10 things eva learned in alaska

running in the sun

shockit ice keem

1. How to go night-night in broad daylight, and then to wake up whenever it's time for fishing.
We arrived in Alaska less than a week after the summer solstice, so there was about 20 hours of daylight each day. It looked roughly like "dusk" sometime just before midnight. We aren't much for strict schedules around our household, but this proved a bit of a challenge.
On the other side, Eva had to adapt to things like everyone getting up to pack up camp at, say, 2:45 a.m. to head out fishing. Despite all this plus naps wherever she could find them some days, she was amazing right up until the end of the trip. (It's only now that we're home -- where her bedtime would be the equivalent of 2 a.m. -- that we're having some struggles.)

2. How to get skeetos.
Oh, the mosquitoes. They really weren't bad for almost all the time (turns out with all the rain in Texas they're actually worse here, weird). However, any mosquitoes are enough to attract the attention of a kid. She started randomly hitting herself or others, offering the explanation "I'm getting skeetos. Go 'way, skeetos, don't bite me!"

3. To say "lah".
Either by random coincidence or because of the way Grandpa or others of us pronounce "yeah", Eva took it up with a passion while we were in Alaska. Previously, she habitually said "uh-huh" (like mama says :), but now she says... "lah." I wouldn't mind if she said "yeah", but it sounds very much more like "lah" or sometimes "nyah" (the latter of which is a very ambiguous answer to a yes or no question). So, we all took to encouraging "yes" (with an emphasis on the final letter) as a response, and she occasionally does say that, landing hard on the "s" with a snake-like hiss at the end, "yessss!" Lah, Eva, lah.

4. How to eat her weight in cherries.
I've never seen anything like it, but cherries went on sale for $1.98/lb. So, we bought several pounds. Then we went back for several more pounds before the sale ended at the end of the week. But, lo, then cherries went on sale at another store, and again the following week. For three weeks, we ate and ate and ate cherries. As far as I can tell, Larry prefers cherries to all other foods, and it seems Eva takes after him in that respect. Collectively we ate probably 30-40 lbs of cherries and Eva kept up with us. It was ridiculous.

5. Where the fish on her plate comes from.
They come from the ocean or the river, then you catch them with a pole or a big net. Then you hit them with a stick and cut the sides off. Then you beg Grandpa to cook salmon so you can eat it for dinner.
(Grandpa fashioned a fishing pole for her, complete with hand-carved walnut hook, and she had fun fishing for things -- bags, pails, Grandpa). She had fun while we went dipnetting at the ocean -- until her little hands froze playing in the cold, wet sand -- but she did often ask "what's that man doing with that fish?" Well, now she knows. It's the cycle of life.

6. That bears can be found really close to you, several times a day, while camping.
The day of bears: First thing in the morning, while Eva and I were still in the camper, Mom watched a black bear stroll right down the little winding road through the campground, directly in front of our campsite. This is, apparently, not unusual. It's Alaska. Later that day, while rafting down the Kenai River, Dad and I came across three brown bears, a mama sitting in the water eating a fish along with her two cubs frolicking on the shoreline nearby. We paddled over and watched them, but kept our distance. Then, on the drive back to the campsite, Dad spotted a bear in the bushes along the little road just outside the campground. It was a fairly young black bear and it sat there munching on red berries for quite some time as we sat and watched it. Eva sat on my lap, face pressed against the window, maybe 10 or 15 feet away from a bear in the wild. How often does that happen? Those were some pretty amazing bear encounters, all in one day.

7. What a "poopitz" is.
If you ask Eva to identify her belly button, odds are she'll tell you it's her "poopitz" (sorry, I don't know the correct transliteration). In fact, in true two-year-old fashion, if the dog casually walks toward her while Eva is in a certain mood, she'll semi-shreek, "oh no, Lemma, don't get my poopitz!" She learned this new word, of course, from Grandpa.
I grew up half-knowing various phrases in Ukrainian (like how to jokingly tell the dog "I'll box your ears"). I didn't know this until after she died, but my Grandma Eva spoke only Ukrainian until she learned English in school. So, on many levels, it's only fitting that Eva learn some random things in Ukrainian. (Meaning, something other than how to eat pudaheya until you can barely move.)

