kittle, kittle, author, author

Poor Ralph. Truly he does not know when I’m going to get this feverish idea and simply obsess on something until I get my way. In this case “my way” involved about $32 worth of sewing patterns, which I enjoy shopping for and ruminating on more than perhaps the reader can understand. At dinner the children asked I sew them sleepwear and were quite specific: two “nightshirts” that match in style (but not size nor fabric), as well as a set of button-up flannel PJs for Nels (“Like my mermaid pajamas,” he tells me – and reader it is a total shame I never took pictures of those home-dyed and hand-embroidered lovelies!) and a summer-weight nightgown for Phoenix.

As we finished our dinner (homemade pita stuffed with fried tofu, cucumber, and grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese) my brain was working like the tiny little self-perpetuating maniac it is.  When I contemplate my next sewing project (and just so you know, there’s currently one 20% underway in my sewing room, and it’s going to be Awesome) I think over what fabrics I have, what patterns I have; my children’s current tastes vs. what’s already in their closet (in this case, nothing regarding sleepwear; they go to bed in home-sewn boxers and Walmart panties). In my case the planning is one of my favorite parts of sewing: in a kind of energized trance I swim through my ideas, my inspirations, strategies and skillset; it is the first stage in a process where I pluck something from thin air that never before existed and fashion it with my tiny little hands.

By the time my mom stopped by to pick up the children for a sleepover (her request) and we all shared a half bottle of wine (“we all” meaning the grownups) I’d thumbed through my pitiful little batch of highly organized Ottobre patterns and thought about the Etsy shop I stalk for vintage children’s patterns.  I also considered an appropriate “nightshirt” for Nels, meaning one he would love and that I would enjoy sewing – something new to tackle. After the kids left I circled around Ralph like a shark and then came out with it: he must allocate funds for these sewing patterns. My final pattern decisions: one of my Ottobre patterns for the button-up pajamas, the Folkwear kittle for matching nightshirts, and a lovely vintage nightgown for my daughter (who favors fitted bodices and long hems). In all cases I already own the requisite fabrics (although I could be persuaded, always, to buy something else fondle-able and lovely) and – to save on shipping, obviously – I gave ordered just one more excellent set for my girl, a little swimset she will adore (probably to be made up in seersucker, which my mom charmingly calls “cocksucker”, which to her credit, a tiny bit, is a piece of jokery from a respected and acclaimed novel). Thinking of these patterns winging their way to my porch, to arrive just as I finish the current sewing project, gave me little shivers of joy.

I’ve been realizing just lately I feel a tiny, tiny bit sad at the middling-quality fabrics I often sew with. This simply can’t be helped; if I am to sew as much as I do I have to rely on sales from the large “meh”-quality chain, thrift store finds (and fabric “scores” are sparse, here), and gifted fabric (two yardages of flannel sent by my girl JJ will be made into Nels’ button-up jams). In my most recent finished object I did observe that a higher quality fabric would have rendered a well-made piece into a piece of Art; but, well, we’re a single-income family of four (with lots of pets) and I make clothes my kids wear into threadbare dust with their varieties of high-energy outdoor play.

So that’s that, for now.

In other news I am fully published, for realz. Let me tell you, tears of pride and gladness are in my weak beady eyes thinking on this. Wendy Priesnitz, the founder and editor of this publication (as well as companion magazine Natural Life) is a Real Life (S)hero to me – someone I look up to immensely and find myself reading and re-reading her words. She has been a deeply influential mind and author in our family. For some perspective, I get told by several my writings serve as help, or mentorship, or are appreciated for candor or insight. Well, Priesnitz is a persona and author I go to for mentorship, one of the few I’ve found who’s spoken to my heart and mind like cool drafts of clear water. To be included in her publication is extremely gratifying.

The article I wrote, “The Unschooling Conversation That Never Happens”, is available with subscription obviously (and I recommend it; it’s a wonderful periodical and includes awesome authors like 19-yr old unschooled anarchist Idzie) but will also soon be available online either at Underbellie or the LL site or both.

