Friday, September 30, 2011

Paradise Stolen

I did see that car.  It was a sedan, dark blue or green, shaped like a Crown Victoria, barge-like.  It was in my neighbor's drive way, parked at an angle.  And when they asked that night if I'd seen anything unusual, the nearly forgotten inconsequential memory was slowly pulled from the brink of extinction.  And as I examined the memory, I could see that yes, it looked odd parked that way.  It wasn't a familiar car.  I even saw someone run inside.  So why didn't it raise any alarms at the time?! Why oh why didn't my little Poirot-esc brain cells perk up? My curiosity is so easily peaked, why not this time?  Why not this time when some asswipe cleaned out my best neighbors?

I was busy.  I was piling the kids in the car.  It didn't even register as an event.

The neighbors have a lot of cars coming and going: contractors, piano lesson kids (that's who I assumed it was), heating/cooling guy, painters, sometimes a gardener, perhaps even a cleaning lady, maybe a relative or two.  I don't know!  It's a parade of cars and I couldn't keep track of them even if I wanted to! And when you park in your garage (instead of stuffing it with tools and toys) I cannot tell if you are home or not.  And although I can be very snoopy and when I worked in a law office I was ordered to unleash all my snoopiness (it was great fun!), I don't want to snoop on my neighbors. I don't want to be the one who notices so-n-so's had that same trans-man over every day for the past several weeks and he's not carrying piano books.  Certainly we've got the cocaine/gay party house in cognito as a country estate and don't think I'm being judgemental here; I didn't get that knowledge from snooping; 50 cars full of men can't be wrong.  But over-all I try to strike a balance between snooping and being alert.  And what with getting kids in the car and all, I guess I let the balance tip the wrong direction on Tuesday.  And I feel just awful about it. 

Although for my own personal safety, that might be for the better.  Between fight or flight, when cornered I'm pure fight, apparently.  I don't know why.  When I was a babysitting teen, one of my charges screamed that someone was looking in her window.  So what did I do with that adrenaline?  14 year old Sarajoy took a baseball bat and a flashlight around to secure the property.  When a peeping-Tom ran from a shower stall in the Women's locker room at a pool at UW, a soaped up Sarajoy chased him down, OUT of the locker room, THROUGH the pool and nearly out the emergency exit before I realized I was still naked.  I don't know what's wrong with me, but it might have kicked in on Tuesday.  And the only thing worse the a robbery is a botched robbery cum murder.  And they probably have a case of guns already.  Because....

The house on the other side of us was robbed recently too.  A gun case.  A case of guns.  That sounds to me like someone knew what they were after. So I wasn't on alert. 

This weeks robbery was in broad daylight, during a two hour window.  Someone knew someone's schedule a hell of a lot better than I do.  And so it seems we are being spied on.  And I have that penchant for running around naked.  I figure the windows which usually catch me wet, running up from the basement to my room are along the road where people drive fast enough, they won't notice. 

With our direct neighbors on either side being robbed, we have a strong sense of "YOU ARE NEXT." 

So what's the strategy for a house made almost entirely out of French Doors?  Oui Oui.  Zee kind wit all zee vindows and zee doors zat "s'ou qui que" when zeey open. Because glass is so breakable, they installed dead bolts that open only with keys.  So that if there is a fire, we first have to find the keys to get out and since I've already been through one massive structural fire (in Petersburg, Alaska, took the whole block, but spared the gas station but gave me lasting PTSD), this feels like a very real risk to take.  In addition, this thief, which the sheriff informs us has almost finished cleaning out the entire neighborhood (oh! NOW they tell us!), has a special tool to use against dead bolts.  It destroys doors.  And if a thief came to our house that would be the most expensive thing to replace. 

Taking a quick inventory and comparing it to what was stolen from the neighbors: all of my jewelry is plastic, clay, or rock (actual, non-valuable rocks) and fossil.  None of our CD players work, nor does our iPod.  Our camera, as you must have noticed my now, is broken.  Of our two computers, one is running and that is 8 years old.  Our TV is from craigslist and is non HD compatible and is attached only to a DVD player, no actual channels or anything.  EVERYTHING we own was used when we got it.  Goodwill is a revolving door for all of our possessions.  It's like dust to dust: Goodwill to Goodwill, or sometimes Value Village to Goodwill, with a short or longish life in our house in between.  And an occasional exotic item from Craigslist.  So to prevent a broken door, I have been leaving it unlocked.  They might have already been through, assessed the potential and left.  This is one of the greatest benefits of having nothing anyone envies.

