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.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

End of the Fireweed

I like how Alaskans measure their summer by the bloom of the Fireweed plant.

I picked up running this summer. My goal was to run a comfortable 5K by my birthday. I did it and it was great! I started from the very beginning using an ITouch app that had me out three times a week for eight weeks leading up to 5 kilometers. Got to admit, it was a nice motivator.

I watched the Fireweed burst out of the ground, bloom its gorgeous fuchsia flowers and turn to cotton while working my way to a more fit me. Looking out the window, I see bare stalks of Fireweed and that can only mean that frost is on its way and its time to bust out the window scraper. I tell ya though, what an amazing summer it's been!

Our summer was mostly spent on the boat exploring Kachemak Bay. We took along those laminated invertebrate identification cards and hit the beaches with Toddler. We found all sorts of fascinating creatures: baby sea urchins, anemones, sea cucumbers, chitons and giant barnacles. Toddler and her friends had a blast looking for critters and using the cards to identify what we found. We've had those cards for a while and it's been fun watching how Toddler's interaction with them changes over time.

It was hot. Scorching by Alaska standards. Toddler actually swam in the waters of Tutka Bay this summer. She had a ball! We bought a small turtle pool for the yard and the kids loved every second in the water. That thing was totally worth the $14 I spent on it!

The restaurants were better this summer, too. La Baleine, The Little Mermaid, Finns, Fresh Catch and that new bagel shop on East End - great places! For those (like me) who love to eat, this summer brought plenty to keep us happy. Hopefully the winter eateries up their game because this summer's culinary scene totally raised the bar.

Hunter decided to start teaching Toddler to fish. He bought her a small Barbie fishing pole and taught her to cast. She loved it. A few weeks back, she hooked a 20 pound halibut on the Barbie pole, seriously testing its outer limits. The pole stood up to a good fight as Hunter reeled in that fish for his little girl. Made for a delicious dinner and an even better story.

Little Hunter is growing into a spitting image of his daddy. We celebrated his first birthday last month. Its amazing how time flies. I can't wait to see how he grows up in and interacts with this amazing place.

As for me, this summer has been marked by friendships. That ever so lovely air fare war this summer brought my cousin and her son up from California. I was so grateful for her visit. It's been at least a decade since I last saw her and I missed her. Friends from Florida came up for a visit, friends from Fairbanks came down for a spell and this weekend, I get to reconnect with a friend from Dillingham. Love it.

I tell you dear readers, there are some wonderful, inspiring and amazing people here in Homer. This summer was amazing but it wouldn't have been half as amazing if it wasn't shared with fantastic friends. You all know the saying that friends are the family you choose? Up here in Alaska, that's most especially true.

As I blow the dust off my window scraper, I'm thankful for an amazing summer full of wild experiences with amazing people. I look forward to the next season. To cool weather hikes, bonfires and house parties.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Going Fishing...

Temperatures in Alaska this summer are high and the sky is clear - this blogger is donning her bug spray and getting outside to enjoy all that this glorious place has to offer. 

I'll be back in the fall.

In the meantime, you can find me on Facebook.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ear Worms

Ear worms. I'm not talking actual worms wriggling about in the canals of your ears. I'm talking a song, or a little snippet of a song that gets stuck in your head and won't get out.

Over the past week, I've noticed that Toddler's been plagued by ear worms. Earlier this week it was This Land is my Land. I can tell that one frustrated her because she didn't know the words to the song and was going around in circles with the first verse. Over and over she went with "this land is my land, this land is your land, from California to la la la la la."

Yesterday, it was Kookaburra.

"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree eating all the gumdrops he can see. Stop Kookaburra! Stop Kookaburra! Leave some there for me!"

Over and over she sang that one verse of Kookaburra. After a day of hearing it, I was curious about the whole song. So, in a spectacular parenting fail, I opened Spotify and looked it up. As soon as the song started, Toddler looked at me like I kicked her and ran full speed to her room yelling, "nooooooooo!". I found her hiding under her blankets humming her ear worm. I felt like a jerk.

What's a mom to do? I had to help the kid. Bad enough she had an ear worm then I had to unintentionally make it worse. I realized that if I made an even bigger deal out of the ear worm, it would stay longer so I stealthily set about helping her out.

Onto Bing I went. I came across a BBC news article on how to get rid of ear worms and started running down the list.

The first suggestion was to sing Simply the Best by Tina Turner. So I sang the only lyrics I know. Toddler just shook her head. Either she didn't like the song or I sing a terrible rendition. Who am I kidding? I sing a terrible rendition.

The next was to visualize your ear worm song playing on a record player and imagine yourself lifting the needle. I had a laugh at that one. It was going to take me ages to explain to Toddler what a record player was.

Another suggestion: long division or difficult Sudoku puzzles. Nope, not going to work. BBC was letting me down.

Next on the list of search results, The Health Sciences Institute. They suggest replacing your ear worm with another song. I wondered if that's replacing one ear worm with another? It was worth a shot so I started playing Toddler songs that I didn't think she'd heard before to distract her from her noxious Kookaburras.

I think it worked because she eventually stopped singing. Kookaburras didn't invade our breakfast this morning and they didn't show up on our morning drive to preschool. Yay!

