Monday
Jun032013

Fun ways to spend a summer in Washington!

 

All right: Well, I asked for it! I wanted a few things to look forward to this summer, and here it is – more than ten pages of fairs, festivals, events, parks, ferry rides and kangaroo parks.

Who knew there was so much to see and do?

I’ve provided links and dates for what I could find, but I’m not familiar with any of this, and since it’s not for any purpose except my own family’s fun, I’m not fact-checking it. In other words, call before you go, check dates, and don’t take my word for it that what’s listed as a day trip isn’t a three-day trek.

Also: I’ve never taken a ferry. I have no idea where any of the ferries are, where they go, how much they cost, or if it’s all one big system that I’ve listed four times. I’m sure after this summer I’ll know it inside and out, though. So, to me it looks like a foreign language at the moment, and if there are any glaring errors (meaning, I can’t there from here,) let me know, please!

Much of the information here is from asking people what their favorite summer haunts are, so these places are tried and true -- just not by me! I can't wait to try some of these places.

I hope this is fun and useful for some of you – I know I’m looking forward to this summer!

 

Events, Festivals and Fairs:

June 8-9:
Deming Log Show

“The Subdued String Band Jamboree at the Deming Log Show Grounds in August is a summer must do for our family! Very family friendly festival.

http://www.demingloggingshow.com

 

July 4:

Zuanich Park for fireworks:

http://www.portofbellingham.com/index.aspx?NID=509

 

July 26-27:

Ferndale Old Settlers Parade and Festival

http://www.whatcomoldsettlers.com

 

 July 27-August 3:

Honda Celebration of Light:

“Vancouver does the Celebration of light every year at the end of July/beginning of August- it's a fireworks competition between several countries (usually Canada, China, and two or three others) and they are by far the best fireworks I've ever seen in my life. Each country has their own night, so there are four or five days to choose from. They last an hour and are spectacular. Plus during the day leading up to it, there are TONS of people milling around because it's kind of like a street fair with food and entertainers and stuff. And it's FREE!”

http://hondacelebrationoflight.com

 

 

August 2-4

Anacortes Arts and Crafts festival/fair

http://www.anacortesartsfestival.com

 

August 12-17

Lynden Fair:

This one has multiple reccomendations as a must-do event, and everyone says to buy a wristband and go all day long.

http://nwwafair.com

 

August 14-17

San Juan Fair, Friday Harbor:

http://sjcfair.org

 

August 23-24
Ferndale Street Festival:

http://www.ferndalestreetfestival.com

 

Second Saturday in September:

Whatcom County Farm tour:

This is another one that everyone says is a must-do. It sounds like a lot of fun!

http://sustainableconnections.org/foodfarming/whatcom-county-farm-tour-1/whatcom-county-farm-tour

 

 

Recurring events all summer:

All Comers Track meets:

Mondays, June 3 through July 15, 2013.  
Total of 7 meets.

“The All Comer Track Meets are fun for the whole family.  On Monday evenings during the summer, we offer track and field events for children and adults of most ages.”

http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/activities/all-comer-track.aspx

 

Concerts in the Park, Thursdays, June 27- August  29

http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/activities/concerts-in-the-park.aspx

 

Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema:

Saturdays, June 22 – August 24

http://www.epiceap.com/fairhaven-outdoor-cinema/

 

Beaches, Parks, Lakes and Water fun:

All of these beaches come with recommendations. These are the beaches that people who live here say are fun, family-friendly, and worth visiting.

“We love going to Zuanich Park for walks and they have a nice playground there for kids.” Good for kite flying, too.

http://www.portofbellingham.com/index.aspx?NID=509

 

“Boulevard Park is nice and I hear that they have a new playground.”

http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails/boulevard-park.aspx

“Bloedel Donovan Park is always full of people in the Summer that are swimming.”

“Bloedel Donovan for a lake swim.”

http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails/bloedel-donovan-park.aspx

 

Birch Bay: At least five people recommended different things to do in Birch Bay.

“Birch Bay is fun, walking & playing on the beach, camping in the state park. You have to buy a pass, they are $3 per day.”

“Birch bay: looking at the rocks and sea life by the water, mini golf and go carts, water slides.”

“ It's great to couple this with going up and down the Birch Bay promenade. You can rent little surrey bikes (like the golf carts you pedal) right there on the main strip and pedal them up and down the main strip. Fun. Ice cream shop and small farmer's market at the south end.”

