Monday, September 29, 2008

The Controls

So before I blab about the Democrat dinner, I want to moan a little about my shishi apartment. I hate this place, and I really need to stop saying that because my kids are beginning to copy me. But I have some valid complaints, and not all of them about about the size, or lack thereof.

The forced air is as forced as I can ever imagine. It is GALE FORCE winds. We've named the passenger side of the bed Galviston. And whoever sleeps there is going to wake up with wind-blown hair and a dry, cracked upper respiratory system. The so-called "control" for this is a big screen, wall mounted, touch screen computer in the hallway. You can press anything you want on that screen and it won't make a lick of difference. Fan: on, off, auto, whatever. You have four different time periods you can schedule the temp for, but no one's listening. I have shivered and chilled all summer long with the AC cranked so high, I was actually craving hot cocoa on a 103* day. I'm still wearing my fluffy, sheepskin slippers. So, I've been using the worlds most high tech and effective AC controls: pillows. I toss them over any and all unruly vents until I feel about right. But now that it's fall, and I still can't turn the AC off, it might be time to call the landlord. So that's one benefit of renting: if something's broken you just call the landlord and they'll send someone out to fix the fridge in a week or two or whenever they get around to it.

So tonight, suffering under the violation of an AC assault, I turned to our newly visible fireplace (it was covered in bikes until now). I wanted to install one in our last house, be we were unsure about insurance rates, as it was already a shaky deal, and a fireplace just never made it up to the top of the list of priorities during the time we lived there. So I never got my winter fire, and it hurts my little soul. But here, I thought, I may have fire. So I flipped the little switch and the gaudiest and most atrocious painted fire I have ever seen, beyond even my worst and ugliest nightmares, lights up. And instead of tears of joy at my long sought reunion with fire, I wept tears of sorrow. It was so horrible, it was worse than no fire. I will spend another winter, apparently, huddling around a candle, hoping that one little genuine flame will somehow warm and ignite my soul.

I haven't wanted to clean the apartment, and most of you who know me won't find that to be surprising. But I haven't been cleaning it, which is something I can usually force myself to do. But this place is so soul-suckingly bland that I find no spiritual benefit from clean or messy. I can't tell the difference in how I feel. But a new Wenatchee friend, Rita, was telling me that she switched recently from viewing her garage as a problem to be fixed to asking herself, "What do I want to create here?" And that inspired me to do the same. So I did a lot of re-arranging this weekend and things look much more livable: note the photo of bikes in the bedroom. But my heart still cringes every time I step over the threshold into this den of beige.

Okay, I'm done with that for now. I'll move on to the topic of kidspeak.
Me, "I sure hope that so-n-so-who-ever-probably-some-rich-politician has to eat crow some day."
Coyote, "That's not good!"
Me, "Oh why is that? You think I'm being to hard on him?"
Coyote, "Crow is MEAT!"
The photo is of Coyote helping Huck with the cider press.

About The Dinner: I was worried I wouldn't know anyone there, but the entire Unitarian church attended, so I was not alone. I hung out with Rita, a very cool woman the same age as my mom. And I talked with Renae, a mom of young kids. We went bike riding together this summer. As fortune would have it, we got seats at a table of Unitarians and I sat next to another amazing lady, Mary Ellen, and I ended up sitting next to her again in church the next morning.

Gregoire breezed in, gave a funny, rousing speech, and then ran out again. So I didn't get to meet her. This is probably for the best, since I'm totally star struck and this sort of state causes me to blather incoherently. So I'm actually thankful I didn't get a chance to make a fool out of myself. I learned, though, that she was raised by a single mom in Auburn, WA, who worked as a short order cook and lacked a high school diploma. I also learned that her opponent plans to lower the minimum wage by $1.50 and deregulate health care, as he stated at the recent gubernatorial debates.

Gregoire was amazing, but I was even more taken with Goldmark's speech. He's running for Commissioner of Public Lands. He wasn't the most polished speaker, but he had substance. And after listing to some major failings of the current commissioner (which involve rubber stamping Weyerhauser's requests so stupidly that it resulted in major mudslides, wiping out Centralia's municipal water system), he actually stated that he has a personal relationship with the land. He actually spoke about his spiritual and emotional connection to the earth!! IT was AMAZING! He was the last speaker in a long night, so I may have been the only one left paying attention, but his speech really resonated with me.

