Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

For those who have been wondering, as we were until a phone call from Wolf finally got through, Christmas at CHYC went well.

The kindness of staff and strangers in addition to the kids' families resulted in a much happier holiday for the 17 young people currently in the program, Wolf included. A new hoodie, a bunch of books, a hacky sack from his auntie, and a host of other good things were happily opened on Christmas morning around a lighted tree; as much like home as it could possibly be.

To those who donated time and funds to help out with this Christmas gifting opportunity; a big thank you from staff. The kids loved playing with the bubbles, playdough,and enjoyed the candy canes tucked in the stockings. I hear they have the cards stacked up on desks or stuck on walls with tape. A Christmas snowfall of about 18 inches made the day for Wolf, who told us about a snow cave he built "just like in our yard". I am sure that for a kid from Alaska, a little bit of snow was welcome.

For Yukon, Bear, and I, we navigated Christmas well. Yes, it was a bit difficult watching the pageant at church and missing Wolf's presence as part of the Wise Men cadre, and a missing stocking on the hearth this year was indeed painful. But we got through it, even enjoyed it, knowing that Wolf was (thankfully) enjoying his own day.

It's a New Year tomorrow. A new chance for Wolf. Renewed hope for us.

Blessings to all.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holy Popcicles Batman!

The entire state of Alaska is shuddering and shivering this week as the first "real" (according to the newspaper) cold snap of the winter takes hold.

How cold? Our high in east Anchorage yesterday was -10 F.

My laundry froze in the dryer after I let the cycle run down.

The bedroom window frames are frozen with a layer of ice and frost (see photo).

The dog is too cold to eat breakfast.

I thought this stuff only happened in Little House on the Prairie...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

You Know You Are a True Alaskan if...

...The Christmas present that most excites your husband is not the I-Tunes card, new sweater, or Finnish Kick Sled. It is the Carhartt fleece-lined overalls and Xtra-Tuff rubber boots.

Yukon opened his boxes and bags this year with glee not seen since I gave him a gift card to Costco.

Carhartt (pants, overalls, shirts, and jackets) make life in the Alaskan outdoors bearable, even comfortable. Durable to a fault (kids grow out of them before the darned things wear out) and always in fashion even at the most formal event, Carhartts can make a foreign tourist look like they belong here. Well, almost.

Xtra-Tuff boots are knee-high, lined brown rubber boots that come in handy when one needs to slip on something warm and durable to take out the garbage, shovel snow, or kick the moose out of the vegetable garden. Not to mention their value during our infamous "Breakup" season between April and June when a foot of water and dirty slush lie on the sidewalks, roads, and trails. We also occasionally use them for their true purpose, fishing and clamming.

What makes this truly Alaskan is the fact that I am almost as excited by the sight of him in this getup as he is...

"Yukon, Yukon, he's our man, if he can't shovel it, no one can!"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Cheer and the Skunk

For your viewing pleasure...
The Skunk was a big hit. All told, the Nativity featured a dog, a cow, the Skunk, and a ladybug. Everything went well even though the ladybug had to leave mid-show to go potty...

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

To our son Wolf...
Wishing you a Silent Night filled with Peace.


Mom, Dad, and Bear

This photo is one of Wolf's favorites. He is pictured with our favorite friends here in Alaska, who have provided us with blessings of friendship and love. I know he would like this photo posted tonight...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Love the Winter Weather

C'mon, you know the words.....go Andy Williams, or was it Dean Martin?

I am finding it quite ironic that the Alaskan family is frantically searching the NOAA Weather Web site for any and all information regarding violent blizzards in the Washington/Oregon areas. And that such weather events are garnering more attention than the humdrum below zero weather in the 49th state.

It was also announced yesterday that among the two or three airlines that fly out of Anchorage to the Lower 48, there is NOT ONE available seat on any aircraft, anywhere.

Unless one has connections with a certain Elf in a Red Suit, and doesn't mind flying in the baggage hold.

Let it Snow!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Grand Fun

After months and weeks and days of waiting, Bear finally has his Oma and Opa here to help him "do Christmas". At 80 and 92, it is no small feat to ask grandparents to come to Alaska during the cold and slippery wintertime. But they did.

