Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Soul-Blowing Sunset

Happy Wednesday!

I just noticed that last week's post was number 50 for Downs by the Bay!  50 posts inspired by Brady P. and Copper Harbor.  Wow!  Perhaps that's why last night's sunset was so soul-blowing.

Let me tell you about it.

But before I tell you, I will inform you that you need to pay extra attention to my words. Why?  Big surprise... I did not have a camera to capture even one moment, one color or one sparkle.  

But I captured it in my soul.

Brady P. and I drove to Bryce's beach to catch a sunset and throw some rocks.  The whole drive there, I could see these clouds.  They were very unique.

It was like looking at the underside of hundreds of sacks of fluff.  They all hung, packed together across one section of the sky.  And somehow, with the sun still above them, a golden light illuminated their curves, so sensually that they each left their own impression in the sky and on my mind.

I watched those clouds the whole hike down the beach, too.  "Oh, those clouds!" I kept exclaiming.  They just grabbed a part of me.  I wonder if I will ever see that sight again.

After Brady P. was done being mesmerized with the oncoming waves in the freshly open lake, I got him to run down the beach to a rock throwing spot.  That kept him busy while I sunk a few myself and watched those clouds.

I kept checking to see when the sun was going to sink below them.

Hold your fist out in front of you as far as you can with your thumb down.  Now imagine your thumb side is the horizon of the lake and your pinky side is the bottom of those clouds.  The rest of your fingers represents approximately how much clear sky was between the clouds and the water.  Not too much in the grand scheme.

After a few more splooshers, I noticed a concentrated spot of golden light at the bottom of the cloud sack clusters.

"The sun is going to drop!" I squealed.  I found it ironic that the sun was dropping during a sunset, but it was going to slowly fall out of those clouds and drop into the middle of Lake Superior.

*Insert giddiness here.*


Suddenly, pshew!  The rays shot forth from behind the clouds, and started to illuminate the beach with a soft, warm glow. The golden sacks of clouds darkened into a mass of shadow.  They became the great dark wall in the sky.

The waves started to sparkle from behind.  Oh, my mighty Mother  of Nature.  The rhythmic waves, about 6 inches tall from base to crest, turned into clear, moving water windows.  I could see the slowly dropping sun's light right through them.

It sparkled, it danced, it took me to a new place right on this earth.

My heart felt like it was struck by lightening.  Every cell in my body tingled and shook as I took in the beauty before me.  

And the water splashing from Braeden's rocks leapt up like liquid gold as the sun illuminated the droplets from behind.  I had to throw rocks myself just to watch the golden splashes.

Remember your fist as the sky?  Now imagine the bright burning sun filling that gap like your fist. Just fitting between the clouds and the lake for a minute before it sank into the sparkling water.

I know you're not supposed to stare at the sun, but I did't care.  I had golden orbs filling my vision everywhere I looked and each time I blinked.  It was so worth it.

Because then the sun sank into the lake.

"Bye-bye, Sun!  See you tomorrow!" I waved, hopeful that I really would see it tomorrow.  That is never guaranteed here in the Keweenaw.

And slowly the golden backlight faded as the waves became dim.  I could have taken that as a loss, but the next show was equally as spectacular.

As the last bit of sun sank below the horizon, all hell broke loose.  Now I only say that because, well, what do you think the sky would look like if "hell" opened up and spewed its fiery hues?

A deep magenta/red glow lit up the horizontal stripes on the bottom  of that wall cloud.  It was like a  claw ripped across it, and the claw marks remained dark.  

In the foreground, new clouds made an appearance.  You know that pearl-backed white dragon from The Never Ending Story movie?  He was up there, with hot pink fur and his mouth open, billowing his deep, hearty laugh, as he flew northward through the sky.  And all around were similar shapes as if he was joined by smaller friends.

I dropped my jaw in the rocks.  Holy fantazamagoly.  I was simply stunned sitting there in that swath of rocks.  I just stared in amazement at the beauty in this world.  This sky.  This lake.  This universe.

As the sky continued to darken, and the red glow retreated, I found my jaw and clicked it back into place.  I took the lightening bolts out of my heart and threw them in the lake.

Surely, she would deliver more again.

*****
Thanks for reading about the magic!

You've earned a picture of the other day when we were puddle splashing.  Braeden likes splashing in puddles as much as he likes throwing rocks.  He always comes back drenched, and it's hard to pull him away!

Mud face standing in a puddle

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Do You Really Want To?

