Saturday, December 14, 2013

light and darkness

We've had a month of extremes. Warm and cold. Light and darkness. Joy and sorrow.  Our darkness and sorrow comes from the natural darkness of winter coupled with the death of my dad's younger brother Uncle Andy who learned of his leukemia this past year and passed away a few days ago. Death is rarely timely, and I feel deep sorrow for my Aunt Cindy and my cousins who have lost a father and husband. This also weighs on my mind as I appear to have escaped an early death by the bizarre circumstances that led to the discovery and removal of my cancer before it was advanced enough to seed itself elsewhere, the typical outcome in the hard-to-discover-early ovarian cancer. It's pretty much impossible for me to assign a responsibility for my living and Andy's (and the others I know who have passed this year) dying to anything other than it being a odd and cruel and wonderful and unpredictable world. These thoughts and many more have been circulating in my mind for days and weeks.
The light and joy and warmth have come from our moving from the condo to a house! I hadn't really appreciated how much I disliked living in the condo until we were settled in the new place. There's something hard to quantify about what makes a good space, but I know that it has a very very real impact on my personal happiness. Elements of importance: wood floors, a wood stove, big windows that look out on space, a kitchen that feels clean (when I've managed to get ALL the dishes rounded up and washed), enough storage space that clutter feels put away, my furniture and  belongings and art, which are not expensive but are mostly made and given by family and friends and of great sentimental value, plans for chickens soon and a pantry/freezer full of food (since a bare pantry puts me into a mild unsettled panic). It's also come from holidays celebrated and upcoming celebrations with family and friends, and the making of new friends and feeling more at home in general here on the island.
The last picture in the condo. The last week there was just awful, trying to pack every little thing except what we needed for 3, 2, 1 days and trying to keep Julia from unpacking and just sitting around waiting and waiting. We got to get started moving on tuesday, or I did anyway, as Dave worked. By Wednesday the condo was pretty well emptied and that night we left the island for thanksgiving. Friday morning we returned with yet another car load and got ready for Julia's preschool's big fundraiser bizarre which expected us to volunteer our time all that day. We did so, while also getting help moving from two of my sisters, and juggling running to and from the ferry to drop off sisters and pick up Julia and Grandma Gini, who had kept her since Thursday. By Friday, I was pretty thoroughly exhausted and had failed to take any photos of the week, but I could see that this was going to be a good house for us. Also, we got the condo carpets cleaned, and I got an ultrasound that told us that the baby is growing nicely! 
Julia and I have developed a strategy for the "momma I want ....." that happens every 6 seconds in a store. I take a picture on my phone and tell Julia to ask Santa if she can have it. She forgets about it 30 seconds later and my biggest hassle is deleting all the photos from my phone before they can remind her of what she wanted. Here she's holding a dragon statue. 
eating marshmallows and fudge on a stick at a holiday party!
Cutting our christmas tree! Julia was turning out to be pretty picky, rejecting all likely options as no good, so we pulled a coup, circling back and I over-enthused about the tree until she hopped on board.  
helping daddy tie it on the car
putting the feet up after some wood chopping
Our tree! It's a little wonky and definitely could have used some pruning a year ago, but free is free and I love it. Many of the ornaments I made over the past 5 years, and almost every one has a memory of christmasses gone past attached. Julia was an enthusiastic helper this year and is particularly fond of the ornament Olaf made and gave to us a few years back with his photo inside.  

these two photos are from her ballet class recital. It was pretty adorable and very small-town charming!
We've been cranking out the christmas cookies, getting some tins full and ready for gift giving. I figure I'll go big with lots of variety this year, as next year I'll be too busy chasing a crawling baby to get many made. 
Helping Daddy chop the wood. Daddy chops it, Julia hammers it, Mommy burns it. 
Here's some shots of the living room. I've been meaning to take some house shots for days, but somehow seconds after I get things tidied up, random stuff is all over again. 

