Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Grand Place

A busy week is ahead for most Alaskan travelers, and we have been doing our part to ensure sleep bliss by investigating the Anchorage Grand Hotel downtown. Pretty nice digs, I'm thinking. There are also a few pics of fun downtown places to visit, since we were down there anyway.

Check out our latest AKontheGO
post for a preview...Don't forget to subscribe on the blog page for weekly updates, if for no other reason than to see cute pictures of Bear and see what we're up to.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Alaska's Bounty; Part One

Summer is in full swing in the Last Frontier, and with it comes the annual harvest of my favorite shrub/vegetable/fruit (what is rhubarb, anyway?). On this delightful summer Sunday afternoon, I finally made my way next door to Southside Neighbors' yard, where the rhubarb grows. And grows. And GROWS.

Miss E. and I, accompanied by an industrious Bear, took the wheelbarrow, gloves, and a few knives, and hacked away at the monsterous plant until we had enough; or, accurately, more than enough.

Stacked like cordwood on my picnic table, the red stalks were sampled by Bear, who has decided rhubarb is much better cooked so he can't recognize it. I took an armful into the kitchen and spent the better part of an hour chopping, peeling, loading, and now cooking my first batch of rhubarb juice for later use as syrup, additive to lemonade, and if my friend A. and I can concoct it, a new form of Cosmo...

My hands are stained red, the mason jars are waiting on the counter, and my kitchen smells delicious. Must be summer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Update From the Wolf Den: What Lies Ahead

In a telephone conference with Unit Director (I use the term 'conference' loosely, as I was standing in the middle of Value Village)of Wolf's CHYC yesterday, the topic of goal-setting came up.

All students at CHYC have regular treatment plan reviews during which time the progress of each kid is evaluated and discussed with staff, the student, and good old mom and dad. Wolf is turning into a bit of an experiment, however, since his residence has reached a new point, and now Yukon and I are being asked to bring our hopes for his future to the table.

What are those hopes?

We hope to have a level of trust that meets somewhere in between what we want and what Wolf can provide.

We hope to keep Wolf engaged in the interests he currently has without judgment or criticism, while opening his world to possibly new ideas and activities.

We hope to expand his social world, meeting new people and learning the cues and nuances that all human beings possess; even he.

We hope to work together as links in the family's chain of loving existence, unbroken but occasionally twisted; and find that acceptable.

The reality of AS and my son's life as it stands today, tomorrow, and years from now must be different from what it was before he left a year ago. Upon his return, life as Yukon and I know it right now, with all the freedom and peace Wolf's school experience has brought us, will too be different. A new normal will need to be created. And that is what we are working towards right now; slowly, carefully, and intentionally.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Eagles and Politics in Alaska

Double-I'll-be-damned; the Eagles have got this Life thing down...

I'm home from a very interesting evening at the Anchorage Assembly chambers, watching hundreds of people, armed with their Bibles, banners, musical instruments and agendas traipse into the local library (that also doubles as the meeting place for Anchorage elected politicos).

I don't usually participate in Alaska politics, save for Sarah Palin, and I certainly try to reserve my personal views for other places than the Elituq blog. But an evening watching folks from either side of a proposition to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has me in a muddle. Yes, a muddle.

Yukon and I are relaxing in front of a DVD of the Hell Freezes Over Eagles concert; how appropriate. Let me just share with you a few of the phrases that have revealed themselves to me in the last 45 minutes, and I'll let you ponder their worthiness as they relate to the shouting matches, the hateful comments, the utter disrespect on all sides regarding the issue at hand in Anchorage, Alaska.

Learn to be still...

Love will keep us alive...

It's time to get down to the heart of the matter...

Lighten up while you still can...

Get over it...

Somewhere along the way, I found the meaning...

Help me to see the light, open my eyes again...

You may lose and you may win, but you will never be the same again...


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Imagination Moves

"I'm going fishing, Mommy." My youngest son's voice carried excitement down the hallway where he was playing dress-up. A few moments later he appeared, ready for action (but still in his monkey pajamas); hiking stick-turned fishing pole in hand, dad's beer-drinking hat on head, life jacket securely fastened.

Proceeding with purpose towards the lid of the dress-up box, he packed his blanket and a few stuffed animals inside and took off to hook the big one. I found out just how big when, a few minutes later, he announced he had caught a barracuda. "How do you prepare a barracuda?" our intern E. asked. "Well, you just cut it all up and put it in the microwave of course," our little fisherman replied.

Of course.

I wish I had that sort of imagination. Or, at least, held on to the imagination that used to carry me through many a long summer day. Remember that? Building forts in the cedar trees in our backyard, pretending the indians were coming (no PC worries back in the 1970's), digging a foxhole in the neighbor's vacant lot, imagining that we were across the world escaping the enemy.

