recruiter and in a matter of weeks, Hunter had a new job.  Then we started the long, expensive and arduous process of applying for a skilled migrant visa.

Fast forward a few months and a several thousand dollars and here we are: our house is rented to a lovely family, Milton is being fostered by our amazing neighbours, our stuff is in storage and we’re holed up at a friend’s mom’s house until we go.

Our passports arrived in the mail from London this morning so tonight; we’ll book our flights and start the final push to leave. I’m so excited. I’ve never been to New Zealand and moving sight unseen makes this much more thrilling.

We are heading to a town on the east coast of the south island called Oamaru. Its claim to fame is steampunk and little blue penguins. I hear they make a killer cheese there. Apparently, the beer’s pretty good, too.

Pea starts kindergarten right after we get there. The idea's been hard for her to grasp but I think it will work out well. New Zealand’s year-round school system allows kids to start school as soon as they turn five, no waiting for the next school year to begin. There’s going to be lots of opportunities for Pea, it’ll be great.

Little Hunter will have all sorts of things to keep him busy, too. He’s learning to talk and I’ll bet he comes back with an accent.

So that’s what’s been keeping us busy these days. We have every intention of coming back after the 12 months have lapsed…Oh who am I kidding? It's December. We’ll probably stretch it to 18 months to get an extra summer in. Who wouldn't want an extra summer?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Up a Creek without a Paddle

A few years ago some friends and I hiked into Grewingk Glacier Lake for the first time. It was a great day. Hunter dropped us off at Glacier Spit and took off for a day of fishing with his best friend while my friends and I hiked the lovely flat trail into the lake and sat down for a picnic at the edge of the glacier lake.

As we noshed, two men came along \and started inflating tiny rafts that they'd pulled out of a backpack.  I thought what they were up to was pure genius. I was in awe of the glacier and I wanted to see more of it. I wanted to get up close.

What a great idea to hike in with a little, light raft and go explore the glacier from up close. I started asking them questions and it turns out they were planning to raft down the creek out to the ocean. THAT sounded like fun. They said it was an easy trip with a bit of rapid water but nothing difficult.

That was it, I was going to raft that creek! This was before the bucket list movie, so rafting the creek went on my mental checklist of cool things to do.

Fast forward to this summer. I mentioned wanting to raft the creek to a friend who, after hearing my plan, wanted to come along. I mentioned it to another friend who also wanted to come along. Then I mentioned it to another friend who also wanted to come long. Before long, I had a dozen friends who wanted to join on this adventure but no pack rafts. Pack raft rentals in Homer are hard to come by so I grumpily scrapped my plan.

Two weeks ago, a friend stopped by the house with two borrowed pack rafts. I'm not sure if he planned to get roped into rafting Grewingk Greek with me, but he did. I was pretty excited about it. Nervous but excited.

A Google search didn't give me much information about rafting the creek. We had some local knowledge from a friend - there are some rapids, make sure to portage just before you reach the hand tram that crosses the creek half way down and you get into some shallow water at the end - so be prepared.

We went prepared. We had rafts, paddles, wet suits and wet suit boots, helmets, gloves, emergency locators, pfd's and gear in case we got stuck and had to spend the night. If anything, we felt, we were certainly buoyant.

We got dropped off at the start of the Saddle Trail in Halibut Cove. We hiked over the hill and down into the lake. We inflated them at the lake's edge, climbed aboard and started paddling.

There was a super chilly head wind on the lake but once we got into the bay that led to the creek, that head wind disappeared.

Before we got tugged into the creek's current, we got out of our rafts to take a read of the water ahead. Looked like aiming for the center of the stream was the right course. We got back in and started paddling hard to reach the middle.

That first set of big water was awesome!! Chilly and fast-running but awesome.  What a rush! It wasn't white water but there were some two foot plus waves to ride.

We got through the first set of waves and into some calmer water and took a read of the next bit of water...looked the same as the last so off we went.

