Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Constant Chaperone

I don't chaperone every school field trip but when I do, you better believe I'm on high alert like a meerkat keeping watch over his hole in the ground.  I am reared up on my hind legs looking around anxiously with wide, dark, impossibly cute eyes.

this was me on a recent field trip to the Asian Art Museum

There are parents out there who have never chaperoned a school field trip.  They are the lucky ones, as they can continue to live in safe cheerful bubbles.  For those of us who've chaperoned even one time, we feel compelled to chaperone forevermore from that point on because we now know the truth; the whole thing is a chaotic near disaster every single time and it's a miracle anyone returns to school in one piece.

After knowing what chaperones know,  it's hard to go about your normal routine on a Field Trip Day with the knowledge your kid is on a school bus hurtling towards a very uncertain future.

I've chaperoned field trips to the zoo, to museums, to farms, to theatres, to goddamn corn mazes in the middle of the state, to puppet shows and beyond.  I have written some chaperone tales before, here and here and here and here and here and here.....

(...Lord... so I just now realized it may be a bit old to hear me talking about this topic. I didn't even link to all of my previous chaperoning mentions.  There were too many.  I apologize, I hadn't realized how redundant I'd gotten and how being a chaperone is now apparently closely linked to my identity as a person.)

me at the Gold Rush National Historical Park

My favorite part of any field trip comes when the teacher says, "Make sure you keep your group with you at all times," then hands you half a dozen six-year-olds who immediately take off in different directions.  Yippee-ki-yay, let the games begin -- and by "games" I mean a lot of rushing around yelling for kids to come back to you until your voice is hoarse.

I am proud to say I have always returned with all of my charges. I've never had a vomit (others have not been so lucky) and I've only had one peeing-of-the-pants.  When I show up at the end of the school day on a field trip day, it's common for a small child to point at me and tell his mother, "That's Coco's mom, I runned away from her!" and I have to smile at the mother like, "Isn't your child just delightful" but what I'm really thinking is, "You  have no idea how big you owe me, that kid nearly wound up in Idaho."

I volunteered Alex to chaperone the biggest field trip of all -- the Mount Saint Helens (it's a volcano!) trip with the 4th Grade -- because he's got a can-do attitude. They left at 7:00 a.m. and returned at 9:00 p.m.  We non-chaperone spouses awaited their return on our back porch with bottles of scotch at the ready. The brave souls were glassy-eyed and numb when they finally stumbled into the house.  Alex rocked a bit as he continually counted to five, over and over, occasionally jumping out of his seat to yell, "Holy shit, I can't find Henry, has he fallen into the caldera?"  Sshhhh, I know baby, it's ok, it's over now...

My most recent chaperone excursion was to the recycling plant.  It went pretty smoothly all in all.  The place was very educational and we learned a lot about recycling, reusing, composting.  The kids were quizzed about what items go in which bin and I felt very good about the whole thing indeed. We're raising good little environmentally aware citizens.

But I'll be damned if, after lunch, Coco didn't try to walk over and put her banana peel in the garbage can instead of the compost bin.  I saw her hand hovering over the garbage, her fingers beginning to relax their hold, and could not believe what I was seeing.  Had she learned nothing just moments before? Was it all in vain? Well, not on this chaperone's watch. I sprang through the air like a cat and batted the banana peel out her hand just in time while yelling, "Do not bring shame upon this family!"
All that to say I actually kind of like chaperoning.  It's a crapshoot but it's nice to spend time with all these kids while they're still young enough to look up at you with innocent faces and prattle on and on nonsensically about their pet turtle, Drip.

Until next time, all.  We remain your constant, serious chaperones on high alert.

(except for Merle there in the middle, he's always f*cking around.)

I am sorry for beating a topic to death.
But chaperoning is serious business.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I Hate People Days

Nearly every time I'm at the grocery store, usually right after dropping the kids at school, I run into lots of other parents at the grocery store who have also just dropped their kids off at the very same school.  I would prefer a quick head nod, wave, be on my way since we all just laid eyes on each other not 10 minutes earlier.  But to my chagrin, most are eager for social hour in frozen foods. I don't want to socialize in the grocery store. I don't want to chat about summer travel plans. I want to find the peas and purchase ingredients for sloppy joes and be on my way.

I wonder if they are feeling the same way.  Are we all just standing around having conversations we don't want to have out of the same sense of social obligation?  Imagine the freedom if we could all just agree to ignore each other!

Anyway.  It may be the limping-towards-the-finish-line end of the school year fatigue, but it's truth -- I'm experiencing a string of what my best friend in college and I used to call, "I Hate People Days."  I Hate People Days happen when one annoyance comes right after another.  They're usually small stupid petty problems that wouldn't register much on any other day.  But when they start to accumulate, begin to pile on top of each other like freaky people in a Bosch painting, the end result can leave you fuming and looking around like, "Did I seriously just like this world yesterday?"

I will get over it.  I will not remain annoyed with all people forever because I don't want to end up a hermit living in a hollowed out tree trunk.  Until then, being pushed to the brink is kind of useful.  It's near euphoric to unfriend someone on FB without caring if they get mad at you.  The knowledge their oversharing nonsense will never again scorch your eyeballs makes it worth being abrupt.