And finally a footnote: HQX residents may be amused at the “lumberjack” collection at Etsy. Yeah, ok, little cutesy/hipster stuff because loggers are funny and quaint and extinct? Grays Harbor, you and I know logging history is here and gone but also still very, very much with us.

este día en la carretera hace mucho calor

Nels is looking different today from yesterday as about thirty minutes into our biking adventures he biked right into a car (while vying for the attention of children outside in a daycare yard). The daycare employee who witnessed this (I only heard the thunk! behind me) ran inside to get Nels first an icepack then an Otter Pop for good measure. She was a beautiful, beautiful girl with deep tanned cleavage and long shiny black-brown hair and I’ll bet she even smelled nice (I didn’t lean in to check) and with her sympathy and the ice pack and the ice cream, well, Nels didn’t seem to mind being hurt so much. My son spent the next half hour wearing the pack, and as a result his black eye is slightly less gruesome than it otherwise might have been.

Ice Pack

Today started out with our typical feral rituals: the kids went outside and ate (for breakfast) marshmallows, bananas, and special dark chocolate. In the yard, half clothed. By then I’d finished my morning writings (here’s some of that) and housework so I asked them inside where they each took a big drink of milk before we biked our errands, ending up at the Central Playfield park where now no longer do we have shade-trees (cut down by the City) so the sun bakes us all and the adults who wish to talk have to shout over the sound of two highways (the trees helped absorb that too). The bathrooms are also closed down as well (Honey Buckets in the summer sun, kids – and grownups – love that sort of thing) but the pool is open from noon for a few hours and the kids? They love it. My kids were in their underwear as I hadn’t brought the suits. You know, I don’t often use the term “ghetto” but, well.

Suits Not Required

Central Playfield in Hoquiam

I ended up scrunching under a pitiful amount of briefly-supplied tent shade and talked to a father there with four of his seven kids, a handsome, deep brownish/red-skinned man who could balance with me on the proverbial non-native language teeter totter, meaning he had about as much inglés as I have español (the vast majority of native-Spanish-speakers here usually have very good English although I do meet those que no entienden). One example: he told me he and his wife were “broke” so I asked ¿Tienes el trabajo? then he managed to convey he meant, he and his wife were broke from relationship with one another and I said “Oh! Divorced. Separated. I thought you meant no tienes dinero.” Then after we’d shared where we lived and how long we’d lived there I told him, “Mi esposo trabaja en el colegio” in case he got some ideas I was a scheming single mama looking to juggle a family of nine kiddos (instead I’m rather a scheming conversationalist who loves talking to strangers like a Huge Nerd) or in case he had similar ideas (seriously? A mama out with kids in Grays Harbor is not immune from flirtations from random strangers). He had the most beautiful one year old clambering around on him, a boy with shoulder-length locks and deliciously plump limbs who took interest in my bike wheels. “Fue agradable hablar con usted,” I said to this father as we biked out, my kids soaked and newly cooled down and me as hot as ever as we headed to our little grocery store for dinner provisions.

It’s no wonder to me my kids are getting a great education as letting them out and running and biking and playing and eating and drinking means when we get home they absolutely want to read an encyclopedia or give themselves spelling/English work or learn times tables or teach themselves history (or even clean their room, as my daughter is doing at this moment). And another thing, I never hear my kids say they are “bored” – ever, which is something to ponder given we have no television or video game system! (In full disclosure, we do have a computer which they are allowed to use if I am not using it). (Also, now that I have had the hubris to even slightly brag or more accurately, take joy in a facet of our little fringe lifestyle, the children are going to immediately come inside and chant in demon-voice how bored they are).

Tomorrow our day will consist of 100% beach time out in Ocean Shores with my mother and a picnic basket and sunscreen. And that’s going to be pretty goddamned awesome.

As I type the kids run off with the various and sundry neighbors catching the ice cream truck (the frosty treat-bait has caught some full-grown, some still children); my husband on his way home is picking up fresh mozzarella for insalata caprese and tahini for tomorrow’s hummus and also – very important – a pool for our front yard. Because like many PNw’ers we don’t have air conditioning and employ the strategies of lowered blinds and open windows or fresh cooling water.

Phoenix Attempts To Rejoin Her Mistress, The Sea

la gente de la pie

I’d like to think of myself as a steady force but truth be told I’m a bit faddish, and my newest fad (semi-obsession!) revolves around a thrift shop in Aberdeen se llama Thrift world, a veritable mecca of decent brands, clean and organized stock, crazy-low prices, and kid-friendly employees. It seems I’m the last local to avidly take to the place – I’d steered clear based on previous tenents of the building (it has been a thrift store of sorts under varying ownership for at least twenty years). Having visited the other day, I am hooked.  “Have you been to Thrift World?” I ask my friends.  Yes. So basically there are trends in our little hick corner and I’m on the bleeding edge of exactly zilch.

