2018 reflections

The last day of the year.

Our family’s 2018 was full of adventures.  Roadtrips, family & friend visits, birthdays & wedding celebrations, multi-language work in Latin America, a move from the desert to snow covered mountains, three homes in three months, new congregational ministry, new faces & places, earthquake, dust, snow, wildlife and many things in between have filled our days.

We are thankful for the abundant blessings from God this year as well as the challenges which have drawn us closer to our Savior.

We pray that you may end the year and begin 2019 in Christ.

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feliz navidad

In 2018, the four of us celebrated the Savior’s birth with our church family in Anchorage on Christmas Eve and Day.

Both my husband and I have lived in different parts of the world for the past 20 years.  We have celebrated holidays with our parents and/or sibilings a handful of times in the past decade. We cherish the moments of family video chats and phone calls to exchange greetings and updates.  Now that we are stateside, text messages filled with photos are added to the list.

Our first Christmas in Alaska was different in many ways. The biggest change: a white Christmas. We loved our Christmas cacti and lights afixed to our desert of rocks, but something about sparkling snow makes things a bit brighter. Our little ones enjoy as many flakes as they can catch on their tongue or stick together in a snowball.  The rest are left for snow angels and sledding. Daddy’s schedule changed and responsbilities increased while serving as associate pastor of our new congregation in both English and Spanish. Many hours were spent in prepararation, participation and reflection of special worship services and events. The need to wear warm clothes including long sleeves, tights and socks for indoors and jackets, hats and gloves for the outdoors.  No more sandals.

Some things were missing: our Christmas tree and ornament collection, our framed Bible passages and hymns hung throughout the house, our advent calendars, our holiday dishes and bakeware (no baking our own Christmas cookies), our stockings, our Christmas media and our collection of nativity sets from around the world. These are only earthly items, but they are family traditions that are part of our celebration of the Christchild’s birth!

The challenges or excuses were there to have just gone through the motions of this glorious holiday with happy faces covering up empty inside spaces. Instead, we focused on the true reason of this miraculous season, the birth of Jesus who was true man and true God. This good news filled our hearts with endless joy both inside and out!  We read the Bible stories. We lit the candles. We sang our favorite hymns. We reflected on the countless blessings God has showered upon us. We gave thanks for the people, places and things the Lord has put in our life.

Most importantly, we treasure the little baby born in Bethlehem, died on Calvary, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven for us!

Take time to read Luke chapter 2 tonight.

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no more iced coffee

Mamas with children can relate to pouring a hot cup of coffee, only to find yourself drinking it  hours later COLD.  This happens to me on a daily basis.  I set out with the best intentions to enjoy my hot latte and then the requests begin.  “Mommy, can you read me a story?  Another one.  One more story pleassssse?”  “Mommy, can you fill up my water bottle?”  “Mommy, I spilled the paint.” “Mommy, I gotta go potty!” “Mommy will you play dinosaurs with me?” “Mommy, can we go outside and play in the snow?”  In the past, a minute in the microwave came to my rescue, but in our temporary rental house, no micro”wonder” is included.

I truly cherish all these precious moments with our little ones and have learned to drink cold coffee in our new home…  until today.  My husband brought home a microwave!  A generous family from our congregation offered to buy us a microwave as a gift. Alaska is home to many amazing people with amazing love, thoughtfulness and generosity.  Since we arrived, our hearts are flooded with warm hugs, prayers, gifts and help.

The transition from Texas to Alaska remains to be a challenge for our family, but the wonderful souls the Lord has put in our lives have made it a much easier adjustment. I find community to be a verb rather than a noun here in Anchorage and am thankful for all the little things that are a part of it, like a cup of hot coffee.

 

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winter solstice

Today is the shortest day of the year. I don’t think the winter solstice has ever meant as much to me as it does now.  We enjoyed five hours, 27 minutes, and 48 seconds of daylight today. The sun rose at 10:13 am and set at 3:41 pm, losing six seconds of light compared to yesterday.  Tomorrow, we gain six seconds! The days will slowly grow longer. Yeah!

It is a challenge waking up in the dark and also eating supper in the dark.  We came from the sunny skies of the desert in El Paso. The sun, moon and stars were key elements in our little ones schedules.  They miss that and are still trying to figure out where the sun is for most of the time.  My guess is that they will be in search of the moon in the summer.

We appreciate electric lights, especially a happy lamp from our friends. Turning lights on and playing music helps get us going in the morning.  Do you have any tricks or ideas to help our transition from the sunny desert in Texas to the winter darkness in Alaska?

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trauma & transition

As residents of Anchorage, we continue to experience the earthquake aftermath of aftershocks in our daily routines. I believe the ongoing count has surpassed 2,000 since Friday’s 7.0 quake, some registering as high as a magnitude of 5.4 with most being 2.0 or lower.

Our little ones cry when the house shakes. They don’t want to go to bed at night. We do our best to console their fears. Since the earthquake, they sleep with their bedroom doors open and the hall light on. If the “house moves” in the night, tears always follow.

This Monday, Big (our toddler son) started Occupational Therapy (OT). His last OT session in El Paso was in the last week of September. Due to the earthquake, the therapy group here is focusing on trauma based, anxiety related sessions to help children work through some of the emotions of the weekend.

Big began his session with the OT Director. Toward the end of his session, she provided an activity for Big, little sister and me to do to help work through some of the emotions from the earthquake. She asked Big and Sweet Pea to describe what happened and how they felt during the earthquake. Then she asked them to draw about it. Sweet Pea is an artist at heart and began drawing mommy, daddy, Big, and herself. Big said that he wanted to write words to tell what happened so we will remember. He scribbled ‘M’s” across three sheets of paper, explaining what each line said. “My bed moved, mommy got me, mommy catch TV, we snuggled together, the house moved….” They both focused on things that made them feel safe: Jesus, people, things and places-including grass from El Paso (which we had the last week before we left).

