while you were out

Time slows down on the bike. Today I started the day with sewing machine loaded up in the trailer and lengths of fabric, heading off to my mom’s to sew on a quilt (for my son’s school’s yearly auction). She and I set up in the kitchen and talked and hummed along on our two machines, taking breaks for coffee and to steam-press newly-sewn seams before sitting back down for another round of stitching. Nels joined us after preschool and happily retired to the living room to help Grandpa with a puzzle until it was time for us to hit a diner for lunch.

After eating and chatting with the waitresses it was off in the sunshine to pick up my daughter; we’re early so once Nels and I get off the bike and unpack helmets and walk in to the school for Suse, why not let the kids stay and play on the playground for a few minutes? Not something I feel inclined to do when I’m in the pickup line, dutifully driving through the roundabout and pausing to have my child inserted in the car (I’ve seen other parents stay uninterrupted on cell phone calls during this operation). On the swings I permit myself a foray into Andrew Bird (must… stop… listening to incessantly!) on my new [late] birthday present from Ralph (variety: purple).

Time slows down enough that, say, you suddenly realize you had a date ten minutes ago in Aberdeen and can’t possibly make it (shit!). Or enough that you don’t jet home for the day and therefore miss a phone message canceling tonight’s hosted dinner at friends’ house, due to friends’ illnesses. Therefore my joke in arriving at our friends’ house (smoking a cigarette while biking, observed more often than you might think in GH) is completely lost on the hosts, afflicted with equal parts plague and guilt. Home for a quick plan and make-up of evening repast.

you’d think this would tire me out, but nothing seems to

Lately I’ve spent some time noticing vehicles on the road. Man, they are large. Yesterday on our way to Olympia an Acura SUV thing idled behind me, the driver quick to hop on my ass as we traveled from stoplight to stoplight in the motorists’ tedium that is downtown Aberdeen. In my rearview mirror I saw a man alone in the cab with his left shoulder up, draping his hand over the wheel of his Amazing Driving Machine and the other alternately on the phone or down out of sight, texting or fondling his balls or whatever. In front of me a Silverado rumbled as it spread it’s huge asscheeks all over the road, easily larger than the Acura and laughing back at my seemingly miniature Mazda “light” pickup. And today on the road I saw some kind of Mazda – it looked like a car, but way bigger, or close up with a tiny person inside. This person sat well above the cab of my truck. These cars are huge but don’t seem to boast a lot of room inside – they mostly just boast being big. I find myself wondering why we have so many gleaming, gigantic vehicles out and about, especially in an area that is said to be “economically depressed”? I guess I will start concerning myself with people whinging about gas prices when I see just a few fewer bewheamoths out on the road.

This morning on the bike I found a good route to get to Nels’ school; ducking out of highway traffic and staying on a relatively quiet side-street for much of the ride. The route was nice; the bike ride not so much. It was clear but cold, with a head wind persistent enough that on mile two my legs stopped complaining and just did their drudgery dispiritedly, like listless indentured whores. Nels sat back in the trailer amidst winter coat, wicker basket full of juice and snacks, and a big quilt my mom sewed him several Christmases ago. He wasn’t complaining.

It was quiet out and comforting enough. At the end of Cherry I hit a small snag and had to backtrack half a block for an alley. Finding my way back to a road I heard my son from the trailer: “You can do it, Mama. You can find my school!” I felt oddly heartened and touched by his cheerleading. An hour later when he was chosen in his classroom to describe today’s weather, he put the weather dials to “windy” and “cold”. I thought he was in a special position to know, having braved the elements with me.

On the way home he fell asleep; I aborted my shopping plan (only after I’d already parked, chained the bike, and removed my helmet to discover him in Slumberland, Population One) and headed home where I brought in his artwork, dirty laundry from the school, leftover juice bottles, and one sleeping boy to strip down and tuck in for the remainder of his snooze.

Sometimes – not when I lose my temper or get distracted doing my work – but sometimes, I wish I was my own mom, and I was a little kid who got to be taken care of by her.