Birch Bay: http://www.birchbaychamber.com

 

Birch Bay Water Slides 

http://www.birchbaywaterslides.net/

Miniature World Family Fun Center

http://www.miniatureworld.org/

Point Whitehorn hike:

http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks/whitehorn/

 

Beaches in La Push:

http://www.gonorthwest.com/Washington/olympic/La_Push/La_Push.htm

 

Fort Casey and Lighthouse:

http://www.parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=fort%20casey


Lopez Island:

http://www.lopezisland.com

 

Bouldering at Larrabee State Park: Also good during negative tide for tidepools and exploring.

http://www.parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=Larrabee

 

 

"My suggestion is running around at locust beach during low tide! So many fun things to discover and get muddy and wet!"

“Going swimming at Arne Hanna Aquatic Ctr is fun.”

 

http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/aquatic/

 

Lake Padden:

http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails/lake-padden-park.aspx

Swimming at Lake Whatcom:

http://www.livebellingham.com/ThingsToDo/OutdoorActivities/LakeWhatcom/tabid/3837/default.aspx


Hovander Park: “This one is a great park. With a playground, a barn, a wetlands observatory tower and lots of space, this one is easily a park to come back to over and over again.”

http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks/hovander/

 

Parks with water access of some sort:

http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails/index.aspx

 

Canada/Vancouver:

Stanley Park

http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/stanley-park.aspx

Vancouver Aquarium

http://www.vanaqua.org

Granville Island,

http://granvilleisland.com

Water Mania indoor water park -- Langley (just over border) -- "very fun"

http://www.yelp.com/biz/watermania-richmond  "It's right next to a Spaghetti Factory, IMAX, ice skating rink and bowling alley. You could make a complete day of it, or split up over several trips over course of summer."

Science World (Vancouver)

http://www.scienceworld.ca/

Granville Island

www.granvilleisland.com

Capilano Suspension Bridge:

www.capbridge.com

Grouse Mountain

:

http://www.grousemountain.com/ "Can be done as day trip w/the Capilano Bridge -- the gondola ride up the mountain is fantastic."

 

"Here are some things we've enjoyed that you could do this summer in Vancouver, in addition to the rest: UBC Museum of Anthropology,Bard on the Beach, Whistler ski lift, Kits Beach. Another fun thing is ride the Skytrain. Sit right at the front and it's like a roller coaster. A tame one, but that's about all the excitement I can handle."

 

"We love everything about White Rock:"

http://www.whiterockcity.ca

 

Queen Elizabeth Park Bloedel Floral Conservatory is an awesome geodesic dome with parrots and tropical plants inside."

"We enjoyed the Bloedel Conservatory in the Vancouver area. It isn't a terribly long event (an hour-ish?), but the kids had fun doing the "treasure hunt" (where they look for a particular bird/plant/etc and check it off the list). You could pair it with another shorter thing or lunch and make a day of it." 

 http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/bloedel-conservatory.aspx

The Greater Vancouver Zoo is only 7 miles north of the Lynden crossing and on the same road as Meridian (called 13N over the border I think). "It's $22/person but neat to see and there's a big playground for kids. "

"Such a little gem! safari-like in nature; in Aldergrove just over border"

http://www.gvzoo.com

 Cultus Lake Waterslides in Chilliwack.

http://www.cultus.com

  

Day Trips, Islands and Ferries:

"Deception Pass! and if you drive about 20 miles going that way through Oak Harbor, you'll hit Keystone and can take the ferry to Pt. Townsend & Pt. Townsend is a cute little touristy, ye olde town to look at (you could make a trip of it honestly) they've filmed SO MANY movies in Pt. Townsend. There's also an old military bunker in Keystone, and sometimes in the summer they have a giant kite festival! It's pretty cool. I've taken that ferry over a 1,000 times in my childhood & it never got old."

 http://www.parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=deception%20pass

"Deception Pass, rent surrey bike at Birch Bay, kayak the bay, drive the Cascade Loop, tide pools at Rosario. . ."

Tide pool information here:

http://www.deceptionpassfoundation.org/park-information/tide-pool-visits/

 

Ferry to Lummi Island for lunch at the Beach Store Cafe and shell hunting.

Ferry to the San Juan's

http://www.visitsanjuans.com/getting-here/San-Juan-Islands-Passenger-Ferry

 Take the ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor.

