Jack of all Trades

In Alaska, I find that I have to be able to do a little bit of everything...
I have been a:

  • Nurse, administering treatments
  • Doctor, giving diagnoses
  • Hairstylist, cutting everyone's hair
  • Manicure/Pedicurist
  • Cook
  • Baker
  • Teacher
  • Housekeeper
  • Laundress
  • Activity coordinator
  • Weatherman
  • Cheerleader
  • Shelf stocker/ inventory keeper
  • Librarian
  • Personal shopper
  • Dishwasher
  • Organizer

Plus obviously, a friend, wife & mother.


Josh also wears many hats in Alaska, including:

  • Counselor to his wife
  • Taxi driver 
  • Field Trip Bus driver
  • Principal
  • Hunter
  • Teacher
  • and Student (in his masters program)

He is also a breadwinner, husband, father and more.

It's been fun to challenge ourselves with meeting our own needs, and exciting to see how much we can really do when put to the test!


Aunt Roxanne

Today my little sister, 
Aunt Roxanne to my boys, 
Mommy to Ferris & Milo, 
wifey to Blake, 
turns 27.

 We were lucky enough to live next door to each other last summer.  
This meant we spent a lot of time together with our five little boys age five and under.
(Yes, it was as loud as you are imagining.)

Never in all our lives did we think we'd have babies at the same time.
But we did.

These guys are the reason she wanted a baby of her very own.

 From the moment they met, she fell in love.

And 16 months after they were born, her little Ferris came along. 

Followed two years later by her Milo.

I am so blessed to have been born with a sister.  Someone who understands our family, loves my little boys like her own, and gets the insanity that is raising sons.

I love you Roxanne!
I hope you feel like a princess today!!!



The boys have taken to making potions...

Sprinkles, some spices & a little water are all they need.

They are fascinated lately by magic.
Jack wants to know how you learn magic.
"But how do you do it?" he asks pleadingly.

The twins maintain that magic is real.
Wyatt thinks I am magic.
The twins do not.

And tonight at the dinner table, 
when Jack asked Wyatt what the magic word was when he wanted pepper on his food,
Wyatt replied matter of factly,


Delayed Reaction

I had three kids in three years.
No one does that.

I also moved to a village in bush Alaska,
bake my own bread, roll my own tortillas,
and homeschool our two kindergartners.
Even less people do that.

I'm going somewhere with this.
Stick around...


I believe the insanity of our summer resulted in my early fall meltdown.
I had to hold it all together and once we finally came back here, I couldn't maintain it any longer.

Looking back I think my anxiety came for multiple reasons.  Being back in a city for the summer had its perks, but I was also completely overwhelmed by traffic, the radio, people everywhere, and the constant feel that I needed to be in a hurry.  Then came my wisdom tooth extraction, for which I was put under, and I began to really fear dying.  Like wrote-the-kids-goodbye-letters-the-morning-before-surgery scared.  And my recovery from that was awful. Slow and painful.  Then two weeks later I had to get myself off the vicodin (which I did cold turkey) and then suffered two more weeks from vicodin withdrawal. It was during this time my anxiety blossomed.  

Fast forward to August in Alaska, and I had a pretty constant fear that my body was going to let me down.  I was terrified of any and all symptoms that appeared. Headache? Tumor.  Stomach ache? C. diff.  Back ache? Kidney infection.

Then some depression snuck in alongside the anxiety (mainly fear of death and the unknowns of the future) and together those two decided to hang out with my vitamin D deficiency and together the three were able to make me disgustingly miserable.


Does that ever happen to you? Someone tells you something and it doesn't hit you until later?  Or you go through something (a procedure, a scary moment, a stressful period) and it isn't until after it's over that you really feel the depth of what you experienced?

Now that I am feeling better (and I am!) I can look back at this fall and see that I did the best I could with what I was facing.  I am so grateful that my depression lifted, that my anxiety lessened (I haven't had to take my anti-anxiety medication in over a month!) and that I'm on my way to appropriate Vitamin D levels. (I only have three weeks of treatment left!)

I vacillate between thinking this would have happened no matter what (because of my worried predisposition and a family history of mental health issues), and thinking that maybe having three sons in three years and a husband working full time + working on a masters degree in an isolated village in the middle of nowhere made this happen.  At this point I've decided it doesn't matter.  It is what it is. I suffered. I persevered.  I triumphed.

Now the important thing is to keep it from happening again.  
That's where Prozac, therapy,
and a million other little things I do to keep my sanity come in.  

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Maintaining a consistent routine
  • Journaling
  • Time with friends
  • Praying
  • Keeping a Gratitude Journal
  • Working out
  • Reading for pleasure
  • Playing music
I hope that as I work to stay in the moment, being present, I will be less likely to walk away from an experience not having actually experienced it.

I "graduated" from therapy this week.  It feels amazing. I know what shapes the anxiety takes. I can see it coming, and I know what steps to take to get it under control.  It still feels scary sometimes.  Overwhelming.  But for the most part, I know it will never be as bad as it was. And that brings great peace.