We might have also been passed over because although I adore my old house, in this neighborhood it is obviously NOT the house with the money.

The other reason why we might have been passed over by the angel of theft, is that our house is wide open.  Our bereft neighbors have both put a lot of time and money into privacy screens.  So that no one can watch them ... um ... live and stuff.  Because of the configuration of powerlines and our lack of funds to hire people to constantly trim our trees, we have no privacy.  You couldn't break in to our house and NOT have the entire world see it.  It's a blessing and curse.

Or maybe it's the mask we picked up in Singapore that's meant to scare off evil and is propped against a window, looking out, menacingly, at all comers, with it's spiritual threat.

Whatever the reason we have been passed over, we still have the feeling that it's just a matter of time. 

And then at the feed store today, I asked about all the new security measures.  They said they've had huge huge problems with people taking off with LOADS OF HAY!  "It's just going to get worse."  They said. And then one guys turns out to live near me and he said that his road has had so many thefts there's a sheriff that drives it every day, all day long.

So yesterday, one neighbor notices two trucks parked out front the recently robbed neighbor's house. She parks, she rev's, she maneuvers forward and back to get a look at license plates.  She's on her phone.  She's in a lather.  I know this because I am shoveling out carrots right next to her, not because I have any desire to stand behind my curtains and peek out at everyone with binoculars. And I couldn't figure out why she's doing this.  Does she think the thieves came back in their TWO $50K trucks to take ...what? What's left?  The Grand Piano and some unders?  And they are using power tools on the front door?! And thieves have the ability to BUY $50,000 trucks, two of them?  This is just how they make their payments.  I mean, let's use our heads here.  I can understand that we've all got our road lit up like a football stadium, although the theft took place in the middle of the day.  But don't you think these trucks might be the locksmith?  Or the contractors coming to repair the door?  These thieves aren't going to hang around the neighborhood, much less hit that house again 24 hours later.  But I also guiltily felt it as a rebuke, "See, Sarajoy, let me just show you what caring neighbors do!"  They snoop, apparently.

We are all uneasy here on Paradise Prairie. Lucky Farm is nervously waiting our turn.  Wondering if and when it will come.  Wondering if we should lock our doors or just stick the broken laptop on the front porch. Hoping whatever happens, we don't get stuck in the middle of it.  That no one is home.  It's out of our hands.  That delusion of control and our false sense of security is what they've already stolen.  It wasn't worth much anyway.  I wonder what they'll get for it on the black market?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Freak School

I am officially NOT homeschooling as of two full weeks ago.   So you can order me a cocktail now.  And draw me a bath.

Blue's enjoying her special school a little too much.  We are all relieved to see she has a posse of friends already, which has never happened for her before.  These kids are no-mold weirdos who instantly get each other and most have had no prior friend experience due to being so different in normal schools.  So that's exciting.  And she's had two hours of homework per night.  And only one total melt down, which we are getting used to.  We just kind of make sure she doesn't break things or people.  She gets that from me... and my extensive extended family.  This seems to be the one identifying trait that comes through time after time. Much more dominant than brown hair, obviously.

So I get a call this morning, "Uh, mom, can you bring lemonade?  I was supposed to bring lemonade today."  This doesn't happen with homeschooling.  I bring it, I'm heading in to town anyway.  And I get chatting with her teacher. 
"Blah blah blah... you know, I don't know what you're doing, but this is the smoothest we've ever done homework.  She only had one melt down last week.  This is one of the reasons we homeschooled: the sheets and sheets of repetitive garbage that I was just sending back to the teacher with a big "NO" written across the top.  'Don't bring that hell in to our house please!' Blah blah blah, stick-foot-further-in-to-mouth, blah blah. But she's really in to the homework you've assigned!  And she's actually doing it!  All two hours a night!"
"Oh dear!" Ms. M-M says.
Oh Dear?  What's 'Oh Dear!' about this?
"Two Hours?!"
"Well, she's related to me so a good hour of that is staring in to space."  Also a trait more dominant that brown hair.  What's one got to do to get a brunette kid around here? I'd trade tantrums and spacing for brown hair in one of my kids.
"But I haven't assigned homework yet.  That's just the stuff she hadn't done in class because she was talking to her friends. And it should have taken 15 minutes, max. Oh no... I don't know how she'll respond when I actually do assign homework this week.  And I do assign worksheets too." 
"Oh!"
"Oh."
"Oh. My."
"Call me if you have any problems this week."

