Friday, December 26, 2008

Great Expectations

I know, I said I wasn't coming back until next year... but here I am anyway. Now that Christmas has come and gone, I found myself with a little spare time on my hands this morning.

Well, in all honesty, I should also send a big "thanks" out to my husband. Seems that since he had a whole four days at home with me and Beans, he realized how much work there really IS to do at home, and was sweet enough to leave me with a very clean house before he returned to work this weekend.
Of course, me cussing at the Christmas tree -which the cat and Beans both tried to make into a "fort"- along with threats to throw the tree out the window were also likely to encourage J to take down the tree for me before going back to work.

Yes, I know... "Bah Hum Bug". Most years, our tree would go up the day after Thanksgiving and not come down until New Year's Day. If you read my last entry, you'll see that the Decked Halls were causing a lot of work and a lot of stress, so in the spirit of "taking it easy", the tree, the decorations, and the Holiday Cheer came down as soon as the food settled in our bellies (which took a long time, actually), and our guests left the house.

For inquiring minds... Christmas was wonderful in the Moose Nuggets home. Beans was awake exceptionally early (completely unrelated to any Christmas excitement, since she hardly understands the concept yet). But after my initial groan and laying in bed wondering how on earth I, of all people, ended up with a child who wakes up so early in the day, I realized it was Christmas, and I was filled with my own child-like excitement to rush downstairs and start the day.

With coffee in one hand, and Beans in the other, we moved the baby gate from the tree and let the chaos begin.

Ok. That's actually a serious exaggeration, actually. Beans initially giggled and tentatively poked at the gifts under the tree, but since she has spent since Thanksgiving morning being warned about touching anything, she ended up sitting down as close as she dared to the tree, quietly patting wrapped presents and saying (and signing), "No, No, No, Mimi."

I should mention that "Mimi" is the name she has dubbed herself with recently. No arguments here. My great-grandmother was known as "Mimi", and I am full of fond memories and feelings when my daughter uses that name for herself.

Larry, on the other hand, had no such concerns about not touching the tree, and quickly dashed behind it into a cozy spot where Beans couldn't torment him.

It took quite some time to convince Beans that it was truly acceptable to not only touch the boxes, but unwrap them as well.
It took a couple hours to unwrap presents. No, no... not because of any excess in our house (we planned to keep Christmas small, and did), but because Beans was fascinated with each package. First, the were bows to rip to shreds. Then paper to not only tear, but also try to eat. Then there was the discovery of things IN the packages.

I'd like to take a moment here and now to thank my mother profusely for sending plenty of things that make noise. Just letting you know that we will be sure to bring these along on any visits we make home in the near future. Beans LOVES the Leap Frog Phonics refrigerator magnets. I, on the other hand, have already half lost my brains listening to, "Every letter makes a sound, T says tuh!"

(Stop cackling to yourself mom...)

I digress...

All in all, Christmas was great. Our friend "Huff" came by for Christmas Lunch, where we had ham and plenty of trimmings. We were all successfully stuffed, and spent most of the afternoon lounging around, trying not to doze off, and rubbing our swollen bellies. J was sweet enough to do all the dishes, and even little Beans was compliant with amusing herself for a good bit of the afternoon. (It helped that there was chocolate and candy canes to use as bribes.) As usual, we watched our marathon of movies, including our Saturday Night Live Christmas Special, and hours and hours of A Christmas Story.

Huff headed off to the fire station for another Christmas meal with her sweetheart, and with Beans down for a nap, J and I continued to stuff ourselves with pumpkin pie and other goodies, the began disassembling Christmas. The evening was concluded with finally washing the cranberry sauce out of Beans' hair, getting her nestled, snug in her bed, and dozing off myself, with over-indulgence leaving nightmares of sugarplums dancing in my head.


I was watching the news this morning, and was (as I am every year) puzzled by the concept of "Holiday Let-Down".

Oh, I know... it's a real phenomenon. And it affects millions of people. But I got to thinking about the concept of it, and realized that this is a "problem" we self-create.

Let-Down comes from setting too great expectations.

I was talking to my sons yesterday. They definitely live a different life than we do. Their paternal family lavishes them with gifts (which is fine, that's what they do), and Christmas is a HUGE extravaganza. I listened to the boys describe their mountains of Christmas presents (though I must admit that after a while, the list was so comprehensive that even I lost interest), and at the end of the list, I was surprised to hear both of them report how "this was a 'small' Christmas, since the big gift was the house they have been building."

Oh, My.

Kind of made me feel a little bad about sending them a couple Alaska sweatshirts and hats, until my middle son mentioned how he was wearing his sweatshirt, and wanted to know if I could send him another one, so he would have one to wear while the other one was being washed.

Well, I mention this, because I received another call the next morning, with reports of how they had spent their Christmas money (already? Jeez. I'm still in a pumpkin pie stupor and couldn't imagine having been out shopping already!) And the boys were anxious to hear what I got for Christmas, as well as Beans' gift list. I think they were equally surprised to hear the short lists.

It got me thinking...

I was quite content with our Christmas. In fact, as much as I appreciate all the things I received, as well as Beans and Josh, I still feel like there was "too much". Several of Beans' new toys were put away for a day when she is finally "bored" with a couple of the new ones we left out for her to play with. Several of my own gifts were stashed away for another day (mostly because my gigantic pregnant belly isn't going to fit into that beautiful sweater J bought me.)
J got mostly useful things (since he has a very practical wife). But even a few of his gifts will have to wait for his next hunting trip to get good use out of them.

No one in our house was disappointed. No one in our house has Holiday Let-Down. No one in our house has any plans to go out and buy all the things we didn't get that we really wanted, or exchanging, returning, or otherwise re-gifting unwanted items.
Well, other than the fact that I bought a couple belts for J that were too big. But in my defense, he HAS been putting on a couple pounds. Seems that he is "eating for two" along with me. AND, I didn't really think that there would be such a difference between a size 36 and size 38 belt, but apparently, there is. Not like women's clothing, where you might wear a size six OR a size eight, or even a size ten depending on the designer, how much water you are retaining, or what time of the month it is. But all is well... I'll exchange the belts for the smaller size, and everything will be just fine. Luckily J also has a sense of humor when it comes to his wife thinking he was a little chunkier than he actually is. I think his response was, "Yeah. I know I'm getting fat, but I don't really want to grow into that one, babe."

Nope. Everyone here is pretty content. And above all, the house is cleaned up, the refrigerator is full of leftovers (as well as a ham bone for ham and bean soup), there are a few slices of pumpkin pie left in the fridge, and the true spirit of Christmas (that whole "togetherness/family" thing) is intact.

I'm wondering if Holiday Let-Down comes from expecting too much. Way too much.
We expect to get everything on the "All I Want For Christmas List" (when our lists are usually too long and filled with stuff that we'll likely become bored with all too quickly anyway).
We expect gift givers to select the "perfect" presents for us.
We expect too much of our families and friends in lots of various ways.

Maybe we need to reevaluate our expectations.

As a side note, I was watching Little House On The Prairie Christmas on TV the other night. I know, I'm a dork. But it's one of my favorite series.
I read the series of books as a child-several times, and, in fact, received the set of books for Christmas this year. (After telling J about a thousand times how I had always hoped I was going to "inherit" my mom's set that stayed on my own bookshelves during my growing-up years.)
Anyway... I have always been intrigued by the sense of awe and thankfulness that the Ingalls family has for the simplest of "luxuries". There was the Christmas that Mr Edwards braved horrible weather conditions, just to be sure the packages from "Santa" arrived at the Ingalls' home. Peppermint sticks for the girls, their "very own" tin cups (before that Christmas, they had spent years sharing the same cup, as that's what they could afford). Ma had made beautiful red mittens for the girls. And aside from oranges, maybe the most "luxurious" item was the sweet potatoes (or yams) that Mr Edwards had brought Ma for her Christmas dinner. A little white sugar for coffee (instead of sweetening with their usual molasses, which was cheap and abundant in their day), and Christmas was complete.
There was little expectation that Christmas, so ANY gift they received was welcomed with joy and amazement.
I think I can honestly say that there was probably not a hint of "holiday let down" in the Ingalls' home that year, or any other year, for that matter.

It left me thinking about the concept of gratitude. Sometimes, when we are disappointed (whether from "holiday let down" or otherwise being let down) we need to take a step back and think,
What were my expectations?
Were they realistic?
Was I expecting too much?

This has been a valuable lesson for me this week, as I have dealt with some of my own disappointments (not holiday related!) that have occurred over the past few weeks.
Reviewing those things through those questions has left me feeling less disappointed, and able to find "solutions" to achieve contentment with those situations.

I hope your holiday season left you feeling content.
Meanwhile, Beans is again showing her discontent with the concept of nap time, so I am off to rescue her from crib-prison.

Until next time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where in the World IS Moose Nuggets???

Oh, hello readers! So sorry to leave all of you hanging in the balance. We have had crazy life stuff going on around here.

