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....

Monday, October 20, 2008

First Fiesta Pics

The highlight of the 'Four Fiesta' was certainly the pinata. As the weather got pretty chilly, and the sky dark faster than we had anticipated, the stuffed star was hung in the garage. I would not ordinarily show anyone the interior of my garage, as it is a continual source of embarrassment, but necessity won out in the end.

Bear got to go first, and needed a bit of explaination to clearly understand that it was okay to hit the star with the baseball bat. Our friend T., who happens to be a former baseball star and now coaches his sons, manned the pinata and gave Bear some tips on whacking the thing.

You can see that there were a bunch of kids at this shindig; nothing makes me happier than to have a house full to the rafters with people having fun. And we were. Yukon's mexican menu wowed folks, his margaritas even more so (berry), as did his musical creation of '80's Special Songs'. This was made even more special due to the fact he knows little of hot songs listened to by high schoolers in the 80's.

More pictures will be coming soon; my friends took most of them while we socialized. God bless them, for there should be some good ones. A big thank you to everybody who attended, helped, and shared this special day with us.

Yukon and I took advantage of our leftovers last night to sit at our bistro table downstairs (brought inside for the party), sharing a huge pile of nachos made with his left over shredded beef, avocados, tomatoes, and black beans. I knew I liked him!

Friday, October 17, 2008

40 Day

Yeah, so, this is the day when I turn that number. Yes, that one. 40. I guess I don't feel as old as my mother does, when another of her children hits the magic

One cannot turn 40 without having at least some moment of reflection on the last four decades, so at the risk of boring the pants off my readers, here they are.
(However, for those of you attending the bash tomorrow night, you might want to take notes; the following info could prove valuable, according to Yukon)

- If I had to do it all again, I would have fought harder against the red/black/gray plaid skirts the good nuns of St. Louise School made us wear. It is impossible to play football at recess in a stupid skirt. I much prefered my lime-green, bell-bottom courdoroy pants and Fonzie shirt.

- There is nothing like growing up in a small town where kids can walk barefoot down to the Ben Franklin store and buy everything from gerbils to Chick-O-Sticks, alone and unaccompanied by any adult type person. I am sure my parents were glad to get rid of us from dawn to dark every summer day. I know Dorothy's were.

- Prom is never what it is cracked up to be, especially when you attend only once, and your little sister attends all four years. I have recovered from the emotional scars, however. I think.

- Bless my parents for encouraging me to be who I am/was, even going so far as allowing me to wear my Lone Ranger outfit every day of our Montana vacations to the grandparent's ranch.

- Soccer is a good sport, until one gets to college and finds it to be like work. Who wants to work at anything in college, unless it has to do with drinking?

- Horses are a good way to forget about boys in High School. I believe this is why my parents did not protest louder against this particular activity.

I am the last of my group of friends to turn 40. Christine lives in Istanbul, Turkey, living the good life of an ex-pat. Lucky her. Dorothy lives in Minneapolis with her beautiful family. We grew up down the street from each other. Lucky all three of us. We have been friends since pre-school years. 40 more, ladies? Of course.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

It's a Conspiracy.

After a very enlightening conversation with the director of the Program at CHYC, getting to know the "rest of the story" to Wolf's antics lately, she and I agreed on the Conspiracy.

It has been easy for staff to allow Wolf some slack with regard to his behavior these last few months; after all, he can be quite charming and agreeable when things are to his liking. But as Wolf's residence stretches into the six-month mark and little progress up the ladder of Levels is accomplished, it was time for Plan B.

The Conspiracy to Help Wolf consists of little wiggle room for behavior that does not accept personal responsibility, the greatest of his challenges. Freely admitting to us last week that he "likes things my way", Wolf's success lies in his desire to accept and act upon the fact that society doesn't exactly see it that way. So far, there has not been much progress in that respect, but Director B sees potential. As she told me over the phone, "I can see his wheels turning".

Director B.'s special project is to guide and nurture through firm, consistent boundaries means Wolf will be mad much of the time, for quite some time as he struggles through the dark side (that will make him happy to have me use Star Wars analogies) and hopefully ends up at the "good".

Again, Yukon and I are bound by our sense of utter trust in these staff who obviously care deeply for our son and are also affected by behaviors they know he can overcome. Director B.'s Conspiracy could be the best thing to occur in his tumultous young life. But like many tough experiences, he just doesn't know it yet.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Let it Snow

This was what we woke up to this morning. Around 3 inches of fluffy white stuff, which looked quite lovely against the starry sky. We also have been waking up to dark that will only get darker.

