Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homeschool nut

Here's the truth.  Your child is amazing.  Your child should get the education she deserves.  Your child should be recognized for all of her unique abilities.  Your child run with it.  I want to see your child go all the way, the way she was born to, the way her DNA tells her to, the way she must.

And so with Blue.  She's brilliant.  And I'm not hiding her light under a bushel any more.  The schools may try to sweep her under a rug.  Tell her to sit down, shut up and just be happy she's making A's.  But it's not going to cut it.  She deserves a free and appropriate education.  Just like all children.  As a society, we've codified this in to law.  And that's why I'm homeschooling her. It was either that, or sue.

After years of waiting and seeing for someone to help her, I had to do something. 

Last year, after she tested 10% higher that any other 3rd grader in the district on one standardized test or another, after I'd waited for the gifted program to kick in for most of the year, I finally found out about a special school in Spokane.  And she tested in easily.  So all was set, right?  She'd go one day a week this year and hopefully go full time next year.  It would be brilliant and finally her needs would be met.

A few weeks ago it all unraveled so quickly and horrifically, it left me gasping for clear air and made me cry like a drama queen.  The school she was in wouldn't share her.  Not only had they disbanded their gifted education, they didn't want to share 1/5 of her funding with the Spokane district.  When Huck complained to the schoolboard, something got lost in translation and what the school heard was that they needed to slap together a gifted program in three days.  And the woman to do it was a lady dear to us.  And so a procedural fiasco turned into an interpersonal one.

And anyway, what kind of adequate program could they cobble together in three days?  Even if the fabulous B was at the helm.  And did I seriously want Blue's teacher all mad at her and stressed out like this?  It's certainly fine that she makes the best use of her time and energy by teaching straight up the center of the bell curve.  It'd be crazy not to.

This and three new facts:
*Blue had been asking, "Why am I so different from everyone else?"
*The Mormon kids at school had been refusing to play with her since she wasn't Mormon.  I can only guess that this attitude comes from being told weekly that you are chosen by god.  We Unitarians don't get those weekly ego boosts.
*And we received the Major State Test results.  Passing and exceeding (A+) was a range of 60-80% score.  Blue maxed out the test with 100%'s.  There was no place for her to go.

Enter A... or re-enter A.  She'd told me about the special school the year before.  Having been entrenched in gifted education since she was born, she had a thing or two to say, a study or two to cite, and some curriculums to lend and a huge amount of information about the gifted homeschooling world.  If aliens drop down in to my yard tonight and order me to take them to my leader, we're going straight to A's house.  She found the Spokane homeschool school for us.

I had to make this major, life changing and threatening decision in not much time.  It was wretched.  I wailed and cried and revisited that contract Blue and I made the first time I looked in to her slimy, cloudy eyes.  Honestly, I haven't been a good advocate.  I've been inappropriately modest on her behalf.  I've waited and seed her blind.  And it was time I pulled on my big girl panties and got demanding or at least ensuring.

Parenting is one of those endeavors.  You want to leave it all on the track and not look back.. given the limits of sanity, time, and personal space, of course. 

I know I'm not the only one who was looking at my life wondering when I'd find a career, when I'd fire it up and get going on my own path.  I know I'm not the only one that was happy with my 8 hours a day to move it forward.  But I'm 35 now.  And one more year out of a non-existant career is not too much of a sacrifice.  I give up no money, no power, no prestige, no recognition, not even water cooler chat time.  Nothing... but a year of potential. 

And even so, no career can top parenting for meaning.  Equal?  Perhaps.  But I can't trade up, as far as importance and resonance.

And for Blue?  Maybe a chance to find some peers?  More than 10% of her life.  An important time.  For Blue it could be so much more.  "You'd officially have the most screwed up elementary education ever, if we do this."  "So what?  It's already messed up.  It definitely won't be worse."  She wanted to homeschool so bad.  And I didn't have anything better to do, that I could see. 

I was scared, am scared.  Fear blocked my path forward for days.  The sacrifice I'm making is bigger than I'm letting it sound.  It's a critical time for certain unnamed projects I've thrown myself into for years and years. I hope they survive.

