Buying Alaska

When we decided we were moving to Alaska six months ago I started devising a plan for finding our future home. We'd make a quick trip in June; spend a few days looking at houses, put in an offer, and close when we moved into town in August. I thought it was a great plan. Then I started watching the market, and realized the houses were only lasting a day or so before being sold. Then I got sick, pregnancy sick, and decided I didn't want to try to do hard things. What a blessing that turned out to be.

As it turns out, buying a home in Alaska is not much easier than buying a home in a foreign country. There are MANY things to consider. The more I think I know, the more I realize I know nothing. I'm learning a whole new vocabulary!

Now when I look at listings, I look for key phrases like: furred out, holding tank, internet, territorial views, above the ice fog, energy efficient, triple pane windows, heated garage... These are words or phrases that might not seem all that interesting, but when you realize the consequences they hold in their simple little letters, you realize this stuff matters.

Internet? You might ask, what's the deal with internet? Well, some homes have access to it, and others don't. In fact come listings say that they HOPE to have internet in a year or so. These are NOT off the grid houses! Internet?!? I can't be without my little connection to the outside world!

Let's talk about holding tanks. Many houses here don't have city water or a well. They have a holding tank that is usually about 1500 gallons. Do you know how many gallons of water you use in a month? It turns out for our family, we would probably be making daily trips to the water people to fill up a 400 gallon tank that resides permanently in the back of our truck. A truck I might add, that we don't have yet. So, dig a well you say. That's what I said. You can, and sometimes it might work out. But in some places you can't dig, and in other places where you do dig, you might find that your water has arsenic in it! You know, the poison. And even if you do get a good well, you could likely end up with orange water, and consequently orange clothes, dishes, toilets, hair.

How about energy efficiency? It turns out you can spend a LOT of extra money each month on utilities if you don't have an energy efficient house. If your home is built right, you can save hundreds of dollars each month. If not, you might find yourself putting on extra clothes or shelling out all kinds of money to keep your home warm.

It probably sounds like I'm complaining. I'm really not. I knew when we moved here we would encounter some things that are different. I guess at times I'm just overwhelmed by all the things that go into finding  a good home here, outside of the simple "3 bed, 2 bath" scenario. 

Still, I kind of like the challenge. I love the area, and I'm willing to make some sacrifices to live here. Also, I'm very glad we didn't try to buy a home in three days, as was my original plan. As it is, I have about 7 months to get this all figured out. Wish me luck!!


So, we're not in St Louis Anymore...

Okay, I'm a terrible blogger. Really, terrible. Still I thought I'd give an update on our family.

We moved back to Bryan, Texas from St. Louis in August and here we are! Thankfully our condo sold, so we are now renting a cute little house built in the 50s with a backyard. We LOVE having some space and since moving have reached a HUGE goal for our family. We got a dog! We call her Sophie pup. Or just Sophie.

She's older, and sweet, and a little nutty. She spends most of her days stalking squirrels in our back yard. It's a lot of fun to watch her. She's got some pointer in her, so she'll point, slowly crouch, then explodes into a sprint to try to catch the squirrel before it gets into a tree. I haven't seen her be too successful yet, but we did find a dead possum in the far corner of our yard about a month ago, so maybe she's better than I thought.

Having a yard has been wonderful! Last Saturday we spent the whole day in the yard mowing, pruning, raking. I was SO happy! I love working outside! Having a little space to work outdoors has been a great way to unwind.

That leads me to the next little bit of excitement in our family these days. We're growing up and graduating soon! We hope. :) Scott has been interviewing for jobs and finishing up his dissertation. We expect to be moving (quite literally) on with our lives in July or August. It's an exciting time and I find myself looking at houses and property. Our dream is to have about five acres to call our own. We've applied mostly to places that will support that dream, and maybe someday it will become a reality for us. We can hope.

All that said, it will be VERY difficult to leave our home here in Texas. I never thought I would consider Texas home (heck, I never thought I'd walk on Texas soil for that matter) but it really has become our home. When I think about where I fit, it's here. It's not so much Texas itself, but the people we have been able to meet here. Salt of the Earth, good people. Some of the best I've known. I will miss them dearly.

So in a nutshell, life is good.


Minimizing in St. Louis

This post is not intended as a spin off of  "Sleepless in Seattle". Actually it's about our summer plans. We're moving out of our condo and headed up to St. Louis for a summer internship. Scott will be working in an industry job, and looks forward to seeing how he likes it. We are still not sure if he will look for an academic job or an industry job when he graduates. We hope this summer will help us know which direction to go.

It's sort of a big move, even if we aren't going too far for too long. Anytime a family of six decides to move, it's an adventure. After a LONG time looking we finally found a place to live for the summer. We are excited to experience a new city, but I'm also sad to leave our home here. This is my home, where I everybody knows my name... I feel like breaking into the "Cheers" theme song now. Anyway, I'm glad that after 12 weeks we'll be able to come back. :)

So how does a family of six relocate for 12 weeks? We've decided to do things a with a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking. Our goal is to move in JUST our minivan. We sort of have this fascination with a minimalist lifestyle, and we live pretty minimally right now, but we think we can do even better.

