Monday, June 30, 2008

The Tag Thing

My good friend Dorothy in Minnesota tagged me today. She shared on her blog Urbanservant (see sidebar at right for her current posts) that she was tagged to tell five things people don't know about her (HA, I knew them all!), and subsequently she tagged me to do the same. We have been friends since we were three or four. So, here goes...

1. My mother used to make me get permanent waves. I am still recovering.

2. There is no worse day in my memory than the afternoon we drove out of Port Angeles towards South Carolina.

3. I was absolutely crushed when I could not be a Cub Scout.

4. I was married from 1991-1994. I was 25 when Wolf was born in 1994.

5. My idea of good music is the AM Golden Oldies. Frank, especially. Almost 20 years of working with the elderly left me with a love of the 40's and 50's.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

At Least Something is Growing

Rain, clouds, and wind continue to dominate the Alaskan summer weather forecast. I think the high today was 60, low predicted tonight in the upper 40's. I became profoundly depressed last weekend in Port Angeles when, driving by the many gardens of Peninsula residents, I noticed their vegetables were weeks ahead of mine. And our summers are shorter.

But, one thing is growing (besides the grass and dandelions). The rhubarb. Our kindly neighbors offer their ever-abundant rhubarb patch every summer, and every summer I hitch myself over our fence, knife in hand, to hack off a few stalks of the plant when the mood hits.

Yesterday Bear and I had a crop of Oregon strawberries, sent home with Yukon by his mother, who picked them herself. Their shelf life wasn't going to be long, so we baked a strawberry-rhubarb pie together. Almost made me forgive the bad weather, it tasted so like summer. Below is the recipe for those who are so inclined to try it. As you can see, Bear enjoyed his piece!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie (from "Let's Taste Alaska" cookbook)

2 cups sliced strawberries 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

2 cups chopped rhubarb 1 9-inch double crust pie pastry, unbaked

1 1/2 cups sugar butter

3 Tbs minute tapioca

1/4 tsp salt

Mix fruit and cover with sugar, tapioca, and spices. Let stand 25 min. Turn into unbaked pie shell. Dot with butter; cover with lattice top pastry (HA! Ever see a preschooler's version of "lattice top"?) Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 35 minutes longer, until crust is golden brown.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Port Angeles Pics

Here are some photos of our lovely weekend in Port Angeles, including our walk on Dungeness Spit, the peaceful and secluded home where we stayed, and Yukon enjoying his 2008 Mustang convertible. We rented it from the "I'm Having a Midlife Crisis" agency.

We have decided that this is where we shall retire.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Our Other Important Mission

We had another thing to do last weekend.

The ashes of Yellow Dog had been sitting on the top shelf of my closet, waiting for me to decide what, if anything, should be done with them. When we made plans to go to PA, my indecision turned into an obvious solution.

YD's favorite place to romp on the Peninsula was actually in Sequim at the entrance to Dungeness County Park, above a National Wildlife Refuge. Craggy bluffs are covered with high meadow grass and fragrant wild roses. We would start our run from the NW side and loop around the whole park, stopping along the way to listen to the birds and watch local deer browse. One memorable afternoon she jumped off the bluff and waited patiently for me to yank her back up by the collar. (One of the few times she was NOT a good dog.)

Yukon watched as I slid past the post outlining the boundary of the park (the boundaries have changed in the years we have been gone) and opened the small, flowered can holding the ashes. He came to stand next to me as we both held up our hands and together let the spirit of the World's Best Dog out into the fresh summer morning.

The breeze twirled around us, a few tears stung our eyes, and a Swenson Thrush sang tribute. We slowly turned away and returned to the car without looking back, a now-empty flowery tin in our backpack.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Perfect Plan

It's not every day one comes up with the Perfect Plan. Other stuff gets in the way, preventing the perfectness, but this time, it was all perfect. Every second.

Our good friend, two-time cancer survivor, Bear's godmother, and all-around groovy gal was retiring from the National Park Service back in our hometown of Port Angeles this past weekend. Yukon and I had not initially planned on going down for her retirement party. Too much summertime stuff going on along with Yukon's crazy VA travel schedule, and frankly, flying anyplace these days does not fill me with joy.

But the invitation arrived in the mail a few weeks ago along with this little voice that said, "Oh come on, just go. Make the trip. See some people. Don't take the kid." So we did. But, we did it ALL on the sly.

To sweeten the surprise, we told no one outside of two co-conspirators who were necessary to pull off the whole thing. One was Yukon's close friend from the NPS who shares his birthday, and he offered his cozy artist's studio at their equally cozy plot of land outside of town. There is even a hot tub. The other was our foodie friend who makes even us feel like we can appreicate a four-hour journey into the Italy through his exquisite wine and menu selections.

It is not every day you can make people cry with joy. But we did. And it was good. Very good. As soon as I find the camera I will post some photos of our whirlwind weekend of reconnection and revelation. And I will share the one thing we discovered by this Peninsula getaway.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Saving the Planet, One Weed at a Time

I'm just all about Green this week. Last night I saved the planet, shrinking my carbon footprint by at least a size.

