Saturday, December 27, 2014

Food, glorious food

Shopping for additive-free food is so much easier here in the US, even in rural Alaska. 

Every store we've been to is a treasure house of gluten-free, dye-free goodies.  We've been here under a week and we've had cereal, bread, crackers, waffles, cake, candy, and eggnog!  Hmmm... Maybe it's a good thing we don't live around here.

While we couldn't do it full time, it's so fun to have so many "healthy" treats to be able to share with my children.

We even made our Christmas cake with sprinkles and candy this year.

Of course, apart from all the goodies, we've already had a turkey dinner, salmon, DIY pizza, and moose curry.  We are living large (and I think that could be taken literally, before too long!)

Rites of passage

It's a rite of passage.  Catching snowflakes on your tongue as they come swirling down.

A sledding mishap (faceplant into the snow and a bloody nose) is probably another rite of passage of a real winter.  So, we're definitely getting the full experience.  And luckily M is good as new.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Lazy days, Alaska style

(Whim's pictures again.)  

The boys seem to have developed a lovely pattern of bundling up and heading out to play in the snow a couple of times a day, punctuated by long, cozy stretches indoors filled with delicious meals,cards and games, and Christmas books and movies.

I am, on the other hand, comfortably snuggled up on the couch with my blanket at all times.  It's sublime.  We've been taking it so easy, and it's just what I had been hoping for.

The boys' stockings are ready, stuffed with additive free treats and candies, and the cupboards are bursting with special favorites, thanks to my generous aunt (thank you again, Aunt C!!) 

We made Jesus' cake -with sprinkles, for the first time ever!- and will read the first Christmas story before bed.

Christmas Eve is here.  Fingers crossed for more snow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Top ten!

Congrats to Lennon for being selected by Snack magazine as one of the top ten cutest kids of 2014!

Winter wonderland

I'm recycling Whim's Facebook picture here, because it's so beautiful.

This really is a wonderland.  We're surrounded by family and beautiful snowy mountains.  Not to mention all the additive-free treats!

Monday, December 22, 2014

We're here!

I don't know why, but most of the pictures I took on the plane turned out to have this dreamy-looking blur.

But it's very fitting since the trip itself was a dream.  The boys were wonderful.  So independent  and ready for adventure.

M read...

and read...

and read...

and read...

L slept...

and slept...

At one point we all turned on "The Polar Express" at the same time and watched together, and I marveled that it was no harder or more tiring than a regular day in with our two little balls of energy.

Four years old must be the gateway to easy travel with kids.  I'm not sweating the ride back one bit.

Note to self for future reference:  both the plane rides and the terminal/layover waits were easy.  The airport lines were annoying and the carryons were too stuffed to have easy access to books when the pillows were inside.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Whew.  We did it.  School is out and we're counting down the hours.

L may have brought a bag of tortilla chips to school for his class party instead of a fancier homemade treat, but I'm satisfied that they both had their own homemade cookies and icing for their classroom cookie decorating parties.

Their teachers may have all received a generic gift, but we were able to show our appreciation.  They didn't show up empty-handed, and the boys thought book store gift certificates were a great idea.  

Our suitcases are packed.  The boys' carryons are kitted out.  Cross your fingers, but I still have high hopes for these flights.  We even have their meals planned from start to finish, since the airline couldn't confirm additive-free options.

Thanks to a quick (not quick) after-school shopping trip, all our gifts are bought and wrapped and packed... along with every sweater in the house.

(This is how we all felt on the way home!)

Sometimes, some items on the To Do list have to be reimagined to preserve sanity.  I brought store-bought cookies for my kindergarten class.  They didn't even notice.

The only thing left on the list is to clean the house.  As much as I'd love to "reimagine" that one, there's nothing like leaving on vacation with the peace of mind that you'll be coming back to a neat and tidy home.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Whim flew to Malaysia for the weekend at a Blues festival.  We're so proud of our international bluesman.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cotton candy and ice cream cones

Yesterday on the field trip, I overheard a parent praising M for his healthy eating habits.

Proud mom mode instantly engaged.  I smiled, and lingered to hear his answer.

"Oh, my parents force me to eat this way."

Punch to the gut. 

What?!  Since when!?  He has always been on board with his diet and is his own best advocate. I've never had to police him or convince him. He doesn't sneak and NEVER complains about wanting junk. His feeling was valid- we do dictate his diet -I just didn't expect it.

