heartstrings and spoke lights

Today my son swam back and forth in the deep end of the recreational pool, over and over and with a smile on his face. He flipped over on his back and swam, and stuck his thumbs-up out of the water and winked at me.

Then he took me over to the lap pool and swam the length of that. Three times.

I’d love to write a little essay on the YMCA and their berjillion weird and contradictory pool rules, including and not limited to: children are the responsibility of the lifeguard, NO WAIT they’re the responsibility of the parents’/carers’; If the kids can swim they’re allowed in the deep end of the rec pool, NO THEY’RE TOTALLY NOT unless they’re at least eight!; you can swim in the lazy river if you’re taller than the water level, NO YOU CAN’T YOU MUST WEAR A LIFEJACKET, then No you’re NOT allowed to wear a lifejacket in the lazy river EVAR. And my personal favorite duo: small children must be within five feet of a grownup at all times; a grownup may supervise up to ten children at a time (the mental picture of the supreme unfunness in one adult with ten small children within arms’ reach, moving through the pool like so many cilia attached to a central grownup protista, is a hilarious and untenable one).

There’s also this whole “swim test” proposition posted everywhere which somehow involves testing and receiving a bracelet and getting more swim rights (I can’t even snark on the standards of this “testing” in any way because I don’t see any bracelets on kids, ever, so I have no idea if these systems are even in effect).

Given all this and the many times some lifeguard would tell my son “You can’t do that until you can ‘swim’ [meaning their version of swimming] across the pool” (I hasten to add most lifeguards recognize his swim-competence and let him do what he knows he can) Nels did what was logical: he taught himself to swim and today he took on their test. Given their inconsistent rules and spotty enforcements I don’t think the issue of Nels’ swim freedoms is as settled as he thinks it is.  I really do mean to talk to the director of the pool scene (a rather grumpy person who is clearly managing a very large program) and try to figure this crap out.  But in the meantime we are having about 99.9% fun on our swim dates and Nels’ and Phoenix’s pleasure in the over two hours of swim time we had today was pure joy.

Another first: in the course of the day we took the bikes out all around town and to East Side HQX which meant riding up then down a bridge that is very steep and has an icky re-entry to road traffic at the bottom. Naturally I was worried because Nels is not only a Speed Demon he’s a (calculated) Risk Taker in general, and the bridge path was made perfectly slick by today’s on-and-off rain. Riding behind Nels on the steep grade I held in my mind two truths that formed my amazing reality: A. the worst that could happen to him would be a broken wrist or busted-out teeth and B. I was actually okay with this because I know Nels is doing exactly what he should be doing: stretching his abilities (within his supreme self-knowledge of them) to accomplish something he wants to master.* Don’t get me wrong, crash injuries are terrible to imagine like any injury to one’s child (Phoenix’s horror-crash happened exactly a year ago!).  This is why as I was behind  him my chest fluttered and I felt supremely alive.  As we sped down the thoroughway I talked him through trying out his brakes on the slick surface and he tested these with an expert handling of the resultant slight fishtail.  At the bottom of the bridge he firmly stopped in the exact correct spot.

It’s funny because a very short time ago I was helping my little duckling daughter travel on the same bridge and now she’s so bike competent I can focus entirely on talking Nels through our ride, knowing she is behind me as well-furnished a rider as I (given much of our ride is on a highway with log trucks and a small but unpleasant selection of asshole drivers I really do appreciate being able to focus on my son). Halfway through our ride Nels began hand signals before turns, cautiously lifting his arm and shoulder-checking and discussing strategies for stop signs (which can be treated as yield signs by cyclists). He was so engaged and having such a wonderful time it was almost possible for me to not have my mind blown at how effortlessly, joyously, and willingly kids learn a whole passel of fucking awesome skills if you merely help in the ways they request help.

When we got home Ralph was already here and he got started on the meal I’d planned – fried chicken, peas, and German potato salad. He also brought me home a bottle of Jack which verily I shall be making into ye olde toddies anon. And just now I get a phone call: Phoenix has spent the afternoon and evening with a friend who now wants to stay the night, so: Sleepover! (which you simply must imagine me saying in the tone of Orange Mocha Frappucino!”)