Yes, those are Christmas lights. Alaskans install their holiday displays early, sometimes in an effort to brighten up dark winter days, but mostly because trying to get your holiday lights, etc. on the house in ice and snow is near impossible. The staple gun freezes up.

The lights are also up in preparation for a big Fiesta (Yukon's specialty) in celebration of a Year of 4's. I am 40 (no, no, no!) and Bear is 4. And, as my neighbor also added, 4 and 4 is 8 (meaning 2008). Ohhhh, the Chinese would have a lot of fun with this one. I am sure there will be much documentation of this shindig, which goes down Saturday night.

At any rate, the day turned out to be a beautiful one with blue skies and temperatures hovering around 30. We took the dog to the park and all boys enjoyed running around in the snow before trooping home for some hot choco.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

So, It's Winter

Hmm, it has been snowing on and off all day long. Wet, heavy, not-fun-to-walk-in snow that clings to our hair and feet and makes walking on the decks kind of dangerous. Just ask the dog.

Our final indicator that winter is indeed here came on the way to church this morning, as we noticed traffic at a standstill on one of our busy cross-town streets. This only happens for one reason in Alaska; indeed, there were two moose, a cow and an older calf, trying to figure out on which side of the street they wished to be. I have said it before; moose are just as scary standing still as they are moving, as one never knows when they will decide to do just that. Back and forth across the median they went, finally entering a neighborhood where I am sure they figured they wouldn't have to make any decisions more complicated than choosing a tree to nibble upon.

We saw another on our way home, but on the highway in the middle of a snow squall. the dumb young bull wanted to go across the four-lane road NOW, and just couldn't grasp waiting a second more. I hate when they do that; I do not want to witness any moose-car collisions so soon into the season.

Church had a group lunch today after services, and the aroma of harvest bean, chicken noodle, and even coconut thai soups wafted around. A wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Time to break out the crock pot around here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Columbus Weekend Storm 2008

Holy cow, I thought we left the South to get away from hurricane winds. The weather service had warned of high winds last night, but I don't think anybody expected this. Up to 90 mph.

After a restless night of feeling the whole house shake and waiting for the roof to blow off, Yukon and I finally got up around 5:30 a.m. to put Bear, who was scared by this time (weren't we all), back to bed. We looked out our bedroom window towards our neighbor's back yard and watched their trampoline come barreling right towards us. With a terrific crash that knocked a framed photo off of the bedroom wall, it wedged itself against the house and back deck stairs, narrowly missing our window and the natural gas pipes. Shortly after this, the barbeque tipped over.

We dressed quickly and made our way down the landing to bring in the front deck table and chairs, as well as an antique bench. We were a little late for the bench, as it blew across the decking and took out three rails. I had to hold the door open for Yukon as he threw everything in the stairwell in between gusts.

We didn't mess around after that; we snatched Bear from his bed and went downstairs to wait the rest of the storm out. It all died down around 9:00 a.m., but re-emerged soon after and has made for a difficult chore of cleaning up. Fortunately Yukon had decided ahead of time to take the day off. The sun seems to be trying to come out a bit; a crazy, crazy day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

Sitting in church last Sunday, the bracelet I wore was a bit noisy as it rattled and clinked against the pews and hymn books. The charm on the bracelet is a heart with some tiny white beads inside, and was given to me to honor women who have battled breast cancer. Inside the heart were words I had not bothered to read before. Three words, making a statement so simple and eloquent for me in this stage of Wolf's absence.

The day before, Yukon, Bear and I had gone to REI's Fall Sale to stock up on a few things. Ambling through the bike section, I came fact-to-face with the physician (learning disabilities specialist, M.D.) that intruduced Yukon and I to the concept of Asperger Syndrome. She was also the one who told us, before we switched providers, that residential treatment options "rarely work".

Surprised to see her, I asked how she was, and she responded in kind, inquiring as to our family's health and welfare. I mentioned Wolf's enrollment in CHYC, and was met with an unnerving, "Ohhhhhh, is he?"

Granted, I should have known this would be the reaction, and should have known that eventually, somebody somewhere was going to not agree with our decision to place Wolf at a residential facility. I just wasn't expecting it to come in the middle of cycling apparel at REI. I began to doubt, and it bothered me the rest of the day, all night, and into the next morning as I perched on my pew at church.

"Trust Your Journey", said the words. Just like that.

Trust that Wolf's physical needs as a growing young man are being met. That his shoes fit, his teeth are brushed, and his never-full stomach is satisfied.

