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!