a super (weather, children, life plan, funnies, spring, inspiration ) update post

"I did it!"
I went six days with no internet.
No, no. Not by choice.  
Out here (and maybe everywhere?) we are only given a limited amount of internet for each billing period.  We share with two other teachers, and between the four of us, we used up our allotted bytes in three short weeks.

 But today, today (!) we start a new billing cycle.  
So here I am. Blogging, emailing, and catching up.

It was a long six days.
I really didn't realize how much I depend on the internet 
(for groceries, human contact, shopping, inspiration, google and banking.)

 It feels this morning as if the sun is rising after a very long, dark and lonely night!  

However, I must be honest and tell you that I got a lot of stuff done in the last week.  I cleaned the entire house, top to bottom; hosted a potluck this weekend; started reading two books: Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult, which I cannot put down; and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, which I am having a hard time swallowing.  I have also jumped with both feet into the twins' new preschool curriculum, made bread for the next two weeks and had family movie night with the kiddos.

So while I must tell you I missed you (both writing for you, and reading what you have to say), it was probably good for me to take a break.  Even if I did so kicking and screaming.

Just ask Josh. 

Actually... he will plead the fifth because he is a smart man... but I will tell you, I was not happy about forgoing blogging the last week and I felt quite noble in this sacrifice.  

We could have continued using the internet, paying for the extra, but the price per byte is ridiculous and Josh was not too keen on the idea.  So I agreed to turn off the computer and save the money.  But like I said, I wasn't happy about it!

Saturday night is (usually) family movie night here at the Cunningham ranch, and this Saturday was no different. We watched Peter Pan, which was recently released from the Disney vault, much to my boys' delight, and sent to us from my mom.  They loved every second of it.

In addition to a new movie, my friend Kristina (who was in choir with me in high school), sent us a fondue care package. Yes, it was as awesome as it sounds!  The boys were delighted, dipping marshmallows into smooth cups of warm, melted chocolate while watching Hook & Pan battle it out.

When the movie ended, it was a little after the boys' bedtime, so we were rushing about, getting littles into jammies, and brushing sugary teeth when Josh, in the bathroom upstairs filling up the humidifier, and I, in the bathroom downstairs with Jack, heard it. 

Thud. Thud-thud. Thud-thud-thud. Thud. Thud-thud-thud. It wasn't until about the seventh thud, coupled with the sound that escaped Josh's throat upstairs, that I realized what it was.

Falling down the stairs.
From the top.
Sixteen steps in all.

No one saw a thing. But the sound? The sound haunts us.

I didn't get to him until he landed at the bottom. Josh was at the top of the stairs just as he landed as well. And the twins came running when they heard Wyatt start crying.  Jack goes, "I wasn't there. I didn't even see it!" He felt so responsible. We all did.

I checked over Wyatt's body. He looked like he'd been hit with a 2x4 across his shoulder blades, has a bruise on his left shoulder and had three horrible "knobs" on his head in three different locations.  We put the twins to bed, keeping Wyatt up a while longer to see how he seemed.  

Once he was down for the night, Josh kept checking on him until we went to bed, then I was up twice in the night making sure he was fine. 

Thankfully, miraculously, he is.

{the twins each chose "twins" of their Cars characters}
The boys were talking the other night, again, about being "partners" when they grow up.  This means they will live together (in a house with both video games and snow machines) and share their money.  Their detailed plan? To find gold to turn into money so they can be truck drivers.  Logan says this is a good plan because "workers" have good lunches.   
 Jack finished school before Logan on Monday.  Jack ran to pick a video to watch for the remainder of Wyatt's nap, which distressed Logan because he wasn't finished.  Jack goes, "Don't worry, Logan. When it starts, I will pause it."  To which Logan replied, "Thanks, Jack. You're the best brother ever." Then they hugged.

