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2013, in five bullet points… and what’s coming in 2014!

Problems with growing up:
You have to actually remember things, because your mom isn’t there to remind you.
Paying bills.
No more sleeping in. Like, ever.
You are supposed to do courteous things like send Christmas cards and Christmas letters. Every year.

We have now been married for three Christmases, and for three Christmases we have failed to send a card or letter. To anyone. I will admit that is due in equal parts to forgetfulness, procrastination, and laziness.
(Forgetfulness: “Oh, we forgot to do Christmas cards, and it’s December 15 already!”
Procrastination: “Oh well, we can figure something out tomorrow.”
Laziness: “Eh, it’s December 20th. It’s just not worth all the hustle I’d have to put into it now.”)
So, in lieu of the traditional Christmas letter… here are the bullet points of 2013:

The House

This might be the #1 biggest accomplishment for 2013… right up there with me using a pressure cooker without blowing myself up, and Jonathan discovering a new love for mayonnaise (we aim high around here). I have those “after” pictures of the house. I doubt they will make it into this post, but they will make it up eventually. They are trapped in my camera right now, crying for release. For now, let’s just say it is BEAUTIFUL.

The Employment

Jonathan is still the jack-of-all-trades (Jonathan-of-all-trades?) that he has been since we got hitched. He works more hours at the local Christian radio station now, and of course spends LOTS of hours pouring his heart out as youth pastor. As far as they let us know, the kids still like him, so he must be doing something right. He is a super good teacher, which also is why he’s excited about coaching a local school’s baseball team this spring, and tutoring one of our 5th grade friends in the fine art of mathematics. Good teachers are hard to find, and sometimes they are just as valuable OUTSIDE the classroom setting as in it, no?

I stayed on at the bank I work at, making it offically the longest I have ever stayed at one job (I’m not that much of a flake, I promise… I always ended up moving or starting school before spending a long time at any other job). I try to help out with the youth as much as I can, and since my strengths are DEFINITELY planning activities and organizing events rather than teaching or discipling, those things fall to me whenever I am able to muster up the time to do them. I’ve also been doing a lot of baking and a tiny bit of media work for the church.

blog6Dieting and Running and Mysterious Illnesses

We both actually did pretty well with a “be healthier” New Years Resolution. We ran our first two 5k’s, ate much healthier, and we both lost quite a bit of weight (yes, some of it has crept back on towards the end of the year, but we both feel much better and definitely can tell a difference in how our clothes fit from 365 days ago). Regardless, I spent most of the summer sick, and it took forever to figure out why.

First, I had some mysterious virus that wasn’t technically Mono but acted exactly like it. Naturally, I waited until it had almost cured itself to go to the doctor for it… but it was nice to know why I had been feeling like death for a few months. After that, I was still feeling sick to my stomach 90% of the time… and, after a self-diagnosis we figured out that I am now, mysteriously, intolerant of caffeine. After switching completely to decaf, I am like a new person… it only took two days to get over headaches and about a week to not get extra sleepy every afternoon. AND we figured it out about a week before I was scheduled to make a trip to a specialist… saving us a copay and myself a dreaded visit to yet another doctor. Hot dog!

Accomplishments We are Proud Of

blog5As mentioned before, Jonathan decided he likes mayonnaise. He perfected the art of grilling pizza. He painted all of the ceilings in our house, which took about a kabillion gallons of paint (just kidding, it took 13). He did a lot of skiing backwards when we were in Colorado in February. He started eating salad… often. He got a Red Robin Loyalty card, which gets us free food every now and then. He carried his iPhone along on our first 5k, which was a color run, and it didn’t get ruined. He bought a motorcycle. He didn’t have a heart attack after the Iron Bowl. He fearlessly led our youth group to camp, where we dominated in the homemade boat race with our Dragon Pool Noodle Viking Ship.

blog4I learned how to make yummy salads. I settled on paint colors for our house, after changing my mind only 17 times. I went snow-shoeing with my mother-in-law, got lost in the wilderness, and didn’t die. I completed almost half of a Sudoku puzzle book, in ink, and only totally messed up about 5 puzzles. There was the aforementioned pressure-cooker adventure (and now I have canned green beans!). I helped my mom bake 100 loaves of bread in one day. I’ve broken the power button on two iPhones… the first one got replaced, but I’m still waiting on the second. As I said before, I’ve lived almost four months now without caffeine.