It’s been a good day times one hundred.

* He’s also gotta lose those teeth soon anyway.

sea change

Last night we finished folding the laundry and bundled the kids up into the car and headed out of town. On the way we left the children at a friend’s; a couple hours later my mom would grab them up for a sleepover at her house. Ralph and I are off to Seattle to (first) phở followed by a three-band set at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard.

After we dropped the kids off I was quiet in the car for the first couple minutes of our trip because, truth be told, I didn’t want to drive to Seattle. I wanted to be in Seattle for a rock show – hell yes, with our kids would be nice, but with just Ralph is awesome too. But five hours of driving? Ugh. I’m just not really into mandatory periods of stationary activity (not even sleep, which I struggle with).

However what Ralph hadn’t really got across to me was that A. the band he was interested in was pretty excellent, and B. we’d be seeing friends from a decade back (two of which were in this band). In fact the “boys” I knew who more or less followed Ralph’s little math rock effort around have now become men – with beards and mustaches and seemingly feet gained in height – and two of them have stayed consistent in their hard work at TEH ROCK to become musicians of an incredible prowess and creativity. It was sheer joy to watch them and even more enjoyable to catch up, to talk and to share again. All four men resisted my proffered handshake and instead enveloped my husband and I in warm hugs.  Two of them recently married, they seemed happy to see us perhaps in part because ten years later we’re happily partnered, are raising kids and loving it, and Ralph still plays music.

I like going to shows with my husband, but it was an unexpected blessing to see these “boys” again (there are four in all) and to remember a time in my life fondly, that of Ralph’s little band groupie chemical-engineer girlfriend hanging out weekend after weekend at this-or-that pissant show. It was a Christian punk scene and I’ve never since encountered a group more open, alive, awake, earnest, energetic, humble, loving, and enthusiastic.

It’s a good thing.

On the drive home I think to myself that those times in our life we’re so passionate about, those things never really go away, even if we forget them for awhile…

This morning and afternoon the stellar sunshine took a turn. Being a one-car family? I totally love it. But the inconvenience factor makes itself known now and then, as today when the kids and I ran errands in a wind- and rainstorm – on our bikes. However it was actually delightfully warm and the wind, which was strong enough to knock out power here and there, threw Nels off his bike a time or too – to his utter wild happiness.  We took our time and made our way safely about town, hanging our coats up at home and cranking the heat.  The gift balaclava my girl Abi made me is long-stretched into ridiculousness; today I pulled a yarn bull of a rich red tweed out of my little cupboard and cast on seventy stitches for a warm hat for the spring gusts.

in the gloaming

Today was lovely; besides finishing a super-awesome sewing project that had been plaguing me in the details – yay! and: Shhh! Secret for my daughter’s birthday – we were out on the bikes for most of our afternoon and evening. It was brilliantly, beautifully sunny. Packing up when there’s no chance of rain is a simpler affair:

Adventure NecessitiesColoring books! Crayon roll-ups! Swim gear! Coats!

Ralph teaches an evening class on Wednesdays and so far each evening has been wonderful. You’d think being with the kids all day I’d rather loathe having them by myself even further. Perhaps it’s that when my husband is home I feel competing urges to be with him and the children (and myself, sewing!), but I find our Wednesday evenings sans Papa to be relaxing and intimate. Go figure.

Where I Live
We stopped at Hodge Podge, the Habitat for Humanity store; Nels found a little red vacuum cleaner he has decided to purchase. Nels is building his own house out of a cardboard box and an assortment of homemade furniture including, for practicality’s sake, a Skee-Ball arcade game (lumber purchase pending). We already own a vacuum but I guess it isn’t good enough.

Nels & I, Deep In Study
While Sophie swam I read some library sewing books and Nels wrote up a list for his new domicile. I think you can see here how lovely the sun is.

On Our Ride Home
On our way back from the YMCA I glanced in the front yard of a little apartment complex on Aberdeen Avenue. Imagine my surprise when I saw an apartment inhabitant walking – not a pair of small dachshunds like she had been the week before – but a pair of cockatiels! We motored right over and the kids spent several minutes playing with the friendly and beautiful birds.