So, we've written up a detailed list, by room, of everything we'll be talking. I don't want to bore with you all of our lists, but here's an example.

Kids' room:
-sleeping bags
-one special blanket each
-one special stuffed animal each
-one Tupperware of toys
-six outfits play clothes each
-one church outfit each
- flip flops, church shoes, tennis shoes each
- two pairs of socks each
-swimsuit each

Our shortest list so far is for the dining room. It's probably the list that will make the biggest difference in our day to day living. It's probably also the list that I'm the most excited/nervous about. Want to see it?

Dining room:
picnic blanket

...And, that's it! Well, you didn't expect us to be able to fit a table in chairs in our minivan, right? So this gives you an idea of how minimal we are planning on being this summer. I'm actually really excited about it. It's sort of to save money, but mostly its about simplifying our move. It turns out the less you have the more simple things are. Who knew!?!

So, we'll see how it goes!

Cheers! (no pun intended)


Choosing not to be busy

Our best attempt at a family picture after Max's Blessing

Life has been a little hectic for us lately. We've been...

- adjusting to a new baby
- trying to sell our condo
- working on a dissertation
- teaching two classes
- consulting people with stats questions
- homeschooling with four kids
- looking for housing in St. Louis this summer (for a family of 6 for 12 weeks, not an easy feat)
- getting ready to move to St. Louis
- meeting with doctors galore (none of us are sick, just all the regular check ups)

Despite all of this "busy work", I think there are more important things going on in our lives. It's the little things that bring me happiness. Here's a few...

- Nate telling Max over and over that he's a "Handsome Fella'"
- Gracie integrating hand expressions into her communication (like a girl, she talks with her hands)
- Jeff surprising me with how he can do a back-flip on the trampoline
- Max smiling at me, even when his tummy hurts because I ate a bowl of ice cream
- Jeff and Nate coming up with myths to bust and designing plans to bust them. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, this is their favorite show
- Gracie learning how to take diapers to the garbage, and being so proud that she is a helper

Sometimes I get caught up in being busy and taking care of logistical things. I'm trying to focus on the small and simple joys in life. Here. And now.


Maxwell Scott Goddard

It's been 10 days since Mr. Max joined our family. I've got to get the story of his birth written down before I forget any of the important details. Here's how it went down.

Max's due date was February 21st. He decided to wait it out a little bit and didn't join our family until the 25th. I'll be honest, being overdue was a bit hard. I would go to bed each night wondering if we would ever have our baby. The fact that I had been dilated to a 4 for a week didn't seem to make much difference. He was only going to come when he was good and ready. We were also extra excited to meet our baby because we decided not to find out he gender. We were VERY eager! Thankfully, he didn't make us wait too long.

At about 2 a.m. on the 25th I woke up to some contractions. I didn't get too excited at first because I had had quite a few contractions for the last month or so. However, it didn't take long to realize that these were the real deal. They were about two minutes apart, so I didn't waste any time waking Scott up and heading to the hospital.

We got to the hospital around 3 a.m. and settled in. I was dilated to about a 5. I told the nurse that my labors usually went fast and I would like an epidural, as per my doctors orders. My contractions were getting a little more intense each time I would have one. They asked me to sit on the bed so they could get a print out of 20 minutes of my contractions and baby's heart rate. Then they got me ready to get my IV.

This was probably one of the worst parts of the labor. It took three nurses four different attempts (including digging, jabbing and digging some more) to finally get and IV in me. I still have a bruised arm and hand from this. While they were doing all this, I was sitting on the bed having contractions at the same time... not my favorite part. Ironically the nurse I did not like from Gracie's birth was the one who stuck me twice and gave me the most bruises. What are the odds?

They rushed the blood work once they got me all good and poked so I could get my epidural. By now my contractions were getting more intense, but I was able to work through them. I would stand facing Scott, grabbing his jacket sleeves, burying my face in his chest and sway back and forth. He was awesome. He reminded me to take cleansing breaths and would slowly breath with me through each contraction. It really helped me stay calm. He is the best birth partner!

Then the epidural guy showed up at about 5 a.m. I told him my history of epidurals and how in the past they haven't really worked. He told me sometimes you just miss, but he would do his best to get mine in. He did awesome! After about 20 minutes after getting my epidural, I was pain free. I realized that when I'm in pain, I am totally anti-social and focus in on working through it. I don't even notice people around me. As soon as my pain was managed, I was a chatty Kathy. My nurse left the room to let us listen to our Enya soundtrack and get some rest. 

It was probably on an hour later when I felt my water break. I called the nurse in and she noticed some meconium in the water. She informed me that the would have to call in the neonatal team just to be sure the babies lungs were clear. She checked me and said I was at an 8. So, she called my doctor.

Dr. Jones got there and we talked about all kinds of things, namely what his three daughters in college were studying, how since he had three in college he was working extra ER shifts, and how excited he was for one of his daughters to graduate. It was all sort of surreal to me. I had never been part of a labor that I wasn't frantic and frankly, a bit crazy. After a bit of chit chat, they checked me and said that I was fully dilated and could start pushing if I wanted to.