Flying into Anchorage in the middle of the night, during which time Bear tried in vain to stay awake to go to the airport, Yukon's parents arrived Friday and have since spent many hours of quality time with a four-year-old who assumes they have nothing better to do than amuse him.

Bear wants to wake them up in the morning, wear their shoes, play in their suitcases, and talk their ears off. Much to their delight, I might add. Ah, grandparents, the magical people who give treats, read stories, and make glorious exclamations of praise for any little thing.

Doesn't get much better than that, does it?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Better Living Through Chemicals

This is a photo of my husband. He is bearing toxic, corrosive liquid that will hopefully save my sanity.

The three-week bathroom remodel was completed a number of days ago; how many, I have lost count because I got tired of staring at the shining chrome, spiffy Corian shower walls, and unscuffed floor. It made me cry.

I am a follower of the belief that when one undertakes a remodel or construction project, things will go wrong. When it involves plumbing, it is almost a given.
Our wonderful contractor finished up the fifth of December, picked up his tools, shop-vac and scraps of wood, and departed for a 10 day trip to Idaho. His parting words were thus "Now the first time someone takes a shower, be sure to station someone downstairs to watch for leaks." This was followed by a positive spin "90% of the time nothing goes wrong, but there is that 10%..."

No need to go any further. A bath for Bear the very next evening led to water dripping in a beautiful cascade of droplets, coupled with a backing up of all upstairs bathrooms when the dishwasher ran. And my in-laws coming on the 19th.

To his credit, Contractor came promptly upon returning to town, made a big hole in the downstairs bathroom, fixed leaks but discovered that the pipe from the kitchen sink was clogged with enough goo to fill a septic tank.

Thus the chemical process by Yukon. So far, so good. The in-laws arrive late tonight. The bathrooms are clean and so far, usable. I have enough wine to sustain me should anything go amiss.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Baby Jesus Meets Pepe' Le P-U

I consider myself a mother who encourages, even nurtures, her children's creativity. Lately this has meant moments of exercising self-control as my preschooler marches about the house wearing nothing but a blue plastic bucket (printed with Easter bunnies, no less) on his head, and carrying his Dan'l Boone rifle, pretending to be a "hero". Don't know many heroes like that, but maybe I need to find myself one...

On Sunday afternoon, another opportunity arose for our ever-forward child to act in our church's annual pagent, held Christmas Eve. Having participated in, corroborated on, and wrangled for, the annual Christmas play wherever it is, usually is fairly simple and straightforward, requiring no less imagination than that required to imagine Mary, Joseph, and a Donkey trudging toward Bethlehem to have the baby in a barn. Unless, apparently, my son is involved.

Bless our new church, they have come up with a creative way to include children and embrace their individuality all at the same time, tough to do when twenty or so little ragamuffins, hyped up on Christmas, are running amok around the front of a church. But they do it. Every kid was tasked with deciding what animal he or she would like to be in front of the manger scene. In the past there have been dinosaurs, elephants, but I think the regulars were all there last year, chewing cud and bleating appropriately.

I thought this could be the perfect chance to infuse some Alaskana into the usual farm critter tableau. Sitting with Bear at the kitchen table after we got home, we ran through the animals that he could be. Brown Bear? Um, no. Too mean. Moose? Mommy, there were no mooses at the manger. Polar Bear? Phshaw, even meaner.

What would you like to be, Bear?

A skunk.

A skunk he will be. But there were some very clear boundaries laid for the evening, promising swift and terrible punishment if there is so much as a whiff of skunk-ishness coming from the altar during the play.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

It would have been prudent for us to check the thermometer before we ventured out this morning. The opportunity for a few hours of skiing while Bear was at a birthday party must have made us crazy, because when we drove past the Alaska Public Safety building at 10 a.m., the thermometer registered -10.

This conjured up all sorts of interesting questions. Did we or did we not dress warm enough for a minus 10 ski in Anchorage? Were the handwarmers, and even more critical, the flask, in the backpack? Cross-country skiing is a vigorous workout, usually requiring the shedding of a layer or two halfway into the ski, even at very cold temperatures. However, this morning was bitter. I like that word, it sounds just like the day felt.

