assignment: go down each slide in GH county

* This weekend was dominated by a sleep/swapover; we had our friends’ children over on Friday night, and they took Sophie last night. Nels was scheduled to attend as well but he spent Friday running away from me a handful of times, including at the YMCA then later around the block to the iffy Trios bar on Simpson Avenue where had he stayed one more minute he would have schmoozed his way inside and smoked a few Camels. Exasperated I pulled his sleepover privilege. One of those things as a parent where you don’t know what to do so you just do something. I do believe (and cross my fingers) Nels will take this to heart and begin asking me before running off to skeezy taverns.

So anyway.

Avast ye Trees
We planted trees on Saturday, hauling the four kids along. They mostly played and threw giant rocks in the stream. As for me I thought it was a ceremonial, plant-one-tree-in-a-park kind of thing (I think in a half-assed way I thought it was Arbor Day) – not the wet, cold, muddy work party that greeted us when we arrived. I wasn’t dressed for it, and it was so cold it would have taken the damper off my spirits for anything, even things I like so much more than planting trees, like eating Mexican food or doing some ass-grabbing.

We are working on lots of projects for homeschool. My children’s talent is wonderful, in part because it pops up in ways I heretofore had never realized they had:

Playground Map
“MIRICAN FAG”. Here we see much of Nels’ artwork and spelling. The red lines are “bridges”. The flag is a majestic specimen located at Morrison River Park in Aberdeen. At first he’d written “American” with no “a”; a couple days later he intuited the vowel sound at the beginning of the word and updated accordingly. The weird thing is a lot of people pronounce it the way he first wrote it. Nels is an expert: phoenetics, olfactory identification, and social justice (although he occasionally seems to consider himself exempt from the latter).

* Shown in photograph: Sophie’s seventh tooth lost, kicked out of her head by her brother on Friday morning.

i’m turning heads in good ol’ G of H

This afternoon I biked the kids all the way to Cosi to meet Ralph in time for Suse’s soccer game. OK, it’s only eight miles (she says, modestly) but it’s a rockin’ eight near bisected by the most horrifying, awful bridge I’ve yet had to navigate. <shudder!> I was so very proud of the kids, though. They are cycling experts who make me very, very proud to ride with them.

So in short, major PWNAGE. On all y’all who drove cars today.

Today I talked in depth to two different people about my X and several more commented in passing or yelled out (compliments) as I whizzed by. And this is just the pedestrians I saw – who knows what the car drivers might have been thinking (“Get your fat ass off my roadway!” is one possibility).

I’m also, humiliatingly, adding more bells and whistles (actually bells and lights) to the X and hope to build (or have a friend build, or help me with) a rain canopy to keep the kids somewhat dry in the upcoming Assy Weather Season. With these additions to our SUB I will be further regaling my community soon with my antics / heroics (depending on what your views are on human-powered transportation).

"She – she will help me – the housewively one. Hi, Betty!"

I’m a member of ten Yahoo groups (three I really need to leave), but this one sends a precious little bit of cargo my way every now and then:

My family has enjoyed the original – The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra – watching it a couple times a year for a few years now.

In other news, I have been given the honor of distributing an excellent publication, The Practical Pedal. It is one of my goals to spread the love of practical cycling (that is, cycling for everyone) in my little nook of Grays Harbor.

of a friday

After a pretty kickass dinner made especially for Ralph and my dad (meatloaf, mashed potatoes, pain de champagne, salad with marinated green beans, olives, and blanched beets), my little family biked / walked a few blocks to our annual Relay for Life. The Relay – or as we OG residents call it, the Cancer Run – is a pretty big deal here in Grays Harbor (yearly we are in the top ten nationally for monies raised per capita). My kids are awesome: they are up for anything, any time of day, and they along with Ralph are the funnest people I know to hang out with (Nels, accompanying Ralph to a portable toilet upon lifting the lid exclaimed suddenly, “You can’t go in that – it’s not a living room – it’s a toilet!” WTF?). We walked the track a few laps, had coffee, caught up with friends and acquaintances. My children hugged nearly everyone they saw that they knew; they inspired Ralph and I to hug a little too.