As uncomfortable as they can be, I Hate People Days serve a purpose.  They limit your patience in such a way you're forced to clean house, get rid of the riff raff on the periphery.  After a few days of seething and making rage-filled adjustments, I can once again watch animal videos online and chuckle without thinking, "I am so sick of everyone telling me to LOL at these animal videos."

Maybe I need a good night's sleep.  In the morning I'll avoid the newspaper article that tells me Trump could easily be our next President.  That would start things off on the wrong foot.  Actually -- I should probably just avoid newspapers and news websites in general for the near future because there's little in there that makes me think, "Way to rock it, World!"  I should also spend the 45 minutes walking the kids to school instead of driving because driving in Seattle during its growth spurt can turn people into serial killers.  That is not a published fact but I'm convinced.

I'll ignore the phone call from the renter who doesn't like the overhead fixture in the dining room of our rental house so wants me to replace it.  I'll also hide around the corner of the house to avoid that neighbor who never, ever gets to the point he's trying to make but still keeps saying, "Like, you know?"  No, I don't know. I have no goddamn idea what you're talking about.

I'll pull out of this seething stretch of days as I've pulled out of all the others.  In the meantime, I'll be the one wearing a ski mask in the grocery store.  It may not end well with grocery store security but still -- incognito.  no talkie talk.

*cape swish*


Monday, April 25, 2016

Danger Vacation and Peppernuts

Do I start with the assembly of  36 boxes of walk-in closet or do I start with our recent Spring Break travels? The former sounds like torture compared to the latter but trust it, they each had their moments.

I'll start with Spring Break.  Our original plan for Spring Break was to drive the Winnie B to Yosemite National Park.  It was an ambitious plan that turned into a foolish plan after our RV nearly drove itself off a mountain pass on a recent ski outing outside Seattle.

We decided to take a "safe" trip, stick closer to home until we were confident the Winnie was no longer an imminent threat to our wellbeing.  Instead of hauling 17+ hours down to Yosemite, we would drive a mere 8 hours to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

Seven hours of the drive passed with no problems; the engine kept running the entire time AND I was able to steer!  I had relaxed considerably by the time our GPS told us it was time to turn off the interstate and onto a sweet little country road called Tiller Trail Highway.

It was nice to be off the freeway and back into nature.  Tiller Trail was all trees, a winding little thing but nothing I couldn't handle.

It's funny how bodies work, how keen they are to sense danger before you consciously realize you're in danger.  At first it was a slight prickle on the back of my neck -- "is this road narrowing a bit?" I wondered to myself.  I also had a sense of being really high. I felt it in my gut before I saw it with my eyes.

The curves in the road were getting so severe, I was unable to look at anything but them. I called Alex up to the front.  "Alex?  This road is getting a little weird, can you come help me for a minute?"  Alex moseyed up to the front and I soon heard a sharp intake of breath.  Then he said, in a voice I could tell he was keeping measured for my comfort, "Yeah.... can feel free to slow down here if you'd like."

Alex doesn't worry about danger much.  There have been many situations where I thought we were going to die and he was like, "What's the big deal, freakazoid, everything's fine."  But in that moment he was tense, and I could tell he was tense, which told me our situation was a precarious one indeed.

I said, "Tell me how bad it is" and Alex replied, "Well, we're up on a cliff kind of thing and there's no shoulder and no guard rail."  I gripped the wheel a little more tightly, "OK, how far down?"  and Alex said, "I'll give it to you in meters so it's not so scary.  It's about 50."  Oh God, I know what meters are. We are going to die.

I didn't lose my cool.  At least not outwardly.  My internal dialogue was a little negative, though, and may have involved the fact Winnie had just suffered a catastrophic electrical problem a couple weeks prior and oh my god, they probably didn't fix her correctly because the entire world is full of idiots and they are very likely some of them.

There was no choice but to keep plodding along and ignore the people piling up behind me on the road.  I drove much of Tiller Trail in the middle of the two lanes because our lane alongside the cliff was too narrow to accommodate our girth.  All I could do was pray no car would come around the hairpin turns from the opposite direction.  We got so lucky none ever did.

It took almost an hour to clear all fifteen miles of Tiller Trail Highway.  We eventually rolled into our campground slightly unhinged but unharmed.  I was contemplating a shot of whiskey when we checked in with the campground host.  I told the gentleman working there, who was sporting a perfect handlebar mustache by the way, "We just took the worst road to get here." His eyes grew wide and he said, "Oh no, did you take Tiller?" When I said "yes" he reached out to touch my arm in a comforting way and put his other hand to his mouth in horror.

We camped next to a guy named Glen, a marijuana growing libertarian from Northern California.  He and his wife recently moved into their RV full time because "property taxes are bullshit."  Glen was chatty, leapt out of his RV immediately upon our arrival to ask if we needed help.  I soon began to suspect living in an RV full time has been lonely for Glen.  If he saw us leave our rig, he was soon out of his rig, too, talking our ears off about whatever was on his mind.  And trust it, Glen has lots of things on his mind.

We began sneaking quietly out of the RV and hiding around the sides of it to avoid those inescapable chats -- that is, unless we needed a question answered.  Since there was no cell phone service nor wifi, he became our Google.

