Monday, December 28, 2009

Grief Tonight, and a Memory or Two

We're sending a virtual hug to our son tonight, as word reached Yukon and I that Wolf's paternal grandfather passed away last evening at the age of 90. I don't often speak of my former husband or his family, mostly to preserve everyone's privacy, so those who do not know of our history together may be surprised at this news.

"Popau" (Greek for 'Grandfather') was a tough little bird of a man, having joined the Navy as a very young age (15, I think) and was serving as Chief aboard the U.S. Houston at the beginning of WWII. The Houston was sunk early in the War after an overnight battle that left this young NCO standing on the deck with water lapping at his ankles. He jumped off and spent the next 24 hours in shark-infested waters of the South Pacific until a Japanese patrol picked him up, covered in diesel oil, and transported him to a prison camp notorious for its inhumane conditions and location on the famous "Death Railway". Popau spent the entire length of WWII at this location, working and marching nonstop until liberated. He is a testament to the sheer willpower and force of one man's determination, and my son was a fascinated listener to the few times Popau would share his story.

Wolf, we think, does not know yet of his grandfather's death. I have called the school to check, and they had not heard from his father. I gave them a heads up and told them that we would be down next week to provide our additional support. The timing of our visit, now more than ever, seems providential and we are so grateful we can be there to help our son deal with grief in his own way.

Kids with AS are not always able to clearly identify grief, at least, not how we would describe it. They know sadness and anger, but cannot put them into definable words or concepts and as a result, tend to act out. Sometimes kids will appear stoic, only to erupt much later and for no apparent reason toward those who are not aware of the cause. What we perceive to be appropriate grieving may be lost on the child with AS, as is behavior at funerals or functions where people may be acting in a way uncomfortable and unidentifiable for kids like Wolf.

So, a prayer or moment of thought for Wolf, his father's family, and his Popau, who, no doubt, is now celebrating with his Navy buddies at the Gates of Heaven that they all are, finally, together again. Let the whistle blow, Chief, one last time.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas in the Wolf Den

We finally decided to call Wolf yesterday after an uncharacteristic silence on Christmas day. More intrigued than worried, we wanted to be sure Wolf understood the importance of calling parents on major holidays.

The staff who answered the phone laughed when I told him we had not heard from our son, putting us in a more relaxed state of mind for sure. Especially when we found out why. Apparently the kids were allowed to play Nintendo DS and watch "Terminator: Salvation" Christmas afternoon after opening their gifts, and, as always happens with Wolf when movies are involved, it just "slipped his mind" to call the benefactors who made his Christmas possible.

When pressed for more information on his receivables this Christmas, he responded with "Great! I got lots of clothes." I guess we've reached the place where clothing has greater value than the Bionicles of last year. Fascinating. He does like to pay attention (to a point) to his looks these days, and I guess that's just part of turning 16. I'm just curious to know his perception of "cool".

We head down to CHYC on January 4th. This visit will be full of meetings, plotting, and planning, for the same clock that brought his body to maturity will now be counting down the days to legal adulthood in the eyes of the System, and Yukon and I have much to do.

The photo above is a sampler of Wolf's school Christmas crafts as a small child. I always bring out the kids' art work for display during the holidays, just like my mom did. It seems doubly important, now.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas is a Season in Alaska

As a statement of relief to all those who nearly panicked when their boxes had not arrived as of the 23rd of December, fear not. They did ultimately show up in spite of our mailman.

I always tell people not to worry if presents don't arrive on time, as Christmas is a season in Alaska. Well, so are birthdays, anniversaries, etc. because we never really know when, or if, gifts mailed up here will arrive.

We do not, ever, send things Parcel Post, as a little heads up from We Who Have Been There. The potential for disappointment on the receiving end is not worth the few bucks saved.

At any rate, our Christmas was lovely; Christmas pageant, presents, good will and all. We entertained good friends and even invented a new cocktail using crowberry syrup from a friend and from my own stash left over from the summer's picking adventures. Kirkland Crowberry Cosmos are destined for greatness, I'm sure of it.

Santa arrived in good time and left Bear a large train that emits various sounds from its large engine. He also brought Army Men and a plethora of Playmobile characters. I told Bear he is not allowed to say "I don't have anything to do" for the rest of the winter, and perhaps into the coming year...

We haven't heard from Wolf yet but I am sure CHYC kept the kids busy yesterday; as soon as I talk with him I'll find out how his day went.

Merry Christmas, Happy almost New-Year, and blessings to everyone from Anchorage, Alaska.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Yes, Wolf, There is a Santa Claus

I quit believing in Santa Claus when I was in sixth grade. I found out that Santa and my mother had the same handwriting and assumed the jig was up. I put on a good show, though, for the next few years but ultimately fell into the grownup world of realism and making the magic for other, smaller people, like my children.

Last Christmas I changed my mind about that.

The hardest thing in the world for a parent is to be without a child at Christmastime. Not the adult children whom we have released to spread their own wings and create their own Christmas memories with their own families. I'm talking about our children who are so fragile and delicate in their respective ways, and so young (mentally, physically, or otherwise) to be without mom or dad on the most magical night of the year. Of course I'm talking about my own son, and the 100 or so other boys and girls, young men and women, who reside at CHYC and are not able to be with those most important to them.

With the past few days filled with emotional undercurrents threatening to spill over into my Christmas-infused brain tonight, it was evident that I needed a diversion. Bear and I had been talking about Santa Claus and his proximity to our home here in Alaska, and we brought up the NORAD Santa Tracker web site in order to ensure Santa's arrival at Evergreen Street.

As we watched the screen load, and anticipation build, Bear asked if Santa knew where Wolf was tonight. I told him that Santa knew where all of his children were on Christmas Eve and beyond, so devoted he is. The screen flashed, and NORAD had spotted the Man in Red moving somewhere in the Mid West. The sleigh paused a moment then flew on. Right to West Jordan, Utah, where it stopped. And stayed.

You see, the magic that is Santa and Christmas and God and His Son poured out all at once to a little school in the Southwest United States and into the soul of my son, and other mothers' sons, to show us once and for all, indeed, He is here, and there, and simply everywhere tonight. If for no other reason than to soothe a hundred anxious hearts on this Night of All Nights.