Today’s date involves a meetup at the bakery with my friend J. and her daughter E.  We are late arriving to meet our friends (car problems FTW! But we did in fact get the battery issue in my mom’s truck sorted).  I order a coffee and we caravan the few blocks to the secondhand shop.  I’m searching for bedding, complete with my flexible tape measure (nerd!), as well as my notations of the items I’d seen a few days ago that were not on sale yet, but would be today (double nerd!).  J. is looking for jeans but, I am told by reliable sources, came away with additional t-shirts and tank tops, of which Thrift World has an impressive cache.

After plowing through piles and piles of sheets on packed shelves I am satisfied with my haul and drag it up front.  “Buenas tardes,” I respond to the cashier’s hello. I pile armloads of JC Penney and Eddie Bauer sheets and pillowcases up on the counter, topped by a pair of low-level Converse in a size just right for Nels and some growing room. “¿Cómo se dice en español?” I ask, holding up the rather threadbare shoelaces that almost always attend secondhand shoes. “Agujetas,” she says. I put my hand behind my ear, or say “¿Cómo?”, I can’t remember which (I am much better at learning a lanugage by reading than by listening; although the more I speak of Spanish, the more I can “hear” it properly), and she repeats the word firmly. I say it back, then: “¿Tienes aquí?” I ask. She turns to another employee to ask; the second employee replies in the negative and then looks at me and elaborates in Spanish (this always fills me with a little gladness as it’s how I learn).  At first I catch only “something-something bolsas”, but after a beat I understand: sometimes the manager brings sealed bags of shoelaces into the store.  “¿Con los zapatos?” I ask? No. En bolsas by the linen section.  Gracias.

The cashier rings me up.  Doce dólares for the whole lot.  I thank both the ladies and, my purchases swinging in a large white plastic bag, move to collect my own children, who have been happily playing in the toy section during my purchasing.

When I join my friend J. back at the counter the cashier looks over at me and asks, “You speak Spanish?” “Un poquito,” I respond (the only true answer).  She asks if I learned the language in school. “Si, pero… hablando con la gente locales,” I answer. I’m pretty sure I don’t have that right at all, but she understands what I’m saying, nods.  I add, “Y mi niños también: hablan un poquito.”

Such a transaction is enough to add a spring in my step.  I suppose I speak my Spanish, what I have, what I’m collecting, for three reasons relatively on par with one another: porque mucha gente en mi comunidad hablan espanol, because I like to talk, and because it feels amazing in my brain to flow in another language. I am slow to learn but oddly I learn best by, you know, talking.

Sometimes I”m fortunate in that my Spanish-speaking acquaintance will assist me with my errors but mostly I end up going home and finding out I said something like, “I had to wait outside in the bad date,” instead of the last noun being “weather” (this is because “time” and “weather” are both the noun tiempo, and I learned the concept of “date” and “time” on the same day in Spanish class).  And then I wonder if I just sound like a fool.  But, at least I’m no gringo simply shouting at native Spanish-speakers, or avoiding eye-contact, or all kinds of ass-hattery I see around this place.

Driving home and it’s sunny and lovely in this way so unique to the township I live, where I’ve spent so much of my life. My eldest child is on the bench seat next to me (the youngest is with J. and E. as we head en masse to the YMCA) and she leans her head onto my shoulder.  El sol es como música en mi piel y estoy muy contento.

ch-ch-ch, tra-la-la

Some self-guru or other said, “You have the life you want,” all smug-like and distinctly sounding like Quit Bitching, You Totally Deserve Whatever Terrible Shit Is Happening To You. Truth or fiction, in my view this adage lacks both compassion and helpfulness when delivered to those who are suffering – especially as I often seen it delivered by parties currently enjoying more than their share of helpings from Life’s Comforts Buffet.

I do, however, feel pretty confident ascribing the mantra to myself – You Have The Life You Want – if anyone reads here and, you know, feels bad for my troubles or even worse, gets all SOLVE-Y about them (because seriously? You can ask if I want to solve the problem and I might say no! For reals!) As in:

The vehicle we’ve been borrowing (since our Mercedes threw the crankshaft pulley a week ago, my mom’s huge ginormous truck, died about a half hour ago and before I’d really got my day started. It turns out the truck has a charging system weakness whereupon engaging the headlights drains the battery in an exceeding fashion. So even though last night after our extensive shopping trip at Thrift World I raced home to safety as fast as I decently could before the sun went down (RIP Haim!), I did in fact find it necessary to turn on the headlights for a few minutes or else be in violation of the law, tapping my foot nervously as the kids turned up The Gossip on our little rigged-up mp3 / amp, thinking to myself, “Hell, no big deal, I’m only a few miles from home” –

and No I did not elect to force Ralph to re-charge the thing (he was very sick yesterday, so sad), and No I did not charge it myself, being occupied with laundry and cooking and cleaning and writing and chasing cats and children around the house, so today after the kids’ and my first stop downtown I jumped up in the cab on top of the world and put my key in and: the vehicle simply clicked and wouldn’t turn over.

