Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blog Contest: FAIL

Well, the ice thing fell on Sunday.  Nobody guessed that day.  And then yesterday, the snow plow took most of it away.  Here's what's left.  And now this is buried under 3 inches of snow.  So you all lose!  (There will be no way of seeing when it actually melts since there's only a little left and it's frozen into a snowbank now.  In retrospect, I really should have thought this one through a bit more.  I really didn't realize what would happen to it when it fell.)  Sorry, folks.  You'll have to come visit us and then we'll feed you fresh salmon and send you home with some smoked salmon.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Bring Him Home"

I attended a local high school production of Les Miserables last night (well done Lizzie!).  And hearing "Bring Him Home" nearly brought tears to my eyes remembering a very heartfelt moment I had with that song nearly ten years ago.  I have since allowed myself to forget it, but I write it here because I feel it needs to be both remembered and written.

I was a Freshman in college, living in the dorms.  And life was pretty good.  I was worried about silly classes, dorm room workout parties, and what was on the cafeteria menu.  Then, late one night, I got a phone call from Kenny.

Kenny was a quiet boy that set next to me in Chemistry class in high school.  I only became friends with him because I would annoy him everyday with "hello"s and "how's it going"s and "what's your favorite color"s. (Such is the way of my persistent obnoxiousness to shy people... which would later catch me an awesome husband.) It took almost an entire month before he said "hello" back.  He was a year older than me and joined the Marines before even graduating.  I remember seeing him downstairs in the high school after he had joined and I noticed that after his first weekend of training, he walked faster, more directly, and looked people in the eye.  During my senior year, the Iraq conflict looked like it was going to turn into a war, and I actually cared.  Kenny had written letters and we had talked on satellite phones a few times.  He was in Kuwait, waiting to invade Iraq.  The troops were there.  Just waiting.  I remember Saint Patrick's Day, 2003 when Bush gave his ultimatum.  It was on in a classroom.  And I remember thinking and praying that the UN would stop us somehow.  I didn't want Kenny to become another casualty of another war.  How many people at the high school would have even remembered him?  He never talked.  Then I remember watching the invasion.

Kenny was with the first troops into the country.  We watched the Saddam statues come down.  He brought me some Iraqi money with Saddam's face on it.  I still have it.  I talked to Kenny about this experience later.  He said that first time they crossed into Iraq was good.  They were bringing water to people that didn't have any.  And they played soccer in the streets with the kids.

He came home and all was well for awhile.  I went to college.  And then, in the dorms, I got a call from Kenny.  I could tell he was crying but was trying to hide it.  He told me he was crossing into Iraq.  The troops were making calls to families before crossing over.  He never said he was scared.   What he said was  that in the battalion that went before them, all the soldiers with his position had been killed.  Kenny was a bomb dismantler.  He was with the team that went ahead of the group, spotted roadside bombs, and dismantled them before the rest of the group came.  I kept wondering why he was calling me.  Then he said: "I can't get ahold of my mom.  Her phone wasn't working when I tried to call.  I need you to call her and tell her I love her."

I think my heart stopped for a minute.  And I tried not to cry.  "Yeah, that's fine.  Just let me know what her name and number is."  I am supposed to call this woman and tell her that her only son (maybe. I never thought to ask before about siblings) was crossing into Iraq, all of the bomb technicians that just crossed over had been killed, and that he loves her...?  More than anything, I did not want to be Kenny's final words to his mother.

Someone else had to use the satellite phone.  I wished him luck (is that what you say?) and said goodbye.

I walked into the quiet, abandoned common area upstairs in the dorm.  I remember looking out the window and only seeing my own reflection.  And then, all I could think of were the lyrics to "Bring Him Home":

"God on High.  Hear my Prayer.  In my need, You have always been there.  He is young.  He's afraid.  Let him rest.  Heaven blessed.  Bring him peace.  Bring him joy.  He is young.  He is only a boy.  You can take.  You can give.  Let him be.  Let him live.  Bring him home.  Bring him home.  Bring him home."  For nearly an hour, all I could do was replay these lyrics over and over in my head.  They became my prayer.  And I honestly couldn't think of any other words to pray.  All I did was cry and plead in a song-lyric prayer that Kenny would come home.

I called his mom the next morning and tried to sound upbeat.  "Hey... my name's Marel.  I'm friends with Kenny.  Yeah.  We went to high school together.  Anyway, Kenny called last night.  They're crossing into Iraq today.  He just wanted me to call you and tell you that he loves you.  He tried to call you, but your phone wasn't working."  I remember her saying something trivial like "dumb phone.  Anyway, thanks for telling me."  And that was that.  I really prayed that wasn't the last time she heard "I love you" from her son... through me.