Today at lunch, I brought up what I'd heard.  He kept his cool for a few seconds before breaking down in tears.  "Everyone [in his class] bought bags of cotton candy at the zoo and were all eating it so freely".  He felt left out.  He wanted the treat, but more than that, he wanted to be part of that carefree group. "They were so free..." he kept reiterating. 

It's not fair for him to have to manage such a big responsibility.  I know that.  But what are our options? I asked him, genuinely, if he wanted to go off the diet.  He didn't even want to discuss it.  He doesn't like his reactions and doesn't want to deal with them any more than he has to, so the diet stays. He said he just wanted to make cotton candy at home.  

I'll admit my mind went straight to As Seen On TV personal cotton candy makers.  But realistically, that would take weeks. And this is definitely going to come up again, but it's not always going to be cotton candy.  We agreed that he just wanted a "special treat" that other kids like.

We got a pack of these rolly snacks at the market for a starter.  They're safe, but novel, since he's never had them before. He was satisfied, but I just felt worse.  Those snacks are just not fun!  

So here's where I got clever.  The lady was making them in her press, rolling them out by hand, and bagging them up on the spot.  A quick whisper from Whim and we were headed home with these.

Ice cream cones! 

The boys have only had ice cream cones once, over a year ago, so they definitely qualify as a special treat.

He didn't get his bag of cotton candy, but the ice cream cone did the trick.

I'm so proud of him.  His attitude and his choices aren't easy to maintain.  I will spoil him with ice cream cones any chance I get.

Put a bird on it

Normally I do not like having my picture taken, but everything changes when you are covered in birds.

It took a lot of patience (and guts!) but M got it, too!

Maybe we should take our next family picture here...


My friend crocheted the boys these Ninja Turtle beanies for our trip.

I can't handle the cuteness!  

10 days and counting.  This year I am expecting that the boys are old enough to read and sleep and watch movies on the plane like normal people.  

I'm not losing sleep over their in-flight entertainment (this year), though I do admit to buying a set of fake mustaches from Toys r Us to keep in my carry-on in case of an extreme emergency.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Astronaut Snoopy

Every year Central World lights an enormous tree and completely covers the pavilion with "Christmas" decorations.

This year it is, inexplicably, completely decorated with astronaut Snoopys.

I don't know why.  Sometimes there is just no explanation.

These were very festive, though.  And huge!

Happy holidays from the boys and astronaut Snoopy.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

King's park

Every December the King's park is redesigned with beautiful, living flower arrangements, in honor of His Majesty's birthday.

Yesterday, we stayed in and avoided the throngs of people spending their Father's Day (HM the King's birthday) touring the park in a suffocating pack.

This morning we donned our yellow shirts and headed out, not sure what to expect when we got there.  Whim wanted some new fruit trees, I wanted to "do something special" to commemorate the occasion, and the boys... well... to be honest, they both just wanted to wear the crown.

L won this time, but we got creative for M.  In the end, everyone was happy.

Thankfully, the crowd was very manageable, it wasn't too hot, and there was a nice breeze. We bought lunch and took the trolley tour through the park (where M got his first glimpse of a carnivorous plant, checking a major goal off of his life list). Perfect morning.

Then the boys got tired of the ride way before it was done, we forgot to bring cash for the fruit trees, and we ended up just taking them to the playground there, like any other Saturday.  At least the flowers were beautiful.

But I forgot to take a single picture of them!

Not the same

Yesterday I made real chocolate chip cookies for Whim for Father's Day.  No substitutions.

They were gluten-free, because that's the only kind of flour we have, but other than that, they were the real deal.

Oh man.  I forgot how good they are.  Until yesterday, I had myself completely convinced that our healthified versions of cookies and treats are just as good as the original.  My eyes have been opened and I take it all back.

I'll still make them.  But nothing is as good as real butter and sugar.  Sorry. ;)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I thought L was so clever for inventing Chesskers. One player plays by chess rules with chess pieces, the other player plays with checker pieces and follows the checker rules.

The only deviation from the standard rules is that there is no check, because capturing the King isn't the end of the game.  The last man standing wins.

He won (not a surprise to anyone who has played against me in a strategizing game).  

What was surprising is that it's actually a real game with official (different) rules!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Big Hero 6

I can say with 100% honesty that watching Big Hero 6 has changed our lives forever.

Literally!  Because I know that none of us will ever be able to see another fist bump without saying, "Ba-la-la-la" in our most robotically musical tone.