It was a good day; I didn’t even have to use my AK.

monar en la bicicleta, de la noche

My favorite parts of today were two-fold:

First, I gave up on worrying about letting the kids outside during school hours.  I don’t know what I worry about, exactly, but let me tell you: there was something so freeing about deciding to trust the kids, and trust the Universe, and get on with my life.  It’s been lovely out – we’re having a lot of sun and even warmth, daffodils blooming, the rain letting up – and the kids want to be outside.  Nels rode a tricycle around the block and I decided not to worry the cops would get called (little one on the sidewalk, Where’s Mama?!), or that he’d get mowed down by a giant truck (seriously, my largest somewhat sensible fear about living life with chilluns), or that some other vague, unsavory event would occur.  I told Nels to let me know when he ventured out, and where he was going.  And that was that.

At 2 PM today Sophie set out with my mother, arriving home an hour later with a leopard gecko and all accoutrement for ownership of said reptile – crickets and cricket-house, lights, bedding, shelter, lid and tank: a birthday gift from Grandma.  My daughter named the creature Anna Dell Geckaboom, and the two have been spending much tender time getting to know one another.  The lizard is exceedingly beautiful, almost makes you believe in God or some kind of Master Plan.  She licks her lips when you supply her with her six-legged fare and if you handle her body her tiny toes grip your fingers firmly but gently and sticky like tiny Post-It notes.

My second-favorite part of today: later in the evening, riding the bike back from Sophie’s swim team at the YMCA.  I glided through our quiet down with the kids on the back – just like old times, before my daughter had obtained a license for her own vehículo de dos ruedas.  It was stark, and clear, and dark and night-magic; the kids were fidgeting on the back of the bike (since we used the bus to get to the Y – but not to ride back! Jeebus! – we took only one bike – we knew for sure we’d be able to load it on the Transit) and it was cozy in the way that only X-travel really can be, your kids hugging you and murmuring and close.  I stopped halfway home to tuck my pantleg into my socks, adjust my front wheel, and snap a picture of Hoquiam across the little river:

HQX (Wednesday) Night Life

Hoquiam, (Wednesday) night-life.

Much later the husband and I met at a tavern for a late dinner and I had some good pub-fare; the kids stayed home and built forts and ate the meal I’d left them – homemade spaghetti and meatballs, carrot sticks – then gave themselves a bath.

Just: lovely, lovely, lovely.

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.

We Embark

venturing out

You are reading part one 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 two is located here.

I chug coffee like other people chug water. But I did make it the whole five hours on this one 12-ounce cup of regular brew.
I chug coffee like other people chug water. But I did make it the whole five hours on this one 12-ounce cup of regular brew.

Believe it or not, the night before setting off on a 25+ mile bike camping trip with my daughter, I was not obsessively worrying about highway shoulders or bad weather or traffic. No, what I (obsessively) worried about was some overenthusiastic motorist driving past me on some uphill or hectic stretch (as I huffed and puffed) and screaming at me to “Get off the road!” (or, as might be more the point, get my seven year old off the road).  After all, there are actual hazards in using a bicycle out in the world, and then there are the things we in particular dislike.  I have only been yelled at a couple times but it is unpleasant, intimidating, and yes, infuriating (Good sir, would you like to pull over and we could rationally discuss bicycle rights?).

The trip through Hoquiam and Aberdeen was very pleasant; we were able to ride next to one another much of the time and talk. We also saw lots of cats and neighbors out and about, which is a lot of fun for us.

The Chehalis River Bridge, which as a bike with lots of cargo, and little ones, is a nemesis of sorts - that is, in fact, conquerable.
The Chehalis River Bridge, which as a bike with lots of cargo, and little ones, is a nemesis of sorts - but one that is, in fact, conquerable.

As it turned out, all motorists except one seemed extremely courteous.  The “one” zoomed past us at full speed without giving us an extra inch, right up the John’s River Bridge – one of two rather assy uphill narrow bridges with no shoulder (and I do mean nothing).  The bridges were the only unpleasant spell in the twenty five mile ride.  Sophie was a champ, plugging along at an admittedly slow pace (my seven year old daughter may be the only cyclist I will ever feel I have to slow my pace for) but having no problems – even hauling as much gear as she was.

