Sunday, January 29, 2012

on the mend

 I'm pleased to report that the leg is much better. The blister has scabbed over and there's pink skin under and infection seems very unlikely at this point. Unfortunately, she's come down with a chest cold and has been less than pleasant to be with most of the day. I have deep stores of patience, but even so I find that I'm being tested pretty sorely these days. I try to come up with new activities to entertain her during the day and our latest success was a pan of dry rice and various scooping and pouring tools. Yesterday we were invited to a birthday party for one of the elementary girls, Kayla and Julia had a great time playing at her house! Today we will go to another birthday party! Yay for birthdays!

Julia's inherited the family legacy, Little Oscar pajamas (my grandfather's restaurant)

She's a big fan of stacking and kicking down her blocks

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A weekend in Aniak

  On Friday, Dave and Julia and I went back down to Aniak so that Dave could take more Praxis tests, seeking to add to his expanding collection of certifications. We went by airplane, a tiny little thing that would seat perhaps 5. Julia was impressed with watching the plane land, but didn’t have much to say on the flight itself. It was quite bumpy from strong winds, and mercifully only lasted about 10 minutes! Dave saw moose, but I didn’t understand his hand signals (pointing at his head and the ceiling) and I missed them. (This is the story of my Alaskan life. Have I seen a moose outside Anchorage? No. Have I seen a bear? No. Have I seen a wolf? No, though that one I’ll be fine to skip.) We stayed with Mike and Dolphin again, and Julia was quite pleased to be back in the house with a dog and chickens and a fire and a baby in a belly) Dave took his test first thing, so we had the rest of the weekend for fun.  

Julia was a big fan of helping with the fire. Notice her amazing beadhead.

I knitted Julia some mittens from scraps of wool.
She was pleased, though she doesn't look it.

The Kuskokwim 300 was happening. It’s a 300 mile dogsled race from Bethel to Aniak and back. The mushers stop in Aniak to check in and rest, if they want to. Some big name dog mushers participate, with a winning purse of $20,00 down to a last place prize of about 1,500The video is of the leader arriving. A few minutes later two more teams arrived right on top of each other and for a minute, there was a little glorious chaos of dogs heading here and there and starting off again before someone had been told to hold onto them. One musher was taking his mandatory 6 hour rest, but most of them had done so at the last stop. Julia was pretty excited to see the dogs but equally excited to run around with people her size. That night, a family we know from the school district came over with their two children, about 8 and 10. Julia was ecstatic! They ran back and forth in the house about a million times and everything they did made Julia laugh and laugh.
a team sleeping

everyone hanging around waiting for the next ones to arrive.

We took advantage of the small grocery store in town (about 6 aisles) and got some fresh dairy and produce. I should be used to Alaska bush prices by now, but I was shocked by them all the same.
A loaf of French bread: $5.99
½ gallon milk: $5.99
a pint of sour cream: $3.59
a pound of cheese: $10.45
a package of bacon: $8.79
Oranges: $10.59 lb
A box of 88 diapers: $48.99
A large container of vitamin c: $25.75
A twopack of Listerine: $31.79
A bottle of dish soap: $7.99
A 12 pack of soda: $11.99
A bag of chips: $8.75
A container of ice cream: $10.45
Thankfully we didn’t have to buy all of that, but still dropped $100 on two bags of groceries. It really makes buying things in the lower 48 and mailing them up worth the trouble, but you can figure on doubling your cost per item with the shipping charge. You also have to be smart about when you are mailing things, because if it is winter, any liquid will freeze and so would any produce. So mail onions and dish soap in the fall, pack it like someone will spend 20 minutes kicking it, and figure out what you need at least a month before you need it as it could take that long for it to arrive in the mail. We are well supplied with canned, dried and packaged foods, so the only things we really seek from stores are dairy and produce. We’ll soon be signed up with Full Circle Farms for a monthly CSA delivery and that will take care of produce, though not cheaply!
Mike left one of his snow machines with us, and the neighbor dog has decided to take up life from the seat. 