Hey there!

Thanks for clicking to read.  

No, really.  Thank you.

I wouldn't make the effort to post each Wednesday (or soon after) if I thought nobody was reading this.  But you are.  So thanks.

With your dedication -- weekly or otherwise -- I want you to ask yourself why.  "Hey, (myself), why do I read this blog?"

Do you know the answer right away?  

Do you personally know and love Braeden and me, and this is how you stay connected?  Do you know and love someone with Down syndrome and enjoy the camaraderie?  Do you love Copper Harbor?  Did you read my last blog, A Little Slice of da Harbor, and habitually switch over because you enjoy my writing?  Did a friend show you this blog?

You don't have to tell me.  Unless you want to.  But I just want you to look inside yourself, and ask why you do this one little thing.  Really, it's best to do that with everything you do, but we will start with this.

For now.

Okay,  thanks for that introspective moment.

I have had a very introspective winter.  For years I was a social butterfly, and I overextended myself for others when it was actually zapping my energy.  I just felt like I should do it all for others.  Even though I physically couldn't.  

Nobody can.

But I have been sober for over a year.  I find comfort in meaningful conversations instead of surface chatter.  I find power in telling people 'no' when their request does not fall in line with my purpose.

Because I need all the energy I can get to help save the world. To help raise the consciousness of humanity to its highest potential.  But before I do that, I have to do it within myself!

So I am working on it.  It is starkly revealing at times.  It can also be difficult to face.  But at the same time, it is empowering and liberating.  My old friends and family might not understand it, but it is a beautiful transition in my life.

It's as though I've been uprooted from my old habits and plunked into fresh soil.  Soil with great potential for growth.  But in order to soak up the energy, I need to focus on the sun.  And the rain.  And the darkness and mystery of what my roots are now pushing into and through.

I just need to believe.

My heart can feel that it's right.

I am grateful.

Okay, so thanks for exploring the inner world of Amanda for a moment.

Do you ever do that with yourself?  Just like I asked you why you read this blog, I would encourage you to ask yourself "Why am I doing this?" about more things.

If your answer is usually "Because I want to, and it helps me fulfill my purpose," then you are on the right track, my friend. 

If your answer is, "Because I have to," or "Someone is making me," or "This is just what I have always done," then please take it a step further and notice how it feels to realize that.

How does it feel to be forced?  To feel like you have no other option?  To follow old habits out of "comfort?"  Just sit with that feeling.

*Please note: some things you have to do, like biological functions and taking care of people and animals you are responsible for.  But you can ponder ways to do these things in ways that they work best for you.

Now think about something you love to do.  "I love to (fill in the blank), and it makes me feel (fill in the blank)."

Now feel it.  Really feel it.

Feel the difference in your body when you focus on those two different frequencies.  I don't even have to tell you which one is better.  You already know.  And only you can feel it fully.  Because it is part of you.

So right now, you are either thinking, "Hmm, this is very interesting.  I will do this more in my daily life."  Or you are thinking, "Where are the pictures of Braeden in all this snow we just got?  This is boring."

And that's okay.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, this blog is full of surprises and variety.  But all of them have the same purpose: to help make a difference in this world.

Thanks for reading.  But only if you want to....

Braeden stomps in puddles because he wants to

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Little Chucker

When deciding on Braeden's middle name, I first picked Charles.  That was my Grandpa Wilbur's middle name.  

The May before Braeden was born, I was in North Dakota, the state where Grandpa Wilbur lived and passed in 1986.  I didn't know him very well because I was so young, but he came to visit me that May of 2014 while I slept on my aunt and uncle's couch.

It was Grandpa's 100th birthday, and my mom and I went to visit his grave that day.  I felt a coolness behind me as I tried to sleep on my side with a little bun in my oven.  I knew instantly that it was him.

He told me I was having a boy.

I smiled.

So when Braeden was born, I had the inclination to brand his middle name after Grandpa Wilbur Charles.  However, my own father is still alive.  My wonderful Daddio Philip.  I figured he would be honored, too, so I switched it to Braeden Philip to carry on that legacy.  All from the convenience of my hospital bed.

Why am I telling you this?

Because "Chuck" lives on in Braeden.  He is a rock chucker to the max.  He chucks each rock enthusiastically and deliberately.  Like each one is his first and last.

Double-fisting before the double chucker

Luckily Bryce has a beach nearby where we can go, so Brady P. can satisfy his obsession... in April!  There is no place to sit on a rock beach near open water in the Harbor right now.  I have looked.