The Puppy

Our family grew a little bit this winter, with the addition of Ramona the Chocolate Lab. She is an energetic ball of fur with one droopy eye that won’t develop properly. This means she has almost no peripheral vision on that side and she crashes into things sometimes. Not funny for her, hilarious for us.

blog3She is going to be an outside dog, but right now she’s tiny and it’s cold outside, so she spends nights and some parts of the day inside. She only recently learned to entertain herself in the yard, running through piles of leaves and destroying her little chewing rope. Before, she liked to stand at the gate and peer out through the cracks in the boards, or hang out under the dining room window and voice her displeasure at being left alone. Jonathan has her pretty well trained that when she is inside,

she stays in the mudroom. No crossing the line into the rest of the house, period. So, anytime she is in there, she gathers her towel (she has her own special blue towel to snuggle with), her bone, her teddy bear, and her rope, and lays right in the doorway, chewing or sleeping or pouting. She does whatever she can to be as close to us as she can get. Oh… and she uses her teddy bear for a pillow. Every time.

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The Ultrasound: What’s coming in 2014

Possibly the #1 greatest highlight of this year?

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Seeing this picture on a screen in a doctor’s office… and knowing that it’s going to be a baby soon!
Yup… our family is still growing. This ultrasound was taken in mid-November, so fingers crossed Peanut looks more like a baby and less like a blob by now.
To quickly answer the top “Oh my goodness you’re pregnant!” questions:
We are due July 3. I have been VERY sick, but thanks to some miracle medicine, I’m able to function. We do plan on finding out the gender, and yes, we’ll share it… but no names until baby is born. =) I’m craving orange juice and Thai spring rolls (which you can’t buy in our town, booo).

Here’s hoping you all have a fabulous 2014!

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What I Learned in Kindergarten.

I have gotten a true education in the last two weeks.

I was a substitute teacher’s aid in kindergarten… for two whole weeks. It’s been fun. It’s been hard. It’s been entertaining. And, as I said, educational.

I never went to kindergarten (and somehow, I still managed to get a decent score on my ACT). These two weeks have been my first real kindergarten experience. And boy, did I have a lot to learn.

The hot pink crayon is NOT the same thing as the red crayon. And if you try to pass it off as the same, you will be harshly scorned, and then shunned by all who witnessed the attempted deceit.

If a child has an unidentified red substance on any part of their body, the first thing you should ask is, “is that red marker, or blood?” If it is marker, you should ask, “what were you drawing on??” If it is blood, you should ask, “is that your blood, or someone else’s?”

Lollipops = currency.

If a child tells you a story about seeing a scary movie that makes them afraid to use the bathroom (because of all the spiders that are surely lurking there), immediately check their pants. If it is not too late, rush them to the bathroom and insist that they use it, no matter how scared they are.

If you tell five or six-year-old boys that they can draw “anything,”  the pictures are going to include someone getting arrested, injured, falling into a pit of “hot laba” (lava), or an epic battle (for example, Optimus Prime vs. an octopus).

A “capital E” and a “big E” are not the same thing. One is what you begin a sentence with, and one covers your entire writing page.

The longest pencil in the basket is the best one. It doesn’t matter if it’s so dull that you can’t write with it. This rule is void if there happens to be one blue pencil mixed in with the 17 black ones. Then, of course, the blue pencil is the best… even if it’s so short you can’t hold on to it.

If both the longest pencil and the blue pencil are already taken, it will take at least 10 minutes to sort through the rest of the pencils and find The. Perfect. One.
(three minutes later, it will lose it’s perfectness and the sorting has to be re-done).

If you consume any kind of candy, dessert, or soda, “sugar bugs” will get into your mouth. Then, your teeth will fall out and you will die. (this one surprised me a lot)

Don’t touch another man’s property. Don’t sit in another man’s chair. Don’t color on another man’s picture. Don’t eat another man’s snack. And for goodness, goodness sake, don’t put your math paper in another man’s mailbox.

