Friday, January 30, 2009

The World Knows About Us

Finally, the world knows that we are about to explode. Only a week or so late, but whatever.

My email inbox was flooded with forwarded links to everything from to nerdy scientific Web sites that I could not for the life of me understand.

But, the latest volcano verse: Redoubt is now blowing smoke (well steam, but doesn't smoke sound more appropriate?). The current level of alertness (Alaska Volcano Observatory's words) is still Orange. But, and this is a bit different, the Observatory folks are now saying that it is a mere matter of time. Okkkkaaaayyyy, so, when??

This is kind of like waiting for a baby.

Current ashfall predictions have moved the fall away from Anchorage, but, it all depends upon how high the explosion is to determine its trajectory, speed, etc.

It has been snowing hard all day, and I can only imagine the cement-like mixture that could result from a blizzard/ashfall at one time. Oy, better get out the extra strong shovels...

We, too, remain at some level of alertness. I am sure to your relief.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Orange Alert Readiness

Yukon sent the VA's Natural Disaster Readiness Standards via email this afternoon.
Apparently Mt. Redoubt is leaving no doubt about some sort of "volcanic event", whatever that means.

I took particular note of the "Prior to Eruption" standard that demanded that individuals "not go near volcanic eruption areas". Check and Roger on that.

We were also given instructions to fill containers with water. I am all out of plastic containers so I am using beer growlers (Fresh Beer/Fresh Water, it's all the same). I can all but guarantee that we have enough liquid to last more than the recommended three days...

Individuals and families were further commanded to use respirators and goggles during any ash fall to prevent any and all particles from coming in contact with the face. Bear did a fine job of modeling the procedure, should you be curious.

We are staying tuned to our NOAA Weather Radio for more updates, which we shall pass along if they are interesting enough.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where Do I Go When the Volcano Blow?

I wonder how many people can say they have witnessed two volcanic eruptions in their lifetime?

Mt. Redoubt, 100 miles SW of Anchorage, appears to be gearing up for something. Just what, we are not sure, but the fact that earthquakes are rumbling beneath us and out in the Cook Inlet give a pretty strong indication.

I was in 6th grade when Mt. St. Helens erupted, and I still remember the ash piling up along the roadways in Eastern Washington. Darkness in the middle of the day.
We are all hoping that no respirators, plastic bags, and headlamps will be needed here.

We had a 5.7 earthquake last Saturday morning that swayed the lamps for quite some time. Yesterday the Alaska Volcano Observatory has posted an "Orange" watch for Mt. Redoubt, which means geologists will be staffed in their offices 24/7 until something happens. Or, more hopefully, doesn't.

Guess we just wait and see now. Should be interesting.
The photo above is from our flight home from Dillingham in 2007. Redoubt in all her glory.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den

Wolf has called us for three consecutive nights now. After a long dry spell of positive communication it is nice to have the "Unknown Number" come up on the caller ID.

He received a wonderful birthday gift from our neighbors, an Origami calendar that has a "shape a day" on 5x5 pieces of paper. For our tactile son, this has been fun, and a great coping skill besides. When anxious, Wolf tends to be unsure of what to do, and something soothing and intense like Origami seems to provide a mechanism for calming down and focusing on something other than his anxiety. Nice Work, Neighbors!

There have been lots of "I miss you's" in our phone calls as well. It has been a long time since Wolf has seen anyone from his family, and I am sure he is feeling a little lost.

While we were chatting the other night, the CD player held a collection of Disney movie tunes. Wolf has always had a propensity for movie tunes, and one in particular. Yukon knew this, went to the five-CD collection and dug it out.

For three minutes, thirty seconds, Wolf had his song, and, perhaps, a lifeline.

The song?

From Mulan. "I'll Make a Man Out of You".

Saturday, January 24, 2009

All Hail the Head

I am fighting the urge to bow down and revere my bathroom.