The sun was shining eventually, but even so, my fingers felt detached from my hands. Even with the handwarmers. Our breath froze onto our jackets, and my chin was so numb I couldn't carry on a decent conversation with my date. Two laps around the forest were enough for us. But I wouldn't have traded this 45 minute ski for even a seat in a cozy coffee house. Date days are too far between.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

Our week of uncertainty regarding Wolf's ability to process our postponed visit is over. In a discussion early this morning (6:15 a.m. AK time, to be exact), his biggest gripe was the stockpile of boxes with his name on them in the Director's office. That they are Christmas gifts and gifts for his peers (he doesn't know about that part; we made it anonymous) appears inconsequential. He reminds me of the spoiled girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory "I want it NOW!". Okay, maybe not that bad. But really, I would rather quibble over opening gifts early as opposed to some of the other issues that have been taking center stage.

After last week's blowout of emotion, I found a book review that had been stashed on my desk for at least a month, waiting for me to do something with it. The book itself is about raising maturing "'tweens", and I originally saved it for a friend who is approaching this stage with her oldest son. In the depths of this review were questions for parents to gauge their balance between flying off the handle at something unacceptable their child says or does, and not giving feedback at all.

Parents of Asperger children know where I am going with this. How many times a day did/does my child do or say something that is so out of line it makes me want to give him a thump upside the head and shout until my voice breaks? Many. Fortunately my stronger sense of control usually prevails, but I know I am guilty of occasionally losing my cool.

When I read the reflective questions provied by the author of this book, titled "How to Hug a Porcupine", the simplicity of it all was astonishingly clear.
I stuck the review in Wolf's file so that during our next telecon, I can refer to it and slap my own self upside the noggin.

- Would I treat my spouse this way?

- Would I want to be treated this way?

- Would I use these words with my spouse?

- Would I use this tone with my best friend?

- Would I want my child to use this body language/facial expression in speaking to me? (ohhhh, that one drives me crazy. Eye-rolling, especially!)

Guess I better read it again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Candy Machine

In an attempt to make meaningful holiday gifts for our friends, Bear and I made rhuharb and crowberry syrup yesterday.
Oh, and fudge, which was very well-received by my assistant. As you can see.

What is it about the holidays that makes cooking with your children more enjoyable? Perhaps it lies in the difference between a request to stir the chocolate and a request to peel the potatoes...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Face Me

So I joined Facebook. To the great pleasure of those who have been bugging me for a long time to do so, and you know who you are.

Nice to see that I know so many people. And that they want to be my friend. Gee, how empowering.

An apology to those who received a mass emailing; my keyboard sticks (on the new laptop nonetheless) and it accidentially sent an invite to everyone. My bad.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


To go along with the general atmosphere of Christmas-icity around this town, Yukon, Bear and I made the trek yesterday to find the family Christmas tree.
All the way to the backyard shed.

This is the second year of using the "UB Tree" (as stated on the box) and by all practical accounts, it is rather nice to have a tree that is of predictable form, always green, and able to withstand a preschooler's curious investigation on a daily basis.

I do miss, though, the annual journey into the snowy woods, bucksaw in hand, to search and search for an acceptable tree worthy of my family's living room. Our slender, 7 foot tree will never receive comments like "Gee, the tree is a good shape this year", or "Don't you think it's leaning more than usual?", even "Why is the tree brown, Dad?"

Yes, perhaps even I am willing to join the masses of artificial tree owners who would rather be guaranteed a shapely specimen than risk putting a spindly, stunted black spruce in my front window only to tip over the next day because either the dog or the preschooler needed to see what was underneath the skirt.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

Well. Yukon, Bear, and myself are still here in Alaska. A few developments with respect to Wolf and his overall learning scope has led us to postpone our trip South for a month or so. Everyone is adjusting to this new change in plans, most of all, Wolf, who now has no choice but to assume responsibility for these changes and adapt himself acccordingly. We hope.