You know where the Kookaburras showed up? In MY head on the drive home from pre school. Damn. Laugh Kookaburra! Laugh Kookaburra! Arrrgh!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

It Came, It Saw, It Conquered

We were on our way to meet friends for a play date last Friday morning. Toddler was chatting happily in the back of the car, clearly looking forward to play time when she suddenly went quiet. Too quiet. A quiet Toddler scares me. For a quiet Toddler is a problem toddler. A quiet Toddler is up to something...

This quiet toddler was up to something alright. She was heaving. Before I could pull over to the side of the road, she spewed her morning oatmeal all over the back seat. Poor little thing. So, I took a quick left up Diamond Ridge Road and  made my way home to deal with the poor bawling, barfing little girl in my backseat.

I thought a warm bath, a nap and a thorough scrub down of my car would be the end of it. Oh how wrong I was.

I send Hunter a message to let him know what was going on and I got a short message back saying, "I don't feel good, either. I think I'm coming down with something." With Hunter, that could mean anything from a headache to the sniffles. In hindsight, I feel like the worst wife on earth for giving him a mental, "whatever."

Hunter came home from work all pale and sweaty. As is his usual custom, he headed straight for the shower. I heard the shower start and just as quickly I heard it stop. "Oh no. No no no, this isn't happening," I said to myself.

Hunter emerged from the bathroom a half hour later looking near death. He sat down on the couch then quickly got up again. "I have to puke," he said before he broke into a sprint. I'll be honest, Hunter's a loud barfer and the sound of him retching from the spare bathroom sent me running.

Thank goodness the kids were safe because there was no way on this earth we were capable of taking care of them for the next hour. A quick text for help and my lovely Texan friend dropped Pedialiite, ginger ale and Clorox on my doorstep - she deserves a special place in heaven for that.

Over the next two days, Toddler watched more Dora the Explorer than she's ever been allowed. The flu hit her Friday morning and she was fine by afternoon. The rest of us were down for a couple of days. For a while, we were wondering if Little Hunter would need an ER visit but he rallied and finally managed to keep something down.

Being as sick as we were, we couldn't responsibly take Toddler out in public, no matter how full of beans she felt. She had to stay in with us and wait it out.

Toddler's Dora marathon has had some nasty repercussions - for example, Dora needs help to do just about anything. Ever since we were sick, Toddler's asked for help with everything from breakfast eating to slipping feet into rain boots - things she can completely do on her own. On the plus side, her Spanish vocabulary has greatly improved.

It seems like every family has a similar tale. This was our first and I'm betting it won't be our last. I feel thinner and wiser now. I have learned to: always keep a stash of Pedialite on hand and to be more vigilant of little people's hygiene habits. I also learned that Dora needs to go. We need a new show, a show that doesn't require so much "help."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Keeping up with the Alaskatarians

So this morning, after a tough negotiation session with Toddler over pants (I lost), I dropped her off at pre-school and drove myself out to McNeil Canyon meats with a bucket full of partially-frozen moose meat.

Hunter's got a caribou hunt in the works and I realized that if he gets one, I'm going to need some freezer space to accommodate it. I also need to figure in the salmon and halibut he plans to catch.

I've been enjoying this Alaskatarian diet but to be honest, I started to forget about the meat in my freezer and started leaning into vegetarian and vegan meals. I think it's mostly out of laziness and an inability to plan ahead - mornings are busy enough these days without having to think about what to take out for dinner. In my house, there's also the issue of having to scale over Hunter's hunting and camping gear to get to the freezer. Somewhere along the way, after stepping in one-too-many garage puddles and suffering cold, wet socks and tripping over tents and boxes, I stopped trying.

My dedicated vegetarian friend plans her menus every week. She shops once and is done with it. That's working for me these days. I'm finally cured of my post-Dillingham shopping disorder; I don't really feel exhilarated by grocery shopping anymore. I think seniors' day at Safeway fixed my wagon.

Thinking about a weekly menu and writing it down also caused me to be a bit more creative. For variety sake and for the sake of using the ingredients I've purchased, I've been trying out previously overlooked recipes with great success. Little Hunter eats everything and Toddler eats nothing, so I have a carte blanche. (It won't last, I know).

This week's menu includes a yam and peppita quesadilla with a sweet and spicy chipotle sauce, a caramelized tofu and mushroom stir fry and a vegetable linguini with peanut sauce. Yum. The way it is, I can look at my menu at around 4:30, pick a meal and get to work. I can chop vegetables during Little Hunter's last nap of the day, assemble dinner during Dora the Explorer, bake dinner durning bath time. When all is said and done, I get to enjoy dinner with Hunter and two lovely smelling kids.  

This time, my McNeil Canyon meat order was focused on summer food. My barbecue melted out of the snow last week and we're feeling ready to grill!  The gentlemen out East are stuffing me some Bratwurst as I type. They ground me some burger this morning and for those very rare days I feel like scaling Mount Hunter out in the garage, some italian sausage for spaghetti (the only one meal that everyone in my house eats).

All right summer: I'm ready for you. Only three more feet of snow to go!