your questions answered...

1. How do you keep going? 
I know you got three boys but do you ever have a day you lay the couch? 
What you hear about and see on the blog are my goals, big ideas and most productive days.  In between my moments of inspiration, are moments of reality.  Loads of laundry, sinks full of dishes and yes, some days spent on the couch!  I generally don't sit & watch TV during the day, because the boys make it so annoying (ha!), but I will occasionally watch Dr. Phil in the afternoon.  

When I am sick, though, like I was two weeks ago, the TV is what gets me through.  I was planted firmly on the couch for a good four days, watching Alaska & Gold shows (which the boys love) and some TLC (Long Island Medium, Say Yes to the Dress & What Not To Wear.)

What honestly keeps me going most days (allowing that I am healthy) are my goals.  Having a specific set of things I am working on keeps me motivated to carry on.  I also know that if I slack one day (don't do laundry, dishes or tidy up the house) the mess will multiply and I will pay for it big time the next day.

2. What's a food you wish you had? 
I wish I had fast food.  Particularly Panda Express.  I miss not only how it tastes (delicious!) but the convenience of picking it up already made.  Some nights I dread making dinner, but out here, there's no other option.

3. What's the most unexpected thing you've encountered about living in the bush? 

The kids walking around with rifles.  To see a ten or eleven year old walking down the road with a gun slung over their shoulder always startles me.

It's funny because before moving to Alaska we were going to be those parents-- the ones who don't allow guns and never owned any.  Now that we are here, I see the need for guns for us as grown ups, and will likely let the kids go shooting sooner than later as well.

4. Do you miss me and my irreverence on girls' night? 

Susan, oh yes. A hundred times yes.  I cried while I was getting ready for our first girls night this year because I was missing you so bad.  Please come see us!!!

5. What's your favorite part about Alaska? 
My favorite part about Alaska (aside from the opportunity it's given our family) is the views.  I love the view from my living room, bedroom and on our walks.  Everywhere I look is breathtaking.

6. What software or program do you use for writing your blog posts? 
I use Blogspot.com.  You can go to Blogger.com to create a blog for yourself. Click here to start. I started five years ago, so my first day was a while ago, but I remember it being pretty simple. It will walk you through the steps necessary and then you can write to your little hearts content and even upload pictures!

7. Do you think you might want another baby or do your boys keep you busy enough? 

This is such a good question. And honestly, one I don't have an answer for.  Some days, especially on challenging days, I am sure that we are done.  Other days, I think of how young I am, and the possibility of having a daughter, and feel sure that eventually we will have a fourth.  I guess time will tell! 

8. How do you do what you do!!! You're super mom!!!  

I do what I do because I have a really supportive husband and because I was raised by an amazing mom.  Those two elements combined allow me to run a beautiful, cozy and organized home with well behaved boys who respect their mama.

{Our housing}
9. Who stores your car? 
My sister and her husband store our car in their garage.  For their trouble, we gave them a little bit of money, which was nothing compared to what we would have to pay a place to store it.  We are so grateful that it's safe and out of the rainy Washington weather!

10. Does the school help pay for transporting you to or from Alaska? 

The school gives us a one-time payment for travel for Josh at the beginning of each school year.  It doesn't quite cover the actual cost of his one-way ticket from Portland to Marshall.  And it certainly doesn't touch what we spend as a family to get here! 

Using our $99 companion fare (we buy round trip tickets for us, and get the twins' tickets for $99 each) and our mileage for Wyatt's trip Portland to Marshall since he turned two in June, we spent $4200 flying our family to and from Washington for the summer.

11. Do you ever get time away? How do you and Josh date? 

How, where, and when do you and Josh get one on one time with a house full of boys? 
One night last year, when the kids were sleeping Leah came and sat so Josh and I could go with Peter to see the Northern Lights. It was amazing. Other than that, we have not had any time away.  We take full advantage of the help we have in Washington to go on dates and have alone time. 

Here in Marshall, we have a standing date night every Friday night.  I put the kids to bed while Josh makes us pizza. We take turns choosing a movie and aren't allowed to do anything else-- no laundry, internet or work.  It has become a sacred time for us.