The first reaction of many close to us has been related to the impending Christmas season and how Wolf and his peers will handle a major holiday away from their families. The short answer, of course, is that they just will. The longer answer involves deeper understanding of AS and its lack of empathy and abstractness.

Daniel Tammet, author of "Born on a Blue Day" and himself living with Asperger Syndrome, says that his focus on religion and holidays are primarily based on intellectual interests rather than the social or emotional. God, Jesus, and other religious figures are not something concrete that he can see or hear, and thus difficult to internalize as part of a larger being involving himself.

Wolf, too, fails to recognize and separate the deeper Christmas "meaning" from the "stuff". Christmas to Wolf is a day of stuff; stuff sent, stuff collected, and stuff accumulated. That it is a day to remember and recognize a human's birth as part of the larger being of God is difficult and confusing to him.

I read Tammet's description of his spiritual journey over and over. Aha. I can connect the dots for Wolf around the facts and biblical stories, and try to assign logic to love.

But rest assured, Wolf will have a good Christmas. A few boxes are on their way loaded with things he enjoys. The whole bunch of them will no doubt sit around Christmas morning, comparing and swapping and counting, and this will make it a good day for him. And that's all that matters. A good day.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

When is There Enough Snow?

There is enough snow, when...

- The moose spend the night curled up in the carport. Move over, Chevy, Bullwinkle needs a parking spot.

- Children, when given the option, say "I'll just stay inside and read", instead of going sledding.

- It requires GPS to find the dog poop in the backyard. (I do wish somebody would invent this...)

- Shoveling 15 feet of driveway becomes an intermittent, all-day project.

- It takes 45 minutes to get into the frozen car. (Last year I got frozen inside the car, this year I get frozen out, go figure)

It snowed all weekend long, and by Monday morning temperatures were down to 5, the sun was out, and Anchorage was digging, shoveling, sanding, and de-icing everything standing still. Bear did his part on Sunday with the clam gun. He was helping to clean out the garage after the bathroom remodel.

Monday, December 1, 2008

One More for the Queen of Wasilla

Apparently the Turkeygate debacle prompted Working Mother magazine for more insight into the ongoing saga of our own Governor Sarah Palin. Read it here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Over, and Over

What a feeling to wake up the day after Thanksgiving and know there were no schedules to keep, nobody who had to be anywhere at any particular time. Yukon, especially. This was the first full four-day Thanksgiving holiday Yukon has had in 15years. I did not know this until today, when he was sighing over a beer in front of the woodstove, snowstorm swirling outside.

Of course, that lasted about a minute before the dog jumped on top of the dining room table and began to eat Bear's peanut butter sandwich, deserted by the four-year-old Dictator of Desires. "But I didn't tell Jasper to eat my san-wipch!"

Then the Kirby Vacuum salesman came to the door, the contractor arrived to finish the bathroom, and Yukon's potato chips were eaten by me.

Bet he wishes he went to the office.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

As if There Wasn't Enough in our Yard...

They had to go get more from the neighbor.

With six inches of fresh snow on the ground, and more coming, Yukon and Bear decided to get a jump on building the sledding hill in the front yard. They've been out there for over an hour so far, working up an appetite for dinner, apparently. We are going to our next door neighbors' for some traditional vittles and maybe a few Alaskan specialities.

A moose has been wandering in and out of our back yard the last few nights. Jasper the Dog still hasn't seen one in person, although he is quite intrigued by their smell.

Our plans for the rest of the weekend include a bit of snowshoeing and sledding, if the weather cooperates. Happy Thanksgiving from Alaska!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den: Channeling

I'm channeling this week.

It's a necessary action. It's also an action of healing, for there is perhaps nothing more frustrating as a parent to watch a child suffer and not be able to help them, at least directly, in the way to which we mothers are accustomed. So I am redirecting my emotions elsewhwere.

In a fit of Christmas spirit last week I asked friends and family to support the kids in Wolf's program at CHYC by sending holiday notes of encouragement. I figured I would get a few and then fill in the gaps myself, if needed. In my wildest dreams I never imagined the a response such as the one I have received.

