Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday, Monday, So Good To Me?

Isn't that part of a Mama's and Papa's song? It came into my head this morning as I was doing the too-early a.m. dance of death after a way fun dinner with our neighbors last night. No, not too much red wine, although that certainly had something to do with it.

My current suspicion is that the damn ash, which is extremely fine and managed yesterday to get itself in every crack, crevice, and creature around this house, has lodged itself in my head. I am allergic to dust (still, after all these years) and my sinuses are packed full of something I'd rather not go into...

Fortunately, snow fell all night and covered up the gray, gritty mess. After a few cups of coffee and a power-muffin (banana muffin w/ craisins, flax, and pineapple), I charged into my Monday with force. Three huge project deadlines coming up; one tomorrow, two next Monday.

Oh, and as an added breath of levity; Bear called me "Honey" this morning. No, sir, I am not your HONEY. I am your MOMMY, and don't you forget it.

Breathe, breathe, drink more coffee, breathe.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

There's No (re)Doubt Now...

Once again, Alaska's Mt. Redoubt belched up her requisite ash deposit after Anchorage flights resumed and life started to get back to "normal". Ha.

After a sunny, albeit snowy (yes, snow/sun at the same time is not uncommon in the springtime)day, I left a meeting at church around 5:30 p.m. wondering why the formerly sunny afternoon had turned so gray so quickly. Someone said "That's ash!" as I walked the 20 yds to my car.

By the time I had made the 7-mile journey home, my car was covered and my shoes had telltale signs of the powdery stuff on their dark tops.

We celebrated the evening at some friends' house, making pizza and watching the cloud move closer and closer to our neighborhood. Why not?

It is a bit disconcerting to feel the grittiness in our mouths and smell the sulfuric stench from something a 100 miles away. There is truly no experience like knowing there is not a blessed thing we can do to mitigate our circumstances.

We are truly at the mercy of Mother Nature.

I hope we haven't pissed her off.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: Serving My Sons

As we step gingerly through the pathways of Wolf's past and present, Yukon and I are becoming increasingly aware of the future.

As my friend Dorothy is finding out, when children with Asperger Syndrome become older, things that used to be considered part of the "nuisance" category reach the status of "safety and health". Behaviors that were disruptive in elementary school become more pronounced, more difficult to predict, and end up causing the utmost in stress for families, teachers, and friends.

We are grappling with a number of issues, all of them related to Wolf, his diagnoses and their relation to his progress nearly one year into treatment. What is a realistic expectation for discharge? What supports will be necessary, now, then, and forever?

Perhaps the most agonizing question is one that has been pushed up and back in my mind so often it could be its own road: Should we? Can we?

There is another child to consider, one who since his brother's absence has blossomed into his own person, missing Wolf to be sure, but also devoid of the conflict that tore at his parents' hearts. Yukon and I are realistic enough to know that just because a child is discharged from treatment, no "magic" cure for the inherent disability will suddenly impart itself upon a family. Our family, two boys and two parents who somehow must find yet another "new normal" during a time that feels anything but. Even this far out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What Do You Do With a Runner When She Can't Be a Runner, Anymore?

This is my view today. Just me, Blue Ice, and the laptop trying one last desperate attempt at making things all better fast.

The combination of skiing and running in the hills of Anchorage, coupled with 30+ years of doing high-impact sports have apparently taken their toll upon my body and are beginning to wreak havoc.

I was told in my 20's that my knees had issues, that "someday" I would end up sore and broken. But who listens to doctors when they are looking at life from the top of a chairlift at Whistler, or training for a triathlon, or hiking miles into the backcountry of Washington carrying a chainsaw?

After a test run Monday night during which I lasted all of ten minutes pain-free, I finally went to the doctor who stared at my x-rays in deep contemplation, glasses pushed up on top of his head so he could see better. "Hmmmm, a skier, huh? I think you'd better call it good for this year." He went on mumbling to himself, or me, but I was already trying to figure out how to get around this, concocting all sorts of plans, when I heard the word "arthritis". WHAT?

