Thursday, February 24, 2011

This feels Arctic, that IS Arctic

What town is closer to Siberia, Greenland, Russia, Canada, and the North Pole than it is to our families? Kotzebue, Alaska, with a new and improved medical facility that is looking for another Physician Assistant. Who is interested in this position? Yes, my adventurous husband. He had a telephone interview this week and they want to fly us up there for a site visit.
What do I think of this possibility? I'm still trying to figure that out. Obviously, being so far from family is a down side. Some of you have promised you'd come visit if we moved to Alaska because you've always wanted to see it, but you may have been thinking of the Denali side of Alaska rather than the Arctic tundra side, which is Kotzebue's official location and climate. There are some tourist attractions there, like the NANA Museum of the Arctic, where they have great "exhibits that depict many facets of life in one of the harshest climates in the world." (Interesting side note, though--speaking of harsh climates, I just checked the very reliable, and it is currently 40 degrees warmer in Kotzebue than it is here! So I guess I can handle it. I still took the kids out to playgroup today, like it's completely normal to go out looking for fun in 1 degree weather.)

Another adventure of living in the arctic circle: on June 2, the sun rises in Kotzebue and doesn't set until August 8! That's 37 days! (Don't believe everything you read on the internet. I actually read that on some site that I now can't find, initially not mentally calculating that claim. Hmmmm. More reliable sources say 20 days of daylight, from June 11 to June 30.) That would be pretty cool. Wild, but cool. And I have never seen the Northern Lights. I'm pretty sure we'd be far enough north to enjoy them on a regular basis. I am a little intimidated by the fact that there are no roads to Kotzebue. In Kotzebue, yes. Into Kotzebue, no. Which makes relocation more than a bit of a challenge. We can ship everything, it is a port city. But how would we get our car there? If we get it there, will we be able to bring it back? We've been trying to keep up with our goal of going to the temple at least monthly up here in Montana, where it's a 4 hour drive. Can we afford to fly to the temple in Anchorage that often? Even half that often? Xander will love the fact that to go anywhere, we'd have to fly. He laments the fact that he hasn't been on a plane since before he can remember--a week before he turned 2, to be precise; once we had to pay for a plane ticket, we became a 100% road trip family. We love road trips. I would miss that freedom. Back to church stuff, they do have a branch in Kotzebue, which is reassuring. I'm sure we'd have plenty of chances to serve. And there's no better way of staying warm than that.

It would definitely be a new cultural experience. The population of Kotzebue is just over 3000, about 75% of which are Eskimos, "among whom subsistence activities are an integral part of the lifestyle," according to the Maniilaq Association (it's the Maniilaq Health Center that is interested in hiring Aaron). They also say that the big thing in the summer is setting up the North Tent City Fish Camp to dry and smoke the season's catch. That would be pretty cool to see, if I didn't happen to be allergic to fish. Will the natives think I'm some kind of freak of nature--allergic to fish?!

From a professional standpoint, they do have a team of Physicians and midlevels who are willing to train a new graduate. I'm sure he would get great experience and learn a ton. And in an area that under-served, loan repayment would be a shoo-in. He would have to travel by bush-plane to outlying Inupiaq villages 4 days a month to serve the satellite clinics, but he just sees that as part of the adventure. Plus, the pay sounds pretty good. Although, who knows what the cost of living will be like, since I imagine they have to import every food except fish (see above).

Aaron is wondering where I put my sense of adventure. I have been telling him for a couple of years that I am totally willing to love living in Alaska for a stint. That it would be a fun family adventure! And I thought I had been gearing myself up for extremely remote tundra, since I reasoned that the gorgeous parts of the state wouldn't be so medically under-served. Why does the definite possibility feel so much more daunting than the vague plans?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Beyond Cold