My oldest childhood friend from home, now living in Minnesota with her family of twelve, took the whole crew to the store to gather some goodies, then wrote notes and stuck the whole thing in a box and sent it to me. Her good friend, who has a nephew with AS is sending treats. My aunt in Washington sent beautiful cards painted by my watercolor-artist uncle, and threw in some tasty candy canes. Is there nothing that reminds us more of Christmas than the spicy tang of a candy cane?

A friend just called and said she was working on cards all day today and would send them over tonight. And the giving continues to spread.

I feel better about Wolf being away from us at Christmas knowing that he, and his fellow classmates, will be surrounded by people keeping them in their thoughts and prayers. I am gratified to know that so many other people care enough to take a few moments of their own time to share a positive thought with a child who is spending Christmas away from people and places familiar to him or her.

So little, yet so much.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quiet Sunday

This was truly one of the most delicious Sundays I have experienced in a long time. We awoke to heavy snow outside, the kind that falls in fat flakes illuminated by the streetlamps. Since the Explorer is in the shop for some 4WD repair, we decided to stay home from church this once and laze around (snowplows don't generally get out on Sundays until at least noon, and church is on the Hillside, about 30 min. away).

French toast and bacon, coffee with a little splash of holiday cheer, and the Sunday edition of the Anchorage Daily News rejuvinated us after a week of busyness that is the pre-holiday season in Alaska.

The snow ended just around the time it got officially light outside (sometime after 9:30 a.m.), and I decided to get some wintertime chores finished. I like outside work in the winter here; it is a breath of Alaska that somehow makes one feel as if they are closer to the scope of all that is the frontier. Today the woodpile needed refurbishing and replenishing. Out of kindling for the woodstove, I hacked at some of our better spruce and stacked it up outside the back deck. Yukon doesn't chop wood, he knows that is my territory, but it didn't stop him from taking a picture of Clearcut's Daughter.

Both Bear and Jasper helped outside for a long while, long enough to get chilly and wet. Coats, mittens, boots, and a dog jacket are hanging in the laundry room, and probably will be until April.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Remodeling, the Alaskan Way

We have discovered that when doing anything in Alaska involving construction, the success or failure depends upon who you know.

We are in the middle of the first bathroom remodel. All appears to be going well, thanks to the referral of a friend's stepfather to handle the job for us, as Yukon and I are admittedly stupid when it comes to building things. We are very up front with our contractors when we say we know not the difference between a shim and a screwdriver, enamel versus semi-gloss. This deficiency could make for certain cost overrun had we secured a less-than-stellar contractor. Fortunately, we heeded warnings from our friends to steer clear from "contractors" who claim to have "built half of Alaska from here to Fairbanks". Duh, there are hardly any houses between here and Fairbanks. See ya.

So the ripping and tearing of rotten sub-floor is over, the new vinyl is in (yeah, vinyl, but who wants to clean up stone tile after boys?), and Yukon is gamely painting the walls as we speak. That he is good at. The most difficult part of this whole thing has been gathering the materials and parts. Shipping can take up to six weeks for things like tubs and shower walls; barges are slow and sporadic, especially when you are in a hurry.

The hope is for the project to be completed by the time we leave for Utah, so I can come home and take a soothing shower in a bathroom that doesn't look like one from the 70's. Enjoy the photos, and note the positioning of the toilet next to Yukon's side of the bed. Just what every man needs, right?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thicker Than Pea Soup

The season's first freezing fog blew in and settled over Anchorage last night, bringing with it a myriad of photo opportunities, if one could get out of the driveway to enjoy them.

The problem with freezing fog is its density; the actual appearance is that of lightly falling ice crystals making us think at first it is snow. Quite lovely to look at, freezing fog is nonetheless best admired from indoors near a fireplace. The temperature has dropped to almost zero at night and never got above 12 today, at least according to our back deck thermometer.

Driving Bear to preschool this morning was a bit of a challenge; slippery roadways and 1/4 mile visibility made for slow going. It didn't help that Bear decided to sleep in today of all days, and was a bit slow himself. Takes after his father's side of the family....

The photo above is from our backyard; the ice crystals that formed on the chain link seemed so carefully arranged.