Where to start???

Well, the primary reason for my absence has been dealing with pregnancy issues. We recently switched from a doctor to a midwife, because I am tired of "medically" treated pregnancies. Contrary to popular belief, pregnancy is NOT an illness, ailment, or otherwise medical anomaly. AND, I was really tired of having a "primary doctor" that never seems to be in the office the days we can get to Fairbanks, leaving me with the doctor I believe I mentioned before as the one that I would rather-have-a-baby-on-the-side-of-the-highway-than-let-her-birth-my-baby.

Well, I LOVE the midwife. I really do. From the first visit with her, she impressed me. She spent a LONG time in the office with us (like, three hours!). She was not only interested in my medical history and her chart, but in ME, as a person, a mom, a wife. She showed interest in us as a family. And didn't mind that Beans pooped twice in her office, or smashed a bunch of cheerios on the floor to amuse herself.

So. While my initial intent was to avoid being medically treated for pregnancy, apparently my body DOES consider pregnancy an ailment of sorts.
I have a LONG history of preterm labor. In fact, I have been treated for preterm labor in ALL my pregnancies. I don't know what made me think I was going to avoid that ailment this time around... which leads me to explain my long absence from Moose Nuggets.

DON'T PANIC. Yes, we are having some preterm labor issues. I was issued my prescription for progesterone (or as J calls it, "The I-Wish-My-Wife-Wasn't-Acting-Possessed" medicine), asked repeatedly if there was ANY possible way to make bed rest happen (um, hello! Does anyone notice I have a VERY active toddler???), and then given a couple stern looks when I insisted that NO, bed rest was NOT possible, NO we do not (for the millionth time!) have family in the area, and NO, none of our family or friends have flexible enough lives or schedules to come here until I have the New Little Nugget.

What part of "no" is so difficult to comprehend? Honestly? Is it my southern accent that makes it hard to understand?

I was advised to start the progesterone (which I did) and "take it as easy as possible" and to "stay off my feet". Um, OK. We'll see how long that lasts.
For the record, it was exactly ten minutes of sitting on my fanny with my feet up before Beans decided my "bed rest" was over.

To continue with the saga... as I have been TRYING to take it "as easy as possible", the preterm labor issues kicked up a notch this week, and we found ourselves in Fairbanks again. This time, an infection causing some preterm labor. Antibiotics should fix that problem in a week. Meanwhile, we also got another look at the baby, as the OB that oversees the midwife suggested we take another look at my amniotic fluid levels and my cervix. (I know, you wanted to know all about my body parts, right?)

With all that said... baby is doing fine. So are my body parts, for now. The antibiotic should stop my body's protesting which is causing all the trouble, at least this week's trouble. I was again lectured on the benefits of bed rest, and came close to asking the doctor if HE was going to come chase after Beans for me. Yeah, I know. Go home and take it as easy as possible, and stay off my feet.

For those of you wondering about what now feels like a VERY small detail... the baby still doesn't really want to cooperate with gender prediction. We get little glimpses from time to time on our ultrasounds, and the GENERAL consensus is that it's looking like girl parts, but we never really get a very clear shot.
And like I said, at this point, gender seems like such a minor detail. Full term, healthy, and staying put until mid-April is what I really care to see these days.

Um... not sure how much blogging about the details I will do. Let me forewarn you, readers... the progesterone makes me terribly moody. The current dosing method (Um, suppository. You wanted to know, right?) is a lot better than the injections I got when I was pregnant with Beans. The side effects are not nearly as extreme as they were with the injections. But you can confirm with J... I am definitely getting a little more snippy these days.
If my future blog entries sound like I am mad at the world and all it's inhabitants, well... it's probably because I am a hormonal wreck.
Like I said, I don't think doctors should play too much with nature. There is a REASON why our bodies don't produce an extra 400 mg of progesterone per day!
AND... I'm not sure how upbeat and excited my future posts will sound. Oh, I know I SOUND like I'm holding everything together well, and for the most part (and most days), I am. But the risks of preterm labor and all the scary things that go with it sometimes lead to downright weepy sort of days.
If you can handle my moodiness and a few "down" days, then keep reading, and I'll keep posting. But I'll warn the "Fair-Weather" readers, I am likely to start blogging about some real-life feelings from time to time.

Just one tiny request from you readers though.... if you want to offer support, please do. If you want to offer suggestions, well... no offense, but please don't. Like I said, I've been through preterm labor in all three of my previous pregnancies, now this one. I kind of feel like an old pro at it, AND I'm a little burned out, frankly. I'm getting enough "What you need to do is..." from the medical community. At this point, I would much rather hear, "Wow. Sounds like that really sucks, and I hope everything works out OK." If you want to bring me dinner, chase my toddler up and down the stairs, or carry my laundry up three flights of stairs so I can "take it easy", you can do that too. That would rock.

ANYHOO... moving on (before I get to that "weepy" thing I was talking about)...

Other changes have been taking place in the Moose Nuggets Household.
For starters, I was finding J's overtime schedule a bit lonely. Besides, he was coming home moody and irritable and I was tired of his attitude.
So, I found a new man.
This guy is a little overweight, but otherwise pretty cute. He's gentle and patient, very loving and affectionate, and is very patient and tolerant with Beans. I met him at the Delta Junction Christmas Bazaar and it was love at first sight. I brought him home the following day, he spent the night, and has moved in. Oh, and his name is Larry.
Did I mention, he's affectionate?
In fact, he is sitting at my feet, purring away, begging for attention.
Larry is a cat. (Honestly, did you really think I was going to ditch my husband?)
Larry (the cat) was brought to the bazaar by a local animal shelter. He was a pitiful, giant lump of a cat, waiting for someone to love him. Beans saw him first, and I was immediately impressed that Larry didn't bite, hiss, meow, or otherwise protest when Beans tried to "love" him.
Larry has made himself quite comfy in our home. He's a LAZY lump of a cat, which really makes him the perfect pet for us. All he asks for is food in his bowl, a clean litter box, a place to escape Beans' "love" from time to time (though he actually seems to enjoy being her pillow and being hugged and kissed all day), and a spot on my lap in the evenings, after everyone else has gone to bed. Very low maintenance, which is good, considering that until I fell in love with him, the only pet I was willing to look after was a stuffed animal, and Beans' goldfish, "Bub", who refuses to die even though I only remember to feed him every couple days. (Just kidding! He gets fed every day! Calm down, local PETA readers!)

Other Changes in the Moose Nugget Household:

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
Actually, it's been looking a lot like Christmas since Thanksgiving Day, when the tree and decorations came out.
For the record... I usually LOVE Christmas time and all the decorations. But I have quickly discovered that with toddlers, it is not a wise idea to have a full nativity set, glass or ceramic snowmen collections, Party lite Candle collections, or ANY item that plays music at the push of a button hanging around.
After a couple hours, the nativity set went back to storage. Baby Jesus was in extreme peril of being eaten, and the Angel of the Lord was going to have to earn her wings again. Mary and Joseph nearly faced the wrath of the Wise Men, and one of the serene looking shepherds is now herding flocks of Little People toys instead of guarding his flocks by night.
A few days later, the candles were put away. A few days later, I had even had enough of my favorite song ("Santa Baby"), compliments of my gaudy dancing snowman, when Beans discovered she could make it work with the push of a button. Oh, and if I hear "Up on the Housetop" one more time (compliments of a music box I get asked a hundred times a day to wind up), I am going to start shouting "Bah Humbug!" from the top of a bell tower.
Our beautiful Christmas tree now has a baby gate around it. That MOSTLY keeps Beans from demolishing it, though she does like to stick her fingers through the gate and try to rip bows off packages. Unfortunately, the gate does nothing to keep Larry from seeking refuge from Beans in the boughs of the tree... or his current favorite hiding spot, a large gift bag, housing one of Beans' presents.
(Oh, I wish the doctor and midwife could be around the house telling me to "take it easy" as I try to keep Beans from eating Christmas light bulbs while simultaneously trying to extract a 22 pound cat from a Christmas tree!)

This is the first year in a LONG time that I am actually looking forward to taking the decorations down. I usually leave them up until the first of the year, but one more week of "Silver Bells" (compliments of yet another obnoxious decoration I used to love!) may be enough to drive me over the edge.
Next year... I think I am going for a tabletop tree. Out of reach, and too small for the cat to hide in. And my singing, dancing snowman will stay in storage until I can hear "Santa Baby" without cringing.


Speaking of Christmas....

It's time for another Soapbox Moment From Moose Nuggets:

I have to admit, I am enjoying Christmas in Delta Junction. Not much in the way of commercialism here, and people are genuinely wishing each other a "Merry Christmas".
Fairbanks? Not so much. I was amazed to discover how many angry, irritated shoppers will ram their shopping carts into an obviously pregnant woman because they are in pursuit of the last Barbie Mansion, or whatever they are shopping for.
I tend to think that MOST shoppers at any time of the year are a bit oblivious, but Christmas does tend to make it a bit more obvious. Between that and the OBVIOUSLY newlywed couple making out in the candy aisle, I was ready to go home.
A note on that couple, in case they are readers.... you should pick a different aisle for making out. You were standing between a pregnant woman and an insane craving for Almond Roca. That's NOT a very smart place to be.

