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Friday, February 24, 2006

Where Am I?

Today is the first day since mid-December when the arrival houseguests hasn't been imminent. I'm not quite sure what to do with myself. There is no rush to replace the sheets on the guest bed, or mop the floor. Nevertheless, I've been darting from one activity to another, addressing things that have been neglected for a long time. I made an appointment to see an eye doctor. I cleaned out and organized the master bedroom closet. I called my hair dresser to schedule an appointment. I have been working on the mounds of backed-up laundry. I am continuing on the task of completely purging the children's toys, so far resulting in more than a dozen jam-packed garbage bags. I have trying to figure out who to donate all the toys to.

It has been a great couple of months, but a bit of a blur too. In response to a recent posting about our most recent guests, who left just yesterday morning, my brother wondered at my neglecting to blog about his visit with his family which was a recent as two weeks ago. An "anonymous" reader furthermore commented that perhaps these beloved family members never actually made it here, otherwise I surely would have featured them in my blog. True, true.

Visitors are wonderful, but having had so many lately, I realize something about having guests: I am unable to function normally when there's a party going on. The excitement of guests paralyzes me from doing anything "normal." I hover and fawn and fuss and cook, and find myself unable to break away for more than a potty break at a time. So, things like writing and reading and housework suffer terribly.

Anyhow, I apologize to the guests of winter (my in-laws, my mom, and my brother and his family), who generously gave me a great deal of blog-ammo that I was unable to utilize.

But, thankfully, my one-year-old nephew John Wesley leaves enough of an impression that even two weeks after his departure I can still remember him being here. It wasn't a dream - I'm sure of it.

Several days after returning home from a long weekend up here in Anchorage, John Wesley started to walk. My brother Doug put video of the event on their website mere moments after it occured and it was almost as if we were there. We rejoiced for him.

As happy as I am for JW and his prowess, I am a bit grieved that his first steps weren't taken at my house. Before his arrival, it had been my secretest hope that being around his four older cousins would inspire John to take the plunge towards perambulation.

We worked hard at convincing John that being bipedal is way more fun than crawling. To prove it, we took him sledding, we strolled around downtown Anchorage, and we went to the Arctic Oasis inside play gym on Elmendorf AFB. Walking is a great asset in all these activities, as he could surely witness, but John is a baby with dignity, and so he ultimately saw fit to take his first steps in the privacy of his own home. He probably figured that any stumbling and falling in Anchorage would have been recorded over and over on his parents' and uncle's cameras. His cousins, while trying to encourage him, would not have hesitated to laugh if John wiped out.

I am so thankful for Doug and Kathleen and their frequent visits up to see us. This one was visit number four, and between seeing each other and their diligence in putting almost every moment of John's life on their website, the distance and separation isn't quite so accute. Thanks, guys. We'll see you in about 11 days.

Yes, we're going down to Seattle. In a grand finale of a very busy winter season, we are heading down south for two weeks. While snow still covers the ground during Spring Break in Alaska, we are going to find some green grass and flowers. We are all looking forward to seeing family and friends, and am praying for health while we are there.

Kiley and Ellie

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Some Pictures

Jack and Tyler at the Fur Rondi Snow Sculpture contest - unfortunately, what with the warm temperatures, all the sculptures melted.

Evan being cute - a much less frequent occurance now that he has hit "the twos."

Evan, Ellie, and Kiley. At first glance it is easy to confuse the two girls.

The five older kids during out first dinner together.

Kiley and me after a great sledding run at Ocean View park. No need for coats.

The Best Things

Only the loyal-est of my readers will ever see this blog. Because by now you will have given up on me. I can't even remember the last time I wrote, or what I wrote about. I am pretty sure I will continue to be inconsistent until or after March 24th, when we return from our annual pilgrimage to Seattle for Spring Break. Bear with me.

This evening I was checking email and weather. Hope springs eternal that I will a) receive electronic correspondence, and b) that it will snow before our current guests return to Seattle after a 9-day visit. (A brief history of weather in Anchorage over the last month: 40 degrees and meltage.)