The sun is going down now, at 4:15 we experience alpenglow on the mountains before the rest of town due to our location. Better go plug in the car; with our bathroom remodel going on, our garage is taken up by sheetrock, flooring, and an ugly cabinet that is waiting for us to paint it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

I have been waiting to see if this post will write itself. Staring out the window at the snowy Chugach foothills, drinking tea, listening to my favorite Chanticleer CD, it was my hope that the focus of this update could be changed to somehow reflect anything positive going on right now in Wolf's life. But I can't figure out how to do it.

That "Conspiracy" among staff at CHYC has done its job, and Wolf is rapidly approaching the moment of absolute truth where he will either sink or start paddling like mad. And we as his parents have come to the ultimate realization that there is not one thing we can do or say beyond general encouragement that will help him decide which is right.

After a week of thinking errors (a term used by the therapy team) involving potentially dangerous activities on the part of my son and a peer, Wolf has found himself at the very bottom of the level system. A phone conference yesterday found me sitting on the family room floor with one hand holding the phone and the other holding my head as the therapist eked out the story from a tight-lipped and audibly squirming Wolf.

I remain somewhat speechless at the information I received, but after 24 hours have been able to process the root issues rather than the emotion of the actual incident. What has surfaced is the continued difficulty understanding and managing the "it sounded good at the time" mentality of so many children with Asperger Sydrome. Unable to comprehend why the rest of us take issue with this, there Wolf sits; thus the therapy team and ultimately the whole family, are at an impasse.

Most disappointing, however, is the fact that Wolf will not be able to join the rest of the family on outings when we go down to Utah. I struggle with my desire to protect my younger son from the confusion that will accompany our explanation of Wolf's absence when we are touring the area. I struggle with my flat out anger at Wolf for not getting it together enough for at least a two-hour pass to join us for the only Christmas he will get with his family. And I agonize over the pain it will cause Wolf when he watches us leave each day without him.

We will perservere, ultimately. Holidays can be rescheduled, venting can be done in private, another visit will be soon. But the rest is up to Wolf. It always was, and always will be.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Bathroom

Please explain the rationale behind cleaning one's bathroom hours before the contractor arrives to rip it out.

Is that like cleaning the house before the cleaning lady shows up?

It sure looks fine right now. Blue tile aside.

I am glad, however, that the project is actually happening. Usually we wait to put a house on the market before we decide to upgrade anything.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Winter Settles In

It snowed almost all afternoon yesterday, a storm blowing in from the Southwest that brought about five inches of white stuff to the neighborhood. With the day off from work, Yukon accompanied Bear, Jasper and I on a stroll through the blizzard, checking on moose tracks I had come across a few days ago while running.

Bear has outgrown the jogger (rather, has refused to ride anymore in the "baby stroller"), so we now use the wagon, which works pretty well as long as the road is plowed. He enjoys sitting backwards so he can see the tracks in the snow, and to keep the wind at his back. Snow in the eyes is no fun.

The snow shovels were brought out from under the deck and put to use. When Yukon went out, he yelled up at us that there was a mouse trekking across the driveway, floundering a bit, but nonetheless on a mission. Bear was clearly impressed, and wanted dad to bring it inside because it was "probably somebody's pet". I fear that coming inside was exactly what the mouse had in mind, however. It is not unheard of in Alaska to have shrews and mice come into garages in the wintertime, looking for a cozy place to spend the chilly months. Having spent too much time dealing with rodentia in South Carolina, I am not at all enthused by the prospect of mice in my house. Yukon will be making a trip to the hardware store for some abatement products.

The woodstove and holiday lights made for a cozy evening. I made everyone happy and had barbequed chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and squash for dinner.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Duck Hunting

If it quacks like a duck, it's still a duck. Even if it is green with polka dots.

That brown dog spent an hour trying to get across the bathtub to the duck. Never mind it did not look like any duck he had ever seen before. There is a good reason why he is never let off leash when we go hiking.

We'd never see him again.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Taekwondo Triumph

I'm not one to make small children into little martial artist wonders, but Bear had been pestering me to take classes at Wolf's former studio. I almost avoided it, but we ran into the instructor at Costco and she caught me off guard. So Bear attends two days a week at a cost I am afraid to admit.