Schedule is here:

http://www.wsdot.com/ferries/Schedule/ScheduleDetail.aspx?departingterm=1&arrivingterm=10&roundtrip=true

Taking the ferry to Port Townsend from whiny island is a fun little road trip...

http://www.ptguide.com/


"Take the Plover ferry from Blaine to Semiahmoo spit, bring beach stuff and go swimming! It's free!"

Drayton Harbor/Plover Ferry (only runs in summer) -- near Semiahmoo/Blaine:

http://www.draytonharbormaritime.org/plover.html


You can take this boat from the Bellingham ferry terminal  to see whales... http://www.whales.com/ 

 

Silver Lake: "Awesome for camping. One hour drive, amenities, playground, boat rentals. Easy camping, but not commercialized like KOA."

http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks/silver-lake/

 

Grand Coulee Dam:

"Grand Coulee Dam has a Laser Light Show that is pretty cool! (It is 5.5 hours though!) but they do tours of the dam too! And camping is close by (Spring Canyon Campground) Shows are at either 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. nightly, so you’d have to spend the night, plus it’s far from here. But it’s worth it!"

http://www.grandcouleedam.com/aboutlls.html

 

The Outback Kangaroo Farm in Arlington, “heard great things about this place from parents who have taken their kids there”
http://www.outbackkangaroofarm.com/

 

 Berry Picking:

Boxberry farms: There’s a U-Pick, plus a strawberry festival, but date is TBA.

http://www.boxxberryfarm.com/go/doc/2079/280842/

"Don't forget: strawberry picking, raspberry picking, blueberry picking, blackberry picking! Fill your freezer!

And heading to Yakima to pick you-pick peaches in August is well worth your time and effort. Holy crap, they're good! "

http://www.discoveryakimavalley.com/2012/05/fresh-from-the-farm-farmers-markets-and-produce-stands/ 

Cool things to do nearby:

Sardis Raptor Center: Number one on our must-do list!!

Sardis Raptor center in Ferndale. My new favorite place! Open on Saturdays from 11-4 and it’s free! This place looks wonderful. One of the top bird centers in the northwest, and it’s right up the road from us!

http://sardisraptor.org

Marine Life Center: This is one of the coolest secrets in Bellingham. No one seems to know it’s here, and it keeps our boys occupied for hours and hours. It’s a mini-aquarium, full of bright volunteers who answer every question patiently:

http://www.marinelifecenter.org

Libraries and storytimes in Bellingham:

http://www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org/children/events/storytimes.aspx

Ferndale Library offerings (includes a game club for teens!)

http://www.wcls.org/Ferndale-Branch-News/

Family Interactive Gallery at Whatcom Museum: Good for rainy days in summer. Geared toward younger kids, though.

http://www.whatcommuseum.org/learn/family-interactive-gallery

"Don't forget about the Railway Museum!!! It's model trains the kids can help control plus there's a toddler area with a huge train table, wooden trains, tons of toys, etc. Great all year or for a rainy day in the summer. 1320 Commercial St. Cheap admission & the people who run it are super sweet."

http://www.bellinghamrailwaymuseum.org

 

Hikes and active stuff:

Artist Point (when it opens) & Nooksack Falls

 http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/seasonal-hikes/hikes-of-the-week/artist-point

"Hike mt. Baker! Play on the snow, pick blueberries, avoid bears, and try and stay off the two inch shoulder that leads to certain death:"

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/seasonal-hikes/summer-destinations/stunning-hikes-near-mount-baker

Woodstock Farm (haven't been but hear great things; at the top of my list because it's so close)

http://www.cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails/woodstock-farm.aspx

Hike up to Oyster Dome, Fragrance Lake or Pine and Cedar.

Cliff jumping at whistle lake,

Ride bikes on Padilla bay dike and visit the visitor center,

Fort Casey picnic/kite day,

 Bellingham bells game.

 

Other miscellaneous ideas that I haven’t explored at all, but I’m throwing out there:

Lang's Pony Farm/Mount Vernon http://www.comeride.com/

Twenty fun things to do near Vancouver:

http://www.findfamilyfun.com/toptwenty.htm

Cheap summer movies at Bellis Fair

Join Kids bowl for free

Summer reading programs at the library, B&N, Village books

26 Things to do in Bellingham/Whatcom County:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g58350-Activities-Bellingham_Washington.html

Teddy Bear Cove

http://www.bellingham.org/insider-blogs/traipsing-to-teddy-bear-cove/

Hike and pick wild blueberries at Artist Point/Chain Lakes in August. Canoe Camping at Ross Lake.