On our way home just before 11 PM Ralph, pushing the Xtracycle with the kids on the back, abruptly moved the front wheel to allow a car past us and knocked the kids onto the pavement all in the glare of headlights and in front of about a thousand teenage hooligans. I felt bad for both the kids and Ralph but I admit slightly smug that I am pretty used to operating that bike thing. Don’t worry: tomorrow I’ll be punished for my hubris with a big nasty fall or at very least, a snag of my chain and pantleg.

My mom bought me a really awesome lasagna pan today; mere minutes later I am sitting here wishing I had a banneton instead. Satisfying both my minor fetishes for bread and basketry.

and ask our esteemed panel, why are we alive?

We had an outdoorsy day today: from taking a 9 mile roundtrip to get Nels from school straight to the bike shop where Terry and I (mostly Terry, although the kids and I were there for a lot of it and I even helped and learned parts of my bike, yay!) Franken-biked my Giant into an Xtracycle! Since my bike was torn apart before my eyes this involved me finding a way in poor weather to Sophie’s school and back home without wheels – in horizontal rain for part of it. Bitar’s Bike Shop is also slightly colder than the outdoors, and the outdoors were cold. Short story, it’s almost 9 PM and I’m still not warmed up.

The bike conversion is – so far – as lovely as I’d hoped. As in, I might have trouble sleeping tonight. In Bitars as I removed parts from the box I gazed upon them and fondled these parts (Oh, sleek Snap Deck!) as if they were so much excellent and rare porn, finally delivered into my hands after a seeming lifetime of waiting. The Xtracycle was fun; the g-d euro child’s bikeseat (I shall not name specifically and therefore print libel here about the annoying setup instructions) ended up taking us past 6:30 PM and Terry’s departure time so my S.U.B. will not be street-ready until tomorrow (pictures later; I’m kind of exhausted). I’m hoping dearly for a better day than today’s offerings (of which I had to bike, walk, bus with children) but I will test-ride that thing come rain or shine.

Oh, and Monday I was interviewed on by a college student (with his ladyfriend taking photos) for some coursework that involves Sure Nail & Fire. My zine is being featured as a small-town effort extolling the virtues of Harbor life; I listened to my interview today. I was really impressed with the editing job, especially after the NPR experience and how much coaching that entailed for just a short blurb; and considering Monday’s relatively low-fi recording device. For the record both interviewer E. and his girlfriend (photographer) K. were the most charming, sweet visitors we’ve had in a while. Smart and easy to talk to as well as cute as if kittens could be made into people (I bite my tongue to not refer wistfully to their youth).

It's ALIVE!!

"your mother doesn’t work here" – oh wait, she does

I’ve been reluctant to write much about my hours spent in my children’s schools, but the fact is I spend a lot of time with my children in their educational environments and I think about those environments a great deal. Today I performed my Monday morning shift in Suse’s kindergarten class along with a substitute teacher. I was surprised to find the typically well-behaved twenty plus children suddenly turn into rowdy, loud, inconsiderate pupils. And like some kind of virus, the misbehavior was not able to be contained by the substitute nor even a little speech of my own (listened to respectfully at least).

Sophie’s teacher impresses me because she has established control of the classroom. Her first few weeks of class were spent almost solely on behavioral issues, the benefit of which is that almost two dozen small children typically experience a safe and ordered environment. But as I herded them into their lunch line today it occurred to me that staying in the public school system meant – besides the occasional luck of a great teacher – my kids would probably have many, many days like this one – an atmosphere of chaos above order, busywork above engagement, admonishment from adults rather than curiosity, expecations, and mutual respect.