Thanks Bryce, for finding a beach, chucking with us and capturing the moments (all photos on this post courtesy of Bryce).

Watching Braeden do this is inspiring.  He is in his element, no doubt.  The moment he sits (or stands) on the beach, he  scoops up a rock and tosses is in.  Giddily.  Merrily. Seriously.  Like he means it.

It's so inspiring, that anyone around has to join in for a few.

B and me in rock-tossing bliss

Over and over and over and over again.  The other day we sat out for almost two hours, and he still disagreed when we said it was time to leave.

"Three more rocks, Braeden," is always my cue to inform him that we are about to leave.  Then we have to say good-bye to the rocks and lake, so he knows that we are really leaving.

He still disagrees.

And that is a nice way to say that sometimes he throws himself into the rocks and screams in protest.  Sometimes he comes reluctantly.  But he always disagrees.  At minimum.

I can't blame him.  Who wants to leave Lake Superior?  Who wants to leave the beach?  Who wants to stop doing their favorite thing in the world?

Certainly not Braeden.

He could sit there all day in mild to warm weather.  He doesn't even know he is hungry until we get inside.

I really wonder if he might be the first Major League baseball pitcher with Down syndrome.  Not that we watch sports, but he's got mad skills.

It is in him.  My little Chuck.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Say Whaaat?

Well, spring break is over, and I got my little boy back.  I haven't worked my life around a spring break since I was in college, and now, here I am, planning around my little boy's school.

Because he is in school -- for the most part.

And he is learning.  A lot.

For much of his life, he's been living with only me.  Unless we are visiting family, I feel like it's just been B and me.  I know he thinks I am cool, and he loves me, but I am his mom.  He needs to branch out.  See other faces.  Hear other voices.  Receive different perspectives.

School has been awesome for that.  He sees and interacts with other kids.  He works with other teachers.  He is part of a social hierarchy, if you will, whether he knows it or not (because, as the youngest, he is on the bottom.  Ha!).

He is working so hard on talking.  So hard.  He will now imitate me and others as they slowly speak a word to him.  He intently moves his mouth and voice while he watches their lips and listens to their sounds.

He can say some short words and even some people's names! And he certainly enjoys the thunderous applause when he nails a word.  

I'm so proud of him.

Of all the areas a child with special needs gets tested in, speech was his weakest.  And actually, it is the only area in which he qualifies for continuing special education because his current level is less than half where a normal child would be.

His struggle to speak does not come as a surprise.  In fact, I started sign language with him at two months old in preparation.  He used his first sign just before he turned one. "More," he signed when he wanted more food.

I nearly fell off my chair.

But here's where the struggle is apparent in him.  He is so smart.  So smart.  He can point to nearly any color, shape, letter, number, animal, object or person you ask.  But he can't say it himself.

So when he wants one of those things, he can't always express it, unless he has a sign or a combination of sounds that someone recognizes.

It frustrates him.

But even more than that, I think he feels a bit inadequate about it.  He sees other kids (sometimes younger) say what they want.  He watches adults converse.  He knows exactly what he wants, but can't always convey it.

And let me tell you, when he knows exactly what he wants, that is exactly what he wants, and nothing else will do.  For those things, I make sure he has a way to communicate to me, or he would probably spend time pounding his fists on the floor in a tantrum.  Luckily, that is rare.

And luckily, he is trying and learning at an accelerated rate.  His ability to even try a sound has taken off in the last few months.  His ability to make the sound correctly has doubled.  And his desire to try each word someone might say is remarkable.

For all this, I thank his speech therapist, Miss Dawn.  I thank his grammies and grampies who work so hard with him.  I thank his teachers who work with him one-on-one.  I thanks the students who take extra time to learn his signs, interact with him and speak clearly to him.  I thank each person who has watched him in my absence because they take that time to learn his signs and make him feel comfortable.

I also have to thank myself.  It's been a lot.  Trial and error for extra programs.  Learning some sign language myself.  Using extra patience to pay close attention to that magical little boy who just wants to be heard.

It's  a lot for everyone involved, but it's so rewarding.

And someday, he will tell us all about it.  He will blow our minds with the things he has to say... the things he knows... because there is much wisdom in his eyes.

Thanks for reading and learning with me.  As a present, here is a picture of him splashing in puddles.

Splashing through the puddles

Friday, March 30, 2018

Traveling

Hey!  There you are!