The director also shared a handout, outlining the psychological and emotional aftermath children may experience after an earthquake related to specific age groups. As we discussed them, we both noted that many of the same characteristics are experienced with a move. Lots of extra hugs and prayers in our home this week for the littles and mama!

As I write this, we just experienced another bigger aftershock.

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shaken

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“Is everyone okay?” flooded my phone and social media as the 7.0 earthquake hit Anchorage, AK at 8:29 this morning. The news reports the epicenter was 7 miles north of Anchorage, but it felt like we were right on top of it.

I had experienced earthquakes in Japan & Dominican Republic, but this was the strongest one I’ve felt. For our little ones, this was their first one.

As we are new to the frontier, this wasn’t on our radar as our minds are full of new faces, places and things to do.

When it hit, Daddy wasn’t home. The kids were in their beds. I was working on my “to do” list for the day. The rattling began. Noises & movement filled the air. At first, I thought a big truck was passing by or an airplane. After a few seconds, I realized it was an earthquake. I ran to the kids rooms, catching the falling TV on my way. Big was in a deep sleep due to last night’s late bedtime and the late winter sunrise. Sweet Pea was curled up in her bed, crying. I gathered them up and the three of us huddled together while taking cover.

We held each other tight as I watched the kitchen light fixture swing back and forth, waiting for it to fall (it didn’t). The house felt like it was going tip over. After the inital quake, there were a few moments of stillness before the aftershocks began. Immediately, I called my husband Nate.

The four of us are fine and survived our first big earthquake in Alaska (I’ve heard that AK has many earthquakes daily, but small and rarely felt).

We are thankful that we haven’t heard of any injuries and that everyone we’ve contacted is safe.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2

We experienced minor damage to our home, as we just moved and the majority of our things are in boxes in the garage or storage unit. Tiles fell off the kitchen backsplash as well as base boards off the family room walls. Drawers flew out onto the floor from the kitchen cabinets. The stove jumped a foot from the wall. Everything that we had unpacked was tipped over on the floor. Our road is flooded 1/2 block away. Many of our friends lost dishes, pictures & artwork on the wall, electronics and more. There will be lots of clean up in homes and around the city.

So far, 31 aftershocks. The first few were strong, but unexpectedly #17 & #18 were too causing the little ones to cry.

We pray for a calm and still night.

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moose on the loose

Tonight, we saw our first moose outside our apartment. My husband was coming home from church around 10:00 pm. He texted and then called to let me know there was a bull moose right in front of our apartment door.

I slowly opened the door and saw the big moose licking the sidewalk. He looked at me and I slowly went up the stairs to the second floor for a better and safer view. Then I saw my husband on the other end of the sidewalk with the moose between us.

The moose slowly moved along the sidewalk, eating frozen berries from the tree. I went around the back of the building and joined my husband on the other second floor landing.

Both our little ones were asleep, but as soon as Sweet Pea heard me say “moose” she popped out of bed. We wrapped her up in a blanket and took her to the second floor to see her first moose while her brother Big remained in bed in a deep sleep.

The moose continued eating berries until he disappeared around the corner of the apartment.

What an amazing opportunity for our first moose sighting!

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winter wheels

Shortly after arriving in Alaska, conversations about winter tires followed. All season tires work well here in spring, summer & fall. Winter tires are recommended, but not mandatory in the snowy season. These tires may be studded or non-studded.

“It is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle with studded tires on a paved highway or road from May 1st through September 15th, inclusive, north of 60 North Latitude and from April 15th through September 30th, inclusive, south of 60 North Latitude, except that at any latitude on a paved portion of the Sterling Highway a person may not operate a motor vehicle with studded tires from May 1st through September 15th, inclusive.”

The Department of Administration, Division of Motor Vehicles

The winter tire options include:

  • Studded Tires – Tires with metal studs embedded within the tread
  • Studless Tires (Blizzak) – Tires with soft rubber with a special tread pattern

I think snow chains are available, but some have told me they are for the big trucks and snowplows.

What is your tire preference for snow?

As two of the city’s major tire companies closed in the past year, there was a rush for winter tire installation during the first snowfall. This caused a delay for snow tire installations, offering 3-6 week wait, depending upon vendor. We ended up buying Blizzak tires on sale at Costco on October 30 including one cent per tire installation scheduled for November 24. There was a cancellation, so we rescheduled to have our Blizzak tires installed last night!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

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2 x 4’s

Yesterday, our lil’ Sweet Pea turned four!

She is a princess in every way, but also carries a few traits of tomboy with her avid love for adventure and discovery.  She recently pointed outside during the first (and only so far) fresh snowfall and told me, “There is my home, in the snow!”  On her special day, we met daddy for lunch to celebrate and ended the day with red velvet cupcakes and a few gifts.

Big, her full biological brother, is nine months older. Yes, we currently have TWO four year olds in our home. They act as twins in every way.  At their recent wellness check, only an inch and two pounds lies between them.

They both share a deep love for dinosaurs and the outdoors. Often, I’ll find them looking out the window for snowflakes or hoping for a moose to stroll by the apartment.

Even though they are similar in countless ways, their interests are often polar opposites. Big likes to read books, play with trucks, complete interaction activities and sing songs. Sweet Pea is a dancer, artist, gymnast and animal lover.

Feliz cumpleaños a nuestra princesa! ¡Te amamos!