ANYHOO... on to my soapbox moment:

The commercialism of Christmas just bugs the you-know-what out of me. That's nothing new. But this particular year, what REALLY gets me is that we are in a recession. (Oh, and thanks for finally admitting we are in a recession. Not that it wasn't obvious MONTHS ago!)
We are in a recession, our economy is in the toilet, and auto makers, lenders, and various other people are begging the government for bailouts.
At the same time, we consumers are being encouraged to use our credit cards, buy gifts for people we don't have meaningful relationships with, and buy and give things that people don't NEED.
The "experts" think THIS year is bad. If they keep encouraging the American Consumer the way they have been, next Christmas is going to be a lot worse.

Let me just throw this out there:

Moose Nuggets has a different view of "gift giving".
Let me start by saying, I LOVE to give things to people. I love to GIVE and DO things for people. I love to treat my friends like the family I always wanted to have.
Yes, I AM the Betty Crocker/Martha Stewart friend. I spend all year making a mental note of the things my friends like to eat, drink, do, and what their favorite colors are. And when the holidays and birthdays come around, I am generous to a fault. (My husband often comments that I put in way more effort on my friends and family than is reciprocated to me.)
But I NEVER break the bank, go over budget, or give gifts that make people feel like they have to run out and buy me something of "equal value".

That's because MY idea of gift giving involves things like knowing our friend Matt loves the no-bake oatmeal cookies that I make. And it takes very little money and no more effort than my usual holiday baking to make a couple dozen for him and drop them off at the fire station. Or finding out that my friend Heather only likes one specific brand of candy canes that she can't find here. I found them on a fluke while in Walmart. They cost all of $2, and it totally made her day. (Oh, she has other presents coming too, but since she hasn't gotten to open them yet and she reads my blog, I can't divulge what I've been up to around here!)
I love to crochet. It's a hobby I learned as a child, and I've continued it into adulthood. My crochet hooks were great friends to me when I was on bed rest with Beans (16 weeks! I got a LOT of projects done!).
I've continued the hobby as a way to quit smoking (keeps your hands busy and I never wanted my projects to smell like smoke), and now that I am "taking it as easy as possible", my hooks are a good excuse to get my feet up for a while. Yarn (well, some of it) is relatively cost-effective. I spent some of my holiday season crocheting sweaters for a friend's girls, hats, scarves, ear warmers, and various other projects. Sure, some of the yarns cost me a little money, but not nearly as much as a store-bought sweater would have run me. (And most of the projects this year were actually made from yarn I already had in my stash.)
And just as a guess, the friends I keep will appreciate the hand-made item and treasure it more than they would some store-label brand.

For the record, it helps if you do good work, if you are going to make stuff! Not to brag, but I DO have a knack for making very pretty things, and if I don't like how a project works out, I don't "gift it" to someone! I find something I am good at, and do that!
In other words, no tacky macrame or gaudy pot holders here! The things I make, you actually WANT to use them. (Or at least that's what my friends tell me!)

A handful of other people will get bags or tins of chex mix, cookies, homemade candies, and various other things that I was going to bake or make anyway. I love to bake, but I'm certainly not going to eat 6 dozen cookies myself!

My point is this: Why do we feel we have to go out and buy stuff we can't afford for people who won't really appreciate the effort? How many fruitcakes DOES your postal carrier need?
I'm not "above" buying a gift, by any means. But WHEN I buy a gift, it's something that has made me think of the recipient, or that I know they would like or need. I do NOT buy gifts for "everyone". I buy gifts when the mood strikes, or the right present for the right person "finds" me. If I don't happen to find something "meaningful" that strikes me for someone who IS on my "list", then I make something I know they would enjoy.
Christmas should be about giving a gift that matters, not just a gift for the sake of giving a gift.

The economy is in the toilet, and over the next few days, millions of Americans will be out in the stores, frantically searching for the "perfect gift" for someone on their list.
On the religious side, The "Perfect Gift" has already arrived. He's the whole reason for celebrating the holiday. He's the reason that the average jerk in the universe (yeah, me) can have a relationship with God.

If you don't like the religious take, the "Perfect Gift" could also be: giving yourself some financial security by saying NO to the pressure to spend your money in a rotten economy.

Just guessing, but I know at least one wife in the world (specifically in Delta Junction, taking it as easy as possible) who thinks the "perfect gift" would be actually getting to stop the hustle and bustle and spend the day with my husband, daughter, and a few friends. To have a little Christmas music in the background, a pleasant holiday meal, some pumpkin pie, cookies, Christmas candies, and chex mix... a hot cup of coffee and the giggling of a silly toddler playing "peek-a-boo" and begging for the music box to be wound up, AGAIN.

The "Perfect Gift" doesn't require money. All it requires is your time....
Time to stop and tell your family you love them.
Time to be a true friend.
Time to treat others kindly.
Time to invite someone to your house for dinner.
Time to love your neighbor as yourself.

If you are a New Year's Resolution type of person, I would encourage you to take a good look at your goals this upcoming year. Instead of the usual goals of "Save more money" or "Quit Smoking" (both admirable goals, by the way)... why not look for a paradigm shift in the way you view relationships?
MEANINGFUL relationships survive any economic crisis. Meaningful relationships survive most other types of crisis, too.
Meaningful relationships make a difference and MATTER to people much more than pricey gifts and excess. Much more than a handful of email forwards and annual Christmas cards.
Be MEANINGFUL to someone in the coming year. Make it a challenge to yourself to MATTER in someone's life.

Forget the gifts. Forget spending money. There's plenty of room on our couch for one more while we have our Christmas Movie Marathon... and plenty of chex mix.

I hope your holidays are full of family- however you define it, love- in the sense of giving it instead of worrying about receiving it, gifts from the heart, companionship of the people who make your life better, graciousness, and contentment for what you have and where you are.

Hopefully my next absence will not be so long, but I have a feeling I won't be seeing y'all until next year! (Which is only a week away, folks!) In the meantime, you can "matter" to our family by keeping us in your prayers and thoughts, as we hope for a safe and full-term arrival of the New Nugget, with as few problems between here and there as we can get.

Until then,
Merry Christmas, Y'all!
(And if you celebrate anything else, then Merry, Happy Whatever you Celebrate to you, too!)

Happy Moose Trails!

Friday, November 28, 2008

More Giving Thanks

Hey, y'all!

First things first, I wish I had cooked a bigger turkey. Even though we had a small gathering for Thanksgiving this year, 16 pounds really isn't enough, when you love leftovers like I do.
Ever seen "A Christmas Story"? You know how Ralphie describes his dad's love for turkey? It's the same way here.
I LOVE turkey. I would cook a holiday meal once a week, if it wasn't so much fuss. The best part about the meal is the days that follow... sneaking cold turkey out of the fridge between meals, snacking on spoonfuls of homemade cranberry sauce, nibbling the remains of stuffing, mashed potatoes.... and then, who can pass up a good turkey pot pie or turkey soup in the days that follow?
Not to mention, my oldest son insists that I make THE best pumpkin pie in the world, usually from our Halloween Jack-o-Lantern.

Do You Know:
Not many people seem to be aware that you can eat a pumpkin. I always get remarks and looks of surprise when I buy pumpkins. I get asked a lot of questions at the check-out counter, mostly from people who wonder why I am buying multiple pumpkins, or checking them as thoroughly as I would an apple or orange I was going to buy.
No, folks, I am NOT going to carve four Jack-o-Lanterns. In fact, I probably won't even carve one. I mean, why waste perfectly good food?
Good Food? Did you hear that correctly?
Yup, good food.
Pumpkin is a squash. You can cook and prepare it the same way you would prepare any kind of squash. I prefer to bake it in the oven. Beans LOVES fresh cooked pumpkin, and begs for it as it comes out of the oven. It's insanely good for you and tastes better than most other squash I've eaten.
After baking down my pumpkin, I puree what Beans doesn't eat, and freeze it for making pumpkin pies (that's the secret to really good pumpkin pie... fresh pumpkin!) or pumpkin milk shakes (don't say "eeewwww" until you've had one!), pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and all kinds of other yummy treats. So yummy, you don't even know you are eating vegetables!
And DUH! Of course we save the guts. The seeds are great dried, roasted, seasoned... and a surprising source of magnesium, calcium, and various other nutrients.
The only parts you don't eat are the stem (unless you REALLY need some fiber!), and the stringy guts, but only because they really don't taste so good.

I digress....
This is supposed to be about Thanks. And how I'm feeling thankful. Which is a good thing, because when I'm pregnant, I don't really feel so "thankful". Don't get me wrong... I LOVE being a mom. Pregnant? Nope. I don't love "pregnant".