Me: How long do you think the hike is from the campground to the lake?
Al:  I bet Glen knows.

*Alex goes outside, just stands outside our door doing nothing for five seconds*
*Glen leaps out of his RV*

Al:  Oh hey there, Glen, how long is the hike from the campground to the lake?
Glen: That's about 3.5 miles round-trip.  Hey, did I tell you taxes are stupid?
Al:  You sure did, Glen.

Glen didn't want us to go.  He stayed with us throughout the entire breaking camp process, including dumping the sewer line.  Dumping your sewer line is a bit....personal.... so it's possible Glen and I have a difference in opinion about boundaries and personal space.

When we left, I swear Glen cried.  He and his wife waved enthusiastically as we drove off.  Just before, Glen had dug through his RV and returned with peacock feathers and quartz crystals for both our kids. He's a good dude, that Glen.  I hope he finds lots of people to chat with for the rest of his property tax-free and weed-full life.

In more recent events, Lucien just ran into the room to tell me he wants a pet rabbit.
He's already chosen a name -- Peppernuts.
Peppernuts the rabbit.
Then he ran back out again.

Whatever the hell that was.

Keep being yourself, kid.
And hell no on the rabbit thing.

Our Spring Break travels not only nearly killed us on Tiller Trail and brought us to Glen, they also took us to the uniquely wild Crater Lake National Park.  Crater Lake was formed thousands of years ago when a volcano erupted and then caved in on itself, forming a large deep crater.  The heavy snowfall and rain of the area eventually filled the crater with pristine, clear, and extremely blue water. No water flows into Crater Lake, no water flows out.  It is all perfectly purely contained and it takes your breath away.

Did you notice Coco isn't in those pictures?  And related, do you see the tense clench of our jaws? Coco was melting down ten feet away because her socks were wet on account of walking through snow so she'd decided to give up on life. 

She sat over there on that wall and cried and repeatedly asked when we were leaving in a high-pitched squealing voice.

Ahh, making family memories.

The second half of our vacation found us back in Bend, Oregon, one of my favorite towns in this region of the country.  Our campground was fancy, even had a place for the kids to rent movies, which is how we came to enjoy Mulan in the woods.  We didn't realize at first but we had accidentally turned on the outside speakers along with the inside speakers (we're still learning all the buttons on that thing), which meant our immediate neighbors were forced to enjoy Mulan, too. 

I like to imagine the expressions on their faces when the song "Be a Man" exploded from the Winnie B and suddenly split the silence of forest.  

The grand finale of Spring Break was a bluebird ski day up at Mount Bachelor.  The area had received fourteen inches of snow the night before, which is a ton for Spring, and the morning had dawned with a blue sky.  We could not wait to get up there.

The drive up Mount Bachelor was a little hairy.  That's an understatement; the drive was a yeti.  It began nicely enough, roads were clear, dry, and bare down near our campground but with each mile our situation grew a little more dire.  It soon became apparent they had not plowed the road up to Mount Bachelor.  Why the hell didn't they do that. 

For the last nine miles up to the resort, I was driving Winnie B through deep snow.  The only thing that kept me anchored to the earth were the tracks of the handful of people who'd made it up before me. I kept the Winnie as firmly in those tracks as I could and swore a lot under my breath.  Why is it scary every time I get in this damn thing.

The drive was a tricky balance between going fast enough to keep a giant heavy vehicle moving uphill in snow and going slow enough to keep control of the thing in slippery conditions.  I can't believe we made it.  By the time we did (and I emerged once again shaken and looking for whiskey shots in the parking lot) we had another trail of people stuck behind us.  I felt terrible knowing I held many people back from their perfect bluebird ski morning.

One of the people stuck behind me screeched up next to us in the parking lot.  The woman in the passenger seat jumped out and ran at me with arms wide, yelling, "Great job, honey, that was some hella impressive driving you just pulled out!"  She shook my hand, said she and her husband were behind us cheering the entire way, "Come on, girl, you can do it!  You can do it!  Keep going, baby!" They agreed it was total bullshit the road hadn't been plowed given the volume of people headed up the mountain for a glorious end to the ski season. 

Alex and I shook off the terror and soon got overexcited about the new snowfall.  We immediately took the chairlift up to the very top of the mountain, an exposed area that cannot be reached by slope grooming equipment so was still covered in over a foot of very fresh powder.  Alex and I are not powder skiers.  I hate powder, have no idea why we went up there.  I guess we had visions of looking like this --

But proper ski form goes out the window when you're stuck in powder and don't have the skills to be there.  You barely move through the heaviness of the stuff (a toddler learning to walk could have passed me on that slope), you catch weird edges, you look like a graceless idiot.  I didn't look like that guy above.  At one point my feet were about six feet apart from each other and my arms were clutching poles at strange angles from my body.  

Like lookin' in a mirror.  Uncanny.

The best part was when Alex got frustrated, said, "to hell with it" and tried to ski faster. He hit a jump he hadn't seen until he was on top of it and landed face first in many inches of fresh powder.  At least all that fluffy stuff broke his fall.

It's official. We are not powder people.

