These pictures are courtesy of Josh's classroom Alaska Map.  
This picture gives you an idea of where we are in Alaska. We are not as far North as some people think.  And for those of you who watch Flying Wild Alaska, that inlet just north of us is where Unalakleet is located.

For those wondering exactly where in Alaska we are, here's a clue.  If you can see that red writing, it says "We are here" and to the right of that, it says "Fortuna Ledge PO", and that is our Post Office.  We are right along the Yukon River with Russian Mission upriver from us and Pilot Station downriver. 

{View from our living room window}
So it was -39 degrees in Marshall yesterday. Very cold. So cold in fact that my house has been having trouble staying warm. It's been at least three degrees below the temperature I have set since I woke up yesterday.  There have been days where with the wind chill it is -39, but yesterday that was the actual temperature.  Not the wind chill temperature. Which means that if any wind was blowing, it was even colder.

The weather here is unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Today the high is supposed to be between -10 and -20. And with the wind gusting up to -35, the wind chill temperature is supposed to be -55!!!  Sundays we tend to go to the school to Skype with either my family or Josh's family.  But today there is no way I am bundling up our three munchkins to take them out into that kind of weather.

 Not only does the wind cause insane wind chill temperatures, it controls the flights in and out of here, causes our house to tremble and occasionally forces the power out.  The sound of the wind howling outside is like a jumbo jet taking off.  The sound can, at times, be deafening.

Other times it's more of a steady sound, like ocean waves, and if I close my eyes I can pretend I'm at my grandparents house, with the bedroom window open, the sounds of the sea lulling me to sleep.

{The view from my bedroom window, looking left}
 Mostly the wind blows parallel to our housing. But sometimes it runs perpendicular, and then the snow that has gathered on the roof of our arctic entry slams harshly into our bedroom window above.  It sounds like pebbles being thrown, with some force, to wake us from our slumber.

Please pardon the quality of my pictures. These were all taken from inside the house, since it's been so cold, and the reflection of the glass messes with my camera's abilities. (Plus I'm not that good a photographer!)  Despite their quality, they do accurately capture the light.  Each day it's getting about six minutes brighter. Soon the sun won't set until 6pm.  We are not so far north that we ever have a period of time with no sunlight.  Rather, the day before Josh flew home, December 22, was the shortest, darkest day there would be, and from there daylight has gotten longer & longer.  He says by the time we leave in May, it will be lighter longer than it is dark.

{Looking straight out our bedroom window}
 The light here, and the views from all our windows, are spectacular.  Everyday looks different.  Each sunrise, like a snowflake, unique and beautiful in its own way.

Today for instance, is reminding me of the Oregon coast.  Grey, with bits of light peeking through, but mostly dismal.  It's strange to love it, but I do. For it reminds me of home.

I haven't seen a drop of rain for almost a month now. How strange that is.  Years of rain.  Wetness. Moisture.  And now I am  in what feels like the driest place on the planet.  It is so dry here.  Everything itches. And my nose & eyes ache from being so dry.  I drink more water here than I did in Washington, if that is possible, and I put Lubriderm on my entire body every.single.day. And still I feel dry.  We are going through Eucerin cream like nobody's business and Johnson & Johnson's pink baby lotion is also a hot commodity in these parts.

It's the minerals in the water coupled with the lack of moisture in the air that leave our bodies so depleted of moisture.  To drink the water here it needs to be distilled or run through a Brita filter. So every other day we refill (over and over again) the Brita pitcher we have so that we can use the filtered water to fill the 2 1/2 gallon drinking container we have in the fridge that we all use to refill our water bottles.  Four weeks in and already it's getting old.

The one good thing about dry air? No need for coasters. I was telling my mom and sister that it's the weirdest thing- I can bring a cup into my bedroom, set it on my nightstand and leave it there all night with no cup ring.  No condensation gathers on the outside of my water bottle either. It's strange.

Besides the dryness and the drinking water, I have had to adjust to being shocked all the time.  Touch a doorknob? SHOCK. Touch the baby? SHOCK. Kiss my husband? SHOCK. Turn on the faucet & check to see if the water is warm enough for the baby? SHOCK. Yes, I even get shocked BY THE WATER! It's so obnoxious!