Things got hairy on the next set when we got pulled into the side of the creek and bounced off the edge of the bank. Paddling hard to keep my balance and steer myself around the next little bend, I got through it.

My buddy in the less steady of the two rafts, tipped. I turned around to see his gear bag and his paddle fly down the creek. I was so worried about him, I didn't think to watch where his stuff went. He did the right thing though, he pointed his feet downstream and rode the water until it calmed enough for him to swim to shore. I paddled like crazy to get over to the bank and check to see if he was okay.

Thankfully, he was but now we were up a literal creek without a literal paddle. We were at our portage point so after catching our breath, we picked up what remained of our stuff and started walking around that bit of water underneath the tram.

So, here's what I would have liked to know: There's a little trail that runs parallel to the creek on the far side. That trail hooks up with the Humpy Creek trail. Don't take that one. We hiked it a bit, realized we were going the wrong way and turned ourselves around. We had to take the hand tram.

My friend seriously had Superman biceps. Mine were like jelly after paddling like the scared person I was. I was a useless hand tram puller. That hand tram is hard going at the best of times, with tired arms, it sucked.

We decided to take one trip on the hand tram so we tied our rafts to the outside, loaded our gear onboard and slowly pulled ourselves across. It was hard pulling. We looked down to see whorling eddies and rough-looking rocks that would have been no fun to navigate in a raft. I'm glad we got out and went around.

After pulling ourselves across the creek, we hiked the trail until we found an easy place to get onto the creek shore. At this point, the creek separates into a bunch of tributaries. With our eyes out for deep water and my buddy's gear bag, we hiked down stream. At that point, I would have been happy to hike out but rafting was more fun and faster. So we jumped into our rafts and floated along until the water got too shallow out near the bay.

We walked some and we floated some until we got out into Kachemak Bay and found Hunter in the boat ready to pick us up. Gear bag was gone, my friend's paddle was gone and we were STARVING but we did it!!

In hindsight, it wasn't the cakewalk that the two rafters from two years ago made it out to be. I think to do it, at least know how to read a river (a lesson Hunter taught me when we were first dating) and find some local knowledge from people who've recently been over the tram.

My friend's gear bag was found in Mallard Bay by a pair of kayakers three days later. It was a bit soggy but everything was still in it. His paddle and backpack are gone. Next time, we tie our gear to the raft. Lesson learned.

So that's my kick ass end to a pretty cool Alaskan summer.

Still didn't get to the State Fair.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sarah's 20 Things you Learn While Living in Alaska

My amazing friend, Heather, posted a link on Facebook this morning, 29 things you learn while living in Alaska. Check it out, it's a fun read but it got me thinking. If that's the best one can do after even a year in Alaska, you're not doing it right.

The Last Frontier is a place like none other. Anyone can come here and live an ordinary life but why would you? It would be a perfect waste of a perfectly extraordinary place.

So here are Sarah's 20 Things you Learn while Living in Alaska

1. The True Meaning of Subsistence
Living in the city, I didn't know the first thing about subsistence living. Need groceries? Go to the store. In Alaska, it's not that easy. First of all, much of the goods we get are shipped in and are priced and preserved accordingly.

Don't have the skills? Enroll yourself in a few BOW courses. Becoming and Outdoors Woman
workshops are put on by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. ADF&G has courses for families and kids. Worth every minute.

2. How to Perfectly Fillet a Fish
New to fish filleting? That's okay. Sharpen your knife, find the crustiest sourdough you can find and ask for a lesson. After your first subsistence salmon run, you'll have it nailed.

3. The Value of a Good Sharp Edge
Corb Lund, one of my favourite Canadian singers said it best, "A good sharp edge is a man's best hedge against the uncertain vagaries of life." That couldn't be further from the truth.

4. Not only to like Reindeer but Caribou, Moose, Deer and all sorts of Fish and Fowl
The standard beef, pork and chicken will slowly get replaced by wild Alaskan fish and game. It just might ruin you.