And also, Huck's playing in Ska band tonight. Today, the kids had their first day of Karate, which was Blue's idea and I don't know where she got it. The kids spent the weekend in Spokane; the last one probably as my parents are moving to Salem, OR for my dad's new position as a pastor at a church there. Well, I'm glad SOMEBODY is hiring!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Recycling the Recycling Ideas

I went to my first City Council meeting tonight! And I spoke! I even brought visual aides! It was all about recycling. I couldn't believe it, nearly 20 years after doing recycling drives at school, there was some city still so behind the times that they needed a recycling pep talk!

So I stood up there, with my week's worth of recycling in a basket and I told them that unless I schlepped this across town to the recycling center it was all going in the land fill because the city's contract with Waste Management did not allow them to pick up recycling from apartment complexes, condos and the like. There was actually an audible gasp of disbelief in the audience! I went on about the thousands of households in Wenatchee and you multiply my little basket by that and calculate each week and it's a LOT going to the land fill. And I told them how the renters were ready to do this, the landlords wanted it and Waste Management was willing and able to do it too(I've called around and done some research here), but they were the only one's not on the recycling band wagon.

They clearly loved my presentation. I was scared. I practiced it several times because several years ago I was asked to present at an EPA hearing and thinking I was just dandy at public speaking, I didn't prepare.... and boy, that is a memory that stays with you!! Also, I only had 3 minutes, which many who know me will be surprised to find out that my initial presentation actually lasted just that long! I practiced. It was a good presentation and I was even funny. But when my three minutes were over, they told me that they had just amended the contract with Waste Management Corp and single stream recycling was on it's way already to every apartment complex in Wenatchee.

So part of me, the part that spoke, said "Congratulations! I'm am very happy to hear the city is making progress on this. I cannot wait to get my recycling out of my kitchen. Very well done and you have my full support." But there was another part of me that was sad that my persuasive speech was not, in the end, necessary. No one needed persuasion. They all already agreed with me and had implemented my ideas before I'd even showed up! But I congratulated myself for taking the risk anyway (silently of course).

Then I didn't know how to leave. I did want to see the workings of the City Council. But after an hour, I was bored out of my gourd! I didn't know what they were talking about most of the time, and they didn't seem to know either, actually. It was a parade of attorneys and accountants. I left after an hour. It was hard get out of there discretely and I'm not sure I succeeded, after all I was still toting my week's recycling.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A little movement

Today the Cider Press CAME! And everything changed. Moods brighten with joy and smiles aplenty! Although the living room is a holy mess now. For some dumb reason no one has explained to us, we now have to keep all our bikes inside our apartment. So our living room is fully 50% bikes. The other 75% is now cider press assembly. Plus, the pieces being stained are piled in the trailer in the parking lot. We were really really NOT meant to live in an apartment.

And Huck taught Alternative High School English today.

And I went for a jog. I've jogged some in the past, about a mile for 1-2 months for the last two years. But now I have real jogging shoes to do it in, not some donated pair that made my feet hurt. They say that a purchase of shoes can change your life. I wouldn't say it was the shoes that started this, but the baseball cap I donned this summer and haven't removed since. I've never worn a cap before. I've been in straw hats since about 5th grade. But now that I have my Sol Duc hot springs cap, I can't imagine wearing anything else. Me, in a straw hat? NEVER! That's how I feel. I'll probably be back in one next summer, but for now I feel capable and sturdy in my cap. And then I bought the running shoes. I balked at the price and then the styles: white with gleaming blue streaks. They were comfy, but so very very white. When the exasperated sales lady discovered, much to her amusement I think, that I was shopping for running shoes to run just one mile, she found me a muted green trail/road cross running shoe. She told me that once I was more concerned with the performance of my shoes than the appearance, then to come back for real running shoes. I felt like such a shallow tart. But I could NOT wear those glowing white rocket ships on my already big feet. I wouldn't go running at all if that's what I had. And so, with such a big purchase, I was obligated to run today. I made my 1/2 mile goal without much of a problem.

Why running? you may ask. And I'm glad you did. This summer, I did a 50 mile women's bike ride out of Leavenworth. I was used to riding 20 miles in a day, to work and back, but that was separated by 4-8 hours of sitting at a desk. And that is why I did not know until this summer that I don't actually get warmed up until 20 miles. The next 30 miles that day were in some zone where my body moved with ease and everything felt good, even with 108*F, and even as I went up a long sun-baked hill. (see the very dorky picture of me?) And so that caused me to wonder if maybe I could run longer than a mile. We shall see. Anyway, it can't hurt (or maybe it can), and can only help my mood and relieve my sense of stagnation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Not at the Pinnacle

We found ourselves at the Peshastin Pinnacles on Sunday. We didn't mean to go, but there we were! The appeal of those twisting rock spires was too much for us and we all unanimously decided to hike up. The sign read: "Warning: all trails are extremely steep and treacherous". But that was obviously for Other people.