Finally, the Whatcom County Museum sunset history cruise:

http://www.islandmariner.com/historysunset.html

Monday
May272013

Mr. Voldemort's last horcrux

That's my dad in the picture above.

I've taken to calling him Mr. Voldemort in my blog posts because, well, it seems to fit.

He really is, despite his good looks, a rotten old bastard, and as much as I adored him to the point of worship when I was a kid, there's not much good in him. He is brilliant, funny, and astoundingly successful at talking women into bed, and on the face of it, you'd think he was a good guy.

You'd be wrong. He's not nice. He's not kind. He's not reliable, honest, sweet, dependable, trustworthy, good-natured, even-tempered, sober, cheerful or loyal.

In fact, of all of the Boy Scout traits of good character (trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent,) he gets two: Brave and clean. Well, and I'll give him courteous, because he has flawless, impeccable manners, as long as he's not mad at you. If he is, all bets are off.

He's 81 years old, and he's dying. He doesn't have much longer -- my mother says it's less than a month. Maybe it will be this week. Maybe it will be a few weeks. He should have been dead years ago. He's the kind of guy they made up the phrase "tough old bastard" about.

I joke that he's on his last horcrux -- in Harry Potter, Voldemort splits his soul into seven pieces, and can't be killed until they're all found -- because by all rights, this guy should have died when the mafia stabbed him in the kidneys, or when my mother tried to poison him, or when his first wife tried to kill him when she found he was leaving her for my mom, or when he had a heart attack and drove himself to the hospital, or when any one of a dozen men found him in bed with their wives.

And yet.

Yet, yet, yet.

This is my *Daddy* we're talking about. Who took me fishing when I was ten, and quoted MacBeth to me, and told me about the constellations. The man who taught me to sing "It ain't gonna rain no more," and who told me wild stories about wrestling alligators and riding his bike cross country and lumberjacking with the Indians in the '50s. The man who was roommates with Warren Beatty, who boasted that he could "out-think, out-play, out-smart, out-wit, out-last and out-fuck" every man in the room when a young punk talked smack about his game of pool.

He taught me to play pool, how to make a shrimp cocktail and a mean chocolate mousse, and how to appreciate a Matisse and a symphony. He explained why the Great Books matter, and he showed me a quick wit is sexier than a great body. And I really thought that perhaps he was super-human, and he'd live forever.

He was an actor, when that meant something besides movies. He never wanted to be a movie star. He just wanted to be adored. And now, because he's been mean and nasty to anyone who ever loved him, he is alone with my mother. Mrs. Voldemort. I wouldn't wish dying alone with her on anyone. Not even him.

This boy, in the picture below, is my boy. Sander.

He's eight years old, and so much like my father. He's stubborn as a mule, he wants what he wants when he wants it, and he believes that he should be the center of the universe.

The last time we saw my dad, he took one look at Sander, and my dad looked at me, and said, "Good-looking boy."

I said, "With any luck, he'll be as good-looking as you were."

My dad said, "NO ONE is as good-looking as I was."

And that, of course, was part of the problem. My mother said that women just about fell over themselves to get to my dad. The night she met him, she saw him get out of a limousine in a tuxedo, and she said to the friend she was with, "He's mine. Hands off."

Apparently, it didn't matter to either one of my parents that he was already married. Or that he had a son who was not quite three.

My father, at some point on our last visit, told Sander that he was going to grow up to be a *very* handsome man.

Sander has said to me, "Mom, you're going to have to help me let down all of the girls gently. I really can't handle more than one at a time."

But here's the thing: Every time my father mouthed off to his mother and step-father when he was a kid, he was beaten.

When Sander mouths off, we work through it and give him a hug.

When Sander refuses to work and lies on the ground and says he wants out of the family, I remember that when my dad did that, he was locked out for three days. And I hug Sander and tell him that he's stuck with us. 

When Sander can't quite get a grip on himself, I think of my father. And slowly, gently, quietly, inch by inch, I see the shining, beautiful, amazing things that are hidden deep in my father, and I see them coming through in Sander. The stubbornness turns to determination, as he tries to get things done.