So she goes to the special program now where they'll dissect sheep brains.  She's so excited.  She's my daughter and I am the girl who didn't touch a dissection in biology but let my lab partner (now a doctor) do it all.  And two days a week, Blue goes to the homeschool school for chemistry, data analysis, book club, fiddle, gymnastics, lego science and writing.  I'm doing math, spelling, vocabulary (her example for inhumane hurt very badly), sock folding, potato digging, and miscellaneous projects from the Dangerous Book for Boys (She declined on the Daring Book for Girls as, "oh that.  It's not nearly as exciting.")  Looking at the shopping list she handed me, I think she's making a time bomb.

It's true.  I have been shy to talk about it.  And this is why.  I get a bunch of stupid responses.  Number 1:  so what?  so she gets all A's and gets in to some great college and makes it rich.  To which I long to have the bitchiness to respond, "OH!  Looks who's not gifted!"  These folks don't understand.  They weren't labeled gifted or they lack imagination (such as is apparently the case with school district superintendents who disband gifted programs because they aren't improving test scores).  Perhaps they were confused when the gifted kids smoked a bowl every day before math.  They probably think that if they were just a little smarter/prettier/richer, life would be a cake walk.  This thinking should be discarded as the dross of ignorance it is. A study recently found that most parents of gifted kids are eventually forced to shell out 20k a year for a private education to meet their kid's needs.  Some one commented that the concerns of gifted parents were bourgeois and petty.  But the concerns of the parents of disabled kids is what? Low brow?  What kind of stereotypes are we running off of here?  Yes, the parking lot of the gifted program does contain a lot of Lexi and Mercedes.  But there are beaters there too.  And average sedans.  This is the assumption again: smart = rich = easy life.  This is miscalculating life: underestimating hard work, luck, confidence, and the life-ness of everybodys lives. 

Number 2:  Oh, you think she's so smart?  Well, my son, nephew, step-aunt-twice-removed, taught herself calculus AND Latin in Kindergarten.  To which I long to respond: how nice, but we're not competing, thanks.

Number 3: supportive and understand: my favorite one.  A said, "Welcome to the special hell that is gifted education."  Thanks!  As crazy as it sounds, that's exactly what I needed to hear.  And most of you reading this, will likely find yourself in this category... unless you have "gifted bitches" in your Google blog search alert.

The homeschoolers are another level of delicate social embroilments.  I'm not there because it's the right thing to do, because I love my kids more than all those other shmucks in public schools, because god told me to, or because this is my wildest fantasy come true.  And because I'm not there for those reasons, I really should keep my mouth shut about what a pain in the ass all this driving is.  I am finding some sort of kindreds here, however, thanks to a teacher who's putting together a group of kids and their parents who both homeschool and go to the special program.

So, our learning curve has been straight up.  And now Blue knows about learning curves.  And we plotted our place on it.  And we are way at the bottom of this thing with a couple more weeks of confusion and frustration in front of us.  But it's going way better than I thought.  I love teaching her math.  And vocabulary.  I love her time bomb or whatever thing she's making.  I love her creativity and her long intellectual reach.  I love her questions.  I love her.  I loved her when I sent her to preschool.  I loved her when I sent her to public schools.  I love her now too.  And that's why I'm homeschooling this year.  In a nut shell.  A very large, uncomfortable, nut shell.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some notes on October's first weeks

1) People are bringing their apples to our house and cidering.  We keep the pomice (ground-up left overs) for the cows, but we've had more than the cows should eat and can't quite keep up.  I dumped a bucket of obviously sparkling pomice in the field, thinking it was too far gone to interest the cows.  Hendrika slurped it up in no time and then wandered around, approached me for some petting, stared in to space, just like a cow but a little more so.  With a little extra swaying.  Cow tipsy.

2) A day trip to the Barter Fair in Tonasket.  The kids bartered cookies and my wild edible cards which were an inexplicably huge hit this year gaining toys, rocks, pelts, shirts, jewelry, truffles, and verjus.  Lost my train of thought a few times.  "Why is my mind so blank all of a sudden?"  I wondered.  My brother (who we met up with not knowing he'd even be there) said, "Because you're breathing Barter Fair air, obviously."  On the way home we ate at Colville's locovore fancy pants restaurant, Lovitt's. I slurped a perfectly seasoned black bean soup.

3)  Black beans and I don't get along much.  I love the flavor, but the farts leak out without notice.  Suddenly, sounds are coming from my ass and I'm the last to know.  That's special to the black beans.

4)  My biggest public speaking fear is letting one rip while on mike.  I saw it happen to someone once and it's stuck with me, filed in a very special place.