There was a group of geared-up climbers working on Orchard Rock. And that inspired the kids. After slipping, sliding, falling, and scraping followed quickly by my pleading to just get back on the trail, we returned, bloody and bruised, to the sandy switch backs. This trail goes straight up between stone outcroppings via a tight, steep zigzag. Almost to the top, I lost my marbles; down they tumbled, down, down, down. It was the kids: Coyote was intentionally tripping and walking silly and Blue was running and NOT listening at all. 200 feet up a cliff!! So, holding everyone's hands, I dragged us all back down, nearly in tears from the stress. The irony is that you do your best to keep your kids safe, and sometimes they make it so difficult and unpleasant that you almost wonder why you try. Recommendation: if you happen across Peshastin Pinnacles and your kids are feeling silly and saucy, take a picture from the parking lot and just LEAVE!

Huck's life is much more interesting than mine is this week, so I'm just going to report on that. Yesterday was his first day as a substitute. He taught elementary school music! And today he's teaching middle school Special Ed. What a varied and curious job that is, emergency substitute! Apparently all you need is a college degree and a clean back ground check.

Meanwhile I'm lost. I think I've been in a mid-life crisis since I was 16. What am I doing with my life? What's the plan? When does it make sense and start to come together? Suggestions? Critique? Scathing review? Hollow encouragements? Leave a comment!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Soap Lake and more!

Soap Lake: My brain somehow "remembered" that is was a 100*F lake. But as I leapt from the car and sprinted for the shallow muddy lake, I discovered that it was NOT actually a HOT spring. Not at all!! However it is a mineral spring lake. The wind whips up a lather on the surface and fills the beach with suds, hence the name, Soap Lake. There was no wind on the day we went, but the shore is all dried white suds. The rumor is that you cover yourself in this lake's mud, let it dry and then wash it off in the water. The Native Americans around here called it "Smokiam," which is "healing waters." We (all but Coyote) slathered ourselves with the green/black sulfurous mud. But, as it dried, I found myself covered in tiny yellow worms!! ICK!! As I frantically washed off the mud, my hair spontaneously broke into a lather. I don't know if I was healed of any ailments, but my skin and hair felt awesome.

And yesterday I got talking with some of the Democrat brass around here. Impressed with my knowledge of the issues and opinions (that's what SHE said!), they comp-ed me their only free ticket to Gregoire's fund raising dinner here next weekend. And that was very very exciting for me. I've wanted to go, but it's too expensive. With one ticket free, we can manage the other one and the babysitting too! I hope I can find a babysitter!

Huck and I are celebrating our Solstice Anniversary this weekend. We have been legally married 7 years. You'll note our daughter is already 7, therefore our anniversary number doesn't reflect the whole picture of years together.
Huck's dad is over for the weekend and the kids spent the night at the cabin he rented. He also gave us a gift certificate to a really great restaurant: Smoke Blossom, and we enjoyed that last night.

We spent the evening reflecting on the last 7 years together and our current situation. We've had another kid and two major moves. He graduated from college, twice. We bought and fixed up and sold our first house.

Our situation now is both a powerful place of infinite possibilities and a painful place of confusion and disappointment. We argue a little more than usual these days, but I feel our home is still largely a place of peace. And it's perfectly understandable that in all this chaos we might both be more frustrated and fragile with any challenge or obstacle. I think we are both feeling confident that we will get through this strange spot, maybe a little scarred and tattered, but in one piece, and certainly changed. We still have no clue as to what comes next. However, on a recent frustrating day it seemed that the light at the end of the tunnel was apparently just a defect.

He didn't get that job. They were so gung ho about him. But it's a small town and they tracked down the first employer, who told them his side of the story. I'm sure he has one, that it's different than Hucks, and that it probably sounds valid. But it doesn't seem fair that Peter should be able to mess up our lives perpetually. Lots of people have jobs that don't work out, especially just out of college. And it was an awful experience for Huck. He should have just stayed? With out a contract? With insurance being renegged on? With being sent out of town for 4 months? With a promise of a 40 hour work week that was already 50? With sudden demands that he cut his hair (they did discuss this and the guy said he'd see how his clients reacted, but then just after we moved here, before Huck started, the guy called and wouldn't discuss anything with him but cutting his hair, NOW, before he started work)? And working with people you really really don't like?

