Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter Photos

Decorating eggs with the kids at school

Making easter cookies

A new easter quilt from Grandma Gini

Gussied up in easter finery

This dress was a baby shower gift, from my mom's cousin, Judy Quale.
It says 24 months, but fits pretty darn well at 13 months! 

a family portrait

Julia gets an easter basket at the community potluck

Julia learned to find eggs! I'd point one out and she'd get excited, and would carefully pick it up.
Getting her to release it into her basket took a little more convincing. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring is icumen in

Signs of spring are arriving. Behold our dirt patch:

 And the buds on the trees:

 And behold the temperature: (in the shade!)

Dave has left me again, for 4 days, taking his high schoolers to an Academic Decathlon in a nearby village. Right before he left, Julia came down with a fever. This is the first real fever she's had. She wavered between 101 and 102 for 2 days, but didn't have other symptoms like diarrhea or throwing up, thankfully. She was pretty quiet and clingy and refused to eat solid food but nursed a ton, bumping up my milk supply so now I'm a bit engorged. She's better now, and back to her usual cheerful self. Unfortunately she's due for vaccinations tomorrow. Today we both got a TB test. A elderly man in the village has been diagnosed with TB and so health aids are here to test everyone. They will test everyone again in two months. TB is a contagious bacterial infection that can cause some unfortunate symptoms like coughing up blood and can cause permanent lung damage if untreated. It is spread by inhaling droplets from a coughing carrier. (Gross thought, I know) but that is good news, as we haven't had contact with the man who is infected. Even though it involves a small needle, Julia was a trooper for her test and didn't cry!

 My latest crafty project is sewing crinkle cloths for babies:

To make one, take a piece of crinkly-sounding plastic and cut a rectangle. I used a bag from a box of cereal. Trace a piece of fabric around it, leaving about an extra 1/2 inch for a seam allowance. Fold the cloth in half, right sides together and sew 2 1/2 sides, leaving a half side open. Turn the pouch inside out, and iron flat, folding in the remaining seam so that it is easy to finish. Through the opening, slide in the folded plastic and finish the open seam, ending in a corner. I slid a small loop of cotton tape in the final seam to make a hanging point. Turn the fabric to a diagonal and sew a line from corner to corner to secure the plastic in place. If you like, embellish further with more cotton tape or decorative stitching, but make sure that any decorations are VERY secure. This is machine washable, but you should let it air dry. Julia liked the one I made for her a lot when she was 3-6 months old. 

Since we are moving soon, we are trying to eat down the cupboards and to avoid buying food. Some things are necessities though, like eggs, and so I am doing a little shopping locally. Up until now, we bought the vast majority of our food in Anchorage, whenever one of us was passing through. We fill up big plastic totes with everything we think we'll need for a couple months and pay extra baggage fees or send them by mail. There is a little store here, and while the prices are quite reasonable compared to other village stores, they are still high enough to give you chest pains. 

This is the store. It doesn't extend left or right out of the frame more than 5 feet.
3 shelves, 1 fridge, 2 freezers and lots of stacks of soda!

Julia, modeling another Grandmomma Dawn dress.
This was one that I wore as a girl, and it is vintage Marimekko fabric.
Unfortunately it's getting to be a tad fragile in it's old age, so I'm not sure how much I should let her wear it. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Staying in the far North