Little Hot Pocket. Most of our mini-stops shed take off her helmet to get some of the breeze on her hot head.
Little Hot Pocket. Most of our mini-stops she'd take off her helmet to get some of the breeze on her hot head.

Sophie carried all our clothes, our toiletries, all our food, and the first aid kit and pocket knife (these latter two items she was minorly obsessed with; always finding an excuse to suggest their usage).  For record’s sake, I carried our Thermarest pads, sleeping bags, pillows, water, a couple tools and extra tires, and my own coat and hoodie.  The only thing I didn’t carry was our tent, a large, heavy Cabela’s lovely homestead.  It is very heavy, and I hadn’t had the time to research the best lightweight tent for these kind of trips (I’m open to suggestions on this).  My load probably didn’t weigh much more than hers, but as much of it was bulky the Xtracycle’s panniers (if you can call them that) were the best choice, while Sophie’s bags could more easily hold small items.

One nice thing about this trip, it seemed to earn a lot of compliments bordering on astonishment from locals.  In Bay City we asked a store proprietor how many more miles to Westport. She said, “Oh, it’s just around the corner.” I said, “Well, we’re on bikes, so I’m wondering the mileage.” Her eyes went up and she said, “Oh, bikes!” – as if this was an entirely different mileage calculation altogether. Which I guess it kind of is.

We stopped about every five to seven miles. On the trip we discovered an archery club, gun shop, a, um, sausage place?, lily nursery, and wrecking yard.
We stopped about every five to seven miles. On the trip we discovered an archery club, gun shop, a, um, sausage place?, lily nursery, and wrecking yard.

We got to the state park at 1:45 PM, just short of a five-hour trip.

Twin Harbors State Park is a lovely campground, with pretty fancy showers and a firewood truck that visits you so you don't have to go into town looking.
Twin Harbors State Park is a lovely campground, with pretty fancy showers and a firewood truck that visits you so you don't have to go into town looking.

The first order of business: to find some coffee. I hit one of the many nautical-themed espresso stands in the area and I spot a drink: The “Dirty Dive”. Sounds filthy, but boy was it delicious. As the barista pours a half cup of raw sugar into my cup, he says, “It looks like you guys are doing some heavy-duty biking.” I tell him where we came from and what we’re doing and he’s impressed. In fact I’m going to find that on the next day – many people amazed one could bike from Hoquiam with camping gear and a child. Our modest feat doesn’t seem to deserve that much wonderment, but it’s nice to hear the praise and surprise (the other thing we hear a lot of: “Be careful!” Yeah, thanks. I know they mean well, but I also notice the people who actually ride bikes regularly don’t feel the need to install the Bogeyman in us each time we set out somewhere).

Coffee in hand (or rather, on bike) we cruise through the park, check in, and find our site.  Sophie hounded me to find the beach with her.  At the trailhead she was off like a shot, and within minutes her clothes were in a pile and she was in the ocean:

It was beautiful and sunny for the duration of our stay.
It was beautiful and sunny for the duration of our stay.

We walked about in the surf.  Sophie found her brother an intact sand dollar – the only one we were to see the whole time.  After a bit I finally coaxed her into heading back to the site.  I had been working so hard on the trip I hadn’t anticipated how much I’d like to have a sit-down, and how much nicer it would have been to throw the tent up (as well as feeling awesome at setting up camp in record time).  As it was we made do with a rest on our Thermarest pads and sleeping bags:

Riding a bike miles and miles is great for one thing: a very active child will usually consent to resting alongside you for a bit.
Riding a bike miles and miles is great for one thing: a very active child will usually consent to resting alongside you for a bit.

At this point, we were anticipating the arrival of Ralph and Nels, who were bringing us our tent, a flashlight (the one thing I’d forgotten to pack), and s’mores accoutrement; also expected were our friends J. and M. But for some reason, I really wanted to head into town (about four more miles away).  It was pretty cool to be able to pull a few things out of the bike and have a camp set up all ready – even cooler when a couple who’d packed everything one could think of came to my site to find an air pump for their air mattress (I might feel kind of awesome now, but later in the night I’d wish I had their bulky air mattress or something similar).