5. To Cook all sorts of new dishes with all sorts of new ingredients
New to Alaska? Go buy yourself a copy of Cooking Alaskan by Alaskans. At first you'll cringe at some of the recipes but as the years roll by, they'll start to look appealing. I confess, I'm still not ready to eat milt. I have eaten walrus, though. I get points for that, right?

6. You don't need a lot of stuff but you do need the right stuff
It won't do to have four or five cheap winter coats. You need one good one. One very good one. And you won't judge any friend who's patched theirs with duct tape. Up here, you learn to acquire quality goods and use them to their fullest.

7. It Pays to have a Useful Dog
Milton isn't just funny, he's useful. He can haul things in packs, he can retrieve ducks, he can scare off bears and alert me to moose in the area. If you have a dog in Alaska, it serves you well to learn how it communicates and teach it some useful skills. Their lives and yours will be better for it.

8. The PFD is Lovely
We Alaskans get a PFD check every year. Yup, we get paid to live here. While a lot of people rush out to spend theirs on vacations and snow-gos, it can be a lot of help to those who need it. It's expensive to live here and that check can come in handy when the oil bill's due.

9. To Keep an Eye on the Clock
With so much sunlight in summer, it's easy to forget to cook dinner or find yourself awake at one in the morning wondering if its bedtime any time soon. When I first got here, I set my alarm for bedtime.

10. To Shed your Old Notions
There is a lovely woman who comes to my son's baby group. She's from Barrow and she's raising her grandson here in Homer. I love talking to her. Not only is she fun to be with, I learn so much about her culture and traditions.

Her son lives up in Barrow and is one of the town's whaling captains. The Alaskan in me knows that she beams with pride for her son for a reason. His work will get that village through winter as it's done for centuries. I hope to visit her family in the far north one day, hopefully during the whale hunt. The old Vancouverite in me would never have looked forward to that.

11.To become an Online Shopping Genius
We don't have many of the goods and services of the Lower 48 but sometimes we need them. Being Alaskan means knowing how to get what you need as quickly and cost effectively as you can. Forget Christmas, I think the longest lines at bush post offices happen when the Cabela's master catalogue drops.

12. That Kids are Stronger and more Capable than you Think
My kids hunt, fish and camp like little pros. They go out in all weather and love it. An acquaintance's three year-old hiked a 7 hour, 3,100 foot trail a few weekends back. With a little help from friends and parents, he had a great time!

13. Life's more Fun without Cable
We haven't had cable TV in years. It's made us approach our evenings differently. After dinner's not a time for sitting and tuning out, it's time to go boating, hiking, fishing, flying, visiting...anything. Even better: not everyone has cable so you're in good company.

14. Woman's Work is Anything But
In Alaska, you'll find women working chainsaws and log splitters, stalking moose and reeling in fish. You'll find women aircraft and engine mechanics, bush pilots, wilderness guides and boat captains. Alaska's an amazing place to raise a daughter.

15. How to be a Friend
Alaska taught me how to really be a friend. Not all of us live near family so we become family. We show up for each other, we support each other and take care of one another.

16. How to Drive your Car
Alaska throws all sorts of obstacles at drivers: snow, ice, moose, white outs, driving rain, city driving, dangerous curves, slow moving RV's, rock name it. Driving in Alaska isn't for the feint of heart. You become a more aware and responsive driver as a result.

17. To keep your wits about you, always
Alaska is an expert at pitching curveballs. Whether it be a change in weather, a fault in your gear, a bear in your house, a fast flowing tide, a long winter power outage... things can and do go wrong up here. More often than not, you need to rely on yourself to get you through.

18. Respect for our Natural Resources
Alaskans are graced with plenty. We want to keep it like that.

19. We really do like espresso
Espresso's everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Happily for us, it's not all Starbucks.

20. You get out of this place what you put into it
The air is fresh and the opportunities are endless. Only you can create your Alaskan story. Make it epic!!

The article I read had 29 things, so I feel compelled to come up with 9 more...