Last night the toddler class had the opportunity to try to move from White to Yellow belts. The event was akin to herding wet cats. When not sticking their fingers in each other's ears or making faces in the mirror, they were forgetting everything they had learned these past few months. Such pressure.

Master Yu: "Why do we bow in taekwondo class?"

Bear: "Uhhhhhh" (while sticking the end of his belt in his mouth and dancing in place)

At the end of their displays of taekwondo knowledge, consisting of kicking, punching, and a series of movements called Forms, the students had to whack a board in half. All of them.

Bear marched over to his instructor with his balsawood pseudo-board, and received his instructions on what to do. When told he had to really punch it, he resisted, announcing "I'm not allowed to punch anything!"

But he did. And he broke the board on the first try. Won't big brother be proud...

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Palin Chronicles: Moment of Truth

Truth or fiction? One is stranger than another, and it seems to be so with this campaign, even though it is "officially over".

Follow the link to the last post (at least, it might be the last, you never know) for Working Mother Online
and see what has transpired since Sarah Palin's return to Alaska.

If you are interested, you can also link to the Anchorage Daily News
for more.
I don't think we'll be seeing the last of Sarah Palin for quite some time.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den: Master Blaster

Of the six levels of transition kids at CHYC can achieve, Master and Galaxy are the toughest. Up until now kids have been learning how to manage themselves and their social interactions; things that most of us adopted as part of our personal framework as we matured. Daily, and sometimes hourly, these basic structures of human nature; feelings, expressions, and nuances for every minute of time spent with other people are driven home with Wolf and his peers. Often there is resistance. After all, people with Asperger Syndrome would rather the rest of the world conform to their way of interacting and thinking, not the other way around. It is no wonder that the frustration and anger inherent to many kids with AS is the largest barrier to success. But it can be mastered.

Wolf's week has been quiet. Halloween was a variation in the daily routine for CHYC residents. Allowed to make their own costumes and attend the school's party, many of the kids had a tough time with this fun, yet different day, leading most of Wolf's unit to be in early. I am happy to say, however, that Wolf was at last not the instigator. While "having a hard time" as he said later on the phone, he was not the primary reason for the group's shut down. Whew.

It may be prudent to note here that any change in daily structure can be stressful to a child with AS. As enjoyable as things like vacation days, field trips, even a party might seem to you or I, it means a whole new situation for someone with Asperger Syndrome, something that needs to be navigated in a different way than the usual. And that, parents know, can be fatal to a situation's success, and a most exhausting experience all the way around.

Wolf's movement up the Level ladder (hopefully Friday) to Master finally indicates to all of us his investment in the program and himself, believing that he indeed is able to function regardless of the situation. Now the real work can begin; to keep it that way.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's All Over But the Shouting

Unless you live in Alaska, where the race between Ted Stevens and his opponent, Mark Begich, remains too close to call. With thousands of absentee ballots yet to count, neither Begich or Stevens will back down. Looks like Stevens will get it, however. Alaska loves him too much, convict or not. Don Young was re elected, we'll have to see where his investigation process leads. Alaska overall voted overwhelmingly Republican, no surprise to anyone. It was very odd to see everything winding down on television last night about when the polls finally closed up here. Things were decided, parties were in full swing, and Alaskans could still be voting. Wierd.

It remains to be seen how the outcome will feel to Alaskans; many are so disappointed that I bet they apply this morning for membership to the Alaska Independence Party.

A night to remember, no doubt.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dan'l; Unscripted

"Daniel Boone was a man.... yes, a Big Man." If you haven't listened to the theme song.

Anyone over 50 enjoyed Bear's costume this year, particularly since we were attending the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra's Halloween Night Concert. Very fun, lots of candy. Old Betsy in between Yukon and me.

What Are We Doing Election Night?

Besides tossing back high volumes of Pepto Bismol and Scotch, I mean. Is that like Pepsi and Pop Rocks?