Why don't I work? That's a common question. And I'll tell you why: 1) I'm burnt out. I don't want to be running around trying to get someplace just as fast as I can so I can squeeze my expected hours into the time my kids have childcare. I can do without that for a while. I just want a little break. When Coyote's in school full time, I'll go back. But for now, I just want to be a mom and myself, not someone's employee. But I wouldn't be running around, would I? Huck would be at home taking care of the kids and that brings us to reason 2) If I get a job, that leaves Huck without the ability to work, even if he could find something while doing all the child care. So at this point, me going to work kills his career before he even gets to try it... but that may be happening anyway.

And geez, how bout that economy? That corporate Welfare state? That taxation without representation? bail em out but don't regulate em? How bout that? Privatize profits and socialize risk? Help the companies but not the people ruined by them (and honestly, their own stupidity too). They'll bail out the companies that were greedy and stupid but not the individuals that were. I wouldn't doubt that some of the Oil companies get part of this trillion $$$$ package too. I realize that I have to pay for this mess one way or another, but if I get to pick, I want the way that gives me some say in avoiding future messes, but so far I'm don't have that option. The leadership doesn't seem to have a problem with socialism when it comes to big companies, just when it comes to little people. What we told people in the Social Security business is that every time the government gives people money they didn't earn, they have some hoops you have to jump through. For instance, you want food stamps? medicaid? You're money is an open book. The government gets access to every bank statement, every pay stub, everything. The government gives the schools money, but in return they want a say in what's taught and standards. Why should these companies be different? Better paid lobbyists? Sheesh.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Governor and I

So guess WHO called today! Not the Governor (THE Honorable and Amazing Pristine Gregoire) but HER office! And guess what they told me? She'd read my recent e-mail and thought I had some very good ideas. She plans to include some of my ideas in upcoming legislation regarding the environment!! And she wanted to know more about my ideas! She wants to hear from me again with more of my brilliant thoughts!! They didn't quite state it that way, but it was close.

Unfortunately, since getting sick my voice is about gone and the bus dropped Blue off at the exact time I was answering the phone, so I was really thrown off guard. I didn't have any good ideas to tell them off the top of my head. And I sounded like an 123 year-old lifetime smoker, with kids yelling in the back ground and a diesel bus chugging away. I had to asked a couple times: "Who's office is this?" "Are you sure?" And then I gushed profusely about her wonderful attributes:

You know, Forbes rated Washington 5th in business climate, 3rd in environmental friendliness and the Pew Center rated Washington 3rd in best managed states. All under who's watch? Gov Gregoire's! Plus Washington continues to provide health insurance for the working poor as well as mental health services and adequate food stamps for it's poor.

Back to the story though, other than being a little embarrassed that I was caught so off guard, I'm about as stoked as I come!

And in other news, if there could be "other" news...
we bought a trailer today to tote Huck's new cider press around with. We have plans with this thing, I tell you, BIG PLANS!!
And Huck, tired of supplication for an Engineering job, couldn't take one more day sitting in front of a computer looking for rejection, hopped in his car (the Old Olds or O.O. pronounced "Uh Oh", and he promised to take my name off the title, and here's a pic of the new car) and headed to the hills on Saturday. And he's been picking pears ever since. He's met a very cool orchard owner who's out in the fields all day with his pickers. And they've hit it off. He's grows old English cider apples and cider pears. And he's experienced in hard cider and is happy to help Huck learn the ropes. So, Huck's picking for $17.50 per ton of pears (that's as piddly a pay as it sounds). Some Engineering companies told him he was over qualified for the tasks they had. But apparently orchardists don't care that you have a Masters Degree, they just need their pears picked.

ALSO, MYD policies are being felt at home: Coyote was apparently poking Blue, so she slugged him. When I intervened she claimed, "He CHOSE it mom! I was his CHOICE to get punched!" Gosh, golly, gee! That school is sure effective at teaching kids!

Coyote invented a new recipe: Tomato Garlic salad. It's a "secret" recipe because it doesn't actually have garlic. You bake the tomatoes, shredded carrots and chocolate chips in a "cake" pan. We realize that most of the things we try to get him to eat probably sound about this bizarre to him. "It's yummy! With tomatoes, and onions, and garlic, and mushrooms, and eggplant! You'll really like it!"

Friday, September 12, 2008

My eventful life, as viewed from the couch

So, I've had a fever, headache, sore throat, etc. etc. and camped out on the couch: Ah ha! I thought something THAT exciting would catch your interest!

Yet things happen, even with me sidelined.

