Saturday, October 30, 2010


Next to Christmas, I can't think of a worse day to be sick than Halloween; or, in this case, Halloween weekend. But that is exactly what our Bear faces as a double blast of illness has rendered this usually active six year-old to the consistency of pumpkin guts.

Dealing with strep throat and an ear infection, Bear has gone between our two couches and his bunk bed these last 24 hours in an attempt to get comfortable, occasionally wearing his Army Man outfit for posterity, or perhaps wishful thinking. Not eating, barely drinking, and hardly sleeping, we spent a feverish, shivery night waiting for the clock to register the time for me to call our pediatrician and (thankfully) make an appointment for the old tonsil-tickling test that would affirm my suspicions.

A quick trip to Target for a prescription of high-dose antibiotics and a big box of frozen fruit bars, a call to Yukon and Wolf to update them on our day, and back home jiggety-jig.
I made a deal with Bear that he could try trick-or-treating tomorrow night if he stays in bed all day today, sweetening the pot with the promise of as many fruit bars as his little stomach could hold. A flavor-sampling later (that would be four bars), he mustered enough energy to help carve our big pumpkin with "angry eyebrows" before returning to the couch downstairs for a Scooby Doo zombie movie.

The strangest part about all this is my expectancy. You see, each and every autumn of this child's life, he gets sick. Since right after his second birthday, when this very issue made Halloween a tenuous possibility, Bear has danced a fine line during the month of October. Last year, Swine Flu; year before that, ears; this year, ears and throat. I'm beginning to think his immune system has an automatic timer.

So, beyond my (nonetheless glorious) view from my eastern-facing windows, I have seen little of the outdoors this weekend. I did, however, capture this shot a few moments ago while watching clouds begin to move up from the south, blocking our last bit of sunshine. Nice. Peaceful.

Friday, October 29, 2010

From the Wolf Den: Baby Steps?

Raise your hand if you've seen the movie "What About Bob"! Love it. Just love it. So do my guys, and right now, Yukon and Wolf are watching it.

After a few days of dad-dom, where all was good fun and shopping and fabulous food not provided by CHYC, today was a day of reality and baby steps. Just like Bob and his goldfish.

Yukon had a meeting sans Wolf yesterday, where he and Therapist B and Clinical Director R went down the list of questions I helped prepare. Questions like "When will Wolf be engaging in more social situations to prepare him for discharge?" and, oh, speaking of discharge, "What is your outlook for the near future in that respect?" and "Should we be meeting with our attorney now, or later?" I have a headache already.

These are difficult questions to answer given the State of Alaska's propensity for confusing Yukon, me, and CHYC; given the unstability Wolf still can possess; and given that we still are not 100% sure where he will go post-school.

I'm both thrilled and sobered by what we have learned these past 24 hours, I just hope Yukon and I are ready for the next few hundred. But, like Bob in the movie, we need to remind ourselves to be content with those baby steps, and thrill in the basic premises of life.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Update From the Wolf Den: Dad is Prime Time

I'm sitting in front of the television tonight, sipping on a beer, eating Vermont Smokey Cheddar popcorn and marvelling at my calm. Funny how that always seems to happen when my husband is away.

Yukon flew down to visit Wolf early this morning, with little fanfare but high expectations. We've realized, after such a long, long time that building ourselves up for a letdown at CHYC upon arrival is not productive to any of us. So when Yukon hopped out of his rental car this afternoon, it was with mixed feelings. Trepidation, excitement, and a little bit of dread, all mashed up together with travel exhaustion.

But he told me on the phone that few things meant so much as when Wolf came through the doors and said "When do we leave?" Yep, that's right. The kid held on and kept going and was able to go out with his dad. O.U.T.

Where did they go? All the favorite places. Sonic Drive-In for a sour apple slushie and burger, Old Navy for some new clothes (and not with mom, what fun!), and the ultimate; Barnes and Noble.

Could have been rough, not having left school for months and possessing a typical Asperger-y love of books, but Wolf hung in there, even, Yukon noted, looking at books the rest of the family might like and not just those of his own interest. True story.

There could not be a better day for Wolf. Or Dad. This was a good idea.

Yukon and the two therapists most involved with Wolf meet tomorrow, with me on speakerphone. We need to begin to address the most frustrating of issues, what Wolf's future looks like, and when and where. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Time Out!

Yes, even we need a time out some days. With Yukon ready to jet off to Utah tomorrow, Bear's birthday, my birthday, and still NO snow in Anchorage, we decided to take the day off yesterday and explore deeper into the depths of a favorite place.