About a week ago the lawnmower spewed gasoline all over the backyard, Yukon, and a few of my flowers (certainly not environmentally friendly). Since then neither Yukon or myself have motivated enough to locate a mower repair shop in order to have the gas line replaced. There is something about small engine repair shops; they are always in some dark alley across from the bail bondsmen or junkyard, so I don't like to go there. And we haven't.

Sadly, in spite of our denial, the grass outside continues to grow in large increments. Almost 20 hours of daylight in Alaska means in order to keep up with the neighborhood, one needs to mow at least twice a week. After waking up yesterday and finding the grass had multiplied in height at least five inches since the night before, I rummaged around in our shed and found Mo.

A gift from my father many years ago, Mo has chewed up lawn from Port Angeles to Charleston, SC and back again with a reliability that belies its delicate features. An old-style push mower that relies soley on the power of the person behind it, this machine enabled me to make the yard look presentable. I also discovered something else.

I could hear Bear next door playing on the neighbor's swingset instead of his own. I could converse with the neighbor as she weeded her kholrabi bed. I could even hear Yukon cussing at the weed eater as he tried to get around the woodpile. There was no noisy, stinky power mower to maneuver around the slide or picnic table, just me and Mo working together in a squeaky rhythm.

The evening was lovely, the bugs few, and my family and I were actutally choring together. A picture out of my own memory scrapbook. And not too bad a one, either. Go green or go inside, we say.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Green Isn't So Simple

For the millionth time Yukon and I are looking at buying a new car. Old Betsy, 1992 Ford Explorer, is rapidly approaching the end of her lifetime of usefulness. Or so we think.

No airbags, outdated restraint systems, noisy springs and a windshield that looks like it survived a roadside assault all add up to one sorry-looking vehicle. Besides that, I can't fit more than three passengers at one time.

Shopping for new cars in this time of greeness and fuel economy is not easy. We are torn between wanting a fuel efficient, small-carbon-footprint vehicle and a bazonga-SUV that can haul kids, dogs, the canoe and a cooler full of fish.

I drive Yukon nuts with articles I have cut out of the paper and saved from the internet, one day praising the car that can last for 200,000 miles and still be used safely, and the next touting a new, remade model that is better on mileage and the environment.

Trouble hits when we start actually shopping. In Alaska, car prices are sometimes $5,000 more than Outside. Shipping costs put us over the proverbial oil barrel, and many people decide it just isn't worth it. $55,000 for a car? I could buy a cabin for that much. Or a horse and buggy, which is not sounding too bad at this point.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Who's the Boss?

It clearly isn't me. With increasing regularity, a three-foot tall stranger with a big mouth spouting unreasonable demands is invading our household.

After a week spent with a bunch of young-ish teenagers, the Child Formerly Known As Bear has transitioned into The Boss; woe to he or she who tries to dispute this obvious fact. That means Yukon and me most of the time.

Obviously our twice-attended VBS experience did little to teach the little wonder boy about subservience to one's mother and father. He must have missed that part while bossing around the big kids, (he does that too).

This was funny at first, as most of the things are with our little ones. But then the "You are not the boss of me, Mommy" statement happens in a crowded place, making even the most hardened of us want to hide under our shopping carts. Ours was Costco as we were making our casual way down the candy and other crap aisle (my mistake in the first place, but we needed to avoid a huge family with three carts).

I had vetoed the purchase of a teddy bear filled with gum balls and dismissed the incident. Then the stranger/child appeared in my own Bear as he screwed up his face, lowered his eyebrows, and gave me a verbal lashing ending with "You don't tell me NO Mommy!".

Excuse me?

Perhaps the Border Crossing Official took my little angel and replaced him with someone else when I was not looking.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

Last night Bear took Wolf's school picture from the living room side table and asked "Is that Wolf?" I said it was. He said "I need this", and took the frame and photo into his room, and ever so carefully placed it on his dresser near the bed.

A month has passed since Wolf walked out our front door. A trip last week to Haines gave me valuable time to gather perspective regarding myself, my marriage, and my two sons. Who are we as individuals and as a family, and what exactly does "family" mean to the four of us? Where does Wolf fit in our landscape right now, and where will he fit in the future? These are difficult questions to answer.

There is no doubt that Wolf is thriving in his new environment; that much is reaffirmed with each phone call and therapy session we participate in. With that security, Yukon and I have been able to reconnect as a couple, perhaps for the first time in a long, long time. Instead of fretting and comforting each other over an event involving someone else, we are able to validate and affirm as husband and wife; it can finally be about us.

Bear, too, is able to build a relationship with his mother that before was full of secondary time. Everything we did was for his brother, and he unfortunately received the dregs, for lack of a better term. We are all healing, the four of us, by our own unique methods. A clear, strong foundation is being constructed to effectively equip us for the day Wolf walks back through our door.

But Bear's actions last night also reminded me that we miss Wolf, terribly, and we cannot ever lose sight of the fact that a few thousand miles away lives a child who misses us, too.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Do YOU Know Where Your Husband Is?