I melted into a puddle right there in the middle of the kitchen.  It is rare that they are tender with each other like that. They love each other, and they share their toys better than any four year olds I know, but the hugging and "I love you"s are special.
Jack was feeding Wyatt snack last week while I cleaned the bathroom upstairs, and I was listening as he negotiated with our opinionated 21 month old.  First he showed Wyatt how to climb into his high chair. Then, once Wyatt was settled, Jack asked what he wanted for snack.  Wyatt answered, "Crackers."

Jack said, "No, you had crackers for lunch. Let's think of something else, buddy." It was so cute!  I am so proud of the little helper he is.
I bought all three boys ID bracelets for when we go home to Washington for the summer.  I had the exact same kind growing up, and it gives me some peace of mind with all the miles we travel to get there.

I was explaining to the boys that they can use these bracelets to tell a grown up who they are and what their parents' phone numbers are if they ever get lost.  Logan thought about it and then said, "Yeah, like if I get blown away to Krista's house (a fellow teacher), I can just show her my bracelet." Then he thought for a second. "Actually, if I blow to Krista's, I know how to get home by myself!"

I think it's funny he talked about getting "blown" to Krista's. The wind is pretty intense, so it could happen!  But it's very unlikely!
 Every time (every.time.) we get ready to go outside, Wyatt spends the entire time (roughly twenty minutes) crying or screaming bloody murder.  Finally, exasperated, I said to him one day, "Why do you scream every time we get ready to go outside?"

Logan answered me saying, "It's in his story, mom." Like they say on Super Why.  I said, "Well, I am going to "zap that sentence" and change it to say "Wyatt will NOT scream while we get ready to go out." 

The twins thought that was hilarious, but Wyatt (who also watches Super Why each morning) must have took what I said to heart, because each time we have gotten ready since then, he hasn't screamed!

I have been reading a lot of non-fiction to the twins in school lately.  Frogs, snakes, caves, rocks.  We were reading about frogs when I asked Logan what the frog's throat was doing all puffed up. Logan goes, "He's ribbiting!"  
 Josh and I have started watching Yukon Men on the Discovery Channel.  If you want to know what Marshall looks like, watch Yukon Men. We, too, are along the Yukon River, with boats & fishing providing a livelihood for residents, as well as moose hunting. 

Yukon Men is recorded in the village of Tanana, which is basically in the middle of Alaska, closer to Fairbanks (and further north) than us.

As we were watching, we both noted how strange it is that that's the life we live as well.  Hunting, dealing with the cold, traveling by snow machine when necessary and cut off from so many conveniences that we once took for granted.  

On the episode we watched last weekend, one of the boys was working on his dad's snow machine.  He took off his glove to do some fine work on the motor and Josh and I found ourselves holding our breath waiting for him to put his glove back on. At twenty or thirty degrees below zero, when your gloves are off, your hands are at an increased risk of losing feeling and/or getting frostbite, and it happens fast.

Something else we have been talking about now that the sun is up for over twelve hours/day is snow blindness.  Sunglasses, for me, are an absolute MUST if I want to be outside and avoid a headache.  The glare of the sunshine off the shiny white snow is dizzying.

Often it takes up to an hour for my eyes to adjust to the darkness of the house when we come back inside!
It's spring today.

You wouldn't know it here in rural Alaska!  
It's 19 degrees and swirling snow.

Last year it actively snowed until May 15th!!!  I am a bit concerned that the snow doesn't hold the magic it once did for me. I can't be sick of it yet... I've got two months left of the stuff!

There have been a handful of sunny days, highs of twenty or twenty-five, that have created some fantastic icicles.  We can sit in the house and hear them crashing onto the rail out front when the sun is beating down on the roof.

They can be very dangerous and make me nervous when I am out with the boys.  They have learned to walk away from the housing, out of danger's way.  

 The ones at the school are cuh-razy!  They are over two feet long, some of them, and crash to the playground below like spikes!

There was a severe blizzard last Easter that had the wind blowing so hard on the tundra, it sounded like a jet was taking off out front.  I am curious what the day will hold weather-wise this year.