So as of 1 PM all my children have consumed are cupcakes and green pop from the City Hall St. Patrick’s Day fundraising lunch (we arrived too late for the food, which sold out quickly, but please do know I generously donated for the cupcake breakfast) and we’re hauling around Beeps’ leopard gecko (their choice) and my plan to buy “new” sheets at the abovementioned Secondhand Mecca have all gone down the drain. Ah, and I have such modest, silly, Kelly Hogaboom plans most days: this morning after putting the St. Patrick’s Day roast in the oven (brown sugar! beef stock! garlic! salt! Worcestershire!) I’d measured our mattress and squirrelled my sewing tape into my bag so I could acquire decent sheets and outfit our bed for a few bucks, because bedding and sheets are one of those things I don’t get around to purchasing and then suddenly they’re all falling apart. (No seriously, I have the same sheet on my bed that I stole from the Surfcrest Resort when I worked there in high school!) And yes, I wash it often, which is a testament to the strength of the bedding used in the hospitality industry, especially since the sheet was already used when I ganked it.

Oh and for the record, I’m sorry I stole the sheet from the Surfcrest, even if it was a terrible job in some ways (but an excellent one in others; I worked with two of my best friends and my own brother, and for the only time Ever my mom made us paper bag lunches, and we watched “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”, the full hour, every lunch, and we had lots of smoke breaks in between rooms, and the in-joke “Snake!”, are you listening Reecho?) it is still wrong to steal, and I do regret it, and let me remind you I was eighteen at the time.

Today the sun is shining though, and I practiced bellydancing in the morning and took a hot bath with my lovely children and put food in the oven and yelled after my kiddos, who upon dressing and brushing teeth and tumbling outside are my Favorite Companions Ever, and even though I must away soon for the cupcake-in-belly scenario seems hardly fair to their growing bodies, it is difficult indeed to get me down. Even if piling up around our ears are various and sundry old boxy vehicles that need our elbow grease in the from of DIY or Ralph’s sweat-income, and I mostly fritter away my days just, you know, living Life and not having a great deal to show for it.

Still. Life is still pretty great.

* Thrift World is FTW GH: I purchased three pair of new pants for Ralph (Dockers, Gap, Falconable), pajamas, a Twister game for the kids, two pair of shoes for kiddos, two t-shirts for myself, a new notecard set for Nels and a Chanel-style coat for my girl J. – all for $28!)

creatures of the night and sea

ACTION! (Like A Little Seal)

It’s almost a two-mile walk from the YMCA to my house. When we’re on foot it’s always a near thing: should we wait for a bus or walk home?  This is a bit more either-or than it might seem, that is you can’t necessarily just start walking and catch the bus when it comes because A. Transit drivers around here are known to not respond when you flag them down in the middle of a block – despite the policy they will – and B. there’s a very long stretch from Riverside to the HQX station where if you were walking, you wouldn’t be able to jump onboard anyway – it won’t stop along the river and across it to the station, the better part of a mile.

Waiting for the bus, however – especially at the apparently indecent (?) hour of 6:30 PM – can be a long, long process.  A loooong process.  You may think you could walk home in the time it takes to get picked up, sure.  You might also think you will die a lonely death in the (not weatherproof) “shelter” while straining your eyes vainly, your bleached bones gently rattling against one another on the long, late summer day when the bus finally pulls over and shhh-thhh’s its doors open, your skeletal hand loosely clutching the clinking fare.  Tonight was made extra cruel as we had two false alarms – school buses disappointing us in the last instant, and people around here drive such big damn trucks I kept thinking our vehicular savior was near at hand.  I was pretty close to resorting to prostitution at the end, not so much out of desperation for a ride, which had died in my breast seemingly ages ago, but a boredom so profound I wasn’t even sure I was human anymore.

