Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yucky, Lucky

Addie makes adorable speech mistakes. Yesterday, she was walking around, pointing at various items and places, declaring, "Dat lucky." From the crusty bean pot on the stove to the messy space in front of the heater to her own diaper that missed the trash bag to the candy wrappers left over from the gingerbread house (She seems to be kind of a neat-nick). Took me a minute to realize that what she really meant, of course, was, "yucky."

Then I was tired and stretched out on the couch with her. Then I was feeling all anecdotal and spiritual and thought that those things really are lucky for us:

We're lucky to have a huge crock pot of beans to keep us full and healthy;

We're lucky to have space for stuff to get strewn about and messed;

We're lucky to have enzymes to help her digest her food and keep her plumbing in order.

We're lucky to have extra money for something as frivolous and marvelous as a candy-coated gingerbread house.

Have a yucky, lucky week, friends!
Love, Allison

Friday, November 7, 2014

Two Birthdays

Monday is not only the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps (Semper fi!), it is also the 20th birthday of our first child (Yay Rees!). Since my husband was an active duty Marine when he was born on November 10, 1994, he was the subject of much good-natured ribbing by his squadron: What a perfect devil dog to command his wife to give birth on the 10th; No one loves the Corps as much as Howell; Think you’ll make rank quicker now; How come you weren’t at the ball? While I am crazy-proud that he served for eight years, I am also crazy-happy that he got out. We esteem the Marines this day, but our wonderful son even more. I would consider it a great honor if any of my children wears the uniform.

While Rees is not allowed to serve, he has grown into a strong young man who is gung-ho about his life. He has adopted the military code of conduct to the best of his civilian abilities. Simply put, it is ~

* Be prepared to give your life
* Never surrender to the enemy
* Always plan an escape from the enemy
* If captured, keep the faith with fellow soldiers

He applies this to his life as a Catholic, a friend, an employee, and a student. I am crazy-proud of him.

From the Marine’s Prayer:

“Almighty Father, whose command is over all and whose love never fails, make me aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and deed and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines, my loved ones, and Thee without shame or fear. Protect my family.

If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again.

Guide me with the light of truth and grant me wisdom by which I may understand the answer to my prayer.”

Happy birthday to the USMC, America’s protectors and defenders.

Happy birthday to my boy, a good man.

Yikes, I'm the mother of a twenty-year-old!
Love, Allison

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Howell Girls

My girls at the same age ~
Clare at 2 1/2

Addie right now, at 2 1/2

So different; so connected. Love them!
Allison at about 4.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Little Peace, a Lot of Hope

Only Clare and I went to church this past Sunday morning (Ken took the others to our usual service Saturday evening but we were tired of people from two outings that day). A minute after settling into a pew, a lady slid into the space directly in front of me and I clenched my teeth. She is publicly, happily pro-choice, once announcing that she finally became Catholic when she found out that she could be pro-choice and Catholic (oh yay). How can I possibly concentrate on Jesus with this person in view? Mass is ruined now. Then something worse dawned on me. Since we are not acquainted and she does not know of my disgust, she was probably going to turn around and extend her hand toward mine to wish me the Peace of Christ and I'd be expected to clasp hers and wish her the same thing. What to do? Where to go? How to avoid this? Going to the ladies' room wouldn't work because I'd visited right before church and Clare knew it and I did not want to explain to her that I was not going to shake that lady's hand. I thought about coughing here and there throughout the liturgy so that when the time came for the sign of peace, I could smile and shrug while mouthing, Coughing; but again, bad example to Clare. Plus I didn't want to smile. So I stewed.

I'd love to say that the Scripture readings and psalm singing convicted me to kindness.

I'd love to say that my beautiful surroundings soothed me to sweetness.

But it was a reminder of the prayers from a fiery priest that I'd spent the previous day with  in a mini retreat that spurred me on to a better way. He called it "Healing Litanies" and it took us an hour to read through together. There were about fifty ladies, from young women in their twenties to white-haired grannies, all murmuring these words ~ most of us on our knees (Father Shields has pastored in Siberia for twenty years and told us that the Russians "love to suffer on their knees," so we competitive Americans remained on our knees!