If one paper sailboat is made, fourteen more must follow. Quickly. It doesn’t matter if there is only one person making them; that individual needs to turn into a full-sized boat-making factory immediately.

Snow was made to eat. And for creating giant hills to slide down. Those are the only uses for it.

Fire drills in Alaska are a bad choice.

Sometimes, I substitute teach at one of the Glennallen schools.
It’s an adventure.

Today, I was “Mrs. H,” the elementary librarian. But Mrs. H is so much more than that.
She tutors different groups of kids all over the school… a half hour working with six graders on their math (WHO thought THAT was a good idea for me?), a half hour working with second graders on their writing, half hour with first grade reading, etc.

Oh… and recess duty. Cold, snowy recess duty.

But the best part of the day today was when I had the kindergarteners.
There had been a rumor circulating that a fire drill was going to be held. I don’t know how the rumor got started, but I find it convenient, since it allowed all the kids (and teachers!) to keep their coats handy rather than in their lockers in anticipation of the bell. So, when the kindergarteners came tromping into “my” library ready to read a story, I wasn’t surprised when they all wore their snow boots and had big coats slung over their shoulders (or heads, or legs, or their neighbor’s head or legs…). Fortunately, the teachers had mercy on me (a poor, inexperienced substitute teacher!) and split the kids in half… I had six kids in the first group, and five in the second.

We tried to read a book about wind. “When the Wind Blows,” it’s called. And it’s supposed to be an interesting book, but it just couldn’t capture their attention.

“Windmills are big machines that spin around and around and make electricity,” I read.
“One time our electricity went out, and my little brother went nuts!” a five-year-old announced. “He had a heart attack!”
This was hilarious to the rest of the kids.
“That’s nice,” I said, glad we were at least, somewhat, on the same subject. I pressed on.
“What makes flags fly? The wind. What makes our kites fly?”
“He stole my seat!” said someone, pointing accusingly.
“I like her seat better,” was the only defense.
“That was a bad choice,” nodded an onlooker knowingly.
“So, sometimes the wind blows the snow, and it makes a blizzard!” I offered.

“Do you know what my name is?” asked one little girl.
“No, what?”
“Veronica. It has a V in it.”
“That’s nice.”
“My name doesn’t have a V in it!” someone announced.
“Mine does.”
“No it doesn’t.”
“Yes it does!”
“No more arguing, kids,” I told them.
“Yes, arguing is a bad choice!” said Veronica.
“Okay, guys, let’s talk about the wind!” I suggested. “What happens when we stand on the beach and the wind is blowing the sand against our legs?”
“I’ve never been to a beach,” one little guy stated mournfully.
“Me, either,” said someone else. A chorus of “me, eithers” followed.

You poor children, I thought, but out loud I said, “Well, it stings your legs. That’s what happens.”
A couple of kids across the table from me were whispering, but I let it go.
“Sometimes the wind blows sand against rocks, and it makes the rocks smooth and pretty,” I told them.
“JOHNNY SAID BUTT!” hollered one of the whispering kids. The other one looked at me guiltily.
“That was a bad choice,” one of the kids who’s name didn’t have a V in it told Johnny.
“Johnny, let’s not say words like that. Let’s talk about wind.”

Two pages later I gave up and broke out the crayons and coloring paper. Everyone was happier.

The second group came tripping into the room, still dragging their huge coats along with them (I swear, some of these kindergarteners looked like they were borrowing a coat that belonged to their dad.) They “settled” into their seats (or some version of settling) as I launched into my story about the wind. These kids listened a little better… or at least, they talked less.