I love watching my youth regenerate itself through my own kids. Seems the general idea is still very much the same...I don't think I went fishing for barracuda, however.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


We are nearing that particularly interesting time of Un-Winter when darkness becomes but a memory. Summer Solstice hits on Sunday evening, bringing Alaskans (depending upon their location) 24 hours of blissful lightness in the form of the famous Midnight Sun. Today's official sunrise was at 4:19 a.m., and sunset will commence at 11:41 p.m. with a gain of 5 minutes in light over yesterday.

All this daylight comes with a price, however. Things tend to grow rather rapidly here, giving school textbooks something to talk about besides Oil Money and Sarah Palin. Big cabbages, big turnips, and big grass.

Round about June 1, folks begin to storm into the hardware stores looking for the right machine to scythe and scissor down the grass that somehow appeared in their formerly brown, bare lawns overnight. I kid you not; grass grows an inch over the course of 24 hours, making for an extremely frustrating family situation if certain people are accustomed to mowing but weekly under intense pressure from others in the family with whom they share bed space.

Debate rages in every neighborhood; do we mow once a week and keep the jungle managable yet not manicured, or do we mow as soon as the tracks from the previous mow have faded? Yes, or No, to Mow?

Some neighbors can't hack it; they hire lawn guys who arrive in beat-up pickup trucks holding two or three mowers and as many sundry workers who smoke filterless cigarettes and wear beat-up work pants that won't stay up.

We, for the record, do not, despite my inquiry once. We, I mean I (I took over last year), fall in a category somewhere between stuffy and slacker. I mow every week, and then add in another session if I need an upper body workout, or if we have had rain to increase the rate of growth by another four inches. Or if the neighbors mow first and make my yard look crappy. See where we are going here? There is no winning against grass.

I can take heart, though, for in a short two months the grass will stop growing and be covered with a lovely layer of birch leaves, then snow, which will lie on the ground until next June.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happy OntheGo'ing Returns...

Thanks to the techy skills of my man Justin, the AKontheGO site is back and runnning at full operation.

I will refrain from mentioning it was all his fault. ;)

Not a Good Start

There are mornings when you know it just would have been better to remain in bed. Or at least not turned on the computer.

Went to update the lovely AKontheGO.com, and found nothing. Nada. Not even a 'sorry but our server is down' message. It is as if some mysterious hand swept across a keyboard and deleted my Alaskan existence.

The tech people from GoDaddy.com have nothing to tell me except that I still own the domain name. Thanks so much.

I am going to take a deep breath and reevaluate my goals. Then I might go hiking.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Aboard the Magic Bus in Wasilla

Yes, that Wasilla. The very same non-Mainstreet USA that has provided so many people with so much entertainment is home to the Alaska Museum of Transportation and Industry.

Yukon and Bear both wanted to visit before summer got into full swing and we were too busy with other things. Plus it was Yukon's birthday weekend, and well, what's better than some man-time at a place with trucks, cars, trains, and planes?

Not a flashy place by any means, the Museum nonetheless provides visitors with an incredible view of industry during Alaska's short history. Every mechanized piece of machinery or mode of transportation is there on its 6-acre campus and available for up-close inspection.

We took our friends M and D with us, both lifetime residents of Alaska and both entertaining. D, in fact, flew two of the airplanes parked on the Museum's grounds. Much to the delight of other visitors and our own Bear, D provided additional insight into the wonders of air travel in Alaska.

The clouds stayed overhead for most of our day, but no rain squashed our outdoor activities like it did last summer when Bear was kitted out in full foul weather gear.

A more detailed description of the Museum and our trip will be posted soon at AKontheGO so everyone can be sure to catch this off-the-beaten-path attraction.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Update from the Wolf Den: My Co-Mom for AS

Perhaps it is not so ironic that one of my best friends is traveling the road of Asperger Syndrome with me, step by step; she in Minnesota, me in Alaska. The mother of ten kids, seven adopted, D. faces daily many of the same ups, downs, and challenges as I. As she has her whole life, D. faces these frustrations with calm demeanor and steely resolve.

D.'s blog provides an excellent glimpse into the world of AS and other learning and social disabilities. While her AS child/ren are not the same age as Wolf, and only beginning to show some of the difficult pre-teen angst that plagues a family, D. confronts many of the same things Yukon and I do, and her serenity in the face of my chaos is comforting.

As we begin to navigate the road to teenage and young adult Asperger's, I am sure glad she is walking next to me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gone Fishin'

Alaska has an abundance of fishing widows this time of year. With Kings, Reds, Silvers, Pinks, and Dogs incrementally making their way up Alaskan waterways now through the end of summer, men are mighty scarce. Unless one happens to be along a river. Then there's too many.

My own beloved Yukon has joined such ranks after the reeling in of his very own King salmon last week. A passing interest last summer, fishing is now at the root of most of Yukon's weekend and spare-time plans.