Kenny did come home.  He wrote me several times and mentioned that if he made it home, I had to let him take me out for steak dinner (I remember he always specifically mentioned steaks... MREs must have really got him dreaming).  The summer after that year in college, I went to pick Kenny up at his house.  Before we left for dinner, I remember his cat jumped off the table.  Immediately, Kenny went for his knife and turned to attack.  The knife wasn't there.  And he realized what he had done.  He looked embarrassed and I remember seeing real fear in his eyes.  Like a child.  We got in the car and drove to the restaurant.  Have you ever noticed how much litter is on the side of the freeway?  Next time, look.  Because Kenny rode in the car very tense.  He told me that roadside bombs were often in plastic cups or paper bags, just like all the ones we were passing.  He told me that the kids he played soccer with in the streets now had guns and were  spying on them.  Things had turned to chaos.

Kenny returned a third time to Iraq.  And when his time with the Marines was over, I asked him what he wanted to do.  He said he only had the skills to become a pyrotechnic or a hit man.  He went to gunsmith school.  And then he joined the Army.

I only check in with Kenny about once a year.  And I always still say a prayer in my mind for him, and for all the other quiet boys that serve our country so we can enjoy our dorm room dance parties and cafeteria lunches.  God on High.  Hear my prayer.  Bring them home.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Celia: Play-doh

Celia was playing with play-doh and asked me to make her a baby.  I did (ball head wrapped in a play-doh blankie).  Then she said I needed to make her a sister.  I told her I wasn't sure how.  She said:

"You just roll her on the table.  Then she already has a face.  And I'm sure you don't know how to make legs.  So that's okay for now.  She doesn't need legs.  She can just roll.  Yes.  That's what I'm talking about."

So I handed her a rolled tube shape of play-doh and she was satisfied.  She even said: "Aw.  It looks like she has a pony-tail."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Alaska: It's Still Snowing

I took a few pictures on my bike ride home last week, when it hadn't been snowing all day, but started coming down hard as soon as I left the office. We have a large network of trails here, many of which are maintained through the winter for cross-country skiers, bikers, dog-walkers, joggers, etc. Recently I've even seen the moose using the plowed trails more, so I think the snow is getting too deep even for them. In some places where the trails closely parallel the roads, the road crews plow the snow to the sides of the road, and then the trail crews have to carve through the berms to clear the trails, so it sometimes feels like I'm riding in a tunnel.

As the snow has piled up around the traffic pole, it seems they've had to carve out an alcove for the crosswalk buttons.

Snow that is plowed up in parking lots and driveways around the city are trucked off piled in several snow dumps around the city. In recent weeks many of the snow dumps have closed because their snow mountains are just getting too high.

This picture was a few weeks ago when the temperatures were in the single digits. When it's that cold I get to work in the morning and find that my breath has frozen on my neck.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Sun Catcher: A Blog Contest

So I have this awesome friend who got the Family Fun magazine, and immediately made this with her kids that afternoon.  I got the same magazine, said I would make this, made it like a week later, and then hung it up a week after that.  Slowly, but surely people.  So now it is hanging proudly outside.  And here's the contest:

Can you guess when it is going fall down?  Then when it is going to be melted completely?

My guess is March 20 it will fall and May 10 it will be gone completely.  If you are able to guess one of the exact days correctly, I will send you some smoked salmon (caught by us and professionally smoked).  So take your guesses.  And you can't guess something that has already been guessed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day: A Mothering Success Story

So, I was very proud of my first heart-shaped pancake.  It looked like a heart, you could tell I dyed it pink...

 And then I flipped it over...  Whoops.

 But I got a bit better (maybe a bit Mickey-ish) and Celia seeing her heart-shaped pancake for lunch was awesome.  She was so excited.  And ate two giant pancakes (after already eating lunch at Preschool).

Celia was so excited to eat her sucker she got at preschool after pancakes and she kept talking about it.  Sabrina, who hadn't eaten any lunch yet, refused her pancake.  Then I told her she could have a sucker too and she shoved the whole pancake in her mouth and started pointing and grunting to the suckers.  So she got to eat her first-ever sucker.  The next 20 minutes were hilarious and both girls ate suckers.  They began dueling with their suckers.  It was 20 minutes of hilarious, sticky moments.

