Bush Alaska: Four Years Later

{May 2015}

{January 2012}
I thought it would be fun, after having Leah take this picture of us in Marshall, to compare it to our family coming to Marshall four years ago.  I would say we've all changed.  The twins have grown, as has Wyatt.  They've learned to read, and he's learned to talk.  Josh has gotten his master's degree and invaluable experience teaching out in the bush.  I have settled into my stay-at-home mom/homeschooling role, as well as struggled through the heartache of two miscarriages and dealt with anxiety & depression at times.  I believe we have all emerged from this year stronger & with more faith in God. 

Our goal was always five years, and when Josh signed that contract for next school year, we kind of couldn't believe it was our fifth year already!  Time truly flies right on by!  I can't wait to see what the future holds.


Our Last Few Days In Marshall

The last few days in Marshall were, as they always are, bittersweet.  With the weather lovely enough to play outside, and the tundra turning from brown to green, it seems we are leaving just when it's getting good.  We enjoyed the spring carnival during the last week, as well as an award assembly and community feed at the school.  But to balance all the goodness, we had some hard goodbyes.  

I know I talk a lot about goodbyes, but truly unless you live this lifestyle (as my friend Ann put it) you can't grasp just how important these people become to you.  When you are so isolated, they become your family.  Need some sugar? Salsa? A can of olives? These are your girls.  We have loved, laughed and cried through the last three years together, and Krista & I are both heartbroken to see Leah go.  But, we joked, we love her enough to wish her well in her next adventure, not curse her for leaving us!

I am so thankful that our last few days together were so wonderful and that we leave each other knowing that in the world we each have at least two other solid friends who would move mountains for us if we needed them to.


The Portland Airport

Our arrival in Portland was a bit scary at first.  We came in for a landing, and at the last minute, the plane pulled up and we circled around.  The pilot reassured us there was just traffic on the runway, but Jack and I were both terrified.  (Our family had been separated because our reservation was for the emergency exit aisle, and no one under 18 years of age can sit there.  So they had to re-seat us.) Josh had Wyatt and Logan with him.  Wyatt had fallen asleep, and woke up as we were headed back into the clouds.  He was not a happy camper.  Jack and I just held hands and I prayed and prayed we would be able to land safely and see our family who was waiting anxiously below.  

We did indeed land safely, and before we knew it, I was following Josh and the boys to the gate where we would see our family for the first time.  I was expecting Josh's parents, my parents and maybe his brother.  Instead I was surprised to see my sister (who was supposed to be camping) and Josh's sister (who had been at Phantom of the Opera) were there, along with Josh's cousin and her kids.  I was shocked.  We are so loved, and I felt so blessed to have everyone I love there to greet us.  

I don't even remember the order in which I hugged people-- I think maybe Julie, then my sister, then my mom.  I just remember hugging my sister and sobbing.  I had missed her so much this year and was so happy to be with her again.  I also cried when I hugged my mom.  I had seen Julie during our trip to Anchorage, so we hugged, but I didn't need to bawl my eyes out from missing her for nine months. ;) Lucky her!

These are all the pictures I took of our time at the airport. I was really just in the moment, relishing the chance to hug my dad, my mother-in-law and soon to be sister-in-law Tiffanie.  I was too busy enjoying everyone talking to our boys and loving on them, as I knew they would, to take pictures.

After we gathered our luggage and hugged everyone one last time, we loaded up our car (oh, how I missed our car!) and headed "home".  (This summer "home" is my in-laws' house.  I am so excited to stay with family and have extra hands on deck to help with the kids.)  

Thank you to everyone who prayed for safe & easy travels and sent us well wishes.  Logan, who had been throwing up the day before we left, was in perfect health the whole day, and we had zero flight delays.  We are blessed indeed!


My Favorite Flight

My favorite flight (of the four we typically take) is the one from Anchorage to Seattle.  We generally travel mid-afternoon, and the light allows us to take advantage of the amazing views.  The mountains in Alaska are truly breathtaking.  

This flight is also the longest flight, which you would think makes it my least favorite, but the opposite is in fact true.  The 3+ hour flight allows us to really settle in, put a movie on for the kids and relax ourselves for a little bit.  It also gets us to the lower 48, which is a wonderful feeling.  Something about being back on the road system provides me mental comfort.