21. There's no bad dog like an Alaskan bad dog
I wish the worst thing Milton's done was pee on a rug or eat a designer show. Some of my bad dog's highlights: eating Miss Carolyn's chickens, attempting to bring dead moose in the house, eating and disgorging snowshoe hares on my carpet, feasting on fish guts in the harbour then barfing them in Hunter's truck, eating the dirt out of my garden while sitting on my tomato plants...oh the list goes on.

22. How to grow something delicious
Alaskan summers are short and intense. In the midst of all the fishing, hiking, climbing, kayaking, surfing... all the things that we get up to, most of us manage to coax something tasty out of the ground. Sometimes it's rhubarb or the tiny and intensely tasty Sitka Strawberries. Could be potatoes, kale, or lettuce. We grow something, anything. Growing  here makes me feel like I'm mastering the place, just a bit.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Bucket List

It's been rainy in Homer lately. Wet, soggy, cloudy and windy: a whole, miserable enchilada smothered in lamesauce.

What's particularly cruel about it is that school starts next week. For a lot of people, that's the end of summer. I had high hopes for this summer when May's heat wave hit. Now my standards are lower - I'll go out in almost anything if only to knock something off this summer's bucket list.

This weekend is not looking good for my planned sortie. My grand scheme was to rent pack rafts, take the boat across to the saddle trail in Halibut Cove then hike over to the Grewingk glacier lake. I envisioned a lovely day paddling among the glacier calves. For a while I felt a little bold and thought we could paddle ourselves down the stream and out into the bay. Hunter flew me over the creek and I decided that navigating rapids, even little wee ones was probably a bad idea.

I got really excited about paddling the glacier lake but after weeks of hunting, I came up dry on a pack raft rental. It was easy enough to find one raft but as I told people of my plan, my posse of pack rafters grew exponentially.

Note to self, I might have to revise my list of Alaska toys. I told Hunter that I wanted a tundra vehicle if I was going to live in Alaska. Tundra vehicles look like so much fun to me. I think I might want a pack raft more. One big enough for me and Pea. I'll have to think about that.

Plan B for Saturday was to try paddle boarding. Every time I see paddle boarders in the harbour or out in the bay I feel a pang of jealousy. That looks like so much fun! I want to try that. So plan B for Saturday was to rent paddle boards and wet suits and give it a go in the harbour. My posse of paddle boarders was a little smaller but still eager. Turns out there's an 80% chance of rain for Saturday and winds high enough to make a dent in my expected level of fun. Sunday's forecast is wet and windy, too.

Outstanding items on my summer bucket list:

  • The Alaska State Fair. I have never been to a state fair and I want to go.  Tiny doughnuts, here I come!
  • Try Paddle boarding
  • Pack raft a glacier lake
  • Hike the Emerald Lake Trail

So here's to a change in the forecast! May the sun come out and turn my green tomatoes red and my bucket list a memory of an awesome summer.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Green Garden Bada$$

I made it my mission this year to show Pea where her food comes from and to start teaching her how to grow her own.  So with the help of Pinterest and a fabulous friend with a high tunnel and a flock of chickens, Pea and I built ourselves a series of hoop houses.

Turns out, building a hoop house is a fabulous project for a pre-schooler. We started in the spring with giant wood slabs that we picked up from a lumber mill out East End Road. In total sisters are doing it for themselves fashion, Pea and I loaded up Hunter's pick up with slabs, tied them down, attached a little red flag to the longest of them, then carefully drove them home.

With the help of a girlfriend we cut the slabs down to size and screwed them together to make four raised beds. We used power tools because pre-school girls need to know that circular saws and cordless drills are for girls, too.

A few weeks later, we borrowed a friend's truck and drove out to Anchor Point Greenhouse for ground cover and top soil. With soil in our beds, we got to work covering them up. I put Pea to work hammering rebar into the ground. I felt like such an empowering mom until I watched her smack herself in the forehead with the backend of a hammer. One giant goose egg and a life lesson later, we bent PVC pipe onto our rebar then covered our now-hooped beds with 6mil plastic. Voila, little greenhouses!