"Spooning with a stranger in the back of a van, now that’s a violation!"

Yesterday afternoon I found myself in Aberdeen in the van while it was pouring rain, I had our kitty Harris in the passenger seat, and we’d just escaped the a shop after being hijacked by two separate store employees who were lonely and we’d been in there so long I’d had to timeout Nels (watching the van through the window) and by the time I got out to him he’d been crying and holding his pee and had to go and I wouldn’t go back inside (both b/c of the employees’ overtalking tendencies and Nels’ immediate need) and I said, “Sophie, give me that cup!” and like a well-trained pit crew member she knew what I was doing and got the cup and took off the lid and I got Nels out of his carseat and pulled down his pants and he peed and RAPIDLY began to fill the cup, stopping 1/4″ before the top.

As it was happening I was thinking how all of it made sense on some level (except the kitten but he was really lonely and is a good car rider) but I’m pretty sure no one else would have thought it made sense to watch how it all went down.

Afterwards, I poured the fresh hot cup of steaming urine into the gutter. I’m sure that’s not the first time anyone’s leaned out of a car in downtown Aberdeen and done the same.

Tonight I finished “Freaks and Geeks”. I’ve never seen a show before like it and I see why it’s rated so high on IMDB. The funny thing is, it started out decently enough for the first ten or so episodes (there are 18 total). But by the end I was in tears just about each chapter. I’ve also never experienced high school all over again, but I sure did during that show in the most amazing way – in a good way. Thanks Chris, for the recommendation. I got through them all eventually.

Tonight also marks the first five inches of my first sock! Yes, I’m knitting socks. I’m told it’s addictive although it seems to be more like: knit knit knit knit for hours and hours and hours – here’s a wristband!

And finally: newness in our household as Nels gave the kitty a bath. Using the toilet. Yes, it really happened. I can’t really talk much more about it.

all’s well that ends well – ouch!

I have been dying to make my own laundry soap. Because I get ideas like that and they are like a fevered, psychotic brain-termite and my poor family has to deal with it.

So with this project in mind after swim lessons we rode the bus to Aberdeen. The bus driver dropped us off over a block early, a long city block. I got burnt to a crisp and had to carry Nels far further than I should have, and in bad shoes. I honestly did not realize how far this walk would be, because I am used to it by vehicle. Anyway, after one hundred million steps I fell inside my bank (instead of ATM, for a brief respite of air conditioning) to get cash out, and while there asked for water for my children – the teller said ‘no’. We finally got to Rite Aid and they had ZERO supplies! I now have blisters and if it weren’t for getting sunblock at Rite Aid, we’d all be burnt very badly.

I love that I totally tortured myself for a couple hot hours today by trying to be all low-cost and environmentally friendly – riding the bus and making my own soap. I am dumb.

I’m calling it my eco self-fuck.

On the other hand, on our final, last-leg-of-journey approach I finally got to meet the Queen of the Neighborhood. I’ve been seeing this large, kind of sassy-looking woman in an old bathrobe and dirty braids walking her dog. I’m not sure if she smokes but in my mind she’s smoking and in the middle of the street, like she owns it. Not unfriendly or anything, just present.

She also has this fabulous lawn. Flowers and blooms at random intervals and mini-beds, well-maintained and luxurious, in the front yard. The backyard has a decrepit-looking set of laundry lines that almost look neglected but every day, there’s something different hanging there – a series of windsocks, a large old cotton throw. The house and lawn look so lived in, cluttered but in a very non-stagnant way that shows pride of ownership and a love of life.