After naptime, Celia helped me with the cookies.

I also managed to make dinner (cousin Travis came to join us), make frosting for the cookies, clean the house, and do both mine and Tom's chores (Happy Valentine's Day!), and finish a project for work.  After dinner, the girls decorated cookies.

And Sabrina decorated her face and hair.  Oh well, tomorrow's bath day and change the sheets day.  (See how chill I am?)

I only almost lost it twice and both times quickly returned to my new, chill mantra very quickly.  2012 Marel rocks!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm not on Pinterest, but enough good ideas get out that I'm surviving.  Celia loved making these for her friends in preschool.  She cut out all the pictures by herself.  She diligently wrote each of her friends' names and then signed her own name.  I added "You're Sweet.  Happy Valentine's Day!"  And then Celia posed and had me take a picture.  Today, after preschool, I have big plans for the girls involving heart-shaped pancakes for lunch and making and decorating cookies.  We'll see how Super Involved Mom handles the holiday!  Should be a blast!  Hope your Valentine's Day is AWESOME too!

Friday, February 10, 2012

2012: Year of Goals

In 2005, I was doing a study abroad in London when London was trying to win the Olympic bid for 2012.  So I spent 4.5 months surrounded by 2012s.  (Even when visiting Paris, which was also trying to win the bid, I was inundated with 2012s... even on the Eiffel Tower.)  In London, 2012 was sewn into the seats on the Underground, and painted on the sides of the Underground trains, tunnels, and city buses everywhere.  So, for the past 7 years, I've felt like 2012 is my year.  This is it!  This is the year I can accomplish anything!  

I started out with my pledge to clean the house.  While it is only partway into February, so I can't declare this resolution nearly complete, I've been doing really well.  I have a chore chart for myself that I take care of while the girls are playing in Celia's room right after they've woken up.  I spray down my bathroom sink and counter every morning when I'm done in there.  Tom has three chores a week as well that he has done excellent at completing.  And we both help straighten up the living room and clean the kitchen every night.  A few things have derailed me briefly.  It turns out having company stay means I break my cleaning routine along with all our other routines (sorry Sue!).  But we're back on track and going strong. (Don't read this and then come look at my house... we may have different definitions of "clean.")  Anyway, this has been fabulous.  Celia helps around the house a lot more.  We have several "clean up" times built in to our schedules before moving on to other activities, so things stay put away a lot better than they once did.  (Sabrina is still a dumper of all things... but we'll work on that.)  Maintaining this cleaning skill has helped me organize my days so much better as well.  I am much more able to compartmentalize my days into housework that needs doing, my quality time with my kids, and my job.  Because of this, the girls and I have had some solid quality time, I don't worry so much about what needs doing around the house, and I get way more work done in a day for my job.  I feel great.  

For February, I added the goal to try to be a more proactive, chill mom.  I'm a generally chill, roll-with-it, spontaneous person, so it surprised me that in my mothering style, I've gotten a bit uptight and get easily stressed out with the screaming, hair-pulling, dumped-out-sugar-in-the-kitchen moments.  So this month, I've decided that I'm just going to let it be.  I'm going to be a chill mom.  I can do this.  To really test myself, I've also decided to add some projects and baking with the children into the mix.  If you'll recall my previous attempt at cooking with kids, you'll know this was a big thing for me to tackle.  So, we've been doing a lot of cooking to get both myself and the girls used to it.  Just this past two weeks, we've made homemade cheez-its (delicious, but I didn't roll them out flat enough, and we didn't have a tiny cookie cutter, so the consistency was more like thin biscuits, but the flavor is perfect), buttermilk biscuits twice (a little too white-floury for my wheat flour desires, but the homemade cultured buttermilk I made really made these puff up... and the pancakes with the homemade buttermilk were super fluffy! And we made the biscuits into hearts and stars and gingerbread men), and today we made six-week bran muffins (Substituted half of the canola with coconut oil.  Loved the whole-wheatness of this recipe, but it has too much sugar... though it is very sweet and delicious).

The event usually turns out with Sabrina eating flour by the handfuls, and two cups of flour ending up becoming a sandbox-type thing on the counter, and another two cups on the floor.  But I'm learning to roll with it.  Slowly, but surely.  And the girls really have a good time.  

We also made a Winter Sun Catcher this week (it's still freezing in the pie pan... we'll hang it up tomorrow). So February is going well.  Learning to roll with it.  