Some of the statements we prayed:

A Confession of Faith that included ~
* Lord Jesus I trust in You
*Lord Jesus I believe that out of love for me, You saved me
*Lord Jesus I believe that Your gift of life brings peace

 Please forgive ~
*My doubt
*My hatred
*My indifference

Please heal ~
*My mental anguish
*My fears
*My pain

I ask You, Lord ~
*To open my heart
*To forgive others
*To desire Your will

I am sorry for ~
*The times I have turned away from You
*The times I have held resentment in my heart
*The times I was not Your instrument of peace

I seek refuge ~
*As I abandon my aggression
*As I abandon my fears
*As I abandon my worries

Jesus, let Your cross be my joy ~
*When I am tempted
*When I am not confident in Your mercy
*When I am in misery

Holy Spirit ~
*Fill us
*Transform us
*Comfort us

Grant us a compassionate heart, Lord ~
*For the poor and homeless
*For victims of war and epidemics
*For those whose faith is tested

(There were many more prayers under each heading. It was sobering, yes, but also hopeful to be a part of a large group of women praying to love Jesus more, to love His people more, to love all people more. The simmering pentecostal in me was very close to hollering some "Amen's" and "Yes Lord's!")

Back in Mass, I realized that I had already prayed for this lady the day before. That Jesus loved this lady. That she was sitting with me in church and we were connected. That shaking her hand did not mean that I loved abortion. That I absolutely did wish the peace of Jesus to be with her. 

When she turned around and held out her hand, mine was already stuck out to meet her, my smile was totally genuine, and I practically shouted, "Peace of Christ be with you!"

There is hope in peace. Even such a little bit of peace as a handshake. For the times I have not been an instrument of Your peace, Lord forgive me. He does and there is peace.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Coming and Leaving and Coming Back to Alaska

Howells have come and left Alaska four times over the past twenty-five years. Four times!

Time #1: Ken and his friend, "Uncle Paul" came in 1989, freshly discharged from the Navy, spent a month hiking and kayaking around, then left to come home to RI. Ken soon proposed marriage and the crazy idea of driving to Alaska and setting up our home.

So young.

So dangerous.

Time #2: I said yes and we began our trek, taking six weeks to visit places and hike along the way. We got to Alaska and poked around the state, then pitched our tent by the Salcha River outside of Fairbanks, heading into town each day to search for jobs and an apartment. We found a tiny place above an attorney's office and two minimum wage jobs, which we worked for six months before Ken decided to re-enlist (with the Marine Corps this time) and get some edgy-cashun. So we left for North Carolina. Because the Marines.

Welcome to Alaska, Allison!

Teen Challenge of Alaska (no longer there)
Driving north of Fairbanks

Time #3: Four years later, we came back to Alaska, this time with a baby boy, a theology degree, and a job directing the now-closed Teen Challenge of Alaska. When that baby boy was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, we left again after just one year to pastor a church in the mountains of North Carolina.

The truck was not moving. This was taken with a normal camera long before The Selfie.

Time #4: That disaster (See conversion story page above) also lasted one year. We packed up and came to Alaska again; now with two sons, two vehicles, and zero awaiting employment. We realized that Alaska was the only place we fit in; we decided to tough it out and make it work. We have.

Growing up in the shadow of Denali.

Easy-does-it, Joe!

Craigie Creek Trail. She's not sleeping; just thought it'd be fun to hang.

Some beautiful lake by Dogsled Pass.

It has now been seventeen years since that fourth and final time and we're doing fine (Decent job and house and lots more kids)! Alaska is home.

Adventures and peace to you,

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Poem with Pics by Clare

(Copied and pasted from her locked blog...)

A story by me

This is a story/comic/picture book/poem thing that I wrote. Click on the pictures of they're too small.

For some reason I like drawing sick, and/or stray dogs. 

I like the way I did the face on this one.

Ok, yeah, this one came out bad. But in real life it looks good, the scanner messed it up.

The hand took me a long while (I'm not good at humans), and it STILL doesn't look perfect.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Big Girl

Time for an Addie update!

At 2 1/2, she remains pretty healthy. Plenty of oral antibiotics (maybe 6 times) and one round of prednisone, but no need for IVs. She's tiny, though, weighing just 23 pounds and growing along the 5th percentile, weight  for height (which I don't ever remember). She is thriving and engaging and hilarious and affectionate. She learns new things every day and due to her constant imitation, I've renewed my efforts to curtail the brothers' potty humor.  It's just not right for a vision of pink sweetness to make those kind of noises. One thing that gives us endless amusement is her penchant for pointing at any man with a white beard and exclaiming, "Dumbledore!" or to a dark-bearded man with, "Thorin!" No, she hasn't seen the movies but the kids point out pictures.