 There's more of the house to show, but that part is definitely not clean enough for photos today. Along with being adorable and wonderful, Julia has developed an amazingly loud and shrill whine voice and an overly dramatic reaction to every "no" she hears. This mostly comes into play at home. Out and about she's sweet and well behaved, but here with me it is scream and whine and pout and nag all day. I'm not terribly patient with her about this and as a result use of time-outs has skyrocketed. Thankfully they have a dramatic effect on her. She cries for a minute and then is contrite and tells me she's ready to try again and we have a hug and a reasonable chat about how to behave when we want something or when the answer is no and all is good and 10 minutes later it's replayed from the beginning. I count my blessings that I have this tool and that it makes her contrite. I have no idea what parents do when their kids are seemingly immune to the correction. She's still too uncertain of the yard to want to play outside alone, so I've been trying to spend more time outdoors with her. This was pretty difficult right after thanksgiving as the temps plummeted here. Now they are mild again, but it's damp and I find that less enjoyable than good old dry cold winter. I'm hoping badly for some snow to fall this winter. I'm told that some years there's a few good snow falls and some years there's basically none.
One cute little Juliaism lately is that instead of "them" she says "deys" as in "I got deys in my hand" or "can you get deys for me" She didn't always say it like that, and I'm not sure where it came from, but it is pretty cute, so I don't correct her!
I've been working on the idea of giving presents with her, a rather difficult concept for her to embrace. She likes the idea in theory, but when she sees me wrapping something that appeals to her in any way, the thought that it isn't for her is pretty hard for her to take. Last week at preschool, while I was the parent helper, they made necklaces out of beads and then wrapped them to give as gifts. She decided hers was for "mom and Julia." At the end of class, her friend Jack decided that his necklace was a gift for Julia and gave it to her. She was pretty thrilled with this and we went home and made and wrapped a necklace for Jack. Thankfully when she gave it to him, he was thrilled and wore it all day. While this exchange was a success, she's still having a hard time with seeing me making presents that are not for her and having a hard time with the idea of making presents for others herself. I'm trying to talk about it a lot with her, but it doesn't seem to register much. She did ask if the baby would get presents and was happy when I said yes, I thought so. She suggested dividing the presents under the tree in half, to share with the baby. and to share the easter candy with the baby too. So I don't know if I should be worried about this or not!
The baby seems to be doing well, kicking lots but causing no trouble otherwise. I'm about 23 weeks along, making the baby roughly 11 inches long.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

october in review

We are a lot more settled here since I last posted. Dave has had a good fall at work, getting along tremendously well with his co-administrators and generally impressed with the goings on at school. Julia has had a good fall at pre-school. She's gotten interested in writing her name, and does so with moderate success. I'm starting to make more friends and so am happier. I'm also done being super fatigued and nauseated with the pregnancy, so that makes me a million times happier. I'm 16 weeks along now, and can feel a few little flutters now and then. We've had several visitors this month, my sister Grace, our friend Carol Witte and Grandma Gini, and visitors are always enjoyed, so come see us! We are gearing up to move to another house over thanksgiving, so that is good and stressful all at once. Here's the month in photos:

a sunset on the beach near our house
bedtime books with Grandma Gini
playtime with her blocks. she's building a bed for her little baby doll. 
Julia started taking a ballet class for 3 year olds. She was apprehensive until she saw what she got to wear, then she was all about ballet class. 
she's on the far right, running around before class. I don't get to see what happens in class, as I sit out with the other parents, but I think Thea is a really good teacher. Julia occasionally instructs me now in how to hold my feet or spin. 
Julia and daddy, getting a motor boat ride
Julia and her buddy Walter
one day we went to a neighboring island and happened upon a children's fair with donkey rides.  
Julia was pleased. 
swinging with daddy.
busy playing with her dinosaur. She's been asking to go to a dinosaur museum to see dinosaur bones! 
busy playing at pre-school.  
on a field trip to an apple orchard
picking apples
grinding apples
pressing apples
pumpkins, of course
and more pumpkins. 
carving with Daddy at a school fundraiser event

then getting to light the pumpkins and listen to ghost stories. Julia kept interrupting with suggestions about dragons. 
at a pre-halloween trunk-or-treat with Walter 
at Shark Reef with Carol Witte. We didn't see any sharks, but it was pretty. 

