Oregon Trail

Location: Oregon, United States

Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Storm

Well, it's time to do a little catch-up. I find that when the kids are home from school, it is harder to get quiet time on the computer. The computer is in the same room as the television, which doesn't help. In addition, the kids want to use the computer more and more lately, so I have to wait my turn. I hate waiting...

The Storm. Thursday, December 14th, we had a tremendous windstorm, with gusts up to 60 mph. The coast had gusts up to 100 mph, and waves up to 40 feet. There was also a ton of rain. I was scheduled to volunteer at HomePlate and as I got ready to leave, I happened to go in Thomas' bathroom. Water was POURING in the (closed) window from above the sill somewhere. A quick look outside leads me to believe the caulking job is faulty and couldn't hold up under horizontal rain. But no way to tell for sure, and even if that is the problem, no way to fix it until the rain stops (i.e. - June or July).

HomePlate meets in a well protected basement. The power faltered a bit, and was out for a few minutes but was then restored. I got a call from Paul while I was there, and they had lost power at the house as well. Then the woman who comes to HomePlate to pick up the leftover food to bring to a needy family arrived, and said power lines were down everywhere. This made us all a little nervous, as we had no handle on how bad it really was out there. When I left, not one traffic signal was working, and there were clumps of emergency vehicles stationed around several areas where power lines or trees were down. Creepy.

When I got home, I looked around to see how the house was faring. We have a patio just outside our family room door that is the lowest point on our property. This was flooded, and quickly approaching the sliding glass door. I tried in vain to redirect the water by digging trenches, but the ground was already saturated and this did nothing. Eeek! Where are the sandbags when you need them? (No water came in, although you can see the flood line on the door...) The power remained out until around 1 a.m. at the house, but we were one of the lucky ones that got our power restored relatively quickly. You can read all about that in the paper. To top it off, school was cancelled because several buildings were still without power. Early Winter Break!!!

That was Thursday. Sunday, the power faltered again, although there was no sign of rain. How weird is that? It was off for a bit, then back on, then off, then we had a brown-out, then it was off again. We decided that the neighbor's incredibly bright Christmas display must be taxing the system, but later checked on Paul's (conveniently battery operated wireless) laptop and discovered that a transformer had caught on fire. Actually, it exploded - one of the youth at HomePlate was a few blocks away when it happened and said the fireball was above the 100 ft. tall trees. "Intense," he called it.

We actually enjoyed the time without power and are considering going "powerless" (i.e. no phone, computer or t.v.) on a regular basis in order to preserve sanity and appreciation for one another. In theory, the kids are in favor of this as well. We'll see how it goes over when the time actually comes to turn things off...

Monday, December 11, 2006

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas...

Time for the honest truth again. It's harder than I thought it would be to be far from family and friends during the Christmas season. As I decorated the tree, I pulled out ornaments that had been given to me by friends and family over the years. Then Bing Crosby started to sing "I'm Dreaming..." and "I'll be Home..." And, while we've had more snow than Minnesota thus far, the only precipitation we expect is (duh) more rain. So I'm feeling nostalgic and a little bummed.

But not too bummed. The beauty of having moved far away is that you can start all over and do whatever you want. And I don't want the chaos that Christmas had started to become in Minnesota. The only crazy thing about being far away is that you need to have had your Christmas shopping done a month ago so you can ship everything, which is a new reality to me. So some people are getting presents late. But, we've invited my folks here for the week before Christmas. We will see some sights, eat some seriously decent food and play board games with the kids. Meanwhile, Paul went home to New Ulm this weekend to spend time with his mom and family. From our conversations on the phone, this sounds like it was a very good visit. So, while this Christmas is a little scattered, we still have family time, good food and some presents to open. I think it will be just fine.

News Flash. Lately, the news in the paper is all about people getting stuck in the snow and rescue teams having to go and find them. Evidently, this is a common theme around this time of year. I read today that there were 24 people that had to be rescued on Mt. Hood alone last year. I find this amazing. I mean, it snows in Minnesota, but people don't get lost in it on a weekly basis. But here, when it snows in the mountains, it is like an instant blizzard and it sounds like you are buried before you can even turn your car around. Frankly, this is terrifying to me. We tend to be a little carefree about driving in the snow, like it's no big deal, and we scoff at the way people panic around here when there is a little on the road. But when you add the fact that there was probably freezing rain under the snow, there are no plows, no salt or gravel, and in higher elevations the chance of getting stranded, it starts to make more sense. At any rate, I'll be paying attention to the forecast before I go gallivanting off through the mountains.

Ride along. I had the opportunity to do a civilian ride-along with the police the other day. (In the front seat, where the good guys belong...). As a part of my outreach to youth, we thought it would be helpful to coordinate with the police, see what they consider to be the problem areas, etc. So I scheduled a ride along. The thing about it is, you don't get to choose what is going to happen that day, you just have to go with the flow. But serendipity ruled and we got called to an area high school where there had been an assault. It was a fascinating process from the perspective of a mental health worker, as there were several places where I would have thought it would be a good idea to involve a counselor or social worker and there was no one in sight. Instead, all the youth were suspended or expelled for their involvement and the school staff has marked them as trouble makers. Is this really supposed to solve anything? What is the expectation here? It sounds like sending your kid to their room to think about what they've done but their room has a t.v. and three game systems with online access. There will be no thinking going on except how to pick off the next enemy before they themselves get blown away. Hmm, is there a theme here? Rather, I would use the opportunity to hook up these kids and their families with some counseling, anger management, etc. (in addition to suspension/expulsion). Anyway, I had fun and hope to debrief with the school personnel some more to see if I missed something...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Countryside, The Critter, The Kid,