12. If there was one thing you could change about Alaska, what would it be? 
There would be a medical doctor in every village.  It is so scary that any medical emergency would require a Medivac flight to Bethel or Anchorage.

{Our housing and the school}
13. People always say they miss the simple things; what is the simple thing you miss the most about living away from populated areas? 
The grocery store.  Hands down.  Walking into the store and seeing aisle after aisle of every single possible ingredient I could need.  I miss fresh fruits & vegetables. I miss dairy products.  I miss choices.  Next time you're there, soak it in for me.  Buy some watermelon, vanilla caramel creamer and Tillamook Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream and be grateful!

14. Why homeschooling? I debate this in my mind for my children and our situation all the time. Just curious how you came to your decision. 

Homeschooling. Well, I will tell you this, I had no idea how controversial this subject would be! I think that my being the wife of a school teacher made it more so, and while I totally understand the irony, I also feel that it's a choice that is never made lightly.  I don't know any moms who homeschool because it's the easier choice.  

We have decided to homeschool the boys for a multitude of reasons, but the main reasons are: a two to one student/teacher ratio; wanting to spend as much time as possible with the boys; and because of Wyatt's advanced intellect, I wanted him to be able to join us.

I certainly didn't think it would be easy (it's not!) and balancing the roles of mom & teacher are very challenging, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that homeschooling is the right thing for us right now.  And that confidence feels good.

15. Forever curious about your food/grocery situation, what meals and cooking are like for you, what substitutions do you use I'd you're out of an item? Pics of the co op store, maybe showing what's available on a couple different trips? 

Pictures of the inside of the food co op would satisfy some curiosity, too! 
I will try to get some pictures of the co-op on our next trip, so stay posted for those. But in response to your questions about substitutions-- I wish I was besties with the Pioneer Woman so I knew more about what ingredients I can swap out! Then I could just text her what I have versus what I need and never screw up! 

Since I am not best friends with Ree, I instead have to find recipes that include only ingredients I have on hand.  I do not have milk, whip cream, cream, creamer, sour cream, ice cream, cream cheese or half & half. I also rarely have apples, grapes, bananas or carrots. Occasionally these items will show up at the co-op, and those are happy days!  I have a handful of recipes that require these ingredients, and when Josh comes home with them, I immediately set to work taking advantage of our good luck.

16. More on your scrapbooks... 

So I made a big transition last year. I went from calendars (where I chose my favorite pictures from each month to put at the top, and wrote something neat for each day of the month) to scrapbooks for the boys.  My goal is to do a two-page spread for each of our three boys for each month of the year.  I am already behind (big surprise!) but feel confident that it will be pretty easy to catch up this year.

17. What do you get or want to get in care packages? 
Food & trinkets for the boys are most common.  I love care packages with a surprise inside or a theme.  I just finished updating our Care Packages Tab at the top of the blog, so that is a good reference if you are at a loss.  Honestly, getting anything in the mail brings us such joy, I can't express it accurately.  The boys jump up and down squeal over every.single.thing.  Just last week we got a care package from my grandma and they were screaming over beef jerky.  They really understand how precious these gifts are, so please know that if you send a care package, you are truly sending us smiles.

18. I feel bad I never sent you my Scentsy, do you still want it? 

LOL, I PROMISE to send it if you still want it!! 
First-- do NOT feel bad! You have been busy, like, moving across the country & such.  Second-- yes, I would LOVE your Scentsy.  This isn't something I like to share, but we live ridiculously close to Marshall's dump.  And when they are burning at the dump, this place can smell AWFUL. Scentsy is the only thing that makes it tolerable!

19. Pictures of the school......the post office....the grocery store and telling how long it takes to get to these places from ur home. What other buildings are in ur town? 

I will work to take pictures, like I said previously, so keep your eyes peeled for those later to come.  I would say that it's less than five minutes in the van to get from our house to the post office and store, which are basically across the street from each other.  They are maybe a mile from our house, probably less.  When I walked with the boys downtown to get to the clinic, it took about fifteen minutes, I think.

20. Do you have churches in Marshall? And do you go to one? 

There are three churches in town.  The Russian Orthodox Church, which is where the majority of Natives go; the Catholic Church; and the Evangelical Church.  We do not attend church.