Spring in a rural Alaskan school district means change.
This girl doesn't do well with change. 
It's something I am working on, but I am yet to completely embrace the idea.
 Basically, in preparation for the next school year, there is a huge shuffling of the deck.  Contracts are handed out, or not.  Contracts are signed, or not.  Paperwork for transfers is submitted, or not.  Rumors fly like the week before a dance in junior high school.

And so we wait for the dust to settle.  For applications to be approved, transfers to be confirmed and departures to be set in stone.  Meanwhile, I am a bit of a wreck.  Knowing some people haven't been invited back, others are choosing not to come back and others are hopeful for relocation makes me a bit uneasy.  Questions plague me.  Who will be my neighbors? My friends? My community next year?

This is only my second spring, and already I'm quite certain I lack the strength to do this every year...
It's quite hard on the heart.
One thing is for sure, though.
We will be back.

 Alaska has snuck into me.. Settling cold, sparkly ice in the corners of my heart.  Searing sunrises and sunsets into my memory.  Stamping moments with my boys in the fluffy white snow into the forefront of my mind.

 And because of my love for this unforgiving land, our five year plan stands.  

Josh will teach and work towards his masters during the upcoming third year.

And during the fourth & fifth years, we would like to finish paying off the remainder of our debt.

And sock away a bit of a nest egg.

After that, who knows where life will lead.  As a teacher, Josh would like to continue his career here in Alaska because you can retire after only twenty years of teaching.  But we have both discussed going back to "America" (aka the lower 48) someday as well.
Last week the boys and I went on a walk.  The sun was shining and we just had to get out of the house!  As soon as I strapped Wyatt onto my back he started saying, "Super happy! Super happy!" He said it the whole time we walked.  I just love that little buddy!

 Ever since daylight savings, I could not tell you what time it is to save my life. In addition to the change in time, we have been gaining like five minutes of daylight each day.  When the boys go to bed at night, I would swear it's 3pm.  In the morning, when Josh leaves for work, it looks like dusk.

In addition to the weird light at weird times, the amount of daylight feels akin to June at home, so my body is aching to be outside, running around, listening to the birds, or sitting in the grass.

 The boys asked me yesterday to make a countdown chain. They know we only make one of those once it's close to summer.  I told them it's too soon.  But I feel their pain!

 Even Josh is feeling it.  He came home at lunch on Monday and told me he was homesick. I have never, in the entire time we have been in Alaska, or even when he was here by himself, heard him say those words. 

 He said he just wants to go and do something.  
Take the kids to the zoo; go out to eat; drive on the open road.

 And we all miss the beach.  At bedtime we talk about it dreamily-- the boys praying for summer to come fast, and Josh and I telling them we've got a ways to go.

 In the meantime, we hope the weather keeps getting warmer, 
degree by degree, so we can get out on some adventures.  

The twins particularly like when we go on walks 
and get to see or play on the "workers" equipment that is all over town.

Wyatt's favorite thing is to visit Angel, our neighbor dog. 
She jumps on him, licks his face, and wags her tail so hard, 
I think it might fall off, but he loves every second of it, 
repeating, "Hi Angel. Hi Angel," in his sweet lil' baby voice.

{Our housing is the back row}
 In addition to time spent outside, we are also making home a haven, with more play time, more family movie nights and more enjoying the small things.  

I am still holding my breath about a place to stay in Washington.  I think once we have that nailed down, it will be easier for me to start getting excited about going home; about our airport reunion with my mom, sister & Julie; about camping at Cougar and about seeing my grandparents again.
I follow a new blog called Flourish.  It's got little bits of inspiration that I love to read and contemplate.  This one from a few days ago really hit me.  I left this comment:

"The picture and quote at the top of this post really resonated with me today. Nearly brought tears to my eyes.