Sophie’s swim team ended at 6 PM: we boarded a bus at 7:15 PM, making for a wait outside of 45 minutes.  The temperature was 49 degrees and my children’s hands were ice-cold. Yet they had kept relatively cheerful running around in the parking lot, howling like wolves (Nels was thrilled he got a neighbor dog to join him), climbing on the industrial-sturdy garbage can, and in general behaving like little demon innocents.  I took a few pictures, and even in the grainy streetlamp-lit images it struck me how much joy and love you can see between the two.

Night Creatures, 1

Night Creatures, 2

Night Creatures, 3

Night Creatures, 4

Night Creatures, 5

Still, whatever our delays and provincial walking/biking journeys, in a way it’s a joy to slow down and spend the time with the kids doing nothing or at least not doing anything efficiently.  We seem our best on our mini-nomadic adventures. Tonight after disembarking at the station we hoofed it over to our local Mexican eatery – tengo un certificado de regalo, then after we ate – a lovely, lovely meal – the three of us ran like ghosts through town (“Nels, keep tu globo from getting tangled en el árbol!”), picked up our bikes from my mother’s shop, and winged our way home to await our late-returning Ralph.

Little Fish

little fish, little fish

Sophie, my beautiful firstborn.
Sophie, my beautiful firstborn.

I don’t want to write too much because I think this photo speaks for itself.  It was taken yesterday at our YMCA by my friend and photographing maven; you can find more of her work at her website or Flickrstream.

Sophie is an enthusiastic and capable swimmer – especially her backstroke.  She has been a water-lover since she was very tiny (three months old) and has proceeded at her own pace.  She never misses a practice unless we miss it for her – that is, family events conspire to keep her away.  Tonight after practice she signed up for three events in Saturday’s swim meet: the 100 Individual Medley, 25 Backstroke, and 50 Breaststroke.  She will likely also participate in a relay or two.

I hope my children continue to grow in the things they love: feeling not pressure but unconditional support from their father and I; not relying on our praise or cajolement or bargaining or prizes or bribes to continue in the things they love doing.

raising some sort of sasquatch-like creatures

I admit I find a lot of people guilty of idiotic statements that for some reason I allow to deeply annoy me.  One high on my list is: “blah blah blah see how boys are different than girls because blah blah blah“.  About a third of the time I’ll be telling a story about my son and how Hell On Wheels he is in some particular situation the person I’m talking to – without being asked, and for no reason relevant to the conversation – will offer up, “Well he’s a boy, and boys blah blah blah” or some such drivel.  I never know exactly how to respond to this, because it’s annoying, and usually this person has selectively ignored the myriad of “girl” that my son exhibits (examples below), and bottom line, I think gender stereotyping in social conversation is just plain lazy (interesting: I have never heard the converse – someone attributing an aspect of my daughter’s more compliant persona to femaleness).  There’s probably some really snappy phrase describing the phenomena of someone wanting to see a certain connection and lo and behold finding “examples” everywhere. Maybe I need to look that one up and arm myself with it.

In any case, speaking for our family, “boy” vs. “girl” seems to be most obviously delineated by genitalia differences and chromosomal count, less descriptive regarding my children’s preferences, affinities, or temperaments.  For instance it is my son who loves pink, passionately enjoys gardening, cooking, and washing dishes, has a more forgiving nature, wears his blonde hair long by choice, adores playing with Barbies and watching Disney Princess films, and on lunch dates likes to eat a small salad and order Diet Coke and then for dessert a big piece of cheesecake because he’s been so good all day.

So understand the reason I was surprised that it was Sophie, and not Nels, who dropped trousers to piss in the small hedged-in hilled area behind the Hoquiam Transit station today is not because I think it is more “boy” to urinate in public places but because one thing about Nels is he has generally been rather free in general to mark territory with his urine. And why not?  We’re an outdoor, active family. Kind of difficult to instruct a small child in the finessey differences when semi-public urination is a perfectly good solution (like a camping trip or long highway trip “bathroom break”) versus when it’s a kind of regrettable idea.

I think Sophie could have known better though, especially given there are perfectly normal actual bathroom facilities on the premises.  In any case, I have no idea if the kids had ever previously peed back in this miniature no-mans-land, so in a way I’m glad the kiosk Transit employee caught my daughter red-handed.

The woman’s reaction, however, is near apopolectic.

I look up as she’s striding toward the kids and yelling, “No, NO! No!”  In fact her voice is raised so angrily that for a moment I feel a stab of fear that something terrible has happened.  Then I hear the woman continue in a thundering lecture: “You don’t do that back here!” as my children obediantly and with open, agreeable faces trot out from the shrubbery, my daughter re-seating her linen pants and heading towards the bathroom.