I've been traveling this week.  See you next Wednesday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

3:21

HAPPY WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY!!!

I never knew a day existed to celebrate Down syndrome until I had a child of my own with the extra 21st chromosome.  When I learned it was on March 21st, the first day of spring (well, this used to be the first day of spring!), I thought that was perfect.

Spring represents a new beginning.  A waking up from our long hibernation.  So to celebrate a condition that used to be left in the dark and cast in the shadows with the light of a new beginning sounds like a fantastic parallel.

Also, the earth is in perfect balance between darkness and light.  Between the shortest and longest days of the year.

I took that idea a step further, and remembered what Martha Beck wrote in her memoir Expecting Adam (a fantastic read, by the way).  To start the book, Martha was speaking with a psychic.  Martha's son, Adam (a three-year-old with the extra chromosome), was coming through the psychic to tell his mother to relax a bit.  That it was all going to be okay.

What struck me most was when the psychic said, "He's on both sides of the veil." (*I am paraphrasing this section, as I am unable to find my copy of the book for confirmation.)

Now, I don't know what you believe about spirituality or religion, and I'm not going to tell you what I think you should believe.  But what this woman was saying was that Adam, a small child with Down syndrome, was both on this earth in physical form and lingering in the spiritual realm beyond what we can see.  

At the same time.

I instantly thought about Braeden when I read that.  His wholeness, wisdom and ability to connect with everyone had me believe that my own son was on both sides of the veil as well.  And still is.  And probably, so are all people with this extra chromosome.

They know, see and feel more than most people.  

They are in perfect balance.  Just like the earth at this time.

I cried when I learned all those things.

And now I celebrate today with a joyful and purposeful heart...

And CrAzY socks!

One way to raise awareness for Down syndrome is to wear crazy socks today.  Show them off.  Take a picture of your wildly clad feet and post it on the internet.  Get together in the office or school or grocery store with all the other people wearing crazy socks and hang it on a billboard.

The school kids in their crazy socks!

Because Down syndrome is cool, man.  It's really cool.

I am down with Down syndrome.

Below is a video that totally jerked my heart strings.  50 mums and 50 4-year-olds with Down syndrome doing karaoke in their car.  They are lip syncing and signing the words instead of singing.


Seriously.  Take 4 1/2 minutes of your day and check it out.    It's World Down Syndrome Day!  

What really got me was seeing the moms' reactions to their children.  The beaming pride.  The deep, genuine love.  The spontaneous laughter from spontaneous goofiness.

I experience those things with Braeden everyday.  And maybe all moms of all types of children do!  I can't really compare because I am only Braeden's mom.  That is what I know.  

It is also something I love.

And I would not trade it for anything else.  You couldn't offer me anything in this whole world that would make me want to take away my son's extra chromosome.  It is truly a gift.  A gift that gives love everyday.

A gift in perfect balance.  A gift of a new beginning.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Extra, Extra!

If you've been with me for the last few months, you know I like to switch it up.  One week you'll get adventure pictures, the next you get a lecture on love and kindness, the next you get school updates, etcetera, etcetera.

Today we are going to go a little deeper again.

Into the realm of what it's like to be a parent of someone with "extra" needs.  

I prefer to use the term extra.  "Special" needs doesn't seem to cut it for me.  We all have special needs.  Needs that are unique to us as individuals.

What are some of yours?

Braeden, to me, has extra needs.

We are learning another language together (American Sign Language), so we can communicate effectively with each other.  Within that, we are also able to share that language with others -- expanding their horizons and opening communication with others that use ASL daily.

To me, that is extra.  It's a bonus.

I have to drive Braeden "to town," which is anywhere from 36-52 miles from our house, a couple times each month for therapy.

He has speech therapy in Calumet and physical therapy in Houghton.  Let me tell you, I am not a fan of driving to town, especially in the winter with a morning appointment and a blizzard.

But it is important that he gets assessed.  That I am given tips for further progression.  That he is praised for what he has achieved in the last month.  That we keep wow-ing his therapists.

The drive and the praise are extra.  And they are both worth it.

Braeden has extra medical needs.  Besides a yearly well-child checkup, he gets his blood drawn to check his thyroid levels and make sure his thyroid medication is at the right dose.  Extra appointments and extra number checking for me to make sure that what the doctor says matches what I believe.

