Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fun with Grandparents

We've been spending lots of time with the grandparents. We've mostly been staying at Grandpa Dave's house, and making day trips over to see Grandma Gini. It's a little tricky to balance time with divorced grandparents who live on opposite sides of the same town. Sleeping in one place seems to help Julia feel a little more stable. She's started throwing a tantrum now and then, and I don't know if it is because of the instability of moving or just because she is at the age when that sort of thing starts. I have also noticed that the general public likes to offer advice that doesn't really apply while she's flipping out. We were out to lunch today and Julia was melting down because she was hungry and a little tired. The woman behind me kept pointedly suggesting that she just wanted to run about a bit. I took her outside to let her fuss where I didn't feel so scrutinized, and put her down to see if indeed she did want to run about. She really flipped out, and cried to be held. When we came back in, the woman continued to suggest that she just needed to run about, and I finally just had to blatantly ignore the woman and her advice. (Julia eventually settled down with some crayons and food.) 
Julia was really fighting me on the car seat too, crying and fussing and wailing. I tried turning the car seat to face forward and like magic, the fussing stopped.  Not sure why, but we're sure happy to have a better passenger. (She's well within the age and weight limits for forward facing, but new data suggests that rear facing up to age two is a good idea. I can't imagine cramming her long legs into a rear facing seat for another year!)
We spent Memorial Day weekend at Gini's boyfriend's beach cabin on Samish Island. Julia LOVED the beach. She spent hours playing in the sand and rocks, and she was really curious about all the bikes and trikes and baby-4-wheelers that lived next door. She also LOVED all the dogs that came and went up and down the beach. We took lots of walks in the stroller and ate lots of steamed oysters. It was a lovely couple days. 

Gardening at Grandma Gini's

playing piano with Grandma Gini

Red rainboots at Grandpa Dave's

Fun in the car seat

Julia loved the beach!

itty bitty crab shell

Examining shells

Julia coveted the neighbor kid's trike

glorious sunset

On day two I realized the necessity for sun hats and sunscreen!


Julia mastered climbing into chairs

With lots of Dave's family

Checking out the rocks

Visiting with Great Grandma Olive. Julia was a terror. 

Fun with a rocking horse

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Going South

We've made it back to the grand old state of Washington, but the trip was eventful, as usual! Our bush flight was an hour and a half late picking us up, and then we had a head wind that made an hour's flight last two hours. On the flight, Julia threw up on me several times. With no room to move an elbow, I couldn't do anything but let her throw up. We arrived in Anchorage and Bill the pilot offered to give us a ride to the airport so we didn't have to wait for a taxi. He's got seven kids, and his van (which he converted to run on vegetable oil) was knee deep in the trash of a thousand road trips. He blasted along the roads and got us to the airport in excellent time. At the airport, I had a high stress moment while the employees looked over my documents. Two days ago, I was cleaning out my wallet for the trip when I realized that my driver's license was missing!!! GONE GONE GONE!!!! I have NO memory of using it in Sleetmute, and since our house was totally packed, it wasn't anywhere inside. By sheer incredible luck I had my passport (still with my maiden name), my marriage license showing my name change, my social security card with my new name, and my birth certificate. The customer care woman assured me that these documents would work, but to anticipate that I'd be held up by extra scrutinizing. With all the delays, the extra hours in the schedule were gone, and so I was sweating bullets that we'd miss our flight. Incredibly, there was little scrutinizing, we got through security with no problems, and we made our flight with 20 minutes to spare! I even got to change Julia's diaper and my shirt. We arrived in Seattle at 2 am, and my friend Erin picked us up and took us home for the night. The next day, Grandpa Dave picked us up and took us to Mt Vernon. The day after was my sister Caroline's graduation from Trinity College in Everette. We got to attend the ceremony, meet the new boyfriend Matt, and had a celebratory lunch at Olive Garden. My dad came home with us for the night before getting back on the train to go to my sister Anna's graduation in Minnesota. 

The ice chunks are nearly gone, and boats are out on the water. 

Julia and Kiley were finally getting to be friends. They loved to hang out with the dogs. 

all empty and clean

Saying goodbye to Jane and Gus.

About to board the flight from hell. 

No time for photos along the way, but here we are in Mt Vernon on Friday. 

Sunshine! Green grass! Flowers! Washington feels like sensory overload!


Grandpoppa Jack came through town for Caroline's graduation and is leaving for Anna's graduation

Julia picked out Grandpa Dave's hard hat as a favored toy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Last days in Sleetmute

We've been packing! Yesterday we hauled 500 lbs of boxes down to the post office. Our house is pretty empty. We leave here on Thursday, so 4 days to go. I've packed the baking supplies, so we are reduced to mostly eating from cans and cooking pasta. Julia loves noodles so she's totally fine with that. She and Dave blissfully eat Ramen together while I look on in mild disgust.

Julia helping to haul boxes to the post office.

11:40 pm. Light enough to read a book outside. 

Julia loves to sit next to me on the porch.
A couple nights ago the school went camping out at Blueberry Hill, a bluff that has been dug away for gravel. There's a couple pieces of broken machinery that the kids had a great time playing on. Julia and I declined the opportunity to sleep outside, but we did join them for supper. The kids all seemed to have a good time, even if it was pretty cold during the night!