As a journalist, I treasure the words of newsman Francis Pharcellus Church from 1897 in his editorial response to a young girl questioning the existence of Santa Claus. "He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy."

I believe, as surely as that pre-adult son of mine lies in bed tonight dreaming of tomorrow.

"...he lives, and he lives forever."

Happy Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: A Need for Grace

This is one of those days when I struggle to extend grace; to the staff, to my son, and to myself.

A small incident this morning during a routine conference call led to some asserting of my parental authority that subsequently led to silence and what I am sure were some interesting looks around the table at which I was not physically seated.

The most interesting part is my intellectual understanding of how things can be overlooked; I used to do a similar job and know how difficult it is to manage the intricate care plans and procedures for many people (heck, I obviously could not do it for one child). However, from my emotional perspective as a parent I ask that meticulous care be provided for my child in addition to everyone else's. I know the rules, I know the regs, and I will demand they be followed. Every. Time.

I am fighting the urge to hop on a plane and find out what else is going on down there. Just a little bit of trust has been depleted, not much, and not for a major reason, but a bit nonetheless.

Rest assured Wolf is cared for and loved by staff. They just overlooked something I had explicitly asked for and did not receive. Made my point, and hopefully it is over.

But then, with a child in a residential setting, it is never really over.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Polar-Plunging Sort of Day

After our 18 inches of snow last week, the weather cleared and the temperature dropped just in time for the annual Special Olympics Polar Plunge, held at a local lake we frequent year-round.

This year I am a 'Ski Buddy' to kids and young adults on the S.O. Ski Team, so we decided to make the Polar Plunge a family fun day despite the 2 degree temperatures. After a serious search for our warmest and winteriest clothing I reserve for the really, really cold days, we packed up the sled and arrived at Goose Lake in time to hear the first few folks take their dives into insanity.

We had to walk a good half-mile from our parking spot at the University of Anchorage due to the incredible volume of plungers and spectators, so that warmed us up but not Bear, who forgot to wear his balaclava (neck, head, face-warmer thing that goes under his hat) and had frozen ears upon our arrival at the lake. Yukon, in a gesture of true love, switched hats with Bear and thus made for a much more enjoyable afternoon.

Our friend K was jumping and we joined his family on the sidelines to witness his bold, batman-costumed leap into the 5 ft deep hold of cold water. Yukon swears that next year he'll get his own team together from the VA and make the leap himself. Such a brave man. Couldn't get me to do it. My feet were cold enough just watching, and it took me all afternoon to warm up.

Hot toddies all around, tonight!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Little Child Shall Lead Them

I do not often become emotionally involved in Christmas pageants, unless you count 'emotionally unstable' when I am helping herd a bunch of angels, shepherds, and an unwilling Joseph to walk next to an eye-batting Mary. The annual preschool Christmas play last night, however, gave me cause to break out the kleenex and stop shooting half-focused pictures.

Bear's class did a wonderful reinactment of the Christmas story, thanks to the efforts of three very experienced and very patient-but-firm teachers. There were no mishaps, no tantrums, and no reason for tears during the pageant, and Bear performed well under the intense pressure of a hundred or so parents and friends wielding video cameras.

The emotional part came at the very end, when all but one of the children were ushered out of the sanctuary, save for Bear's Girlie, R.

See, R's daddy is a Chaplain in the U.S. Army and is currently deployed to Iraq. He won't be here for Christmas, and won't see his kids or wife until they all meet in February at a classified tropical destination for some much-deserved R&R.

The preschool teacher, who has seen more than her share of deployed parents and left-behind children, helps everyone ease the potential pain of missing dads or moms during the holidays with a little help from 21st century technology.

The church Web-Cam was fired up and pointed directly at the pageant, where R's daddy could see her debut as Mary, and then listen to her say her own personal Christmas wish to him so far, far away in a desert place she neither knows about nor understands.

"Hi Daddy, Merry Christmas and I love you."

Best present ever, don't you think?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: Victim-"Dance"

One of the interesting manifestations of Asperger Syndrome and other impulse-control disorders is the perpetual and ever-irritating thinking error of 'victim-stance'.

Thinking errors and their consequences are drilled into kids' heads at CHYC, and thus, ours as well. The list of 13 errors covers a gamut of ways people fall into patterns of un-communication as it suits their needs, and the victim-stance error is almost always inherent in the "world revolves around me" Asperger's mind.

Wolf has struggled with playing the victim ever since grade school, when he found that being bullied had one (and small) advantage: someone is the victim. A victim is attended, comforted, and sometimes rewarded, so a natural progression of victimization now is as firmly entrenched in Wolf's mind as a defense mechanism. But now, as he and his peers grow into young adults, it is much harder to play a victim, especially when everybody is onto the victim role thing.

Daily group sessions at CHYC are integral to solving the thinking error processes. If nothing else, the sheer accountability of peers in a group setting leaves no room to hide an action, and the kids are very good at pointing out each others' failings in this area. Nowhere to run, if you will, but the kids on the receiving end still try to bob and weave and dodge the issue, creating an interesting dance of denial that leaves Therapist B. (the group leader) to bob and weave with them. He rarely, if ever, lets anyone off the hook, and always follows up in a family session later, where the dance usually ends in one of two ways: stony silence or grudging admittance.

Victim-stance is one of the most difficult thinking errors to manage, as a lifetime of scenarios that could, in fact, lead to Wolf actually being a victim will occur. The trick is knowing when to cut in on the dance and start again with a new partner, Personal Responsibility.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Winter Getaway

We do not normally take a busy, pre-holiday weekend as the best time to up and leave town, but that is exactly what we did.

Anchorage has been under a gray cloud of perpetual fog for the last seven or eight days, and this was reason enough for us to try and escape the color of nothingness for some sunshine up North. Yes, up North.

Even a headcold could not keep me from wanting to get out of here, so early Saturday morning we threw the skis, dog, and some miscellaneous food and drink in the truck and drove a few hours up the Glen Highway to the magnificant Matanuska Glacier, where a co-worker of Yukon has a little log cabin.

No fog, no people, no worries; just craggy mountains, red wine, and sunshine. We skied on the frozen 100 Mile Lake, we ate Chex Mix and cookie dough, we watched White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street. We turned off the cell phones. We didn't want to come home.