Well, decision time has come and gone. We're staying in Alaska for another year. It was a hard decision to make. The opportunities of Montana versus the financial benefits of Alaska. We weighed and discussed and fought and discussed and cried and discussed. Part of what tipped the balance was that the Montana state ed office refused to give Dave an answer about whether or not he'd have to take more classes for his elementary admin license until he sent in fingerprints. Well, maybe in the rest of the US that is no big deal, but for us it would have been an $800 flight to Anchorage to get them done. And if we'd taken the time to do so, we would have lost the opportunity to have the job here, as it would have likely been hired out at the Anchorage job fair this weekend. We won't be staying in this village, but moving next door, so to speak, to the village of Chuathbaluk. It's pretty similar to this village, but Dave will be the Lead Teacher, which is sort of a teacher-administrator hybrid position that fills the void from when one principal serves many village schools. We'll still have Susan as our principal which is a nice continuity. I'm actually fairly tired of thinking about it all, so instead I'm going to give you photos of what we've been up to. In Craftyland, I made a wooden Waldorf-style sunburst toy for Julia. Any carpenter would look at my crooked cuts and sigh, but I'm fairly pleased with how it turned out. I used a old fashioned hand saw to cut the sun points, and then I tracked down a jigsaw to cut the inner arcs. I should have tracked down the jigsaw first and saved myself the hassle of the hand saw, so lesson learned. I sanded it all down with very fine grade sandpaper, since that was all I had around. It took forever, but got the job done eventually. Then I used nontoxic watercolors to stain the wood and sealed it with a beeswax finish. I actually used a beeswax based lavender and peppermint headache soother balm, since it was all I had on hand, so the toy smells amazing. I used a piece of scrap wood, so I didn't have any dimension choice, but if I did, I'd make it a little wider. It is a bit tippy since it's only about an inch wide. 


I'm also working on a new knitting project. A friend asked me if I could re-create her hat, a vintage scandinavian pattern, which was starting to fall apart. I purchased some Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash Sport in colors that were fairly similar, and started to copy the pattern. The brim was a easy k1 p1, and the pattern above it wasn't too hard to copy. I just hope the decreases at the top are easy to decipher too.

High fashion in the north

Kiley giving Julia a ride in the kicksled

My mom sewed and smocked this adorable dress for Julia out of an old pillowcase embroidered by my great-grandma.
Oh, and two more teeth are coming in, left and right of the lower front two!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Roller Coaster of Emotions

It's been an emotionally charged week out here in the bush. Dave was given a job as principal at West Glacier Elementary and we were ecstatic for about 24 hours, until reality started creeping in. The first hurdle is that Dave needs to get his certifications transferred to Montana. The position demands that he gets an Admin license, which is not a problem, AND a K-8 license which might be a problem. We're still waiting to hear how this will pan out.
The second hurdle is money. This school pays below Montana standards, and wayyyy below comparable Alaska positions. Dave and I both have student loans totaling about $54,000. Mine we've been paying on, but his are just starting to come due since he finished his program. We also have our car loan. We also have our sweet baby girl, too young to enter pre-school and thus requiring me to stay home and care for her or for us to pay a baby sitter to care for her. The bottom line is that after we paid our loans and paid our insurance (which does not include vision or dental) we would have about $800 a month for housing, utilities, gas and food. We were pretty excited about buying a home, thinking that there was a program that helps teachers purchase homes on the cheap, but learned that even though our area should qualify, it doesn't qualify. Even with our excellent credit scores, the bank estimated a mortgage to be $800-875 a month, which is obviously not going to work. We looked for the cheapest rental place we could find, and while $600 a month was the average rate, we found one studio apartment for 475, not furnished and not including utilities. Estimating utilities to be $125 monthly and estimating that gas will be at least $100 a month, brings us to $700, leaving $100 a month for food and nothing left over for extras or unexpected expenses. Ironically, we make too much to qualify for government assistance.
One way to make this gig possible is for either or both Dave and I to go back to school and defer our student loans. Dave can pursue another degree from Western Governor's University online, and I could enroll in a LPN program at a community college that also has a childcare program. This gives us another $800 to work with, but puts us in the odd and uncomfortable position of accruing more debt to avoid paying on our current debt. If I worked a evening or weekend job for 20 hours a week at minimum wage, I could add around $600 a month to the picture, but it seems like full time school, parenting and a part time job would be really hard to juggle (assuming that I could find a part time job in this economy.)
On top of that, it might be possible to get our student loan payments reduced. We're looking into that possibility.
So what to do?
First, wait and see if the licensing will go smoothly.
If not, we will likely stay in this district another year where the pay is good but everything else is kind of sucks.
If so, we will start applying for programs and pinning down housing, to see if we really can make a go of this.
One kind of funny thing is that I have no idea what it costs to feed us for a month. Pretty much since I finished college 5 years ago, I've been living in unusual food situations. At Holden, food was provided, and out here, we purchase food in bulk and months in advance, but pay inflated bush prices and/or exorbitant shipping rates. I have no idea what a realistic monthly food budget is. Feel free to comment with your budget!