5)  Sunday, I had a public speaking engagement and spent all morning memorizing the children's story while doing the Downward Dog to get it all out.

6) Things went awry.  The first service went well.  It felt natural and good.  And I didn't fart.  Blue tried to correct my story in the middle of it, and I kicked her in the foot - fabulous public persona I have!  I was utterly unprepared for the second service.

7)  The congregation was much larger.  And there were a hell of a lot more kids.  All the familiar faces which I rely on to ground me during speaking were either behind me in the choir or in the Religious Education meeting.  A photographer with a giant camera and a telephoto lens perched in the front row and started snapping photos of me using a massive FLASH!

8)  Each flash was a reset button.  I am on earth.  I am human.  I am standing in front of a couple hundred people.  I am supposed to be speaking.  What am I saying?  Each flash lost my place in my memorized children's story.  I had not practiced with a strobe light.  It had been almost two years since my last children's story.  I am not that experienced of a public speaker.  I couldn't take it anymore and told the photographer to stop.  Then, I was really lost and had to find my place in my notes.  Then, I was so nervous my mouth went cotton-dry and I had to find a glass of water.  I did not run off crying, like I wanted to.  But finished the story, my mouth saying the words while in my mind a Greek chorus sang across the stage: "This is hell.  Someone get me out of here."

9)  In the afternoon, after delivering Blue to a party, I arrived home and dashed past the cidering neighbors and Huck and took some relief laying on the living room floor groaning at the fiasco which I'm sure wasn't that horrible for anyone but me.  I don't actually know anyone who'd be cruel enough (except maybe that lady from a few weeks ago?)  to tell me the truth of how terrible it did turn out.  So far, they are only telling me that I dealt with a bad situation as well as I could.

10)  Somewhat recovered, I go out to say howdy to the neighbors.  Tell them I just had a bad public speaking experience and needed to recuperate for a minute.  "Did you have some chamomile tea?"  "No.  This required rum and coke."  There's something about mentioning hard liquor at 2 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon that drops jaws and renders speechless.  Lesson learned: always lie about hard liquor consumption.  In my defense, it was decaf coke, because I have learned that the dis-inhibiting alcohol mixed with any uber-energizer (such as one drop of caffeine for me) leads to really stupid things.  Even just one.  Also, unlike beer, rum and coke is 100% naturally gluten-free.  (so are potato chips! FYI)

Seriously, I go through about one bottle of gin and one of rum a year.  But I mention it every single time I do.  You talk about alcohol consumption and some people want to peg you as an alcoholic ASAP.  Deny it, and your double screwed.  I am not an alcoholic, so screw me.  I crave one drink about twice a week.  But if I talk about it, it counts for a hell of a lot more apparently.

Public performances, as every priest knows, can sometimes require lubrication.  I was running a fundraiser auction and someone wavered on whether or not the band got drink vouchers.  Duh.  I thought, but said:  They're about to perform in front of a couple hundred people.  Obviously, they get free drinks.

It's fine.  We're all going to be okay.  But today's my birthday, so I'm having another.  And it's not even noon.  Am I bad enough for you?  Hendrika and I, here we sit, staring into space and swaying together.


11)  Huck showed up with a moving van yesterday.  He's a little understated.  No, seriously.  You have to pay close attention to what he's saying or doing or you might miss the most romantic comment ever about the color of your eyes.  He's got no flair.  His voice tone never announces: I am about to say the most swoon-worthy thing you've ever heard, PAY ATTENTION NOW!  It took me a few years to figure that out.  So... he shows up with a giant moving van, which is a giant yellow statement itself, but wasn't all: TADA! LOOK WHAT I DID!! No he's more like: don't get too excited... I don't know if your going to like it.  What went through my mind was not, for the first time in Huck surprise: he's leaving me.  So that was kind of a break through, because unlike any prior surprise, a moving van might actually have indicted that.  It was: pony? king size bed?  A corner office desk.  Used.  And I am totally thrilled!  As he warned, it's not the prettiest thing ever.  But boy, is it big and serious and fabulous and exactly what I wanted, but didn't actually imagine actually having.