The Countryside. For Thanksgiving, I wanted a good wine to go with the meal. Being a wine-dork, I had to look up what would pair nicely with turkey. Fortunately, Epicurious has a great site with recipes, wine pairing suggestions, and a guide to which vineyards produce consistently decent wine. So Pinot Noir sounded like the way to go, and Lo and Behold, Oregon is one of the top quality producers, since the climate is very similar to the region in France that also makes this variety. In fact, there is a vineyard on my way to work, about seven miles away, that was recommended. Now how cool is that? So I high-tailed it out there. Up a curvy, mountain road, past huge homes that are being built into the mountainside, and into the wine-tasting room where there were a few people standing around tasting wine. At this point, I am completely out of my element. It is apparent that there is a "right" way to do this tasting thing, and I certainly don't know it. So I pretend that I am a very busy person that knows exactly what I want, grab my bottle of wine, and get the heck out of there. I pull out of the parking area, and begin to head down the hill, when there is a sun-break throughout the entire valley. (This was a very big deal, because we had record amounts of rain this November and we could seldom see anything further than the car in front of us.) The clouds lift, and I can see the entire valley and all the way to the coastal mountains. There is still fall color all around, and the clouds that are left scudding across the mountains add a hint of dark blue. It is absolutely breathtaking. I suddenly realize that people get all wistful about wine country because of the scenery. Funny. I always thought it was about the wine...

The Critter. For some time now, when I bring the dog out before bed, she has been sniffing and sniffing as though there were something under the deck. Cats roam free around here, and I figured that's what it was, since it is fairly dry under the deck and it has been raining, raining, raining. Then I started to put things together. Lately, we've had strange piles of barkdust with poop in the middle cropping up around the house. Not very cat-like. So the other night when the dog indicated there was something there, I got the flashlight and checked it out. Little round ears. Little masked eyes. Little raccoon under my deck. Actually, medium raccoon from what I could see. Terrific. So I came inside and checked the internet for solutions. I'm happy to coexist with the critter as long as it doesn't wreak havoc. But my sources say they carry ringworm and all sorts of other nasty diseases that could get passes on to the dog, then us, so we need to kick it out.

The county we live in offers a list of about 20 things to do, all very humane, and discourages live trapping and removal because the stress can kill the animal. I still had questions, so I called them and I got a recording says they will not accept calls regarding raccoons, opposums or skunks and gave me another number to call - Critter Gitter. So I call Critter Gitter (all I can picture is some guy in a trailer cleaning his shotgun with his trusty coonhound and a pick-up out back) and they offer to live trap it and remove it. Hello? Does the county know this? What is the message here? When I told the woman that answered the phone (not the shotgun-wielding redneck I expected), that I planned to try to get rid of it myself first, she recommended I put a sprinkler on the deck so the water would run underneath and make it less cozy. There was no way for her to know that the deck is already slick from all the rain. The other suggestion they had is to be as active as possible outside as this will discourage wildlife from wanting to live with you. What do they want me to do, have a weekly neighborhood picnic in the dark, in the rain? Maybe I'll put the sprinkler under the deck, then hope it doesn't decide to move into the chimney. Aargh.

The Kid. Last week, I breezed over Stephen as there was not much to say. This week I have an update. Before we left Minnesota, we'd had Stephen tested for dyslexia and whatever else we might find. Long story which I won't get into here, but we'll just say he'd reached a crisis point and the testing was well warranted. I'd suspected something was up for at least a year but he wasn't far enough behind in his work for the school to agree to testing. When we moved here, I approached the school with the results of the testing in my hand and was told that we should "wait and see how he does", then go from there. I set my jaw and waited. He did relatively well for the remaining two months of school. Then this year began and within two weeks he was overwhelmed with homework so I set a meeting with the teachers. One of them said, "He is a little off-task, and I think he could do better", which nearly caused me to transform into a she-bear and create havoc, but I refrained (proven fact that wreaking havoc doesn't get you very far) and left her with the report we'd gotten following the testing. She said it was "interesting". Again, at conference time, I raised my concerns and my feeling that he could reach his potential if he had accomodations in place. She said she would look into it, and I said I would write a letter requesting an evaluation. I never heard from her or anyone at the school after that. So last week I finally wrote the letter.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from the special ed director at Stephen's school. She is sure we met last year when we moved here (Really? I have NO recollection of that, but it's possible) and that she recommended we have him evaluated by a physician for ADHD in order to qualify him for an IEP. I remember being told to look into medication for ADHD. Evidently, since I already knew he had been diagnosed with ADHD, her request was translated in my brain as "try the meds and then we'll see how he does". Major communication breakdown on both of our parts. She said that she remembers reading his test results, but never read the whole report, thinking the test results told the whole story. She sincerely apologized, said, "This child needs to be on an IEP. I have my own children and I'm telling you I get it." and agreed to do whatever was necessary to make it happen as soon as possible. I cannot tell you what a relief this is. Stephen is a gifted, wonderful child and school is so hard on him. I am thrilled to watch the transformation as he gets the help he needs to succeed.