Saturday, February 28, 2009

We're Doing the Rondy

it's official; the family is truly Alaskan. Like Seattlites who will participate in local events in the pouring rain, claiming all one needs to enjoy the day is good raingear, folks in Alaska would likely say similar for celebrating Fur Rendezvous in the middle of winter.

Our day at the 74th annual Fur Rondy celebration began way too early with our departure for the Frostbite Footrace. At a distance of 2.5k or 5k, the Frosty is a testament to the hardiness of Alaskan runners who, despite a snowstorm pounding in their faces, trotted dilligently around downtown towards the Glacier Brewhouse, where a roaring fire and many pints of beer were waiting.

As costumes were encouraged, Bear dressed up in his Christmas play skunk get-up, and won many judges over with his cute mug. He managed once again to run the entire distance with us, and did a brief breakaway at the end to cross the finish line by himself and collect his "I did it!" medal, of which he is justifiably proud.

We joined some friends at the Brewhouse post-race for lunch and to view the Grand Parade passing by outside.

Right now the youngest runner is crashed on the couch. I am preparing to head outdoors yet again for a preview sleigh ride for some AKontheGO research. Somebody's gotta do it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Update from the Wolf Den: Grace, Interrupted

There seems to be a lot of grace floating around in the cyber-blog world this week.

So where is mine? I wrote in that '25 Random Things About Me' Facebook note a while ago that I spend a portion of every day trying to figure out the meaning of the word 'Grace'. I have known a number of people named 'Grace', I have heard the term mentioned in the context of God and love and doing the right thing.

I had to look it up. Bear with me as I list what I found out.

"Kindness that we don't deserve"
"..for everyone, it is universal..."
" relational, a reflection of God's character"
"Grace is self-giving, unconditional, liberating love"

Oh boy. So if I am to live my life as the parent of a child with Asperger Syndrome, who always will face adversity, difficulty, and obscurity; if I am to provide support, clean laundry, and gift cards to Barnes and Noble, I must have grace.

I must give away the utter despair, anguish, and anger that has crippled us as a family and walk towards the open gate of healing and wholeness and transformation that ultimately will allow us to transition from "us against him" to "we're all in this together".

A lot to think about, a lot to work on.

Tough love.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Taaa Daaa: The Grand Launching of AKontheGO!

Welcome my fellow bloggers, lurkers, family and friends, to the unveiling of my newest writing adventure,!

After three years of living in and writing about our current state of residence, and answering questions about such, I decided to give in to the urging of my editor at Coast Magazine here in Anchorage (kudos to you, Justin, for such a grand design) and fill a needed gap.

People love visiting Alaska. Families love visiting Alaska. Kids love Alaska because we are wild, different, and have big animals to brag to their friends about back home. It can be difficult, however, to arrange the trip of a lifetime when weather, attractions, transportation, and even those animals don't exactly cooperate like at Disney World. We're a motley bunch, we Alaskans, and our vacation planning shows it. But by God, we love to show off our state.

In the interest of family vacation-harmony, do hit the
link here or at the right, now at the top of my Blog List, and check out all there is to do in the 49th state. Summer's coming, and I'm already dancing with glee at the fun we're going to have. Fishing, hiking, some gold panning, horseback riding, clamming, (so much to do, such a short season)......and some groovy pictures that will make you want to book your ticket today, the heck with economic crises.
Travel, baby, travel! Oh wait, someone else already coined something similar. No matter, we'll show you her, too.

A huge 'thank you' to those who have encouraged, pushed, and put up with my travel obsessions and deadlines. I will put you on the 'A' List for the local bear viewing. The repellant is complimentary.

What are you waiting for; get linking, and tell your friends to visit, too.

Travel on!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Sunlight, warm temperatures, and no agenda.

It has been a long time since I could say that my criteria for an exceptional day in Alaska was met.

With daylight hours extending until well past 6 p.m. and sunrises peeking over the Chugach range shortly after 8 a.m., our family is well on its way to pre-spring bliss.