We're home safe now.  We saw some beautiful places and had some laughs on our most recent RV trip but I think Lucien's face sums up how we felt about much of it -- 

Next time I'd like to write about the closet.  A closet post!  A closet post!  I think everyone agrees that sounds very exciting.

"Tiller Trail of Tears"
MJ, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Capable Associates

Hi, guys.  Anyone hanging around here anymore?  Well I'm here and I'm pretty sure my mom checks in from time to time so hey there, Judy.

It's just a hunch
but I think Natani has been on the front porch lately

The Paris book writing is going as well as can be expected from me -- and by that I mean I'm raising kids and driving an RV all over the place and am easily distracted by pretty much everything.  I'm slowly filling a binder with chunks of printed paper I consider "good enough for now."  I wish I was filling the binder faster but life continues to happen in intrusive ways.

I recently celebrated my 41st birthday.  41 isn't as interesting as 40, which was very interesting indeed. I marked my birthday this year by homebrewing beer with my friend of 15 years, Reba. Reba is always up for my schemes (as I am for hers, it's a true friendship).

I've long wanted to understand how beer is made.  It seemed such a magical process.  But now, after trying my hand at it, I know beer is made by simply boiling a bunch of stuff together, adding yeast, then sticking it in a closet for a couple weeks.  Important processes happen in the closet.  Then you use a siphon to put it in bottles then it goes back into the closet again for more processes.

.....yeah, it's still just pretty much magic.

delicious, delicious magic
(Coco is photobombing, not brewing, promise)

Reba and I dropped a rubber stopper into the 5-gallon fermenting bucket as we attempted to affix the airlock to the top of it.  Our long-handled brewing spoon was deployed for a search-and-rescue mission but it was unsuccessful.  This accidental addition will either ruin our batch or give it a little extra special something.  Every brewer needs a secret ingredient and for now, rubber stopper is ours.

Ferment well, little beer, next to those old light bulbs we don't know where to recycle.
See you in a couple weeks.

It's spring soccer season for Lucien.  The Loosh is not a good soccer player.  He knows this and it doesn't much bother him, as his self-esteem is linked more closely with other endeavors. He'll come home after a game, pull off his cleats and announce cheerfully, "Wow, are we bad!"  He goes on to explain none of the "good" players were there that day, "the ones who know how to pass and stuff," so that's why they lost.  Then he runs off to do whatever.

He's also begun playing a video game called Sim City in which the player is the mayor of a town responsible for growing it, managing it, keeping its residents happy.  I looked over his shoulder at one point and half of Lucien's town was burning.  There was a giant lizard flying overhead eating people off the sidewalks and he had also accidentally unleashed a zombie invasion.  I told him things were looking pretty grim and he said, "At least my new wind power plant is up and running!" At that very second, a tornado came through and destroyed his wind farm.

Lucien then stood up and said, "Well....I believe I've done all I can do here,  I'm just going to leave this town in the hands of my capable associates and..." *whistles as he tap dances out of the room*. The Loosh is a future politician, seems pretty clear.

Since I last wrote, we have been endangered many times by the Winnie B. The first problem was a near catastrophic one.  We drove up to the mountains to camp overnight at a nearby ski resort.  The Winnie B hit a medium-sized pothole just outside the resort entrance.  All the lights on the dashboard briefly lit up, then the engine stalled and I lost power steering.

Luckily, I was turning into the parking lot at the time so instead of flying off a mountain cliff we just rolled to a soft stop in a snowbank.  Alex and I stared at each other in horror for a couple of long, silent minutes. I turned the key, tried to start the engine again and she started right back up like nothing had happened.  How dare she pretend everything's fine!

Get your sh*t together, Winnie.

We camped up there that evening anyway because skiers want to ski even if their vehicle is behaving badly.  We relied on our propane tank to power the gas heating system throughout the night but learned a fun fact at 2:45 a.m. -- liquid propane doesn't work well in freezing temperatures.  It gets sluggish, fails to do what it's supposed to do until temps rise again.  I awoke to a softly crying Coco.  "I'm sooooo cooooold," she wept from her sleeping bag, teeth chattering.  Lucien suddenly spoke up in the dark, "I'm warming myself by farting!"

The same stall/no power steering issue happened again on our drive back home when we hit another bump.  I was ready for it that time, had aimed for the shoulder as soon as I felt the rattle and saw the dashboard lights flicker.  We coasted to a nice stop alongside the road.

The Winnie drove the rest of the way home without further incident but it was not a relaxing drive for any of us.  The following morning, I drove her to the dealer with an angry determined set to my jaw.  I was going to get answers and I was going to get fixes.  Alex stayed here with the kids and texted me a few minutes after I'd left: "You were such a badass driving that death trap away from the house like you didn't give a damn."

The people fixed it.  It was a loose connection to the battery.  Let's not dwell on what could have happened up there, let's not dwell on our very cold night, let's focus instead on the pretty ski day we enjoyed.  Alex tied a scarf around his head instead of wearing a hat.  It was worth some danger to once again marvel at that man's oddness.

We recently returned from Spring Break.  It was also fraught with danger.  I'm going to write about it next time.  I would also like to address the closet situation at one point.  Al and I have a walk-in closet in our master bedroom that's always been a mess, a hodge podge of random shoe racks and shelving units.  We designed and ordered a new cohesive system online.  The cost of installation was prohibitive so we decided to save a lot of money by installing it ourselves.