I also started the year with goals to go on a monthly date and a monthly trip to the temple.  Since both failed in January, I decided to not run too fast and take things a month at a time.  We already have a date lined up for Tom's birthday next weekend (thanks Emily!), and March's goal is to start going to Ward temple nights.  Stay tuned.  I'm holding myself publicly accountable here.  Because 2012 is MY year and I'm going to finish it being an awesome, active, chill mother that has it all together.  (Ok. Maybe not ALL together...)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sabrina: The Smart Non-Talker

Sabrina doesn't talk much.  In the past couple of weeks, she's just started saying "mama," "dada," and "hi" both correctly and consistently.  She also just learned what a lion says (more of a Grrr), a kitty (either "eeeow" or Muhrrr"), and a horse (basically a violent laugh).  

Despite her lack of words, she is still intelligent and held a full civil argument with me on Monday.  She's cutting her forth bottom tooth and has been hurting.  So Tom gave her a plastic teething ring and we told her she could put it in her mouth.  She did and walked away happily.  She then went and got a plastic ball (too tiny for mouth consumption), and approached me with both.  She held them up to me, tapped the two together indicating that they felt the same.  She then put the teething ring in her mouth and nodded.  Then she held the ball up to her mouth and waited for my response.  I still told her no... but almost wanted to reward the argument.  Well played.

Her current obsession is "Wheels on the Bus."  She makes us sing it five million times a day (always with the book we have... we can't ever sing it without the book).  When we said "The Mommies on the bus go..."  Sabrina did this:

and then exhaled through her mouth to make the "shhh" sound.  I thought it was funny.

(And notice Celia to the side always in her Rapunzel dress.  I was hoping it would last two Halloweens but it gets an awful lot of use...)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Celia: First Talk in Primary

Celia has now been in Primary a total of four weeks.  And she was asked to give a talk on her fourth week.  When I told her she was giving a talk in Primary, she had only seen three other kids do it, and she frankly had no idea what I was talking about.  We talked about the topic of the talk, I asked her some questions, and wrote the talk based on the things she said.  Here was her talk:

When I choose the right, I am blessed.  Choosing the right means making good choices like sharing and being nice to my sister.  When I make good choices, there are good consequences.  I am happy and I can have the Spirit with me to help me.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

We practiced several times at home and it looked like a "go."  For the real deal, Tom helped read it to her in her ear.  She repeated nicely and reverently into the microphone.  Halfway through, she closed her eyes and folded her arms, and kept repeating the talk.  She told us later it was a "prayer talk" because it ended with Jesus.  So there you go.  Moral of the story: have Sunbeams understand what a "talk in Primary" means before asking them to be involved.  But she did very well and was very cute and very proud when she was done.  What a big girl!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Celia: Funny Princess

Let me preface this post about Celia Sillies by saying that I had a moment today--after I had spent the day attempting to paint nails, do french braids, and tie bows on ballet shoes--where I thought to myself: "How did I get here in my life without any of the necessary skills?"  Then I thought how worthless all of my accomplishments (except the sewing of the Rapunzel dress, which has made a reappearance and gets worn daily again) are in the eyes of Celia because I cannot do french braids and paint nails.  I wasn't prepared for this!

Funny things Celia has said lately:
- When it's summer, we will go camping in a cabinet.
- Mommy!  Hurry!  Change Sabrina's bum!  She's got a diaper radish!
- My teeny tiny friends, Hockadoh and Galeeshee live in (don't remember the name she said here).  It's summer there and they have an outhouse potty.  They have no water to wash their hands.  But the germies go away.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Alaska: Dogsledding

This is Tom writing this time. My mom has been wanting to go dogsledding for a while but we didn't know how or where, but when she was here last week there was fortuitously a Groupon for dogsledding in Girdwood. So we went down and met our musher in a mountain meadow and had a nice ride. Along the way he would stop and give facts and tidbits about dogsledding history, techniques, and racing. While he was talking he stood up with the dogs, as in this photo, and at first we wondered why he spoke to us from so far away, but it soon became apparent as the dogs were so excited to run they would sometimes start on their own, and standing out in front of the sled like this gave the musher ample time to jump on and stop them again.

The night before we went about 2 feet or more of snow had fallen, making for some extraordinary backcountry scenery that would have been quite difficult to access on foot.

We were cutting new trails in the deep snow for much of the time, and the lead dogs had to leap like deer to keep moving forward.

On the way home we also stopped to take some pictures along Turnagain Arm.

And my mom was also pleased to be able to buy some moose antlers while she was here from someone on Craig's List.

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