Again, no pain. I didn't think we'd get anywhere pushing because I just wasn't feeling like the baby was that close to coming out. Dr. Jones explained that he would be getting the baby out quickly to make sure his lungs were clear. We pushed a few times, and then I asked for a mirror so I could see the excitement. Also, I thought it would be helpful in knowing what kind of pushing was making progress. It was really cool to see the head crowning, and even cooler to not be in excruciating pain.

Once the baby's head was out, I could see something change in my doctor's face. Rather than the baby's shoulders quickly sliding out, it seemed the baby was stuck. The doctor pulled (very hard) on the head, and looked at me with urgency telling me to push. The nurse pushed on my stomach. I could see real concern in my doctor's eyes and I pushed as hard as I could. There was a "pop" and the baby came out screaming. I immediately saw that we had a baby boy! I was so happy and excited. Scott was terrified as he thought the doctor had broken the baby's neck.

We soon learned that his collarbone had been broken. And not long after that we learned why. We had a big baby on our hands. He weighed in at 9 pounds 15.3 ounces! He was 22.25 inches long! When his shoulder got stuck, it caused a lot of tearing for me, so the doctor spent the next hour or so stitching me up. Scott's first comment about our little boys was, "Wow, look how long his arms are!"

I finally got to hold him after they checked him all out and he nursed right away. He's been a pro eater ever since. We had gone to the hopsital with a few boy names, and when we saw him and how big he was, we both felt like he was a Max. He has been the most mellow baby I have ever seen, and we are so happy to have him in our family.

At his one week appointment, Max had already gained half a pound above his birth weight. I asked the doctor about him being stuck and wondered what would have happened if he hadn't come out when he did. Dr. Jones told me he had about five different procedures memorized on how to get him out, but if none of them had worked we would have had an emergency C-section. However, when the baby's head is already out, there is a low chance of the baby surviving. I was shocked, and humbled by this. I now understood the frantic look on his face during the delivery. I am so so very thankful our sweet Max is here safe and sound.

We love our sweet boy, and there's not much I enjoy more than sitting and holding my handsome man.


Wood working

Thursdays are one of my very favorite days! It's my wood shop day. I have a friend who has a garage full of wood working tools and she's invited me to come each week to work on projects. Usually I do things without my kids (they get to play with my friend's children), but this particular week Jeff and I worked on his rubber band boat for his race at scouts that week. Jeff designed his boat, used the band saw to cut it out, and then painted it. I helped along the way, particularly with cutting out the middle portion to make room for his paddle. It was cool to watch him feel accomplished as he used grown-up tools. We had a great time, and now I've got to find a project that Nate can do with me because he was feeling a little bit left out.

Jeff and I in our awesome glasses. Safety first!

Here's the finished product. 

Jeff's boat didn't win the race, or even finish (most of them don't). But he did get an award for "best workmanship". He was pretty happy about it.


So how much time does it take?

I mentioned before, how the book "Boys Adrift" influenced our decision to homeschool. In the book, the author suggests that there are five ideas to explain the "failure to launch" phenomenon in young men. One of those contributing ideas regarded education. Specifically, that the traditional education model today is not well suited for boys. Why? Well, boys (and some girls, if they're like me) are designed by nature to be active, hands-on, and always moving.

The majority of schools squelch these natural tendencies. Order, rules, and sitting quietly are paramount. I understand why this is seen as necessary. I recognize that there are a lot of kids, and to keep things under control, this works. Still, I was uncomfortable visiting my son's school and seeing how little the kids actually played, used their imaginations, and used their hands to learn things. In fact, my heart broke when I learned that the kids really only had one short recess a day.

When we started researching homeschool, we found a learning model that fit our hopes for our kids. It incorporates the things we saw public school was lacking. It just felt right, the more and more we researched it.

So why am I telling you all of this instead of just answering the question? I think it's important to understand that we are intentional about how we approach our kids education. It isn't by chance that we do the things we do. That's all.

So, how much time? Last year, we spent about half an hour three days a week sitting down, working on school. This year, we spend about an hour each day sitting down working on school. Surprised? I know I was. I had no idea how much learning a kid could get through every day things. I was amazed to see how much my child learned through several out of the box avenues. Time to think. Talking about things on a drive, walk, or horseback ride. Observing nature. Painting. Molding bees wax. Listening to stories. Learning verses. Creative play. Cooking and baking. Folding clothes. Doing dishes. Learning about bike mechanics. Coloring. Riding bikes. Knitting. Singing. Dancing. You name it!

I'll admit, I was worried. I wasn't sure if it would work. I wasn't fully convinced until the beginning of this year. This years curriculum called for Jeff to do quite a bit of reading. Last year, as per the educational model we were following, Jeff didn't focus on reading at all. When I got out the book that we were to read on the first day of school, I was in awe of how easily it all came to him. He transitioned right in to reading a chapter book. It was pretty incredible.

I can see that Jeff LOVES to learn. He has has plenty of time to run and play, and he's still right on track with his education. All things, we hoped for when we chose to homeschool.

With this all being said, I want to reaffirm that I don't think homeschool is the only way to educate a child. This is just our experience.