Weather forcasts called for sunshine and temperatures in the high 20's to low 30's, enough of a reason for Yukon and I to pack up kid and kaboodle (dog, harness, leashes, water, etc.) and truck a few miles south and east to a lovely section of BLM land. Our mission was actually threefold; one, get the child with a cold out of the house for some fresh air; two, work the dog on his skijoring practice, at which he did very well, (pat self on back); and three, investigate appropriate sites for our upcoming "Idita-Party" on March 7th when Yukon's sister and brother-in-law will be visiting from Portland for the legendary Iditarod Sled Dog race.

All accomplished, plus bonus ski time for Bear. It was a delightful day, full of warm fingers and feelings and a release from the events of the past week. A day that was meant for sitting in the warmth of the sun enjoying life.

With a cold beer, of course.

Dang, but I love it here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: Debriefing

After four days of intense meetings that led to a therapist change and a new sense of Mission from all staff involved in Wolf's treatment, I am home. I attended the monthly care plan conference that reviews all treatment, education, progress or lack thereof. It was the first time I had been on the opposite side of one such meeting, having been the "reviewer" instead of the "reviewee". Another interesting aspect our journey with Wolf; this whole "I get it now" concept after 15 years in long-term-care.

I went directly from my last meeting with the very kind and extremely smart Director of Clinical Care, who orchestrated the new therapist switch and a new plan to get Wolf on the right track to going home, to the airport. Wolf was almost glad to be done, I think, although he was sad about my leaving for another few months. We worked hard; feelings were our main theme, and there was no escape from talking about and reminiscing on those six feelings that are a part of our every waking moment.

When asked how the visit went, I can honestly say that it was pretty darned good. "Two thumbs up" in my boys' terminology. I approached this visit differently, seeing Wolf through a new set of eyes, and although I heard some difficult things and witnessed some unsettling behavior, there is the underlying concept that this child is where he needs to be, doing what he needs to do.

As a parent looking into the inner workings of a school with outside views, I cannnot express enough once more my thanks and utter trust in their mission to help my son. I breathed Thank God's more than once on this trip.

Between the Team of Us, we'll give him every chance with every tool at our disposal. Of this I have no doubt.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: On Site

Day two found Wolf and I exploring the intricate nature of clothing. Or, growing out of clothing, to be specific.

After almost seven months, a few extra inches of ankle is now visible, much to his adolescent embarrassment. This afternoon I spent some time in his room, emptying out the drawers of his dresser. Actually, nothing fit, from the inside out, if you know what I mean. Bad mom. I accumulated quite a pile, and the photo above is but half of it. The rest I donated back to CHYC for kids who don't have the resources to buy clothes.

Old Navy provided me with a sale and some "cool" clothes that won't cause any further humiliation. Wolf was quite pleased with his new swim trunks.

We spent a quiet evening together reading the funny papers, sharing school lasagna, and watching the latest Indiana Jones movie. The photo here shows Wolf enjoying a grapefruit while perusing the comics. He loves grapefruit; I was glad to be able to bring him one from our Farm Share box at home.

Tomorrow is a day of care planning meetings, goal-setting, and re-evaluating progress. Probably the heaviest of all days.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den; On Site

Suffice it to say, Wolf was shocked to walk into the therapist's office and see me.

Physically, he looks fantastic. A bit taller, close to 5'10" now. It was nice to see him paying attention to himself; kudos to staff for making him stick to it.

On the not-so-good side, he has not earned a trip outside the grounds due to continued inappropriate behavior. Bummer for him, as the Director and I are going to make this trip less about Mom bearing gifts and more about "what could have been". Tough, but necessary.

I did some preliminary shopping for t-shirts, socks, and new sweatpants; found some writing paper and note cards. Wolf and I spent some quality time together writing letters to family and friends. No marathon Scrabble games for this guy; we'll be working...

The weather in Salt Lake was gorgeous today; sunny and warmish at about 42 degrees.

I'm settled in for the night; catching up on writing assignments and posting photos. Oh, and eating my favorite Chinese food.

