Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Glorius Summer

At the end of August I took Zane to the Evergreen State Fair.  This is a very nice small fair that reminds me of the one I grew up with in Maine.  We went last year, too, and had a blast.  I bought Zane a full-day pass on the rides, but only a few tickets for myself.  I really should have gotten the full-day pass for myself, too, as there were still a lot of rides he wasn't allowed to go on by himself.  This year we went on an evening after work so that we could also see our very first monster truck show!

We got to the fair in good time and had plenty of time to whirl on tea cups, ride motorcycles, trains, airplanes, run through obstacle courses, and try our hand at winning dirty plush animals.  I did pretty well at the dart throwing, thank you very much!  I think the coolest things were huge clear bubbles which floated on water with a person inside.  The balls were unzipped a bit, Zane crawled inside, and then the ball was re-inflated.  Then Zane was shoved off into the pool!  When I was little I would have been freaked out a bit by these, but Zane loved them.

We had some time before the monster truck show started, and Zane was eager to see some of the animals.  I was glad since last year I had to drag him to the animals.  We saw lots of fancy rabbits and chickens.  I was running out of cash, so unfortunately we only munched on a corn dog, some egg rolls, and some food I had brought with us.

Then it was time for MONSTER TRUCKS!  I'd never been to a show and didn't really know what to expect.  There was a line to get in, but the grandstand was a bit more sparsely populated than I thought it would be.  The announcer tried to whip up the crowd, but the crowd was kind of tepid.  Before the show people were walking around looking at the trucks, and some sort of monster bus was giving rides in the distance.  When the show started those engines were LOUD!  I was surprised to see about half the kids without ear protection.  I wish I had some!  The trucks faced off in pairs and did a short hairpin-turn obstacle race.  In the end Wrong-Way Rick won, and he did it driving backwards!  After this was a race with some beater cars.  One of them was such an awful racer I think it was actually demolition car version of a clown.

During a break in the action there was a kids' dance mosh pit where stuffed animals were handed out.  At first Zane was too shy to join, and by the time he did join the animals were gone.  That was a bit of a bummer.  Then we headed over to some National Guard vehicles he had been ogling.  He wanted to go in, but I said we probably couldn't.  As we were peering into some sort of armored vehicle a guardsman asked Zane if he'd like to go in!  What a huge smile on Zane's face.  The man gave Zane a tour of the truck and let him sit in the turret of some sort with a periscope.  I was really surprised at how awesome Zane thought it was, as we talk way more about monster trucks and construction vehicles than about military ones.  I think this was the highlight of his Monster Truck Rally experience.

From the moment we got to the show Zane had noticed a huge stack of junked cars in front of a ramp. After the thrill of the military vehicle Zane was ready to go, but just before we did the big stunt happened.  Mr. Dizzy in his matte black car had been really talked up at the beginning of the show, and now he was ready.  We were standing almost in front of the ramp when Mr. Dizzy revved up and came at it.  As he went over the ramp flames shot into the air which shocked Zane and I, and then he crashed right into the pile of cars.  I let out an "EEP!", and Zane declared he didn't like it at all.  We watched Mr. Dizzy drive off and the pathetic smashed cars get cleaned up, and then we headed out.

We found an ATM outside of the grandstand and I got some money so we could have a caramel apple and a drink.  It was really late and already getting dark, so we headed home.  My clever plan was to stay out until bedtime so that Zane would fall asleep on the way home, but he was so jazzed by the experience that he stayed awake until I got him home and into bed.  On the way home in the car he told me an elaborate story about a robot garbage truck made of diamonds that could crush any other robot out there.


Well, in a complete 180ยบ turn, our next adventure was bread baking.  Zane had been asking to do it, so when we had a full day open before a school potluck, Zane and I made challah.  Challah is such a lovely bread to look at, and you get to braid it, paint on eggs, and sprinkle on seeds.  What could be better!  I usually get the urge to bake in the winter and then have a hard time getting dough to rise in a cold kitchen.  This time it was summer, and we also have a newish stove which has a warming pad on it which is just perfect for helping the bread along.