Sophie was amenable to town except for one clause: she wanted to ride on my bike. I tried to convince her otherwise, but the truth is I’m pretty used to pulling about 50 extra pounds.  We absolutely flew into town on a sun-dappled, gravelled-shoulder road, passing many funny houses and odd worn-down establishments of questionable origin.  I put the flashing tailight on for this trip because it was a bit of a windy, shadowy road and evening hovered in the near distance.

Westport proper wasn’t really hopping on a Wednesday night. We investigated long enough to discover the pizza restaurant I wanted to try was closed due to fire, and to answer many questions about my bike from a wandering semi-toothless young man who took interest (the man, on a bike himself with a dilapitated old trailer, did an abrupt U-turn and cackled behind me for a bit before finally coming alongside – in the middle of the road – and saying, “Looking goooooood. What am I looking at, here?” At first I thought he meant my cleavage, but we ended up talking more about the Xtracycle).  Just before we turned back to the campsite I find another nautical coffee shop – with yet another “Dirty Something-Or-Other” that ended up being exactly the same beverage (that is, an Americano spiked with more sugar than one might think possible, cream, and topped with whipped cream and raw sugar sprinkles).  We headed back to town and arrived just in time to catch the firewood truck, then the arrival of Ralph, Nels, and our tent.  We set up the tent, then travelled into town to Sergio’s Restaurant for some Mexican food.

Our digs, bikes, and the Dirty Sanchez or whatever it is I was drinking.
Our digs, bikes, and the Dirty Sanchez or whatever it is I was drinking.
Hot sauce and cute guys
Hot sauce and cute guys

Back at the camp site, our friends came out and took pictures, then we shared some s’mores.  Sophie’s dress was pretty damp from the sea-going so I hung it up and she slept naked.  The little creature didn’t even have to brush her teeth before bed. We hit the sack around nine and talked long into the night, before falling asleep at precisely the same time.

of urban woodlands and werewolves

Tonight the kids and I head out on an evening bike ride while Ralph mops the hardwood floors (a ritual required more regularly due to the summer shedding of our two lazy felines). Usually when the children and I go out for a ride it starts out cranky, or boring, or whatever, but soon we’ve established a rhythm of conversation that feels more comfortable than just about anywhere else.

Our destination: the West End playfield, about 1.5 miles away. The children may be looking forward to playing but I could never get tired of the neighborhood: all the different houses and gardens, the people, teenagers free for the summer playing at a volleyball game in the front yard at the housing projects, and yes, even the methy-looking people striding purposely here or there, their clothes flapping open and their faces set and grim.

Just before passing into Aberdeen we come alongside a man filleting a large fish on the tailgate of his battered pickup truck. He’s about fifty: tall, dark, handsome, long black hair pulled back under a banana. A song by Cream is playing on the radio and he’s busy slicing into the beautiful, shiny fish. Sophie and Nels want to look at the fish so I ask him about it. He pulls up the halibut by its tail, then a type of bass (I think): both gifts his cousin, a commercial fisherman, brought him earlier. He’s smiling at us, a few teeth missing, but mostly he’s concentrating on preparing the fish. The kids hover closer and closer as he expertly fillets away the flesh of the animal, almost no blood. “Have a nice dinner,” I say, the kids tell him goodbye! in that open, sweet way that only children can, and even strangers find themselves responding to, then Nels jumps up behind me and we’re back on our way.

At the park after playing a bit (the children enjoy being chased but have specific and capricious “rules” for when I’m allowed to terrorize them and how) we end up beyond the athletic fields, behind the cyclone fence in a little makeshift trail alongside some kind of runoff ditch. This is the sort of place I loved exploring while a child, a secret hideout framed by greenery, a stretch small and of no notice to an adult yet huge and massive with possibility for children. I have turned away for only a moment to hang our helmets up on the fence before joining the kids, who have already pulled their knickers back up after each taking a discreet pee just off the trail. They hustle along the path, calling back to me, swinging walking sticks: independent, “raising themselves” as I’ve heard it said – and often it seems so true I experience the dizzying sense of both life’s preciousness and my relative unimportance: Why do I worry so much?