Women, he explained, especially athletes, often get arthritis in knees due to the way we walk.It's those hips, he said, that are wider (thanks for the update) and thus make our stride, etc. a bit more stressful on the patella. Poop.

In my case, years of running and jumping and schussing have left my knees vulnerable, and since the patella isn't aligned properly (is this genetic? I'll blame my parents), my knees are showing signs of the degenerative condition that cripples many former football players and other has-been athletes.

The gist of the whole conversation was to refer me to an Orthopedic surgeon who might be able to fix things, or maybe not, depending on exactly the problem. An MRI is almost certainly forthcoming.

While I am certainly glad I have two legs with which to stand walk upon, I am a bit grumpy today. Those of you who know me well will recall my hesitation to stop doing anything active. I broke my ankle once and had the doctor make the cast such that I could still ride my horse. I don't like doing nothing.

Yukon is, of course, all a'twitter that he can now justify my joining him at his lap swim sessions at Alaska Pacific University. Blech.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Anchorage, Anchorage, This Is It!

I think we lacked the drama of Mt. St. Helens...

Mt. Redoubt erupted for the fifth time a few hours ago, spanning an overnight rumble of blow after blow of steam and ash hitting the 60,000 foot level of our lovely atmosphere.

For those concerned about the welfare of the Kirkland family, worry not. The ash at this time is high and North of us, heading to the Mat-Su Valley and the home of Sarah Palin, who might take it as a sign from God that she better accept that Stimulus Package, after all.

Visit the Anchorage Daily News for some photos of the mountain and ever-changing updates.

Life goes on, slightly interrupted.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Perhaps We Were a Bit Premature

I told Yukon not to haul out the canoe from behind the clubhouse. It's like washing the car on a sunny day; the next is guaranteed to be rainy.

We were greeted this morning by 5 inches of new snow that grew progressively heavier in texture as the day went on. Now at 6 p.m. it is a sloppy mess.

Alaskans know better, and we know we should know better, but darn it, things were looking so darned spring-y outside we just couldn't help but get a little bit anticipatory. Not that the lakes will thaw before the end of April, but it was kind of nice to gaze upon it from the kitchen window and dream of summertime...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Springing Forward

It's finally Spring, by the calendar anyway, and after what felt like an extra-long winter, we'll take whatever we can get.

The sun isn't even up at 7:30 in the morning, but I can already see that it is going to be another gorgeous day. While nighttime temperatures have hovered near zero, the thermometer climbs up to around 32 during the day, and, coupled with bright sunshine, it feels quite tropical.

I went running yesterday evening up the Glen Alps trailhead, south and east of us; high enough to get a view of Anchorage, Cook Inlet, and surrounding mountain ranges. Going for a jaunt on the trails is going to get a little trickier in the next few weeks as moose prepare to give birth to the 2009 crop of calves, and bears begin to crawl out of dens. Of course yesterday I gave this no thought at all, but our Wildlife Biologist friend stopped by after dinner and commented that it was good there were a "few of us" running, citing the above reasons. Oh. It's easy to forget in the delight of running through a beautiful forest on a beautiful day.

Today will be a quiet one despite my desire to spend the day outdoors. Poor Bear has been sick, and the picture above shows just how out-of-sorts he is. There is usually no sleeping during the day in this house, much less in the middle of the living room with the sun beating on his face. Maybe I will get some work done...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Wish I Was In Homer

Sounds like a country song...

Read this week's post on AKontheGO and see why we love eclectic, cosmic Homer, Alaska.

For my cousin in Fairbanks; the Bed and Breakfast Network really is the way to go for accommodations of the cabin type.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hitting the Slopes, Preschooler-Style

After four years of waiting, watching, and wondering if my second son was going to show any interest at all in downhill skiing, I finally have my answer.

