Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Think You Don't Need a Nap?

I have been validated! Naps are finally allowed, embraced, and perfectly normal; at least in the rest of the world.

Ever since my children were born (well, ever since I first became pregnant), I have looovvvved my naps, but I always felt a bit guilty. After all, there was work to be finished, laundry to be tackled, stains to be scrubbed.

But a recent study by 24,000 people (that's a lot of naps) showed, without a doubt, that NAPS ARE GOOD. Less heart disease, cancer, stroke, crankiness, screaming; ok, I made up that last part. But how many of you have ever taken a really, really, good nap? I mean a big old hairy, going unconscious nap?

I read somewhere that a nap should be of the "Power" variety, meaning 20 minutes or so. HA! I don't know a mom anywhere who can drop off for only twenty minutes; since it takes 20 minutes to fully remove the laundry list of stuff from our weary brains. Two hours, baby. That's what I'm talking about. Curled up under the covers, phones off, door closed, blinds down (a requirement here in Alaska).

It's about time the rest of the world caught up to me.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Seal Soup, Anyone?

A fabulous article in the Anchorage Daily News ( this morning was titled "Fighting Cancer with Native Foods". In it a physician and former cancer survivor described her desire to eat her Native diet while recovering from a battle with leukemia. The article reminded me of how much I had to learn when beginning my work with elders in Bush Alaska.

Last June I went on a trip to Dillingham, about 500 miles as the proverbial raven flies, due west of Anchorage. My mission was to provide training to staff of the Dillingham Senior Center and the one Assisted Living Home ("Grandma's House) about Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

There are a lot of things one needs to be aware of when visiting Bush Alaska; clothing choices (fleece and jeans), awareness of time (there is none), and food.

Native Alaskans have lived the subsistence lifestyle for centuries, and the arrival of the White Man did little to squelch this desire. Depending upon the geographic locale, Natives dined on seal, mouse nest roots and herbs, berries, caribou, and the ever-present moose. Grocery store? Not necessary, unless the kids need some Coke and Cheetos (a drawback, according the the elders, of the White Man's influence).

I took Yukon with me to experience Dillingham, mostly because his sense of adventure far outweighs mine, and later on I was eternally grateful for his boundless exuberance towards our hosts. By the time we left, he could have asked them anything and they would have done their best to accommodate him. Why?

Yukon loves food. Not volume, mind you, but the concept. He appreciates the process, the set-up, and the effort involved to prepare a meal, much less one for a bunch of White folks. (Photo of his plate is shown).

My training had unknowlingly been scheduled during two days of a Federal HUD Housing "field trip" consisting of a bunch of mucky-mucks from D.C. inspecting their financial handiwork of the assisted living. The home, in return, put on a genuine Yup'ik potlach. And oh, my, what a meal it was.

After helping the administrator do a bit of spit-shining of the facility (my years of working for an anal-retentive boss in my own facility finally paid off), we sat as guests at a long table fairly groaning with food.

Moose roast, lean as could be, took the main stage next to a huge platter of caribou meatballs. Beach greens made the color contrast (beach greens taste like turnip greens, and are, yes, picked on the beaches nearby; don't ask me what they are.) Pickled herring, smoked salmon, barbequed salmon, indian fry bread, Pilot bread (anyone remember that?), wild seagull eggs, scallops, and for dessert, Eskimo Ice Cream.

For those not acquainted with the latter's delicacy, I shall describe it to you, in a way you might recognize. Take an ice cream scoop full of Crisco, add a cup or so of wild berries, and mix. Then eat and try not to gag when the oily mass congeals on the roof of your mouth. And smile, smile, smile. The recipe, if done right, is made with blubber, and is called Akutaq.

The meal was a spectacular event, served with the gentleness of a people who give a new meaning to the word "host". And Yukon did himself proud. He took pictures, raved to the cook, and accepted leftovers with eternal gratitude.

Nothing we ate came from the grocery store, and it was probably one of the best meals we had ever eaten. Check out the article, it is a good read and might give some perspective given the high grocery prices we are all experiencing these days. A word to the wise, however. Do not eat the moose lips. They are only for old men.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Let's All Head for Hawaii

From the National Weather Service (

"Heavy Snow Warning issued for Anchorage, AK through tomorrow morning...Storm totals between 15-24 inches....

I have never been stymied by shoveling snow. Until now. This is heart-attack, back-breaking snow.

The barbeque still works, and that was better than shoveling snow.

Friday Follies

Ding-dang it! I should have never brought out the flower pots and picnic table; it was like inviting winter to return, again. After almost a week at 50+ temperatures, clouds and wet snow returned this morning. Good thing I don't need to go anywhere.

Little Bear is home with a cold, and even though the Superman costume looks good, it brings little comfort. This photo is right before he burst into tears because I wouldn't let him eat the ball of peanut butter cookie dough, and before he collapsed in a heap on the floor, very un-Supermanlike, wailing in despair. The Man of Steel is now in bed.