He had open-heart surgery at 4 1/2 months old.  This May we go to see his cardiologist for a two year check-up to see how that operation is holding up.  He will also see his urologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan this summer to make sure his urethra surgery is still keeping things clear.

I believe he is fine in both these areas, but I will go the extra (700) miles to make sure.  For a half an hour appointment.

These are the things I've been doing from the beginning.  Luckily, with the physical and emotional time and energy of grammies and grampies along the way.  But to me it's "normal" until I realize how extra it really is.

The other day, Braeden came up to me, expressed his cuteness, turned around and walked away.  But there was something about that moment.

Wow, I thought.  I am raising that little boy.  And he has Down syndrome.  I am just doing that.  Not everybody would do that.

And it's true.  Not everybody would.  It is a choice I make everyday.  Not just to keep a small child alive, but to keep on top of all his appointments, all his medical records, all his therapies, all his progress.

To make sure we get out each day to bask in the glory of the snow or the sunshine or the lake.  To have extra giggles while we have our dance party.  To take extra time to show him my mouth while I sound out words that I know he wants to say.  To clap extra loud when he actually does.

Having Brady P. in my life has taught me a lot.  A lot, a lot.  And I am grateful for the schooling that only he could bring.  

He might be extra work, but he is so worth it.  If you ever meet him, or you already know him, you know this to be true.  

If you have someone extra in your life, I hope you know you are fortunate.  And they are fortunate to have you.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Splashers and Woofers

Even though we had a teaser of spring, it is still winter.  The fresh few inches of still falling snow just keep proving it.  But hey, it's the Keweenaw.  What do we expect?

Braeden and I expect to make the best of it.  Today is the first day I had to bundle him in his one-piece snow suit since he's been back from Wisconsin.  Otherwise he had the freedom of his lined nylon pants and jacket.  Room to run, run, run!

And run he did.

On Friday he ran and pushed his wagon almost the whole way from the Lake Fanny Hooe boat launch back into town.  At one point we stopped to listen to a wood pecker in a tree, and I realized he was panting.  Really panting like he was working hard.

For a child who had open-heart surgery three years ago, the panting, rosy cheeks and energy to sustain his pace was a miracle to me.  He is doing awesome!

He has also been running along the road to get to the creek in my love's neck of the woods.  We'll run to the creek, then find a nice spot to watch the sunset.  Sweet Bryce will stomp off chunks of snow to throw and sploosh into one of the few spots of open water on Lake Superior's shore (from the running creek).  I make dramatic splooshing sounds, and Braeden throws his arms around like a splashing wild man.

"More." 

"More," he signs after each snowy boulder splashes and busts apart in the shallow water.  Bryce stomps off another edge of the banks.

I admire him as he exerts all that energy to stomp boulders of snow for Braeden's entertainment -- the bigger the better in Brady P's eyes.  Then he climbs up the snow mound and lifts a dripping snow chunk over his head.

"Are you ready, Braeden?" he asks.  

Braeden smacks his head for a yes while his mouth opens in extreme excitement at the size of the next chunk.  I am amazed myself.

"Kasploosha kapew kapew bawoowoowoosh!" I shout as the splashing commences.

Braeden flails in delight.  And signs more.

Mama and Brady P. watching a sploosher

Bryce even took our picture during a sploosher.  Pretty nice view for splashing in the creek!

On Saturday, the Copper Dog came to our town.  The block was nuts.  It was like Fourth of July in Winter.  My body went slightly into panic mode as I saw all the people moving about.  

But Braeden didn't seem to notice.  He just held my hand, looked straight down at the icy slush his feet were stomping through and marched straight ahead.  He only looked up to point when he heard a dog barking.

After a walk through the crowd (and his nap) we came back to try the dogsled ride.  One of the mushers ran his six-dog team that afternoon in the midst of three days of racing 150 miles to let 50 kids take a ride, two at a time.  Bless his heart.

Braeden didn't want to go.  

I asked him two dozen times.  "Do you want to ride with the puppies?" 

He shook his head no each time.  So we waited in a nearby bank, so he could at least watch the dogs and be next to them.

Rosy cheeks waiting for the doggies

The dog team is in the upper right corner under the cedar trees.  But this was the only picture where Braeden was smiling, so I used it!

Sooner than I thought, it was his turn to ride with his friend Maddie from school.  He kicked and screamed.

"He can go with you next round, Mom," the helper told me. I was relieved -- for B and Maddie.