The frustration that he wants it NOW turns into patience, as he learns that a baby sister takes precedence over non-essential needs. The trust that my father never had, and never deserved, grows every day with Sander, as he learns that really and truly, if he gives in, just a little, and trusts that we're all on the same team, it will come back to him in spades and he will have someone watch his back.

Sander's frustration lessens every day as he gets older. He's still tough. There are still days when I want to just say, "Goddamn it, kid, I'm going to ground you, punish you -- do what it takes so you will just LISTEN!"

And then I remember that my grandmother beat my father so badly that he left home at 14 and never went back.

And from the very few times when I have tried "discipline" rather than "massage" as tactics with Sander, I know what happened.

This child has an independent, wild streak that will never be broken. He will never "listen" to me. He will never "obey." It's not in his nature. I can coax him to be on my team, win him over so he's a loyal team player, and love him like crazy. But with a kid like this -- volatile, edgy, and determined -- one violent act would be the end of everything. He trusts me. He loves me. All of the beautiful "could have beens" that make up my father come out in my beloved, gorgeous, amazing boy. All it would take is "one good spanking to set him straight," and I'd lose that forever.

And so, while I will mourn my father, or what's left of him, I will celebrate the new. Sander doesn't have all of the Boys Scout traits: He's not thrifty or reverent, he's certainly not clean, and I don't know if he's ever going to be obedient. But he's trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful and brave.

I can be proud of that. I wish my dad were the kind of man who could be, too, instead of only seeing that he's good-looking.

But I can't save my dad. I can't go back and have a re-do with his childhood, and be kind to him, and tell him that it's all going to be OK. Because it wasn't. His childhood was hellish and violent and full of nastiness. To his credit, he was never violent or unkind to us as children, because he wanted better for us.

And so, when Mr. Voldemort finally gives up that last horcrux, whether it's a day from now, or a month from now, he will have taught me the most important lesson of all: How to raise his grandchildren into wonderful human beings, with all of his good traits, and none of his bad ones. And if I succeed, that will be one hell of an accomplishment.

 

 

 

Sunday
May122013

Why they've got Mother's Day all wrong

Cards for Mother's Day.

Flowers.

Presents of pictures and gifts of jewelry and silliness abounds.

I'm sure I'll get a nice breakfast in bed, and a nice picture colored with crayons, and my family will ask me what I want, and I'll get some kind of nice gesture -- we'll work in the garden together, or I'll get a couple of clean bathrooms to mark the way this culture celebrates mothers.

But the whole idea of Mother's Day is just so wrong.

Sure, I love my kids. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fierce, devoted, involved mother to my children, and that I have firmly held beliefs about parenting that make my life harder than it has to be. I homeschool my kids because of those beliefs. Being a mother is one of the few things I find sacred in life.

But Mother's Day? It's a warped mockery of motherhood. You give birth, you get a card. Woohoo!

Who says that being a mother has anything to do with the children you birth?

I was a mother by age six. I had three younger sisters, and we all had no mother to speak of. Sure, my mother was there in person, but when it comes to the things that matter the most about having a mother, she didn't count. So I filled in the gaps, the best I could. I was someone my sisters could trust. I was someone who they came to if they needed help with a teacher. I was the one who cooked breakfast, told them how to deal with friends who hurt their feelings, and threatened to beat up any bullies who came near them.

My mother fed us, took us to museums and to parks, and put clothes on our backs. She told us she loved us, and I honestly think she did the best she knew how to do. But she was broken, flawed, with trauma beyond repair. We never knew when we turned to her for help if we'd get it. Sometimes, she'd step in, save the day, and all would be well. Other times, she'd turn on us, use our troubles against us, and make a bad situation into a desperate one. There was never a way to trust her, to rely on her. 

She used to laugh at Mother's Day and call it "a consumer holiday, invented by a greeting card company," and she'd tell us not to celebrate it. We were horrified! We adored her and wanted to honor her! And we'd give her homemade cards, pictures of our happy family with the words "Best Mother in the Whole Wide World" on top, hoping that maybe if we believed it, and she believed it, then maybe she could be. Because on her good days, she was a very good mother.

But on her bad days, and there were more and more of them as I got older, she knew wasn't able to give us what we needed, and desperation set in. "Do you love me?" she'd ask, crying. "Do you know how much I loved you when you were a baby, how much I've done for you?"

I didn't, then. But now, as I raise three children, yes, yes of course I see how much she loved me. Enough to hold me and sing to me as a baby. Enough to read to me, to take me for pony rides, to travel with me,  enough to stay in a marriage to a philandering, selfish, man long enough to have three more children.