This particular pregnancy has been a little nerve racking. No, no... don't panic. All is well with the New Little Nugget (who refuses to give us a definite view of the gender parts, by the way). The pregnancy is running along just swimmingly, all is healthy, progressing as normal, and now that I am well past the first trimester, I am feeling more energetic and generally less moody (though I'm sure J would disagree with that last bit).

The nerve racking part stems from the fact that eventually, this baby will want out. And while I am definitely excited about that particular day (did I mention I don't like "pregnant"?), I am definitely becoming aware of what labor and delivery in Alaska means.
Um, not only are we a good 5,000 miles away from any of our friends or family, we are a good 100 miles away from the closest hospital. And while I definitely would prefer to have a natural childbirth, MY idea of "natural" still takes place in a medical facility that has drugs they can offer me if I decide I really want to change my mind. MY idea of "natural" does not involve having a baby along a 100 mile stretch of road called the Richardson Hwy, in the backseat of my minivan. Or having labor assisted by paramedics.
Dude, I was a paramedic for 7 years. I KNOW what medics talk about when they get back to the station after delivering babies on the side of the road. Seriously, I delivered a baby per year for every year that I was a medic. Not only have I seen the miracle of birth (a little closer than I really cared to, for that matter), um... I have seen how a woman delivering a baby in the backseat of her car looks like. And besides, my husband, the Fire Fighter, works with the handful of medics that are available out here in the sticks. I mean, I like all those guys just fine, and they are nice fellas to talk to, but they don't really need to see me THAT close and personal, ya know?
Thanks, but I still prefer the hospital.

Ah, I digress again... doesn't sound too thankful yet, right? Eh, hold your horses and keep reading. Or close the window and go back to surfing eBay. Either way, I'm gonna keep babbling.

So... in a moment of Pregnancy-Induced-Hormonal-Panic (it's a serious medical condition, ask my husband), I completely freaked out.
A word of advice: when you are pregnant, you should strictly avoid reading any books about labor and delivery. Especially if you live in the middle of nowhere, and might not make it to the hospital. And super-especially if you live 5,000 miles away from your friends and family that could be available to babysit your toddler, offer support, or at least make you laugh about "mooing like a cow" for pain relief during your "natural" labor. (That's a tip I read in one of those books I've just banned.)

I ignored my own advice and picked up a really good book about natural childbirth. And then I made the Pregnant Wife Fatal Error, and asked my sweet husband for his opinion on the matter. The poor guy never stood a chance, you know. I mean, someone should have warned him that ANYTHING he said was going to be the wrong answer.
The end result was me, sobbing hysterically on the couch about how I am going to have to labor alone, and if he thinks I'm "so strong" and how "natural is best" and how I should do things "like they used to back in the day", well then maybe I should just skip the hospital and go have my baby in cave somewhere, chewing through the umbilical cord and such.
In retrospect, this is not likely to happen. First, the caves in Alaska are VERY cold. Second, there are bears here, people! If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you know of my insane fear of bears. And while I have relaxed a bit (no, there aren't bears around every tree, after all), um, I still don't want to risk attracting a giant grizzly to my birthing cave to eat both me, and my baby. And chewing through an umbilical cord is just disgusting. Oh, I'm a nature lovin' hippie, but that's one "call of nature" I can peacefully ignore.

SO... poor J is now fumbling for the right words to say as I sob hysterically. The conversation is going something like:
J: "Baby, of course you aren't going to be alone! We'll hire a doula! We'll fly your friends in! We'll spare no expense! We'll do whatever we have to!"
(Spare no expense, huh? For a moment, my mind wonders if Tiffany's has anything that would make me feel better, then I remember I don't really like jewelry.)
Me: "Sniff sniff, WAHH! Just...sniff...! WAAHH!"
J: "Baby, no one is going to leave you alone. Come give me a hug. You're gonna be OKAY."
Me: "No I'm not! SNIFF! I'm going to end up having a baby on the side of the road! SNIFF! With NO ONE! WAAAHHH!!!"
J: "Awww... Even if that does happen, you won't have 'no one'! I'll be there! I'm still gonna have to drive you to the hospital, remember?"
Me: "Don't you even realize how stupid that sounded?!?!? WAH!!! I really am ah...ah...ah...alone!" Hiccup, sob, sob, sob... snorfle, sniff.
J: "Crud. How do I fix this one, so I can go pee and go to bed sometime today?"
(A short moment of disbelief as it registers that he would rather pee and go to bed than listen to me cry...)
Me: WAHHHHHH!!!!! Oh, just *sniff* leave *sniff* me ALONE!"

I think at that point, I stomped off, leaving the poor guy to figure out if it was going to be better to sleep on the couch or try to snuggle up to me in the bed. Like I said, someone should have told him he was never gonna win...
He DID come to bed, and I DIDN'T bite his head off, but I did pretend to snore and be asleep when he said, "I DO love you, ya know..." And then I think I mumbled something about how I loved him too, and if he was REALLY sorry, he would scratch my back until I fell asleep.

Well, as all other tiffs in our house, this one blew over. A good night's sleep and a cup of coffee generally fixes most problems at our house. J ventured off to work this morning, and after Folger's managed to clear the fog out of my own mind, I started looking for doulas.

That is where the thanks comes in... things are still preliminary, and we have meetings and introductions and contracts to look at, but I DID talk to a doula today who has lots of experience, good reputation, and qualifications. Most of all, she made me feel like labor and delivery was doable, and was not going to require me to be alone in any capacity, much less in a cave, surrounded by hungry bears.

I should mention here, for family that is wondering...
The biggest concern is that we don't have someone to watch Beans. OK, OK... we have a few friends here that in an emergency, we would call. That said... Beans has NEVER been away from both parents, and she hasn't left MY side for more than a couple hours, like maybe once, when I got a haircut. Plus, she's "still" nursing, and I expect her to "still" be nursing then, too.
I know, I know. Most of you (one best friend and probably at least one mom) are thinking, "Get over it, find a sitter."
Yeah, just remember, I'm your weird best friend and weird daughter. This is one of the things I'm really weird about. I don't like leaving my daughter with a non-family member, and I'm not a fan of leaving my kids with sitters until they are old enough to tell me what happened while I was gone.
I know, I'm crazy, Get over it. Different strokes for different folks, right?
Besides, Beans could test the patience of Mother Theresa on a GOOD day. If she's going to test some one's patience on a bad day, I'd rather it be someone who has a lot of experience with that, which leaves me and J, and just a hunch... I think I might be a little too busy while I'm in labor to handle Miss Beans' antics.

The current plan is for J and Beans to stay in a hotel near the hospital, and for me to labor with a doula.
I DID find out from the doula I spoke with today that the Fairbanks Hospital is a little more progressive than Bean's birthplace, and J and Beans will both be allowed in the labor and delivery room, as well as visiting with me and the new baby for the duration of our stay in the hospital. She also mentioned that would be a good way for J to not actually miss the birth, but still have the flexibility to take Beans out and about if he needed to. They don't have the old fashioned rules about having to stay in bed or not being allowed to go pee or take a shower.

Well, the plan all along was to find a doula for labor and delivery. But my moment of Pregnancy Induced Hormonal Panic pushed me toward actually making some calls. And I'm so glad I did. That's really where the thankfulness comes in. It's nice to feel like there IS a solution to the situation. It's also nice to know that it's not going to cost quite as much as I thought it was going to (though in my PIHP, I probably would have paid triple what the actual fee is anyway). And it even costs significantly less than it would to get one of my friends off their duffs and on an airplane to laugh at me "mooing" my way through labor and delivery. (Seriously, I'm NOT going to moo. I'm telling the doula up front... NO mooing. I won't be able to handle it if I look and feel like a farm animal AND sound like one, to boot.)

For family and friends: we have a consultation with the doula in December. Hopefully she's everything her website and our conversation today claims that she is. It was nice talking to her, and seems like we had a good rapport. She asked lots of good questions that set my mind at ease about laboring in front of a total stranger, and her fee includes several prenatal visits to get to know each other and have some "education" about labor and delivery.. though if I don't know what to expect on my fourth delivery, well... then I need more than doula, probably.

Meanwhile, poor J is still wondering why on earth he keeps breeding with me, when every time it turns me into some crazy, hormonal, crying-over-Reading-Rainbow woman who keeps threatening to give birth in a cave. Oh, that poor guy. I'll have to remember to be nice to him, when I'm done being pregnant. (grin) JUST KIDDING... I'm still MOSTLY nice to him.
Of course, it wouldn't hurt for the guy to remember NOT to say things like, "Well, how bad can labor be, really?" or "Wow, you're really cranky today!"

So... the current update status is:
Healthy, pregnant, not sure of gender. The first ultrasound, the tech said she thought she saw boy parts. The second ultrasound, she was "confident" telling us it was a girl. Hmph. Meanwhile, I plan on just picking out two names and packing something in green or yellow to take to the hospital. So much for modern science, right?
Oh... the important part of the ultrasound DID reveal that everything looks healthy and progressing normally. So that's good.

