Sunday, April 10, 2016

2016, the year of birthday blogs

Asher woke up at 5 this morning, ready to take on the world, as usual.  I’m not ready for anything at 5 am, so it was Brendan to the rescue.  When I finally rolled my big belly out of bed and let B sub out, I asked Asher what he wanted to do with his last day of being one.

His response? “Ummmm, breakfast!”

Duh, Mama.

Two years ago today and 10 days past his due date, Brendan and I were so impatiently waiting for our stubborn baby boy to make an appearance. I thought he would never come.

One year ago we were dumbfounded over how much a tiny human could learn and grow over the course of 12 short months, and we were still learning how to function on no sleep.  We were in awe of his sweet demeanor, his inability to grow hair, and his obsession with food.

Our little adventurer continues to amaze us.  This year he’s been a trooper on his first cross country trek, more plane rides than he can count, braving (and embracing) winter in Alaska, and growing a mullet.

I never got around to making him a baby book. Shutterfly literally couldn’t make it any easier, and I still find myself incapable of creating a book of memories of my baby’s first years. Maybe someday he’ll get a book, but for now he’s getting a paragraph on the blog.

A few current Asher-isms:

He’s still stubborn as hell, a total goof, and the ultimate snuggler.

He’s mastered repeating all the words we don’t want him to, and still fights sleep until the last possible second.

He makes sure his baby doll is fed, burped, and changed...and kicks his baby sister back when he feels her kick inside my belly. 

He’s obsessed with babies, planes, brushing his teeth, pizza, "helping" in the kitchen, Elmo, and whatever Daddy is doing.
He insists daily that the Alaskan climate is conducive to not wearing any clothes.

His favorite phrases are “DEFENSE,” when he’s shooting hoops in the hallway and cheering on the basketball teams at school; “I need help,” especially when he doesn’t; “I carry you,” when he wants to be picked up; and ”Holy sh*t...” because is there a more appropriate way for a toddler to express astonishment?

Two years ago we thought I was going to pregnant forever.  A year ago we thought he’d never learn to sleep.  A month ago I was damn sure the kid was NEVER going to stop nursing, and now I’m feeling pretty confident in the assumption that he’ll never stop surprising us, making us laugh hysterically, or filling our hearts to capacity.

I’m currently creepily watching him nap, and blubbering over how much he has grown. He’ll probably wake up soon and insist I blow my nose, then demand the birthday cake he’s been asking about for weeks. (The one that’s not made yet.)

Happy Birthday, sweet Asher Cale. We can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I only have one more day left of being 29, I should probably blog

30?! That one snuck up on me. Despite the fact that B has been reminding me that my birthday is coming up ever since he turned the big 3-0, I've pretty much been in denial of my 20s ending. But today I forced myself to stop and think about it, and set some goals for myself for the upcoming decade, and I'm actually not as anxious as I thought I'd be about the milestone.

I admittedly spent a good portion of my 20s comparing my success to others' and searching for some kind of permanent sense of a physical home. I literally searched the East and West Coasts for a place I could call home, and a life I felt comfortable living. I moved a lot, chasing some dreams I still have, and some that have fallen by the wayside. I lived in the city, lived by the beach, lived on a remote Alaskan island, and did a lot of traipsing around in between. I started (and have yet to finish) a couple of different grad programs, and taught the breadth of pre-school to high school.  I set a lot of goals, poured my heart into some of them, and half-assed an attempt at others.

Oh yeah, and I married my best friend and grew a human.

I'm turing 30 and we don't own a house yet, my masters degree has been in progress for way too long, and I'm not teaching in a school where I see myself for the duration of my career. My general reaction to thinking about these things (which is pretty often, like pretty much daily) is "Get on it, Meg. Get your ass in gear. Figure out the next step. Make a plan. Now."  At which point I make a bunch of plans, write a few dozen lists, set some unrealistic deadlines and goals for myself, and then beat myself up later when I haven't yet attained them.

But you know what? I'm turning 30 and I've decided that those things don't matter.

We don't own a house, but it doesn't matter because home is wherever I'm with my family. I'm at home here in Elim in our apartment, in my classroom, and walking on the beach. We're at home on the East Coast when we're spending time with family and friends. We're at home in our tent, regardless of which campsite it's set up in. We're totally at home in our Jeep on any road headed in any direction.