Yes, as long as his "Girlie" is along for the ride.

Little Bear's best friend happens to be the daughter of our good and faithful friends, a nice thing all the way around, especially if the two buddies carry out their future plans to get married (someday, "as soon as we can drink coffee").

Yesterday we all piled into the cars and drove onto the grounds of Elmendorf Air Force Base (it pays to have friends in the military), and onto Hillberg Ski Area, a lovely complex designed to meet the needs of winter-loving Alaskan military families. There we outfitted the littlest skiers with gear and proceeded to the Bunny Hill.

I am happy to report that a good time was had by all, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and nobody had any meltdowns on the hill. Apres ski was a different matter, but that's beside the point.

After schussing down the slight incline and trying out the rope tow, Bear had enough and went sledding with dad on the adjacent hill, giving me a chance to freeski with the older kids.

Afterwards, we gathered together to share a pre-St. Patrick's Day dinner; corned beef, cabbage, the works. And some darned good beer that must have been brewed just for a day like this...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: Dad

No, the other Dad. Bio-dad, natural-dad, whatever the term is these days. At any rate, Wolf's father surprised us a few weeks ago with a phone call and a pledge to fly to CHYC in order to visit his son.

Three years had passed since Wolf had seen his father. That last visit was shortly before our arrival in Alaska, when we stopped over in Issaquah, WA to spend Christmas with my parents. In an interesting twist of irony, my former husband and his family live but a block away from my folks. We had purchased that home shortly before our separation in 1995.

Wolf's dad has been, and I guess is continuing to, work in the world of civilian contracting in Iraq and now Afghanistan. A new contract putting him in some remote area of Afghan territory meant a flight out last week and a six-month stint away from the U.S. So he decided to visit Wolf, perhaps with some "should'as" eating away at him. Or not.

I recognized on one hand that this visit, with the anxiety, pressure, and emotions involved could be frought with peril, knowing how Wolf seems to handle such things. But on the other, I also knew how important such a visit could be to Wolf's sense of reality. After not seeing his father, and, in fact, rarely having any contact with the man other than perhaps a once-a-year phone call and rare mail, Wolf had built up an image in his mind. He needed to see dad in the flesh to prove that he really existed, I think.

Staff at CHYC were understandably as concerned as I; how does one go about arranging visitation with someone who has shown no effort to be involved in the first place? Would he be safe? (I really didn't know) Would Wolf have an anxiety attack and become unglued? (The possibility existed) Would he even show up at all? (It's happened before) A plan was developed and implemented, boundaries were established and held.

For myself, I think this was the truest test of letting go. There is no greater potential source of anxiety in my life than the lack of relationship between my former husband and me, and our son. I usually can forget it exists when he is overseas. Even the lack of financial support gives me fewer reasons to have any contact with him. Yet here was this man about to visit and I could do nothing about it. Nothing. Nada.

I prayed a lot. I let things fall into greater hands with confidence.

And, all went well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We Jingled All the Way

Here is this week's AKontheGO post; we enjoyed our sleigh ride with Horse Trekkin Alaska.

Visit the link and you can see a few more pictures of our fun afternoon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

There is a Case for Doing Less

I always know when I am doing too much, because I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of all the stuff going on the next day; which, of course, I cannot do with my usual 100% energy level because I am so tired from staying up all night worrying about it....

After a busy weekend of dogs, horses, children, and other assorted family members, Bear and I spent yesterday in our fleece PJ's, recovering. The snow was falling outside most of the day and I needed to regroup. Bear needed to catch up on his playing, he told me, so I unpacked the wooden trains and tracks, set him up in the family room, and left him to his important work.

I was able to thoroughly cover my office floor with information from three different Special Event Guides I am currently engrossed in. The most deadline-critical is for the Native Youth Olympics (due next Monday, and received only last Wednesday), the second is for the Kachemak Bay Seafest, a spiffy little festival in Homer, our favorite town, and the third is for, get this, the World Beard and Moustache Championships, to be held right here in Anchorage this May, in case you wanted to make those plane reservations now.