Coyote also seems to have friends at school this year.  They are boys, though, so "friends" is just shorthand for someone you exchange punches with who won't go tell the recess teacher... and will tell her you're just playing Starwars if she asks. 

He started second grade with a project called "A Little Book About Me," which lets the teacher know many things: drawing skills, internal sanity level as revealed by subject matter, writing level, and just how messed up home life is.  Did the child draw the table empty of food?  Is a War scene in the kitchen?  How many different fathers are pictured?  Coyote came home and said, "Where I was supposed to draw us as a family was too small, so I just left papa out." What the hell do the Mormon kids do?  "He's been working so much lately that he's not really part of our family.  He's just kind of on the side."  RIP A MOTHER'S HEART OUT!  Holy shit. 

True, Huck's been working a lot.  Project work is hard to control.  Sometimes you have no projects.  Sometimes you have multiple deadlines.  Since July was empty, we really needed this work to refill the coffers.  So he HAS been working long hours and many of them are out of town too.  But Huck is amazing at being present when he's home.  When he's here, he's all the way here.  He's not playing video games, watching tv, drinking, or whatever.  He's playing with the kids, wrestling, helping with dinner and homework, etc.  It's an amazing talent that I lack.  Even when I was working only part time, I'd come home from a grueling four hour day and crash for three hours, then shuffle to the kitchen when Huck called me for dinner.  Not so for Huck.  He might go for a jog or do a little yoga, but that all brings him more in to the present.  So I felt the sentiment was a little unfair of Coyote.  But who am I to judge? This is how he feels, and I just wanted to listen to that. 

So then he brings home the book.  And reads it to me.  Yes, there's our house, our cows, your toys.  And here is the family.  I braced myself.  Three people.  ALL of them BLOND!  "Who are these people?"  I ask, a double entendre.
"That's Blue.  That's me.  And that's dad." 
"Where am I?" 
"I didn't have room for you."
"It IS a pretty small space."  That little crapper!  I just spent ALL of his waking hours with him for three months straight!  I make three meals and two snacks for him every damn day.  I do ALL of his stinky, grody, skid-mark laundry.  I read with him every day.  I play games with him: Risk, Chess, Sorry, Uno, even the crazy no-rules games he makes up.  I help him with projects. I gave him tools to disassemble his old bike. I even teach him how to clean and do chores, which I know he thinks sucks, but will actually be good for him.  AND on top of it all, I let him have screen time!  AND NOW HE LEAVES ME OFF THE FAMILY PORTRAIT!!

(Writing that reminded me that Huck and I are still marveling over this new-to-us division of labor.  When I was working the chores were 50/50, childcare was 60/40 and cooking was 40/60.  It was very even and without any score keeping.  This is still so awkward for us.  What do I owe "us" the Palmer family, of my time?  Especially now that I have it.  What percentage of my time goes for my own personal and career development and what percentage do I owe to the keeping of our house and life in order?  When do I have to put my own projects down?  What projects are MINE and what are OURS?  Is staining the front porch US or ME?  Is working on potential money makers US or ME?)

So, anyway, it turns out, I'd rather have Huck left off than me.

The kids were talking about the lunches I pack them.  And the fact that we have no TV or game consuls/consoles/consuelos??? (hey, we have DVD's!)  The health food.  The non-commercial clothing (no cartoons or brand advertisements and no flashing shoes with toxic batteries in the soles).  They talked about what kids say when they take out their sandwiches: "What is that?  Did your mom pour molasses all over your bread?  Why is your bread brown?  Why do you have seeds on your crust?" 
"What?  Kids really say that?"
"Yeah, mom!  Most of them have only ever seen white bread!"
"Mom!"  Coyote yells, "You think you're raising kids, but what you're really raising are FREAKS!"
Yeah.  That's right.  FREAKS that leave their mothers off their family portrait!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Help you, I can! Yes. MMM." - Cow Master CowYoda

In preparation for the farming classes I will be teaching on behalf of the city of Spokane, I will prepare a lesson for ya'll folks.