My master's degree isn't complete but it doesn't matter because I've finally found a program that I feel passionate about and can pour myself into, without feeling like I'm neglecting other aspects of my life. The work I'm doing now is completely intertwined and aligned with my career and my location, and instead of feeling like extra work, it feels like a natural fit.  And I'll finish it when I finish it. I probably [most definitely] won't be in Elim until I retire, but I'm teaching in a classroom I feel really comfortable and inspired in, and I love where I'm at in my career. For now.

I've always hated the term "for now." I am constantly looking, looking, looking for the next thing.

I didn't find that feeling of permanence I was searching for when I was in my 20s, and I'm totally ready to stop looking so hard in my 30s.  I feel comfortable, motivated, and completely at peace with where I live and work.

I get to watch the most breathtaking sunrises from my classroom every day. I teach some pretty awesome kids, and in turn they teach me a whole lot every day. I walk 3 minutes from my classroom door and eat lunch with my son every day. My husband's classroom shares a door with mine, and I can see him whenever the heck I want. And our family eats dinner together every, single night.

My life is happy, healthy, and simple. I'm not really sure what else there is to search for.

In June our family will grow when we add a baby girl, and I can't wait to see how much love and adventure she adds to our lives. I've still got some serious wanderlust, but instead of feeling the need to move every chance we get, I'm excited to instill curiosity, and a love of travel and new places in my kids.

I still have a lot of goals for myself, but instead of comparing myself and my success to others, I'm just going to let myself be inspired by it, and keep on trekking.

Goals/Mantras for 30+

Be productive. I have a whole lot of sh*t to do and have room for [a lot of] improvement in the procrastination department.

Be healthy. I never feel better about myself than I do when I'm spending enough time outside, eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising. I know myself well enough by now that I'm not going to sign up for a marathon, or try to force myself through Insanity again. But I can push myself to be active when I'm feeling lazy, and keep making conscious decisions about nutrition for me and my family. Plus, Asher's always up for some yoga.

Be present.  Asher teaches me a gazillion new things every day, things way more important than scrolling through social media, or reading an article about something happening a thousand miles away. My life is right in front of me, and it's pretty awesome.

Be practical. I'm sure my unrealistic, idealistic self is not just going to disappear at when the clock strikes 12 Sunday night, but I can work on being intentional and keeping my goals and priorities in check.

So maybe 30 wasn't ever anything to be afraid of, I'm actually pretty excited about it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Away we go...again

Remember when we thought the biggest adventure ever would be moving to a remote island in the Bering Sea? And then when the adventure got even more exciting when we threw a baby into the mix?

Fast forward a year. We've been living in Salem, MA doing the grown up thing. Parenting, working, coexisting, and having a conversation occasionally between night shifts and diaper changes. We've got the first time parent zombie act down pat. We've adjusted to new jobs and new students, and have found tremendous happiness in having our families and friends within driving distance.

We've always prepared ourselves for the culture shock of new places, but we were totally blindsided by how difficult it was to grow accustomed to our old lives . While we easily fell right back into enjoying pizza that doesn't have to be delivered by a plane, having a Starbucks within a five minute walking radius, and brews whenever we please...we've found it nearly impossible to become acclimated to the "real world" again.

For the past year, we've continually found ourselves missing the simplicity of our daily lives in Alaska. We miss the culture, the absence of traffic, and most of all, our time together. For the past several months, we've been trying to figure out a way to simplify our lives, minimize our stress levels, and maximize family time. We looked at things objectively, made a gazillion lists, and explored a whole bunch of options in an attempt to get back to our core family values.

If you had asked me a year ago if I'd ever go back to Alaska I probably would have said, "Maybe someday." If you had asked me if I'd ever go back to a rural, dry village, I would have said, "Not a chance."

Never say never! We're headed back to BSSD. Come August, we'll be calling Elim home.

This was probably the longest, most drawn out decision we've ever made. Of course we don't want to leave our families and friends again. Of course we'll have to readjust to living without modern conveniences. Of course we'll have to face a whole new set of challenges that come with raising a child in a rural village. Despite the challenges and tearful goodbyes that we know are coming, we're so excited.

Signing my new BSSD contract brought peace, excitement, and refreshing relief to the Ellis household. When we got married, we vowed to never stop adventuring. Pretty soon, on our second anniversary, we'll be preparing for yet another cross country move--this time with Asher in tow. We've got boxes to pack, furniture to sell, and a whole lot of baby stuff to ship...and we're starting to feel like us again.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

To Do: Blog. Check.