My biggest worry is that I will mix them all up and write a Guide touting the adventures of Bearded Youth Jumping After Seals Down in Homer.

I'd really be in trouble then, wouldn't I?

Anyway, here are is a cute photo of the three of us on our latest family outing with Horse Trekkin' Alaska. Good old Steve, the owner, gave us a great ride and made cheese fondue and moose chili to boot. Bear, as you can see, was a little concerned about the big Percheron, Sid, but they eventually became friends. You can read more about it at the AKontheGO Web site tomorrow, I hope. See links to the right. (See how lazy I am?).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Iditarod 2009 Mushing On

As soon as I sort through the 1,100 photos taken during yesterday's Ceremonial start of the 37th Iditarod Sled Dog race, I will post some.

Interesting that we have as many pictures as miles in the race.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's Spring Somewhere

I'm sure of it. After three years in Alaska, I am savvy enough to realize that March and its "spring break" calendar, does not exactly match up to the actual weather.
As much as I would love to see a flower or two sprouting from the frozen tundra we call yard, we still can appreciate a fresh dumping of snow.

Yukon's sister and brother-in-law are visiting to witness the start of the Iditarod Sled Dog race this weekend, so more white stuff is favorable, not less. We've been watching the snow fall all day, much to Sister's delight.

Apparently the local bears are following the true calendar as well. Over the past few days a scrawny bear has been roaming the local ski and sled dog trails, leaving big prints in the snow. Occasionally bears will wake up, wander around a while, and then re-den until spring really appears. This is our version of Puxataunny Phil. If he sees snow, he goes back in and winter lasts for six more weeks, or months, depending upon the year.

To take advantage of the snowy day, we packed up and returned to our favorite sledding hill. The dog enjoyed the outing as well, skijoring for a bit before watching Bear and Yukon slip down the bumpy hill. He had a hard time when the guys went down the hill without him, however, and was most anxious to jump in Yukon's lap when they came back up for a breather.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

When Mommies Work From Home...

I left my office for a minute to heat up my coffee. Obviously I missed the worst of a battle that somehow managed to converge upon my desk.

I hope nobody was hurt...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How High's the Water, Mama?

It was indeed "two feet high and risin'" around here. (I hope you all go find that Johnny Cash song now).

There are two disasters that all Alaskans fear during the winter months, fire and flood. Unfortunately for our neighborhood last night, Noah couldn't have saved some of us...

Somehow I missed the subtle noises of the diesel trucks as they cruised up and down the street (this is Alaska, after all, and the sound of diesel trucks is subliminal). I had been working downstairs, and when I finally emerged around 9 p.m found a cadre of firefighters inspecting the hydrant across the street. Never a good sign. It wasn't until my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I could see that the huge truck was up to its wheel wells in water that I really began to worry.

Water does not normally flow down the street, even in Alaska. For water to do so after six inches of fresh snow and nighttime temperatures hovering around the 5 degree mark meant disaster.

A hydrant around the corner from us had burst and caused thousands of gallons of H2O to gush up one side, around the corner, and down to our little 'hood. As we watched from the upstairs window the current of sludgy, slushy water kept creeping ever closer to our driveway. Neighbors were frantically moving vehicles to higher ground, and people not fortunate to live on slight inclines were finding a foot or two of freezing water flowing through their lower levels.

The photos above illustrate the view last night and this morning. What happens when two feet of water freezes in the middle of the street? Ice Road Truckers.

Needless to say, the damage to some houses was catastophic. Many spent this sunny day pushing, shoveling, and otherwise moving tons of muddy ice into the street, and salvaging what items they could.

Thankfully the City provided three huge graders to come scrape the street to save us from ourselves.

No shortage of excitement around here, clearly.