We second guessed that decision when the closet arrived in 36 boxes --

I'm now going to leave this blog in the hands of my capable associates and...


Friday, March 18, 2016

Guessing Game

I'm back at the Paris book.  I have a developmental editor working with me now and she's been huge. We're dismantling all my ideas from back in November and developing new ideas.  Who knew there were so many ideas?  It's exciting but my head's swimming.  

While my head is in the bookwriting clouds, here's a fun game.  Guess which of these French quotes hanging on our kitchen wall Natani can reach?

yep....that one

That was too easy.  How about this:  Guess what terrifying object Natani is growling at and fiercely protecting us from?

That's right!  It's her own toy!  She forgot it on the back porch and it then blew into a strange, unrecognizable and frightening shape.  I like to believe she felt foolish when I let her outside and she circled growling at it until she worked up the courage to approach and sniff, but I'm not sure dogs are that self aware.

Here's another fun guessing question:  What's wrong with the schnauzer?  Did the schnauzer die?

Nope, no worries, he's alive.  We just took him on a hike. He was happy for half of it and then he was most decidedly not happy at all.  He just kind of flopped on the ground and said, "no."  So we carried him back.

I'm too old for this sh*t

Seattle is a boomtown. Our population is exploding, our home prices increasing to ludicrous new highs. It will soon become common to hear "I bought this ramshackle 1957 bungalow for 7.5 kajillion dollars."

Our neighborhood is changing rapidly; old homes are being torn down on every block and clusters of skinny townhomes soon built in their places.  I hate these new ugly buildings and my kids know it. When we drive past yet another old home being tickled to death by a bulldozer, Lucien or Coco will mutter,"Dammit.  There goes another Victorian with turn-of-the-century charm -- the architectural details along the roofline were to die for -- being torn down to make room for an ugly modern box lacking in character and quality."

Hearing your words coming out of someone else's tiny little mouth is both eerie and heart-swelling.

Thanks to all this urban progress, streets are regularly closed in our neighborhood for big construction machines and utility crews.  Driving the kids to school has become a frustrating task because there are always new and unexpected "ROAD CLOSED" signs popping up in front of the car.  I then must improvise, zig zag around, find a new unimpeded path.  Then the next week there are more signs -- the new route's closed now, too.

I'm convinced someday there will be no possible route to school so we'll go back home and watch movies and eat Nacho Cheese Doritos.  The excuse I will call into the school will be "there are no more streets left."  I guarantee the office staff will understand.  They will probably be taking the call from their own living rooms, having found no viable route to school themselves.

oh god.  no.  just stop it.

Alex and I attended the elementary school fundraising auction over the weekend.  Alex bid on a restaurant gift certificate because he's been wanting to treat his hardworking team at work to a nice dinner.  He missed a few crucial details before he bid and won, though -- namely that the certificate was for $200 worth of bagels. That's going to be one weird team dinner.

I took Coco and Lucien to the Seattle Bouldering Project while Alex was in Mexico for work last week.  I love bouldering, especially at this point in time.  When I'm hanging high on a wall by only my fingernails, all I can think about is how to keep hanging on.  I can't think about the words I'm using for the Paris book, and how most of the words I'm using are stupid words and I need to find good words. Bouldering is a reprieve from crippling self-doubt.

I may love the singular focus that comes with bouldering but my kids were less enthused. Within an hour they could not feel their arms nor legs so laid in whimpering little kid puddles on the mats and begged to go home.  Seattle climbers are a very supportive lot; they high-fived me and said, "Nicely done, Mom, you got 'em!"

We're going back whenever the kids get uppity.  You giving me lip?  GET ON THE WALL.

We took another trip in the RV before Al left for Mexico.  Taking off in an RV is more work than it sounds because you have to empty the RV when you're not using it and refill it when you're ready to take off again. You can't leave food in there to rot, can't leave linens in there to get damp in our wet Seattle winter weather.  It's like packing a tiny home each and every time so something is always inevitably forgotten. Last time it was ketchup and eggs.  This time it was butter and a pillow.

We also forgot to buy firewood.  Other campers' fires dotted the campground as we attempted to make our fire with a roll of toilet paper, small sticks and some damp leaves.  It was brief, brilliant, and smoky.

There are three types of RVers we've encountered so far.  The most common type is the retired couple.  Then there are young families like ours.  The third is more difficult to categorize in a definitive way -- they're the kind that shuffle around the campsite in dirty bathrobes and slippers and don't make eye contact. I'm not sure of their age or family situation.  It's anyone's guess what they're all about yet they are definitely my favorite.

and old man schnauzer went on a hike

Lucien recently told me about a girl he has a crush on at school.  He was invited to go to a movie with her family and while we waited for her dad to come pick him up, Lucien said, "I really hope I impress her."  I worried about what "impressing her" might entail (probably farting on cue) so I asked cautiously, "Hey do you think you should communicate with a girl in order to "impress" her?"  He thought a minute, pointed at me, winked and said, "I'm gonna speak to her in German."

It's worth a shot, I guess.  Better than farting.  If it doesn't impress her it will at least befuddle her and that's worth some laughs.  So go on, baby, sprechen sie deutsch.  And good luck.