Three years ago I had two year old twins and a husband who had just graduated with his bachelors degree in education. I had our life all mapped out... He would get a job in Washington state where our family was and where we had lived our whole lives. Then I would be the stay-at-home mama I always dreamed of being since I was a little girl. I would get pregnant shortly after becoming a SAHM and give birth to a daughter, and we would then live happily ever after.

But God... well God had different plans. Instead my husband didn't find a job. I began my third year as a working mom, crying each day on the way to work, wondering where HE was, and pleading with Him to hear me.

Then I found out I was pregnant, unexpectedly. And it was a boy. This third son on his way made things very clear to me. I couldn't leave another baby and go to work. I just couldn't. And so I agreed with God, and my husband, that I would go ANYWHERE to be with my children. And I meant it. 

Fast forward to the present, and I am living in a rural village on the Yukon River in Alaska raising our three boys while my husband teaches native children, watching as all my dreams come true. It isn't (at all) what I pictured, but it's more than I could have imagined.

He knew I would blossom here. He knew I needed a third son. And He knew this (of all places!) was right where I needed to be."

It was just the reminder I needed today.
I chose to be here, living in this snowglobe, surrounded constantly by the sounds of my children, the smell of home cooked meals, the touch of a husband who loves me, and the taste of who I am when challenged.  I read a quote last week that spoke to the very heart of my experience here in rural Alaska.

"The things that have made me most happy 
started out as challenges I wasn't sure I could handle."
-Asha Dornfest

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Krystle said...

So good to hear from you!

Poor baby Wyatt! I am SOOO glad he is okay! What a heart-wrenching moment!

Man, these boys keep us on our toes!

Beautiful pictures and we LOVE Peter Pan! What other Disney movies do you love but don't have?

Kasey said...

So good to hear from you! I was starting to worry a little that something may be wrong. I love the pic of the boys at the bottom of the slide. I too am ready for spring. For the first time I am really noticing how my mood is affected by sunlight - and I really need to be in a better mood.
Glad your plans are set for next year.

Amanda said...

New follower that missed u last week!!!! Love ur posts:)

Anonymous said...

I missed your blog and was worried too! I've run out of minutes on my cell and had panic moments...ah technology...how have you made our life better?

I LOVED the sentence "Rumors fly like the week before a dance in junior high school". Keep writing!!!

Barb Miller said...

Great post, Shelly! I love, love, love the pic of you with Wyatt on your back...you are both adorable!

The Studers said...

Glad you are back! Was hoping all was well since you are so good about regularly posting (unlike, ahem, me) :). I have been thinking of you lately (are your ears ringing?) because I feel myself complaining and frustrated that it is still winter (snowed again today) in PA and we all have cabin fever, especially Grey. You are a courageous momma up there with your four men and I admire how beautifully you view and live your life. Honestly, you are quite possibly the only thought that keeps me totally internalizing these winter-time blues! Thanks for the inspiration!

Alyson Steiner said...

Loved getting caught up with you all! So thankful Wyatt is okay--such a scary thing! I love the tenderness between the boys! Like you, I cherish and get all teary when my boys do things like that too. There is just nothing better for them to have a built in partner!! Our boys are all very lucky!
Praying for you guys-- for fun, memory filled moments together, but that go quickly enough to get you to summer! ;-)

Rox said...

Ferris and I had fun looking at these great pictures. What a nice thing to see first thing in the morning! Ha! I'd like a countdown chain, too! I'm sorry Josh is feeling homesick, it's natural and this is a dragging time of year.
As for your friends moving away and the rumor mill, it reminds me of the military. Always welcoming new people and saying goodbye to friends. You'll get through it and it will make you stronger. Just enjoy the time you have with those close to you and know that just as you moved away to follow your dream, they're doing the same. Big hug!

Kristina said...

I am so happy that you're back! I was seriously starting to get worried and was sure that something bad happened...but glad to know that it was just the internet usage! Praying that you find somewhere to live this summer and that it gets a little warmer for you guys! We had snowfall last night so spring is still quite a bit away from us as well! Love you guys!