Other than the post office, co op, and churches, there is a gas station (where gas is roughly $7.00/gallon), a building for the Tribal Council, a Bingo Hall (where I voted last November) and a Community Building that's not complete yet.

21. And telling what u may do on a typical middle of winter can't go outside day. What do u do with the boys to keep all ur spirits up when there is so much darkness and so much cold? 
What do you do mid winter when you can't really get outside and the kids are just....too much to handle? 
The darkness does not bother me. I know that sounds crazy- there are days when we get less than four hours of daylight- but it's true. To be honest, the light at the end of the school year- when the sun rises at 5:30am and doesn't set until 11:30pm- is far more bothersome. 

I work to keep the house cozy with lamps and candles and yummy food baking, and maybe that's what makes the dark tolerable.

As far as the boys are concerned, we get outside as much as humanly possible. If it's zero degrees with no wind, we go outside. Even if it is only for ten minutes.  If it's ten or twenty degrees with no wind, we go out for a half hour.  And if it's any higher than that, we stay out until they are begging to come in or the center of their cheeks start turning white (an early sign of frostbite).

For the period of time when the weather is prohibitive (in the negatives), we use every square inch of our house.  We play stuffed animal war in my room, build a fort on the bunk beds in their room, "row" around the house in "tote canoes" and build summer-camp in their closet.  We also do Move N Groove videos, which help the boys get their wiggles out.  

But the real thing that keeps us sane, is our routine.  During the week, we have a pretty strict schedule that keeps us moving from one activity to the next (breakfast, school, playtime, lunch, quiet time, extension activities, baking, dinner, bedtime). That schedule provides the movement during the day that we need to keep things fresh.

22. What meals do you cook for your family? 

I recently discovered this meal planner, and it has changed my life!  
Our favorite dinners are:
Chicken & Dumplings
Enchiladas with homemade tortillas
Chicken, Rice & Brocolli
Golden Mushroom Soup Patties

& Swedish Meatballs

When we have salmon we like:

Salmon & Rice
Salmon Croquets

And when we have moose we like:

Moose Roast (in the crock pot) 
Moose Burgers
& Moose Chili

For lunch we do a lot of quesadillas, sandwiches, macaroni & cheese, and eggs.

23. Do you have cable TV? 

Our first year, we didn't have TV.  The second year we got Dish.  That is the only option for TV out here.  We have enjoyed having TV, and feel much more connected with the world at large!  Now, though, I find that I am constantly battling to keep it off. Go figure!

24. Do you have any TV shows that your kids love that you can't stand? 
I think I am pretty tolerant of kid shows. As a general rule, they don't bother me. But there are three that I can't stand.
Thomas the tank engine: I hate how grumpy all the train cars are.
Caillou: He has no boundaries, whines and is generally very naughty.
Spongebob: I hate this show so much that this summer I decided they can't watch it anymore. It's not that it's so awful per se, but it doesn't offer anything in the way of being educational or containing a positive message.  So it's out!

25. I'm curious about the lives of the Native Alaskans who live there. What do the kids who graduate from high school do next? How much do they include you in their culture? 
The students who graduate from high school then work to find jobs in the village. There are many jobs in construction, at the Tribal Council, and the school.  Plus the co-op, Head Start and gas station have positions. 

The community is very open to including outsiders in their culture.  We are invited to Eskimo dances, potlatches, and have been invited to go hunting, ice fishing and berry picking.  We feel very lucky to have experienced so much of the Yupik culture while in the village.

26. I've also read Women, Food, and God (and most of Geneen's other books) and always enjoy when you write about that. Talk about a-ha moments! 

I really love Women, Food, and God.  It is chock full of a-ha moments.  The biggest take away I had from it was that the emotions being evoked by current feelings are from the past.  That has taken away a lot of their power, which has greatly reduced my emotional eating. 

27. I want to know what time of day you write your blogposts, if there is a typical time when you are able to undertake the task. 
I tend to work on blogs in snippets, whenever I get a moment.  During morning playtime, afternoon naps, and after the boys are in bed generally.  For posts like this, I call on Josh to help me watch the boys so I can have longer periods to work on them.