I believe, finally, and maybe for the first time, that I can have a panic-free future.  It will require some vigilance on my part, but every effort is worth it.

I dedicate this post to all the anxiety sufferers out there.
Know that you are not alone,
that the only way out is through,
and that with time, you can be well.


Swim Party

The final Friday we were in Washington, the boys had filled their Kindness bead jar.  So we took advantage of being in town, and went to the pool for one last celebratory hurrah!

Wyatt did amazingly well.  He warmed right up, and even floated on his own in the pool.

Afterward he was very concerned about how wrinkly he was.

{Wyatt with Papa}
When we finished swimming, we had everyone come back to our rental house and had pizza together.

{Logan with Nanny}
It was bittersweet-- knowing we wouldn't be seeing our people (or the pool) again for a long time was very sad!


This is it... Is this it?

Is it hard for anyone else to get rid of baby stuff? I was so sad to sell the twins' nursery furniture three years ago.  Now we're selling Wyatt's high chair, and even though he doesn't fit in it anymore, I am sad to see it go.  He's nearly done with diapers, and I've already weeded through the playroom to get rid of toys that are for babies under two...

We're still not sure if we'll have more. 
But if I were a betting woman, I'd bet we're done. 
Which surprises me. 

The emotions about that are so conflicting. I feel relief coupled with deep grief whenever I imagine our future with just the three boys.  I ache for a girl. To have a daughter, a mini-me.  Tiny fingernails painted, tutu on, sparkly Dorothy shoes, twirling for me in the living room.  To have a sister for these boys, someone to soften the rowdiness.  A little princess for Josh to adore.

On the other hand, I am so blessed.  Being these boys' mom is better than anything I ever imagined.  Curling up on our bed with them after a long day, reading Mercer Mayer books, smelling just-washed heads, is a dream come true.  Spontaneous hugs and I love you's along with the hilarious things they say (Jack the other day said, "Mom, if we had a pet spider, it wouldn't have to be hairy, it would eat all the flies in our house and would never go hungry") make all the hard work worth it.

It almost feels greedy to wish for a girl.  To desire a daughter when we have three healthy sons.  

I guess only time will tell.  God only knows what's in store for our future.  But for now, I am trying to enjoy the three I was blessed with, even if they won't wear pink ruffles for me!


Health Care in the Bush

I received so many questions about life in the bush that I will be breaking the answers into several posts. For today I decided to start with questions about health care.

I had a lot of questions about health care in the bush. Particularly prenatal care.  When a woman gets pregnant in the village, she generally seeks prenatal care in Bethel, a thirty minute plane ride away, although some may choose to go all the way to Anchorage (an additional hour-long flight from Bethel).

After the initial visit, I believe they go to the doctor every six weeks, then every four weeks, then every two weeks up to 36 weeks.  At 36 weeks it is required by health insurance that expectant mothers fly out (again, to Bethel or Anchorage) and stay at a home while they wait for their babies to be born.  The women have roommates and cannot bring their husbands or children.  Once the baby is born, they are able to fly home, usually within a few days of birth.

There are no home births.  There is no midwife.  The risk is too great.

If you are required to leave the village for medical care (for any reason, not just pregnancy) the insurance reimburses the cost of the flight at 90%.  

Occasionally a medical doctor will come to the village and see patients.  I have never seen a doctor out here personally.  We have been to the clinic multiple times for ear infections, one case of scabies (!!!) and some other illnesses.

The staff is medically trained, but are not doctors or nurses.  They take all our vitals, ask questions and then correspond with doctors in Bethel to decide which treatment is best.  They carry most necessary prescriptions (i.e. Albuterol for inhalers, Amoxicillin for ear infections...).

In addition to minor urgent care, the workers at the clinic are on call 24/7 in case of emergency.  They are the ones who call Medivac (similar to life flight) if necessary and have saved many lives here in the village.  Medivac is emergency medical transportation via airplane or helicopter, depending on weather, and Medivac insurance can be purchased for $100 a year for the entire family.

The clinic also coordinates the dentists, eye doctors and nurses who give well-child check ups and necessary shots for everyone.  We have opted to use our doctors at home in Washington for well child check ups and shots.  So every summer we catch the boys up, seeing the dentist, the eye doctor and their pediatrician.  But if we wanted, they could be seen out here.

When our doctors send in a Rx for us, we use a mail order pharmacy that ships directly to our PO box.  The only inconvenience there is that we have to make sure we give the Rx enough time to get to us.  Luckily we've had no issues.  

I would say the only major change to my health since arriving in Alaska is dry skin and chapped lips.  I use lotion and chapstick like they are going out of style.  I also drink a lot of water, and we use humidifiers in both our room and the boys' room to keep the air moisturized.

The bonus to dry air is that our cups never sweat, so I have no need for cup holders.

Silver lining?

Some people may be surprised that I don't list anxiety as a change to my health since arriving here, but the truth is I have had anxiety for about five years, it had just never gotten quite so severe.  I believe that my wisdom teeth removal recovery (which was slow and agonizing) this summer, coupled with the powerful antibiotics I was on and the lack of medical care once we arrived in Marshall this fall was the perfect storm for my health-related anxiety.  