The fog was still hovering around the Anchorage Bowl when we arrived home, but this morning it finally lifted and in its place is a fluffy snowstorm, bringing much more interesting window-viewing opportunities and a true Christmas-y feeling. Bear and I are finishing our wrapping and sending, baking and melting, and are relaxing while snowflakes lazily fall outside. I'm refusing to worry that boxes of gifts will make it to their intended destinations; hope New Year's presents aren't a bother, folks.

Maybe a pre-holiday-holiday wasn't such a bad idea.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: Sober View

It's been an interesting few days in Anchorage; indirectly related to Wolf, but powerful incidents in our little comfortable cushion of reality, reminders of just how much lies at stake for Wolf's future.

Earlier this week a young man grew upset with his former girlfriend for dating someone else. He lured her outside the high school bulding with the promise of a ring, then, while her eyes were closed, stabbed her 29 times in her young body. A passing skier on the adjacent trail system heard the girl's screams and stopped the attack. The boy, caught after a wild chase through the woods, told police the girl made him "mad" because she wouldn't date him anymore.

Immediately upon posting on the Anchorage Daily News web site, comments flooded the page with statements like "we should instate the death penalty for kids who commit such grevious acts", and "these crazy people have no place in society", etc., etc.
There was a time I would have said this, too.

But I have been given a gift, one that allows me to look beyond the action to the reason for it, perhaps with a broader understanding of the root cause, and events preceeding that could have made a difference in a child's life now ended due to a tragic, impulse-laden, and absolutely wrong choice. The window I look through as the mother of a child with three different diagnoses, all presenting impulse-control deficits, is decidedly foggy with the confusion of a system that does little more than refer parents to services but fails to follow up. This boy's grandmother said as much, and I agree with her. And I am more familiar with the system than most.

I would like to believe that my kid would never act in such a way, but the reality of his disabilities is such that his life and decisions are constantly in flux and always will be, and thus, so are ours. Our collective "team" must try to remain one step ahead of any decision he might make that could ultimately result in harm to him or someone else. This is why we are so adamant about his tenure at CHYC, and why we are so carefully crafting a post-CHYC scenario that will indeed protect him from himself, for lack of a better phrase.

It's not always easy to implement the "this is for your own good" mantra into a teenager/young adult's life, but in this case, it is critical. And it might possibly have worked for the young man who now is in an adult jail, awaiting attempted murder charges, game over.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Me and the USPS

We have a tenuous relationship, the Postal Service and I, and so does most of Alaska, I'll wager. Due to our location, even 50 years after the statehood celebration, referred to sometimes as "Out of U.S." when it comes to catalogue orders, Alaska and its residents must gird their packaging moxie every December with admirable fortitude.

The holidays seemed so stinking simple when we lived Outside. Shop for the gift, buy the gift, wrap the gift, deliver the gift in person at an annual holiday hoopla. Here, not so much.

Alaskans must, in a very precise, calculated series of steps, must do the following:
Buy the gift, being sure, of course, that it will not melt, break, make noise (mailmen hate noisy toys in their trucks, as I was informed by mine a few years ago after a backhoe kept ordering "Get your hardhat on!" for his entire route. He deserved every minute of this, but I digress...), or become stinky (I am, of course, referring to the ultimate of Alaskan gifts, fish).

We must wrap the gift. Wrapping in cutsey, trendy holiday paper? Not. Brown store wrap, like the kind the pioneers wrapped their Christmas flannel shirts and calico. It has staying power. Bows looking like works of art? Never. They are squished and squashed by the time the arrive at the prescribed destination. String, maybe, this year.

We must wrap the gift again, this time with other gifts, in a box. If I can find one that does not have "Alaskan Amber" or "Jubelale" on it. Hmm. We must find tape, and scissors, and labels to ensure the package meets the criteria set by cranky people who always say "that's not good enough" to me.

Finally, after Alaskans have found the addresses of Everyone Else (that is, people who live other places besides, gasp, Alaska), we go to the Post Office. And we stand there. And stand there. And stand there some more.

I always take Bear in the hope that one day the people at the USPS will be so tired of watching my kid swing from the counter, write on the Priority Mail boxes with the pen that is supposed to be attached to the writing table but is not, and wail "I'm soooooooo tired of this place, Mommmmmyyyyyyy!" that eventually they will move me to the front of the line. Unfortunately, the same cranky people who work at the Post Office also seem to be deaf, so this strategy has not yet proven successful.

This is, however, the price we Far Northerners pay for a truly winter wonderland Christmas at the home base of Santa Claus, hot buttered rums, and many, many parties featuring things like mixed nuts from the Carolinas or a fruit basket from California. Go figure.

I bet it's easier standing in line with a beach outside your window. Then again, maybe not. A moose kept a bunch of people in the Post Office the other day because it was eating a shrub right outside the door. The line got longer, and longer, and longer. We all figured as long as we were there we'd get some more stamps and Flat Rate boxes.

Take that, Postal Party-Poopers. It's freakin' Christmas.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Learned to be Still

One of the things I enjoy most about running is the utter, complete and transforming power of stillness. This was not an automatic pilot sort of thing; based on my past running experiences, almost all of which centered around a goal of creating fitness as a sidebar to soccer playing or skiing. Running was a chore that had to be done as part of the process to achieving and feeding my naturally competitive nature. Thus, I did not, and never intended to enjoy running as a sport of choice like some crazy people I knew and know. I changed my mind one freezing cold night.

When Wolf was here, our home was a cacophony of words. Talking, reminding, cajoling, and yes, shouting all presented an environment of unrest and confusion. One snowy night I took to the streets in an effort to simply take a breath and get out. And something happened.

With no distractions, everything became simple. The snow simply fell, the dark simply closed around me, and my breath simply went in and out in a quiet rhythm only my body knew. So I ran on. And I felt better when I arrived back home almost an hour later, legs quivering and eyelashes white with frost.

I had forgotten about the act of being still; of listening to and becoming a part of every little and big thing around me, and what those things might be able to say without any words at all. Stillness has become precious.

This morning I ran a forested trail just around daylight. At about 12 degrees, the snow was dry and creaked beneath my feet. My breath clouded the air in front of me and froze on my face; my jacket swoosh-swooshed with every stride I took. Every sound came from me and my presence in this vast outdoor space.