Enough to steal to feed us. Enough to cheat people, and to lie to people to get food for us. She loved us, all right. We were "her girls," and she was going to make sure she had the best for her girls.

But here's where Mother's Day goes wrong.

Being a good mother has very little to do with love, any more than a good marriage does. Giving birth to a baby is not enough to make you a mother. And you don't have to give birth to be one.

It's easy to love a baby. It's hard to take good care of it, to do the boring work necessary, to slog through endless breakfasts and spilled bowls of cereal and loads of laundry and snot everywhere and poop every single day and all of the things that come with babies and that no one remembers when they say, "Having a baby is easy."

Because that's what my mother used to say. "I love babies -- babies are easy."

And so, perhaps, they are, if you don't worrry about the future, and if you never plan ahead, and you don't worry about money. But toddlers aren't easy. And neither are five-year-olds. And I know that kids who are 11 can be tough, too. Not the kids themselves -- loving them is easy.

But just like it's possible to love a man with all your heart and be terrible in a marriage with him, it's possible to love your kids and be a terrible mother. Having a good marriage takes a certain set of skills, determination to do it right, and a willingness to forgo at least a little of what you want for the greater good. Loving someone means nothing without those basic building blocks.

And so it goes with being a good mother. 

Because being a good mother means being willing to do hard things for them, even if you don't want to.

If your baby's out of clean clothes, you have to do laundry, even if you'd rather finish reading your book. You have to make breakfast, even if it's easier to say to your oldest kid, "I'll give you a dollar if you make them breakfast." 
You have to face teachers at conferences, even if you don't want to, and you have to make your kids do homework, even if it's not your style. You have to teach them how to make beds and do dishes and clean toilets, and you have to do it yourself until they're old enough to learn. You have to teach them routines where they learn to brush their teeth, take baths and wear clean clothes. Even if you want to be a free spirit. When you're depressed, you can't just stay in bed for three months and let your kids fend for themselves. You have to go get help.

You have to get a job if your kids are starving, even if it's easier to steal. Because if you're the mother, and you go to jail, then your kids are in trouble. So you have to make sure you take of yourself, first, so you can take care of your kids. You have to engage with your kids, even if you're in emotional pain. Because they need you.

And despite my mother loving us very much, I became the mother to my sisters. And then I grew up, and my sisters grew up, and I took a break from loving children and enjoyed the freedom of adulthood.

And then I became a mother to my nephew, when he was 11 and I was 30 and my sister couldn't take of him anymore.

And then I became a mother to my own three children, and I began to see what it was all about.

Mothering has nothing to do with giving birth to children. I learned that who gave birth to you has little to do with who mothers you. My Aunt Nora, who was 18 when I was born, was a mother to me growing up. She helped me face teachers, encouraged me to do homework, made me learn how to make beds, how to wash my face and brush my teeth every day, and she engaged with me. Even when she had children of her own who needed her.

And because of her, I was able to pass that on to my children. 

Mother's Day has nothing to do with children you give birth to, and I think we do an injustice to people everywhere by making the assumption that pushing a kid from your body is enough to make you a mother.

There are men I know raising children alone who are far better mothers than my mother ever was, and yet because it's Mother's Day, my mother "should" get a card, and my friends are left out.

My Aunt Nora will get cards from her kids, of course, because she was a great mother to them. But I wish there were a "mothering" day, where she could get the recognition she deserves from all of the children she raised.

And my mother will call me at some point tomorrow, because she knows that I won't call her, and she'll say, "I didn't mean it when I said not to celebrate Mother's Day! So I thought I'd thank you for making me a mother. Because on the day you were born, I became a mother."

And I won't be heartless enough to tell her that being a mother is more than giving birth to a baby. Instead, I'll say, "Happy Mother's Day," and I'll call Aunt Nora, and I'll enjoy my breakfast in bed and my hand-made cards.

Friday
May102013

Where's Hercules when you need him?