But once again the crayons came out, and once again the kids were happier coloring than learning about what a hurricane was.
“I think I’m done,” announced one cute little guy, holding up a very plain looking Thanksgiving turkey.
“Hmm, why don’t you add some color to it?” I asked him.
“Okay!” he cheerfully agreed. He searched the table until he found just the right shade of blue, added a bit of it to the turkey’s beak, then dropped the crayon on the table.
“Okay, NOW I think I’m done!” he said.
“Welll…. I think you could add five more colors to it.”
“Okay!” He was nothing if not agreeable. “ONE…” he chose a pink crayon and scribbled with it a bit. “TWO…” some green. “THREE…” some yellow. “FFF…FF…- what number is this?”
“I think it’s four.”
“Yes. FOUR…”
Two colors later, he definitely thought he was done.
“Good job, buddy,” I told him. “Now why don’t you write your name on the t-”

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

All six of us almost fell out of our seats.
“PUT ON YOUR COATS!” I tried to tell them over the alarm, leaping for my own coat. They quickly lined up at the door, and as they trotted past I tried to help them get adjusted. Their coats were everywhere… arms in the wrong holes, inside out… one coat was on upside down. They looked hilarious.
NO, I told myself, You can not let the giggles get in the way of getting kindergartners out during a fire drill.
Since the priority was getting outside, though, I hustled them to the door (where, fortunately, their teacher met me) and THEN helped them zip and button and snap themselves into some semblance of warmth.

They lined up outside, hopping back and forth to keep warm.
Apparently, someone hadn’t had enough excitement, though…
“IT’S A REAL FIRE!” they announced.
A panic set into the entire kindergarten class at large.
“NO, IT’S NOT!” their teacher broke in. “It’s just a drill!”
“WE COULD HAVE BURNED!”
“No, we couldn’t have!”
“Johnny said poop!”

Yay, kids!

Why Alaskans have dirty windows:

Today, I decided to be a good employee.

On my “to-do” list (which each housekeeper receives as she arrives in the morning) were the following three items:

1. Do laundry
2. Vacuum halls
3. Clean lobby

None of these are a big deal; I figured I would be done within a couple of hours. I started laundry, then tackled the lobby. While cleaning, I noticed that the windows around the front door had streaks on them. No big deal; a couple squirts of Windex and a few wipes with a paper towel later, they were clean. The door, though, predominately consists of window, and it was dirty, too. And it wasn’t just the inside that was dirty. The outside was pretty gross. Surmising that it would only take a minute or so to clean the glass, I decided against taking the rather long walk back to the maids’ room to get my coat. I slipped outside in my t-shirt, ready to clean. I sprayed Windex across the glass and went after it with the paper towel; after two wipes, though, I realized I was in trouble.

The Windex had frozen on the glass.

Things like this don’t happen in Alabama.

It distressed me.

I walked back inside and announced to Ali (the girl who works at the front desk) what had happened. She laughed (quite loudly) at me. However, she is from much farther south as well, and having only moved to Glennallen this summer, she had no clue how to fix it.

I figured I could wipe it off with SOMETHING. I marched back to the maids’ room and checked out my options. The only things back there were cleaning supplies, and I didn’t have any reason to think that one of them would hold up to the cold better than Windex.

Water? Water freezes, but maybe, somehow, miraculously, it could work.

I used a wet rag on the window… it definitely worked to wipe the Windex off, but yes, then IT froze onto the window.

The door was a mess. It was a cloudy, grungy looking nasty mess. (This is the part where I caved and went to get my coat).

After a few minutes of experimentation, I figured out a solution. All I had to do was scrub a section of the glass with a wet rag, and then IMMEDIATELY follow it with a paper towel, drying the water off before it could freeze. It was perfect!

Ten minutes of scrubbing later, I had cleared off about the size of my fist. I might have been determined to clean the glass, but I was not willing to die for it. I gave up on that.

What I needed was something to SCRAPE the ice off the window with. The obvious answer was an ice scraper, which you can find in ANY given car in Alaska. The problem was that only one person that was working today HAD a car at the hotel with them, and she had left to run errands.

Remembering something that I had often done in Kentucky (before an ice scraper showed up in my stocking at Christmas), I dug a Subway gift card out of my purse (thanks, Mom!) and set to work scrubbing at the ice.

The card idea worked great in Kentucky… but in Kentucky it was never 7 degrees outside. My hands got so cold after the first minute of scraping that I had to forfeit THAT battle, too.

Fortunately, soon afterwards the car showed up, and I was able to borrow an ice scraper (and some gloves). It took about fifteen minutes… and a lot of scraping… but when I was done, that glass was CLEAN!

Do they make winter-proof Windex??