We've been inside all day, which happens quite a bit around here. Elodie looked outside and saw that the snow had cleared up and the sun had come out. She decided she wanted to go outside to tromp through the snow. It is 9 degrees right now (and says it feels like 6 below, how do they calculate that anyways?). I didn't especially want to brave the cold, I mean, I'm not like my sister and her husband who live in Iowa and run around barefoot in the snow just for fun. :) But I couldn't just let my petite little girl get stuck in a snowbank somewhere, so we both bundled up and headed out. Lucky for Elodie, Hazel was napping. I stepped out in full gear--snow pants, coat, hat, gloves, neck-and-ears tube-thingy, the works--and immediately had cold eye balls. That's the only thing that was exposed. I figured Elodie wouldn't last long. "Aren't you cold, Elodie?" "No, I'm good." After a pretty extensive tromp up snow banks, under the deck, around the house, through the fluffy snow field, and under the car port to make beautiful snow angels, I made up an excuse about how I needed to check on Hazel (so I could warm up for a second). Still, Elodie insisted that she wasn't cold so she waited for me outside. Hazel was still asleep so I went back out with Elodie. Whoosh--cold eyeballs! After tromping up a snow bank and sliding down, I noticed that Elodie's cheeks had white circles with a ring of red around them. Ummm, are you sure you're not cold, Elodie? If she was, she was having too much fun to admit it. I told her I thought it was too cold for her cheeks to be safe and she wasn't not swayed. "How about we go inside and have a cup of hot chocolate?" That did the trick nicely. In the past, Elodie has not been one who is tough about the cold. But I guess she's a real Montanan now! I was impressed. And the red-rimmed white circles faded quickly, so I guess no harm done! Yikes!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Our Valentine's Day tradition is cheese fondue for dinner and chocolate fondue for dessert. YUM!And I really think a family Valentine's dance oughtta become a tradition! Priceless!

It was my first Valentine's Day of having a kid with a school Valentine's party. (Oh, the memories of winning the Limbo contest at my 3rd grade Valentine's party! Why do I remember that?) I decided that the valentine exchange would be more meaningful if Xander made his personal. We kept it pretty simple with red, purple, and white paper, scissors, and tape. I asked Xander to write one or two nice things to each kid in his class. And he decided to draw a picture for each kid, too, because he loves to draw. Xander and Elodie had a lot of fun with the project, and I loved seeing the things he wrote! It gave me a glimpse into how my five-year-old perceives his friends. He chose who to write to first and marked off their names on the list.

I wasn't too surprised that he wrote to all the boys first (well, except for one because he was apparently having a hard time thinking of something nice to say to the token "troublemaker" kid--it was a great teaching moment). I think my favorite one said: "You are funy. You are nise and not meen."

But I was surprised about what he wrote to the first girl he picked: "I think you are prity." And to the next two girls? "You are byutifl." I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised--now that i think of it, I remember him telling his friend Marian at her 3rd birthday party a couple years ago that she looked beauuuuutiful in her dress. And he frequently tells me and Elodie that we look beautiful. What a sweetie he is! (Would he be embarrassed if he knew I was writing this? He is just starting to show signs of embarrassment about that kind of stuff. Oh well, some day after the embarrassment phase he'll get a kick out of this.)

One mom at library story time commented that she liked Xander's valentine to her son, which said, "You are cool. Thanks for being my friend." Her son put it up on his door. That just warmed my heart and made me commit to making this a Valentine's tradition, too! So you can write off Valentine's Day as a worthless, gushy, commercialized, pointless holiday if you want. But we enjoyed the celebration of love, friendship, and chocolate!

My Girls

May I present my 4-year-old and 4-month-old girly girls. I think these pictures can speak for themselves.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Just Plain Four

I had a lot of fun making this cake, even if it does have a lot in common with the tower in Pisa! When Elodie saw her cake this morning, I got just the reaction I'd hoped for: "It's BEAUTIFUL!" It's impossible to recreate the Elodie intonation in that phrase--I just love it! She is such a fun, sweet, spunky, imaginative, playful, smart, personality-filled little girl. But don't call her little. Or cute, because to her, cute implies little. She is now FOUR, after all. She's been saying she was 3 1/2 for so long that she tried to get away with saying she was now 4 1/2, but I set her straight. So when people asked how old she was today, she told them, "just plain four."

Elodie proclaimed today "the best birthday ever!" At breakfast, she declared herself the queen with Hazel as the princess. She told me I could be the servant and Dad and Xander could be the guards. Her wish was pretty much my command today. She ate Nutella for breakfast, watched Eloise, Veggie Tales, AND Frog Princess, wouldn't let us leave the house without a birthday girl crown with the right number and placement of jewels, had lunch at the restaurant of her choice (I tried to convince her to go for Chinese, but she liked the sound of "Sunny's"), visited Dad's clinic where she got plenty of birthday girl attention wearing her crown, got ice cream at McDonalds, and finally sat down to her birthday dinner of butterfly pasta with pink sauce and cheesy broccoli and cauliflower. With the strawberry something juice of her choice. And then there was her requested castle cake, of course, followed by numerous "beautiful!" presents. With her aunt and cousin over to make it a real celebration, she couldn't have asked for more. She told me last week, "On my birthday, I get to make all the decisions." Seemed fair to me. I just hope she steps gracefully down from her throne tomorrow!