Meanwhile, I'm off to read more natural labor and delivery books (I know, I know. I banned them. But just like horror flicks, you can't stand to watch, but can't stand to turn away either!), and indulge myself in a Pregnancy Right... taking the last piece of pumpkin pie, and not sharing a single bite.

Until next time...
Happy Moose Trails!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Baby, It's COLD Outside!

OK, OK. I know, the locals are laughing at me. But MY last seven Christmases were spent with the air conditioning on.
I'm not kidding. Last Christmas, it was 75 degrees in Montgomery, AL. My husband, the North Dakota native, could not resist having a fire in the fireplace on Christmas Day ("It's tradition, Woman!"), so the interior of our house was somewhere around 90 degrees, WITH the AC cranking. When you add my holiday cooking (even if there are only four adults eating, there is enough food to feed an entire third world country), and a handful of in-laws, it was HOT.

For those of you back home complaining about "snow so early in the season"... well, you should just hush. It's been snowing here since September, and the thermostat outside read -20F last night. While the day "warmed up", it was still -12F when I went to get the mail.
I just want to let you know something... boogers freeze at that temperature. I know this for two reasons. One, my own boogers froze. It's a kind of uncomfortable feeling. Two, Beans' boogers froze, or at least I am assuming that was the case, as she spent the rest of the afternoon with one finger jammed up in her nose- in pursuit. (Because you wanted to know, right?)

It's cold. Yeah, I know, I know. It's gonna get colder. You know, if any locals would like to offer suggestions: I sure would like to know how to stay warm on the way to the mailbox, but not sweat in my own home.
My current method is to put my layers on (starting with good long underwear first, of course). Outside, that is actually relatively comfortable. At home, not so much. I have started to live in "Alaskan Style", which basically means wandering around my house in long underwear and hoping my friends and neighbors are kind enough to call before they stop by and see me in my skivvies. Pregnant chick in long johns? Not a pretty sight, folks.
Is there another way? One that doesn't involve dressing, undressing, and re-dressing several times a day? And what do you do on days you go to town? I mean, I need the layers while we are outside and travelling from place to place, but get me inside, especially somewhere like Walmart, that has the heat cranked up, and I'm fixin' to pass out! I can't exactly wander around Walmart in my long underwear. I mean, this is Alaska, NOT Alabama.

Moving on... this coming week marks The Most Wonderful Time of The Year. My absolute favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Which reminds me, I'd better get that turkey out of my freezer.
We have a wonderful meal planned, with turkey and all the trimmings, along with my "famous" pumpkin pie and plenty of other goodies. Thanksgiving tends to be one of the few days a year I abandon my hippie ways and make foods loaded with calories, fat, and butter... just like grandma used to make.
We'll be celebrating (eating) on Wednesday, since that's the day a couple of our friends can come dine with us, and we'll spend Thursday decking the halls, and probably each other. Two type-A personalities trying to set up Christmas? Ah, yes. J and I have had our fair share of gauntlet-throwing arguments over Christmas lights and Nativity set placement. Christmas decorating in our house usually plays out something like this:
The day is spent arguing over which color lights go on the tree. Why do we argue this? Everyone knows that colored lights look tacky and only clear lights should go on a tree. (No offense to those of you who enjoy the bright display of multi-color lights.) This is followed by a rousing debate between twinkling, flashing, fading, or steady lights. By the time we argue over which ornaments are actually going on the tree (Every year I really DO mean to hide J's collection of John Deere ornaments!) and get the stocking hung by the chimney with care, you can usually hear a conversation of, "Just put the #@&* lights on the tree, put Baby Jesus in the manger already, and leave my #@&* candy canes alone!" with "Silver Bells" playing in the background.
As we say down South, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." *grin*

In all seriousness...
I may not have time to update before Thanksgiving, so I'll start the holiday off with the things I am thankful for:

I am thankful that my husband has shown me what "family" is really about, through loving me even when I'm the one who's a big jerk for a change (*grin*), and by being consistent, and telling me he loves me every day.
I never realized that it was okay to be a real person, be myself, and still somehow manage to still be loved, so... thanks.
I am thankful that my daughter gives me REAL purpose in life. I always thought life had some kind of meaning, but getting to be Bean's mom makes me realize that all the other things I've ever done in life were just practicing having a purpose. I am thankful for every giggle, every laugh, every slobbery kiss, every late night snuggling while she nurses (yes, still nursing!), and VERY thankful that every time she head-dives off the couch, bed, step stool or other object, she survives.
Beans- it means so much to me, that you make every moment of my life count for something now. I love being your mom.

There are tons of other things and people in life I am thankful for. But I don't have time to list all of you. Chances are, if I'm thankful for you, you know it. And if you don't, then remind me to tell you sometime!

This year, I am also thankful for the personal growth that has come my way through life in Alaska. I know I've said it before, but something about being out here lends perspective to things in life. Things that used to matter and weigh me down, well... they just DON'T anymore. It's hard to explain- and while it feels like that change in thought, mind, and heart came in some life altering moment, it was more like a subtle paradigm shift, occurring over years, I'm sure.
It's going to sound strange, but, here goes...
God shows through Alaska in an interesting way. You see very raw nature here, very real life. You see nature interact and realize: there is no room in life for unforgiving, for holding a grudge, or for worrying about the "what ifs" in life. There is today, here and now. God shows you, through nature, that it is smart to LEARN from the hurts of the past... you don't often see an animal return to a place that has provided a good beating or fails to provide food. But you don't hold onto it. You learn, you let go, you move on.
I am definitely thankful to be free of those things that were, in retrospect, holding me back from moving on with my life.
I always like to do my reflecting around Thanksgiving, and set my goals for the upcoming year. It's so much easier to see what you care about, and where you want to go in life when you are being thankful.
I am excited to see where the first year of my "moving on" takes me. The world is full of possibility, excitement, and adventure!

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I have something I try to do every year, and I challenge all of you to do the same:
If you can't find something to be thankful for, try to be or do something that someone else can be thankful for. Go change someone's moment, day, week, year, or life. Buy someone a cup of coffee, smile, say "hi" to strangers. Find a need in someone's life and fill it. Be a friend, listen, lend a hand. Stop being too busy for other people.
And if you know someone who is going to otherwise spend Thanksgiving alone, invite them to your table. I mean, how hard is it to find an extra serving on a 20 pound bird? EVERYONE deserves to feel some sense of belonging, especially on days that are all about "belonging". Make someone "belong" in your home. The joy that creates will certainly outlive the leftovers.

As for me, I'll see you all when I emerge from my turkey induced coma....
Until Then,
Happy Thanksgiving, AND...
Happy Moose Trails!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What a Week

I'm going to start this entry with a disclaimer: I am in a REALLY grumpy mood today.
Hopefully, I manage to get through this entire blog without using the bad four letter words or offending too many of my readers.

So... after a lovely Halloween, followed by a busy but fun weekend of play dates and various other things-to-do, we have been hit with some sort of virus in our house.

Beans is SICK. Very, very sick. We have gotten to know the people at Family Medical Center (the emergency clinic in Delta Junction) very well this week.
What started as cold symptoms quickly progressed to a 103 F temp in little Beans that has lasted through the last 6 days. Our second trip to FMC was answered with antibiotics for Beans' very first ear infection and the ominous sounding, "Well, she has some congestion in her lungs, but it's not pneumonia YET, so let's go ahead and just start treating that too, before it gets worse."
Poor Beans has just not been herself all week, either. My usually sweet, playful little girl has been fussy, clingy, and worse, completely inactive. She has preferred to rest on mommy or daddy's shoulder, just moaning and coughing away.
After a particularly sleepy day yesterday, yet ANOTHER day of a 103 temp, and some rapid and yucky sounding breathing, we went back to FMC (again). This time was decent news: "She sounds better than she did, so let's just manage the fever and keep up with the antibiotic, and let her rest."

Yep. Our week has been pretty crummy.
Add to that the following:
I got a touch of Beans' virus. Not fun. Especially when pregnant and already feeling mostly uncomfortable.

J ended up taking several days off work to help hold down the fort, especially since I really wasn't worth much about three days into my own stint with this virus.

I am looking forward to everyone getting well again, so we can get back to our very boring and ordinary life.