1) Huck bought a cider press. Quite a big investment in a so-far nebulous vision he's sprouting. We have no place to put it.
2) The 6 year old neighbor girl pulled Coyote off the bottom of their pool today. He was waterlogged, coughing up lots of water. Huck was chatting with the dad and took his eyes off for just a few seconds. ICK!! I'd had a nightmare about that last night, only it was Blue. I don't think it was necessarily a premonition because I probably have nightmares about that every night. Here's a photo of swimming lessons this summer. He might have learned a lot more if he hadn't been staring at his teacher's chests the whole time. THAT BOY!

3) Mom and Dad spent the night on their leaking aero-bed.
4) So Huck and I went for a date! Not that we really needed one; we've spent, probably, way too much time together lately. We took a spontaneous hike up to these stone outcroppings that loom over Wenatchee like a natural castle. Almost to the top, we had to cross a scree. Half way across, it decided to take me down. Mistake 1: freezing on a sliding scree. Mistake 2: wearing boat sized Birkenstocks that just encourage more sliding and trap rocks in your sandals. Once stabilize, we decided to turn back, rather than face the rest of the scree. I grabbed the one plant for stability and that caused a slide above me. Lesson: when on a sliding scree, keep moving forward as quickly as possible! And wear appropriate shoes...
5) So then we went out to this place called Shakti's, advertising wi-fi. I thought it'd be a little Indian dive. Instead it was FANCY FANCY. And expensive. So there I was, with dust up and down my legs and two dusty hand prints on my shorts and my baseball cap. Since I was already out of line, I put the cap at a wonky angle. Such a rebel! The food was okay, but not art, as the prices implied. And there wasn't a dang thing Indian about it, no coconut milk even! Shakti is Hindi for "energy."
6) I met up with M yesterday. I always meet this woman just when I need to hear something she has to say. The last time was the day after Huck quit. She told me that she quit her first two pharmacy jobs after 2 weeks and 4 months. One of the many that has assured me it's perfectly normal for the first job out of college to be a bad fit. So this time she was helping in her son's 2nd grade class and saw Blue's name.
She says, "Boy, you sure lucked out!!"
"Did you try to get her in to this class?"
"This is the best team of 2nd grade teachers in the district. They offer the most enrichment programs, the only gifted programs. They're amazing."
I shared with her my perspective.
"Yeah, they hit the rules hard the first few weeks, but that's because they cover so much material and really push the kids academically, more than the others. Kids that come out of their class are set and will be ahead next year."
Yeah, but...
"This school has a lot of kids that don't have discipline at home, so they have to get those kids up to speed on rules or the whole year will be wasted on disciplining them and not teaching anyone."
But their method is a little tough on the kids that like to obey, like Blue.
But then Blue can't have her academics held back by kids that don't listen and teachers that spend all their time chasing after them.
Okay, but I still think the MYD program is F-ed. And I think the teachers could allow for some variation on personalities and discipline in the kids. And laughing should still be allowed!

Back to the couch to watch more WILD LIFE!! or maybe I'll take a break from reality for a Poirot mystery...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The letter Aa, Aa, Aa, Aa, Aa spells blah.

Coyote laughs at something Huck does at dinner.
Huck "I must be the coolest person in the world."
Coyote, laughing, "Ah, Papa, no you're not! No one is the coolest person in the world except," he gets an awed distant gaze, "the circus kids."
Our kids have seen the Wenatchee Youth Circus a few times, you think? They LOVE Billy, the tight rope walker.

We are appreciating some aspects of Blue's school. Every day she comes home knowing more and more Spanish. Her two friends: Zulia and Soledad. They hopscotch so much their feet hurt.

Today Blue told us the Mrs. R won't let her write her name in cursive. Mrs. R told her that was only for 4th and 5th graders. The school so far is doing an excellent job doing what school does best: killing off every attempt at creativity and individuality.

Then Blue told us that she had to write two work sheets of the letter A. This was sort of disappointing in 1st grade. But second?! I said, "Let me guess, tomorrow you'll do two work sheets of the letter B!" How exciting! These teachers are really working their assess off making school a fun and enjoyable place to learn. I'm so glad they have 14 years of laurels to rest on. Must be comfy.

Speaking of which, I did have that conference and this is what I discovered. Mrs. H has spent 14 years in front of 7 and 8 year olds. This means, of course, that she knows everything, and she is always right. I don't even know where to begin talking about this nor do I know how to approach her on the subject.

First off, the laughter was confirmed to NOT have been too loud, too long, or at someone else's expense. The teachers simply didn't want kids to get the wrong idea about school right off the bat.

The school is a "Make-Your-Day School." It's a well meaning program meant to reign in out-of-control teachers. As far as I could tell with a Google, the research is all done by its progenitors.