Witnessing this interaction I feel sadness, disappointment, and anger.  A month ago this same woman had spoken nearly as harshly to my son for the grevious sins of attempting to make a call on the public phone (which was in fact out of order), and a few minutes later, not sitting in one spot on the cold metal bench I was located (adults are, of course, allowed to roam freely).  In the case before I’d disliked how rude this woman was to my son but I’d figured hey, she was having a bad day or whatever. Even now as she stomps behind my children I’m thinking I’ll just file away her behavior and give her another chance next time because of course my kids are doing something “naughty” that to those without small children could seem shocking.

But no, even as the kids have obeyed and are on their way back towards me she’s still angrily lecturing on the point that they need to use the bathroom and not the bushes (I counted, and she literally repeated this four times).  Sophie and Nels are now of their own volition in the restroom washing their hands (see? their manners are actually quite Fancy) as she barks at them from a few feet away.

So I step forth and say, “Ma’am.  Ma’am. I’m sorry, I can see you’re upset.  But you really don’t need to use that tone.”

She’s angry but is attempting to avoid eye contact.  She starts in, for the fifth time, to explain to me the problem.  I hear her out for a minute and say, “I completely understand.  I will talk to them,” I promise, “but this is the second time we’ve been here you’ve spoken to them in that tone, and I can assure you it isn’t necessary.”

This brings her up short.  Someone has actually watched and noted how she treats the public?  Who’d have thought? “Well good then, okay, fine,” she says, stomping off, admitting a kind of defeat: upset I’d confronted her (as anyone might be) but grudgingly convinced in my overall Decency because I had not defended my child’s right to soil the public facilities willy-nilly.

(Incidentally, as we waited for the bus we did see the Transit’s Code of Conduct posted on the wall.  Rule #3 reads “No spitting, urinating, or defecating.”  I guess they do have to spell it out, even to some grownups. By the way, I heard later from a friend this exact woman had had the unfortunate circumstance of discovering a grown man’s bowel movement back in the bushes, on an earlier occasion.  Once bitten, twice shy I suppose).

Sitting with the kids and I make sure they understand the decorum I expect of them at the transit station.  I’m a little irritated, rubbed raw in the way I get when I feel the world is unfair to my kids. “I’m sorry she spoke so rudely to you,” I wind up.

“I didn’t mind,” Sophie says. Yeah, and I get it, because I know I raise my voice in a similar assy fashion to them, they’ve heard it before – and some days more than once.  But perhaps even more striking, I’ve observed children seem to have a more rugged Ego when it comes to being corrected in public.  It’s like they hear what the person is saying and aren’t as angry or defensive as an adult might be.  This is a humbling thought; and a great trait I’d like to have myself.

But when it comes down to it, my kids don’t have to mind one way or another, and I’m not one to swoop them up in big, protective arms each time the world is a shit to them.  But every now and then I do say something to adults who think it’s perfectly permissible to speak to children as if they were second-class citizens.

We continue on our way, loading the Xtracycle up on the bus and venturing out for Sophie’s soccer gear and some groceries.  We arrive back home at four o’clock, a day without driving, a beautiful sunny one at that.


day two of the S24O

You are reading part two of two of the S24O camping trip my seven year old daughter and I took from Hoquiam, WA to Westport, WA.  I’d attempted to tweet along the ride with pics, but out on the coast this ended up not being possible. Part one is located here.

It was a terrifically uncomfortable overnight on the Thermarest – but I must have slept soundly enough because when I woke my daughter had switched pillows on us, leaving me with the smallest while she bogarted the two larger ones.  Here she is naked, her face all chocolatey, making a joke about how she took my pillow:

Like a champ, Sophie elected to stay in the tent while I took a shower and foraged for breakfast.
Like a champ, Sophie elected to stay in the tent while I took a shower and foraged for breakfast.

It turns out that even while camping my priorities are the same: shower, then coffee, then, at some point, breakfast.  Not only did I proceed this way but Sophie did as well. She stayed behind while I showered and brought our morning breakfast beverages (coffee for me, chocolate milk for her – carried in her water canteen).  Then I escorted her to the showers and she happily moaned in pleasure at the feel of hot water.  It only took a few minutes back at the site to break camp (although wrestling the Cabela’s tent back into its sleeve was aggravating).

How cool is it that ALL our camping gear is packed on our bikes?
How cool is it that ALL our camping gear is packed on our bikes?

