Three moves in three years

It’s been awhile since I last blogged, so I thought I would give a quick update while I’m working on some more fully-formed blog posts. I’ve also been “microblogging” on Instagram, at least until I lose interest in it, so follow me there if you like.

We moved back to Alaska at the beginning of the summer, and I was extremely happy about it, as living in Phoenix was completely killing my spirit. I can’t even express how much I hated living there, and I can’t think of a place in the U.S. that I would be more ill-suited for. So I’m glad to be back in Alaska.

It has been a really difficult summer, though. This is the third time we’ve moved to a different state in the past three years, the second time with two kids. Moving with kids is completely awful, in so many ways. It’s hard to believe but there was a time in my life when moving was exciting and enjoyable, pre-kids. There’s another theme of my life right now: many things that were exciting and enjoyable before kids, are now tedious and exhausting.

The past three years of constant moves and instability in many areas of my life have really worn me down. It takes a long time to settle into a new home, physically and mentally. In Arizona it took us about a year to fully unpack, so right about the time we finally got rid of all of our moving boxes, we found out we were moving again. Right now, we’re temporarily living in a sub-optimal apartment while getting ready to build a new house, so it will be a long time before we’re really settled.

It’s even harder to become mentally settled in a new place. I never would have felt at home in Phoenix, no matter how long we lived there. Prior to that, I was just beginning to warm up to Colorado when we found out we had to move to Phoenix. I know I will feel at home here in our new town, but our daily life is a lot more difficult now for many reasons. Meanwhile, I have a lot of thoughts to process and no time or energy for it, and it’s hard to lead my kids through all this change and help them deal with their feelings when I can’t attend to my own.

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Looking to the light

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One morning I was putting AJ in her carseat when our 5-year-old neighbor came out of the house next door. She waved and asked where we were going, and I told her we were going to a friend’s house for a playdate. She replied, “Now? In the middle of the night?” “It’s not night,” I said, “it’s almost ten in the morning.” She said, “But it’s still dark outside. Whenever I wake up and it’s still dark, my mom always says ‘go back to sleep! It’s not morning yet!’”

Some Alaska moms can get their kids to sleep until noon in the winter using that trick. Unfortunately, my daughter has an impeccable internal clock that wakes her up hours before light breaks the horizon, and she’s progressively waking up earlier and earlier.

Thankfully, so is the sun. Though it still rises at about the same time AJ takes her first nap, the increasing light already makes a big difference. Everything looks better from this side of the solstice.

Winter in interior Alaska lasts for almost three-quarters of the year, and in December we only get a very few short hours of sunlight. It would all be completely unbearable if it weren’t for one thing: seasonal temperature lag, the delay in the Earth’s surface temperature response to solar insolation. The warmest time of the year occurs after the peak of maximum solar insolation (summer solstice), and the coldest time of the year occurs after the time of lowest solar insolation (winter solstice). Temperature can lag insolation by up to three months, caused by the high specific heat of water in the oceans and atmosphere, which absorb incoming heat from the sun and release it slowly.

If there were no seasonal temperature lag, winter would be evenly split between either side of the solstice, and the darkest month of the year would also be the coldest. Our first four months of winter would be an agonizingly slow march towards ever-decreasing temperatures and light. By mid-winter, we would all be in a black hole of depression with nothing to look forward to because the second half of winter would be just as long and terrible as the first.

Thanks to temperature lag, two-thirds of the winter is spent in progressively increasing light, and the second half of winter has longer days than the first half. By the time we reach the coldest days of the year, the days are already longer than they were at the beginning of winter. And even though snow continues to linger long after spring equinox, summer’s constant daylight inches closer and heralds the warmth. Thank goodness for the specific heat of water.