So today as we passed her house I noticed she’d set up a large kiddie-pool with a floating blow-up armchair. I was thinking, “Cool”, but also preoccupied because Nels was yelling and crying. He’d been disciplined two minutes earlier after the bus driver snapped at me for allowing him to pull the stop requested cord (he has only got away with this twice; I try my best to help him not be naughty on the bus). So Nels is mad and ashamed and crying and I’m talking to him calmly as we walk down the block (hot, hot, hot). Then I hear a voice saying, “Need a sprinkle?” and it’s the Queen, talking to my son. My children look in the direction of this seemingly mysterious voice speaking out of the hedge. Their eyes are wide, Nels quiets, and they drift toward her property, which smells like good flowers and I can hear some classic rock and roll playing. She tells me she just set up her pool; there’s a hose mister on. The kids and I put our hands under. Nels’ foul mood is cured. We thank her and move on.

I’m going to make this woman a pie and bring it to her. She is exactly the kind of neighbor I want to know.

My feet still hurt, damn.

look what I can do!

This morning I biked the kids to Aberdeen and back – over one bridge that’s rather hilly, returning on one that’s treacherous traffic-wise. Our destination was the Canned Food Grocery Outlet which, the more you visit, the more awesome it is. Today I didn’t / wouldn’t be buying huge, heavy produce (we took the bus / bike combo for that, yesterday) but I did purchase various shampoos and soaps we’d been almost out of as well as a giant box of cereal my children requested. Then home, stopping by the Farmer’s Market for eggs.

Biking with 80 lbs. of children plus whatever weight the trailer is plus our coats and groceries makes me awesome. The fact that I am listening to the Hot Fuzz soundtrack at full blast on the iPod makes me a geek, but it makes me feel even more awesome as I do it. Check out the visuals (look at whichever makes my feat seem more impressive):

that’s what I hear in these sounds

Today, with two clicks on my Google Calendar, my life suddenly freed up as the three days a week of Sophie’s preschool vanished. Some people look forward to school time so their own grownup schedules may take precedence. I can understand this. I however can say I’m looking forward to the summer break just as I enjoyed it last year. With the Siamese-twin-like psychic synchronicity my two children have (desiring to spend every waking, sleeping, and bathing moment together with an astonishing low proportionality of fighting, considering) taking the two of them out – especially now, as they can dress themselves, walk long distances, take care of their bodily functions, and are joyous to take almost any outing – is actually slightly easier than having one of them along.

I haven’t set foot in a car since Friday. I continue my no-driving experiment and today my goals were modest: get to downtown Aberdeen, take the kids thrifting (I’m looking for a sheet to sew pajamas for myself; also clothes for Ralph and a pair of pants for re-vamp), hit the taqueria (sauce a la diabla!), go home. (all of this, after I’d planned out our budget and assigned various bill paying and errands for Ralph and I – also feed, clean, help dress the kids, etc, blah blah).

So at about 10:45 we walk the eight blocks to the station, first stopping at the ATM and then purchasing a monthly pass (cheap – only $18). The good news about our bus system is that people actually put it to use here. The bad news is they aren’t PT-ecocute – most of them are dirty, half-crazy, and / or poor (or any combo) and a few of them are smelly. Actually – this isn’t bad news at all since my children and I are pretty OK in new situations (and the situation won’t be ‘new’ for very much longer as we use the transit regularly). But our bus riding today underscored a truth for me: it’s hard here to ride the bus and walk. People here use their cars to insulate themselves from the harsher neighborhoods of Aberdeen and, to a lesser extent, Hoquiam; insulating themselves also from the poverty and hard-living so many do here. I get off and on the bus and don’t see anyone “like me”. Those “like me” are driving by in their cars listening to XM radio. Those I sit with on the bus go to and from sub-standard apartments and sometimes run-down hotels and their teeth are bad and faces hard-worn.

Heck, it’s kind of hard to bike around here too. There are no bike lanes in either Hoquiam or Aberdeen. None. People drive aggressively as well. Not everyone thinks biking is a good thing: Ralph was heckled as a “loser” and “faggot” the other day – merely for being on his unremarkable Schwinn. He was also wearing a dress and holding a sign that said, “I like balls in my face” but I still don’t get it.

And now: diving into the 39 cent Stretch N Sew pattern I purchased today at the Salvation Army.