The guests of the week are the King/Neil clan: Kaylin, Dave, Kiley and Tyler. Kaylin and I worked together in the same office. Dave is her husband; Kiley is 3 (just two months younger than Ellie, and her twin separated in utero - I mean that literally: wait until I post a pic of them together!) and Tyler who, at 8 1/2, is one year older than Jack.

I would call it an immensely successful visit, were it not for the vicious attack of kittens (aka stomach flu) that Kaylin experienced two days ago, and completely incapacitated her.

So far everyone else has been spared, but every time one of the kids is a little extra fussy, or someone picks at their food, the adults just freeze in terror.

Ironically, two weeks before they came, I had a horrible dream that the second they crossed our threshold upon arriving in Anchorage, Kiley bent over and started spewing. I told Kaylin about the dream and she laughed nervously.

The dream may have been evidence of psychic ability on my part, or it may have been simple paranoia. Kaylin's family and mine have an history of sharing kittens. Five years ago, when Jack was only two and Sabrina one, I returned to my former place of employment for a short-term work project. It was a full-time job for just seven weeks. Dave, who was home with the kids during the day, was willing to be hired as a daycare provider for my kids during those seven weeks.

At some point during that time, kittens came to visit. We kept passing it around, and I think it took several weeks before it all passed. Though I have chosen to block them out of my memory, I seem to recall memories from Dave about my kids vomiting in his home. When Tyler got it, it seemed like he was going to have it forever.

But like all things in life, even Armageddon (as we called that particular episode) had its end. So here we are, five years later (almost to the day, mind you), and we are in a totally different context. There are three more kids in the mix since those days (a chance to double our fun) and miles away.

I can't speak for Kaylin and Dave, or Bruce or any of the kids, but I have LOVED having them here. I wish they would stay forever. I am fantasizing we are a little commune slurping down pots of coffee, making mounds of pb&js, and buring the mudroom in winter paraphernalia.

We haven't done a ton of stuff since the King/Neils have been here, but at least we've gotten out each day. We've gone sledding, gone downtown, gone to the zoo, and eaten out a couple times. We've had great conversation and laughed A LOT! I'm considering drugging them so they can't leave. Kaylin is pretty sure I'll breathe a sigh of relief when they go. If she only knew how wrong she is. There are few people as delightful in the world as this family. I can't imagine life without them in my house. I tried to express myself to Kaylin tonight with the words, "You complete me," while clumsily trying to assemble dinner.

Being reminded of the wonderful friends and family that are still in Seattle is very hard. But I have a hard time imagining being back there. Kaylin and Dave have told us about the changes that have occured even since we moved. None of it tugs at us. What does tug are relationships, beaches, and tall, tall trees.

For about five minutes, Kaylin and Dave played with the idea of life in Anchorage before quickly dismissing it. The same things that discourage Bruce and I from wanting to return are the things that make them want to leave. But the things that make them stay are the very things that continue to tug at us. What makes one person cross the line towards major change? I don't know. It doesn't matter.

Man, I'm gonna stop writing now. Wine has made my head fuzzy (though I'm still able to type). No more waxing poetic tonight. For now my desires are simple: one more large glass of wine, three inches of new snow, and a little bit more good conversation. Meanwhile, exhausted though I am, sleep can wait. The best things in life cannot.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Home, Home in the Rain

I am so out of the mode of writing I’m not sure I can still type.

It may also be the case that I can’t write because I just finished clearing the back deck of several inches of slush. My arms are weakened and feeling a bit rubbery.

It is a balmy early February evening in south-central Alaska. The current temperature is 35 degrees. (My computer says its 49 at the airport. That CAN'T be right! Can it?) Several days ago we were pushing zero, so this weather is almost hot in comparison (I really do mean that.)

I did my shoveling wearing a cardigan and no gloves, and I was almost too warm.

When I descended from my bedroom lair this morning, it was a balmy 41 degrees. I made a mental note to tell the kids they didn’t have to wear their snow pants to school. Shoot, they didn’t even need their coats! I hummed about the kitchen making their sandwiches.

Then Bruce called from Mississippi. He informed me that schools in Anchorage were all closed today.

“How do you know THAT? You’re in MISSISSIPPI for pete’s sake!” I hadn’t even thought to check for school closures. I thought school's only closed around here if a foot of snow dropped overnight.