About a week ago during nap time I was watching the snowplow after a really bad wind storm.  He worked tirelessly pushing the huge drifts this way & that, attempting to smooth out the main road that leads from the front of our house to the airport.  I found myself feeling really bad for the plow man, having to do the same job over and over, knowing that as perfect as he gets the road today, by tomorrow it could be like he'd done nothing.

Then I stopped for a second and thought about how my life is exactly the same.  I wake up and feed the same children who, three hours later, are going to want to be fed again. Then I put their dirty clothes in the washer and dryer, fold them & put them away, knowing as I do that they will just end up in the laundry again tomorrow.  I clean the kitchen table & dishes after every meal, and sometimes as fast as I can clean them, they are dirty again.

Yes, my life is eerily similar to that of the Marshall snow plow man.
Like Groundhog's Day.

 But at night, when I lay down my head, I smile because I know that this is all I ever wanted.  To fold tiny laundry & wash tiny bowls, to wipe little fingers & cut little toe nails, to care for & love our little ones while they are still so precious.

Before I go to bed each night, I peek out our bedroom window, hoping to never take for granted the beauty.  The colors of the sunset & the glory of the moon & stars continue to amaze me.  I could take a picture every night, it's so beautiful.

The other night, as I wrote in my hope & a future post, I geared up so I could sneak outside for a minute.  Before I left, I had Josh take this picture of me.  I was wearing: underwear, a nursing tank top, a long sleeve shirt, a fleece jacket, cordoroy pants, my snow pants, wool socks, boots, my coat, two pair of gloves, two hats, a scarf & my hood. Layering is essential in these parts.

Layering with the kids is even more intense. I often have them in four layers on top and two pair of socks.  But if I don't take such extreme measures, they end up with a cold rash. It's like a red raised rash that is dry & very sensitive to touch.  The first few times we took the boys out, they had it on most of their bodies when we came back. (Just the older boys, though.) So we take drastic measures now to ensure they don't get it.  The other day they wore long john's, fleece pants and snow pants, and still had the rash on their bums & baby love handles!  

{one of the photos I got of Venus & the moon the other night}

We met some kids at the school when we went to meet Josh's class who had frost bite on their face. I guess the cold streak they've been having is one of the longest they've had in recent memory and it shows. Josh said it's common for the cheeks to have it, or the wrists if you are out in the cold weather on your snowmobile or "snow-go" as they call them.  Brr! Josh said the younger kids make it worse by picking at it, which isn't good.  I'd like to avoid that all together by layering and avoiding going out when the weather is too extreme.

We also had to switch our routine to baths every other day instead of everyday.  The minerals and warm water together were drying their skin out so that the cold rash wouldn't improve.  Now we lotion everyday, and bathe every other day. It seems to be helping.

We also have to push chapstick. I have chapsticks everywhere. I am constantly telling them to put it on because their little lips get all red & swollen, and eventually they peel, which hurts.  

 While there has definitely been some adjustments to living here, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.  To spend the afternoon yesterday, while the wind howled just beyond the playroom window, watching the boys play basketball with their daddy, shouting, "Watch, Dad!" "Hey, daddy, look what I can do!" is worth the price of 60 chapstick tubes & twelve layers of clothing.


hope and a future

I went out to see the stars tonight.
And Venus.
And the moon.
Standing there, with my feet planted firmly in the crunchy snow that looked like sand which had been blown about by an angry wind, I looked over where the crescent moon hung in the sky, precariously close to Venus' bright light, and then up to where a million stars twinkled in the dark Alaska night, and felt a peace & tranquility I only wish I could accurately portray.  The silence all around cradled me as the diamonds sparkling above made me feel infinitesimally small & unimportant.  Directly in front of me, the tundra stretched out for miles, and to my right, under the moons' stunning display, the Yukon, frozen in her winter sleep, rested.  I stood, awed by the beauty of this land, and prayed.  I thanked God for his grace. For his plan. For the end of my suffering.
And I asked for more. More joy. More freedom. More of what I am currently enjoying.
I wish for all of you, my followers, my family, my friends, the kind of joy I am experiencing everyday.  I wake up each morning excited to greet the day. Anxious to pad downstairs and feed my family.  Ready to accomplish the many tasks that await me.
I am grateful, looking back, for how low I sunk. For how lost I was; how desperate. Because only in the depths of such despair could I be open to this adventure.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, 
"Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. 
Plans to give you hope and a future." 
-Jeremiah 29:11

Hope and a future indeed.

