Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sail Away: Cruise Lines and AKontheGO

Here is an update on the cruise lines' preparations and precautions against the spread of any influenza outbreak, not just the "flu we're not supposed to call Swine flu" here to read all about it.

AKontheGO is trying to set up a family cruise this summer to explore just what the cruise hoopla is all about. Grateful thanks to Holland America Lines for giving me the scoop.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Not Just Running Away

Anchorage Mayor's Marathon mission statement, "I don't have to be fast to outrun a bear, I just have to be faster than you..."

And people Outside wonder why we're such good athletes...

I'm really only kidding about the running from bears part. Mostly.

Time to sign up for the annual Summer Solstice run! Check out AKontheGOthis week for details.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dare We Even Think It.....?

Shhh, don't mention that it might be a promising summer ahead based upon the last 24hours of almost 60 degree weather. Yes, 60+ degrees.

One would think that we were recently liberated captives the way we carried on and fussed about in our yards and parks today. Even those with no yards or children made sure they got outdoors to enjoy Non-Winter.

Little Bear, Brown Dog, and I were outside from shortly after lunchtime until nearly 4:30 p.m. I checked the progress of my seed starts in the garage (they sit on the package of rice to give them more height and thus reach the light a little better), cleared out the garden plots (things are coming up on the southside!), then cleaned out the clubhouse. All things Non-Winter are stored there; from baseball gloves to backpacking gear to the all-important stash of bug spray. Good thing, as the skeeters were out and about this evening.

Bear took advantage of some tilled soil to return trucks and cars to the road system he built last summer. There is nothing so glorious as the sounds of a little boy working hard in the dirt. He tired out around 4 p.m. and had a snack under the birch tree before collapsing in a deck chair. If you look closely you can see the moustache of dirt encircling his mouth.

I hesitate to say it, but this one day of perfect weather almost made up for three months of crap last year.

And the dog? He ran after kids, his ball, and birds for three of those four hours, then joined me on a run after dinner. I have never seen a German Shorthaired Pointer run behind somebody. He is currently unconscious under my chair.

Yukon and I celebrated this fine day with a barbeque pork pizza and an IPA. Doesn't get much better than that my friends.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wheels and Deals

Bicycling season, like growing season and sandal season, is short in Alaska. Unless one is hardy like my husband, who affixes studded tires to his mountain bike and rides year-round, the bikes owned by intrepid Alaskans usually spend nine months of the year locked in the backyard shed.

This weekend was the first true family bike trek of Un-Winter 2009. I say Un-Winter because after last summer's disaster weather, we have decided that our seasons are either Winter or Un-Winter.

Anyhow, with temperatures reaching a fairly humid 55 degrees, an afternoon pedal down to Cheney Lake seemed just the thing before winding down a Sunday. We dug out bike clothes, gloves, and helmets; pumped up tires and dusted off the trailer that Yukon will use one more summer for Bear before making him pedal his own Tagalong (bike behind his bike).

Bear loves biking with his dad. The two sing songs and chat about their day as the miles melt beneath their wheels. I just ride behind them and listen to the interesting comments that float back to me. "Daddy, moose are not nice to us" "Daddy, watch out for that hole." "Daddy, I saw someone riding without their helmet." (Good boy)

Playing at the little playground for a bit is Bear's reward for sitting stationary in a trailer for a half-hour while Yukon and I satisfy ourselves with a workout. On this day, Cheney Lake was still sporting ice on its surface, albeit slushy ice, but it reminded us that Spring and Summer are but fleeting moments in the seasonal calendar of Alaska.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Native Youth Olympic Games: Carrying on a Cultural Tradition

Native Alaskan youth are in trouble, figuratively and literally, as graduation rates plummet and statistics involving alcolol and drug use rise. Many kids, from remote villages far, far from Anchorage, are only following in the footsteps of their own disenchanted elders.

Many Native Alaskan-owned corporations are making great strides in their methods to combat the above issues. One of these, and perhaps the most successful, is through the Native Youth Olympic Games, held each April in Anchorage. Culture, Courtesy, and Cooperation, three values held in high esteem, and practiced as much as the physical events.