Coco just ran into the kitchen and announced, "Donald Trump just bit me."  Frankly, I wouldn't put it past him.

Anyone want a bagel?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

a lemon or merely lemon scented?

Lucien loves Star Wars.  He recently began coloring a picture of R2D2 but left the room briefly to discuss important matters with his mother. He returned to find his sister had turned R2D2 into a pretty princess at a tea party thanks to her pink marker and bottomless princess sticker collection.

There was a bit of yelling but then, thank God, my son realized the exquisite humor in the situation and laughed until he cried.  As did I.

R2D2 has never been so fancy.
The tiara. It kills me.

In other news, we briefly regretted our Winnebago purchase over the long weekend when a panel blew off the side while flying down the highway.  Sometimes one experiences buyer's remorse when one's vehicle starts blowing to bits at 70 mph.

It's possible this is going to become an RV blog.  Or an RV blog with a touch of  "our desert dog, seven months later, continues to destroy all of our stuff" blog.*  When we first moved into Banister Abbey, I thought this would be a home renovation blog.  And it was, briefly, but I have since gotten away from posting pictures of our home improvement.  My point is, I'm no longer sure what my point is.

(*Speaking of Natani, she knocked Coco's favorite game off the counter this week and started chewing it up.  I hate this game.  Alex hates this game.  My mother hates this game and my mother hates nothing in this world except stupid, stupid Mermaid Island.

I debated whether or not to let Mermaid Island die "a natural death" at the jaws of our destroyer, Natani the Navajo dog.  But in the end, I couldn't do it and rescued the ridiculous thing.  My mother can't forgive me.)

nom nom nom i love you nom nom

So the directionless blog wanderings continue this week with more tales of skiing (could be a skiing blog now) and RVs and bestiality.

I might as well take care of that last item now since it's all anyone will think about until I address it. We went out for Seattle Mom's birthday Saturday night and her husband, Seattle Dad, told us the story of the infamous "Enumclaw horse sex case" which happened in 2005 outside Seattle.  Some guy died from internal injuries (perforated colon, I believe) after being on the receiving end of sex with a stallion.  By "stallion" I mean a real stallion, not a euphemism for a virile male.  Truly, a horse.

Our beautiful friends out with us in Ballard.
Right after he told us the terrible horse story.
Why did he do that to me.

I haven't been able to shake that horse story since I heard it.  In addition to being repulsed by some sections of humanity, I just have so many questions about how it happened.  I mean

anyway, the takeaway from that is the human race is doomed.

We may all be headed for hot livin' in hell but in the meantime, the family and I continue to enjoy the Winnie B and more time on the slopes during mid-winter school break.

I look happy. The Loosh does not look happy.  
(Nope, he really wasn't, so mad at me right here)

The family headed for Hoodoo, a ski resort in Central Oregon, over the long Presidents Day weekend.  Hoodoo allows RV camping in the parking lot, provides an electrical hookup but nothing else.  It was our first attempt at rationing water, which we did incorrectly so ran out of fresh water from our tank on the second day.  We're learning, we're learning.

I remain the sole driver of the RV.  Alex prefers to put his feet up and avoid driving something big and scary and I have fairly debilitating control issues, particularly when it comes to my family's locomotion.  In that sense, Alex and I are perfectly paired.

I cannot overstate how excited Alex and I were at the prospect of camping at the base of a chairlift. We were near giddy on the drive to Hoodoo, imagining the extreme convenience of being able to wake up, eat a bowl of cereal, throw on our gear and walk twenty feet to the lift.  We were like kids being told they were camping at the base of a candy mountain, and when they awoke in the morning they could shovel mouthfuls of the sweet stuff into their gaping jaws immediately.

Excitement aside, the challenges began immediately upon arriving at Hoodoo and pulling into our reserved space in the resort parking lot.  An RV has to be level in order to avoid damage to both the refrigeration and slide-out wall mechanisms.  If you're parked in a non-level spot, you must put levelers under the lower wheels to even things out.  We've leveled Winnie before with our cheery bright yellow plastic levelers with zero trouble.  But that was then.

When you place RV levelers on top of wet pavement, slush, and a thin layer of ice at a ski resort, then try to drive your RV on top of them, those goddamn cheery yellow levelers shoot away from your vehicle with impressive agility.  You're not getting on top of those things; they're spooked gazelles sprinting into the forest.

When something isn't working, Alex pulls inward, goes silent with a steely and impressive determination.  When he goes quiet like that, I back off, disappear, don't bother him.  Trust it, he wants to be alone with his thoughts.  I instead watched and prayed silently from the inside as he tried shovels, ice scrapers, portable heaters, even put the levelers on top of our anti-slip table placemats.  The placemats were quickly shredded by the tires.  Now I need new placemats but that's neither here nor there.

It took Alex so long to get the RV up on those levelers, I had begun making dinner in the back by the time it happened.  The kids and I grew accustomed to grabbing onto whatever piece of furniture was nearby when Alex revved the engine and lurched Winnie forward to give it another go.  When he finally succeeded, our RV neighbors next door pounded on their windows and cheered.