Highway trip behind me, I’d found a new trip detail to obsess on: the number of bikes that can fit on a Transit bus.  Both for Sophie’s sake, and a soccer meeting later that day, I’d decided we would bus from Westport into Aberdeen (if not to Hoquiam and a few blocks from home).  The only problem with this was A. the fear some Transit driver will balk at loading my X on the rack (this hasn’t happened so far), and B. the fear that the bus would already have a bike on it -since they can only fit two.  In the case of the former obstacle, I am a pro at getting my X on the bus rack (it involves pulling the front wheel off) and I’ve found my confidence in doing so has helped drivers feel confident as well.  In the case of the latter obstacle, I just obsessively worried.  I knew at very worst we could leave a bike in town and venture out by car later to get it (ugh).

During my morning coffee run, I interviewed a man at the park and ride (another man with prematurely decayed teeth; Westport seemed to have a few of these working class young guys who were very friendly but looked like they’d had a rough go of it) about the bus / bike protocol. Before I rode off he told me if we headed into town, to check out the “boardwalk” that ran a couple miles along the beach and north to the Westport docks.

Which is exactly what we did.  Although the highway and town were sunny, a few blocks away from the beach the cold, clammy mist descended, bringing a cool breeze to counter the humidity.  The boardwalk wasn’t as I pictured, but rather a smooth, gently sloping path through the grassy dunes.

I dont mind biking on the highway or in the city streets; but I must admit, these trails were a real treat.
I don't mind biking on the highway or in the city streets; but I must admit, these trails were a real treat.
If I was smarter Id have done a pictoral panoramic of the wild, cold seascape here.
If I was smarter I'd have done a pictorial panoramic of the wild, cold seascape here.

Sophie was charmed that the trail ended right at the observational tower at the Westport docks, and she raced right to the top where it was very cold. I was pleasantly surprised that in climbing the tower we had a pelican’s-eye view of, well, pelicans – many groups that flew close enough it seemed we could touch them.

From in town Sophie elected to try the Westport Aquarium over the Maritime Museum (which has the largest American flag flying I have ever seen, but is probably full of stodgy old fart museum stuff).  It turns out the Aquarium has new owners who hope to put more humane exhibits in the 50-year old tank system that has languished over the years.

The new owners have put a spark of life in this Aquarium, which you can sense despite a rather shabby feel to the place.
The new owners have put a spark of life in this Aquarium, which you can sense despite a rather shabby feel to the place.
A funky little dry display in one of the old concrete tanks.
A funky little "dry" display in one of the old concrete tanks.

The new owner took me back to where the seals had once been contained; I was shocked to see how small these facilities were, but glad to hear seals will not be featured on the re-opening of the Aquarium.  My daughter purchased a pack of cardboard dinosaur figurine puzzles and yet another shell – a conch – for her brother, who loves to transform shells into building materials for musical instruments.

It was getting cold and clammy in Westport; we stopped for sandwiches at the Mermaid Pub & Grill (there are lots of breast visuals, under the guise of mermaid paintings and sculptures, in Westport).  It was a nice lunch, a delicious cup of coffee, and a good finale for our day in town.  We took our last few minutes looking at the whale skeletons housed in the courtyard of the Museum.  When the bus came we had no problems putting the bikes up on the front of the bus at our Dock St. stop, although I was both asked many questions and actually filmed by some tourist as I did it.

Sophie sat in front, and watched Grayland come and go. I messed about with trying to Tweet to no avail.
Sophie sat in front, and watched Grayland come and go. I messed about with trying to Tweet to no avail.

Grayland was beautiful, and again I wish I’d had a better camera, or could have popped off the bus for a minute.  The bus was populated by all sorts of locals, including a teen mother who formula-fed her screaming baby and a kind older man who was the only person on the bus (myself included) who thought to jump up and assist her with her monstrous stroller and carseat caddy-like carrier.

It took all in all about an hour to get back into Aberdeen, where we exited the bus, rode through downtown Aberdeen’s Crackton, and back home against a rather demoralizing headwind.

At home Ralph was kind enough to bring our gear in; it took only a few minutes to have everything put away.  I was surprised that a more minimalistic camping trip was so much more fun and so much simpler than any camping trip I’d taken so far.  There were no extra comforts so there wasn’t much to do except ride, eat, and meet people and see fun things.

Technically our trip was not an S24O as we were back home at 2:45 PM the day after we left. I felt this was a great dry-run of a camping trip.  I look forward to taking both of my children soon; I need my son Nels to be peddling, as I’ve noticed on long trips he is the only one to complain – out of boredom, I think.