Yukon is coming home early to do some paperwork and relax after a crazy week. I have a fire in the fireplace and his favorite grilled-cheese fixings ready to go (what is it about grilled cheese and tomato soup on a crummy day?).

For once I have no deadlines, no agendas, no crises (yet) to contend with. Just me, the weather, and Superman. And the cookies.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here Come Da Sun

There is no such thing as too much light during an Alaskan summer. Granted, we are not at summer yet, at least temperature-wise, but about a month ago the curtain of darkness that descended upon the state began to lift. And the people rejoiced.

Currently, the sun rises in Anchorage at 6:12 a.m., and sets again at 9:44 p.m., a gain today of 5 minutes and 39 seconds. Doesn't sound like much? Add those five minutes up over seven days, and wow, you get a whole half-hour (or more) of extra daylight, which is a lot.

When the sun comes out, so do the garden implements and lawn mowers, even though the ground remains frozen in most places. I have heard the rumble of mowers during this sunny week as neighbors who just couldn't stand it anymore got them out to at least check the oil and maybe suck up the rotten leaves that were hidden under the snow for almost five months.

I cleared out my flowerbeds and found actual green things starting to poke up through the dirt. Bear helped me plant some seed starts in an apple container from Costco, hoping perhaps our vegetables will look like some of the State Fair winners; the ones that make Alaska famous for their size and stature. (Pictures above are from last year's Fair).

The forecast calls for rain and snow this weekend, so we're spending as much time as possible outdoors, soaking up the Vitamin D.

Bear wants a picnic outside, even though by the standards of many, the temperatures are a bit cool, in the 50's. These little Alaskans are tough buggers, aren't they? Meatballs and baked beans coming up!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mom and Wolf go to Homer

A weekend of sunshine, relaxation, and the beach. That sums up how Wolf and I spent the last few days, lolling around in Homer. Our favorite vacation spot, I was down there to cover a "Kids in Nature" workshop at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center (

We decided to allow Wolf to go with me for a few reasons. Yukon had a Stephen Minister retreat at church, and managing Wolf and Bear while attending a retreat would have been difficult. I also thought that a little one-on-one time with mom might not be a bad idea given the bumpy road we have been riding on these last few weeks. So off we went.

The weather was incredible, the mountains towered above us, and the general attitude remained quite peaceful. Wolf spent time with our special friend T., helping him put his new boat in the water down on the Homer Spit. I went out to dinner with my good friend J. We polished off some peel and eat shrimp and a bottle of wine at the Homestead Restaurant while discussing the current challenges and triumphs in our lives.

Wolf and I returned home Sunday, refreshed and ready for a new week. Some changes may be afoot, and I am ready to squarely and honestly face them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Not for the Kiddies

OK, so clearly we have to get out more; but are we the only people who found this to be funny? "Activity Balls".

The side of the box said "Score points with these great interactive toys."

Uh, right. Doggone Fun.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dining Desk

I have been blog-absent for a few days due to a valiant search for my dining room table. Given the nature of the Alaskan Split-Level Domicile, there is little, if any, room anywhere in this house for a real office (or dumping ground) for mail, school permission slips, and the myriad of articles Yukon clips out of the newspaper to send to "someone somewhere". The downstairs computer desk has been appropriated by yours truly, so up to the convenient dining room table goes the paper gunk.

Yukon and I hosted a dinner party on Saturday for some friends who recently were married; people who I am sure can find their dining room table. Both of us looked at the pile, now encroaching towards the end of the table we actually use for eating, and agreed (amazing) to start cleaning it off.

You might be thinking that this is not so special, but do you know where your dining room table is? Better still, do you actually eat at it? We are proponents of the "family table", eating dinner every night together. I grew up with this phenomenon, so it is important to me and the sanctity of the small amount of family time we can pull out of an afternoon/evening of the day's busyness. The addition of piles and files did nothing for my sense of family togetherness.

So the table is clean and shiny, the tulips from Costco are ever so bright and cheerful, and we find ourselves stopping and staring at the wonder of it all. Check back next week to see if the pristine view prevails...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Freakin' Spring

There is something very, very wrong here.

Fortunately Bear and I are doing everything we can to amuse ourselves today in response to the 12 inches of snow expected.