We came home to Chuathbaluk on Sunday by snow machine. It was cold, about 10 below but we had a ton of warm clothes. I had Julia tied onto my front, facing me, with a sling improvised from a bed sheet. It’s too bad I didn’t get a picture of it, but my camera was buried under about 4 layers and there was no way to get it without totally undressing. She and I sat behind Mike and Dave drove a second snow machine The first trip up by snow machine took us about 20-30 minutes, so I was expecting the same. Not so! There was a much stronger wind this time that had drifted snow over the trail on the river. It was so hard to see the trail that Mike decided to take us up onto a trail through the trees above the riverbank. It was less windy in the trees, but even slower going as the drifts were bad and we were ducking branches. It was kind of like being in a video game, but with higher stakes. At one point we contemplated going back down to the river because the drifts were so bad but there was nowhere to turn around, so we kept going. I was worried about Julia’s face being cold, since that was the only part of her that was exposed. She would drift off to sleep and I’d pull her hat down almost all the way over her face, but then she’d wake up when we’d stop to make sure Dave was still following. She’d try to get her hands free, but I had made sure they were pinned under my armpits because I didn’t want her pulling off her mittens again like on the last trip. We finally made it, and as we were crossing the river to Chuathbaluk Julia finally started to cry and struggle to get free. Thankfully we were home 30 seconds later! It took over an hour to get there. I cranked up the heat and started to strip off the million layers. She looked like she was pretty fine. Her toes were cold, but didn’t seem frostbit and she had a red patch on one leg, where the boot and snowpant come together. She had that red patch on the last trip and I had planned against it by putting leg warmers over her snowpants and boots to prevent them from riding up. As the house warmed, Julia started fussing a bit, saying “owie” and pointing to her leg She was wrapped up in a blanket, looking at books while I cooked some supper and I figured the red patch was some mild frostbite or windburn. She didn’t seem too bothered about it, at least, she wasn’t crying. After I fed her I put her in a warm bath and she seemed pretty happy about that. The red patch looked the same after the bath, and I got busy getting her ready for bed. In the middle of the night she woke up with a wet diaper, and I turned on my little book light to change her. I looked at the leg and was shocked to see that a huge blister had formed! I then knew that her frostbit was worse than I had initially thought, but there was little I could do about it then. I didn’t have a book that talked about frostbite, no internet to look it up on, and no phone to call anyone, though I probably would not have at 3 am anyway. I lay in bed thinking about what I knew about frostbite, which was that you should warm it up gradually, and that black skin was really bad. I had already given her a bath, who knows if that was gradual enough, and nothing was black, so I tried to get back to sleep. The next day the blister was even bigger, and Julia was very aware of her “owie” but was none too gentle on it when she forgot and moved quickly. She popped it on her own that morning, and at lunch time, we went over to school to get some advice. I asked Helen, a native Alaskan what to do about it and she said burn cream and cover with a dressing. We found those items in the first aid kit, and I got it cleaned and covered. The medical websites all say to seek medical attention if it blisters, but Helen said that burn cream would be what I would get from the clinic, so I decided to wait and see what creams and bandages do and if there’s any sign of infection, we’ll get medical help. I do feel some considerable parent guilt that I let this happen, but I don’t think I could have been paying attention to her legs too while ducking branches and keeping her face covered. I think I’m going to buy Julia a pair of snowboarding goggles so I can be less worried about her face getting cold and I saw some mittens with long arm bands up to the elbows that go under the coat, so if I got those I wouldn’t worry about her being able to pull them off. As for her legs, I’ll put on more pants under her snowpants, and nylon gaters over her leg warmers over her snowpants. That is all I can think of at the moment to be more prepared.  We don't have any more trips by snow machine scheduled in the future, and I'm fine with that. On top of frostbite, Julia’s got a rash again on her bottom. I’m holding my breath that it will disappear quickly, but I’m worried I’ll need to get another steroid cream prescription sent up. 
After the blister popped

Thursday, January 19, 2012

video of Julia saying her name (Ja-dee)

a video of Julia taking her baby to the potty

some house photos

the living room
the kitchen, connected to the living room
the school, a three minute walk from the house
the view of the living room from the kitchen
the other side of the living room
the view out the living room window
the view out the other window. you can see a bit of the frozen river beyond the trees
the bedroom
Julia's bed. We sent up by mail a kind of junky lightweight toddler bed but it was too low to work well up next to my side of our bed, and we couldn't figure out how to re-assemble it anyway! Instead we fashioned a platform out of totes and put the mattress on it. some blankets fill the gap to the wall and there you be! She sleeps in it maybe 1/3 of the night.

the other side of our bed has the closet bar. this very same design was featured in ReadyMade magazine as being hip and trendy. Glad we are trendy here in Alaska.
the kid
the other end of the bedroom is open shelving.
the bathroom, complete with running water!
the view on the walk to school. 

I've yet to see a view that is not stunning.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Getting settled in Chu

Mike showing awesome hospitality by shaving us some meat off his pig leg.
Julia broke in the sippy cup for the baby
a little bit of Alaska awesomeness, a tree-desk
Julia's all set to go get on our last flight, when we found out that the planes were grounded due to low visibility. Not to be deterred, we went to Chuathbaluk by snowmachine!
It was a cold 20 minute ride up the frozen river, but had we waited a day it would have been twice as cold!!!
Home Sweet Home

Our ride!
Julia is not amused by the brutal cold. She burst into tears when we walked around a corner into a face full of sharp cold wind. I'm not terribly amused either, but it is beautiful here, and we have a lovely view out our windows. We have not explored much since it has been so beastly cold, and because Julia's backpack carrier got left in Aniak ( I hope, otherwise it is lost somewhere out on the river.) This means I have to carry her wherever we go and that gets tiresome fast. I fashioned a sling out of a shawl, and that helps get her over to school and back but it is not comfortable enough for a pleasure walk. We were going to go back to Aniak this weekend so Dave could take another Praxis test for teacher certifications, but it was so cold that the planes can't fly, so they postponed the test.

A beautiful -38 morning

Julia was pretty thrilled to re-discover her many toys.

Dave and his co-worker, Johnny
Julia was pretty quick to warm up to the village kids
and is pleased as can be when we go over to school to visit Daddy
The third day we were there, Chu residents were celebrating Slaviq, a Russian Orthodox celebration surrounding the new year. The 4 "star boys" are in white in the front, and take turns twirling a star with a candle while the villagers sing a chant. I couldn't understand most of it, but was told that the purpose is to bless the space. They go around to most houses in the village and repeat the chanting, then have a meal. with numerous houses to attend, that means a lot of feasting.

Julia was pretty happy to have kids to play with again!