Blogging hasn’t exactly been high on my priority list over the past few months.  I’ve thought about it plenty of times, but naps always seem to win my time.  The start to our third school year in Alaska has been a hectic one, with B teaching full time this year (in addition to all of his previous time fillers,) and me working on cooking our bun in the oven.  I can't say we were necessarily busier, because my once over flowing, impossible to complete To-Do List dwindled down pathetically to the following tasks:

  •   Stay awake between my pre and post school naps.
  •   Don’t barf in front of my first or second (or third, fourth, or fifth) block classes.
  •   Perfect the art of relieving bouts of morning sickness en route to school. (I'll spare you the visual, but Bering Strait winds make it impossibly difficult and unattractive.) 
  •   Eat foods other than the color beige.

Miraculously, after about 18 weeks of being a scary, sleepy, underachieving version of myself, I’ve overcome a few obstacles and moved onto more ambitious feats such as:
  • Extending my bedtime…to a more adult appropriate 8:00, and limiting under-desk naps to once a day
  • Pretending not to succumb to the brilliant, constantly beckoning advertising schemes of Zulily and Gilt.
  • Browsing Pinterest for our nonexistent nursery.
  • Rationing my Nutella intake because it takes so damn long to order more.

So I haven’t done much blogging, but I have been super busy growing a little human. B has been even busier keeping me rational, and dealing extremely well with shenanigans such as my pre-20-week- ultrasound panic attack, during which I was completely convinced of two things. I knew for sure that either a) my uterus was going to be empty, or b) the baby was going to be missing something crucial, like a head. As usual, B was right, and our baby boy is perfectly fine..he even already resembles his handsome dad.  He’s got some crazy long limbs and our midwife said he was big for 20 weeks, so he must have really enjoyed those potatoes, Honeycomb cereal, and all things beige I fed him for four months.

You may have guessed by now that this means we’re planning our move back to a world where we’ll need things like a car seat and our own cell phones.  For now, we’re taking it all in and trying to enjoy and find humor in the things we won’t be experiencing in subsequent pregnancies… like keeping a sleeping bag in my bottom desk drawer, and worrying about whether or not riding a 4-wheeler to work over a bumpy island road is somehow detrimental to the baby’s development.

My next task of the day? Trying to talk myself out of buying the adorable, uber expensive, Patagonia baby snowsuit. My current thought process is if you can’t justify buying one when you live on an island in the Bering Sea, then when will it ever be ok? Our Alaska adventure may be winding down, but we’ll have a pretty cool souvenir to bring back home with us. And depending on my willpower in the next 20 minutes, he’ll potentially be sporting some pretty rad snow gear.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Calm Before the (Metaphorical) Storm

In a week from today I'll be married to my best friend! My last name will change, I'll board a flight to Thailand, and I'll (possibly) consider myself a grown up.  But I have to get through this week first.

I'm not sure I can count how many times I've heard, "You're so calm for someone who is planning a wedding," or "you're probably super stressed right now, huh?"  I find myself casually repeating things like "It will all come together," and "I've got a little time."

It could be that I'm just super chill and unstressed and I'm enjoying every minute. Or it could be that I'm in complete denial.

If there are stages of emotion in wedding planning, then I am definitely in the active avoidance phase.  (I mean I'm often does that happen?)  All of a sudden I can't focus on anything unless all of my homework is done; I am super concerned about missing Bruins games; and I can't wait to go on my next run.  I hate(d?) running. If we're speaking metaphorically, we can probably find some sort of underlying "running from wedding planning" theme here, but I'm pretty much just psyched that I don't cringe every time B suggests a sporting event or a jog.

I'm not completely avoiding all things wedding. My bachelorette was awesome. Amazing. I seriously have the best friends anyone could possibly have. I check the weather for next Saturday at least every hour. Because worrying about things I have zero control over is super helpful.

Every time I log onto Pinterest, I browse the wedding pins. But instead of searching for a pre-wedding quick fix diet/workout plan like a normal bride..I just scroll through as I munch on some pizza and sip on a beer.  I'm not sure how many brides'-to-be diets consist of pizza and beer, but I've pretty much become a Bertucci's regular since we've been home.  I purchased everything I need for a juice cleanse this week, but it somehow all got pushed to the back of the fridge. Not intentionally of course.  I even had a minor, wedding-stress-related break down. But after about 30 seconds of tears and a glass of wine, I was over it.

Not to worry.  I tried on my dress today and we're good to go for  next week.  I attended my trial appointment for my hair, (after postponing it a time or two,) and I got all of my vaccinations you need for traveling to a developing country.