In Other News:
Well, there isn't much other news.
Except that my fourteen year old son is mad at me because I challenged his political beliefs. (Um, he told me Obama was a "communist" and I made him look up the definition and explain his claims-then sent him a lengthy email defining communism and how Obama most certainly did NOT fit the description of a communist. I also included several references he could find more information on Marx and TRUE communism for good measure. Then outlined all the reasons that Obama would make a decent president, where I felt McCain lacked, etc.)
Oh, another disclaimer: I ordinarily would have claimed to be a republican, and maybe even a fairly conservative one at that. But in this particular election, and this particular point in our current status as a country, well, I went against my Republican grain and decided that the Democrat was a better choice.
besides, (and I am so sorry to my fellow Alaskan residents who love her) I really don't think Palin is a good choice for VP at this point in her "career". Aside from the fact that I think she could be home taking care of her new baby instead of helping run the country, she obviously has a few things to learn about American Government (like, the job descriptions of the VP and Congress, perhaps? Maybe the definition of Democracy?) before she applies for a bigger job.
That said, I DO think she's great for Alaska! Baby Steps when it comes to running the country, girl. Baby Steps!

Oh gosh. I am sure I probably just completely offended the majority of my readers.
Hmm... I've said it before, it's MY blog, MY opinion.
Of course, maybe at this point, my son isn't the only one who thinks I'm a communist.

He (my son) also seems to think that I voted "for the end of the world as we know it", since I voted for the president-elect. He is currently answering all my emails with traditional fourteen year old sarcasm, and I suspect he is avoiding my calls.
Son, if you are reading this blog, I still love you, even if you are being a pain-in-the-butt teenager. You should call your mother, even if you do think she's a "communist" (and I still stand by my argument that some of the issues we discussed are more "socialistic" than "communistic".)

Also, my best friend seems to be missing in action. I know, I know. You're busy. But I miss you and I'm having a particularly crummy week. So, if YOU are reading and you have time between soccer games, carpools, being tortured by toddlers, and various other crazy life things, I would love a few minutes of your time to just decompress and be reminded that I am still a great person, even if my son does think I'm a communist.

Also, my neighbor friend has been back home, visiting the Deep South.
"Huff", Beans and I miss you! You've missed some great Northern Lights this week (though nothing like we saw when you were home), the most gigantic moose that has visited our other neighbor's home-made salt lick, and you've missed out on all the fun of us being sick. I know, I know, sounds tempting enough to come back, right?
But when you DO come back, I promise lots of homemade meals, cheesy pizzas, and some sort of sinfully good treats. And can't wait to add some of those pecans ("puh-cons" to you yankees who isist on calling them "pee-cans") to Thanksgiving dinner!

Even my North Pole friends have been busy.

I am feeling a little pathetic and lonely this weekend. And we are still too sick to get out and do anything anyway. Thank goodness for Netflix, Disney, and even (I can't believe I am saying this!), cable TV.
I think it is also time to (temporarily) forsake my hippy ways and indulge in all kinds of "bad for your health but great for your emotions" kinds of foods... things like brownies and buffalo wing dip, and ice cream and potato chips. And more brownies. Yes, I AM planning on eating my feelings this weekend. I hear buffalo wing dip is great for clearing your sinuses, and brownies really DO make everything better. Trust me.

OK, OK. In all sincerity, I am more likely to throw the ingredients together for a nice, healthy homemade chicken soup, and maybe indulge in ONE brownie (with added wheat germ and whole wheat flour), and spend the day snuggling with my sick baby and reading all her favorite stories. But I AM going to pout about a fourteen year old thinking I am communist, and I probably will, at some point today, use Disney as babysitter to once again attempt to call my best friend in the whole world to complain about the unfairness of raising teenagers.

Oh, and mom, if you are reading... I know you are snickering about my argument with D. I suddenly understand what you meant when you used to tell me that you couldn't wait for me to have kids of my own. It wasn't so you would have grandchildren, was it?
On that note, I humbly apologize for all the times that you were the "dumb commie" and I was the fourteen year old who knew everything. And even though we didn't have email when I was a kid, I also apologize for the number of times I said things like, "Well, duh" and "Okey Dokey then" in really sarcastic tones when you were just trying to help me learn to think for myself.

Well dear readers, I hope next time finds me in a much better mood and with more interesting and good news to report.
Until then,
Happy Moose Trails!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lights, Long johns, and Arctic Halloween

Happy Halloween, readers! This has been a busy and very "Alaskan" week for us.

Our most recent trip to Fairbanks was productive. Good news all around at the doctor's office. The New Nugget is growing well and looks healthy, but no definite answers on gender yet. We have another ultrasound in a few weeks, so maybe we'll get a better look then.

In spite of our very awful stay on our previous trip, we decided it was better to stay overnight again. With the days getting shorter, the roads getting icier, well... it's just easier and way less stressful to drive up the day before, and then be able to head home after our appointments. Sure cuts down the bickering, anyway. We had a much more enjoyable stay this time around, and without spontaneous combustion of electrical appliances this time. *Phew!*

This time was a big shopping trip as well. J and I decided our Christmas present to each other would be a new TV and entertainment center. The evening of our return trip proved to be busy, and I was looking forward to getting little Beans into bed and snuggling up with my sweetie to check out what a TV show looked like on a 40 inch screen. (A lot bigger than it does on a 27 inch, I can tell you that much!)

As luck would have it, I was in for a much better show than I anticipated.
Nope, not on my new TV.

Around 9 pm, the phone rang. My neighbor sounded almost panicked, urging me to look out the window immediately. My initial thought was that the pesky moose that has been licking salt off the sidewalks finally trampled someone trying to get out of their car. My neighbor calmed those fears and told me the Northern Lights were out.

I'm not one to use lots of expletives (especially since Beans got into that repeating-everything-she-hears stage, but WOW. Freakin' AMAZING.

The Lights were not only out, but very active, dancing and snaking their way through the night sky. J and I rushed into coats and shoes and ran outside to join our neighbors.

Um, as an afterthought, I wish I had thrown some thermals on. For the record, thin, summer weight cotton pajama pants do NOT make for good Northern Lights viewing. it was ZERO degrees outside. And as another afterthought, I don't recommend wearing Crocs in the snow. It's a good way to end up with really cold, wet feet.

But, I digress.
The four of us stood outside, watching in amazement, and being even more amazed that we seemed to be the only neighbors who noticed or cared to watch the display of lights. Just as we were all getting cold and commenting about going in, the Lights made a sudden change and began to switch from bright green (think, the kind of glow that alien space ships always give off in the movies) to shades of pink and purple. My neighbor (the wife, anyway) began to squeal with delight, as did I. I'm sure our husbands thought they had been transported into some kind of girly slumber party nightmare as we jumped up and down squealing, "They are PURPLE! The lights are PURPLE!" and giggling like little school girls amped up on caffeine and sugar. The men watched in amazement (probably at our behavior, more than the lights) and calmly warmed us not to step in dog poop or upset the moose that was in the nearby clearing, making her way back to the front of our building to continue licking salt.

But seriously,the Lights were AMAZING. We stood outside for about 30 minutes. At that point, I would have loved to stay out and continue to watch the lights, but I was beginning to not be able to feel my limbs, and my legs were actually stinging with pain from the cold. It was a good indication to go indoors.

We and our neighbors parted ways, promising middle of the night phone calls if either of us saw another amazing display, and J and I headed in, all but forgetting about that new TV.

I just want to add my Crazy Hippie Side Note to that: After seeing those Lights, I just can't believe the amount of TV watching people do. No, I'm not about to go return my new TV (I DID like watching the news on a screen that I could actually see from across the room), but, Wake Up World! There is so much really neat stuff waiting right outside the door to go see! There is not a show, video game, or movie with such intense graphics as Nature. No IMAX movie is ever going to show you what it feels like to be standing out in zero degrees in your jammies and watching those Lights dance purple circles above your head, or making you feel like at any moment an alien spacecraft might actual beam you up.

And as another side note: I need to learn to use that nifty manual camera I picked up at a yard sale this summer. The digital camera just can't do those Lights justice. If (IF) we ever leave Alaska, I want pictures of things I have actually seen myself, not the post cards. Those lights were AMAZING, and I hate that I have nothing but memories to hold me over until my next dose of Northern Lights.


This was the first time in my entire life I have ever had to wear thermals to go trick or treating. And those were under my merino wool pants! It is starting to get cold enough that any trip out that involves being out for more than just running into a warm car and back into a warm building requires "gear" and extra layers.

Tonight was no exception. Beans and I started out Halloween evening with a trip to the fire station to see Daddy. I had her all dressed up (as you can see) and she was the cutest little pumpkin ever! Daddy was thrilled to see his Little Punkin', and to have dinner with us before we headed out for trick or treating.

Oh, and the guys in the station were kind enough to start filling her trick or treat bucket with lots of candy, and make sure she started amping herself up on sugar before our night even started. Next Halloween, Daddy is going to get to stay home with the amped up kids, and Mommy is going to spend the night in a Sugar-Free zone.

Well, little Beans and I started our rounds. I was hoping to get around our own little street (about 10 houses), thinking we would probably score a few decent candy bars that I could eat after Beans went to bed.

But Alaska always wins.

The cold winds picked up and by house number 2, Beans was screaming her little head off, yelling, "Home, Momma! Home!" We headed to our neighbor's house and warmed up a bit, while Beans enjoyed some candy and then chased my neighbor's cat around the house. After a little visiting, we headed home to answer our own door for the trick or treaters.

