Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Renounce your foreign princes

Our summer was nearly neverending because our teachers went on strike.  They were on strike for good reasons and we supported them -- go teachers, get 'er done, we love you, etc. etc. -- but what was coming out of my lips did not necessarily match what was happening in my head.  My head was more "please school now please school now please school."

After an extra week of summer, the strike was settled.  My kids are now happily back in the classroom and I feel like revisiting some significant summer happenings.  Don't worry, I'm finished talking about the road trip. The dog story was the climax of that tale.

Speaking of Natani, let's play a game.  It's called "Find the Dog" --

She truly believes I cannot see her under there.
She goes there when she's done something awful, which is often.
She is wide-eyed and surprised when I "find" her.
She thinks I am a Magic Lady.

The kids took more swim lessons over the summer, which was exciting because I got unexpected beer --

The best part of this photo is not the beer
It's the yellow frog pool float in the background
screaming its silent panicked frog scream

Our swim teacher holds swim lessons in private backyard pools all over the city.  There aren't many private pools in Seattle so you usually end up in the backyard of a very wealthy person. This particular wealthy person was the first we've encountered to offer beer to the parents.  In his world, swim lesson time = party time.

In other big news, Alex is now an American citizen. 

Rejoice, Americans, he's all ours.

The U.S. Naturalization ceremony is solemn and emotional because there are newly naturalized Americans crying all over the place.  Many people fight hard to get here and stay here. To them, the day they become a United States citizen is the culmination of a long-pursued dream.  It's beautiful to witness.

But to our family, it's more a technicality than a life-changing event. Alex has lived and worked here legally for over 15 years.  The official American status wasn't going to change much in our daily lives.  Plus Alex is Canadian, which is already like being American only less aggressive.

Our more relaxed approach to citizenship allowed us to sit back and embrace the humor of the event. Alex raised his eyebrows at me when part of the pledge asked the new Americans to renounce their allegiance to "foreign princes."  We also made the newbies promise to take up arms and fight for their new country if necessary.  I enjoyed picturing the 92-year old Ukrainian woman, who could not stand without the help of an aide, holding a machine gun.  Maybe she can at least toss a grenade or two.

U.S.A.!  U.S.A.!

That's Alex, second row back near the column,
pissing off Canadian Princes by renouncing them

We had an AMERICA! themed dinner celebration that night with some friends.  They brought Alex American-themed presents like a pair of American flag flip-flops and a six-pack of Bud Light.  We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, made mac-n-cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, potato salad, apple pie.  I even suspended fruit in jello -- that's being a true American -- and sent everyone home with a Hostess Ding Dong party favor.

Welcome to my country, Alex.  Our food is not healthy but our hearts are full of love.

Alex and I spent a weekend solo in Portland for the MusicFest Northwest music festival.  Portland is lovable in a pretentious hipster kind of way. One young woman brought a bag of knitting to The Helio Sequence show and knit through the entire set.  Another woman seated next to me at the Beirut show wore a prairie style dress complete with casually askew tied bonnet.

One woman stopped me as I walked past to tell me she loved the fabric of my shorts.  I said "thanks" and she said, "Did you make them?" I replied "Nope, I can't sew, I bought them" and immediately lost her respect.  Her mouth turned down a little and she turned away from me without another word. Only in Portland is the default -- and the preferable -- that you made your clothes instead of buying them.

The next time someone told me they loved my shorts (they are unarguably amazing shorts with a teal and orange Birds of Paradise pattern) I didn't wait for her to ask, just immediately said I made them.  The woman brightened and said, "Well yeah, sure, right on."  I'm a fast learner, you see.

I also told them I wove my own hat
out of vegan straw
on a loom used by my great grandmother
who was gluten-free before it was cool
and was a fan of that one band before they went mainstream

I convinced Alex to stand in front of the stage for over an hour to secure a front row position for The Tallest Man on Earth.  It was Alex's first time in "The Front" at a music festival and he soon discovered how tense it can be as people jockeyed and jostled into position.  People were so nasty standing in front of that stage, I'm starting to think the "making-your-own-clothes" and coy Laura Ingalls get-ups are brilliant covers for how brutal those Portland people truly are.

Alex, despite his claustrophobia and general disinterest in music festivals, was a trooper.  He held his ground and we threw elbows together, beating rabid Portlanders back until The Tallest Man on Earth took the stage.  We were so close to him we could look straight up his nose.  He played the best set of the weekend so it was worth the hassle and general snottiness of our fellow concert goers.

Speaking of rabid and out of control people, our annual "last hurrah of summer " weekend happened again on Guemes Island with the usual suspects.  We were 20 people in all, tents pitched on the beachfront lawn of a friend's property, refrigerator stocked, coolers full.  We were all set for relaxation and easy living. Nature, however, had other plans.