As author of the Games Guide this year, I was privy to the inside activities that go on around the state in preparation for these tests of skill and concentration. Designed to mimic the play of villagers in the North, the events showcase skills necessary for young men (and now women) to survive a hunting season in such areas as the Arctic, where knowing the stealthy approach of a seal hunter could mean food or starvation.

Events such as the Seal Hop, where competitors hop across a hard floor in the push-up position, using only their knuckles and toes for support (kills me to watch), One-Foot High Kick, and Wrist Carry all were inititally designed to provide both entertainment and skill-building for young Native men.

Any Alaska student grades 1-12 can participate, and yesterday's competition was the best of the best in high school grades. We had a blast mingling with families and event organizers, and felt as if we truly were welcomed into the fold of Alaska Native tradition.

Time after time we found our mouths agape as kids leaped, hopped, and shimmied their way around the floor of the hall. Incredible. And worthwhile.

What struck us the most was witnessing the incredible show of sportsmanship. No whining about judging errors, no bravado, nothing but respect and admiration for each other. Hugs and high-fives came from competitors and judges; had it not been for the officials' bright orange shirts, it would be hard to distinguish between the two.

The professional athletes down in the Lower 48 could learn a lesson or two from these kids.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Alaska Wakes Up

Springtime in Alaska means two things; longer days and waking animals. Our daylight begins around 6:15 a.m. and ends somewhere around 10 p.m., depending upon where one lives. As I type this, the sun has finally gone behind the treeline and alpenglow is slowly turning the mountains a lovely shade of pink.

Everyone gets a case of Spring Fever about now; with a week of sunshine behind us (except today) Yukon caught it and decided to take the afternoon off.

After lunch at Red Robin (Bear's favorite dining establishment because they have good chocolate milk) we took a trip to the south end of town to visit the Alaska Zoo. I figured this might be a good day, taking a cue from my sister who used to work at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Animals are usually more active on the chilly days, and it was true this afternoon.

We saw the Siberian tigers prowling around their enclosure, caught a coyote being served her dinner, and even witnessed the brown bears coming out of their den. As you can tell from the photo, the big fellow didn't quite know what to do with himself. From what we hear, the brown bears have been out of hibernation for about three days and quite enjoyed the sunny weather. The black bears, on the other hand, have yet to emerge for more than a few minutes.

After re-upping our family pass and following Zoo trails around for a few hours, we headed home to a fire in the woodstove. It was that chilly.

A nice way to start the weekend.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's the Golden Mine!

Little Bear's favorite spot in the WORLD is Hatcher Pass, 90 minutes North of Anchorage. He calls it the Golden Mine, and has been talking incessantly about it lately. So we'll feature it this week for AKontheGO. Let's GO!

Between the Lines

Seems as if the entire family has been dragging with its current affliction this past week. Every spring we catch a cold, every one of us, usually in descending order, so that by the time the youngest gets it, mom and dad are shot.

Even Wolf is not immune; he called last night to say he felt crummy. I told him to go to bed with his favorite book. That's what we do when we are sick. Given the current status of the family, reading is about all we feel like doing round about 7 or 8 p.m.

Reading is slightly less than an addiction in my family. Growing up, I was the kid who finished books in hours, not days, and my best friend and I had contests to see who could acquire the most stars for books read in elementary school. While some people comforted themselves with favorite movies, I buried myself, my sorrows and sicknesses in written words.

Even today, when feeling a bit low, I pull out books I have saved from my own childhood and read them to my youngest, who is perhaps too young to truly understand the plot line, but sticks with me for the sake of someone to read to him.

Henry Huggins, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Laura Ingalls; they are all there as I remember, and still just as good.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kiup! Yellow to Orange for Bear

For all his initial shyness when presented with new situations, Bear has become quite the martial artist. Still participating in Taekwondo two days a week under Master Yu's sharp eyes, the little Yellow Belt had the chance to rise to the next level, Orange.

I am determined to stay out of this, for, unlike my first child's experience with extracurricular activities, I know Bear can handle himself if things get tough. He'll simply tell them what he doesn't know (i.e. how to spar, etc.).