Then, from a tree somewhere in front of me, I heard the unmistakable chortle of a bald eagle who had seen me coming and announced his presence. The sun peeked over the Chugach mountains as this enormous bird and I stared at each other for a minute or two, then I ran on.

And he, too, was still.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Really Useful Dog.

We were not sure about Jasper the Nut Brown Dog when he first arrived in Alaska almost two years ago. Shy (almost aggressively so), I had my doubts about his tenure as part of our family.

After a number of incidents involving he and just about any young adult male that arrived in our home, I found myself down at the local bookstore one morning, searching desperately for any book covering topics related to dog psyche. From the Dog Whisperer to Carol Lea Benjamin, I read them all.

I am glad to say that, thankfully, after much hard work and a lot of love, Jasper, while still harboring interesting behaviors and mental issues, has come a long, long, loonnnggg way towards proper doggie behavior.

The photo above illustrates the ultimate in dedication to his Boy. Not to mention his desire to assist us in any way possible. I only hope his teeth hold out. Some of our sled hills are killers.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkeys, Thanks, and Giving

We had a lovely Thanksgiving Day here in Alaska. Snow fell and brought a winterscape appropriate for the Holiday and upcoming holiday spirit. Invited to our friends' for dinner, Yukon, Bear, and I relished an afternoon/evening with this Air Force family transplanted from Spokane. D. is Yukon's fishing buddy (of the bear/fish-avoidance episode this summer) and was excited to show us the finer points of deep-frying a turkey.

Rubbed with Cajun spices and whatever else is required to make a turkey carcass survive a 40-minute bath in boiling oil, the experience was new for Yukon and much anticipated. Despite a momentary and minor lapse of timing and temperature, the birdy boiler was a success and I swear I will never go back to cooking a turkey the traditional way. We're still gnawing on pieces thoughtfully provided for our continued sustenance.

Hope they don't mind us flying to where ever they are stationed in the coming years.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Update For the Wolf Den

Random moments of reflection already this morning. We're up, drinking coffee and watching the last of an overnight snowstorm filter the grayish light into our living room. Yukon and Bear are downstairs watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and I am cooking sweet potatoes.

This is the second year Wolf will not be with us for the holidays, and, perhaps due to a bit more growth on everyone's part, or perhaps simply because we are more comfortable with our roles and arrangements, the emotions surrounding this day and days to come have matured, too.

The spirit of 'Thankfulness'; it has been a part of Bear's preschool curriculum all week, it is on Facebook, in the newspaper, and thus, the concept rests in my own mind as well. But different, maybe than the usual.

What am I grateful for this year, about and for my Asperger's child, and our family?

I am thankful we found, almost by accident, CHYC. It is far away, but it is now Home for our son. Without it he, and we, would be in desperate need.

I am blessed by the people who have been placed, so strategically and carefully, into our lives this past year. People who are so incredibly precious to this journey and its outcome. Were we not traveling this road, our family's relationships with these individuals, while still valuable, would not bring me to a place of tearful thanks today. You know who you are.

I can say today, too, that I am grateful for Asperger Syndrome. A disorder that is frustrating and sometimes cruel, but one that does not allow our son to dwell on his position in life, at least not yet. He is generally happy where he is, who is is with, and for days that come and go with comfortable regularity. Holidays, thankfully, are tougher for us than they are for him. And, God willing, it will stay that way, for I am happy to bear this burden if it means his happiness.

Wolf is spending the day playing in the CHYC Annual Turkey Bowl. He stinks at football, but he has collected stats for college teams, has his outfit picked out, and his attitude hopefully adjusted. His first words to us were about his excitement for the game.

We could hear it in his voice. And we were grateful.

Thanks from us to those who give to him. Every day, all day, all the time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wake Up Call

Yeah, so, apparently we have become a bit complacent about the wildlife in our backyard.

Our first winter in Alaska was spent dilligently checking and re-checking the yard, driveway, and any other outdoor space for our favorite furry, antler-laden creature. Of course we had few problems then, probably because we were looking so hard for them.

By now we have come to a love-hate relationship with moose. They eat the garden, we shoo them away. They provide winter entertainment, we have something to show visiting family and friends. As long as they refrain from stomping their feet all overy our tender human forms, I am content, for the most part, to allow them their simple pleasures.

This morning we realized just how relaxed we had become in our moose-vigilance. It nearly cost our doggie his face.

The dog's early morning constitution usually lasts about, oh, 30 seconds. Yukon let him out around 7 a.m. and the sound of his paws running back up the stairs outside did not immediately bring me to the sliding door. Hmmm. Odd. Perhaps he dug up an old bone, not unheard of.

Dark outside (of course it was, it's always dark now), I nonetheless peer into the backyard and notice Dog is staring at the fence, on point (at least he tries), ears and hackles up. Uh oh. I call, he looks at me. I call again, he turns slightly towards me and again points. Crap.

At this point I decide to call Yukon, who brings a flashlight, smart man. Donning his Crocs and carrying the flashlight, he calls the Dog, who now begins to bark frantically. I was just putting on my own boots when I hear "Oh, God, there is a moose and it's right HERE!" along with a few other expletives that probably woke up the entire neighborhood.

Helpful wife that I am, I shouted "Well, grab the dog and get up here!" Easier said than done because Dog did not have his collar on and without it is more slippery than a snake, especially when trying to avoid his owner.

Meanwhile, Mama Moose, who had been resting next to the neighbor's trampoline, slowly rises to her feet as her Baby, curious of course, begins to point his own nose towards Dog in what I can already tell will be disaster. Yes, there is a fence, but a 4 foot chainlink fence is not, and never has been, an effective ungulate deterrant.

Yukon is chasing and yelling, Dog is barking, I am swearing, and the Moose are trying to figure out what to do. Finally the Dog goes upstairs where he promptly tries to climb in my lap, shivering. Yukon follows and tries the same.