Answered Prayer

My prayer January 5, 2011
I come to you brokenhearted.  I am so discouraged.  I am so sad.  I am so disappointed. In myself and in our situation.  I want to be excited to be pregnant. I want to be strong and be okay with working, but I am not strong and I am not okay with working.
I am stressed, and tired, and sick.  I just feel like crying. I am so lost. I'm not myself.  And I am trying to listen, to see where you are leading me, but I can't hear you.  I am really profoundly lost.  Only my boys really bring me joy.
I am losing time. They are two and a half.  In six months I will have another baby and they will be three. I will have missed out on three entire years of being home with them. I don't have the strength to leave them anymore.  It kills me.  This is not how I envisioned my life.  This is not how I want to raise my children.
So I look to you for an answer. I feel pressure to provide for them, even if it barely covers the bills.  I am so torn. I want to do the responsible thing, but I am also desperate to be home with them- at nearly any cost.
Please provide direction and a clear answer in my heart.  Fill me with confidence in my decision, and Lord please mend my tender heart.
I love those boys. 
I miss 'em.



{I found this in my prayer journal as I perused it today.  
How inspiring that a year later my life is so completely different. 
And wonderful.}

Care Packages

So boxes.
My life, since I arrived here in Marshall, has revolved around boxes.  Full boxes, empty boxes, organized boxes, messy boxes, old boxes, new boxes.  Last week Josh brought home two boxes that my parents had shipped for me of our belongings from Carol's house, and it had been so cold outside that everything in the Ziploc bag above froze except the nail polish remover, because it has alcohol in it.  The antibacterial spray was frozen solid and the soap, and the neosporin, and all my nail polishes. Hard as a rock, all of it.  It's so cold here that when the boxes were placed on the hard wood floor and later moved to where I wanted them, the floor remained cold for a long time because the contents of the box had been frozen. 

 When Josh gets home from the post office, his friends (& coworkers) are usually trailing behind him, helping bring all the boxes into the house.  The boys have only been here two weeks and already LOVE mail.  They have been so bummed the last two days because Josh has worked late and not run to the post office.

When we get boxes it's like Christmas. Only better. Some boxes have our own belongings, which is like be reunited with a long lost friend, and other boxes have new items, shipped with love from people back home, which is like making new friends.

In addition to bringing us our old belongings and new belongings, boxes also bring us our groceries. No more trips to Winco, self bagging a cart & a half of groceries while the twins duke it out and the baby screams in the Ergo... 
No, no. We are in new territory here.  My groceries come to me from Walmart in Anchorage, all saran wrapped, bubble wrapped & place snugly into their boxes marked 1/3, 2/3 and 3/3 for J.Cunningham.

Grand total for three boxes of groceries:

Care Packages, though, are the icing on our boxy cake! Of all the packages we get, Care Packages with fun themes are our favorite. Particularly if they include something fun & new for Jack & Logan to try.  

Take Roxanne's first Care package...

 In it was:
Directions for how to "Eat Dirt!"
And... Oreos, pudding, cups, baggies & gummy worms.

We set right to work following her fun, colorful directions.

First you put the Oreos in the baggies and you SMASH them!

Then you put the pudding into the clear cups,

and sprinkle the CRUSHED Oreos on top.

Then you put the worms in their new dirty home,

And Voila! You are ready to Eat Dirt!
(A super fun project for the kids & delicious to eat as well!)