"Welcome to Canada, where is your husband?"

Not the greeting I had expected to hear, and certainly not from a woman Border Agent in the middle of the Alaska/Yukon wilderness. After a day and a half with two preschoolers just out of sight enough to torment each other with the precision of a neurosurgeon, an interrogation into the whereabouts of my spouse just about did me in.

Here is how the conversation proceeded from the time I roared up too fast in the Mini-Van, O'Jays blaring from the open window. My desired, although not necessarily voiced, responses are in parentheses.

Agent: "Welcome to Beaver Creek. Are these both your children?"

Me: "No, Ma'am." (They are in fact, nobody's children after driving all this way with them kicking me in the kidneys).

Agent: "Do you have the birth certificate for your child?"

Me: "No, why would I need that?" (You dumb bimbo, that's why we have passports, issued by our Department of Homeland Insecurity.)

Agent: "Are you married? Where is the child's father?"

Me: "I am married, last time I looked. The child's father is in Anchorage."

(Likely having a cold beer and thanking his lucky stars he is not here talking with you.)

Agent: "I need a Notarized copy of the birth certificate, AND a notarized note stating you have permission to take the child out of the country."

Me: "WHAT!?" (Oh My God, are we trapped in Beaver Creek, where there is no internet, fax, or for all we know, flush toilets?)

Agent: "Do you see the father's name listed anywhere on the passport? How do I know you are not in a fight with him and are taking the kids?"

Me: "UHHHH, Right." (Look, you pre-menopausal witch, I'm about to unhook the car seat and leave the little darling with you and his Bob the Builder lunchbox if you're not careful).

Agent: "I'll let you go through this time. But you MUST get the note and the notarized birth certificate before you enter Canada. It is an obvious step."

Me: "Well, thank you so much." (No, an obvious step would be to slam the accelerator over your ugly black shoes.)

The moral of this story is not to cross the Canadian border at Beaver Creek going South during the day shift.

Notarize this!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

VBS Haines

The fun continues in Haines...
The kids are all working hard and enjoying themselves. Each morning begins with a prayer for the children in VBS, and our kids are showing their maturity and sense of self with their heartfelt desire to show Haines how much they want to be there.
Today they worked at Rainbow Glacier Camp after VBS, helping the staff prepare for the summer session. Mopping, dusting, and even building a bedroom gave our kids the chance to appreciate a little (okay, a lot) hard work for the good of others. We had a bonfire post-work party and ate too much, and the kids enjoyed a round of freeze tag among the trees.
Everyone is well and happy; we are ready for day three of VBS tomorrow!

Monday, June 2, 2008

They've Got Power

Wonder Working Power! That sums up the incredible effort the First Pres kids put forth for Day One of VBS Haines. From preschool to elementary crews, the youth from Anchorage worked to bring a little bit of Power to their charges.
Comments from parents, Crew Leaders, and the Director were all about a smooth first day, thanks to our kids.
After a hearty lunch at the Haines public playground and a little time to blow off some steam, we were treated to an afternoon of perspective of how we all fit in Nature's grand scheme at the Bald Eagle Foundation. The kids fixed their own dinner of spaghetti and salad, then piled in vans to go bear "hunting" at a local fish wier outside of town. No bears, but saw an eagle on a nest, some goats, and a lot of beautiful scenery.
Tomorrow we are working at Rainbow Glacier Camp after VBS, and will fix our dinner over an open fire. Continue to pray for these young people as the week continues; that their energy level stays high (so far, so good), and their spiritual path becomes clear as they work with these children. We are having some difficulty uploading photos, so stay tuned for some pictures!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Youth on a Misssion

The Junior High youth of First Presbyterian have arrived in Haines for their week of learning, growing, and having a ton of fun. While the weather is not the brightest, the warm welcome we have received more than makes up for cloudy skies and cool temperatures.

The kids are staying with different families in Haines, and all have settled in with their host families, meeting at Haines Presbyterian this morning in time for worship. Pastor Ron Horn and the congregation let us know how much our presence is appreciated, and the kids were more than happy to introduce themselves to the group.

Today was spent getting to know the Haines families and finishing final preparations for VBS, which starts tomorrow. The kids "Powered Up" the sanctuary with balloons after a picnic lunch out on the back lawn of church. The views in Haines are breathtaking, even to this teenaged crew who hardly slows down to eat, and we enjoyed our picnic overlooking Lynn Canal and the Boat Harbor.

After lunch we all took a drive out to Rainbow Glacier Camp, where afternoon work sessions will be an important part of the week. We hiked out to the Vespers area and took a walk along "skipping rock cove", courtesy of Jennifer McGovern, who grew up in Haines.

This evening we are having dinner with the Director of VBS, Bonnie, and her husband Terry. Right now the kids are outside playing badminton on the lawn, waiting for their halibut bbq!

Please pray for our youth as they begin VBS tomorrow; that they will be ready for the joys and challenges of working with these children, and that they will learn a bit about themselves along the way. Parents, you should be proud of your kids; we chaperones sure are!