Moose X 2 peaceably decided to eat the neighbor's raspberry canes in a show of diplomacy and hung around long enough for us to wake up Bear. 30 minutes later, they left to finish their breakfast elsewhere and Dog returned to his kennel to regain his composure. Yukon, well, let's just say that a romp around your backyard in your flannel pants and Crocs wasn't the best way to start a workday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Night Skiing

We've created a monster. Thanks to REI and an incredibly savvy department manager, Bear is now the proud owner of his own Alpina boots and skis, with an attitude to match. Now able to participate in Nordic lessons through our lovely Parks and Recreation department, Bear will join other 4-5 year olds in a once-a-week "lesson" (I use this term very loosely; I used to be a ski instructor)on the finer points of cross-country skiing. Yukon and I thought it was high time he got some skinny boards in preparation for his January class. Problem is, we can't get them off the child.

After two or three trips around the neighborhood during the daylight hours, and a lasagne dinner to fortify his little body, Bear announced that he wanted Yukon to take him skiing. Right Now. To the park.

In a flashback to my own Nordic ski opportunities, I recalled a four-day excursion to Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA as a child, where we went on a night-skiing adventure with the good-looking ski guide and then were relagated to the Lodge lobby while said guide, his wife, and our parents spent a few hours indulging in Apres' Ski beverages while we noshed on cookies and Shirly Temples, but I digress.

Wanting my own son to experience the mystery of skiing at night without the benefit of Alpine-area lighting, Yukon and I wholeheartedly endorsed the plan, stuffed Bear into his Carhartt overalls (yes, we ski in our Carhartts in Alaska, who cares what we look like?), headlamp, hat and mittens. The boys took off down the street and I was momentarily stopped for a second, watching my youngest navigate his skis and poles, remembering skiing adventures with my own dad.

Gone for about 30 minutes, I could tell they were coming back from the sound of "Angels We Have Heard On High" wafting from around the corner (Bear is practicing constantly for his debut as a sheep Christmas Eve). I opened the window and before I could even say "hello" a little voice shouted up to me.

"Mommy, we saw moose eyes at the park!!"

Now how can anyone compete with that? It's not every day one sees moose eyes and not the rest of the moose.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stop the Train, I Wanna Get Off!

Things just kind of turn out the way they are meant to turn out, don't ya think?
It's been a crazy week in my mind. Between working on an article for Portland Family magazine about single parenting and actually living as a single parent this week (Thank you, Lord, for my husband!), the Memory Train is moving at 90 miles an hour.

My piece for PDX Family is due in a week and a half, and deals with the assumptions, stereotypes, and otherwise interesting comments/questions from well-meaning but not always tactful people. I thought I had my single parenting years (all 9 of them) safely tucked away in the memory vault, planning to release them slowly over a bottle of wine someday with the right people.

What was I thinking?

I asked Wolf his impressions of our one-parent family years while on the phone with he and Therapist B. yesterday morning. Not surprising to B. nor I, Wolf harbors some resentment (I guess as any teenage boy would hold towards his mother) about the what-for's and why's of our situation back then. Those years were tumultuous, stressful, and probably not the way I would have planned to parent had I known better what I was doing. But I did the best I could with a child who demanded constant attention, if only from a subliminal place, without the support of a partner. At least for the early years.

Wolf sees his younger life as a blur, a collage of confusing people and events and places that all combine to make up "us". He does not claim to remember much about his childhood alone with me, and to be fair, there were a lot of moves, transitions, and otherwise difficult-to-understand concepts of which I am not particularly proud.

We were, and are, pretty inter-connected, Wolf and I. For better or worse, much of his inherent character traits were created by my parental design, and while we are a family in every sense of the word, the four of us, there still remains that piece of single-parenthood. I sense it every time Wolf gets angry at me, directly, when I recall past events from his early years, and when he questions about his birth father, my former husband.

So the memory train keeps shooting down the tracks, I keep writing and listening to single parents who, it seems, have "been there done that", and we all keep reminding ourselves that we were damn lucky to be where we are with people who put up with us and our baggage.

It's a wild ride, but I don't know if any of us would change it. Much.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yes, World, the Deep Freeze is Still Here

Perhaps I am beginning to forget from year to year about these cold snaps that suddenly grip us for weeks. At least, it feels like weeks.

I forget when this latest one began, so focused we are on hour-by-hour survival, Bear and I. It doesn't help that Yukon calls and says he's sweating down there in St. Louis. Perhaps now is not the time to tell him that his car is dead because I forgot to plug it in to stay warm while he is away.

This morning it was -15 at my house; the dog went out for only the briefest moment then came scrambling in, shivering from every visible body part and I'm sure the non-visible ones, too. The shades are down until the sun comes up, when I can't stand the darkness anymore. There is ice on the inside of my windows, but I feel like a recluse with shades down all day; I equate darn rooms with someone in the deepest throes of depression, and during the winter in Alaska there's enough of that already from many of my neighbors. So, up they go as soon as the sun crests the mountains; somewhere between 10:30-11:00 a.m. It gives me two or three hours of light and then begins its descent westerly around 3:30.

I have a meeting downtown this afternoon, and I am not looking forward to parking. I shall pray very hard to the Parking God that someone feels compelled to leave their space as I drive up. In an ironic twist, my meeting is to discuss an all-day sled ride/outdoor picnic in March during the Iditarod Re-Start. There will be no toasty warm car with heated seats on that day.

I'm going to go warm up my coffee now and put on some long underwear. I have to go get the newspaper off the porch, and the three steps from the front door to the newspaper box are three steps too far, on this morning.

Wonder if I can put schnapps in coffee before 10 a.m.?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

When Yukon's Away, We'll Play

Yukon is in St. Louis this week, spending time recruiting military physicians for the VA in Alaska, so Bear and I are trying to fill in "dad time".

Our usual activity on Sunday afternoons is hiking (or snowshoeing or skiing now that snow is here), and today was no exception. We are fortunate to have access to hundreds of miles of trails nearby, so we chose one of our favorites for our first frigid wintertime trek.

The AKontheGO post describes in detail our trail logistics, and if you really care about that, you can link here. For those who only want to know how people can go hiking in 9 degree temperatures, I am happy to accommodate.

Since the invention of "Little Hotties", those hand warmers available by the gross at Costco, we have made great strides in our outdoor longevity. Bear is now able to last much longer than previously, with warmers stuffed inside mittens, boots, and sometimes pockets, depending upon the temperature. Today we lasted an hour with only warmers in mittens, as we were moving at a brisk clip and the sun was shining.