Then in December I actually became ill with pneumonia, followed by bronchitis, and that took everything out of me.

Thankfully I found a counselor willing to do phone counseling with me, which has been a tremendous help, and finding a doctor (+ corresponding prescription) in Anchorage when I visited in January was also a big help.

The last question I was asked was if there are any villagers who've never left the village.  All the people I know personally have left the village at some point.  At the very least they have been out to see a doctor, but many go to Anchorage for vacation, to shop and to see family they have there.

The natives also do a lot of traveling amongst villages (either by plane, by boat or by snow machine, depending on the weather and the season), because many families are spread out across the many villages.  


Valentine's Day

For Valentine's Day the boys got a box from my mom, as well as a care package from my sister.  We opened the one from my sister right away. It had adorable Hanna Andersson fleece sweaters for the twins and special chocolates that Ferris had picked out for each of his cousins.

We saved my mom's box for Valentine's day.
It had the sweetest book (that made me cry!) 
If you live away from your loved ones, I recommend it. 
It's so beautiful.

She also sent some chocolates for the boys,

plus candy for myself (Butterfingers!) and for Josh.

The boys enjoyed the candy while we watched Gold Rush, 
one of our family favorites!

Then we played play-doh, and Jack made me these Heart Cupcakes,
as well as a card that he wrote "Love Mom" on, all by himself.

And Logan made me spaghetti & meatballs,
in festive pink & red.
They were delicious!


Josh splurged and spent $40 on ice cream for me at the co op. It was pretty much awesome.  I feel so grateful to have been surrounded by love on Valentine's Day, and everyday.


Why We Homeschool

There are many reasons why we homeschool.  It's like picking a needle from a haystack to give one reason.  But for the sake of this post, I will try to specify the reasons we have chosen it for our boys.

First, though, let me say that, yes, homeschooling is hard. It definitely requires preparation on my part, a rigid schedule to make sure school happens everyday, and the integrating of learning into every aspect of our days at home.  Though I may complain occasionally about the work (it's like raising kids, we love 'em, but that doesn't make 'em any less effort!) it's a decision that I stand by.

Reason #1:  Educating my children is my responsibility

This is the primary reason we've chosen to homeschool.  I don't feel like it's anyone else's responsibility to educate my children.  Both because the weight of that is on my shoulders anyway, and because if I'm the one doing the teaching, then I know for certain what they're learning.

I feel that the future of these bright, beautiful boys is in my hands.  It's an awesome responsibility, and one that I don't take lightly.

Reason #2:  You can't beat a two-to-one student/teacher ratio

Even here in the bush, class sizes can near twenty students per teacher. So having only two pupils (thus far) my numbers couldn't be any better.  I am able to afford the boys one on one time when necessary, change lessons to meet their needs, and alter our schedule if they're sick or over tired.

Reason #3: Flexibility

As stated in reason #2, the flexibility that homeschooling allows is really alluring.  When the kids are sick during the week, we can make up school time on the weekends.  When I was out with pneumonia, we picked up the slack once I was better.  We're able to adjust our schedule as needed (school in the morning, school during nap time, school in the afternoons) and it really works for us.

Reason #4: I became a stay-at-home mom so I could spend time with my children

I find that the older the boys become, the more I want to be their primary influence.  Because of that, and my desire to maximize my time with them (especially with the twins, since I missed out on so much of their first two years) I love that we are able to spend our entire days together.

And finally, to address the irony-- I know my husband is a school teacher. And in fact, I worked in an elementary school for six years before I became a full time mom.  So I do believe in public education. I believe in the good it can do.  It isn't the choice for our family right now, but it may very well be at some point in the future.


I am still finding my way in terms of schools of thought on homeschooling.  There's Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, Classical... Thus far, we're following the kindergarten guidelines set forth by the state of Alaska, using different curriculum I found throughout the summer in Washington.

The most important piece of our kindergarten curriculum has been, by far, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Engelmann, Haddox & Bruner.  Last year we did pre-school, and we worked tirelessly on learning letter sounds.  It's amazing to me that less than a year later, they are reading.  Just two nights ago they read their first "real" (non school) books to Josh and me at bedtime.  Logan read No David by David Shannon and Jack read I Am Sharing by Mercer Mayer.

Josh had his arm around me as they read, and he gave me a squeeze, whispering in my ear, "You did it!"  His delight in our children and their ability and his faith in me and my teaching buoys my spirit and makes me feel so proud of what we've accomplished this year.


Two things I really enjoy about homeschooling are doing arts & crafts, 
as well as science experiments.
Recently we've grown crystals,
and the boys painted frames for their bedroom.


But by far my favorite part is doing journals with the boys every morning.  They get to choose whatever they want to draw, and now they are even able to "guess & go", writing down what they drew.



I love watching these boys grow.
I love seeing them learn.
I love witnessing those lightbulbs flickering on above their sweet tow heads.

Homeschooling, like anything worth doing, is challenging.  
But the rewards are totally worth it.