Julia's new favorite toy is the swiffer sweeper mop. She got her hands on it one day while I was cleaning and hasn't let it go since. I took off half of the handle after several near misses to my laptop. She has a great time pushing it around. 
her shirt should say "cleaning makes me happy"

It was the first thing she picked up this morning.
She brought it to me and wanted to sit in my lap.
Then she wanted to nurse.  
"No mop while you nurse" said I while trying to remove it.  She burst into tears. 

"No mop while you nurse" I maintained. She flung herself onto the floor and screamed for 10 minutes straight. 

In a lovely example of bad parenting, I gave in and cuddled my baby and a dust mop while she nursed.
Not a high point in my career as a mother. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Saturday morning, we were lazing around, when a neighbor came a knocking on our door to tell us that the ice was moving! We ran outside to check it out, because this is the best entertainment we've had around here for months! It was moving indeed, in big sheets, quietly gliding along, occasionally bumping into each other. Before long it got jammed up, so we went back home, but kept an eye out the window. A few hours later it started moving again, and this time it was much more dramatic. Big chunks easily 20 inches thick were heaving out on top of other chunks, crushing and grinding away! It looked like a glacier moving in super fast forward. As the day progressed, the ice would get jammed up and then re-start, and the water level would rise and fall a foot or two. Everyone was on high alert, as a flooding could start in a couple minute's time. People were constantly calling up and down the river, asking if the ice at Red Devil, Crooked Creek and Aniak had started moving. (yes, no and no!) This year is prime conditions for some extreme flooding, as the mini break-up in the fall resulted in some super thick ice in Aniak that didn't appear to be breaking any time soon. This means that the water will back up above Aniak, and it has done so. The village of Crooked Creek is getting terrible flooding, with several houses completely underwater. When the ice does give way in Aniak, the suction will likely cause more devastation as huge icebergs plow back to the river in Crooked Creek and crash down through Aniak. We are probably safe up here, since the ice has moved at Red Devil. It's unlikely to cause problems this far up, though nobody will say that we are in the clear for sure. Sunday and today saw more ice moving along, and water levels rising a couple feet, but not enough to get any one's houses wet. Now the ice has significantly thinned out, and the water has dropped a fair amount. Everyone is getting all eager to get their boats launched so that they can go snag driftwood. Villages that are without forests buy cords of wood and I'm told you can make a decent penny by snagging whatever comes floating by.

Here's our first views of the ice breaking up. Long sheets that are fairly calmly moving. 
A little later, big sheets of ice had been shoved up on shore.
these ice chunks were shoved up like they were packing peanuts

The ice is mostly frozen in beautiful long thin lines. This is a piece that shattered when we dropped a log on it. 
Julia was enthralled with the ice moving. 

Dave flew up with Taylor to get an aerial view.

On Friday, we had the Graduation ceremony at the school. Two of Dave's kids got diplomas. We seemed pretty sure that one of them would pass, but the other one was cutting things pretty close. To graduate, students have to pass a state test, and the score of one student reflected that the student might not have been trying too hard on previous tests. Decorating the gym was a major undertaking by the families of the graduates. They spent three days getting it spruced up! The graduation ceremony was followed by a potluck and then a dance. Like most dances, it was a bit slow to start. Nobody wanted to be the first one out there. The little kids had a great time running around though. Julia's bedtime took her down before the dance really got going, so I missed that fun.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Springtime Drama

It is well known that in small towns and villages, the end of winter and the beginning of spring brings out the crazy in people. This is definitely true here as there has been a unfortunate amount of drama in the village. It doesn't have anything to do with us. It has to do with the village council, who employed a woman from a nearby village. The Woman had many strange aspects to her personality, and it was eventually learned that through either an incredible amount of ignorance or a malicious intent she pretty much drained all the money from the village council. We're talking hundreds of thousands. This discovery came to light in the middle of an old fashioned power struggle between two major families in the village who have both been involved in village leadership over the years. Somehow the council dwindled in number until suddenly there were two people left on the council. This is a major problem because, I guess, three are necessary for voting in new members. While all the council employees were out of town for training, the village got together and held their own council election. This was a problem because lawyers were consulted and some lawyers declared the new council to be unlawfully elected and some lawyers declared the new council to be lawful.  The woman was fired by the new council, but for weeks, nobody knew if the council actually had power to fire her. Locks were changed. Phone numbers were changed. The Woman wrote a bunch of severance checks to various people in the village (this drained oodles of money.) It was discovered that the grant money for finishing the new council building was siphoned off for some other use. This is a HUGE problem, as not only can the building not be finished, the village now appears financially incompetent and is extremely unlikely to receive future grants for who knows how long. We have two friends who are also employed by the council office. Before The Woman was fired, she fired one of them back around December, but after The Woman was fired, our friend seemed to be still employed. There isn't any money to pay them though, and there are huge fees to settle from the legal problems of sorting this out. The Bureau of Indian Affairs declared that the election needed to happen again, and came in to see that it went properly. The same people were elected as before, but now they were official. They officially fired The Woman, but as the iceberg of disaster floated higher into the daylight it became apparent that there are few people around who can cope with untangling the disaster. Our friends seem to be in the best position to do so, having been employed under The Woman and fully aware of her character and having understanding of the village's position before, during and after all the trouble. Unfortunately, the power struggle is not over, and as persons here fight and manipulate each other for whatever they think is the best course of action, both of our friends have been fired, one yesterday by the council, one today by someone who isn't even a voting member of the village. So the mess continues. Are they really fired? Who will replace them to sort out the disastrous affairs of the village council? Will the village pass the upcoming audit? (not likely) How will they pay the $20,000 for the audit they likely will fail and how will they pay for another one? How will the council building get finished? How will they council pay employees? How will they pay for the basic utility bills? Who will represent Child Protective Services to keep an eye on the safety of the children of the village? Will the same people who backed The Woman regain power and hire her back? (As crazy as that seems, it is totally possible.) Will the village be able to sort out the mess or will this be too big to recover from, causing the village to dry up and disappear in a year or two? Every day seems to bring a new layer of drama to this mess. It is truly incredible. 