Here's our big girl:

World's littlest braids.

Clare's Art Class (what a good babysitter!)

Pounding bread dough.

Rocks pulmozyme nebs like a boss.

Extra neb picture because of that smile.

Totally ruining someone's book.

Camp out with Clare.

Yes, that is a block of cheese in her mouth.

She's still the star of the family!
Smiles, friends,

Monday, July 28, 2014


Most of the time, I'm just like any other mother. Sometimes, however, I fight this:

When I have to allow medical professionals to hurt my children without saying a word when I can sometimes visualize punching them and running away with my kid to a thatched cottage on the moor, something breaks inside and I wonder if I will ever truly trust anyone again. When I have to listen to other moms simper about how teething fever is the worst and I know I'm being mean when I can almost hear myself laughing at them, something breaks inside and I wonder if I will ever cultivate charity. When the ladies who lunch ignore my request for a few bucks toward our charity research walk but ask for funds to send their kids on mission trips and I'm certain I'll never speak to them again then get mad at myself when I do, something breaks inside and I wonder if I'm a petty jerk. When I stare at a hospital bill from the two days in nineteen years that he was in between insurance plans and know that the CEO who received a letter from Rees just passed it on to the billing office and I want to snarl at Mr. Big Bucks to just pay for it but have to be quiet because it's rude to talk money like that, something breaks inside and I wonder if I despise rich, powerful people. When I listen to the coughing and to the lab cultures and PFT results and want to die but can't, something breaks inside and I wonder how I will ever get to tomorrow. 

Some parts get strong, to be sure, but other parts will never, ever heal.

I'm still trying, though, to be a trusting, charitable friend to all, even with my broken parts, who doesn't punch or shun or snarl or laugh meanly at anyone. But no one gets this craziness like CF Mamas, for all our disagreements about lakes and campfires and masks (!). They're special to me from afar. But if anyone reading this comes to Alaska, e-mail me so that we can visit for real, OK?

There is plenty of excellence that CF brings to a body, to a family, to a community, which I'm happy to herald, and often do. This is also part of it (well, for me at least) and I want you to know that when I recently saw a selfie of a vacationing couple and all of the "You deserve it" comments, I exclaimed to my husband, NO ONE DESERVES A VACATION LIKE A CF MAMA.

Broken, yes, but also ready for visits and vacations. And still beautiful. 

Love and thanks to all my friends,

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Try, Yes

I know that how I feel about myself is probably shallow thing to spend much time on. I mean, there are lost, abused, hungry children to worry about. This video made me choke up, though, and I'm sharing it. Never heard of her before she showed up in my Facebook newsfeed, but will keep an eye (and ear) out for more.

Love, Allison

Monday, July 14, 2014

Catholic Hippy Homeschool

Note: I use the word “hippy” loosely; that is, while I am distrustful of government, buck current sexual norms (by embracing traditional gender roles!), and like to eat close to the earth, I am not presently nor have I ever engaged in promiscuity or illegal drugs. OK, then; let’s have a little fun with this!
1. We spend a lot of time outside: yard gaming in the grass, fighting, exploring, and magical games in the woods; coaxing vegetables out of the garden; and caring for the hobby farm animals. We turn this into language arts, science, social studies, and art by writing, researching, photographing, sketching, and labeling. We actually do make daisy chains, cook up dandelion flowers, and brew spruce tea. We are flower children.
animals 0032. When the weather pushes us inside (excepting farm chores), we build stuff like classic forts, train tracks, lego creatures, and obstacle courses. And books, books, books. The most encouraging thing I have ever heard in fifteen years of homeschooling is this: A curious mother and a library card can give a child an excellenteducation. I make sure to have great books here, from board books to picture books to novels to textbooks (most titles found in the appendices of programs far too tightly ordered for me!) so that whatever strikes their interest will be excellently fed. It’s a beautiful bag.
3. We rap about culture, politics, and religion regularly. We explain, draw charts, and break out the catechism and Bible to read. Our Holy Faith is reasonable and touches every aspect of life while bathing our hearts and minds in the tempering love of Christ. So we can discuss a certain law or program or news story or homily with all the volume and hand-waving my Irish roots revel in; and in the same conversation bring it back to How Should We Then Live? (usually thanks to my quieter husband). Right-on activism.
4. We love the earth (see #1). We are masters at recycling and reusing out of financial and space-necessity. Any plastic container gets washed and joins the ranks of Ken’s camping supplies; any cardboard becomes a fort or art project (see #2); our backyard animals provide milk and meat and their pens provide fertilizer for the field and garden. Stroller walks always amass trash that the children collect and discard and our cars and clothing are someone else’s cast-offs. Love, baby.
100_22185. Even our mathematics is laissez-faire. We keep half a dozen programs here that they float among (Singapore, Teaching Textbooks, Life of Fred, Oak Meadow, Dragon Box, and Khan online) and enough buckets of manipulatives to ruin a week’s worth of midnight bathroom visits. If someone is having a particularly tough time, they’re dispatched to help a toddler build with Cuisenaire rods or design with pattern blocks. Peace, man.

