Is it just me, or has December been crazy busy for everyone else too?
I’ve only posted on this blog once this month! Once! Even my camera has been collecting dust.
Granted, it’s been a very white December, and when it snows, the skies are nearly as white as the ground. So pictures go by the wayside.
But now, as the Christmas arrival begins its final countdown, and presents are purchased and placed under the tree (no Santa here!), it’s catch-up season.
I’ve kept myself so busy lately that I hardly know where to start.
The days continue to shorten, but we are soon to be gaining daylight. Many look forward to December 21st most of all, as it marks the turn from when we lose daylight to gaining. Currently we enjoy just 3 hours and 45 minutes of sunlight a day.
There are a few benefits to this lack of daylight hours though. For one, you get amazing shots of the moon, especially when full. Second, even if you’re not an early bird, you get to experience awesome sunrises (and sunsets).
So far this year we have had a warm winter. It’s rarely dipped below zero, and in the hills where we live, we enjoy temperatures in the teens or higher. Thankfully, it’s stayed below freezing, but we’ve had a few days of pretty nasty roads as well. The city of Fairbanks keeps the roads well-maintained, spreading gravel on the icy curves and at the stoplights to offer traction. The downside of this gravel use is that a windshield that makes it through the winter unscathed is a rare phenomenon. (I got my first winter chip the other week, which will probably spread soon if not treated.) Chips in windshields up here rarely stay chips for long, as well. With the cold temperatures, a big bump is all that’s needed to go from chip to crack.
It’s been great running weather though. Although I do have to “bundle,” with hat, neck warmer, light gloves, two pairs of pants and tall socks, two to three shirts and a light jacket, I’m toasty warm while moving without a lot of weight. And keeping my son warm in the stroller is easy so far: a base layer followed by a warm pair of pants and a long sleeved shirt with a fleece over it, a warm hat, then topped with a double layer snowsuit (fleece and windbreaker Columbia suit), and his Alaskan mukluks, placed in the stroller in a zip-up fleece bag, then on colder days, a blanket on top of him, and he stays toasty warm, snoozing as I exert myself up and down the surrounding hills.
I’m a goal-oriented person who needs a push in order to push myself, so I “signed up” to follow a half-marathon training regime. And, I must say, I’ve been doing pretty good. It’s definitely gotten me back into shape, and I’ve been pushing myself. (I certainly wouldn’t go on hour and a half runs without being pushed.) It gives me a schedule and makes me stick to it.
I’ve been baking bread, canning my highbush cranberries, and decorating the house for Christmas.
Well, finally, we got more snow–just in time for Thanksgiving!
Oddly, one of the things you hear up here when there is a lack of snow is concern. Alaska needs snow. Its insulating properties keep pipes from freezing and plants’s roots from dying.
Because of the low, low, low temperatures here, we need snow, unlike much of the United States. Oddly, our weather seems reversed of the rest of the U.S., whereas they are getting dumped on, we haven’t had but one snowfall until yesterday.
Snow, although a necessary evil, does make for pretty pictures and holiday cheer. So while in March, I’ll be long ready for the snow to be gone, right now, I’ll try to enjoy it.
Oh it felt good to hit the trails today.
Okay, it wasn’t a trail. And it didn’t feel so much as I was hitting it as it hitting me, especially now, eight hours post run.
But that first half mile, before the cramping sets in, and before you recall that your lungs aren’t in the condition they used to be, and it’s cold out, so they start to burn anyway, before all that, on that downhill slope, there was a spring in my toes propelling me on.
It felt good. No, not good–awesome.
Running these days is a little different from pre-baby runs. My knees hurt more lately, partly from lack of exercise, and pushing a baby in a jogging stroller over packed down snow and ice isn’t exactly what I envisioned for myself when I started running years ago. But it works. True, it takes a nap time to complete the run, but mental and physical health is worth it.
What do you do in fall/beginning of winter in Fairbanks, Alaska? Well, this girl soaks up the remaining sun and whatever warmth she can get.
Roads have been pretty slick in my neighborhood the past few days, but that hasn’t stopped me from heading out to do errands in town, then back home to play with the dog. About half of our snow has melted, and temperatures have been getting up to 40˚F–too warm when you have too much snow on the ground to melt in one day!
I’ve quickly found that the best thing about our house is the amazing natural light. Most of the windows of our house face almost due south, so we get to watch the sun traverse the sky throughout the day. This is great for me, since winter can be a hard time with its frigid darkness, and this means I can make some Vitamin D while warm indoors playing with my son!
The past couple of days, I have decided to forgo what would be a slick winter walk with my seven-month-old, and instead just head out to the backyard to throw the frisbee for the dog. We have a border collie. He recently turned ten years old, but he acts like he’s got the energy of a ten-week-old! If anyone knows border collies, then they know that there is no real “off” switch on these dogs. They go until they simply can’t. Which means they would rather die than stop fetching or herding (whichever they have been trained to do). They are people-pleasing and loyal, and ours really is a great dog. They have a fiercely loyal following as well, and after nearly ten years with ours, I can see why. He really is a great dog (but don’t tell my husband I said that!).
The problem with our dog is that he doesn’t know when to stop. He’s literally torn up his feet on sharp rocks, bleeding, flaps of skin hanging off his feet, and still fetches as if nothing is wrong (while the German Shepherd is whimpering in pain at her torn feet). I think that’s the definition of obsessive. However, I must admit that he has been taught to “turn it off.” In other words, my husband and I can tell him “that’s enough” and he takes the toy he’s been trying to get us to play with for the past half hour, and goes to bed. That’s pretty well trained.
I’ve even taken pains to train him to find his toys, as well as distinguish between them. Each of his toys has a name. We have “Mr. Blue,” “Giraffe,” “Green bone,” and a multitude of others. (What can I say, he’s the spoiled first “child.”) And he’s smart. Too smart.
Shortly after our son was born, the dog was having a hard time adjusting to not being the center of attention. He was a little neglected, and there were toys everywhere. It’s not uncommon, especially these hectic, pre-toddler days, to turn around after changing a diaper and trip over two toys. Or when you squeak a toy for the baby, the dog comes running, always eager and ready. But when our son was very young, perhaps days or weeks old, and when he’d cry, the dog would bring him all his toys. One very memorable moment was when my husband was changing our son’s diaper, and the dog brought about three or four toys over to drop at my husband’s feet, an offering to our son as if he were saying, “here, this makes me feel better, why don’t you try it?”
It’s taken me years to love this dog, but I have to say I appreciate him much more now than when I “adopted” him through marriage. He’s had ten good years. We’ll see how many more he gets!
It looks like winter, but it sure doesn’t seem like the weather knows what it wants to be. Every time I think it has committed, the temperatures lift above freezing. What a rotten start to winter in Alaska: get lots of snow then have it warm up enough to partially melt it. Unfortunately this results in slick roads all winter long.
In other news, maybe it is winter. I took this picture of produce at Fred Meyer today, after nearly dying from shock. $2.29 a pound for broccoli?!? Then I remembered that I am in Alaska. (At least it’s Fairbanks and not Barrow or somewhere that milk is over $5 a gallon, and fuel over $8 a gallon.)