We also loved this Care Package from Nanny:

Chocolate cake mix, which we used to make chocolate waffles on the waffle iron (yum!); Crunch Berries for those times when Mommy just doesn't want to cook; Limited Edition animal crackers with Polar Bears on the front; and a toy for Wyatt's high chair tray that he can't throw on the floor during a round of his favorite game- "Mommy picks up all the toys off the floor 100 times a day." It's a hoot. You should try it.

And in another box from Nanny?
A much loved pair of hand-me-up Uggs from Roxanne
that my mom cleaned & had re-soled
that keep my feet nice & toasty on my oh-so-cold Alaska floors!

Wyatt loves his new toy!
So do I!

We also recently received a Valentine Care Package from Julie.
This was my personal favorite!

She included hand-made blocks that spell different Valentine sayings...
Like {HUGS}




And of course, {SEXI}
Wait minute... I don't think...
 (Every morning when I wake up & open the blinds in the kitchen, 
I find my cute Valentine blocks morphed into something 
other than the sweet selections Julie made for me. 
Like {LOGS} or the aforementioned {SEXI}... Makes me giggle.)

She also made this {LOVE} banner, which I love! (no pun intended)
And she sent along Valentine cups, plates, balloons & window decals that make the whole house feel full of love & ready for the February holiday.
She also sent along some things for the boys...
Like this train set, which we are in the process of painting.

They were so excited to do this project.

They were really paying close attention to detail.  It was fun to watch.

They aren't finished yet, but already their trains both look so distinct.
Jack using all the colors and favoring the yellow,

while Logan made his mostly red & black.
I can't wait to see the finished product & let the boys drive them on their new train table.

 We have received other Care Packages as well...
Blankets & books,
Food & home goods,
Washcloths & Swiffer refills
We are so grateful for them all.

Keep 'em coming. They put a *sparkle* into what would otherwise be an ordinary day here in rural Alaska.  And if you have any questions about shipping or ideas, visit my Care Packages page, or e-mail me: rcunningham18@hotmail.com

Happy Mailing!!!


lucky number seven

 This adorable bundle of squishy love turned seven months old on the 15th.  
I can hardly believe he is now closer to his first birthday than his birth.

 He is still a pretty easy baby, but only during daylight.  
At night, I think Josh sprinkles water on him and he turns from an adorable mogwai into a gremlin.
The kid doesn't sleep!  He gets tired around 8pm and goes down great.
He'll sleep from then until about midnight. And then he's up every hour crying.

 During the day he still takes three naps. 
He takes one around 9, another around noon, and another around 4 or 5.
I haven't started feeding him "real food" yet. 
(Look at those thighs- he's obviously doing fine without it!)
We actually just got our shipment of baby food yesterday,
so I am thinking that tomorrow we will try it out.

He has two teeth, both on bottom, and drools all the time.
But I've yet to feel any more suspicious lumps that could be more teeth trying to pop through.

 He can roll from front to back & back to front easily.
And he's really getting good at sitting up.

 He's quite the princess, like his brother Jack was, and prefers being held.
He will tolerate the high chair if he has just eaten, or just woken up.
Otherwise, I hear about it.
It's hard here because I don't have anything else for him.
I am thinking I may order a Jonny Jump Up or an Exersaucer from Amazon.
Mommy has lots of boxes to unpack & work to do, and if baby was happy, I'd get a lot more done!

 How great are his back rolls in this one?  
At his last appointment (for six months) he weighed 21 pounds.
I am thinking this little chunky monkey is responsible for my 5 pound weight loss last week.
Toting him around is like a workout-- especially up the stairs!!!

Other than not sleeping (which may be because he's been a little sick), I have been impressed with his ability to adapt so well.  He is napping every nap in his crib, which is new, and is creating a pretty regular schedule for himself all on his own.  He loves to interact with his brothers, and seriously lights up when Josh gets home.  He brings all four of us so much joy.

We love you 
Wyatt The-thanial
(that's what Logan & Jack think his middle name is)



As I write this I am drying my tears.  I had the scariest thing happen this afternoon; but it took until tonight for the gravity of it to really hit me. 
Here it is.