Alex had been so immersed in getting the deed done, he hadn't realized he'd drawn an audience of fellow RVers and people waiting in nearby passenger cars.  He was like, "People were watching me?  Should I be embarrassed?" but I said, "Nah, hold your head high, man, you are the new face of determination in Central Oregon."

Alex has got serious grit.
We're barely on 'em, but we're on 'em.

we love skiing blah blah blah

Hoodoo is closed Tuesdays.  We camped Monday night and awoke Tuesday morning to find we were absolutely alone in this world --

Winnebago feels lonely and insignificant

I loved the solitude, loved having the entire place to ourselves like a giant snowy playground.  But me being me, I looked over my shoulder every five minutes and thought, "Gosh, we're really alone up here, a murderer could drive into this parking lot and kill us at any time and no one would ever know."  My thoughts are pretty dark but I take comfort in the fact Enumclaw guy's "I should have sex with that horse" is still way way worse.  

Coco and I climbed the beginner slope and went sledding.  While up there, a truck pulled into the parking lot and several men jumped out.  My heart stopped.  It was my nightmare coming true, I was sure of it.  I knew what I had to do;  I had to rush them, confront them, let them know I wasn't going to go quietly.  I was in such a hurry to confront those men about their murderous intent, Coco fell out of the sled in my hustle down the embankment back to the parking lot.

Sorry, baby
but Mama's protecting you

It became apparent, after I ran at their faces, the men in the truck were a father and his three teenage sons who didn't realize Hoodoo was closed Tuesdays.  They were dejected to say the least; the dad had taken off work for the day and the three sons had taken a day off from school.  They only had one snowboard and one pair of boots between them; the rest had planned to rent from the very closed rental shop.

Super nice non-murderous guys. We watched them and yelled our enthusiastic support as father and sons climbed the steepest runs.  They took turns using the one pair of boots and one snowboard.  They cheered for whomever's turn it was then yelled encouragement at the poor sucker as he climbed the equipment back up to them.  They made the best of a disappointing situation.

Sorry I thought you were criminals, guys.  You're inspiring in your can-do attitudes and it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

and it was fun to camp in a parking lot

Now back to beginning -- the Winnie B shedding her parts on the drive home to Seattle.  I looked in the sideview mirror after we'd cleared Portland to see what appeared to be a large piece of metal flying alongside our vehicle.  I yelled back to Alex, who was locked in the bathroom at the time with his computer in an attempt to combat motion sickness while answering emails (that was a mouthful and a confusing one at that, long story) I yelled something along the lines of, "WE GOT A PROBLEM, MAN."

Alex came rushing back to the cockpit and confirmed something had gone awry with his panicked, "Pull over!  Now!  The side of the car's about to blow off!" but I was surrounded by people on a major freeway with a shoulder not wide enough to accommodate the Winnie B.

I slowed down, put on my emergency flasher lights, prayed for an exit ramp, told Alex he was going to have to run into the highway to grab the piece if we lost it before I could stop.  (Alex has grit, remember.  I don't.  He was the obvious best candidate for the job.)

It was then I realized what people had been trying to tell me.  Not two minutes earlier, a couple had pulled up alongside me and honked their horn.  Then the man made some emphatic gestures.  He pointed at his own eyeballs with two fingers then pointed at the Winnie B.  It was the ole "I'm lookin' at you" gesture and it struck me as very rude.  I wasn't doing anything wrong, wasn't speeding, was well between the lines, hadn't cut anyone off.  How dare he.

I began making the same gesture back at him.  Two fingers pointed at my eyeballs then pointed at his eyeballs. "Oh yeah?  You're lookin' at me, buddy?  Well I'M LOOKIN' AT YOU, TOO.  I can look at things, too, and I'm lookin' at YOU.  What you gonna say about it?"  He eventually floored it and took off in front of me with a shake of his head.  What a jerk.

Except as I pulled off to the side of the road with part of my RV detached, of course, it became evident he wasn't a jerk at all and was instead trying to give me an important message, that it was time to take a good hard look at my vehicle.

I should perhaps evaluate my suspicions regarding the motives of strangers.  I am an island!

I finally eased to the side of the road on a desolate off-ramp.  Alex jumped out the side door -- straight into a pile of dog poop.  What are the chances?  What are the chances of pulling onto a rural exit ramp and jumping into a pile of dog poop?  That's just how life happens for us.  We embrace the unpredictability but not the mess.

Alex hopped around a bit, some expletives, decided he never wanted to see that pair of shoes again and took them off  right there on the side of the road.  He wrapped them in a plastic bag for later disposal and asked the children to retrieve his slippers.

It didn't take much effort to pull the panel off; it had been dangling by a mere thread.

there used to be a piece there...

...but it is now in here

Al hopped back in and we pulled back onto the highway, slightly rattled but relieved.  Not five seconds later, the battery warning light illuminated before me, a glaring red light that seemed sent from the devil himself.  I hesitated before delivering the bad news to Alex, who was happily wearing his slippers and chatting about our near disaster on the highway.  "Err...Al....?"

One exit later, we were back on a rural off-ramp reading our owners manual.  The manual said if the battery warning light came on, we needed to stop the RV immediately, pop the hood, and inspect the somethin'-somethin' belt for a tear.  Okee dokee.