Halloween proper, with her buddy Jack who invited us to trick or treat with him.  
at the first house of the night, they each got TWO king sized candy bars!!!
After trick or treating, there was a halloween party at the church next to us. Julia's favorite activity was crawling into a room waist deep in balloons and glow sticks and crawling around trying to find candy scattered about. She was completely terrified of anyone in a mask. We thought we'd have lots of trick or treaters, but really had very few. Consequently we have a basket of candy left about the size of Julia.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Month the first

So here we be, on Lopez Island. Life is more settled than a month ago, to be sure, but I'm still not feeling comfortable here.
Some basic challenges:
The ferry. $50 round trip for a car and driver, $12 or so for a person walking on. 45 minutes ride plus any varying amount of time spent hanging around waiting for departures, which average every 4 hours but are not evenly distributed through the day. Holidays and summer can see full ferries which mean more hanging around waiting for the next one. the scenery is pretty, if it isn't foggy. puzzles are provided for entertainment.
The housing. we're renting a furnished condo, which is fine, nice enough and ok. but it's not home or anything close to home-like as there's no room for me to add in our stuff and no storage whatsoever to put away any of their stuff. Also, we can only rent until may, at which point summer rates kick in and will bankrupt us quickly. Also, the baby is due in April, which means I have a strong urge to get settled somewhere. soon. There's not much available to rent, and we are told that most deals happen word-of-mouth. So I'm struggling to be patient, and we tell pretty much everyone we meet that we are looking for a rental situation.
The prices. While nothing at all like the cost of living in bush Alaska, the food at the local supermarket runs a bit pricey and the produce at the farm stands is astonishingly expensive. We've signed up for a quarter of local, pastured beef, but anticipate paying about $500 for it. Chickens can be purchased locally but at a self-imposed sliding scale fee of $4-8 per pound. I am so put off by the stigma of requesting the cheapest price and also put off by the idea of paying more than $4 per pound of chicken, even local chicken that I can't get it together to sign up at all.
The phones. cell phones get little to no reception on most of the island. We bought a "booster" which does indeed boost the signal, but is limited to our house. So we are paying cell phone rates for essentially landline usage. We could give the phones up, but the usefulness of having them while off island is enough for now that we keep them.
Some good things:
Preschool. Julia goes tuesday and thursday from 9 to 12 and loves it. the very first day I stayed with her and did my monthly parent volunteer day, which consisted of cleaning, providing snack, and light supervision of kids. Since then she's gone by herself and has shown little anxiety about the separation. two days a week costs us $95 a month, which is pretty dang good as far as preschool rates go. Julia has become a lot more content since preschool started. She's always had a strong social urge and this opportunity to play with kids is critical to her general happiness.
A friend. Crystal and Anthony and their 4 boys under the age of 7 moved here the same time we did, from upstate New York. Anthony teaches at the school and Crystal is home right now with her two youngest. One of the boys is 3, and he and Julia get along great. It's super nice to have someone with similar aged kids who can relate to the trauma of moving! They are the only really friendly family I've met so far, so I'm grateful they exist!
Beaches. two blocks away is the nearest beach and the island is littered with them. The one closest to us is a great spot to find beach glass and I've got a large bowl filled already. Julia collects shells and little crab skeletons. Sometimes we see seals in the water. No whale sightings yet, though they are supposed to be out there.

the little bench outside the preschool 
the beach closest to our house

a good day's worth of sea glass 
our bounty of green tomatoes from our garden. Now we are down to just one bowl of wrinkly ripe ones left
Julia and Gus (#2 of the 4) checking out a starfish
the beach at our friend's house
one day we rented a kayak and paddled around. Julia loved it, and it was lovely except that it made my morning sickness worse! i've had an aversion to boats ever since. 

one day someone was selling fresh salmon out of their truck for $1.50 per lb. we bought 3 and Dave filleted them and froze them. I think the total was $24.  I hope we see them again soon so we can stock up a bit more before winter. Julia was very involved with the fish cleaning and cutting. 

for those of you familiar to the reference, there's a potty patrol on the island! At the local trash facility first you pay for your trash at $8 per large bag. then you sort your recyclables, for free. then you head over to a big room of free stuff. take it or leave it. it's staffed, so it's sorted and easy to pick through and on our first visit, Julia adopted this enormous robotic veloceraptor. It looks completely evil, but she cuddles it, wraps it in blankets, feeds it playdough and flowers and puts bows around its neck.  
the first day of preschool! She was so excited we had to leave the house a full hour early and go to the beach to kill some time.   
and nothing like a good wrestle with Daddy and Andrew Schwartz, who came to visit for a day. Other visitors so far have been Grandma Gini, Grandmomma Dawn and Auntie Gracie, who just moved next door to Bellingham to start college. Nobody else is in the wings yet, so reserve your vacation days and come check out the island!