I was surprised that none of the kids slept, but we were all so excited to get to Washington, I don't think I can blame them!


Leaving on a Jet Plane

I mentioned earlier that we had a lot of luggage.  Like, filled the whole back of the school pick up!  And do you believe that only one piece weighed too much?!?  That's some kind of miracle!

Once we arrived in Bethel we transferred quickly from RAVN (formerly ERA) to Alaska Airlines via the shuttle van, and began the grueling process of checking all our luggage.  Thankfully Leah was there to sit with our kids while they had snack and we checked in at the counter.

The boys are such seasoned travelers, though, that they probably would have been good even on their own.  I was so proud of them all day.

Josh grabbed us each a slice of pizza from Brothers restaurant (a meal I didn't have to make! Hallelujah!) and we chowed down before boarding our flight to Anchorage.

The flight from Bethel to Anchorage is only an hour, so it was really quick.  Leah and I had arranged it so she was sitting with our family, meaning we had an entire row.  Wyatt sat between me and Leah and Josh manned the twins on the other side of the aisle.

Before we knew it, the flight was over and we were headed into the Anchorage airport.  We were getting closer!

In Anchorage we bought the boys new Alaska sweatshirts since they have outgrown their old ones, and in the store, Wyatt asked the worker why her floors had sparkles in them.  I was laughing so hard.  And thus began the joy of watching Wyatt take it all in.

After that we got some nuggets at McDonald's and then prepared to say goodbye to Leah as we were going to go our separate ways.  That is, hands down, the hardest thing about this lifestyle. You go through life together, side by side, carrying each other through the ups & downs and challenges of life in the bush, and then, after a few years, or sometimes even less, you have to say goodbye as life continues and people go their separate ways.  I cried as I hugged Leah, happy for the next chapter in her life to start, but sad (for myself) that we won't be side by side anymore.  

I love you, Leah!  You have been an amazing support, a fun "aunt" and a loving friend.  And for that I'll always be grateful.


Marshall Flight

The morning we left Alaska for Washington was gorgeous.  Our flight from Marshall to Bethel in particular was beautiful.  We were thankful to get a caravan (which seats 9) instead of a 207 (which seats 5).  A caravan is more spacious, faster and has more room for baggage.  ... And let's be honest-- we come with a lot of baggage!

We used to travel with 8 pieces of luggage, but now that we have to pay for Wyatt's seat (because he's over two years old... sad face!) we can bring 10.  And we always maximize our luggage.  This year we had one tote, a gun case, and eight traditional bags. (Plus car seats, but those travel free and don't count against your total.)  Since we are Alaska residents, with Alaska Airlines we are part of Club 49, and get 2 checked bags free.  (Within the state of Alaska, you can get 3 checked bags free!)  This saves us a ton of money and keeps us from having to ship too much home for summer.

Wyatt sat all by himself for the first time ever and was incredibly brave.  It helped that the flight was really smooth.  The twins also did really well, although Logan asked maybe ten times if we were there yet, and it's only a half hour flight!

Our best good friend Leah was also on that flight and our next flight, and having the extra set of hands was so helpful as we unloaded and checked in for our next leg of the trip.



Hope After Miscarriage

Today is my due date.  If my pregnancy in October had stuck, I would be having a baby today.  

I had thought that would make me sad.  That I would shed some tears today and feel down.  Instead I find myself feeling optimistic about the future and more understanding of women who have suffered loss as I have.

Before I miscarried I thought that the earlier you miscarried, the less it hurt.  I thought that a miscarriage wasn't really a big deal, that that baby didn't count, and that the person should just be happy to try again.

Now? Now I get it.  Now I understand that 11 weeks or 5 weeks, it doesn't matter.  As soon as those pink lines show up on the First Response stick, you are picturing your life nine months down the road.  You are buying car seats, soothing teething tears & taking pictures of that baby like a paparazzi in your mind.  The loss of the baby (at any age) is really the loss of the dreams you had for that baby.  When my baby's heart stopped beating (as in my first miscarriage) or when its cells stopped multiplying (as in my second miscarriage) the age of the pregnancy didn't matter.  All that I knew was that my dreams were shattered.  My hopes, scattered in the wind.