Just a disclaimer, in telling this story, it is possible that my facts are not straight. It seems impossible to know all the facts. 

Other drama in the village is that Alfred, one of Dave's students left yesterday. His mom called Dave and said that she wanted her son to be with her, as it looks like Al's grandfather is probably dying. So just like that, Al is gone and unlikely to return for the rest of the school year. It's impossible to know if he'll be back in the fall. He was living with his grandfather, until his grandfather got sick and had to go to Anchorage. Al has other relatives in the village, but it looked like he was being bounced from house to house a good deal in his grandfather's absence. It makes our heart ache for the kid, who has so much instability in his life. 

Good drama has also happened though. Back in January, Dave lost his wedding ring out in the snow. This was a needle in a haystack search, as there was a 1,000 foot triangle of area that it was *likely* to be in, and a huge area beyond that where it could maybe be. Dave borrowed a metal detector from another teacher, and as the snow melted, has spent many hours outside, searching and searching. Today, success!!!! He found it, outside the house of Principal Susan, in a chunk of ice. We rejoice. 

While searching for good ideas for the art fair, I tried making these pop can lanterns.
I thought that they were great, but that the cutting was difficult for an adult to do without cutting themselves. Thus the project was vetoed for the art fair, but I still recommend it for an adult with a hankering for a neat recycling project. 

Art Fair

Julia and Dave's student Alfred
We've been up to a good deal lately. At school we've been hosting a Art Fair, with kids from 3 other schools coming in for two days of crafty fun. Projects include heartstrings from toilet paper tubes, sewing native kuspuk shirts and bean and lavender filled neck warming pillows, beading, knitting and crocheting, picture frames with images drawn on pop cans, wood burning, and totems.
I'm leading the heartstring craft. I got the idea from Family Fun magazine, and made a couple strings for valentine's day. It seemed like a great idea for the kids, and they are making some pretty neat strands.
Here's the link to the tutorial:
Heartstring craft

Students working on their heartstrings

bean pillows


tin-drawn photos in frames


felt wall hangings

sewing kuspuks for babies!

Julia has acquired the skill of telling me that it is time to go outside. She goes to the coat tote, pulls out her coat and brings it to me, then walks over to the door and bangs on it while looking at me pointedly. Now that she can do this, she requests to go out about 3 times a day. So we do, and I let her play in the mud that is everywhere thanks to the lovely 50's we've been having this week! This makes for a lot more laundry, but a happy baby is a happy baby. Along with the warm weather has been extended daylight. It doesn't get truly dark until about 11 pm now and who knows when it gets light. I'm definitely not awake for it! All the talk has turned to break up, the event of the ice breaking up off the river. This can be a quiet, relatively slow process or it can be a flood-induced crashing drama. There are signs warning that the historical flood level is maybe 20 feet higher than the river usually lies, and that explains why our house is 10 feet off the ground. It's been many many years since the flooding has been that bad, but that just means that we're probably due!

mud 4 sale cheep!

There's a river of water forming on top of the ice. 

The little sign around 9 feet says flood level, the upper suggests building elevation.
Unfortunately, few houses seem to be this high. This post is about 10-20 feet higher than the river itself

Julia has also learned to ask for nursing and for water in sign. The nurse sign is to tap two fingers against one wrist, and she mostly taps one palm with the other. for water, I sign to her with three fingers tapping against my chin. she has interpreted this as a open palm smack to her head. She's also made the discovery that pens and crayons make marks on paper. She gasped when she realized her power!

Earlier this week, I tried Quilling with the school kids. We used plastic coffee stirrers for a quilling tool. Just split the end with a scissor and away you go. It was quite successful. They were all able to get the idea of how to quill up a loose circle and to form it into a tear drop or a square or what have you, and they put their quilled shapes together into pictures.

The village has also started hosting a knitting/crocheting/beading night at the council office twice a week. I'm the one who was called upon to teach the knitting aspect, and to my great surprise, the young girls really took to it. Ashley in particular really got it quickly, whipping out a small scarf and starting on a baby blanket.