Bear is part of a class called "Toddlers", a new class designed for the 3-4 y/o kids. Shorter and focusing less on actual Taekwondo skills, the 30 minute class does much with following directions, tumbling, and some basic kicking and punching. My favorite part is the following directions/respect part.

Last Saturday Yukon accompanied Bear to his Orange Belt Test, during which Bear, as the only "Toddler", had to show off his skills all by his lonesome, in front of at least 150 other people. He stood at attention, performed his Form (a series of moves), and answered questions like "Who is your Master?" (he got it right).

The final test was the breaking of the board. Last time he had to punch it, this time he had to kick it in half.

As you can see, he was pretty proud of himself.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: Spring and Other Updates

It would seem that Spring would naturally be a good time to think re-start for anybody. New weather, new clothes, new quarter (and last) at school. Hmm, I think that Wolf may have perhaps bought into this premise.

The phone rang last night just as we were sitting down to dinner. The kids at CHYC call home after their evening meal and before bed. For us, that figures to be around 6:30 p.m., and he is almost always guaranteed to catch us home.

But last night it wasn't his voice that was on the Utah end of the line. It was the Unit Director, with whom I have established a very pleasant working relationship, handy when dealing with faraway school. "I wanted to call you earlier," she said, "but I ran out of time." Uh oh. What now?

That reaction, I suppose, will never go completely away, given the past 10 or so years of phone calls from people in authority over my son. But then the conversation took an unexpected, and somehow liberating, turn.

"I just wanted you to know that your son is doing very, very well," says Unit Honchess. "In fact", she continued, "I don't think you'll recognize him as the same kid when you come down next time."

Really? I mean, REALLY?

Apparently the therapist switch has made an incredible amount of difference one year later. Now, says U.D., he can get down to work. The real work. The reason he is there.

Oh yes, and the other unrecognizable part will come in the form of Wolf's physical maturation process. From what I understand the skinny boy who left this house weighing almost 95 lbs is now a six-foot tall, 146 lb teenager with trendy glasses and a clear-skinned, spontaneous smile.

I sure don't know that kid. But I think maybe I'd like to.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Choo Choo to You

There is certainly enough interest in toy trains around my house that a trip on a real one would almost certainly take someone into orbit. This week's AKontheGO post talks about just such adventures via the Alaska Railroad....

Summer is almost here (well, sort of) and we've got to Go!

PS Hee hee, look how small the boys are in this pic from 2006...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter in Alaska

Easter; time for strappy sandles that show off suntanned ankles, bonneted little girls clutching purses, and pastel colors in every store.

Everyplace except here. After three Easters in Alaska, I have come to an understanding between the calendar and the actual weather outdoors.

While some people do dress up their kids in the frilliest of outfits and summery coture, most realize that Easter in the 49th state usually means snow and/or rain, accompanied by a few inches of sandy mud. This year we even had ash to mix things up a little.

While we have been seeing the rapid melt of three or so feet of snow left in the yard, "Breakup" is still slow in coming. This is a frustrating time of year for me; the commercials on television speak of flower sales, lawn products, and new summerwear. We are still shoveling the white stuff off the driveways (two inches this a.m.) and trying in vain to keep vehicles clean. We buy windshield fluid by the case.

Yukon took advantage of no agenda yesterday to wash all three cars in a rain/sleet storm that swooshed down from the Chugach mountains. Bless that man.

Bear was graced by the appearance the E.B. and received some goodies, including his first-ever chocolate Easter Bunny.

Today's weather has turned out delightfully sunny, sending the overnight blanket of snow packing. I am listening to the water run down the gutter pipes and am amazed that each spring the sound still fascinates me.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den

I had an interesting conversation with a friend this week about fear. Well, to be honest, it was really a confrontation of fear through this person's guidance.

After much dancing around the subject, during which time I was willing to offer just about any other adjective in its place, I said it. I am afraid. And I bet every other mother watching an adolescent boy with Asperger's is, too. Or was.

There appears much to be afraid of. We are afraid for our sons when they grow up with no friends, fearing nobody will ever like them and they are destined to a life of standing in a corner of the playground, confused and hurt, yet unable to figure out why.