 Zane eagerly put on his chef outfit he got from Grandma for his birthday.  He really enjoyed mixing the dough and did an excellent job of kneading the dough.  I was really quite impressed.  Waiting for dough to rise can be pretty boring, but we managed to have some activities in between.  We went out for brunch during the first rise, and when I asked for the check more quickly than usual, I proudly explained we had bread rising at home.  I felt so homemakery.

Next we got to PUNCH the dough, and after another rise braid the dough.  One more rise and we were ready to paint with eggs and sprinkle with sesame and poppy seeds.  Zane is a good egg painter, too, and really took the job seriously.

The bread came out beautifully, and tasted amazing.  Everyone at the potluck was very impressed.  Usually when I make something for a potluck I expect to have about half of it for leftover, but the whole thing was gobbled right up.  A little too successful!  We'll have to make another for us soon.


In early September we headed out for some blueberry picking.  I think that's when we went last year, but I guess the blueberries ripened a bit earlier this year due to our abundance of hot sunny days.  The berries were pretty sparse on the bushes.  Still, we had a good time.  It's a lovely way to spend a morning.

The next weekend we headed to the Seattle Tilth fair which is all about urban gardening.  We had fun playing in the park, eating honeyed roasted corn on the cob, and making a fairy wand.  I saw some raw peanuts for sale with their greenery still attached.  I thought it was pretty cool to show Zane how peanuts really grow, and I bought some.  We tried one uncooked to see what it was like, and it was like a tasteless plain white bean seed.  I roasted them at home, but they never really got to tasting yummy no matter home much I roasted them.  If I ever get more raw peanuts I'll try boiling them.

After the most amazing summer ever, on September 17th I finally conceded the end and packed away the pool, the slip 'n' slide, and the fans.  Many people are sad that Fall is here, and while I'm usually sad, too, this year I just feel really, really satisfied.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Four!


On August 15th, Zane turned 4!  It was a school day, but we had time to open presents in the morning before school.  He had been asking for a piggy bank with two slots, but got one with four.  A Spirograph set, an awesome Tidmouth Sheds for his Thomas trains, and a personalized apron and chef hat from Grandma with fabric markers to make them even more awesome.  His really big present, though, was his very own pedal bike with matching helmet!

In the afternoon I picked Zane up early from school, and the three of us headed downtown to the waterfront arcade and Ivar's. The arcade was awesome as always! We played tons of games and earned enough tickets to turn in for a flashing spider necklace.  At Ivar's we went to the fancy sit-down portion of the restaurant, and a very nice waiter made sure to get food going right away for a hungry boy.  We had window seats right next to the fire boat station, so we had a lot to look at while we waited.  I let Zane eat some cake and ice cream *first* before dinner! Then he finished his salmon and got the rest of his cake. He hardly left any at all for me.

video
A few days later on Saturday it was time for his birthday party in an oceanfront park.  He wanted to wear his train engineer outfit (smock), so in the pinata-loot picture it looks like he's wearing a dress. This park (Carkeek) is wonderful because it has a huge grass field to run on, hills and trees to hide in, several bunches of playground equipment, paths and greenery tunnels through bushes, an enormous salmon with a slide inside, and a bridge from the park over some train tracks to the beach.  It's like kid paradise.  Zane and I had gone to Display & Costume a few days before to select Batman cups, plates, dishes and even a Batman pinata.  We had finger food from Costco and pizza delivered at lunch.  After a break for a toy filled pinata, we had plain and chocolate Rice Krispie bars for dessert.  Zane had specially requested those after they were the treat at our neighbor's recent birthday party in the very same park.  We all had a great time!

Last year when Zane turned 3, here is what I guessed was in the year ahead:
In this next year Zane will begin school and I imagine that will cause a lot of changes, along with just growing older!  I can't think of any really big changes like weaning and sleeping in a bed and toilet training from the last several years.  I think there's a good chance that he might be reading just a little bit when he turns four.  Hopefully he will also be better with numbers and counting.  He still zips around on his balance bike, but maybe he will learn to pedal a bike without training wheels, too!  I hope he can form some really good friendships and start to hang out with more kids (I have to make that easier for him).
School definitely brought a lot of changes as he learned independence and has been challenging us a lot in terms of discipline.  I had the librarian's dream of having a reading prodigy, but he really is not interested.  Once or twice he has shown a flash of insight into how reading or writing go, but he just doesn't have the spark to learn quite yet.  He's a wiz with numbers and counting!  And just under the wire he mastered riding a pedal bike by himself.