Ho Ho Ho.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I am an independent person most of the time. Unless it has to do with plumbing, in which case independence is replace by stark denial, which kind of looks like independence, or arrogance, depending upon the situation. A recent pipe incident illustrates this nicely.
There is a lot of interest in pipes at our house, usually because somebody or something has clogged them; and I ain't talking about spaghetti down the garbage disposal.
With a preschooler whose very existence revolves around activities he can accomplish himself, namely hanging out in the water closet, I am never sure what navigates the wastewater channel out of our home. Yesterday it was as clear as the water making its way out of the bowl and through my floorboards.
Poor Wolf had made a visit after arriving home from school and shouted down to the yard where I was assisting the canine child with his duties, "MOOOOOMMMMMMM, there is water all over the bathroom!" Any mother who has heard that screech of toilet desperation knows where she needs to go. To the basement to get the plunger? Not hardly, unless it comes with a plumber attached to it. No, I went to the phone to call Yukon, who probably sat in his third-floor office with the phone away from his ear as his hysterical wife screamed negative adjectives of homeownership at him.
Feeling better, I did find the plunger and towels and took care of the situation upstairs. Downstairs is another matter; as, well, matter is probably still in the ceiling and making its way into the crevices of my walls as it drips and drops towards the basement floor.
I told the kids that if they ran their toilet over one more time they were going to be digging a real Alaskan-style outhouse for their own personal use. No plunging necessary. Just a lot of dirt. And dirt is something we got plenty of around here.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

April Snow Showers Bring May Flowers?

Something like that, maybe. It's been snowing hard all day. Wet, heavy, drippy snow. Glad we didn't switch out the snow tires, as some of our friends did and are now regretting it. I figure maybe by Mother's Day it will be safe.

The dog was more than happy to play outdoors, as was Bear. So we'll just grin and chalk it up to Alaskan spring!

Friday, April 4, 2008

I Clean, Therefore I Feel Better

Yes, to appease the obsessive compulsive side of my personality (and I wonder where Wolf gets it), when life gets a little bit stressful...I clean. And interestingly enough, I clean related to whomever or whatever is at the root of said stress.

So, no surprise, I am doing a gutting of Wolf's room. Why, some may ask, am I not asking the youth to do this task himself? I do, weekly, and he does the best job he can. As part of an "executive function" exercise, to strengthen his "big picture" skills, we work on his room-cleaning. But not in the traditional way of the parent: "Go Clean Your Room!"

Breaking the task down into different segments, I ask Wolf to do one task at a time as part of the overall goal of a semi-tidy space. First clothes, as they seem to be the first thing I stumble over and walk upon when I go into the room. Next, papers, because Wolf is a collector of labels, stamps, envelopes, and catalogs that accumulate dust like black pants to a white cat.

"Cleaning" his room by himself usually takes a full week, so, once a month I go in with my shopvac and take over. Banana peels, candy wrappers, sticky cough drop remnants, and a few Sharpies and other contraband fill my garbage bag. I find the notices for grade reports and PTO meetings in the wastebasket, and rubber bands that were pilfered from my private stash, kept in my possession to prevent any random targeting.

In a way, my monthly purging of the room are for purging the frustration and rough days of the past weeks as well. Wolf's days, and thus ours, are peaks and valleys; having a place to start again makes sense.

Today is cold, windy, and possibly snowy. A good day to tidy up. A good day to reflect and look forward.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why Can't I?

"Why can't I?" The world's most difficult question came at me with little time to come up with an appropriate answer; one that wouldn't hurt.

Wolf had just been told that the Jr. High Youth Group headed off to a retreat this weekend would not include him. When he first brought home the permission form the day before our trip South, I did not have an opportunity to talk with the leader about who was sponsoring the weekend, how many adults would be attending, who would be available to help "shepherd" Wolf to his various activities. Then we left for vacation, the leader left for vacation, and only on Monday did I stop and think that I had not heard from anybody about the trip and Wolf's level of skill for it.

Children with Asperger Syndrome, particularly those with impulse control issues, find large group activities to be a breeding ground for getting into trouble, intentional or not. New kids, a different routine, and no parents/adults to enforce hard and fast rules of critical structure can make a weekend intended for fun turn out to be stressful for everybody.

Yukon and I agonized over whether to allow Wolf to go. On one hand, he has made some great strides with his peers at Youth Group, with most kids coming to the understanding that he is just the way he is, and tolerating patiently, if not helping him. On the other hand, many other kids will be at the retreat, none of whom Wolf knows, and while the youth from our church will be making friends and playing the social structure game of subtlety, Wolf would be lost and confused and potentially open to acting in a less than appropriate way, thus setting him up, in a sense, to fail. The Youth Leader felt that he could not be solely responsible for Wolf and his needs, and thus made the decision he should not attend, and we supported him, knowing in our hearts how unfair it would really be to expect one man to manage what we do together, plus the rest of the kids.

But I could not explain this to a child who feels nothing but shunned and betrayed by the very people who are supposed to be supporting and nurturing him; his church family. I could see the hurt in his eyes as he ran out to the car from church; the whole way home he kept his eyes on the road as if looking straight ahead would keep the tears from appearing. Jaw clenched, he muttered "I never want to see them again."

I feel as if we all have failed him. And I am angry at God for giving this child a burden he should not be made to carry.