28. Since what happened at EVCC, have you attended another church? 
After I left our old church (see the whole story here), and before we got married, Josh and I attempted to find a new home church.  Much to my dismay, I saw through the churches like a transparent slip of paper, and simply wasn't willing to risk being hurt again.

29. Do you think you'll ever give another church a try? 
No, I don't think I will.

30. Do you and Josh teach your kids about God? 
We do.  We pray each night and as they get older we talk more and more about God with them.  I have no worries about raising them with a good moral compass, even if that responsibility sits square on our shoulders alone.

My belief in God was never shaken by what happened, only my belief in man.

31. Have you been able to meet/spend time with other families out there in Marshall (other parents for you and Josh; and other kids for your boys)? 
We are blessed to be out here with Joe & Krista (the principal and the 1/2 grade teacher) who have four little ones age 5 & under.  And I get to participate in the Parents As Teachers (PAT) program, which means that twice a month my now-friend Katrina comes to visit with Wyatt and I.  She is currently expecting her third little boy, and we could talk for hours about parenting. Our boys enjoy playing with all the little kids on the playground and at Saturday Social.  We are lucky to have many friends here.

32. Do you remember when we first met?
When I think of first meeting you, I am walking out of the main building at Mt. View, heading to Mr. Gourde's English class in the super-portable.  We are laughing.  Now I want to know what you remember, Lenny!

33. What do you enjoy the most about the holidays since you've moved to Alaska? What about the least? 
What I enjoy about the holidays most is the cozy feeling in the house with all the twinkle lights up.  I love the time off with Josh at home, and baking our favorite Christmas treats.  I love looking out the window at the snow globe we live in.  What I like the least is missing specific events.  Zoo lights, Christmas dinner, my mom's birthday party.

34. Is life in Alaska different than what you were expecting? 
I have to say no.  It's big. Vast, really. It's cold.  The village is small. The school is new. And the housing is gorgeous. It all matches up with my expectations. And often times being home with the boys exceeds my expectations.  

Any of the challenges are worth being here.  Luckily, none of the challenges (ie medical care, groceries, the weather) were unexpected.  That makes them more manageable.

35. If you're having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, what do you do to cheer yourself up? 
Love the Alexander reference. 
Here's the list:
1. Music (lately JJ Heller & Colbie Caillat)
2. Scentsy (good smells make me HAPPY!)
3. Calling a friend
4. Reading a good book 
5. Writing in my Gratitude Journal

36. Where do you find inspiration? 
Reading, quotes & nature.
Also other blogs. 
Most notably:

37. Since you love to read, if you could choose one book as a mandatory read, which book would you choose? 
Before I answer this, I want you to know that of all the questions I was asked (about Alaska, life in the village, even a fourth baby) this one (this one!) is the one that kept me up at night, thinking.  Finally I found the answer, but just so you know, it wasn't easy to choose. 

A mandatory read I would like to enforce would be One and the Same by Abigail Pogrebin.  If everyone in the world had read this book, raising twins would be a lot easier. People would understand that with the adorable dualness comes challenges  With their closeness can come tension.  That it isn't all matching clothes and secret languages.  There are struggles as well. For both parents raising twins, and twins being twins.  It clears up a lot of the science behind twins.  It's the best twin book I have ever read, and I've read a lot of them.

A mandatory for pleasure read would have to be Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve.  I couldn't put it down.  Really, though, I love all of Anita's books.

{And in case these two aren't enough, check out the rest of my book recommends here.}

38. Is there one thing that your boys do that drives you absolutely insane? (Like mine is the boys wrestling/rough housing with each other since they have no boundaries and will go until someone gets hurt. And they never learn their lesson so it's banned until they are older in my house!) 

The boys fighting is now forbidden in our house as well.  They kept getting hurt. They call it "fight game" so now I am always yelling, "No fight game!"

I also hate when they fight over toys while I am doing dishes. I hate doing dishes anyway, so when they are constantly interrupting me, it can be rage inducing.

39. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? 

The first thing that popped into my mind was: Have a daughter. I really would like a daughter.  Other than that, I can't really think of anything that I am dying to do.