My crafty distraction of the week was to sew this skirt for Julia. It looks a little big for her, but I wanted it to fit her when she was a little older. It was super easy to follow this tutorial:
My mother-in-law sent some fabric odds and ends up with me, and this is one of those pieces. The cotton ribbon trimming was from a scandinavian store in Minnesota. It's a lovely pattern, and if you are in the market for a sewn gift for a young girl, give it a try!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Since Dave was away, to keep from going stir crazy, I've been sewing! Sewing while home alone with Julia might seem to be a crazy-inducing idea, but since my alternative was to watch bad tv until I was homicidal, sewing it was. I found this tutorial online, and gave it a try.

First you find a really large t shirt, and you get a pair of baby pants that fit your kid for the pattern. (Mine are brown.) You fold the pattern pants in half and lay them along the side seam of the t shirt, and cut with about 1/2 inch seam allowance added in. Repeat on the other side. I used the center of the t shirt for a matching hat as well. For a pattern, I traced around a hat I already had and added a couple inches to the top for space to make a knot.

For decoration, I took yet another scrap of t shirt fabric and cut out stars. Three will go on one of the legs, and one on the hat. 

For the hat, first sew on your stars. I don't worry about the edge since jersey won't fray. I also didn't worry about adjusting my machine at all. As long as I put the needle down and lifted the foot when I needed to turn the fabric didn't stretch much at all. To assemble the hat, start at the bottom, as it is much more important that your lower edge be even than the top. With right sides together, sew the left side, then the right side, bottom to top. Flip the hat inside out and use a pencil to push the tip all the way out. Tie a cute knot and try on your toddler for size. You can always make it smaller by moving one of the seams in a tad. 

she'd model for about 6 seconds before yanking it off and trying to eat it.
For the pants, sew on the decoration first as well. Turn the legs inside out and sew from the bottom up to the crotch on both legs. then put right sides together and sew from crotch to waistband, front and back. Fold the waist band down and sew the seam about 1/2 inch wide or more, depending on the width of your elastic. Leave a gap big enough to thread in a piece of elastic that you've measured around your toddler, and sew it in a loop, then finish sewing the gap closed. Easy as can be, and pretty darn cute too, if I do say so myself.

Sew on your decoration

sew your side seams with about 1/4 inch to spare

Sew your leg seams up to the crotch. 
make sure your supervisor arranges your ribbons properly

ready to do the waistband

Pause to take the toddler out to play

done and done!

send to quality control for inspection

she thinks pants are equally cute as a scarf

more yoga pants in maroon with pink hearts

and hats to match. 

yoga pants in pink with green patches.
Julia continues to astound me with her development. About a month ago, I was on a kick to teach her sign language, and I repeatedly tried to teach her to say "more" which is tapping the fingers together. I think I got her to do it once, and then I got bored with it all and forgot about sign language. She communicates fine with grunts and points anyway. Well, just the other day, I was feeding her some of my oatmeal for breakfast and happened to verbally ask if she wanted some more. She smiled a huge smile and made the "more" sign. Totally floored me. 

The other thing that has floored me recently? We're moving to Montana!!! Dave got offered a job as Principal of West Glacier Elementary, a K-6 school with about 30 kids, two classrooms and two teachers. We are THRILLED! Right before he got back from his trip to interview in Washington, they called and informed me that he was not offered the position. So I had to let Dave know that we just flushed $1500 in travel funds down the toilet. That day was a pretty bad one, but that night he had an interview by phone with this West Glacier school, the one that he'd had his hopes up about. He thought the interview was fine, but of course worried that he botched a question or two. They said that they'd let him know by the 11th, so we thought we had at least a week to wait. This morning, however, they called and offered Dave the job! He accepted on the spot and we've been absorbing the news all day long.