Here were the plans we followed. Instead of one giant low tunnel, we built four covered raised beds.

In the meantime, with the help of Pinterest, Pea and I built a seed starting rack. It was a fun way to teach her about measuring (and sawing, and drilling, and cursing). Our rack was huge and it took up most of our dining room but that was just fine by us. We put seeds into trays, put them on the shelves, hung full spectrum shop lights and watched our little plants grow. 

We also built a compost bin. Again with the help of Pinterest, we found plans for a simple pallet composter. We managed to sweet talk our way into four free wood pallets and using a cordless drill and a tube of zip ties, we made ourselves a composter. 

Fast forward to the beginning of July...the kale. My God the kale. We planted a lot of kale. Honestly, I didn't think this whole garden thing would work out. Thought it would take us a few years to figure it out. Thought I'd have to give Pea the "if at first you don't succeed" speech. Instead we have buckets of kale. 

For fun, I built a vertical potato bin. I thought it would be neat to grow potatoes up rather than down. And it was neat...until our potatoes actually started growing. Now I find myself actively hunting for soil to shovel into my bin. 

Should have thought that through. Pinterest made it look so easy! I now travel with a bucket in the back of my car in case I find some nice dirt to throw on top of my potato plants. Pea's getting pretty good at spotting unattended piles of dirt from the back seat of the car. I used to look for moose along the side of the road. Not so much anymore.

Yesterday, as Pea and I were shoveling even more dirt into our potato bin, I peered over to my composter and I saw that it was steaming. My compost pile was actually steaming!!! 

Never mind the buckets of kale, the ill-conceived potato bin and the one single red strawberry...I HAVE A STEAMY COMPOST! I feel like a badass. Like the Clint Eastwood of gardening. Heck yea!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On the Go

I'm not updating this blog as much as I should. Truth be told, I have an 18 month-old and 18 month-olds are rough going. I remember when Pea was this age. Hunter and I called it the "drunken monkey" phase of toddlerhood - when there was absolutely no reasoning with her while she ran wildly about exploring her world with wild abandon. I didn't mind drunken monkey when there was one kid. Now there's two.

My days are spent keeping my children alive and somewhat enriched while trying to keep the house from falling to shambles. This evening, Little Hunter was trying to throw a ball into a pot of boiling pasta water. No amount of distraction was keeping him from this game. He didn't have the arm strength to succeed in his little goal but you can't trust a toddler. The second you get complacent, they score. Happily Hunter came home and redirected him to carrying firewood.

Ah firewood. Hunter and I ordered a couple of cords of firewood back when it was nice and warm. It's a great pile of wood but every third log needs to be split. So Pea and I have been sorting, stacking and splitting logs together when Little Hunter naps.

I call it the log pile of patience. I taught Pea how to place a log to be split and how to stack it in the wood shed. She and I have been having a nice time out there splitting logs. I should get a splitter and a sitter and just get the job done but cutting wood with Pea is some nice time together, even if it's taking me weeks longer than it should to tackle the pile.

These are my days, managing the children, holding the house together, patiently splitting wood and trying to exercise now and again. I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Alaska on the Go
Friends with kids in Alaska: Erin Kirkland, one Alaska's coolest travel writers, just wrote a guide to traveling Alaska with Kids. Erin's a kindred Alaska mom. Her book has been well-researched over the past few years and contains a trove of great information and advice for Alaskan and non-Alaskan families exploring this great State.

You can pre-order her book or wait a couple of weeks for it to be out on book store shelves. I recommend picking it up.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Flying Alaska

This blog isn't really about product or service endorsements but really, I feel like, as an Alaskan, I really need to offer up some appreciation to Alaska Airlines.

My family just got back from nine days on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was rough flying with Pea and Little Hunter. Our trip got off to a bad start when Pea pitched a fit about shoes in the airport parking lot causing us to forget the backpack full of books, crayons, stickers, movies and such in the back of the car. 