I have to say that Beans definitely preferred answering the door to the trick or treating. She enjoyed seeing all the costumed kids and had a good time saying, "Boo!" and making "spooky" ghost noises at all the kids. The kids cleaned us out of candy in no time, and after a nice warm bath, I finally managed to get my sugar-infused little one to bed. Can you see the sugar coursing through her little brain? At least she looks like she is having a really good time! At any moment, I expected her to put a lamp shade on her head and become the "life of the party". Seriously. Apparently you CAN get drunk on lollipops.

On that note, it's time for my own sugar induced coma. There might be a few candy bars stashed away somewhere for me to nibble on. Between that and cup of well deserved hot apple cider, I should have a nice night time snack for curling up and gazing out the frosty windows, in search of more Northern Lights.

Until next time,

Happy Moose Trails!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Birthdays, Road Trips, and Other Fun Stuff

Well hello, readers! Yes, yes, I know, I have been neglecting you again. We have had a really busy couple weeks here in Delta Junction!
Let's start with the really fun stuff. Beans is ONE! All the mommies out there will know what I am saying when I say it was a bittersweet occasion. I put her to bed the eve of her birthday, giving her extra kisses, and realizing that this was the last time I was going to be putting my BABY girl to bed. As if to prove my point, she woke the following morning a "big girl". And just for kicks, added three words to her verbal vocabulary right off the bat. She woke and said, "Eat, Mama! Drink! Cereal!"

And yes, I bawled like a baby because my little baby is growing up.

After a hearty breakfast (cereal for little Beans, eggs and moose sausage for the rest of us), it was time for presents. I'm not one for lots of presents (um, you already know that). So we made a big production of the one gift we got her, the Fisher-Price Little People Farm, and a few accessories to go with it.

A side note here: The BEST gift wrapping for toddlers advice I ever got is wrap their presents in tissue paper. They need less help, love the mess it makes, and the crinkling of the tissue paper keeps their interest longer than the regular wrapping paper. Beans had a blast ripping the paper to shreds (as you can see ).

The rest of our day was spent peacefully, playing with the new farm and watching Beans imitate animal sounds. J and I spent the day alternating between laughing at her antics and getting a little teary-eyed that she is already a year old. (Yes, even J was kind of emotional about it.)

After dinner, it was time for cake. I changed my recipe a bit, since the strawberry cake didn't really work out. Plus, the commissary had a huge sale on bananas that were about to expire and I had bought a 15 lb bag of them and had them in the freezer for future muffin and bread projects. So... banana cake with added wheat germ (did you really think I was going to give Beans plain old refined flour?) and vanilla icing. Since she is our little punkin', and little Beans is currently obsessed with Jack O' Lanterns and ghosts, I made the cake look like a Jack O' Lantern, and she spent the entire day looking at it and trying to make spooky ghost noises at it.

The poor cake did not stay in such fine looking shape, of course. it was not long after dinner before little Beans was more than willing to give it a try. I won't post all the pictures, but here was the end result:

Doesn't she look so proud of herself?

I would like to add that orange and black colored frosting does mysterious things to baby poop. Because I know you all wanted to know that.
Overall, the day was a success, the orange frosting eventually washed off her face and out of her hair, and J and I collapsed into a birthday cake coma shortly after putting little Beans to bed.
I can't believe she is a year old. And each day since her birthday, she has been on a mission to prove what a "big girl" she is.
I am excited about what the next year brings for little Beans, who will be growing and learning and doing all kinds of neat things.
In other news:
Another reason you haven't heard much from Ol' Moose Nuggets is because we have been busy with doctors the last few weeks.
Oh, everything with the new little nugget is going well. We have an ultrasound next week and hoping we are going to be able to see gender parts. For those of you who think babies should be surprises, well... I am WAY too much of a planner for that sort of thing. If it's another girl, then great. I can sort through Bean's old stuff at my leisure. If it's a boy, well, I'd better do some shopping or this poor little baby is going to wear pink regardless of it's gender, because that's what we've got.
No, New Nugget is fine. It's little Beans that we have been arguing with doctors over.
My grand conclusion? Doctors are idiots and they really DO get their licenses out of Cracker Jacks boxes.
The long and short of it: Beans didn't gain enough weight to make the doctor happy. Since I'm not a big believer in those stupid charts anyway (besides, they are growth charts intended for formula fed babies anyway!), I don't watch my baby's weight as a sign of health. Silly me, I watch other indicators like: is she still growing? Developing properly? Active? Looks healthy?
Um, the answer to all those questions is yes.
But her doctor is a moron, like I already mentioned.
Well, after ignoring MOST of the doctor's advice (things like, "Stop nursing cold turkey and do it immediately!" or- I'm NOT kidding about this- giving us a sample toddler menu that includes items like bologna and pop tarts), I DID follow her advice to encourage Beans to drink more milk. Um, that was a big mistake, for the record. Now we are in the process of determining whether she has an allergy or just a bad intolerance. I am STILL trying to clear up the rash and eczema that it created two weeks ago, and she is finally not having so many tummy troubles as she was those first couple days of the Great Milk Mistake.
And like that wasn't bad enough, since her poor little immune system went into overdrive because the milk, she is now reacting to several other foods and environmental allergens that she was previously tolerating pretty well.
Oh, and the doctor didn't call back for 4 days. When she did, she said she wanted to see Beans, and I declined, letting her know that I had already given benadryl FOUR DAYS AGO, and we were handling things just fine on our own.
Add to that the fact that J has been pulled for overtime more days than he has been home. It's a little short staffed here. Anyone who has ever wanted to be a fire fighter, please apply. I miss my husband.
As anyone can imagine, that kind of stuff is a bit stressful. I don't know about stress in your house, but in our house, it causes tension. it causes tempers to flare. It causes stupid bickering over little things like, "Who folded the socks the wrong way?" and "Why don't you find something useful to do instead of bugging me?"
When stress gets out of control in my life, I do what I have always done. I run away from home.
OK, calm down... I didn't abandon anyone. And I didn't do it in the same fashion that I did when I was a teenager, you know, running away, hanging out on street corners, and doing naughty things like prank calling my parents' house to see if they were looking for me.
No, nothing that extreme.
I decided I needed a road trip.
I should add that I had every intention of leaving J at home. You know, to "teach him a lesson" about annoying me. The annoying thing about Alaska is: it takes a long time to get yourself and a baby out the door. J, realizing I was planning on (temporarily, folks!) running away from home, dashed upstairs and threw on some clothes and was seated in my van before I could storm out of the house with beans in tow. All because it was cold and we needed coats, boots, mittens, hats, and various other winter junk.
Well, after a few minutes of bitter silence, I was glad to have his company. And we did "get over" our stress induced grumpiness once we set some ground rules. Ground rules like, "If you irritate me, I WILL pull this van over and leave you on the side of the road and I don't care that it's 5 degrees outside". (Hey, no one said I was nice ALL the time.)
After a quick dash back to the hose to load up some overnight items and make some hotel accommodations, we headed into Fairbanks for a "vacation" of sorts. The truth is, we never get to ENJOY our trips to Fairbanks. They are always rushed, always full of errands, and everything has to fit into one day, a few hours, and in between doctor appointments or visiting with friends.
This trip was different. We were able to take our time getting into town, do the shopping and looking around we WANTED to do, and spend a little time actually enjoying our meals out instead of wolfing something down before our next errand.
The night in the base lodging was a little rocky... but that's another story. The highlight of that story is that after a crummy night of J running back and forth to the front desk for items our room was supposed to be stocked with but wasn't, the hair dryer literally burst into flames when I tried to dry my hair.
ANYWAY... we woke the following morning to 3 inches of snow on the van, and snow falling hard. Since we were already in town and not in the mood to go back home yet, we decided to spend the day out and about, poking around in stores and just having a good time. After several stops, and another 3 or 4 inches of snow fall, we decided it would be a good time to head back home, before we ended up staying another night. A quick stop at the Santa House (I had some Christmas shopping to tend to), we began the trek back to Delta Junction.
For the record, driving in snow is not so bad, once you get used to it. Especially when the snow is loose and powdery. Driving on ice? Not so much fun, but we made it home safely. And more importantly, we were in a much better mood and decided that fighting over the way socks were folded was really ridiculous. It's much more productive to bicker over who loaded the dishwasher incorrectly.
OK, y'all. Hopefully our next entry won't be so long in coming. We DO have a busy week coming up, with more doctor visits, ultrasounds, and various other things we have to accomplish, but I should be able to return to my normal blogging soon.
Until then, my little toddler is reminding me that nap time is officially over and I need to go play.
Until next time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Birthday Parties for Babies, and Other Sources of Stress

As, promised, here comes more of my weirdness.
Many of you have already read how I feel about the commercialization of holidays. For those who haven't read yet, I hate it, and do everything in my tree-hugging hippy power that I can to "fight the man", man.