Honestly, though, we loved it. I appreciated both the smart-kids-can-be-cool-too theme and the biracial main characters.  The boys loved the action. We laughed, we cried (well... we didn't, but the man behind us cried enough for all of us!) and we cheered!

We are satisfied with our service!  Thanks Baymax.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Jungle Books

As a child, I didn't devour books the way M does, desperate for new words and thirsty for information. But I was a bookworm, and I loved the library, with its row upon row of treasures, free for the borrowing.

We had shelves of books at home, too, of course.  Second hand, mostly: a mix of old favorites and 10 cent yard sale finds.  My parents let me read for hours and didn't fuss when I read Baby Sitters' Club a little (or a lot) longer than I probably should have.

One favorite was The Jungle Books.  We had an old, hard bound, green and gold two-volume set.  They were a favorite of my mom's, a love passed down from her own father to her, and on to me.

The language was intoxicating. When I was reading, jungle law somehow seemed truer than the world around me.  The seal lullabye brought a tear to my eye.  And Mowgli was like a friend.

Despite no neighborhood library, my boys have found that love.  I'm so thankful for their love of reading. And their school librarian, who makes sure they never go a day without four new books in their backpacks.  

And as for The Jungle Books?  M found it this morning.  It may not be that green and gold set of my childhood, but the magic is the same.

Happy Thanksgiving

We're still enjoying our government-mandated school break thanks to Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease.  

Whim, no longer a stay-at-home Papa, couldn't be with the boys all the time I needed to be at work, so I took a few days off and we made a real Thanksgiving break of it.

I loved having some unexpected quiet time at home with the boys to read and snuggle and play and bake and make ninja turtle masks.

And luckily we had plenty of family time, all together, too.

I'm so thankful for these three, my whole little world.

Happy thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Snow days

I keep a running list of "Thai snow days". It never snows here, but schools close for all kinds of other interesting reasons.

While teaching in Thailand I've had:
Flood days
Political unrest days
Coup days
Toxic garbage dump fire fume days
ASEAN conference days (all schools closed for a week to reduce traffic jams for the visiting leaders)
And now: Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease epidemic days.  

Which just goes to show, all those kids across the US who are praying for a snow day are thinking much too small! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Weekend woes

During the school week, our weekend-only computer game rule seems genius.  We don't have TV, so they are free to read or play, practice piano, draw, do a puzzle, ride bikes... 

We'll often watch a movie together in the evenings, which I don't mind one bit, and the boys even have e-books they read online for their reading homework, so the school-week isn't screen-free.  We're just protected from constant requests to play games and watch YouTube videos, since they know the rule.

But the weekend is when it gets a little tricky.  In theory, I'm not against games.  I grew up with lots of tv and Nintendo time, and I was fine, a very good student and normal person.  I just don't like how everything that entertains the boys midweek is forgotten when the computer comes on.  M reads books for hours.  He would read all day if we let him.  But once the computer is fired up, his books are forgotten.  L loves to play creative, imaginary games... Just not on the weekend.

They know they aren't allowed to play "first thing in the madrugada" but there isn't a set hour.  So sometime after breakfast, one or the other of the boys will wander upstairs and then it starts. And once it's on, that's all they want to do.

I institute technology breaks at random intervals because I want them to do other things and have fun without the computer.  But I'm just as bad.  If I don't have anything going on, a whole hour or more can trickle by while I mess around on my phone.  Mildly entertained, but not really doing anything special.

If I want my kids to know there's more to life than passively using technology, I need to show them.  I know it's not rocket surgery, but if I'm not exposing them to fun and interesting things to do offline, why should I be surprised that they keep going back to the computer?  Art projects, outings, cooking or baking, experiments, sensory activities, exploring, writing, building, board games... I need to step up my game.  I have often told myself (and them!) that I am not responsible for my kids' fun.  But I do have some say in how their preferences form.  No more slacking.

Yesterday we made oobleck and slime.  For a while, technology was forgotten.  

Just a while.   But at least they know how to make them now, and might think of them again.

Later that afternoon, we (finally) took down the boys' Halloween things and decorated a paper Christmas tree on their door.  It may not be much to look at, but it represents an hour that nobody asked if they could watch Ninja Turtle videos on YouTube or play Snailbob.

This morning we built a city before anyone could bring up the computer.

And now?  As I type?

Now they're playing games.  Baby steps.