We are afraid for other people; that an incident will occur during which teachers, relatives, or peers will be unable to respond in a way that diffuses the situation and sets appropriate limits, unknowingly instigating further disruption.

We are afraid for ourselves; that we will be unable to manage this for the rest of our lives. We fear we will make a choice based upon our own wants rather than our child's needs. We fear few resources will be available, that i's will not be dotted and t's will not be crossed; we will miss something in the paperwork that might prevent assistance from coming.

That's a lot of reasons to be scared; really, really, scared. So the question posed to me was this: "Would you still be a good mother if you weren't afraid?"


Fear can either bitter me, or better me. It's my choice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

C'mon, You Know You Want to Go...

Those cruise lines sure are going to be in a world of hurt if they can't fill up their ships in time for the summer season of floating among the bergs of Alaskan waters.

The AK on the GO post for this week outlines some of the best deals on cruise ship tours anyone up here has ever seen. This family is not normally into the "cruise ship" lifestyle, but huh, with a deal that is cheaper than airline tickets (and meals thrown in to boot), we are seriously considering a September trip down South via boat.

I know everyone who reads this blog will want to immediately book passage to Alaska, or from Alaska, depending upon their state of origin...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Whose Car?

For the record, I AGREED to abide by the 'We are not buying a new car today' mantra.

I will not protest the outcome, however.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

So It's Saturday

I'm sitting in front of a glorious view of the Chugach mountains, cup of coffee in hand, with the Doobie Brothers belting out 'Jesus is Just All Right With Me'. My husband has departed on his mountain bike for a pre-lunch spin, and the youngest member of the household is being allowed to watch Spongebob Squarepants. Even the dog is peaceful, lounging inappropriately on my down duvet that is on the floor because I am washing bedding today.

So it's Saturday. And it's All Right, all right. Hmm. We're kind of normal today.

Is it because Yukon and I had a date night last night at our fav restaurant, Orso? Is it because we had fun watching the high school kids come nervously into the restaurant for the pre-Prom dinner, remembering too late to open the door for their date, texting friends to find out where the limo was, all dressed up in rented tuxedos? We had fun laughing about our respective Proms over our Cosmopolitans and calamari.

Perhaps it is because both of us went to lunch yesterday with our pastor and his wife, people who emulate "Cool" in a most Pastoral-like sense. As fairly new members to Trinity Presby, we are still finding out where we 'fit' in this community, something recognized and acknowledged, a nice feeling.

Maybe it's the fact that we know where both of our children are, safe, cared for, relatively happy in their situations, blessed.

I'm not sure why.

I'm only sure I like it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Spent the Evening in an Alien Ship

I'm not one to disparage any opportunity to spend quality time by myself, but last night was a bit much.

After a last-minute phone call yesterday from my doctor, who is as intrigued by my knee injury as I am, I found myself scheduled for an MRI at 6 p.m. at the lovely Providence Imaging Center.

For those of you who noted the appointment time and said "Ahh, that is a very bad appointment time, the end of the day...", you are correct. A one-hour delay of game until 7 p.m. meant I had to miss taekwondo and swimming lessons (oh darn)and instead curled myself into the uncomfortable armchairs of the waiting room reading a book. At least it was my book.

Finally emerging around 7:15, the tech was apologetic, even groveling a bit when she actually saw the time, but quickly recovered and ushered me into the Borg Chamber to get the thing done.

Ever had an MRI? So loud that one needs to wear earplugs, the machine makes funny sounds that are reminiscent of a rocket launch pad even before firing up to take a scan. Not a quick process, the MRI took a half hour to effectively peer into the inner workings of my left joint; this way, that way, up, down. Should I have felt violated?

I was warned that the sounds would be "knocking and banging", and I was to relax and be perfectly still during the process. Sounded simple enough, but have you ever tried to completely relax your muscles while jackhammers are drilling directly above your head, expecting at any time some machine/man to pop out from behind and say "Assimilate"?

Finally emerging around 8:15, my body was exhausted from relaxing.

They better find something or I'll be ticked.