Anyway, MYD means children make "choices" and the consequences really aren't the teacher's fault. Which means they do this double-speak. THEM: "Blue's chosen two step one's for laughing this year already!" RIGHT: Blue chose to laugh and Mrs. H chose to give her a Step One. You cannot teach kids to take responsibility for their behavior by not taking responsibility for yours.

Mrs. H also explained to me that they only have one rule. It was a 1'x1' sign posted low on the wall. Something smarmy about a learning environment that no one could disagree with and that any behavior you wanted could either be appropriate or inappropriate under that sky-sized umbrella. And to clarify that one rule, she had posted some lists of specifics. I look around to about 20 electric yellow posters detailing Steps 1-15 of every possible eventuality. She says "We only have one rule, really." And she see's me reading all the posters, "We like to focus on the rules the first few weeks of school, so the kids understand what's expected of them." "What's expected" is NOT: fun, laughter, joy, personal expression of any sort, apparently. She sounded so reasonable. But there were seriously about 100 rules posted. It would put the Washington Administrative Code to shame. And I can understand setting ground rules, but what about setting the kids up for fun, for the natural joy of learning?

"You are not alone!" She says, "Lots of parents come in the first few weeks of school concerned about that!" Silly parents, couldn't possibly have a POINT!

The class room was neat, tidy, large. The teacher seemed nice, but she had a bitter edge to her, and she spoke out of both sides of her mouth. Then she called Blue in. I'm embarrassed I let her do this. She asked Blue if it was okay to laugh in school. Blue almost cried and shook her head, whispered, "No." The teacher says to me, "Oh, she's a literalist. That's the problem." Not, "Oh I goofed." But "Oh, there's a problem with your child." And then she goes on to tell Blue that laughing is allowed, at appropriate times, like at story time. The problem was with Blue's understanding, not the teacher's communication, and certainly not with the fact that she assumes the authority to tell Blue when she can and cannot laugh.
And you can't point out any of this to the lady. Her mind is so contorted. She could not admit any mis-communication, any mistakes.

My mind is changed: I am for charter schools. Work a little ladies. Make these kids WANT to come back for 10 more years. As long as the audience is captive, they don't have to do a damn thing other than photo copy some letter sheets.

Sensing some anger? Hell YEAH! This brings up all sorts feelings from my own childhood, worries for the safety of my daughter's soul, worries about my own and how it was maimed by such idiots. I'm worried about my limited options. What can I do? She wants to be with other kids. She cried when I suggested home schooling and I want some time to myself.

I want Blue's teachers to be people worthy of her efforts and her devotion, which she will surely give them. I don't want her crushed by their lack of creativity, imagination and flexibility. My daughter will spend 6 hours a day with these people. They better be nice. They better love what they're doing.

So, as we waited for the bus this morning, I did the only thing I thought I could do. I told her her teacher was wrong and she'd likely be wrong about a lot of things. She needed to obey her at school, but she didn't have to obey her in her heart. She smiled at me and giggled. Step One: two co-conspirators for joy.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Again today Blue got a "Step 1" for laughing.
I've given you some photos exemplifying this despicable behavior.
This time she was in the bathroom, a girl walked into a stall, walked out and then said, "Oh my gosh! I forgot to go pee!" And Blue giggled. The teacher, we'll call her Miss Hannegan, was waiting outside and gave Blue a "Step 1."
This leaves me with several burning questions:
*Do they have tactics other than Step 1 and beyond? Do they have warnings?
*Why is laughter banned in 2nd grade?
*What kind of joyless witch chooses to teach 7 year olds but cannot stand their laughter?
*Is laughter banned in prison? I'm pretty sure you can laugh, maybe even when your in the bathroom, in prison.
*Was it Jesus that said to make the children suffer? or was that his nemesis, SATAN!
*They keep asking why the drop out rate is so high. Could "no laughing" for 13 years be the reason? The question we should be asking is not "Why is the drop out rate so high?" The question should be: "Why would anyone stick around for 13 years?"
*Is banning laughter really the best way to instill a life time love of learning?
*At some point it was "innocent until proven guilty". But here we have guilty until you graduate.
*If school is simply work force preparation, are there really jobs where laughter is banned?
*Some how, in our previous school, Jefferson Elementary, in Pullman, the children laughed. And that school won awards. So clearly banning laughter is not related to performance.
*Do they teach this tactic in teaching programs? This Laughter-is-the-root-of-all-poor-performance method?