Eagle River Nature Center is about 20 miles from our home in the town of, duh, Eagle River. The Nature Center is nestled in a beautiful but chilly valley perfect for a little pre-winter hiking. The sun came up, we packed the family Expedition (completely overhauled with brand new, uber cool winter truck tires) and drove off into the hazy autumn day.

At a good 10 degrees cooler than Anchorage, ERNC's trails were frozen like concrete and ice lipped along the shorelines of ponds and streams, making us shiver in our fuzzy socks. We hiked out 2 miles to Rapids Camp along Eagle River (the river) to check out a yurt we'll be renting in early December (yes, a yurt, as in the Mongolian dwelling). A great family destination, we wanted to be sure Bear's little legs could propell him come dry or snowy conditions before we embarked on such a potentially crazy adventure.

He did and we were assured his ability; made all the more positive by the sheer number of boulders to climb upon and jump off the entire way. So energized was Bear that he shed his coat somewhere along the way and left it for me to carry. How do kids manage to stay so warm while the rest of us are freezing our fannies off?

A nice end to a nice weekend, and a great way for Yukon and I to communicate in the company of our favorite environment. Some days we completely forget about looking after each other, we're so busy looking after everybody and everything else.

I took this great photo of our shadows on the return trip, when the sun finally warmed up the earth. It's pretty cool, don't you think?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bear

Upstairs, asleep in his Spider Man bunk bed, is a little boy. Not a toddler, no longer a preschooler, even, but a full-fledged, incredibly cute B.O.Y.

I am truly aghast at the speed by which life manages to age both my children and me. Six years ago tonight I was bouncing on a big old exercise ball while my husband and oldest son watched a rerun of Star Trek in anxious anticipation of the moment I said "It's time." Bear arrived in a hurry and still seems to be in a state of perpetual motion; jumping, climbing, twirling, and shouting his way through life. He's entertaining, exasperating, and exactly what this mom needs some days. Well, every day, actually.

Today was a special day indeed. Pumpkin muffins for a birthday snack at school, a special crown made by his beloved Frau Martin, and an award ceremony where he was presented with a certificate for academic achievement (which, of course, meant absolutely nothing to him; I was pretty happy, though).
For a lot of reasons.

Happy Day You Arrived, kiddo.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When All Else Fails, Send 'Em To Bed

That's my solution.

Tuesday nights are always a bit out of sorts around here. Yukon accepted an adjunct teaching position at the University of Alaska Anchorage in their Master of Public Administration program, instructing 12 graduate-level students in the art of Introduction to Public Management.

As a result, he is off the family radar from Monday post-dinner to Tuesday post-bedtime, which is better than the first part of the semester, when he was on another planet altogether from Sunday morning through Tuesday night. Normally, Bear and I do pretty well, but tonight, oy.

Big OY. We hear that the 'flu is making its annual rounds through the schools of Anchorage, and if that is the reason for the wild behavior, I'll be glad to pin it on a microbe of illness. But after two days of defiant, tearful, obnoxious behavior emulating from my otherwise sweet and mild-mannered, albeit bossy kindergartener, I'm ready to blame it on anything.

It doesn't help that my brain is ready to emerge from my skull at any minute and I am in a writer's funk as deep as Davy Jones' locker. Part of me just wants to throw myself across my bed, sigh deeply, and moan, "What's the meannnning of it all?" The other part tells my psyche to suck it up and pour a glass of wine, already.

I did that, read Bear 'Georgie the Ghost to the Rescue', which through its nostalgic old-book smell and kind, gentle words returned some sense of sanity to my frazzled daddy-less world tonight.

Until Bear spit water all over the bathroom sink in a defiant gesture related to the brushing of his teeth.

He went to bed at 6:45 and was asleep by 7 p.m. and I'm not far behind. Maybe. There's still wine in the glass.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nobody Used to Have Birthdays in October!

When I was a little kid, sitting around at recess with my gal pals talking about everything from Dryer's horse statues to the age of our dads (funny how the oldest dad was always the wow factor, haha), the topic of birthdays inevitably came up.

Not only did I have a goofy name (a first name nobody in the 70's recognized, and a second everyone did), I had a goofy birthday. Somehow it appeared in my mind that girls should have birthdays in April, May, or June to be able to warrant the outdoor-themed party. Sunshine, flowers, and little butterflies flitting about gracefully; you get the picture.

Thank goodness my mother had the creativity and patience to plan and implement birthday parties that kept a gaggle of girls busy and happy, minus the sunshine and flowers.