The delightful Elizabeth Foss wrote that “We are educated by our intimacies” and this is our way of helping our children (and who am I kidding, us parents, as well!) be intimate with God’s creation ~ the earth, the family, the Faith ~ in our own Catholic hippy groove.
“Far more important, my dear Catholics, is not what we are going to do but who we are to become: that we become men and women of God and saints of God, the presence of Christ in this world. That is the object of education: who we become.” Bishop Carl Mengeling in The Catholic Homeschool Companion.

(Also published at Catholic Sistas today.)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mud Run

So the whole family drove into Anchorage for the Mud Run on Saturday and we all had a wonderful time. Joseph, Addie, and I did not participate, just commuted among the bubble table, the hot dog grill, and the finish line.

I have no idea why she wanted to shed her dress and play only in bloomers. It's a toddler thing.

The weather was perfect, 70 degrees and windy, which meant that I kept my hoody on and sunburned my face. Ken ran the 2K mini-muddy with the younger kids, first time they'd done anything like it before (formal, that is; they run and jump and climb and crawl through mud daily). I wasn't sure if they would get weird and pout and walk back to the park, but as the minutes ticked by, I was pretty sure they were staying the course (designed by Ken, BTW!). We were waiting at exactly the right time to see Luke, then Ian, then Clare (and Ken) slog through the Skinny Raven arch ~ beaming! I was so happy they not only did it, but loved it, I was choked up.

Then Ken (again), Rees, and John gathered for the adult 5K. No problem there. Those three do mud all the time (and mountains and alders and boulder fields and ...).
John, always the coolest.

Rees, the muddiest.

Ken ran with a backpack. Because Ken.

I'm glad to help build that playground for ACMHS. Good things happen one ticket, one T shirt, one donation at a time by regular people.

Since I was milling around with two cute toddlers, a rottweiler, and a pit bull, I met all kinds of interested bystanders, security personnel, and volunteers: from agency folks tickled to meet Ken's family to strangers commenting on the Howell circus. One friendly lady told me that she budgets for the summer charity run circuit and signs up for as many as she can afford, knowing that the local causes are grateful for community-love. Everyone wins. Now I'm smitten and want to do this, too, adding a few family runs in between camping trips. Only if the weather's perfect, though. I'm not ambitious about it; just after some sort of social, outdoor feng shui thing that I just made up.

Here's to good health (especially Rees and Addie), good communities, and good familes ~ let's find out where to help. And here is the (very long) list of Alaska runs that I'm going to pore through and pick a few for us.

Have a great day, friends,
Love, Allison

PS ~ I see that I have pictures of everyone but Joseph. He was probably hanging out by the hot dog grill, pretending that he hadn't already eaten two.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Clare's Harry Potter Post

Every single book read; now time to enjoy the films!

I Finished All The Harry Potter Books!!!!!!!!!

Every single one! I'm sooo excited! Despite all the bad things said about them, my mum and I love them! She read the first one with me, and then I read all the rest by myself, telling her all about what was happening and all the good points.
We really like the definition of Horcruxes, which is that murder rips your soul apart (Christ is killed in us when we do mortal sin). Then you can put the piece of soul in whatever container you have chosen to be the Horcrux. And if you change you mind, the only way to put you soul back together is remorse, and you have to truly feel what you have done for it to be fixed (confession).
And there's a pro life line, too! 'Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.' Said by Kingsley, a member of the Order of the Phoenix.
There's also a lot of self sacrifice, and when Draco Malfoy was told by Voldemort to kill Dumbledore (who was going to die anyway from an injury), Snape told Dumbledore that he would kill Dumbledore, so Malfoy, who was only 16 at the time, would not have a ruined soul. That's probably the only thing my mum and I found wrong in the books, because Snape shouldn't have killed anyone anyway. But his heart was in the right place, I guess. That's what my mom said. Here's some good websites About the books and movies (warning: some may have spoilers):

And then when I finished I took a ton of quizzes, so here are my results:
Great. The house that gets most of the bad guys.