Well, Little Beans turns one in a couple short weeks. Birthday packages from my mother have begun to arrive (as well as Christmas packages, when she realized that when I told her the mail takes it's time getting here, I really meant it.) And I have to say that my mother is really great when it comes to gift giving. She comes up with incredible ideas, is very supportive of the whole educational toy kick our family is on, and hardly ever sends "junk" (you know, the cheap plastic stuff you end up throwing away a week after your kid gets it because it's already broken). This year was no exception, and Beans now has a neat, handmade activity book with lots of fun things to do, some coloring supplies, some finger puppets, and her very own monogrammed library bag (which my mom monogrammed herself on her new sewing machine).

Before I go on with my story, I want to say that I am proud of how "Alaskan" my daughter is becoming. She was smart enough to know that the caribou and snowshoe hard figurines from her activity book went in her mouth, and even said, "YUM, YUM!"
And Beans is so smart. She took one look at the Barn Owl finger puppet and said, "Hoo! Hoo!"

But, I digress. I was getting ready to discuss birthdays.
Well, as I was saying, Little Beans turns one in a couple weeks, so preparations are being made. By "preparations", I mostly mean testing out some homemade hippy cake recipes, to be sure they are edible to the general public. And by "general public" I mean myself, J, Beans, and maybe a couple neighbors who might stop by for dinner that week, then, ultimately, the fire station, because that is where I ditch all my leftover cake, cookies, and candy. Hey... the fire department is the best form of weight control I know. Those guys will eat anything.
Anyone married to a firefighter, paramedic, or cop knows that.

Anyway, those are my big "preparations" because, well...
Because I don't believe in birthday parties for babies.

I know, I know, I officially just stole my mom's former title of "meanest mommy in the whole world", but...

For starters, those parties are really just for parents and over-indulgent grandparents, not only an opportunity to show off how cute your baby is to everyone you know and extort lots of fancy gifts from them, but also a way for the year-old parents to brag, "Hey! We had a baby a year ago, and she didn't succeed in killing us! Hooray! Come eat some cake!"

That's right. In a couple weeks, J and I will have survived our first year of parenting little Beans, who has certainly tried her best to see if she could land one of us in a psych ward. Between colic, reflux, and a shrimp intolerance that has meant no shrimp scampi for mommy the entire time we've been nursing, followed by months (still endless) of sleepless nights, itchy eczema, and a stubborn attitude that can only come from her daddy, and now entering the "No, Don't!" stage of life... we have survived, at least this far.
And it's been wonderful. Because for all the sleepless months and no shrimp scampi, there have been sweet smiles, sloppy wet kisses, bear hugs, giggles, and watching her grow into a beautiful (if temperamental) little girl. And it happened all too fast!

(wiping little tears from eyes) ANYWAY...
back to how I'm the meanest mommy in the world.
My other argument against birthday parties for babies is this:
Beans does not even know, much less care, that it is her birthday.
Have you ever thrown a birthday party for a baby?
Do you know what happens?
Mom and grandmas run around like maniacs trying to match adorable little doilies to the cake frosting while dad and grandpa try to find an authentic Barnum and Bailey Circus Clown to come to the party. The cake, complete with life-like portrait of the birthday baby on it, cost as much as your wedding cake, and the caterer wants to know if by "finger food" you mean adult sized or baby sized. You invite so many people (gotta get good loot, ya know) that they don't fit in your house anymore, and decide you really ought to rent out Disney World for the occasion.
With all the details squared away and just perfect, you start you day by dressing your sweet little baby into an adorable and frilly little party outfit (even if it's a boy). Your child does not know they are supposed to cooperate with this process. They scream and howl. After the baby shreds the lace off the outfit and realizes that you are still going to make them wear the stupid thing, they do the one thing that is sure to rescue them for that fate... they take a giant leaky poop in the outfit.
Does this stop the birthday parents? Oh, no. Mom sends dad rushing out the door to the closest baby clothing store for something even more ridiculous looking than the first outfit.
The guests arrive and baby is stressed and traumatized by all these people cooing and coddling over them. Instead of sitting there looking absolutely adorable, baby is a grump and whiny, and will not let mommy out of the death grip that baby now holds on mommy.
Then, the Circus Clown arrives.
Wanna know what terror sounds like? Put a Circus Clown near a baby.
Now, baby is stressed, exhausted, and working on a life-long fear of clowns, and you start shoving presents, one after the other, in front of baby. No matter how much baby just wants to play with the box the first present came in, you force baby to shred the wrapping on all of them (while grandma keeps a careful list for all the thank you cards you will send out later), so that no one's feelings are hurt that baby didn't play with their present.
Then, if that's not enough for ya...
You start shoving cake and ice cream at the poor little kid, who is already wishing that he or she was 18 and moving away from you freaks.
By the time your guests leave, your baby is amped up on sugar, exhausted, and wishing you had never brought them into this situation.

And you wonder what I have against birthday parties?

As if THAT's not enough... several years of parties like these and you end up with disrespectful little kids who expect the Circus Clown to appear every year, only bigger and better than the last birthday party. And they start viewing the onslaught of gifts as "boring" and "not enough". By the time they are 16, they want a brand-new car, not mom's beat up Plymouth Reliant (which I was grateful to get, BTW!), and by the time they graduate college, they are expecting you to hand them the keys to their own brand-new house.

Thanks, but I'm not into raising brats. (No offense.)

Nope, Beans' little "party" is not anywhere close to the above description.
Here's our plan... (take a deep breath and feel the Zen Moment)

I mentioned working on a cake recipe. Mostly because I still want every bite Beans takes to count for some kind of nutrition. I will say this: as much as I prefer to stick to whole wheat flour, it's not making the cake taste so wonderful. So I'm working on a recipe using refined white flour. (Gasp!)
My made-up recipe involves strawberries, because Beans loves them. And some kind of reduced sugar homemade icing, that I am still working out the kinks on.
The most "birthday"-ish the cake is getting is that I do plan on baking it in a pumpkin shaped pan (for my little punkin!), and decorating it... because I used to have my own business doing cake decorating and it's FUN.
Skip the ice cream (for starters, it's freezing cold outside and unless I can find pumpkin flavored ice cream, which I'm craving, it's just not worth it.)
And, skip the fire hazard. I mean, candles. Who wants toddler spit on thier cake anyway?

The "birthday"- well, J has taken the day off. Which means maybe I'll celebrate my surviving Beans' first year by sleeping in. We plan on giving her the ONE present we bought her (I know. I'm mean AND cheap, right?) in the morning, so she has all day to play with it. Then we'll relax and have fun as a family, have a nice dinner (which means something Beans will eat instead of throw on the floor), followed by some cake. Then, we'll stick to our normal and boring routine and put Beans to bed at a decent hour, completely unstressed, other than the usual day's stress of not being allowed to flush mommy's cell phone down the toilet. Daddy and I will probably celebrate our survival of both the year and the day by falling asleep in front of another one of our "boring" education videos that we love to get from the library, and maybe even indulging in an extra piece of cake. (Hey, I am technically eating for three, between myself, the new nugget, and still nursing Beans!)

Doesn't that sound so much better than a birthday party?

I want to mention the ONE present, too. Um, first of all... I'm a busy lady. I just don't have time in my day to pick up more toys (that we don't need anyway). Beans has a handful of toys. You know what her favorite is right now? The cardboard box that my mom shipped her gifts in. J was sweet enough to tie a string to the box handle and Beans like to put her toys in the box and drag them around the house.
So... ONE more toy is about what I'm willing to pick up.
And because I want a kid who doesn't expect a ton of stuff every time a holiday rolls around. I want kids who appreciate getting something new.
And ONE more toy is about what I was willing to spend money on. Not because we are poor (we aren't), but because we are cheap.
OK. Not really. But I like my money sitting in the bank. Not strewn about my living room floor in plastic pieces, creating more work for me.

And speaking of being "cheap"... for the record, the money that most parents would have spent on that first birthday party and the loads of gifts that are "customary" to bestow on their little angels is ACTUALLY being swept into a secret savings account for little Beans.
IF she turns out to be a responsible human being and IF she's not a spoiled brat who demands Circus Clowns or a car when she turns 16 and IF she grows up understanding the value of hard work and earning something for yourself... THEN... her dad and I are planning on giving her a nice little nest egg to get started with, for whatever she wants to do with it.
That does come with the strings that I also don't believe in paying for college or weddings. From personal experience, I know that college is more appreciated when you work two full time jobs while putting yourself through school, and weddings don't get out of control when the bride and groom realize it really is much cheaper and less stressful to just go to the courthouse. *grin*

So... I'm off to develop a healthy strawberry cake for my soon-to-be-officially-a-toddler, and think about how many years I CAN put off the stress of birthday parties. Oh, and eventually, I should get around to wrapping the one present. Even though I know she'll just spend the day having a tantrum because I won't let her eat the paper.

Until next time,
Happy Moose Trails!