After months of demolition, renovation, and last-minute decision making, my bathrooms are done. In conversation with a friend of mine the other day, she said, upon learning that the project is finally completed, "Isn't it funny how excited a new bathroom makes us?"

Why yes, and I'll tell you why. After three years of sitting on toilets that either sway backwards or sideways, after watching water disappear underneath the tub when Bear splashed a little too hard, and after one-too many glances into the Hollywood-1970's style mirror/light combo, I now am up to par with the 21st century restroom.

I also am thrilled not to be staring at stains around the toilet from you-know-whos. My new floor hides things very nicely, thank you very much.

I continually walk by the door to the hallway bathroom and stop in vain amazement at our good fortune.

I'm not ready, however, for anyone to actually use the facility, lest it get dirty before I am done stargazing. They can go downstairs to the other 1970's potty.

As the mother and cleaner, I am sure I am entitled to this for at least a few more days.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: "It's Complicated"

If there were one phrase I could use to describe our family's journey since Wolf left us last spring, this would be it.

There has been little information I have wished to pass along these past few weeks, in part due to a recent trip to Portland, during which time Yukon stepped in to fulfill the role during two family therapy sessions. I will be honest, however, that I quite simply needed a break from Wolf and that which surrounds him.

While very well-orchestrated on my part in a credible attempt to make Christmas as positive as possible for all of us, December was nonetheless a bit stressful. A cancelled trip to Utah, explanations to family members and friends, the actual holiday itself, guests, blah, blah. Pretending "perfect" doesn't work. Anybody caring for someone can probably relate to my sentiments. Trying to keep up with expectations, I have discovered, is pointless.

Now that I am back and trying to catch myself up with my son's world, questions seem to prevail; inquiries that seem to have no answer as we ponder the present and the future for a young man whose childhood is nearing its peak with the real work of adulthood staring him square in the eye on the other side.

I met with a very wise person today who very succinctly reminded me, however, that no journey need ever be taken alone. Not his, not mine. That single step sure is a big one, though.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It Used to be Winter Around Here

Somewhere in Alaska it is winter. Obviously not here in Anchorage, where daytime temperatures have hovered near 48, and the nightly "freeze" puts us somewhere in the 20's. Feels more like spring, except that it is darker than the depths of hell without snow.

With today a holiday for Yukon, we decided to get outdoors, rain or not, and hike a local trail popular with skiers and mountain bikers during the winter months. Only a scattering of snow was left on the actual trail tread, and icy puddles took careful navigating in some spots.

However, the weather did provide some bonus features; lots of sticks for Bear to pick up and use as guns, easy walking for the most part, even a moose sighting. Moose are very happy now, as they too have a bonus of good browse a few months early.

We also did our part per Barack Obama's "Day of Service" request. Armed with a trash bag, we picked up wrappers, old water bottles, and even a lost dog bootie along the trail.

Bear was sent to bed at 7 p.m. for giving us lip regarding pickiness over what we were having for dinner. No argument ensued, so I am assuming he was appropriately exhausted from our fun day. I love the outdoors, for so many reasons...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Got Some Time? Go Fishin'

It seems that there are few times of the year when true fishermen/women say that there isn't time to go fishing. We sure saw them today.

The Eagle River Lions Club sponsored a Kids Fishing Derby at Mirror Lake, about 20 miles east of Anchorage. Our friends invited us to accompany them on this venture, as none of us had really done too much ice fishing and were curious to test out both the sport and our children's ability to stay still over an icy hole for longer than 30 seconds.

We weren't at all sure the event was even going to happen with the recent increase in temperatures and loss of all of our snow. But apparently ice doesn't melt as fast as snow, so off we went. It was a good thing we took the Ford Explorer, as there was not one sedan, wagon, or otherwise fuel efficient vehicle to be found. This was obviously not the time to show up in your Volkswagen Jetta with the "Love Your Mother Earth" bumper sticker, if you get my drift.

