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.