Tomorrow I have to go through Wolf's clothing to see what else I have to buy him. It'll be an early on though, the red-eye is catching up with me.

So far, so good. One day at a time...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Balentine's Day"

We were blessed with warm temperatures and sunny skies today as we headed off to Campbell Creek Science Center for our Valentine's Day outing. Dog, kid, husband, lots of snow and no mittens needed. All good.

Check out the photo of Bear, with a bear. He was fascinated by the pelt stretched across the center's picnic table, and kept sticking his hand inside the gaping mouth.

Yesterday he helped me make some cookies for Yukon. Three was his limit because, he said, "I don't really want any more Balentine's day cookies, I want the frosting."
Of course he did.

Preschool had a party, too, for which we made chocolate cupcakes (so much baking in such a short time). Bear wanted to have hearts on top, but we had to stick them on with the writing face down, as the verbage might not have been appropriate for 4 year-olds. "Big Daddy", "Marry Me", and my favorite, "Recipe 4 Love", hmm, perhaps not so much...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To the Wolf Den: The Triple-Think Threat

This week is moving at light speed when I would rather it moved at dead slow. A big deadline, two blog posts, a book review, and the usual washing, packing, cooking to do before I leave Saturday night is threatening to consume me.

And then there are the "Triple-Thinks".

Coined for me by my advisor, mentor, friend, and pastor (who is admittedly formerly guilty of the same), the Triple-Think describes my method of problem-solving. Only it doesn't really solve anything, and usually succeeds only in distracting me.

I have spent most of my adult life, and all of Wolf's, needing to create not only a "Plan A" for every situation or occasion, but also a "Plan B", and sometimes a "Plan C" as well. Why? Oh geez, where do I start? I never knew if the situation was going to be too noisy, confusing, or chaotic that might cause Wolf to flitter off in his own direction and cause an argument, or worse. I had to have a backup or two in case we parents could not keep an eye on both children and someone needed to go home for not acting appropriate to the environment. Usually our outings included two cars just for this reason.

With only three full days in which to accomplish the many items on my mental agenda, I started weeks ago with my triple thinking and subsequent rationalizing.

"What if his face is still broken out? Do I see first the nurse, or the staff?" "Do his jeans fit? How can I get into his room to go through his clothes when no one is allowed back there?" "What do I do if he loses it in JC Penney, or a restaurant, for that matter?"

You can see where this is going. I should have been a strategist for the military.

I am going to take this trip as a lesson in what my friend calls "doing the dishes".
One really cannot do too many other things when cleaning dishes. I will take the lesson from this and be in the moment, the very instant at hand, and go from there.

If it is good, I'll take it. If not so good, I'll take that, too, toss it somewhwere and wait for the next minute. Sometimes that is the best way to get through the day.

I think I've said "do the dishes" to myself at least ten times today. Kind of catchy, isn't it?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den

I am spending this week readying myself for an unannounced trip down to Utah; it's been six months since I last saw Wolf.

There are a lot of reasons to visit now, but most of them center around the need for a child to see his mother and vice versa. I don't know if I would have been able to be away from my family for almost a year; Wolf is nothing if not brave.

During this trip, too, there are some questions that need to be asked and options that need to be discussed. Serious, thoughtful discussions that will determine where we are today and where we need to go tomorrow. It's sobering and yet hopeful at the same time.

The piles of books, cards, etc. to take down keeps growing, in spite of my best efforts to keep "stuff" to a minimum. There is the possibility that staff will allow Wolf to accompany me out of the facility for a few hours for some fun time. My guess is that a trip to the book store, the movies, and the hotel swimming pool will be on the agenda. Perhaps a burger at Sonic too, while we're at it.

I will be posting from Utah, and hopefully taking more photos, so keep checking in to see the latest...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

To Be Outside Today...

This is one of those days when we look at each other and confirm our desire to stay here, at least for a while.

After a blizzard the other night that only produced 3 or 4 inches of powdery snow, the sun is blinding in its intensity and commitment to stay up beyond 5 p.m.