It’s not a long trail but it likely seems so for the littlest one. “This is assing me out,” Nels presently says, of the nettles and grasses whipping against his five year old legs (which are finally catching up in the horrific bruise / scratch quantity that his older sister has long inhabited). He picks me a flower – a striking yellow tri-lobed bloom on a common weed, I don’t know what it is – and seems betrayed upon our return trip to see that it had fallen out of my buttonhole alongside the trail. He returns it to me and I put it in my coat pocket.

We are still behind the fence and on the trail when we see from way down Oak Street the flashing light of another bike: Ralph riding to join us. Sophie pulls him back along the little makeshift trail hidden by blackberry and assorted other six-foot-high bushes. “Oh, what a lovely river!” my husband says, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “It’s a culvert,” Sophie corrects him.

Home as the sun is setting, the only condition I don’t enjoy biking in: darkness in city streets. The weather is beautiful, people are out everywhere, we’re back on the familiar street of Cherry to get home. The kids and Ralph have developed another scheme: tonight is a full moon and Ralph has been bitten by something. “My arms feel itchy,” he tells them. Home and there’s a bath, much scrambling about the house as the children arm themselves with sliver bullet for the eventual betrayal and denouement of their lycanthropic father.

oh you know, the typical cuts and scrapes of childhood

Today I did, after all, get my opportunity to spend some rather kid-focused time: my oldest child had a horrific crash on their bike while hurtling downhill on Endresen in HQX.

I handle emergencies well. It’s a gift. I maintained a calm voice and did not doubt what it was I had to do. Blood was pouring out of their nose and they were crying. I gently staunched the flow with my extra t-shirt. The sun beat down on us, very bright and hot. I walked us a few feet to the shade at the riverbank, tracking both children and both bikes, and at this point I re-checked the nosebleed; it had slowed. I felt their limbs and examined the many, many scratches and bruises. I looked at their pupils and gently checked their head, ascertained neither nose nor teeth were broken. We sat there for a while, my child’s head in my lap, their brother’s eyes huge, he was worried they would lose too much blood. Blood and tears had flowed liberally and I was stained by both. It was only my calm that kept things from being so much worse than they could have been.

After a time they are ready to go home. I hide their bike in the bushes. I could pack their bike on my own, but I am in too much of a hurry, fuck it if it gets stolen. I need to get us home, to warm water and cold water and Tylenol. I put my coat around them; they are already calming. Their lip has swollen to an alarming degree and this, plus the potential of a dental injury, concerns me; besides water from my water bottle and a t-shirt, I had not yet been able to put a true cold compress on their mouth.

I am on the bike and I’m a determined machine, not at all inconvenienced by the extra weight and the heat. The kids grow still and comforted by the very familiar experience of the bike. Phoenix says, “The wind is starting to soothe me,” and it is this point I am further satisfied: they are going to be okay. We pass through the cluttered backstreets of N. Hoquiam, a pitbull, mamas in halter tops smoking and listening to hip hop. A golden, shirtless young man says, “Hey, that’s cool!” about my bike. I say, “Thanks!” as I hurtle by and he follows up with, “It’s a lovely day out!”

It is a lovely day out; but I must get the children home. I am a steady, alert mother with two children on my bike and the sun is fire on my skin. I am a train engine getting us home surely, and calmly, but now. We pull up to the house and Nels brings blankets; I slip Phoenix’s blood-splattered dress off of them and put them on the couch. Water. Tylenol. Ice compress. I am literally pouring sweat, which physically feels good, later I will wash up. I am calm but focused entirely on the children.

It’s only later – after I’ve given them a bath in warm water with epsom salts, a few drops of tea tree, geranium, and organic lavender; it’s only later after I’ve called the pediatric dentist and we’ve made tomorrow morning’s appointment; it’s only later after their doctor has allowed us to bring them in and performed a very thorough examination, finding, thank goodness, nothing at all worse than my original assessments. It’s only later.