Sophie: Ferocious Water-Tiger

like a fish in water

Sophie participated in her first swim meet today.

Sophie, before dominating the entire YMCA Sea Otters swim meet.  Well, she dominated my *heart* anyway.
Sophie, before dominating the entire YMCA Sea Otters swim meet. Well, she dominated my *heart* anyway.

She competed in the 25 yard freestyle, the 50 yard freestyle, the 25 yard backstroke, and the 100 yard relay medley.

She was awesome.  I nearly cried, about eight times.  Part of this may have been the chlorine-laden air.

I learned a little bit about swim meets, and about Sophie.  I hadn’t been to one since I myself participated, which had to have been at least 15 years ago.  I learned the stapled pages delineating events and participants is called the Heat Sheet (not a “program”).  I learned that despite an intimidating level of grownups, activity, noise and busyness, my daughter was completely calm and relaxed in her participation.  I learned that lots of parents take off as soon as their child is done with their events.  I stayed until the end; until the last lumbering swimmer finished the (epic, I remember having to do it myself) 500 yard freestyle.

I learned that some parents border on the psychotic when it comes to sports activities.  I suppose this is true most everywhere, although honestly it seems its own streak here in Grays Harbor.  People I’d been seeing on the bleachers who seemed normal enough during practice, their faces contorted with strain and aggression as they screamed at their seven year old to GO! GO! GO! I sat there and wondered if that sort of parental tutelage, coaching, and pressure to succeed does in fact help a child. I mulled it over and for now have decided that in the early years it might indeed help them to succeed in getting good times, but it ultimately only helps children to rely on others, to fear their parents, and to look elsewhere than their own hearts and guts in setting personal challenges.

I was very, very proud of my daughter today; but really, I was just happy to share one of her loves with her – that of the water.

Oh and: I can haz spaghetti and meatballs, as often as possible lately. I use my extra tomatoes from the garden for sauce. The sauce is amazing – amazing.

A typical dinner around here; so delicious!
A typical dinner around here; so delicious!
Kids @ Grandmas

of sylvia and salamanders

Today it’s like gritting my teeth to take a day off; but we do, because I’d promised the kids a return to Lake Sylvia. This is a beautiful but not oft-visited location for us.  We’d stopped there on Wednesday on our way home from Olympia; the city was too hot, and the lake a perfect respite. As we were making way to get going I saw my doula, her husband, and their child pull into the parking lot, on the last leg of a roadtrip. Small world, I suppose; they live hours away. Yet the sight of her was familiar and welcome to me and we caught up for a few minutes before parting ways. Nels was in the backseat, tossing his hair out of his eyes and viewing this woman with quiet speculation – she’d been at his birth! – his long brown torso and his bright white underwear (the “swim gear” my children had employed; keeping them out of water is never an option) completing the picture.  Beautiful and fierce, the same child he was the day he was born.

So here we are again, at this lake, having this time packed a sizable lunch (grapes and dolmas with chard – delicious! Also, tomato sandwiches from the tomato abundance that is our greenhouse) and coffee for Ralph and I. The kids play, and play, and play. And play.  I almost convince Ralph to leave them to their swimming and come on a short hike.  Instead he and I play some frisbee in the water (I do rather impressive catches and the occasional comically poor throw) then go for a short walk across the bridge.  Talk to some tweens fishing off the dock (“Caught anything?” In unison: “No.”  “What are you using?” “Worms,” and so on.  The boys friendly, but muted).  Sophie catches a salamander and enjoys a brief bit of celebrity status among the children.  The kids perform coordinated stunt-dives off the old dock platform – the dock disappeared sometime in the last decade or so since I’d been out here.

Home from the trip and I’m already cooking and sewing like a madwoman. A grape and goat cheese tart and some homemade bagels to bring to a yoga retreat tomorrow. For our dinner: paneer fried in niter kibbeh, beet salad with ranch dressing, roasted garbanzo beans, and marinated kale.  Ralph takes the kids out – again – to a park, and I retreat to my sewing studio to trace the many pieces of a fitted coat pattern for Sophie.  The comforting space is now framed with long lengths of scarlet batiste and Bemberg rayon, awaiting cutting – the breeze ripples the lovely layers of fabric and a little kitten keeps me company.

Grandma has been watching the kids here or there; taking them out to her boyfriend’s place in the sticks, having them for the occasional sleepover:

Kids sleeping in; at my moms for the night
Kids sleeping in; at my mom's for the night