Our annual hike up Mount Guemes began nicely enough.  We saw the dark clouds approaching when we reached the top -- word on the island was a windstorm was headed our way -- so began our descent very soon after our ascent.

that sky looks all kinds of pissed off

Almost immediately, the trees towering above began swaying like drunkards on a dance floor.  The sounds of creaking wood and breaking branches from a hundred feet up are not welcome when you're on a heavily forested trail, trust it.

I was hustling down the trail with Seattle Mom and Seattle Mom 2 when we heard a loud *crack* overhead.  Seattle Mom and I took a leap backwards, Seattle Mom 2 a leap forwards just in time -- a large branch from way up yonder crashed onto the path between us.  We stood in shocked silence for a beat until Seattle Mom yelled "Let's get the f*ck out of here" and we began to run.

Our group had spread out on the mile-long path on the way down.  No one knew for certain where their kids were, or where anyone was for that matter.  We just yelled through the forest to MOVE IT, PEOPLE, MOVE IT and hoped like hell everyone hustled.  The relief was palpable when the last kid, the last Dad, the last Mom tumbled out of the forest onto the road below.  We were still in danger but at least we were in danger all huddled together in one big wide-eyed group.

We funneled everyone into cars and took off for our cabin.  We didn't make it more than a couple hundred feet before we encountered a giant tree down across the road.  We then gunned our caravan of cars in the opposite direction and sh*t -- another tree down, this time lying on what appeared to be a power line.

It's interesting to see how people you love respond in a crisis.  Some get anxious and frantic, some get quiet and focused, some get deer-in-the-headlights, some rock themselves quietly in corners and talk to themselves, some get pissed off, some decide it's hilarious and an opportunity to party (I'm looking at you there, Seattle Dad).

No matter our instinctive reactions, we all pulled our sh*t together enough to convince the kids "everything's fine! So fun and exciting!" and eventually made it around the downed tree on the power line (some locals coming from the other direction threw rocks at it, touched it, licked it, whatever their machismo directed them to do to determine there was no power, then nudged the tree slightly out of the way with their pick-up truck) only to get stuck farther down the road by yet another big downed tree.

We surrendered and decided to park on the road near the water -- no trees, for the love of god, no trees -- to wait for help to arrive.  It was a relief to be away from those wildly swaying death bombs but only slightly more relaxing to be fully exposed to the windstorm.  It rocked our cars hard; I passed the time trying to guess which friend would tip over first.

I'm betting on you, Seattle Dad

One Mom stayed back at camp that morning because she wasn't feeling well.  She wanted a nice quiet leisurely morning, a hot shower, a nap in an attempt to cure herself of her ills. WELL TOO BAD, SEATTLE MOM.

We instead got text after text from her saying our tents had collapsed and were blowing down the beach and she was trying her best to keep them in the area by throwing lawn chairs on top of them. The situation was dire and she was in need of backup.  We explained the tree situation, told her to do her best, that we understood if she couldn't save everything, and mentally prepared ourselves for the loss of all our stuff.

She sent this photo and said, "Guys, this is happening right now!"
And we were like, "that is actually kind of hilarious."

Eventually the island emergency crews arrived with chainsaws and bulldozers and got to work on the trees.  Our tents were no longer where we left them when we got back to camp but they hadn't wandered too far away. Our family's tent had blown into a thorny bush. The resulting bent poles and giant holes ripped in the sides rendered it useless forevermore but at least we were reunited with the stuff inside.  We thought we'd lost you forever, favorite camping lantern.

The brutal winds continued for hours. We dragged the remains of the tents into the garage.

(Fun fact: Al, Lucien, Coco and I slept on top of all that stuff in the garage that night.  
There was nowhere else for us to go.)

Then we sat on the back porch of the cottage, drank margaritas, hugged each other and watched a speedboat anchored offshore capsize.  You can't take your eyes off a capsizing boat, it's pathetic yet majestic as it tips bow-up, then slides slowly down into the water.

The winds eventually died down.  The sunset was amazing.  We were happy to be together.

All 20 concur; this was not our most relaxing weekend together.  
But it was perhaps one of the more memorable. 

We'll see you next year, Guemes Island.  
Please don't pull that crap again.

I forgot to mention something earlier about Alex's swearing-in naturalization ceremony day.  Coco went to a Jump Start program for Kindergarten that morning so couldn't attend the ceremony with us. Alex kissed her goodbye as she headed out the door and said, "Good luck at Jump Start, Coco" and she replied, solemnly, both hands on his shoulders, "Good luck being American, Daddy".

Speaking of which...
I'm sorry I ate one of your American Flag flip-flops, Human Dad.
I'm glad you can't see me.

Neverending summer has finally ended,