I have a love affair with Craigslist. Odd, quirky people, free stuff, and a whole lot of trading -- what more could you ask for? Over the past five years, I've done wheeling and dealing for tilling, a garden fence, a side of beef and all sorts of free stuff that was worth what I paid for it. Some of it was even worth the gas money to go pick it up.
 So, in continuing my grand streak of ideas that end up giving Mark a ton of work, I had a brilliant idea for a solution to our problem.
This, then, is the problem:
It's more than twenty years worth of horse shit, left in the barn untouched, and fully composted.
It's actually valuable stuff -- fabulous for gardening -- it's just in the wrong place.
The lady who lived here before us had a horse, and apparently never, ever, not even once, cleaned out the barn. It's possible that before she got here, there was a layer of cow manure under that. Honestly, I didn't know there was a concrete floor underneath -- the boys and I shoveled enough to get down to the bare ground, and sure enough, it's concrete. And by "boys and I," I mean I shoveled while they begged to go inside and watch TV and get out of this river of horse shit and Scout sat in it and tried to make mud castles as we dragged her to higher ground.
So, we want to have a "farm." Which, in my imagination, looks like "The Burrow" from Harry Potter. Lots of happy kids, an orchard, a big garden, a few chickens and a few animals, and kids who help with the yard and the upkeep and a husband who tinkers with projects.
The reality will be different. As in, Mark hates yardwork and hates projects. Sawyer has dramatic fits worthy of a reality TV star who's just been told her show is canceled every time you suggest manual labor. And Sander complains and moans that he's miserable if he actually likes what he's doing and is having a good day -- on a bad day, you're lucky if you can him to agree to get dressed, much less muck out a horse stall.
And while I have good intentions, there are a lot of days where "distracted" is a good way to describe what happens. Because I have every intention of getting out to the garden and planting and weeding. But somehow I end up deciding that I need to learn how to quilt, or I have to get started on food storage for a five-year supply for my paranoia pantry, or the kitchen chairs are the wrong color and have to get painted right now, and of course the house isn't unpacked yet, and I need to put up shelves in the dining room, and while I'm at it, the table's in the wrong place, and it would be a good day to rearrange the furniture.
So, sometimes the garden gets a little bit of benign neglect. As in, stuff gets planted, and whatever's alive at harvest season is what we eat. Which means that in Texas, we ate a lot of tomatoes, some tomatillos, and we threw away a ton of habaneros. And that was about it.
Part of "the farm" will be chickens, a huge garden and some kind of meat. Either a pig or a beef cow.
We have plenty of room for either one, but we can't put them in the barn, because the barn is full of horse shit.
So I had the clever idea that I'd have someone come and shovel out the barn for me, and they could take away as much manure as they wanted. If it worked, I'd actually have someone cleaning out my barn for free.
So I put out the ad, sat back, and waited for replies.
The first person who came by was a self-proclaimed "little old lady" and she drove out to come get a load. She lives 40 miles away and wanted to know how early was "too early," as she's up at 3:30 or 4 a.m.
She arrived, all 110 wiry, tough pounds of her, and shoveled a whole load of horse manure into her truck by herself. She lives alone, had five husbands, plust a sixth man that she lived with seven years and never married, and she takes a bath, outside, naked,  in a tub warmed by a fire under it every night. Yes, she talked a lot while she shoveled, and I listened and watched. It was something else to see her -- apparently she's had a ton of energy since she was born, and she loves to shovel as it takes some of the energy off her. She usually gets up at 4 a.m., splits wood and then shovels something for an hour or so to keep her busy until the sun comes up.
She lives without any paycheck or income -- she has her house paid off, turns off her electricity, most days -- hence, the "cannibal tub," as she called it, and she's using my manure to grow medical marijuana, which she trades for groceries. She loves the internet so she can look up chemtrails, conspiracy theories, and how the government is persecuting Christians, but won't have a cell phone because they cause all sorts of damage.
Interesting morning.
Then, a very nice woman who seemed normal enough asked if she could come get some manure when her husband got home from work.
Mark was in Alaska, so when they got there, I was baking cookies, making dinner, I'd been painting and unpacking, and I was in sweats, no makeup, no bra, covered in paint and cookie dough, holding Scout, who was tired, hungry and dirty.
So, the guy at the door, who looks middle aged, upper-middle class, and normal, says, "I know who you are -- you're a Stone!"
Um. Sure. My kids and my husband are, anyway. How do you know me? Boy Scouts?
"Oh, no -- I'm Mark's boss! I'm the guy who hired him! I'm the reason you guys moved here!"
Fabulous.
Let me just put down the baby, take the cookies out of the oven, throw on a sweatshirt to attempt to cover up that I'm not wearing a bra -- I'm 44 with huge boobs and I've nursed three kids. A bra is not optional when meeting new people.
He and his wife were polite, charming, funny and got a grand tour of the barn, the manure, the garden and the outbuildings, and I was happy I'd met him. Just not dressed like that.
However, next time I do Craigslist, I'm going to go to the door fully dressed. Even for crazy old ladies with lots of energy.
Who would have thought that my biggest logistical problem is how to get rid of a literal ton of horseshit?