We didn't know what a somethin' somethin' belt was.  A few Google searches later, we popped the hood and stuck our heads way down inside the bowels of the mechanics of the Winnie B.  The somethin' somethin' belt looked awesome, in fact looked brand new, because it is.

When we took off again from our second emergency stop of the hour, the battery warning light turned off and stayed off.  But still, we were jittery and spent the rest of the uneventful ride home Googling things such as "Is my new RV a lemon or merely lemon-scented?"

We've since learned it's fairly common for everything to go wrong in the first six-ish months of RV ownership.  The thing's never been used before and there are a zillion things that can go wrong with such a complex piece of machinery -- so a lot of them do, brace yourself.  So far, in our four initial trips, we've had a broken slideout wall (now fixed) a dead house battery (fixed) a dead GFCI outlet (fixed --user error, oops), a panel blown off the side (not fixed) and a battery warning light (what the hell was that about).

Yep, this could turn into an RV blog. Or skiing. Our dog is still crazy, too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ski hounds

I had a question about Sarah Palin recently so went to Google to get it answered.  I soon forgot my question because I got distracted by somebody else's --

Is she made of crab meat?  
And if she is, would that explain things
or provoke further questions?

I've got skiing on the brain thanks to a healthy snowfall up in the mountains. In my family, skiing was one of those things you couldn't avoid, much like mowing the lawn or picking up all the Legos stuck in the shag carpet.  It didn't matter if you wanted to do these things or not; it was something you did for the benefit of the family.

I grew up in Ohio, which is not a state known for mountainous terrain.  The best we could do in such a place was head to upstate Michigan where the hills afforded us a bit of height and a bit of pitch. As  I mentioned in this previous post, my first year on skis, at the age of 6, I hit a tree and broke my leg.  It was not a glorious beginning but Mom and Dad made me get back out there the following season anyway.

Once a year we went to Colorado for a bigger ski trip, almost always with family friends with whom we rented a slopeside condo.  Those are good memories, particularly the time our fireplace chimney clogged at Snowmass so the condo began filling with thick black smoke.  My dad's law partner, Mort, grabbed the burning logs with tongs and ran to the balcony where he threw them overboard into deep snowdrifts down below.  We always wondered what the downstairs neighbors thought as burning logs fell from the sky.

That was the same condo that had a line drawing of a butt hanging on the wall.  I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen because I was about 10 years old and, much like Lucien today, thought butts were hilarious.  I studied that drawing and practiced replicating it during our vacation.  By the time I returned to school, I was a butt drawing expert, which impressed my fellow fourth graders.

I didn't always enjoy those family ski vacations, in fact often found them unbearable as freezing rain pelted my face or subfreezing temperatures made my fingers and toes go numb.  I remember on more than one occasion begging my parents to stop so we could go inside as unhappy tears froze on my face.

Yet here I am, all grown up and inflicting the same cold torture upon my children that my parents inflicted upon me.  Tradition!

Our most recent ski outing began in an exciting way when our neighbor/dogsitter for the day texted to say, "Oh my god, there's stuff thrown all over your house, we think somebody broke in." My heart raced for a minute until I remembered the state in which we'd left earlier that morning.

I responded, "When we left, there were outgrown ski clothes tossed frantically all over the dining room, Coco has taken up three rooms with an art supply explosion because she apparently needs that much space for her most recent elaborate masterpiece which involves many wads of crumpled paper and Natani has shredded four of her toys in the past 24 hours so there is stuffing and ripped pieces of fabric littered throughout the kitchen and dining room and on up the stairs."

A few minutes later came a sheepish reply, "OH. I'm so sorry, never mind, it's just as you said." Well that was embarrassing.  Onward!

that's him being him

Alex and I were in the middle of a contentious argument that ski day about an important matter.  We decided that, in order to preserve the enjoyment we feel when skiing, we were only going to discuss said contentious matter if we were alone on a chairlift.  At all other times, we were going to have FUN.

The plan worked well.  Tense discussion ended when skis hit snow at the top of the lift.  We each enjoyed our runs, sometimes stopping to soak up the view and offer pointers on each others form as usual (Alex says I don't bend my knees enough and turn with my shoulders I KNOW I KNOW) After a particularly enjoyable run, there would be high fives at the bottom and enthusiastic, "Wow, that was amazing!"  Then as soon as skis lifted off the snow on our next ride up, we would turn towards each other and begin again with something like,  "I can't believe you said that, jerk!"

It helped diffuse the tension and made the fight manageable.  We worked it out better than we would have at home because it wasn't able to boil over thanks to the built-in fun breaks.  Next time a fight is brewing, we're headed for the slopes.  We'll just suddenly take off in the car, leaving the kids blinking and looking at each other in confusion in the kitchen.

she was crying in the morning 
but refusing to stop by the afternoon
skiing does that to you

We stopped at IHOP on our way home for a dinner of pancakes.  Our server was an odd bird.  We alerted her on her way through the aisle that she was pouring tea continuously from a kettle she was holding at a precarious angle.  She shrugged and said, "Well I'm always spilling something, aren't I," and just kept walking, a steaming tea trail following her all the way back to the kitchen.

This wasn't a great post about skiing.  I wrote a better one here.

Best I can do today!