Part of my new mission with AKontheGO is to talk up the concept of getting outside for some stretch of time every single day, and blog posts reflect our desire to help other families discover the value of getting outdoors together. As a child of the Northwest and the daughter of a forester, this was simple for our family, and it remains simple now. But there are many who do not, and for them I will work harder.

Bear is stretched out on the floor of my office right now, working on some legos as we wind down our afternoon. The sun has set and the temperatures are dropping steadily; down to 5 already. Guess winter has made up for lost time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: Taming Worries

I have received quite a few questions lately on the topic of anxiety and Asperger Syndrome. While I freely admit my child is not (and really, are any AS kids truly the same?) typical in many ways, I can say that anxiety has been a difficult issue to confront.

Anxiety is not a defining symptom of Asperger's; I believe it shows itself once kids have begun to experience the social difficulties that so common to the disorder. Until about 4th grade, Wolf did not really appear anxious about anything in particular; he had some buddies at school, and while he did tend to have trouble settling occasionally in the classroom, academically his grades and effort were very good.

During the latter half of fourth grade, and certainly in fifth and sixth, when the girls magically grew women's bodies and in some cases attitudes to match, and boys started in the obnoxiously sweet practice of kidding, pushing, and generally kibbutzing each other, we noticed a difference.

Unable to understand the cues of such behavior and/or appearances, Wolf grew frustrated as he desperately tried to fit in. He failed miserably and grew more withdrawn at home and thus more anxious about attending school. Teachers did not understand; choosing instead to label him (sometimes to his face) as trouble, and so on and so on, etc. etc. ad naseaum.

At this point, I think, depending upon a child's personality and character, parents might see one of two things happen. In our case Wolf drew further and further into himself, prefering to read, watch television, and otherwise immerse himself in the fantasy worlds of Lord of the Rings, Dragonslayer, and the like; shows and books that depicted a hero who bests all odds to kill the bad guy. Looking back, I am sure that is how he felt, too.

A different side of anxiety, and one that a close friend is experiencing with her son, is a definite fear of failure. Not just at school, for he is homeschooled by the most patient, encouraging mother I could ever imagine, but everywhere. Sometimes kids are so frozen with fear of screwing up that they choose nothing. And nothing, we all know, while devastating, is still not failing.

Asperger's is more than a disability. It is who these kids are, ingrained in the very fiber of their confused souls, and I can only imagine the longings they feel to be like everyone else, even though they may have no idea what that might be. When Wolf was able to join me on a few outings in May, I could see his anxiety increase as our day of activities lasted probably longer than he could manage comfortably. He tried, oh, how he tried, to follow the guidelines set by the therapists and staff, and I don't think I have ever seen him as tired as when I dropped him off that evening. Anxiety wears down bodies as well.

It is frustrating for a parent to try and confront anxiety; we either lose patience after explaining the steps necessary to deal with the feelings and situations, or we, too, shut down and just ignore it, hoping that no attention is the best attention. But they don't get it. I am thankful Wolf has not had the violent stomach pains, headaches, and nightmares that plagued his sleep before he left for CHYC.

It is a lifelong process to manage anxiety; one that I am not sure I fully understand nor appreciate. We tell Wolf that the best he can do is the best we will expect, and we'll go from there.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bring On the Marshmallow World

It's a bit like Christmas, isn't it, that first snowfall of the year?

We woke up to the distinct "scrape, scrape, bump" sound of our neighbor plowing his driveway, a sound that only means one thing. When we went to bed last night, excited about the first real snowstorm of the year, we had no idea that the predicted 1-3" of snow would actually become 5" at our home in east Anchorage.

Of course, the first snow of the winter also means working out the system by which we, and everybody else operates under for the duration. Who will shovel the driveway? (Me, because I like the workout) Where are the brooms, extra shovels (for someone who likes to help) and buckets of Ice-Melt? Who will pick up the dog poop?
A Monday morning snowfall was perhaps not the preferred way to start a week, but here it was and we were ultimately prepared to deal.

Yukon left very early to complete a projectbefore he leaves for St. Louis this weekend, and he was also excited to test the mettle of the new SUV as only a man can. Bear and I left a half-hour early for preschool; a good thing since many people either did not get the memo about winter driving or chose to ignore it. One would think that Alaskans would be used to this sort of thing, but still cars dotted ditches and curbs as frustrated drivers waited for APD to help them out of their predicament.

Bear made me promise not to go out in the snow until he came home, so after lunch we bundled up, collared the dog, and ran and slipped our way around the corner to our local park, a much nicer place to be in the wintertime (snow covers all the grafitti, a sad fact of Anchorage parks).

Now able to navigate his sled with ease, Bear sprawled upon the sled as we made a few laps around the park to solidify a Nordic trail base. We use this park as an easy skiing track for Bear and to further train Jasper to skijor, and need to get the track set before the next snowfall, predicted for this evening.

It was a wonderful afternoon; the snow glimmered and glinted as we frolicked near the creek, the sun was warm on our faces, and spirits were high with glee only the first snow of winter can provide.

Tonight is the night to enjoy Chinese food and 'A Christmas Story', my picks for winning the Bet. Bear wants to watch the movie with us, and as any good mother would, I defered to him to choose among a few pre-selected titles. Not surprisingly, he did not choose a chick flick, so we will instead laugh at Ralphie and Nadafinga one more time.

We are cozily settled in for the afternoon; a chunky birch log blazes in the woodstove, we have hot chocolate and cookies, and a lovely stillness has settled over the neighborhood.

There is something about this day that restores my faith in all that is good.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


This is pathetic. After a month of plotting, scheming, and discerning weather forecasts, this is it??

No one won the bet, as far as I am concerned, so we are beginnning again, an unheard of show of frustration shared by most of Anchorage. Folks here are talking about the lack of snow like farmers discuss a drought and lack of rainfall. I feel like I ought to be standing next to a pickup truck, cold beer in hand and dog in the front seat. "How much didja get at your place? This keeps up and we'll have frozen pipes and those democrats will blame it all on that Glo-bal warming everywhich where."

Yup, it sure is hard to live in Alaska right now, what with now-brown Mother Earth as a landscape which to view as we struggle to fathom this most uncomfortable season thus far. We don't know what to do with ourselves, and we're getting all out-of-sorts.