So hopefully everything on my to-do list (that I can't remember where I put) gets done.  I'll start my juice cleanse tomorrow; I'll sort through the insane number of wedding related boxes that have taken over my parents' house; and I'll maybe wrap my head around the fact that my wedding is next weekend.

Keep your fingers crossed for good weather and maybe send me some productivity vibes!

Friday, March 8, 2013

"The space between the tears we cry, is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more"

The dream sheet that I had been dreading found it's way into my mailbox in late January.  The seemingly simple piece of paper threw me into what would become a two-month long meltdown by asking me to simply select a box with my intentions for next year.  Would I be returning to Savoonga? Would I like to transfer within the district?  Did I intend to resign at the expiration of my contract?

The moment I saw the dream sheet in my mailbox, I got a knot in my stomach. When Joe lightheartedly (and I think unsuspectingly,) asked me five minutes later if I knew of anyone not coming back next year, I thought I might lose my lunch. When I finally mustered up the courage to talk to my principal two weeks later, I had officially stopped sleeping regularly at night.

I was advised to state that we'd be returning, so that I'd get a contract and another month to decide.

What I thought: Buy some more time. Awesome. Perfect solution.
What actually happened: I bought myself an extra month of torture: anxiety, endless second-guessing, and way too many sleepless nights.

We weren't coming back.  We had booked our [one way] flights home.  We updated our resumes and applied for jobs.  I even had a few phone interviews! I printed out the resignation form from the district website.  My daily (seemingly healthy yet potentially destructive) habit was obsessive, late-night, craigslist scouring for available apartments that allowed dogs. We shipped boxes back to the East coast.

The contract sat on my desk staring at me for three solid weeks.  I did everything in my power to avoid looking at it.  I even put it in the closet for a while.  The knot in my stomach grew as I closed in on the last thing on my "TO-DO Before Spring Break" list.  Brendan and I must have had the same conversation about 700 times.  "Are we doing the right thing?"  "Yeah, we'll find jobs.  And we'll be able to have a beer at the end of the day!"

The anxiety finally ceased this week when we made our final decision: accepting the contract and returning for another year in Savoonga. 

In the end, it wasn't about the little things we miss like being able to go out to dinner, order takeout/have a drink at the end of a long day, or even so much about finding jobs for next year.  It came down to the reasons we came here in the first place: wanting to make sure we were making the most of our Alaskan adventure, and making progress with the kids.  We moved here to make an investment in our future. It's given us the opportunity to develop our personal and professional goals, and has taught us so much about ourselves and about each other.  

So thank you, Gaetano for asking us if we were really sure if we wanted our Alaskan adventure to be over.  And thank you, Rachel for reminding us that happiness is a choice--something we need to keep reminding ourselves of. Thank you, everyone who has listened to our ups and downs, has lent us hands packing and shoulders to cry on, and for not hating us when we changed our minds again and again.  And again.

Of course we miss our family, friends and life we left behind.  We think of you every single day, and your support keeps us going!  Mom kicking cancer's butt again this year helped us to keep things in perspective and reminded us not to quit.  We're still looking forward to the move home; we just postponed it a little bit! Our goal for the next year is to embrace each day, the good ones along with the challenges.  We're laughing about the insane amount of snow covering our house, and trying not to feel too claustrophobic about it.  As always, our door is open (even though you might have to dig to open it) to anyone adventurous enough to visit!

Keep your fingers crossed for us that the weather cooperates and we make it off the island for Spring Break, and that we get a chance to celebrate the continuation of our adventure!

Monday, November 5, 2012

"When I lose my direction, I look up to the sky"

Savoonga from the air!

Happy November! We hope that all of our East coasters were able to weather the storm without damage or loss!  You are all in our thoughts!

As we find ourselves in November and well into the second quarter of the year, we're searching for direction as we hurdle the ups and downs of daily life in Savoonga.  We had our second SIG Pod of the year last week in Stebbins, which I was feeling pretty anxious about before we left.  The inservices are always helpful and informative, but I was already feeling overwhelmed and wasn't sure how much more information my brain could contain, much less process.

But miraculously, instead of leaving Stebbins even more overwhelmed and stressed, I left with a refreshed sense of inspiration.  I realized that it's hard to maintain a clear vision when you are in your classroom for a good 12 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week.  It's good to step outside of your daily routine bubble, in my case the school, to gain some clarity.  After working with some pretty inspiring people for four days, all of whom are working towards the same goals, my sense of direction was restored and I felt ready to head back to Savoonga and tackle the world...well, island.