This travesty was highlighted by an e-mail from Pullman-friend Claire. Her daughter Kate was in Blue's class last year at the shining star of a school: Jefferson. Kate's new teacher told the kids a little fairy named "Desky" lives in the class room and comes out some nights to leave little goodies on really clean desks. Juxstapose that with Blue's crowded classroom now which only has a little demon named "Steppy" who puts kids in the corners, even for accidents, even when they don't know the rules.

Conference tomorrow morning. Originally, I was just going to meet the teachers, but apparently this will be an early a.m. meet-n-beat. Just try not to swear at her, Sarajoy, just try not to cuss. But I cannot accept a no laughing rule. I cannot accept that as the "reality" my child, or any child, should face every day.
Options? Ideas? Perspective? Help!

And well I'm bitching: Our apartment sucks. I meant to live here for only a month or two while we bought something else. And now we are HERE. I work hard to stay out of it as much as I can. But I always have to come back. As apartments go, it's fine. It's new with trendy colors and silver appliances. But it's small and lacks yard. Our kids have adjusted better that I have. They play in the parking lot: bikes, skateboards, scooters. We've acquired a whole array of asphalt toys. The sprinkler system is a daily treat and the kids play in that and the puddles it creates. I feel like a prissy brat complaining about our nice apartment. But I need a house. I'm a house kind of girl. I'm a yard kind of girl. I get choked up just driving by plant nurseries. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: it's temporary, a little detour, it'll all work out. Yes. True. But sometimes it still sucks. And it's hard to remember why we moved.

I tried to come up with something bad about Pullman, something Wenatchee had over it. Mountains and wilderness. That's a thing or two. Pullman's pretty combed over with tractor tires and every square inch is planted by huge machines. We also like the Unitarian church here. And the growing season is longer, not that it matters to me now. But, oh, Pullman. I miss it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Sanatorium and the Schools

On Thursday I somehow found myself plunked into my own personal version of heaven for a couple days. It was glorious collection of peace and joy randomly plopped right in to the middle of roiling personal chaos. By myself, I drove down to Portland to meet Kate Jaeckel, soap-stress extraordinaire, a true drinking buddy (though neither of us can drink much) and an all around good time girl.

On the way I stopped by this 100 year old hot springs hotel at Carson, WA. It's more like an old style sanatorium than the nature embedded hot springs I usually go for. It was amazing anyway. First you soak in an old tub, rusted through time with minerals straight from the earth's hot, beating heart. And it is HOT. After 30 minutes the attendant takes you to a room full of old, metal, hospital- style cots all lined up like graves. And they roll you in to a linen sheet, and then a cotton sheet and then tuck you tight into a wool blanket, put a towel over your eyes and basically let you cook there like a bagged Thanksgiving turkey. It's like being embalmed, or so I assume, considering I've never done embalming before...that I know of. Even my toes sweat! They cooked me for 20 minutes and afterwards I stood by the back door, overlooking the creek, through the trees. The cool air felt silky smooth, like new sheets. Then I went to the sauna. It didn't feel like it was on at all. I checked the temp: 128 F. Wow.
As a seasoned spa-ster, I can spend three hours or more aggressively lounging in hot pools and rooms of 130F. This was only an hour, but an intense one which involved visions of birth (both my own and my childrens) and some rebirth too. The idea of soaking in waters that have just been in contact with the center of the earth (or at least closer to it than I usually get) wows me. Primal waters full of live-spawning minerals. A mineral message straight from the earth's heart. I just love those hot springs. My "life list" is only about 7 or 8 deep, but my appreciation is several orders of magnitude greater than that.

I picked up Kate from the Airport and we parked ourselves at the Kennedy School for a good long time. We stayed in Miss Kenney's room trimmed with the old chalk board. We ate in the courtyard. We went to a concert in the gym. We watched an absurdly violent movie (because it was included with the room rate and was the one that was showing!). We soaked in the enormous tiled hot tub in the courtyard. It was amazing. It was everything that is wonderful about people and the things they do. Every nook and cranny was stuffed with creativity, somebody's labors of love. This building employed artists of all kinds: painters, chefs, gardeners. Everybody. Most hotels, most buildings, I can almost see the pain and boredom of every worker that slapped up the dry wall and slathered on the white paint: same room, same door, same, same, same. There's wasn't a single indication of boredom here. Apparently this hotel is part of some empire of McMenamin creativity that has sprouted up in those parts, including something like 3,497 hotels in the Portland area alone, plus another cool million restaurants. All this imagination poured out, into the lives of the traveling, the hungry, the sober seeking altered states. Good times were had!