Ice fishing poles are tiny little things (a bonus in my book), and little skill is required beyond not falling in the hole. The kids had fun at first peering down the watery depths. This lasted oh, say, a minute. Then Bear and his friend found it much more enjoyable to crack the thin layer of ice that had formed on the lake over the previously melted parts. In the end, no one caught any fish, but everyone had some laughs.

A worthwhile day, good friends, and cute kids.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Deja Vu: Storm #2

We here in Alaska are scratching our heads in confusion. Only one week ago we were shivering and covering up every exposed part of our bodies. Cars were not starting, house fires were keeping the Fire Department busy, and kids were going a little nuts staying indoors.

Now, in the span of 48 hours we have gone from 35 below to almost 50 degrees. It started the night Bear and I flew back from Portland (Yes, this has been duly noted that blame may rest on us). By the time Wednesday rolled around, things had melted to the point where travel became impossible for the layer of ice on every surface. For only the second time since we moved here in 2005, school was cancelled. Then came last night.

We could hear the roar before the wind actually arrived, sounding like a whole flock of jet planes were headed our way for some apocolyptic attack. Around Midnight a gust of wind hit the side of the house with a bang, waking up Bear and causing a bit of disruption. Fortunately Yukon and I had taken everything that was not nailed down and placed it either in the garage or backyard shed, so at least this time we didn't have to do any rescues at 90 mph. All but the debris from the second bathroom renovation, which was too heavy to move. It fortunately stayed put, and for that I am glad, because I am not sure the neighborhood would have appreciated a sink and toilet rolling down the street.

Just like the storm in October, the eaves rocked and shuddered, the windows bowed in, and the trees bent over themselves. And things melted. Boy, did they ever! I checked out the window downstairs (where I was hiding out with Bear trying to get him back to sleep) and saw sheets of water flying in the wind from the gutters.

No school again today; the wind still hasn't really quit, it just stops and starts. All the snow is gone from the streets and is rapidly decreasing in the yard. It is, in short, one big mess.

We are, however, going to brave the weather to get to Taekwondo. I have been indoors long enough.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Bought A Red Coat

Those who know me will understand the significance of this moment. Not only did I buy a red coat yesterday, but I bought a red coat from Nordstrom in downtown Portland. I dressed up, put makeup on (only to have the consultant from Bobbi Brown take it all off and reapply it) and went shopping with my sister. And, this is even more incredible; I enjoyed it.

But back to the red coat. Wintertime in Alaska, as I am sure I have mentioned only a thousand times, is long, dark, and, after the holidays, a bit dreary. Shopping yesterday, breathing in the scent of new clothes, perfume, and money, I was convinced I needed something to take back to Alaska that would continue my "high" of Portland. Besides, I was shopping without my child, and that, as any mother knows, is reason enough to buy something for herself...

I like my coat. It is berry red, wool, longish trendy outerwear that will serve me well through at least May. Yukon surely can't complain over garment longevity.

I will, however, refrain from mentioning the cost of my makeover supplies at the Bobbi Brown counter.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Babysitting, or, How I Learned to Grow Extra Arms

In the span of three hours, I grew two extra arms. Of course I did, because there was one more child in my care. Every mother knows that appendages grow exponentially with each new child. In my case, the situation was only temporary, but provided a reality check of how mamas manage to do it all.

My sister and her husband had their first evening out since the birth of their little boy mid-November. A Blazer's game was scheduled, and since they live quite near the Coliseum, they went for it and left Auntie in charge.

Little T seems to be phasing out of his colicky stage; life is gettng easier, and since he takes a bottle, all should have been well. And it was, for the most part. The difficulty arose when 4 year-old Bear, discovering my distraction of taking care of a baby, pulled every attention-grabbing trick in the proverbial book.

He ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches yesterday, bugged the dog, crawled all over the top of me, and generally was a help and nusiance.