It’s only later that I start to fall apart. I relieve the incident and have my own reactions. I can hear the sounds behind me the wind did not obscure when they started to lose control of the bike and call out for my help. I can feel the fear and experience the terror of such a profound crash, a crash worse than any I remember from childhood. I re-feel, vividly, my concern that they’d busted a bone, if their arm was held out at an angle from a break (it wasn’t). I can feel the hot blood on my face and somehow worst of all, I can taste the grit in my teeth.

They are safe at home, my mother picked up the hidden bike and then swung by for my youngest, Ralph is coming home. And my head begins to throb – I so rarely get headaches – my body slows down. I am weighted down with the precise knowledge this was my fault. This isn’t a decision, this is not a series of facts that bring me to this. My child was hurt rather badly and no matter what anyone says I am responsible. Funny how just the other day I’d told my own mother she worried and over-managed my emotional pains too much as a child. Funny because I am crushed with misery for an event that my child is already moving past.

My child is fine. After I called the doctor, secured an immediate appointment, and told them we’d be heading out they said, “We have to ride up the hill? Can we drive instead?” politely. They fervently wished for swimming tonight (the doctor said no – their many skin abrasions might contract an infection from the public pool). They gardened with their papa, bringing in pints of strawberries for jam. Being home and they are laughing, smiling, and friendly to the doctor, a deformed lip making them all the sweeter and odder.

They are fine. This is a “nothing”. This is a, “kids play rough” kind of injury. They are fine, but I am less so, and it will take a bit more time, and maybe a restful sleep, to feel differently.

maybe it’s just the weather talking, but oh what a beautiful morning!

There have been so many fun things about this weekend, so many successes and little adventures. I missed my husband but I had such a wonderful time with my children and our friends. Looking back I think it all started Friday afternoon when at the Deli I looked up to see my daugther all sunlight in a summer dress, running through the door and telling me breathlessly she got her new violin.

Yesterday was spent almost entirely out in the sun with another family, biking, hiking, and later: ice cream. Cycling through town and waving to and talking with the many people I know. Nels hugging me behind me on the bike, a steep steep hill up and up and up and then whoosh down, along the river. Stopping at places in the neighborhoood and listening to crazy coots rant about this and that. After getting home in the cooling evening, I cooked up some more.

Today: peaches and cream for breakfast; homemade bagels with cream cheese. A cross-town bike ride to pick of a 10 year old friend of the kids’. Returning with the three children and catching chickens, putting them out in the tractor and watching their contended, fussy little dirt baths. Our guest had an interest in making crackers, hardboiling eggs. I rolled the cracker dough (herbs from our garden) and the kids cut, pricked, and applied an egg wash. Serving the kids on their own little table in the sunny living room.

This evening, dinner with a friend. Organic red wine, Italian fare, rocky road ice cream. Good conversation with an impressively smart, calm, and lovely young lady.

Slow food all weekend. So many things in and out of the oven: bagels, cheese and herb crackers, baguette, rhubarb pies. All-day marinara sauce, mushrooms poached in wine and broth.

As a parent we plan so many things for our children to enjoy and they are not so enthusiastic. But tonight it is not so. I tell the kids we’re heading up the coast tomorrow for a hike. “Is daddy going to come?” they ask. “Yes,” I tell them. Nels proceeds to pack his backpack despite my protestations: extra shirt, water, all of my jewelry (wtf?), and a little bead of his own that he loves. “My julie,” he says, “you know.” (Jewelry. I always mean to record Nels’ pronunciations. In rotation this weekend were “owarvies” [ovaries] and “ruff” [roof]).

The house is clean; laundry done, kitchen neat as a pin, kids room tidied and my sewing room mopped and ready for the next time I can get away.

Ralph calls this evening from the last bit of his recording session in Seattle. He is pleased with how his hard work went. I can’t wait to hear his recordings. My mom calls: she is back from Mexico in So. Cal. She’s bringing me a new car when she drives up.

Kids are in bed reading and awaiting my return to bed; we will watch another old B-movie together. Maybe we’ll still be awake when Ralph rolls in – likely not.

It’s been a truly incredible, busy, blessed, amazing weekend.