And I met Kate's wonderful friend Haley. And then I drove home, through one of the world's best sunsets. It was a good time and a refreshing break from the heady trip that is currently my life.

We also became members of the Unitarian Universalist church today. We adore it. This summer, it has played a grounding role in our lives. This morning as I stood and spoke about the water we visited this year, I poured water from the Hoh River into the large bowl during the Water Service, and I actually recognized some of the faces looking back at me. I had a small zygote of a feeling of home.

In other news, Blue got a time-out at school on Friday. We can't figure it out, except this is her story: The teacher told a joke, Blue laughed, the teacher stood by her desk and said "Step one for laughing." Step one is the euphamism for time outs, meaning you sit in the corner. For laughing?! We can't figure that one out. Blue is certain now that laughing is against the rules there. We've tried to get at it from all angles: was it too loud? too long? She says no. Certainly laughing must be allowed in 2nd grade!! But I don't know. Every day she also comes home with new information. She's innocently broken the dress code several times: no backless shirts, no tank tops, no, no, no. We're beginning to think that she goes off to prison every day. We're calling it: the Lewis and Clark Concentration Camp for Kids. We're trying not to say that in front of her, but seriously the list of rules is so long that even with my law experience I haven't been able to comprehend them all. It's hard to not do something against the rules there. This warrants a teacher's conference.

Those of you that know me well will not be surprised by the length of this post. Those of you that don't know me, now you know! Feel free to stop reading at any point if this bothers you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

SUMMER: in memorium

A recent review of our wonky summer revealed some cool numbers. So, like National Geographic, we will assess the summer by the numbers:

9: nights spent in the tent
4: nights spent in a cabin
2: nights spent in a travel trailer
?: nights spent in hotels

12: the number of swimming pools we jumped in: Cities of Moscow, Wenatchee, Cashmere; hotels in Leavenworth, Wenatchee and Aberdeen; Sol Duc hot springs pools, Sequoia's pool; Lake Chelan Waterslides; 2 kid pools in Wenatchee; inflatable pool at our old house in Pullman (Blue insisted I mention that).

11: beaches we played on: Hobuck, Neah Bay, Kalaloch, Jetti Island, Matt's in Rockport, 3 swimming holes in Wenatchee, 1 swimming hole in Leavenworth, along the Hoh River, Golden Gardens in Seattle with Grandma Lue

12,964: s'mores eaten along the way
12: properly (according to Uncle Matt) cooked s'mores that we ate this summer. This
would be the kind that's golden and melty, not charred yet still firm.

4: classes Blue took: swimming, sports, art in the park, science

1: major move. How could I forget to mention that?

Sounds like a great summer! Whatever the chaos going on as background noise, it looks like a total success when examined this way.

And: surprise of all surprises, Huck had a job interview today! It wasn't even on the calendar this morning, and now some possibility exists. He just started looking for a job again last week. Ah life! A miraculous confusion.

And to those who have been asking me how to start a blog: Go to and follow the three simple steps. It took me 5 minutes. Not including the full year of hemming and hawing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


We had first-day-of-school all over the place today. Huck made a celebratory apricot breakfast cake braid this morning. While I sat on the couch blinking my shocked and sleepy eyes.
We somehow managed to almost miss the bus. Blue's first day of riding a bus!! We had to run. Best to introduce her early to the habits of bus-ing. It was a motley crew on that bus, though. Some seriously grumpy kiddos. I wanted to hug and kiss her and cry on her shoulder, but then I also wanted her to voluntarily return home to me at the end of the day, so I refrained from embarrassing her that much. She didn't know her teacher or room number or location, as we were out of town the day they did all that. I hope she made it!! We'll see. I have to pick her up from the bus stop in a few minutes.

Here we are discussing the in's and outs of bussing.

Then Coyote went. Huck had to take him because I had an appointment. I missed it, but apparently he was a brave little fellow. I'm not 100% about his Montessori school, but I like it better than the other options. Cautiously optimistic. Judging from the photo, he's 100%. However, he did poop his pants at school today. He shrugged his shoulders and told me, "Oh well, I guess I'm not ready for Montessori yet." Excuse me?!! 4 years old! The potty training saga continues...

Monday, September 1, 2008

I have a blog

I apparently have a blog. I am not quite sure how this happened. And I don't know how to let anyone know about it. And I don't know if I'll ever find it again. If you know about this little blog of mine, some miracle has happened, or my computer has been commandeered by a computer expert.

If anybody is indeed reading this: I hope to keep you updated about the disorganized mayhem that is my life at this point.

Testing. Testing. Testing. 1. 2. 3.

Thank you.


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