Oh crap. I got the bad guy. I don't think I'm EVER going to live this down.

Disgusted, I did the quiz again and got this, which fits a ton better.

What my Patronus would be.

Then I did this one, which fits me very much as well (sorry it's so small, click and you can read it easier).

What type of wand I would have.

And I got a mean (ish) character AGAIN.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Celebrating Twenty-four Years

(First posted on Catholic Sistas)

Today is our 24th wedding anniversary. Allow me to share some of our story!
We met at the Evangelical Covenant Church of Riverside, RI when I was 19 and Ken was 21. We had both attended this church as teenagers, moved away due to college and military service, then returned. Since I was then commuting locally and Ken’s ship was in port, we were in church together.
We jumped back into youth activities as helpers, which was a good excuse to continue to hang out with the youth group and our beloved youth pastor and wife. We double-dated (not each other; we each had other dates!) until all the other dates fizzled and it was just us. We poked all around southeastern New England together, from restaurants, beach grills, and concerts to hiking trails, rappelling mountains, and sledding hills. Motorcycle rides, too! For my twentieth birthday, he cooked dinner, complete with candles, music, and rooftop dancing. We had the Serious Relationship Talk. Six months later, he proposed–while we were canoeing, of course. It was tricky to properly cry and laugh and shriek YES! in a tipsy canoe but I somehow managed.
Our wedding was perfect and wholly a gift of our church. One lady made my gown; one gentleman took the photographs; one lady asked me what I wanted for the reception and it magically appeared in the church gymnasium. When we met with the music director and told him we wanted a congregational hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King, he told us that he’d previously written a bridal procession using Lasst uns erfreuen (the tune to that song) and were we were interested in hearing it? It was grand and beautiful and we did indeed use it.

We were told that we were too young, too uneducated, too poor, t00 you-name-it to get married. That we should “see the world” before settling down. But we had no intention of settling down! After our honeymoon weekend on Cape Cod, we took off with $1,500 and our loaded-down Renault across the U.S. and Canada, all the way to Alaska just for fun. (We moved to and from the Last Frontier a few times but that’s another story.). We stopped to visit and hike such places as Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Grand Teton, Banff, and Liard Hot Springs. Niagara Falls’ spray completely ruined my makeup. We marveled at the spider web of traffic around Chicago and the endless wheat fields of Saskatchewan. I thought we were going to be poisoned and die from Yellowstone’s mosquitoes. On more than one occasion, Ken had to bungee my backpack onto his because my (whine, whine) shoulders hurt.
So we began our marriage seeing the world and adventuring–together. We continue to see the world and do things a little differently, but always adventurously, and sometimes rebelliously. But always together.
After we were pronounced husband and wife, our pastor of many years had us kneel while he raised his hands over us and prayed these words that I now sing to our children at night:
Ken and Allison,
May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6: 24-26).
And He has. For 24 years and hopefully for 24 more and 24 more, according to His pleasure.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Animal Child's Heaven

Alaskans dig spring more than anyone else, I'm sure. I submit Clare and her creatures ~

Baby ducks, elderly dog, almost-thirteen-year-old-girl (Boring chickens in the back.). Grass, sun, popsicle perfection.

Also, she'd been training during the winter (this is difficult to write . . .) her pet rats so they appear in unexpected places, like PB&J lunches with little sisters. Clare even passed back tiny bites for them, Rizzo and Dobby if you must know.
Yes, I'm the mother who allows such shenanigans. Help.

Clare stops people with dogs at the lake with questions like, "Hey, is that a Tibetan spaniel? No, wait; it's a Shih tzu isn't it? Can I pet him?" Or, "Your German shepherd has a curly tail like a husky; is it a mix of the two?" She's usually correct.

The ducklings pictured above aren't regular ducks; oh no. That would be too easy. She read and drove us nuts about breeds and finally chose Runner ducks (Who knew they even made such a thing?).

*And now, two kids have just come racing in with enormous dandelion bouquets. They don't want me to put them in a vase; they want me to dip them in batter and deep fry them, to be served with ranch dressing. So I'm off to the kitchen to mix up the batter.*

Happy spring!
Love, Allison