12)  Still figuring out how to tell you about why I decided to home school my daughter.  Turns out, talking about it at all, with 95% of people, is offensive.  And I'm nothing if not about not offending you.  But just as a precursor, let me tell you what all but 5% of you are going to choose to hear: your kid is dumb and I hate mine.  There, now we've got that out of the way.  And I've successfully prepped us all for my next blog entry.  Onward and forward with my birthday plans now!  Which include: painting the front porch, washing dishes AND... TADA!! folding laundry!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shocking!

I thought I was joking when I called it Farm O'Death.  But our foray into senseless slaughter has continued to mount into a grievous pile of dead things.

My neighbor came knocking.  I was on the phone.  I had girded myself that morning for an hour or two of boring paperwork, just to finalize Blue's school plans.  And moments before she knocked, I was coming to the slowly, painfully, phone-call-by-phone-call-reveal-edly realization that I had just been plunged into School District Tartarus.  What I could see ahead was a tangled bureaucratic mess that would eventually stretch into three weeks, become political, turn my life upside-down and make me a homeschooler.  But enough of that.  My neighbor was on my doorstep knocking.  The only other time she'd shown up had to do with cows, out, eating her rose business.  She began with pleasantries that I interrupted: "Just... um ... is this about my cows."
"Sort of."
"Where are they?"
"It's about the fence.  It's killing gold finches."
Damned if you do.  Damned if you don't.
Cavalier, I said, "I don't mind a few dead birds.  We've got hundreds around here.  They're eating my tomatoes (at this point, that's a blessing. We've had way too many.  The kids actually used a box of them for batting practice).  And if the fence keeps my cows in, I guess we'll just have to deal with a couple dead birds now and again."
"Twenty."
"oh my god."
The birds were landing on the electric fence, sagging, connecting with the pigwire fence, and exploding. Who could have known the would happen?!

A week later, my sister helped me rearrange part of the fence.  I thought I'd turned off the fence, but when I first grabbed it, I sizzled and my arm went all twitchy .  Serves me right, yes, I know.  But the funny thing is, that even when the fence was unplugged, and I'd made my sister test it, the message had been so clear that every single time, all 50 of them, I squirmed and squinted and nearly peed my pants as I reached out to touch the clearly dead wire.

And today, I did the rest.  And counted 54 bodies.  Or parts indicating a body had once been there.  There were severed legs hanging from the wire, still clinging to its executioner.  About 10 whole fried birds hanging upside down.  A few t-posts with feathers burnt on. And a bunch of bloody stools. It was terribly gruesome and I feel horribly bad about it.  Bad.  Bad.  Bad.  However, I would like to note that those birds ate all of my grass seed.  Not that that justifies a slaughter, just saying...

The next day there was a mouse on the dining room floor.  Just sitting there, enjoying the tortilla chip crumbs under Coyote's seat.  I screamed.  It ate.  I screamed some more.  It ate some more.  I got the cat and put it on top of the mouse.  It ate some more.  The cat ran off somewhere.  I got a jar and put it over the mouse.  It ate some more.  And then jumped up and bashed it's head on the top several times.  The kids wanted it as a pet.  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  "But," Coyote pleaded, "it's so cute, and maybe, you know, you have something in common with it."  Like what?  "Maybe it's a mom too!"  ACK!!! EEEK! That would mean baby mice!!  The lid was put on tight and the mouse died by morning.  Her baby, electrocuted in my little black box, the better mouse trap.

The next day, I felt a chill in the air and wondered about the our first frost, long over due- still.  Weather Underground said 30.  It was our anniversary.  A full moon.  And Huck and I worked hard in the garden, harvesting the "last" of the zucchini, peppers, basil.  Huck lifted 6 tomato plants, whole, from the ground and piled them, dirt and all in the conservatory room.  We tucked the rest under warm blankets.  Whew!  I'd almost missed the first frost.  How lucky we were that I'd checked!  I awoke the next morning, eager to see how low we'd gone over night.  48.  What? 48?  48!!  What the hell?!  Exactly what Cheney town had I checked?  And now I had a ton of dirt and 1000 green tomatoes in my house screaming for immediate, and yet totally nonexistent and unavailable attention and time.

The next night, I found a dead chicken.  It looked perfectly fine.  The body was in tact but dead.  By the time the man of house saw it, the head was missing.  Huck wondered if we could leave it out for owls or coyotes.  But I didn't want them thinking our house was a buffet.  So, as Huck took the bird to the field, I remained behind to inspect the area for clues to it's death.  That is when the world's largest owl with, I swear, a 24 foot wing span dive bombed me.  And I screamed my lungs out.  The moon was still fullish.  And Huck yelled from across the field, "Holy crap!  That looked awesome!"   "Not from these eye balls!"  We hauled the chicken coop, chickens and all into the barn and then buried the limp Buff Orpington known as Nugget in a shallow grave, which took an hour or so, in the dry end-of summer concrete that used to be soil.