Trust that his emotional needs are met as an immature child lives far away from home and is asked to cope with a living situation most of us did not confront until we left for college much, much later in our teen years.

Trust that we as a family will use this time as an opportunity, not a vacation, from the difficult days leading up to Wolf's admission to CHYC, for the four of us to collaborate and grow in our knowledge and support of all children who live day after day with Asperger Syndrome.

Trust that I know what I did, and I know what I am doing as best for my family.

Trust in Wolf himself to believe, achieve, and perservere through his own personal journey while at the same time preparing himself to return home to a new setting with new boundaries.

When I was first learning the art of directional way-finding, my dad always taught me to trust my compass, especially when climbing tricky Mt. Hood. Many people, he said, tried to find their own way down, following what they thought was the natural curve down to the lodge. They ended up way west, in a deep canyon of snow and wind. The compass, my wise father said, will not lie. Trust it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Idit 2009 Gears Up

Believe it or not, Iditarod 2009 is up and running, thanks in part to huge interest in Alaska lately. In the spirit of 'Deadliest Catch' and the other Alaska-themed shows where the Lower 48 gets to live vicariously through us Alaskans, there is a new show in town.

'Toughest Race on Earth; Iditarod' starts tomorrow night (Tues) on the Discovery Channel at 8 p.m. Alaska time. Tonight Yukon, Bear, and I, along with about 500 of the Idit's closest friends, got to see the preview. Over six weeks, viewers who are intrigued about the Iditarod Sled Dog Race will get to see an insider's impression of what goes on along the 1,000 + miles of trail.

The show is pretty accurate, given the Hollywood nature of television 'reality' these days. For those who follow this blog, you will get to see mushers interviewed by yours truly, and follow them on the trail throughout Race 2008. If you look hard, you can even see me crouched along the starting line in Anchorage. On the left, just beyond the line.

Last week I (barring any unforseen issues) secured the Idit and Fur Rondy Guides for Coast magazine. Let the race begin!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This is NOT Looking Good for Me

5:05 p.m., snowing very, very hard. Grass beginning to be covered. It is October 6, not December 6.
Prospects of a movie and dinner to my specifications are not looking positive.

Update, 5:20 p.m., snowing VERY, VERY hard, grass is now covered, street is beginning to look white. Let the dog outside and he ran in circles.

I have horrible visions of Habenero chili and 'The Guns of Navarone'.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Vote

No, not THAT vote. I refer, on this flurry-ing morning, to the Annual Kirkland Family Snow Date vote. The much-anticipated family bet that has us all on the edge of our cross-country skis.

Each Autumn we view the calendar and decide individually when it is going to snow. Rules dictate that the first snowfall must a) cover the grass so that you cannot see green (okay to see it under trees, however), and b) whoever is closest to the chosen date by two days still wins. I won last year with this rule.

The celebrated winner gets to choose dinner and a movie. I can assure readers that Yukon, Bear, and even Wolf will not soon forget the chinese food and "White Christmas" event of last year when it snowed on October 28. That, incidentially, was the last significant snowfall until Christmas Day, when it snowed a foot.

Yes, Wolf will be participating. If he wins, we will transport a goodie box of favorite things to him. He is understandably excited.

For those who would like to contribute to this gamble over the weather, the dates chosen are, after careful consideration and consultation with the site, the Almanac, and the depth of hair present on the dog:

Yukon: October 15

Mom: October 17 (wouldn't it be something to win on my 40th birthday)

Wolf: November 5

Bear: October 23 (he always gets his birthday by virtue of not knowing what a calendar is.)

I will tell you that this morning as I watch daylight finally appear, there is snow directly above us, and mixed snow and rain outside my window.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

With the Cold Comes the Croup

After a valiant effort by Bear at the Tuesday Night Race Series, at which he ran a tough up-and-down course through the woods for a mile, the little soldier is now down and out with croup. It has been an interesting few days, with more barking around here than the dog pound. All indications are for a smooth recovery however, despite a shot of steroids to open the breathing passages and make life more comfortable. Fortunately, Yukon walked over from his office to the pediatrician's and was the Bear-wrangler for that.

I don't actually mind a sick child sometimes; long nights and clingy-ness notwithstanding. It gives me pause, to have to remain home with no agenda but that which I plan out from the kitchen table over coffee. Catch up on laundry, clean out under the bathroom sink, cook a chicken.

At least the weather is still nice; crisp and cold but clear. Might change tonight as snow/rain showers could be making their way over the mountains.