We were so busy managing her tears, a mobile and speedy Little Hunter, and our own pile of luggage that we didn't realize what happened until our flight left from Portland hours and miles later. Nothing like being stuck at 39,000 feet with two bored kids and only a diaper bag to entertain them. Trust me, we will not make that mistake again. Wipes make for miserable origami paper.

But Alaska Airlines - they're really good. They're really good.

First of all, Club 49. It's a fabulous program where Alaskans who fly on Alaskan can check two free bags. These days, that's huge. Especially when you're traveling with an infant. It's also considerate of people living up here and the requirements of bush travel.

The early days of Club 49 were pretty funny. I think we Alaskans let it go to our heads and checked two pieces no matter what. Amidst those early mountains of luggage, there were some seriously vintage cases coming down the chutes. It's like we scoured our storage places for whatever luggage we could find just because we could. Happily, we're over it and our baggage carousels seem to back to normal.

Speaking of baggage: the 20 minute guarantee on your luggage hitting the carousel? That's awesome. A few years ago, I waited two hours for my luggage to be delivered at SeaTac. It would have been horrible if I had kids. Thankfully I didn't. My cousin Sharon met me at the terminal and she makes everything fun, even a long wait for luggage. She has a gift for that.

The check-in process is seamless. You basically plug some info into a kiosk and it spits out your boarding passes and your luggage labels. You get to label your own luggage which I think is kind of a fun thing to do with a kid. Then you drop your luggage with a friendly person manning a scale and a conveyor belt and off you go. If you're lucky enough to be traveling from an airport with SkyCap then all that is done for you.

I could go on about in-flight considerations but if you're reading this, chances are you're in Alaska and you've seen it for yourself.

Before I sign off, a nod to the staff at Alaska Airlines. A company is only as good as the people working for it and Alaska Airlines seems to know that. I've put this airline through its paces. We've been late for flights, we missed connections, we encountered bad weather, we've flown home for family emergencies, we brought babies, we brought sick babies, we brought smelly babies, we brought busy toddlers, we brought cranky tired preschoolers - they've handled it all with grace knowing that we're human and we travel for a reason. 

Thank you Alaska Airlines. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Nightmare on Heath Street

I'm enjoying this second time 'round mom business.

With my eldest (henceforth, I shall now call her Pea) we were so in awe of her; watching her grow and change from a helpless baby into capable and bright little girl. With the second, we know what's around the corner so we find ourselves a bit better at being able to stop and savour the stage. We also know what my son's got up his sleeve. Because we've been there and we've done that.

Having said that, I should have known what was in store for me when I had the idiotic idea to take BOTH of my kids and a box to be mailed to Canada to the post office. To Canada is important because it involves a form. A long form that requires the filler outer of the form to describe the package's contents vaguely enough not to ruin a Christmas present for a nephew who can read and accurately enough to satisfy a customs official. (Yup, I could have downloaded the form online but as luck wouldn't have it, I'm out of printer ink).

I thought that by taking Pea, she would be able to help me keep Little Hunter reasonably well behaved.

I pulled into the post office, found great parking, made a wish for a fast moving line and then started piling kids and box out of the car and into the building. 

You see, someone at the post office (someone without kids, I'm sure) thought it was a good idea to install a display rack of greeting cards along the wall. It used to be plain miserable going to the post office with kids. Now it's miserable with a side of irritation as you either:

a) tell your kid for the millionth time to leave the cards alone or, 

b) have to explain to a curious preschooler what a prairie dog is, what a prairie dog is doing on a card, why people send cards with prairie dogs on them, why don't people send cards with prairie dogs on them, who sends cards with prairie dogs on them, how you send a card with a prairie dog on it, why we aren't buying a card with a prairie dog on it, why we really aren't buying a card with a prairie dog on it and why we won't be buying a card with a prairie dog on it anytime soon.

As I orchestrated my exit from the car, a wise woman offered to help carry my parcel into the post office. Clearly, she saw that I was on a fool's errand because when she set my box on the counter, she noticed the address and quickly handed me the dreaded customs form. I could tell by her face that she knew what I was in for. 