At our turn, I plopped down and set him on my lap, half expecting him to cry and flail.  But the dogs started running right away, and he had no time to figure out how he felt about the situation.  He was instantly excited to be moving and see the puppies running ahead of us.

He pointed and squealed in delight the whole way.  We had a great ride around the park.  Whew!  And another new experience under his belt.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

He's Back!


Boy is that ever true when it comes to Brady P. and me.

As I drove away from that little boy last week, I felt such a relief.  Like I could finally take some time for myself.  That brought on the feeling of guilt, of course, because I'm his mama!  But I'm his mama all the time unless he's safely with his grandparents or one of the two wonderful sitters I currently have in town.

(In case you are not aware, Aaron and I are getting divorced, and he works in Arkansas for the winter.  Kind of a big thing, so I wanted my "single mom" comments to make sense.)

While driving away that day, I thought about all the duties and projects I lined up for myself back home.  And I was grateful that I had one week to do it all without my little pant leg tugger asking for attention.

Then I had another guilty thought.  "I wonder how many days -- or weeks -- it will take before I truly miss Braeden enough to want him to come back and take most of my time.  I thought it might even take months as I remembered some of the frustrating times when I felt ready to give him away.

That is really hard to admit.  But it is real.  Being a single mom of a three-year-old with an extra chromosome is very trying.  I bet that co-parenting a "normal" three-year-old is even frustrating at times.  And my sweet boyfriend will always remind me of that.

"Talk to other moms, Amanda," he will say as he holds my hand while I cry.  "I'm sure you're not the only mom to feel this way."  He assures me that I need a break once in a while, and I don't have to feel guilty.  His caring and understanding is truly a gift to Braeden and me.

So do you want to know how long it took for me to really miss my little boy?

After three days, I started looking more longingly at Braeden's pictures.  "Too soon," I thought.  "I can't really miss him yet.  I have too much left to do."

After five days I spent the evening watching videos of him before I fell asleep... with a tear in my eye.  

At seven days my heart was a puddle.  I just wanted him home.  I didn't care if I was only able to do any non-mom things during naps and while he played by himself.

I was truly ready to be a mom again.

And during his first day back, I was so grateful to have him with me.  I felt great joy being a mom.  Not just that I am a mom, but that I really enjoy it.  It feels so purposeful to raise my little superhero like nobody else is able to do.

Because right now, that's what I am here to do.  And I must always remember that.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Freedom on Ice

Braeden is visiting his Grammies and Grampies... so I forgot what day it was!

As the 24/7 caregiver of a miniature superhero, a break really means a lot.  It means having time to tie up loose ends in other parts of my life.  It means digging into projects that cannot be tackled during his nap time.  It means taking my own nap when I feel gravity taking over.  It means sleeping through the night.  

And today, it meant strapping on my snowshoes, sliding my ice picks through my jacket sleeves, and trekking across the frozen harbor to Porter's Island -- a place I haven't been since Brady P. was in my belly, and place I've been longing to visit for those three years.

Since I just got back in to town, I asked a couple locals how the ice was because I am not ready to die yet.  "It's been locked in for a while now." Marty confirmed.  "I was out with Fern a couple days ago," Staci assured.

Sweet.  That was just what I wanted to hear.

The sun was blasting over Brockway Mountain, the skies were blue and the wind was whipping from the west.  I battened my hatches, slid down the Harbor Haus landing and pointed every fiber of my being to the west end of Porter's -- where the ice volcanoes sat dormant.

Here is a panoramic view looking back toward the harbor.

The south side pan

It always looks different when you put 180 degrees worth of scenery into a 2-D picture, but that's East Bluff on the left, Brockway below the sunshine and Hunter's Point on the right.

This picture doesn't even show the ice covering the branches of the trees on Brockway Mountain.  That was gorgeous.

When I rounded the corner through the gap, I saw it.  I saw the ice volcano I've been eyeing up for weeks.  I'm astonished that it was still there.

The top of the 20 foot ice volcano

Then I slid down and walked around to see this part of it shining like a wind-struck mammoth jewel!

The glistening foothill

There's part of my shadow at the bottom for perspective, but it was a pretty grand sight.  All of it was.

I was so grateful to be out on the ice.  In the sun.  Following my curiosity.  Staying above the water.  And prancing around like a little kid.

That is freedom for a mama.

So I thanked the lake and blew her a kiss.  Then I giddily trekked back to the shore, eager to tell you about my adventure.  Just like the good ol' days...

Walking back from The Gap
(The biggest volcano is not visible in this picture)