The next night, around 2am, I heard this terrible chickeny squawking outside my bedroom window.  I leapt up and saw an owl flying away and a chicken stranded on the top of a telephone pole, screaming.  I wondered if I should call the fire department like they do for kittens.  It seemed kind of species-ist not to.  But it wasn't one of ours and about five minutes later, the owl returned for it.

And then King Louis decided to start putting his gophers (he has a taste for gophers and birds, but NOT mice) in his food dish.  Blood smears all over the floor.

And now our sump pump died and no one can take showers or do laundry until it's fixed for an exorbitant sum.

Death.  Death.  Death.  Day in.  Day out.  That's the way it goes.  It harvest time here, for the Grim Reaper too, I suppose.  Maybe we're just making space for new things.  Like invasive starlings and rats and really expensive shit-moving equipment you never see.

Monday, October 4, 2010

On a Mission

Our anniversary fell on the fall equinox (as it always does and by design), the full moon, the school board meeting that made everything even crazier (a story for another day), and a mistaken identity problem (also likely to be coming soon to a blog near you).  Huck had managed to make some celebratory mousse, but that was all.

So this weekend we jettisoned ourselves to honeymoon in Wallace, Idaho.  Our initial reservations were for the well-signed Stardust Motel.  Once we saw it in person however, we bailed for a more um... open, clean, and staffed place on the outskirts of this adorable historic little town that doubles as the crown jewel of one of the largest Super Fund sites in the U.S. 

When we lived in Pullman, we'd head for Dayton.  The first town in Washington, nestled in the bosom of wine country, a walking architectural tour through the history of gorgeousness, and bragging rites to an improbable number of  amazing restaurants.  And I'm nothing, if not a food bitch.  Do not attempt to charge me an arm and a leg for opening a can and smearing the contents all over a Costco tortilla and Rosarita beans.  Charge me a finger or two, and I'm fine, but if it's a cell more than that I myself will open a Costco-sized can of whoop-ass.  Perhaps I've calmed down a little about crap being dressed up with some old parsley and called a meal.  But Huck still gives gentle warnings like, "So... I've never eaten here before.  I have no idea what the foods going to be like.  Just so you know..."  I realize now that it is unlikely that any restaurant I can afford to eat at will be serving anything comparable to, much less better than, what I make at home for my passel of ingrates.  However, I can recognize the value of not cooking and cleaning up a meal myself... even if it is an over-priced experience that causes heartburn for a variety of reasons.


At first I was all: why are we going without the kids?  Life's so boring without the kids.  Who goes on a bike ride without kids?  And Huck said, "You'll remember.  You'll remember."  And what I remembered was how much I ADORE antique shopping.  When I was 12, I'd plead with my antique-appreciation-deficient mother to drop me off at the antique mall.  And for my 13th birthday, I talked her in to buying me a 1920's satin debutant gown which I have never worn because it hasn't fit me since. 

Oh gosh, did Wallace make me swoon.  I picked up a shiny red, super old, drill called a brace that you brace against your shoulder.  I love those things and so does Coyote who took it straight-away to the dining room table thereby reinforcing the difficult decision to decline on any more antique furniture. 

At dinner, Huck wouldn't let me touch the water.  He didn't physically prevent it, he just seriously advised against it.  He tests their water and knows all that it contains.  What happened in that valley is a disaster intentionally perpetrated by mining companies who dissolved after coating the valley with lead. 30 years later, the kids are called "leaded" and can't function.  Now the town feels stigmatized.  So they want the EPA out.  They don't want anymore tests (Huck's equipment is routinely shot up) and they don't want any more clean up.  They just want everyone to shut up about it.  It's like homophobia.  As if talking about it, as if knowing the truth were the problem! 

So, Huck packed all our water in from home.

