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.