I also understand now (especially since I miscarried after having children) that that baby did count.  Oh, it so counted.  Each of those babies I lost last year was a little bit of magic our DNA created together. Another Wyatt or another Jack.  A little being with a soul and a story all its own. And I hate missing out on that story.  

And as for trying again... Oh, it is just.so.hard.  At first I went directly to "We're done".  My thinking was, "I tried. I failed. Game over." I don't think I could imagine risking the heartache again, whatever the rewards.  So I pretended to accept my family as it is.  I tried to be content. To feel grateful.

But the truth is, I want more.  I want to have another baby, to experience nursing again, to give my boys the gift of yet another sibling.  And as scary as that is, I have to say that the reward is worth the risk.  I believe now that grief is the price we pay for loving hard.  I grieved the loss of those pregnancies because I loved those little beings, and I had imagined a future with them.  I wouldn't trade that love for grief.  It was worth it.

So I am choosing, for the future, to have hope.  And while it's scary to hope when things look bleak, it's even more scary to lose hope when things look bleak.



This Week {Home for Summer!}

Lots of finishing around here this week:

Finished that 700 piece puzzle I was working on in Marshall.

Finished packing for our trip home.  Summer break for us started on Friday.

Finished traveling.  Three kids, four planes, fourteen hours, done.  Phew!

Finished moving in-- luggage is all in it's place, and slowly we're settling in.

Finished unloading the storage unit.  We're so happy to be reunited with so many of our things.

Saying goodbye to my beloved friends Leah & Krista.  I would have posted the picture Josh took of the three of us, but we're all bawling in it.  Those girls (along with Karen) were my lifeline this year in Marshall, and I am so grateful to have had them.

Proud of my amazing travelers.  The twins had such good manners with the flight attendants, and I am pleased to announce that Wyatt is no longer afraid of planes.  He rode in his own seat on all four flights, and was such a trouper.

Surprised by my sister & sister-in-law's presence at the airport.  My sister was supposed to be gone camping for Memorial Day weekend, and my sister-in-law had plans to see Phantom of the Opera.  Roxanne decided to leave for camping the next day, and Julie came when Phantom was over. I felt so spoiled to have all the people I love there.

Bummed I didn't get more pictures of it.  The reunion was truly one for the books.  I decided to be in the moment instead of capturing it, and while I'm sad there aren't pictures, I know I will forever remember hugging my mom and sister after nine hard months apart. Tears, oh the tears... I am just so happy to be home!

Grateful for my in-laws for letting us stay with them.  Yesterday I took Wyatt to the store (an adventure that deserves it's own blog post) and it was so nice to pick up a few things here & there instead of having to figure out how to create an entire household as we have the last two summers staying in rentals.

Enjoying Wyatt taking it all in.  You guys.  Seeing the magic of the city through his eyes is pure joy.  Automatic doors, toilets & paper towel dispensers are akin to meeting Tinkerbell face to face.  Fairy dust everywhere.  And when I put him in a grocery cart-- I wish someone had been recording it. He didn't know what to do with his feet, so we kept spinning the cart in a circle as I hefted him up and he struggled to get situated. It was hilarious.  And at the airport the tile had sparkles in it, and he asked the lady, "Why is your floor so sparkly?"  I guess the village's dusty floors didn't do it for him.

At Panda Express he said that was a funny name for a restaurant and he would have named it "Spug".  I'm not sure what that means, but he was so serious.  And watching the lady ring up our purchases at Walmart, I don't think he could have been any closer to her.  Wide eyed, watching as she scanned each barcode with the resulting "ding!" sound.  She thought he was waiting for a toy or something on the conveyor.  Nope. He was just fascinated with her job.

And his feelings on the carseat? Not good.  "I hate wearing my seatbelt.  It gets me so stuck!"  That's the idea, buddy.  Sorry.

Being patient and available to Wyatt who did great while traveling, but is velcroed to my side since then. Yesterday he had a few meltdowns for no good reason.  I think he just needed to get his emotions out and be held for a bit. I did not mind in the least.  Today he seems better, having had a full nights' sleep.  I hope he continues to adjust and soon feels as comfortable here as he did in Alaska.

Loving cousin time for the boys.  And I got to meet my new niece Liesel.  She's a blue eyed beauty and so precious!

Looking forward to seeing more family & friends as time goes on.  Particularly my grandparents.  I have missed them like crazy this year.


Happy Memorial Day!