Its warmth is palpable, even after a below zero start to the day. We are noticing that once the sun is up, now around 9 a.m., the earth warms up much quicker than previously. Yukon and Bear bundled up with Brown Dog to take a little hike this morning across the creek to the Fort Richardson boundary line. The little person actually lasted a half-hour before wanting to come home and slide down our homemade "sledding hill". The dog did not need to stop every few feet and lick the ice crystals from between his pads. Yukon did not freeze his bald head.

It was a good day.

It would have been even better if I had been able to participate.
I have a big deadline, given to me yesterday and due Tuesday. The worst of it is that it is a resource guide for the Alpine Ski Championships this March.

Never try to write about something so delicious as skiing when there is fresh powder and sunshine beckoning...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: Such a Strange Dance

I feel like Yukon, Wolf and I are engaged in some strange, three-sided folk dance. We have the caller to tell us what to do, where to go, and when to go there. Two of us understand the rules of the dance and proceed to the next step, while one of us breaks the chain of hands and goes off in their own direction, thus messing with the whole thing. Darn them. Everybody knows you can't do a folk dance when someone doesn't play by the rules. I figured that out in fifth grade when we had to learn to square dance. "Allemand Left" doesn't mean "Do-Si-Do".

Wolf appears to be doing everything he can to make this dance one of the most complicated I have attempted in my life, and I have attempted many. Just when he appears to understand the Way Things Work Around Here, off he goes in his own direction, playing by his own secret rules.

Some if this is teenager mentality (those of you without teenagers, consider yourself lucky). Yes, yes, we know that teenagers will gladly give their parents the bird before traipsing off on an adventure that gives mom and dad the willies. But for us, this is doubly frightening.

Children, and particularly adolescents, with Asperger Syndrome fail to realize the seriousness of bending, or even breaking the rules of society's engagement. The dance doesn't fit their M.O., so they make a break for it. In the case of Wolf, the phrase "I'm bored" comes spewing out of his mouth, and woe to the person he fixes his sights on.

We all want our children to break the mold and dance to their own music, but within the boundaries of acceptable behavior, please. Gotta get that message through to someone down there in Utah.

But today, at least, the dance of Himself continues. Maybe we need to change the music...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Filled up and Poured Out..."

We baked brownies today, but didn't eat any of them. We turned out cookies by the dozen, but not one made it to the cookie jar.

As part of a week-long program at Church called 'Sipping From a Hydrant', our family learned more about the gift of giving today. Took a small drink, as it were.

Brought up within the realm of community service ourselves, it was no stretch for either Yukon or I to accept the challenge of doing something to help our Anchorage brethren. Our main criteria in choosing a project, however, was its involvement of all three of us, sometimes difficult when factoring in a four-year-old. And the Super Bowl.

We decided on baking cookies, but went one step further to drive home the reality of the number of people in Alaska who are hungry today, yesterday, and probably tomorrow.

As soon as we got home from church, Bear, Yukon, and I began working on two batches of brownies and dozens and dozens of snickerdoodles to deliver to the Anchorage Rescue Mission this afternoon, just when the line begins forming at the door. In Anchorage, there are never enough cots for the hundreds of men and women who call sidewalks, park benches, and doorways "home" during the day. One woman always catches my eye. Sitting on a busy corner underneath a pedestrian overpass, winter, summer, and every season in between, she sits in the dirt. Sometimes she catches my eye, sometimes I can't bear to look at her. Today she wasn't there. In fact, she hasn't been there for a few days.

Just after Kickoff, we left our home, fragrant with cinnamon and chocolate, and drove to the Mission, which smelled of stale smoke, sweat, and a lifetime of tears. No fanfare, just a 'God Bless You' and a few smiles from the collection of characters gathered near the front entrance, cigarettes in hand.

As we went to get back in the car, Yukon's foot kicked an empty vodka bottle; Extra Dry.

Very dry, indeed.

Bear asked afterwards, "Mommy, did we share?"

Yep. Poured out.