This afternoon all three boys, miraculously, fell asleep at the same time. So I decided I would lay down as well.  The baby has been sick, and the most sleep I get at night is two or three hours in a row.  I fell asleep almost instantly and woke up about an hour and a half later to Jack at my bedside.  "Mommy, can I get up?"
"Sure, honey. You can go play downstairs."
I laid there for a while, kind of waking up slowly because it had been one of those naps where you sleep hard enough to dream.  With my eyes closed and the sun creating a cozy glow in the bedroom, I let my thoughts wander.
Then all of a sudden, the house seemed too quiet.
I flew out of bed and down the stairs.
"Jack? ...Jack? Jack!?!"
He wasn't anywhere.

I ran the last few steps down the stairs, and flung open the front door, (which is actually the door to our arctic entry) to find Jack standing there, two left boots on his feet, his hand on the outside doorknob, and his coat inside out on the floor.
As soon as he saw me he started crying and buried his head in my legs.
He probably started crying because I screamed,"What do you think you're doing?!?" at him.
I could not believe he had been trying to go outside by himself.

There are snow drifts everywhere, it was only 5 degrees outside and our housing is right on the edge of the tundra.  There's nothing past our front door except the airport, and that's two miles away.  
I sat him down and told him he is never EVER to go outside alone and he is never EVER to go into the arctic entry without permission.  I told him a stranger could have gotten him or he could get sick from being too cold.
I told him he can't go outside without his gear, and he said he looked for his hat & gloves, but he couldn't find them.  (They are up on a shelf too high for him to reach.)  He said he didn't go outside because he couldn't get the door to work.  And when I asked him what he was going to do out there, he said he was just going to the school to see Daddy.
His face made it apparent that he understood quite well the gravity of the situation. He knew that what he had done was wrong. And just in case he didn't, when Josh got home, he also talked to him.

Like I said, it wasn't until tonight that I really began to feel the feelings that I had kept at bay while I handled the situation.  The sheer terror at thought of losing Jack makes my heart pound.  I could feel, all afternoon, a sense of anxiety rising in my throat.  And finally tonight as I rocked the baby to sleep I started crying.  The weight of the responsibility really started to get to me.  

I watched one of my favorite episodes of Sex & The City recently & in it Miranda is trying to get away for the weekend with the girls, but Steve says he can't keep the baby because he's scared he'll kill him.  And she said, "I know you're scared you will kill him.  We're both scared we'll kill him.  But I try not to kill him Monday through Friday, and you try not to kill him Saturday and Sunday."  So Josh and I joked that I try not to kill the kids from 8 to 4 and he tries not to kill them the rest of the time.  This makes that joke a bit morbid. I mean, at five degrees, I don't know how long Jack would have lasted, or if he truly could have found his way to the school.  I just keep thinking "What if?"

And as a mom, that's a scary place to be.

What I do know, that's not a what if, is that I felt prompted by the holy spirit to check on Jack.  And that if I had ignored that prompting, bad things could have happened.

Each night, after the boys are asleep, I quietly creep into their room to say a prayer over them.  This is the prayer I say: "Lord Jesus, Thank you so much for Jack (or Logan). Please keep him safe & healthy through the night and wake me if he needs anything at all. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen."

It may not have been night time, I know that it was God who woke me. I know that it was God who made the door not open.  And I know it was God who kept Jack safe.

Talk about an Alaskan Adventure.   
This story is one for the family books, that's for sure.

Snow Day

 Just like all of their friends in Washington, the boys have been overjoyed to see tons of that white stuff on the ground around here.  Everyday they would beg us to take them outside for a snowball fight.  Unfortunately it has been way too cold (anywhere from 0 to -35 degrees) since we got here.  The other day it was warm enough (8 degrees) for Josh to take the boys outside for about twenty minutes to play in the snow.  I helped bundle them up & off they went on a snowy adventure with Daddy.

{Logan Henry}
{Jack Sawyer}

When they were done playing outside they came in for some cocoa with marshmallows, which Jack calls "Smarshmallows".  They were rosy cheeked and so happy to have finally thrown some snowballs at Daddy.