We are hosting an Election Night party, with 'Chill Out Chili' and a rousing game of 'Pin the Tail on the Donkey'. Because we already have a donkey and I don't know how to draw an elephant.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

About Those Clothes, Sarah

If you're interested, here is my latest piece for Working Mother

magazine's online version; the last one before the election.

So much drama, so little time...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Six Degrees of Desperation

When the thermometer says 'six', it means discovering new and creative ways of amusement around our house. Hence the Daddy-Bear-Doggie-in-the-Tunnel game.

Then came the Pile Up Game, part of 'horsing around' as Bear refers to the chasing, tickling, and general male behavior that happens all too often around here.

I need a latte and a spa. With soothing music and no testosterone, human or otherwise.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Being 'Uncle Ted'

The conviction of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens yesterday provided yet another look into the inner workings of the "way we do things in Alaska". Dear Ted announced firmly in a statement that he is 'still considered a candidate' for the hotly contested Senate race against Anchorage mayor Mark Begich. And he just might win.

Why? Simply because he is Ted. The longest serving member of the Senate, Stevens has done a bunch of great things for a state that in some minds had no business being so. He has brought in a ton of money, jobs, and fixes for the folks of Alaska, and that is reason enough to re-elect him. No matter what he did.

There is also the matter of Alaskan loyalty. Some Alaskans, especially those who have lived their entire lives in the 49th state and remember its early days, bring a whole new meaning to sticking up for their northern brethren. Just read the Anchorage Daily News for a glimpse of what I mean. I am sure the paper only published a handful of the letters that streamed in a) after the paper endorsed Barack Obama, and b) once the Stevens verdict hit the wires.

Ted Stevens is coming home to Alaska tonight, and Thursday will debate, in person for once, his opponent five days before the election that will determine his destiny.

Incidentally, the photo above was taken along Turnagain Arm, on the way to Girdwood, home to Chateau Stevens.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

A few uplifting and positive moments from Wolf this past week...
One was the phone call right in the middle of the big birthday party; 40-some of our closest friends all gathered in our house when Wolf called to say hello (never mind he forgot it was my birthday, at least he called). The phone was passed from family to family upstairs and downstairs, giving Wolf a definite sense that he is not forgotten back in Alaska.

The second moment of joy came at 6:15 on Saturday morning. We neglected to answer the phone, thinking it another political call (those pollsters just can't seem to figure out the time change from East to AK). After listening to the voice mail and realizing who it came from, I called back around 10 a.m., hoping nothing was wrong.
"I made Shining!" was the report from Wolf. Shining is the level at which students are able to go on outings, use the MP3 player, and generally live as normal teenagers, provided they behave as such through their weekly contracts.

I can only imagine the feeling as Wolf, after a few months in one place, was able to board the school van and go downtown to see the BodyWorks exhibit at the museum, and later go hiking in the Wasatch mountains. He told me the air smelled like home, and the sun was out.

I spoke with the Unit Director today and she echoed my impressions that Wolf seemed to be genuinely trying to accomplish his goals, not just the Level status. Perhaps a little taste of the world outside school boundaries has given him some incentive.

Our family visit in December, too, is foremost in his mind. He knows that Bear and Yukon will be accompanying me, and he desperately wants to be able to leave the school to do things with us, and we with him.

If you are of the praying sort, now would be a good time to do so. Hope is a wonderful thing, so tied into happiness. So fragile, too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fab 4 Day

It's another birthday today! Little Bear is quite pleased to be turning four and "not a baby anymore".

We began our celebration last night as he helped get the cupcakes ready for his preschool party this morning. After some discussion about the girls in his class perhaps not liking spiders on his cupcakes, we compromised on gummy bears and sprinkles.

Bear's favorite present was his "Daniel Boone Gun". As you can see. He is ready to fight the bad guys, his favorite play these days. Dan'l Boone is also the theme of his Halloween costume. Not too bad, this two-fer.

Four already. Time needs a tail so I can grab it to slow things down, just a little.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How My Day Began

It is hard to feel positive about a day started by the spilling of canned beets all over the white tile floor....

I guess it can only get better from here!

More Party Photos

Yes, Mommy looks as if she has had one margarita too many....