The allure is simple; Man goes on boat with other men. Man is dressed in Carhartt pants (canvas things that make his butt look cute) and X-Tra Tuff boots (rubber things that make him look like he knows what he is doing). Man holds fishing pole, waiting for fish to strike. Fish strikes, runs, is eventually caught and ends up in a cooler after a multitude of similarly-posed photographs that are posted on I-Phone to everyone but the President. Well, maybe even him. Fish is brought home to wife who Food-Saves the luscious portions to last the winter through, making Man feel like a Provider. Man beats chest.

Repeat as often as necessary between the months of June-August.

Fish On.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Perhaps He's Ready...

Young Bear is constantly reminding us that he is not a little kid anymore. Hmph, maybe in his own mind. To us he is still very much a little boy, needing his blankie to go the sleep and relishing his cuddle time with daddy. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he was independent enough to jump on into the festivities during today's family outing.

Toting along our summer intern and her co-interns, the Kirklands embarked on an enjoyable afternoon at the Alaska Ocean Festival in downtown Anchorage. Sunny, dry, and not the least bit windy, the downtown Park Strip was awash in environmentally-conscious Alaskans all enjoying the fun.

Bear cajoled Yukon into standing in the long, long line at REI's tent to kayak in the big pool the store had constructed in the field. Kayking all by himself, no less. No balancing lessons from the staff, no fear of any kind; the child hopped in the boat, grabbed the paddle, and proceeded to skillfully make his way to the other end of the tank where another staff member stood, mouth hanging open.

Guess we better buy back the kayak we ditched when we moved here...

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Shout-Out for the Ocean!

In its quest to bring awareness and enjoyment of the mighty oceans, the Alaska Center for the Environment brings Anchorage their Ocean Fest tomorrow on the Delaney Park Strip.

Food, music, games (shrimp-peeling contest, anyone?) and the famous Bucking Salmon will all be there to amuse and delight we the ocean-loving AKontheGO

The Ocean Festival is FREE and runs from Noon-10 p.m.; later if you stay on the salmon.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Truth be Told

One of the most difficult challenges of Asperger Syndrome is the frustrating and frankly galling sense of self-absorption that stems from an inability to recognize that other people have feelings.

Over the years there has been much gnashing of teeth regarding the issues surrounding empathy, or, at the very least, some basic sense of accountability when it involves other people.

The success or failure in teaching a child with AS the importance of empathy rests with telling the truth.

Whatever their color, lies are a constant in the life of a kid w/ Asperger's, be they in the form of strreeetching the truth to make one seem more worthy than he or she feels, or outright lies when confronted (okay, caught) in an act of rule-breaking.

The quandry, at least with our own son, is that none of us are sure if the boy simply does not know what the "whole truth" concept means, or if he has figured out over the years that lying is one way to manipulate others into getting what he wants. Both are frustrating to confront, and both cause all surrounding individuals pain. As parents, it is hard enough refereeing children engaged in the "He hit me, I did not" battles that warrant at least a basic truthfulness. We know (we hope) when our kids are lying and usually they fold when we call them on it.

Not so with our Wolf. Adamant, steadfast, and downright stubborn in his refusal to wilt under parental (and now therapist/staff) pressure to 'fess up, Wolf spirals into an abyss of trouble that for most of us would engage a recognition of that sinking feeling of impending punishment.

It's been a frustrating week, to be perfectly honest. I try to step back and remember that concepts second nature to most of us are not so for children with AS. I try to see the scenario from my son's perspective and think how confusing it must be when he is truly caught and now sits in a web of his own untruthfulness, unable to figure out how to come clean for his own sake.

We are truly at an impasse today; Wolf, his therapists, and we his parents. He will not budge from his point of view, but neither will we.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pedal Power in Anchorage

Yukon and Bear love their biking days. Anchorage rocks when it comes to paved trails, something we make the most of whenever we can. Read about a nice option to sightseeing when visiting Alaska at AKontheGO.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Am I Cool?

It has been an interesting and exciting week around here. Our intern (I call her "ours" when really she belongs to the church for the summer) Miss E. has been running about and, to some extent, we have been running along with her.

When there is a 20 year-old engergetic and effervescent young adult in the household, the whole family seems to ramp up. Little Bear, Yukon, and most especially me as I manage schedules, car issues, and even the rest of the interns who seem to like hanging around the Kirkland fam.

A trip to the Zoo Friday, pizza and concert Saturday evening, and the requisite staying up too late and chatting about nothing in particular.

I'm going to be exhausted.

But to bring value to our experience, Miss E, riding home with me after an evening coffehouse service, said "You guys are like the cool, hip adults that people want to hang out with..."

Dang, I'm really that cool? Somebody should tell my kids.