Our new dates for snow were discussed and settled last night at the dinner table: (and remember the rules; snow must cover the GRASS. Sorry Yukon, the street does not count)

Yukon: November 13 (he hopes a superstitious day will help things along)

Mom: November 10 (haha I have checked NOAA this morning)

Bear: 10 days (we had to help him with this; translates to Nov. 16)

Wolf: November 18

Put in your bets. If Bear wins everybody is invited over for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a premier showing of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves'. Oh goody.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: Making a Connection

Students at CHYC are allowed to call home a few nights a week, depending upon their status on the ladder of progress. They can always receive calls from family, but the privilege of picking up the phone and ringing home is reserved for those who have at least made the barest of effort to progress.

Wolf, like many kids (especially boys) with AS, does not see this as a particularly strong reason to achieve the weekly, and sometimes daily goals that have been set for him. Conversation-starting, and maintaining, is difficult at best and sheer torture for him at its worst.

One would think that calling home would be a positive reward, and for some kids it remains so, but Wolf has perameters placed upon his call structure so that he, and we, do not spend our fifteen minutes of precious contact with ur son learning who got in trouble for what, or why, or how. Kids with AS tend to obsess about things only interesting to them, and the rule-breaking antics of some of his peers is Wolf's achilles heel. Talking about something else is, shall we say, not his favorite way to spend time with us.

So in a strategically brilliant move, if I do say so myself, therapist B and I came up with a plan to teach Wolf to engage and impart some of the skills he is supposed to be learning. And he cannot do a thing about it. Hehehe.

I laugh because I do not know many teenage boys who really wish to talk to their parents at all, never mind the interference of a social disability. But our son is now required to call home three nights a week regardless of progress status, and must ask about us. How we are, what we are doing, the state of affairs in Anchorage. Just about anything.

Mundane? Yes. Pointless? Not at all. The life of a person with Asperger Syndrome is such that every skill we learn on instinct must be taught with a rote learning method similar to learning times tables or spelling words. Memorization, practice, and more practice.

I'll gladly take fifteen minutes of talk about the weather if it will help Wolf's future ability to talk about something other than his world. It's just nice to hear his voice.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Guess We Spoke Too Soon

One should, I have learned, not be too optomistic when it comes to the Swine Flu. A week post-flu has only brought a surge of other bugs that, the pediatrician explained to me, charge forth while someone's resistance is down due to the flu.

A cold had been lingering behind Bear's flu experience, not particularly bad as colds go, but certainly a nuisance to a busy little boy hoping to get back into his usual activities. I am doubly glad, now, that we forewent outdoor trick or treating last night in favor of a Halloween party at Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood, as I am sure the 17 degree weather would have made things worse.

As it was, Bear ate no candy yesterday and still had a stomach-ache by bedtime. Thinking it was the way he scarfed down a grilled cheese and fries with friends at our favorite Girdwood eatery, Yukon and I thought little of it. But around midnight (well, 11 p.m. after we set the clocks back) the desperate sound of "Mommy!" reached us in the living room. Yep, a big mess insued and thus another hour of cleaning, changing, and mopping up evidence of the newest bug to hit our child.

Fortunately an isolated incident, there was no more throw-us-uppus but Bear slept in until 10:30 a.m. and is still lounging in his bed, watching the portable DVD player (I throw away all pre-conceptions about this thing; I love it for sick kids) with a 101 temperature.

Since we all had a noticable lack of sleep last night, we skipped church (they were probably glad to not have us there spreading germs, anyway). Yukon has taken advantage of a Sunday at home to try and snag a new television at Costco and I am staying home making a big pot of soup and, once again, sanitizing the entire house, removing Halloween decorations, and drinking coffee.

Pending any further illnesses on the part of the family, I am sure we all will we be functional by Christmas.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall to Winter

It was a last chance yesterday, to explore the outdoors before winter's frozen breath left whiteness upon what was brown grasses and tree limbs before. We took a sunny afternoon, fresh with breezes and sharp smells of autumn, and turned it into both a shakedown for the upcoming frigid season and a freebie family day.

One of the things I love most about being a writer in Alaska is the sheer volume of opportunity presented to us. An invitation from the Eagle River Nature Center to visit with naturalists and peruse the 10 miles of trail nestled within Chugach State Park seemed the perfect way to spend a Friday afternoon and Yukon was able to join us, so we set off, mittens and hats packed, for the 40 minute drive northeast.

While the rest of the greater Anchorage area was awash in a dusty windstorm sweeping down from the north, the Center seemed immune to the biting breezes and therefore we were spared a bitter windchill. Bear enjoyed looking at the interpretive displays while I chatted with staff and thoroughly entertained the winter caretaking couple from Florida with his stories of adventure.

A short hike to a beaver pond afforded gorgeous views of the lodge, surrounding lake and incredible mountains, and made us once again darn glad we live where we do.

This grandeur was, of course, noticably affected by our son's whining about cold feet, 'frozen' hands (we are entering a delightful phase of natural consequences; he refused to wear his mittens) and a hungry stomach. After taking a few final steps down the original Iditarod trail that leads some 26 miles across Crow Pass towards Girdwood, we turned back to snack on our pretzels and hot russian tea (a favorite drink from my youth made with instant iced tea, Tang, lemonade, and cinnamon, allspice, and cloves).

Not too bad for an inagural hike during the season of change. Bear actually fell asleep in the car on the way home, something that doesn't happen too often anymore. We consider this a successful trip in that regard.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dracula's Birthday Party

We are so fortunate to have delivered a child near a holiday. The benefits are endless; candy, costumes, endless supply of game ideas, funky decorations. Halloween, I am sure, is the perfect season to apply the birthday party concept seasoned with a dash of extra fall fun.

Bear turned five last week and hosted his Halloween/Pumpkin/Birthday party on Saturday. I am a traditionalist; I believe in birthday parties that require participation and imagination on everyone's part, and this year was no exception. With a little help from Yukon, the day was a success.

Dracula is Bear's costume of choice this year, so far too early in the day he was decked out in his brother's cape and wearing his "scary teeth" (that glow in the dark, too), waiting for his guests to arrive. Not unlike his mother, he worried and fretted as the clock drew closer to party time, hoping that no one forgot, or got sick (a more likely issue this year), or just didn't want to come.