With form in hand, I sat Little Hunter next to me on the counter and started writing as fast as I possibly could. Legibility be damned, this was a situation. Little Hunter gleefully grabbed at my pen and then started grabbing forms to chuck on the floor. Not cool. I put him down thinking I'd have time to fill in an address as he signed to get up on the table again. Nope. He was off.

Where was he going? To the card display to gleefully chuck cards on the floor. Now, this is what I should have seen coming: mastery of boneless baby. At some point, kids learn that if they go all limp and throw their arms up in the air, it's really hard to hold on to them. Especially if you're wearing dueling winter coats and friction is your enemy. When I picked him up to move him as far away from the cards as I could, he pulled boneless baby and left me scrambling to hold on to him. Then with a masterful combination of rolling baby and boneless baby, he got to the floor and bolted back to the card display.

Pea? Pea was no help. She found a card with a princess on it and was reading out all the letters on the card: H, A, P, P... When asked if she could corral her brother for me so I could finish this horror form, she grabbed him by the hood of his jacket without looking up from her card and gave him a yank. Of course that set him off, in another direction, toward the envelope display where he started taking mailing envelopes off the racks.

Yet another kind lady in line offered to help. She picked up Little Hunter and tried to engage him in a game of "where's your nose." I thought that was pretty smart of her, he usually likes that game. Not today. He had mayhem on his mind.

He played the I want my mommy card, got set down and once again, took off. I asked Pea to go get him. Gently this time. No dice, she was done with princess cards and wanted to wait her turn to ask the nice lady at the counter for a sticker. She had her own agenda and Little Hunter was not on it.

Finally and mercifully, it was my turn. I threw down my completed customs form and my credit card then dashed out to the lobby to grab Little Hunter. I wrestled that that pitching, boneless, squawking baby back to the counter, retrieved my credit card, receipt and composure and left. 

To the lovely women at the Homer post office this morning, thank you. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

No longer a Toddler

My sweet baby girl had a birthday last week. She's four. Absolutely and unequivocally no longer a toddler.

I think four was a milestone for her. As soon as the birthday appeared on her horizon, she started thinking about all the things she felt a four year-old could do that a three year-old couldn't: pour her own milk, use our regular cutlery (not the toddler forks and spoons), make her own bed, use the sink to get herself a glass of water whenever she wanted one.

Her biggest milestone was getting rid of pacifiers, or binkies as she called them.

She's been dependent on her pacifier since babyhood. Hunter and I tried and failed a number of times to rid her of the habit. Ultimately, getting rid of them was her choice and in hindsight, I'm happy that it went down that way.

See, addiction runs rampant on both Hunter's and my family. Clearly, undeniably rampant. Though it's only a pacifier, it was Toddler's first chance to address something she felt dependent upon. 

She told us that when she was four, she was going to give up her binkies. Seeing this as a teaching and learning opportunity, I granted her wish. So, the day after she turned four, she and I sat down together and I told her it was time to let them go. She bargained: "That's okay mom, I'll just take them from the shelf at Safeway and put them in your basket so you can buy me more." She got a little desperate: "I'll just pick up the binkies that the little babies dropped, wash them and put them in my bed for nighttime." Without much coaxing, she agreed to round them up and leave them for the Binkie Fairy (who, by the way, collects them from big kids and gives them to the new babies - thank you Super Nanny for that idea).

Hunter and I braced for a few rough nights. We told her we were proud of her for giving up a habit. We acknowledged that she might have a rough night's sleep and we told her we'd be right there if she needed us. What we weren't prepared for was an empowered little girl who went to bed just fine on her own. She slept through the night and when she woke up, found the little present and letter the Binkie Fairy left for her.

She asked for her pacifier the next night but remembered that the new babies had them. She had a tougher time going to sleep that night but she did. By the third night, she was done.

I feel proud of her for setting her own terms and following through. In hindsight, I'm glad we allowed her this opportunity. She's a Toddler no more.