Lest you think I was angry at Bear, rest assured I had anticipated this sort of behavior, and found the above box for his playing pleasure. It has been a Jedi castle, a hiding place, and convenient storage location for a certain blue blanket.

I managed to make said PB&J, unload the dishwasher, go to the bathroom, and get Bear into his pajamas. Not to mention burp and feed a baby who decided he DID NOT want that bottle.

Those Arms came in so handy...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Day on Tillamook Street

We continue our enjoyable week with my sister and her little baby; Bear has found out where the diapers are kept and how to get the wipes from the warmer. Such a helper. He also has decided that the baby needs to have Bear's blanket, puppy, and a few well-directed pats on the head to stay calm. Would that this were true.

I had forgotten the exhaustion new parents feel with a colicky baby, especially if it is the first one. Whew. But today was a better day and everybody is rested, fed, and headed to sleep hopefully soon. We had some lessons in making and freezing on-the-go meals, took a nice walk to Trader Joe's and the Library, and drank some good wine. The adults, that is.

My sister was kind enough to allow me the luxury of an afternoon run. With the sun finally peeking through the dark clouds, I was able to run through the neighborhood of Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby and Ellen Tibbets. Remember them?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Portland Party Time

Bear and I are enjoying our trip to P-Town; he keeps thinking it is summer though with all the green grass.

I would like to say that the flight down was delightful, but the weather as we neared Seattle was as brutal as I have ever seen it.
Lurching, diving, and flying one way then the next, we finally landed in Seattle and had a break before we got on the shuttle to Portland. The weather was not much better on that leg, but there was free beer, and lots of it, because there were only 12 people on the whole flight.

We are going out tonight to my favorite neighborhood pub; a day with a preschooler, pouring rain and wind means we need a cozy little evening out. To a place with a kid area...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

We Keep Shivering

Argh. Still cold; really cold. Last night's low for Anchorage was somewhere in the
-35 range. I don't think it has been this cold since we moved here almost exactly three years ago. Thank goodness, as I am not sure if I would have adapted as well.
Interior Alaska (Fairbanks, Tok, Delta Junction, and around Denali National Park) are truly suffering; -50+ at night with a daytime high of only -25 or so.

Theoretically, any exposed skin freezes quickly, first burning, then becoming numb. Not so good if you are trying to talk with a numb chin (try to say 'numb chin' anyhow, huh?)

Jasper and I nonetheless went for a quick jog around the neighborhood today while the sun was still out and while I still had my courage. I dressed in about ten layers, added a balaclava and sunglasses (which promptly fogged up), outfitted the dog and away we went. The photo above clarifies just how cold it really is; after 25 minutes Jasper's nose had frost, and my balaclava was frozen to my face. Jasper had to get warm after that..

Bear and I are going down to Portland on Tuesday to visit with my sister and husband, and their new baby. I never thought I would be glad to get out of the snow and into the rain; you heard it here first.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Cold Means Creativity

We are in day seven of the Cold Snap; still cold, still sunny, still crazy. Yukon took leave for today in addition to his New Year's Day of respite, so I am grateful for his entertainment value.

He and Bear are currently engaged in a fierce battle of army men and plastic dinosaurs amidst the remnants of Wolf's Lincoln Logs. Remember those? Bear is just becoming skilled enough to put together simple structures, as well as some cannons out of the little pieces.

The battle-scenario evolved out of another issue that arises out of a cold spell; movies. For some reason, Star Wars I; A New Hope has given Bear hope that he will someday wake up and become a Jedi Knight. His favorite toy right now is my old curling iron that is his "lightsaver"; winging it up and down in a most impressive display of Jedi-like martial arts moves, Bear displays skills worthy of Anakin. At least he thinks so.

We braved the weather yesterday for a brief spell outdoors with the dog. You can see by Bear's cheeks and eyelashes, it was a bit frigid, but we all lasted about an hour. Not too bad for 15 below zero.

Tonight, however, might be a different story; temperatures are expected to drop to 35 below.