 

Thursday
May022013

Mark turns 50

In no particular order, here are the top things that the kids and I love about Mark as he turns 50.

No long blog post, no long love letter. Just the things that we love about him, and who he is:

My favorite things:

The trip to Paris after we got engaged.

The day I told him I was pregnant with Sawyer.

The day he cut up rose petals and put them all over the floor and all over the bed.

The times when he would light a fire, pull a mattress into the living room, and we'd sleep in front of the fire all night.

The day I knew I was going to marry him, and the peace I've had from that moment on.

The way his face lights up when I walk into a room. Still.

Flowers every Friday night. And then, skipping it, so he could be home to help with babies instead.

The way he takes kids to museums, or the beach, or swimming, just for fun on a Saturday. And sure, why not? He takes extra kids, too.

He's always up for anything. Always.

He's nice to kids. All of them. He treats them like people, not like kids.

I've never had to take the garbage out. I don't even know where it is. Or what day it goes out. 

I've never had to get a car registered. Or pay for car insurance.

He likes Batman. And he wears Batman boxers.

Reading Heavy Metal Magazing. And not being ashamed of it.

He hasn't slapped, yelled at, punched or injured anyone in my family, despite extreme provocation

He thinks he's a normal guy and that all guys do this.

His nickname in college was Stoner Boner. And now, in my family, they call him St. Mark.

He does laundry. All of it.

He saves me from speeding tickets. Every single time. He takes defensive driving for me at least once a year.

He always carries babies on his shoulders, or kids on his hips. Still. Says that baby drool is good for his hair.

He sleeps with kids in the bed and never complains. Still.

Saved Sander with his patience and midnight walks. He never lost hope, never got angry, never said, "Why us," never lost the path. Just took a screaming baby for walks when he needed it, and was grateful when the baby got better.

Loved Matthew like his own. From the time we took Matthew to the circus while we dating, until the day Matthew left for the Navy, Mark was there when Matt needed him. And still is. 

Eats everything I make and loves it. Whether it's gourmet or rice and beans. 

Sawyer's favorite things about his dad:

His patience: He is always keeps his cool and doesn't yell.

His intelligence: He's one of the smartest mathematicians I know.

His integrity: He always keeps his promises.

His perserverance: He never, ever gives up.

Always being there when I'm upset or anxious.

Him being interested in the same things that I am and not complaining about havingn to listen to things I talk about.

He listens to my opinions and makes decisions based on that, and he takes what I say seriously.

Sawyer's favorite memories: Camp Alexander: He helped me with all of the merit badges, and just him being there and trying to help me as much as possible. 

Schlitterbahn: Him taking me on all of the rides there.

Six Flags: Him making me go on all of the rides, even though I was scared, and making us go really early and get there when the gates open and running through the park to get to the short lines.

Barton Springs: He always did somethings for him, and some things for me, and we all had a great time.

Him making me go on the Steel Eel at Sea World, even though I was terrified and cowering in my seat.

Him helping me with fishing merit badge and helping me catch fish.

Sander's favorite things about his dad:

When Daddy walks in the door, the first thing I do is yell "Daddy!" and jump on him. I love to hide and jump out at him when he walks in.  He picks me up and carries me around the house. 

I love to roughhouse with him. I do this every day. I jump on him, try to steal the remote control, sit on his lap and ride on his shoulders.

I love to go to places with him. I loved going to Barton Springs because it had a playground and a train and we always watched everyone in the water and went swimming. Daddy took us all the time, and it's the reason I miss Austin.

I like to go to all the amusement parks, too, like Six Flags and Schlitterbahn and Sea World every summer. He takes me on a lot of the rides and he's a lot of fun. 

He helps me with Cub Scouts.

Last weekend we went to the beach at low tide and we found all sorts of starfish and stuff. I got tired and cold, and Daddy carried Scout to the car and then Daddy came back and carried me all the way back to the car, even though it was a really long walk and I'm pretty heavy.

He's also the best engineer in the world.