Fortunately none of these happened, and seven preschoolers had a blast playing 'Pass the Pumpkin', 'Pin the Nose on the Jack-O-Lantern', and listening to Yukon read a story about a scarecrow. A Ghost-Robot cake (all I had was black licorice to decorate that ghost, so it looked kind of mechanical, hence the name), some great goodies for all, and the day ended successfully.

Our friends had gone to Hawaii the week before and brought Bear a few gifts, too. As you can see he has a great future in the Islands. I can't get the shirt or necklace off the child.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: My Head Makes My Leg Hurt

All this flu and coughing, sneezing, and general misery, plus a very funny email from one of my oldest friends reminds me that these children with Asperger Sydrome treat ills and spills a bit different from the rest of us.

My friend D., who never any sort of complainer about illness or injury has, like me, a son whose AS prevents him from adequately describing injury or sickness.

Here is how a conversation might go with a child with AS and being sick:

Mom: "Gee, you don't look good (first mistake). Are you sick?"

Child: "Yeah." (Cough, hack, clutch chest, grab kneecap)

Mom: "Where do you feel sick?"

Child: "I don't know."

Mom: "You are sniffling, is it your nose? Your throat? Your cough?"

Child: "Yeah. And my leg hurts." HUH?!

No fever, nothing beyond a mild case of the sniffles, and one would think TB had come to town. Unable to describe his symptoms to anyone, much less a doctor who was not familiar with Asperger's, our sick days were more out of caution than necessity. I learned pretty quickly how to rule out some illnesses while ruling in others, relying on my mother-instincts rather than his roundabout descriptions of how he felt. The pediatrician's nurse and I became fast friends, as with the pharmacist at Costco.

Apparently, most of the boys in Wolf's unit have this issue as well. Thank goodness for their RN, E., who seems to have an uncanny knack for discerning vague symptoms, assigning a name, and applying the appropriate remedy. Perhaps it is his gender; a male nurse, he sees things very clinically and the guys respect his knowledge, especially when he throws out a scientific name. Rhinitis sounds much better than just a cold. Wolf eats it up.

Wolf did have a nasty cold last week and seems to be well on the road to recovery. We have been impressed with his fortitude to get over the bug and now he's back to his usual schedule.

If only I could get his little brother to stop whining for popcicles, now, we'd be all set.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It's Coming....I'm Sure

I'm sure snow is not far off...Yukon has set himself upon finding and installing the Christmas lights.

We woke up this morning to find little scatterings of sleet on the deck and cars and needed gloves and warm coats to get to church. A raw wind was blowing from the southeast and we could see the snow clouds dropping lower and lower over the Chugach foothills.

Wanting to get out for a little exercise and fresh air to keep further sickness at bay (so far only Bear has succumbed to H1N1), we went hiking at nearby Baxter Bog with our trusty canine. One of our favorite neighborhood parks, Baxter Bog makes us seem like we are in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness; its location is in a lovely valley that keeps all manner of traffic noise silent, and the mountains rise up over the tops of the birch trees, a truly lovely location. We can fool ourselves into thinking we are much further out than we really are and we love that.

Anyway, back to the Christmas lights. In Alaska, as with much of the snowier areas of the U.S., ice build-up on the houses and deck railings can severely curtail any exterior lighting projects closer to the holiday season, so we do it before the snow falls. Of course, he may get only as far as untangling the knot that mysteriously appears every year.

We'll see how far he gets.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Baby, We'll Miss You...

This is it. Chapter 18, page 281 of the Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book, published in 1965: "At five years of age, it is generally considered appropriate to mark the end of the baby period."

This book and I have been friends for almost 16 years. Dug out of the innards of a thrift store's bookshelves, the retro-parenting manual has led me out of the depths of parenting despair more than once, and not just by its sage advice.

As a twenty-something, newly pregnant wife struggling to make a traditional family out of a disjointed marriage, this book provided refuge to a quieter mode of life that I could, however delusional, imagine myself within. A favorite of over 2,500,000 mothers wouldn't steer me wrong, would it? Especially during the June Cleaver era.

Nearly ten years later, pregnant again with a sense of joyous anticipation I had not felt the first time, the Baby Book and I became reacquainted, this time to laugh at the sketches of cloth diapers, bath tables, and 1960's maternity wear.

While much (okay, most) of the child-rearing practices would be considered archaic today, I still kept my copy, even passing it along to others so that they, too, could enjoy its delightful and amusing, prose, especially over a glass of merlot.

But I don't have any use for it anymore, because I don't have a baby. I have a little boy and a big boy and a house filled with Legos and toy cars and lightsabers. No more baby blankets, footed jammies, or sippy cups. We've gotten rid of the board books, outlet covers, and even the toddler car seat.

But I won't give away my Baby Book. Our relationship is too close and too intimate to allow somebody else to caress its worn cover and turn the now musty-smelling pages. I'd feel disloyal, as if I were throwing away a partner.

I wonder if the other 2,499,000 other mothers felt the same way?

Happy Birthday, little, er, big Bear.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day Three of Fever Relievers

Bear continues to heat things up around here with the telltale fever symptom of a dreaded flu. He has graduated from hanging out in his bed to lounging on the living room couch, resting his aching head upon the 'sick pillow'. So named by Wolf, this brightly adorned pillowcase was made by an elderly neighbor in Port Angeles many years ago and has comforted sick kids many times. Bear feels much better knowing his big brother and he both benefitted from the pillow's ministrations.

So far Yukon and I are holding our own healthwise, but during our early morning call with Wolf we discovered he, too, was sick. Fortunately though, CHYC has the Swine Flu swab test kit and so they promptly tested him (negative so far, thank goodness).

With two kids down, no matter how far apart geographically they might be, Mom's caregiver radar goes up. We're checking in, soothing, and generally trying to make everybody feel better.

Bear's big worry is that he will miss his birthday parties; one at preschool on Friday and the big bash here on Saturday. It is, in fact, dominating his every thought and we are hard pressed to assure him that the party will go on, even if it is later.

Wolf, on the other hand, seemed worried that he would be placed on an all-liquid diet that would make him lose weight. I assured this child as well, reminding that he only got that diet if he was puking.

Carrying on!