Topic one: Field preparedness
It is important to groom your field prior to bringing cattle on it.  Weeds prevent the proper growth of a healthy grassland and thereby reduce the amount of food your cows can get for free in an already challenged area where the free-grass-season is two hours long.  The rest of the year pay you must for cut, baled feed.  That much baling twine on a farm trips a person up, a lot. Expect bloody noses.  As a direct result of not keeping your field free of weeds.

Should weeds invade your farm, you will need to remove them.  You can do this by poisoning your cattle as your spray weed-killer on their food.  Or by digging up weeds in the spring and breaking your back.  No matter what method you choose, remember that every square foot of soil contains enough weed seeds to keep said square feet flush for over 100 years.  It is a loosing battle. 

Mugwart is a noxious weed, and a poisonous hallucinogen as well.  It is a perennial and will get stuck in your field for millennia.  Unfortunately, cows will not eat the stuff: 1) it reproduces without restraint and 2) your milk is never quite THAT interesting. 

The other weed-to-watch is thistle.  Remember that Eeyore was not a cow. Cows don't eat thistles.  And so to reduce thistle, you will want to cut it down before it flowers.  If you are late on this, you can also cut down the not-yet-seedy flowers and put them in a bag in your garbage can.  You will want to select a thick bag as thistles are always pokier than you remember them.  Do NOT select an old feed bag as your thick bag.  Although it meets the requirements for padding, it also excites the cows who see you traipsing around their territory, unarmed, and carrying what can be reasonably interpreted by any reasonable cow as a 50# bag of feed. 

Farming is all in understanding how the cow thinks.  The cow thinks, "OH MY GOD!! FOOD!!"  And then thinks, "How fast can I get to it?"  Followed shortly thereafter by a more instinctual instruction to the legs to run as fast as they can while also kicking out to the side in a dance of joy,. 

Farming is also understanding how to think like a farmer.  The farmer thinks, "OH MY GOD!! CHARGING COWS!"  The well-seasoned farmer responds with inexpert kung fu, shrill screaming, followed immediately by running away.  The learned farmer will turn around periodically to threaten the cows in creative new languages that the farmer invents on the spot because the farmer is just that experienced.  The farmer will also expertly wave a small hand-clippers at the cows mimicking the light saber and chanting, "Much to learn, you still have!"

Break out session: break in to small groups and discuss:  If a cow charges, how should you respond?  If a cow thinks you are carrying something tasty to eat, will she charge?  What steps could prevent an over eager cow?  The answers are very tricky and always wrong.  Much to learn, you still have!

Topic two:  automatic cow sympathy systems: who's side are you on?
Cows will sympathize not with the expert farmer, but with each other.  Let's say you have separated one from it's calf in order to milk the next morning.  The one you have expertly chosen is the quiet and docile, more cow-like cow, frankly.  But the one who is free, with her calf, to roam the weedy wastelands in which you imprison her, may feel a kinship to what is likely to be both her daughter and lesbian lover who you've locked up.  The other cow, this less cow-like cow, understands what the docile one does not, and that is that mooing desperately at 4 freaking AM is an effective way to bring neighborhood shame on her captor.  So although one cow is locked up and fine with that, the other will provide urgent, ear-splitting sympathy moo's.  The expert farmer will, however, not give in to this and soon, after several weeks, the cow will appear to loose her voice... her bellows becoming croakier and quieter. Neighbors may call cow-CPS at this point, so beware!  A good idea at this point might be gifts to all neighbors: earplugs wrapped neatly in Far Side comics, perhaps. 

The expert farmer will remain firm in her milking schedule, for to give in will create whiney and demanding bitches of her cows, who are already half way there.  The expert farmer will occasionally consider slaughtering her spoiled cows but then wonders how she will teach cow classes if she murders her subjects and if this won't after all prove she is just an amateur psycho and not a real, expert farmer psycho.

Break out session: what do you think duct tape could accomplish on a farm?  Could it be used to silence the herd?  Do you own a large caliber gun?  Are you willing to use it?  Can you field dress a cow?

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