40. In a house full of boys, do you ever wish you had a little girl, too? 
Yes.  It's something I think about.  I believe I was meant to be the mother of boys, and Josh was meant to be the father of boys.  But I think both of us imagine life with a daughter occasionally.

41. Do you have any tips for keeping the house in order? 
I have a place for everything.  And I make a really big effort to make sure those things go back to their home every time.  Before I go to bed at night, as a general rule, the house is spotless. Starting the day with a clean house both makes me happy to wake up and inspires me to keep it that way!

I am also a nazi mom who has, in the past, dumped out all the boys' toys because they put them back disorganized.  The rule is "We play one thing at a time" and I enforce it.

Just this year, I ordered three additional bookshelves because the boys had so many toys they couldn't even choose. Having their things spread out over the room, in more accessible ways, not only helps them keep it organized, but makes choosing activities so much easier for them!

42. What ONE thing can I and your other friends do to support you and your family? 
Contact.  When you think of me, let me know it.  Drop me a letter, write a text, give me a call, jot me a Facebook message or send a care package.  I get lonely up here.  It's hard to be away from all my loved ones and to feel disconnected from everything.  Getting letters in the mail or emails in my inbox makes the distance seem smaller.  It helps me to feel more connected to everyone who is rooting us on!


Amanda said...

Loved this post:) Thanks for answering all our questions:)

allie. said...

thanks for answering our questions! that was a great post. your booklist is pure GOLD and i can't wait to dive into it.

right now i'm reading "the child whisperer" by carol tuttle. i am only on the 2nd chapter so i don't know if i can recommend it yet, but she has some interesting ideas on thespecific, individual energy of each child, and parenting to that energy.

Barb Miller said...

Fun post, Shelly! And I am always rooting for you and your family...I will try to let you know it more often!

Elizabeth said...

This post is fantastic! Thanks for sharing :-)

Lenny B. said...

Great post, Shelly!
I'm curious about why those kids need the guns in the first place, though. Is it because the wildlife might snatch them up or something?

And holy guacamole on those round trip plane tickets!! Glad to see that you love your family so much to fly back every year. :) I'm really glad to hear that you and Josh are able to get some quiet time together every week. I think it's necessary for everyone's sanity, and especially necessary to achieve a sense of happiness.

I honestly can't imagine life in such a rural village, but I'm glad that you have your family there to keep you company on those cold Alaskan nights during the winter. I'm glad your kids are able to experience the feeling living in a close-knit community and that you guys aren't isolated, and have friends to spend your time with, as well. :) Thanks again for answering my questions and I look forward to reading more of your blogtember posts!

Lenny B. said...

Oh and to answer your final question regarding how we first met. I asked because I can't remember much of my first year (Junior year) at Mountain View. I do, however, remember our small class in Mr. Gourd's huge corner-pocketed classroom. I don't even remember any of the reading assignments we had, because that was a literature class, wasn't it?

I do remember how much you enjoyed reading, and I didn't like reading back then, so that perhaps explains why I find it difficult to remember. Oh! And I think I shared my personal journal or something, with you back then. Or we swapped notes in class or something. Aw, the memory lapses of old age... :)

Shelly Cunningham said...

Lenny- the kids all love to hunt. Specifically birds, but sometimes moose or rabbits. Although, with bears awake and hungry right now, it's not a bad idea to travel away from town with a weapon!

S-J said...

Thanks so much for this post - loved it!

Kori Hiser said...

I loved reading this Shelly!
And so funny because I just knew there was something super nosy I wanted to ask you but I couldn't remember what is was and you answered it! I wanted to know how much it cost to fly your family to Alaska. Even if I had remembered, I probably wouldn't have asked since I am shy like that. So, I am glad I never had/have to now. Hahha.

Ohh yes. Calliou and SpongeBob! Ethan really liked Calliou when he was younger so I let him watch that but Spongebob is totally different. It grates my nerves. And he's totally at that age where it's cool. EYEROLL so I try to steer him to the more pleasant shows.

Your inspirational blogs are ones I read too! I love reading blogs..I should be better at commenting but since I read from a feeder, it's hard! It's one of my billion goals this (school) year!

Saving your must reads for when I'm done with my current series!