My Monday work is typically in helping children with an art project. The time and energy that goes into each project is incredible, yet I notice in the classroom setting each child typically doesn’t have enough time to carry out the project in a way that informs him or her in their own interest and skills (or lack thereof). Because of this time constraint my favorite art project this year was an uber-simple project of picking out clippings for magazines (high school assistant J. and I pre-cut animals from National Geographics) and gluing three of them to a piece of paper divided into sections. In this case the project was simple enough I got to talk to each child about their choice of animal and layout; an artistic and relational growing process in my mind far superior to the sometimes more elaborate products we produce by giving curt directions and doing half the work for the child.

Any discussion about my children’s school environments isn’t nearly so much a criticism of the system or a worry about my children’s experiences as it is a learning experience for me. I think it’s a sign of my deferment to authority I’ve always believed school is a given establishment that is for The Good and therefore is itself Good – that is, sometimes children misbehave or have a horrid time there but, all in all, The System Knows Best (P.S. I know exactly which parent I co-opted this concept from). It is so odd I find myself realizing the system is, well, relatively arbitrary. Do I have the courage to think for myself what I want for my family and myself when society around me has been encouraging me to take advantage of the free babysitting provided by the state?

It’s lighter in the early morning hours. I have learned Spring weather in Grays Harbor is capricious, at turns sunny and brilliant, ominous, or dismally wet. The thrilling rains of Fall have given way to the saturating showers of spring, keeping our backyard wet, wet, wet in the interim before the sky opens up again.

If You Build It, They Will Sleep

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.

make it a regular part of your day

Whatever bits of spare time I thought I had have been taken up by biking and sewing, both of which I’ve been doing quite a bit more. It is merely exhausting pulling my trailer of 100 or so pounds (kids, books, backpacks, groceries) and by the time I get home it’s time to start dinner or finish the dishes or collapse on the bed and wish for a second wife in the family while I wait for my husband to rescue me from some of my work.

Yesterday Nels, E., and I biked down to the bus station to catch a bus to Aberdeen. We shopped for groceries at Safeway (the kids chose a car-like kid cart and were endlessly amused when I’d “drive” it crazily or recklessly) and packed half of the food into my backpack, half into one of those heinous plastic bags that cuts your palm to ribbon as you procced to walk across town. Physically carting one’s own food around town definitely self-moderates any extra purchasing one might be tempted to do; however I can’t bear the annoying extra expense of buying organic milk by the half-gallon.

After the grocery store we visited the local fabric shop for a bit; on next door where I sipped coffee in a cafe – the two children playing perfectly at an adjacent table – before walking the remaining seven blocks to E.s uptown school. The two little ones held up great and just before we got to the school we sat on a bench to have a snack and rest up. The walk and bus ride back home with Nels was less pleasant; I am prone to car sickness and it seems the bus system, already not without problems, hasn’t quite learned to cope with our bridge detour. The result was an extra and unexpected (for me and several other passengers) three mile delay when I was already about to puke my guts. I grimly held on as Nels gamboled about in the backseat flirting with all who came into eye- or earshot. I was never happier to see the station and our locked- up bike apparatus as when I shakily stumbled off the bus and held my breath from the diesel fumes.

I have started to believe that Grays Harbor Transit is underdesigned and largely ignored by those who have the time and influence to improve it. For instance at last week’s HBA meeting there was an anecdotal story about the bus system working well despite our detour – “working well” has not been my experience – and the conversation quickly turned as if we’d merely discussed an quaint irregularity; I’d wager not one other person at this meeting actually uses the system with any frequency. The schedule and routes don’t seem to be built for commuting but rather for those who have no motorized means of transportation and are at the mercy of such a system. In my several times a week riding I do not observe daily white-collar commuters (my husband rides the bus an average of two days a week and reports the same) and I have never seen another white, middle/upper class mum on board. People I do see on the bus: the sick, elderly, morbidly obese, or suffering riding up the hill for medical treatment, those in drug or alcohol counseling programs, those working blue-collar jobs, users with fallen-in mouths, hooded eyes, and dubious personal hygiene, near-silent Latina women and their small children. I have overheard many, many stories of drug use, treatment, and court (in fact, one woman sitting by me yesterday became agitated at the unexpected delay as she was required to be in court at a certain time). I have seen people with plastic bags of their own clothes or cheap Walmart goods huddled in their seat and scarfing food down, their skin tone poor and their eyes tired. People trading stories of methadone, roomates who’ve ripped them off; last week a woman asking another casually, “What are you then? An alcoholic or something?” as if inquiring about a fraternal organization. I feel like an anomoly on the bus.