8. How to frighten her mother clear out of the bathroom.
People talk about how the poo of breastfed babies doesn't really smell, at least in comparison to formula fed babies or to toddlers who have begun to eat solid foods. Well, I can't say that I noticed much of a difference once she started eating solids (yet I knew other kids' diaper changes could run me out of the room) -- and now I know why. It's because she doesn't eat meat! How do I know this? Well, she began to eat salmon, her first meat in meaningful quantities, while we were in Alaska. And though I'd forget every time to steel myself as I went to help her at the potty, I'd immediately be reminded with unmistakable force. Yikes. I guess it's all what you get used to, but I'm glad I don't have to deal with that daily. A perk of vegetarianism they don't tell you about at Training Camp. :)

9. To know she must be really having fun when she can no longer recognize the original color of her shoes (and/or socks, pants).
She climbed, she hiked, she sat in the dirt. She helped me collect twigs for the fire, she rode around on a hand truck. She drug her poor green jacket around by the sleeve (as though she was walking a dog) for hours on end. She never stopped moving. At the end of the day, her green socks and black shoes both were brown, and she was very intrigued.

10. The concept of instant replay.
Immediately upon returning home from camping, we all would sit down and watch videos and look at photos of Eva. It's tradition. Plus, we can't help it. While this goes on, Eva says "what Eva doing on the TV?" As far as she knows, it's totally normal to watch yourself on TV at the end of a fun day. Why not?


a lot to say

campsite, originally uploaded by Kristy and Eva.

we spent four weeks in alaska, and so much happened it feels like an entire season must have passed (the change in weather and light propped up that illusion). i try to encapsulate the experience, to store it here for later -- both for me and for eva, and to share it with others, and i get stuck. so, rather than wait for that clarity of mind that may never come (or will come too late), i'll not postpone other entries any longer. who says life has to be processed chronologically?

eva has not been sleeping well the week we've been home -- blame her molars, or the jetlag, or her sudden tireless interest in singing (having become, of late, the troubadour of her own experience). in fact she stopped sleeping well the last half of the alaska trip, once larry left for london (though he is not the one responsible for getting her to sleep, aparently his presence in the next room is a catalyst for sleep?). this is wearing on me, layered on top of the predictable malaise that sets in after returning home from any long trip. the result is a drained and periodically cranky mama, who unnecessarily snaps at her husband and is less sensitive than she usually is to her overtired toddler.

i'm doing my best, which is more than i would have done in the past -- the hardest truth of being a mom is that you can't crumple and stare at nothing for an hour, even if you really want to. you sometimes can't even cry for 15 seconds. ("what's wrong mama? mama, are you okay?" she peers at me quizically. "it oooh-kay, mama. it okay." she says, patting my back and kissing my head. so touching, to see the care i offer her reflected back to me, but i'd rather she not feel the need to comfort me in the first place.)

so, she has rights to be cranky given her teething and lack of sleep, given her fogged-in mama. yet, in true eva spirit, instead she sings. she sings songs she knows. she repeats songs she hears larry sing four words of while fixing her a snack. she makes up songs to sing sotto voce to violet and bunny (songs whose exact meaning cannot be descerned by outsiders). she sings to narrate her activities or thoughts -- the aforementioned troubadour. i will restrain myself from flooding you with examples (as the experience of toddler song loses nearly all meaning when translated to text) but here are two from this evening:

hearing larry sing a line of the johnny cash song, eva sung back without missing a beat, "papa sang bass, eva sang tennis..." the word "tenor" is unfamiliar, so she made her best interpretation. i like it.

an hour or so later, as she stood playing with some carved wooden animals (a gift from sarah karen and john today), she was remembering the elephant maggie we saw in the alaska zoo. there's controversy surrounding whether she should stay there since maggie is in questionable health and all alone, and elephants are social animals. anyway, processing what i shared with her about the situation (yet again), she turned it into a melody of her own creation. "maggie is a lil' bit saaad, she feel lone-leee. a lil' bit lonely 'cause she not have friends there. maybeee, the people help maggie feel better." i'd like to report it was a blues tune, but no. it was, however, in a minor key, as are most of her little songs.

i leave you with some quotes, from way back when she was not yet two from the depths of... last month.

"what happened to the bouncing bridge?"
oh, it's broken, eva.
"it broken. it got bounced too much. by kids... and boys!"
(this "kids and boys" thing persists. i wonder, does she see girls as the default and thus boys as the "other"? or is it just an accident of language acquisition?)

(seeing two men climbing giant redwood trees on the "planet earth" documentary:)
"what are those two monkeys doing?"
"ummm, it a man. two mans. two monkey mans! *hahaha*"
(little does she know her own papa is a monkey man.)

(first words after waking from nap)
"sareee!" (giggling, meaning her cousin)
"i love sarey."
ah, you love sarah?
"uh-huh. i give sarah a hug and a kiss at gram's austin house!"
yes, you sure did.

i'll leave it at that and do my best to write the many great stories from alaska soon. i just hate to taint happy stories by writing them while i feel less than happy (not that i'm so sad, i'm just not in the right head space).

but did you know? she turned two, my baby is two years old. amazing...