Bruce said the husband of the co-worker he is traveling with in got in a minor fender-bender this morning because the roads in Anchorage were so awful.

Sure enough, I checked the school district’s website. School canceled. What to tell the kids? It wasn’t quite a Snow Day. Maybe a Freezing Rain Day? Slick-as-Snot Roads Day? Let’s Avoid a Lawsuit Day?

In the end, they didn't care WHY there wasn't school, only that they were FREE for another day. They cheered and hugged me as if I were the one who had arranged the whole thing.

So I loaded the kids into the van and instead of school we drove two treacherous blocks to a friend’s house. And they WERE treacherous, believe me. We spent the morning there.

This afternoon as I was fixing dinner, the temperature was bopping around all over the place. One minute it was 37 and sunny, the next it was 35 and hailing, moments after that 33 and snowing, and moments after that 33 and raining. Today for the first time I saw it snow, rain, and hail ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I didn’t know clouds could do that. Weird stuff.

In spite of the warmth and rain, there is still a fair amount of snow on the ground. When Bruce called to check in from his hotel room in Mississippi, I assured him that the grass is still covered. But the mailbox isn’t. (Technical points of reference.)

Temperatures are expected to stay mild for awhile, but hopefully will drop below freezing before too long. Though it is warm, it is way too wet for the kids to go out and play.
The kids are in bed. I am imbibing in a glass of wine, and my book awaits (“Shopgirl” by Steve Martin). I’ve earned a few minutes of solitude. And so have you!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Letter to Darlene

Dear Darlene,

You know, forgetting to call someone back when you are exceptionally busy is a fairly common occurrence. While uncharacteristic of you, it didn't occur to me to take it personally. Had I been in a place of emotional crisis when I called, that might have been the case. You will be happy to know, however, that I am not in a place of crisis - other than experiencing strong feelings of remorse over my VISA balance, and my inability to pay more than half of that balance. And I am also feeling some remorse over having spent $50 on some great deals at Old Navy today. There is some irony regarding today’s spending, as the only reason we were at the mall at all was to walk and get some exercise. When we started walking at 9:15am this morning I cockily thought to myself, "Hey, I don't have to spend my hard-earned money on a fitness club membership in order to get exercise! All I have to do is Walk the Mall! Think of all I'll save."

Anyhow, that wasn't why I was calling yesterday. In fact, none of the above had even happened yet. The reason I was calling was simply to tell you that I have a book for you that I picked up in the library freebie bin. “Dr. Zhivago.” Do you have it?

There's another book I picked up too - one I both have and have already read (“Silas Marner” by George Eliot) but I am reluctant to part with that one because of the nice woodcut illustrations throughout. I considered giving you my other copy of “Silas Marner”, but it is, unfortunately, connected in one volume to two other George Eliot novels which I haven't read yet. Perhaps since you didn't call me back yesterday, I should quit wavering and just keep the new copy for myself.

I have not been writing at all lately, despite having a wealth of material stirring around in my brain. I wonder if it is a rare thing for a writer to have too much they want to say. I don't know where to start. I could write about my adventures in amateur philately, adventures in going through the personal-growth book "Inside Out", or adventures in Bruce being in Mississippi. With my mom here, I am unable to quite relax. I cannot help but be somewhat unnerved by the idea of her cleaning out my refrigerator while I lounge and work my way through my latest library book. Even writing this feels like a bit of a luxury. And yes, as I write this, she is still working on removing mystery crusts and goos from my fridge's interior .

Yesterday I was going to write, but my mother threatened to disinherit me if I didn't work on grooming Seamus. That took a couple hours and still isn't done. Prior to that I'd actually sat down to write, but the phone kept ringing. I kept answering it. Mistake. Then, I had an amazing epiphany about something very specific that I was absolutely burning to write about as soon as I returned home from picking the kids up from school. Unfortunately, I had promised to take Jack and Sabrina to the toy store, so away we went, and now, for the life of me, I cannot remember what that epiphany was.

Well, as this is the only writing I've done this week, I think I'll blog a copy of this. I hope you don't mind. Then I think I'll go read.


"No man can be called friendless when he has God and the companionship of good books."
-- Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-61)

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