In any case it doesn’t make sense, I suppose, for the bus system to improve. Even with gas prices rising as they are people are still freely choosing driving as a means of transport. Neither are many carpooling; in my biking about town I’ve taken to counting cars and have found over 80% of car trips to be passenger-free.

Other perils of bussing and biking; I went so long without driving our van that a tiny, tiny light left on managed to drain the battery over the period of three days. Whoops!

that was a good drum break

Our first weekend guests (Cynthia, her daughter Paige, and her two dogs Dwight and Lucy) have been and gone. They weren’t 100% our weekend guests as their nightly accommodations were my parents’ house. Highlights of the visit: daytrip to Westport (check out tacky website for a walk on Half Moon Bay and lunch at the Islander; hike on Stewart Park. We also watched two Mike Judge movies and ate good veggie food (my first palak paneer). Oh! P.S. There are naked surfer boys in Westport. Yes, even in the cold.

Today after our guests left to catch the train (Paige) and head home (Cynthia and dogs) my family all took a 2 1/2 hour nap together. You saw that? That just happened. It worked out well, too, as after we rose I at least had the energy to do dishes and put the house back in order. And even though my children have fully recovered from their upset tummies my husband seems to have some minor stomach bug, likely a less severe set of symptoms from the kids’ more violent displays of illness. Let’s wish him well and make sure he doesn’t envision a greasy pork sandwich in an ashtray as he reads this.

In further news: over the weekend the Maintenance Guy Tom came over and tore out the broken section of backyard fence and is currently building a new one. Fenced backyard, yay! Kids playing while I sew inside, yes! Secret chickens? Maybe.

As I was typing this, my daughter came into the room and said, “Can you cuddle me? I’m so sick. I feel like there’s drugs and gasoline in my tummy.” It’s clear it’s time to sign off.

what’s new, pussycat?

I don’t want to jinx anything, but I believe we may have found a house to land in Hoquiam. A very sweet old place almost directly across the street from my parents’ (babysitting score!). I knew the elderly man who owned it (he’s passed on, now) and I delivered him papers when a preteen. Not to mention the house – a downgrade in size and bedrooms but an upgrade in kitchen, mine now being the size of a large-ish crate – comes with gas heat and a clawfoot tub. A clawfoot tub. I’ve been coveting one for years.

I don’t want to jinx anything else, but our kitty Fancy is missing. I am really heartsick about this. For one thing, I have a fear of “something going wrong” with a new pet (hence my superstition about naming, my nightly wakeups since she’s gone AWOL) – and it now seems something has. She got out of the house last Saturday mid-morning and as of today (Tuesday) we have not heard from her. Those of you who have commiserated and told me it is “normal” for cats to go off for days at a time, thank you. I am earnestly hoping and praying for her return and safety. Today we filled out a detailed report at JCAS; tomorrow is the leaflet campaign coupled with woeful children in a wagon.

I hope I am being a huge asinine freak and she shows up on our doorstep soon, belly full of neighbor’s warm milk and entirely sassy that we have been worrying ourselves.

My recent funk where I was tired of cooking? was too boring to blog about, but it seems to have passed – at quite a cost since we ate out a bit the last couple weeks. Tomorrow I’m making The Anticraft’s Pie Pie to prove that yes, I’m back, I’m kicking ass, and taking names.

Listening to: this, this and this.
Reading: this.
Contemplating: sleep, de-hiving.