We were scheduled to return on the district flight, which meant we were leaving around 7:30 pm--the perfect time to catch a Bering Sea sunset from the air.  With my renewed sense of motivation paired with some Phish jams on my iPod and the inexplicable feeling of hovering over the Bering Sea on little 10 seater plane, my mind was impeccably clear and I reached a pretty sweet state of mental clarity.  I had everything figured out: lesson plans for the week, curriculum for the rest of the quarter, career path, kids names, global warming....well maybe not global warming but I was keeping an eye out for polar bears and walrus.  I was ready to get back in my classroom and start working towards productivity.

Then we landed in Savoonga.

And it was probably the freaking sweetest landing ever. One of the lame parts of flying on commercial jets is that you don't get to see everything the pilot sees.  On the flip side, this is one of the coolest things you get to do while flying in bush Alaska.  Flying isn't just a means of transportation, it's an experience that all 10 of you humans, and co-pilot dog, are living simultaneously.  When you've been descending and can see that the elevation gauge says 200 feet, and has for some time...but you haven't seen anything but dense fog for quite some can be pretty unnerving.  When you are looking out the same windshield the pilot is and you can't see a damn thing, it can be downright terrifying if you let it be. While trying not to think about the mountains that border the village, I quickly switched my iPod from "Call Me, Maybe," (I swear it just came on shuffle...) to Michael Franti's, "Have a Little Faith."  Hey, if I'm going down, I may as well go down with good karma.

With complete faith in our BSSD pilot, I was clutching B's hand and bracing myself. As I was focused on watching the elevation meter dropping, we flew out of the fog and the village came into view.  Though we were at a different angle than we normally come in on and maybe a little bit sideways, the pilot steered us to safety onto the runway.  The "cabin" erupted in cheers and sighs of relief.  The adventures in Alaska travel continue to amaze me, and my respect for bush pilots continues to rise.

We made it home safe and sound and got a good dose of adrenaline pumped through our blood.  Sadly, those clear thoughts and life plans were left in the ceiling of fog that was blanketing Savoonga that night.  The clarity has come and gone since I've been back, but generally the fog is slowly filling my brain.  After two, six-day work weeks, and what's more disappointing, two, one-day weekends, I'm once again overwhelmed, but determined and trying to maintain focus.

B keeping warm when our heat was out.
In an attempt to salvage our sanity and take some time for ourselves, we left school at 6:30 pm four out of six days this past week and let me tell you, that is a record.  When we got home Thursday night, we were ready to make a hearty meal to combat the arctic wind.  We had chickpeas soaked and ready to cook and some fresh kale and leeks to make a yummy stew.  Sadly, when we walked into our house, it was quickly apparent that we had no heat or power to half of the rooms in our house.  Two very skilled maintenance men and an hour later, it was determined that half of our fuse box was dead as a result of a burned wire to our house.  We were able to switch the heat to a working fuse, and our house has slowly warmed back up since.  However, we're without a working stove, oven, washer, dryer and lit bathroom.  For rural Alaska, these are minor inconveniences, and we were able to hijack one of the school's extra microwaves for the time being.  The biggest issue now is that I have no clue how to cook with a microwave, so the new appliance in our kitchen will be keeping me on my toes.  Candlelit showers are also on the agenda until the problem is resolved, but it makes for a nice ambiance and is actually pretty relaxing.  What's not relaxing is having to wash your undergarments in the school cafeteria washer and dryer.  This adventure in Alaska has taken any sense of normalcy I had and completely tossed it out the window.  Keep it coming!

Haunted House Preparations!
The Halloween Carnival that the school holds for the community was once again a success.  I'm the senior class advisor this year, and it's tradition that they create a haunted house for the younger kids.  With a lot of creativity, the students (and a few teachers) transformed the library into a scary spectacle.  The scariest part for me was the tombstone the kids created for me had me born in the year 1949.  It was a great fundraising success and overall a lot of fun!

Our tickets are officially booked for our trip home for Christmas, and we are getting excited about the break!  We've got quite a bit of wedding planning to do while we're home, but are ready to get the ball rolling.  We've got a couple of more months and a lot to accomplish before we leave.  Brendan has a couple of trips planned, one for training and two for volleyball!

As much planning as I've done over the course of my lifetime, living in Alaska is teaching me to go with the flow.  Which is a lesson that I definitely needed to learn.  I'll end this blog with some inspirational lyrics from my favorites that I'm trying to live by..."If I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die."