These days I pray for snow on my birthday. Go figure. Matches my graying hair.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do You Really Know a Word?

A mini-van passed me the other day on a busy Anchorage road. Mom (presumably) and kids were chugging along and eventually passed me on a hill as I became stuck behind a city bus.

As traffic cleared and dirty white van moved right in front of me, I noticed a bland, black-on-white sticker in the middle of the back door. "Tolerance is for those with no conviction."

I always think I know what words mean, yet these two, tolerance and conviction, combined in one sentence bugged me. Bugged me enough, in fact, that I went home and chewed on it before finally going to my big dictionary.

"Tolerance: Sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices conflicting with one's own. An allowable deviaion from a standard." I went one step further and looked up sympathy, even though Yukon and I refer to the term almost daily with respect to Wolf. "Feel loyalty, support, or sharing feelings of another's. Showing sensitivity to..."

Hmmm, so to be tolerant means sucking up one's own personal beliefs, understanding the feelings beneath another's, even if it conflicts mightily with ours? Heavy.

"Conviction: A strong persuasion or belief, in a state of being convicted, and compelled to admit the truth." Even heavier, man.

I was interviewed by PDX FM a few weeks ago and host Doug Zanger mentioned that my writing style is strongly formed through my convictions of raising a child such as Wolf. Truly I feel compelled to share a story not often revealed by most moms; a painful, gritty roadmap of the life as Erin Kirkland knows it, full of good and bad but ultimately real. In that respect I am convicted to admit the truth that in my heart I am not going to know it all.

But where does tolerance live? I need only to go to my last post to find that. As a follow up, btw, this morning little W. sat in the lobby of school, waiting while his parents met with the principal, nervously picking at his coat, arms resting on a too-big table. My mind drifted back to a similar scene almost 11 years ago when my own son sat waiting outside the school office while I negotiated his return to school after a "fight" that looked, I found out, exactly like the one involving my youngest son three days ago.

W. deserves tolerance, but also my conviction. Conviction to support, believing everybody deserves a chance given the right tools, and tolerance to help them achieve.

Am I weak for believing this? I know my analogy is not the meaning behind the bumper sticker I saw the other day, but it could be. I know politics and religion and morals and ethics take different forms depending upon one's beliefs, but in my opinion, starting with our own little stories of tolerance and conviction lead us toward the bigger ones.

And that, children, is how we are able to believe both. Of that I am convinced.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Maybe This is Why...

Yukon was part of the Federal contingent able to receive a Monday Freebie due to the Columbus Day holiday, so we enjoyed our all-too rare time together. Sleet and rain outside forced us to abandon our plans for a hike and instead we hunkered down at our favorite coffee shop, reading the New York Times and chatting about nothing in particular. You know those conversations, parents, ones that are about everything and nothing in that mature sort of way, offering opinions and insights that are near impossible with kids demanding every moment of attention.

It was clearly a day to be enjoyed. At least, until the phone rang and the principal's voice came over the line. Uh-oh. It seems our little kindergarten kinder got into a blow-by-blow knockout at recess and the principal wanted to let me know about it. Apparently, the other child had swung first, and Bear swung back. (Note to self: Do not allow husband to be around post-phone call, for his first words were "Where did he hit him?") Sheesh.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered who the other child was. I help in the classroom each week, and know the kids well, especially one in particular who we'll call W. Socially awkward, almost anti-so, hands groping and waving, speech difficult to understand, W. is the bane of kindergarten. He appears to be fixated on Bear, pushing and shoving not in an aggressive sort of way, but in a way I recognize all too clearly. I adore W.

This is my chance. I am now both the mom of W. and the mom of Bear, in a way, for I have been the mom on the other end of the phone call the principal made to W's, probably anticipating what was coming and yet wanting to defend her little boy at the same time. But I am the mother to Bear, too, with an opportunity to teach grace and compassion, even if it hurts.

Bear and Yukon had a man-to-man talk after school, and he understands as well as a five year-old could the need to use words instead of fists, caring instead of intolerance. Kindness is easy to give, Yukon explained. It's sometimes hard, as is the case with W., to receive.

A delicate moment. A precious lesson. One that, I don't think, was accidental.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Afraid, or Aware? The Choices of Family Travel

I've been asked by a few people my take on the recent State Department Travel Advisory for Europe. Rather than rehash what I already wrote this morning for AKontheGO, here is a link to the blog post.

For the record, since moving to Alaska five years ago, I am a much less fearful traveler. Read HERE to find out why...