Saturday morning, we plotted our bicycle course.  With the kids, over the years, we've repeated many parts of the Trail of the Couer d'Alenes, but not this eastern section.  Huck wanted to start at the end, in Mullan.  And I wanted to picnic at the Cataldo Mission.  And if we did both, we'd cover the rest of the trail.  And perhaps make it back in time for a tour of the Bordello Museum who's curious menu, posted out front from the good ol' days of 1988 mentioned a Straight, French, No Frills for $24, $2 for each additional position.  What did it all mean?  I wanted to find out.

Unfortunately, neither of us did the math on this trip.  No one added it all up, except for perhaps our waiter, who recommended we cut the trip 20 miles short by turning around at the Snake Pit, an 1881 casino.  But then we wouldn't finish the whole trail!  Or picnic at the Mission!  Or... um... make it back to the car before dark... or ride anything less than 65 miles.

The first 25 miles were pleasant enough. The red and yellow leaves crunched perfectly under our tires. Huck detailed all the toxins in the picturesque creek beside us.  But the eastern end of the trail is not it's best side.  Mostly, it hugs the interstate and the back sides of towns like Smelterville and Silverton.  And if these towns don't look so hot from the front, the backside is... icky. 

Huck and I traded bikes and I discovered this concept called: efficiency.  His bike was so much faster than mine, that despite being in better shape, he couldn't keep up with me!  I was furious at the fact that all those years, commuting 20 miles a day to work, I had been riding a tank, a leg powered tank, a Flintstone minivan.  I'd dangled by the crotch and spun like a crazed hampster...on a gristmill.  I was routinely passed by larger asses on skinnier bikes.  And I'd wondered to myself, "What the hell?!"  Yeah, well, it wasn't me.  It was my dumb bike.  My shiny red bike named Sinner.  Sinner indeed. 

And to make an ill-spawned journey worse, I'd forgotten Rico.  How I could forget my padded bike shorts, I don't know, but forget him I did. 

The last five miles was all about: "Not Quitting Now," - my idea.  But after we perused the Mission grounds, marveled at the size of it's beams and agony of construction, regained feeling in our butts, and ate our salmon jerky and peanuts, I was entertaining secret fantasies about hitchhiking.  When we returned to the parking lot to find a family jumping in to a big truck, I sprung into action.  Huck's ensuing confusion botched my plan entirely.  And we did, indeed, argue for a while there. After all, pre-"us", he hitchhiked the West coast and I, the Eastern Seaboard and the Rockies.  Our first vacation with Blue (then 4 months old) involved camping and hitchhiking Baja.  So...I was a little appalled when he turned up all bewildered at my plan.  But then, he currently commutes via bike 20 miles a day, whereas it's been 2 years since I did that.  So he was kind of wondering what the heck my problem was.

He eventually agreed that the whole way back, we'd try to find a ride.  We met a lot of really nice people in really nice cars with plenty of room, going the other direction.  We were miserable.  Or maybe it was just me.  And yet a quiet peace settled between us, if not between my legs.  And this is what we figured out: we would not be alive today if it weren't for our children.  Neither one of us has working brakes when it comes to adventure. After the first six months of Blue's life, we stopped doing these things, like hitchhiking in Mexico and backpacking in the Olympics without any supplies.  Since then, all of our adventures have taken into account the finicky schedules of kids, their limited stamina, their need for food and water and shelter, etc.  I mean, just this past summer, Huck and I had another night off and cruised out to Bagby hotsprings, arriving at night, via unmarked logging roads, without a map, and totally out of water and food. You see?  We need our kids to ensure our own survival, without them, we're dead nuts.

All in all, the trip was a nice metaphor for our marriage thus far:  unintentionally conceived and much longer and more difficult than either of us were looking for initially. 

By the time he dropped me off at a beautiful but whacky restaurant in Wallace to wash the bugs off my face and dine, I was relaxed, yet in total pain. 

The Jameson is just opening up and I hope they work out some of the kinks.  The "fancy" salad was iceberg with three baby green leaves placed on top because the iceberg had sinned against lettucekind and was covering up for god.  The liqueur license had yet to be procured, so the spiked grape juice was free and I'm sure the liqueur board will be very impressed with their ingenuity!  And the menu was like sifting through the mind of a schizophrenic.  It took several tries before I hit on something that existed.  I did steer clear of the roasted vegetable aspic, although it was probably gluten-free.
Huck continued on his bike to Mullan and our car, as we had only one working head lamp between us and he was not yet dead. And eventually, we returned home alive to find my parents -alive!- who had managed to keep our children alive as well!  It's a miracle.

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