So, for this year, what do I guess?  Well, I'll have to hope again that he gets the reading bug and really wants to learn when I try to prompt him.  I hope he can improve on his bicycle so that he can ride up small hills by himself, too.  He's grown a lot and gotten much stronger, and I imagine he'll continue to get coordinated in soccer and ballet.  I will love it if he can make it to the end of the day without getting so dang cranky.  But mostly, I hope he continues to be the most wonderful and fun child he already is!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Camping

I am such a blogger loser!  I think I'll blame it on Facebook.  I post a few pictures and a brief sentence, and then all the steam has gone out of my story telling.  That and I'm a lazy writer.  Since I post sporadically, and then do a bunch at once, you can surely guess that I was one of those students who put off her papers until the last moment, and then did a marathon writing session.

As I've said in other posts, Seattle had an amazing summer this year.  Day after day of blue sky and warm weather.  So of course, for our camping trip that I had been planning since MARCH, the weather forecast was for thunder showers.  For years I have been wanting to get out of the city to see the August Perseid meteor shower, and this year I organized a group camping excursion with families from Zane's school.  I found a site about an hour away and up a long dirt road.  Far enough away to seem like quite an adventure, but not too far to take up the whole day.  I took Friday off from work, and after a leisurely start to the day packing the car, Zane and I got to the site at about 1pm.  Getting there first has its perks, as I got first pick of the tent platforms!  Setting up our enormous tent by myself resulted in much swearing, but I got the job done and all the stuff out of my car.

A few hours later other families started to arrive, and the fun began!  I brought a bunch of toys with us which was a good thing, because nobody else did.  We had extra hammers and tent spikes to play with, buckets and shovels and trucks to dig in the gravel, foam swords, a soccer ball, and a croquet set.  Early on Zane, Ryder, and Anneke rode around on their bikes having some sort of foam sword jousting competition.  Later on in the weekend when more kids showed up I ended up having to put the swords away, but they were fun for a while.  The hammers and stakes were endlessly popular.

The first afternoon and evening was mostly taken up with the excitement of everyone arriving and setting up and all the kids playing and running around.  The campsite was really lovely, and we were right next to the toilets which was convenient (and only occasionally smelly).  One big bummer, though, is that there was only one solar water pump for the entire campground.  There were supposed to be two, but one was not running for some reason.  The other was about a 5 minute walk away, which is pretty far when you have an antsy almost-four-year old with you, and you have to drag the water back.  That was a little unexpected, so we washed much less than I would have liked.

I took some kids on a flashlight hike around the campsite while dinner was being made.  It was a bit spooky for them, and one boy told me in all seriousness he was afraid of sharks.  Apparently, they could come up the little streams into the woods!  All during dinner, the thunder rolled in the distance, echoing off nearby mountains.  We could see flash after flash of lightning, but it didn't seem to be getting closer.  After most of the kids were in bed the adults sat around the fire talking and watching the storm get closer and closer.  We did have clear skies for quite a long time, but no meteors were to be seen.  The rain finally hit us in the night, soaking one family's tent.  Zane and I and the Loggers (who were sharing our tent) were cozy and dry. 

By Saturday morning the rain was gone, and we were ready for an adventure!  Michael arrived just as we were heading off on a hike.  The Middle Fork campsite has a nice little loop trail nearby with signs about the trees, and a stop off on the Taylor River.  This turned out to be a truly excellent and memorable adventure!

First we clambered over the rocks to the river and discovered some kids in our group were already half naked in the water.  I parked my camera and bag and headed in with Zane.  We were ready with water shoes and swim pants!  The water was cold, but not too bad.  Michael got some pictures of us picking our way across the rocks in the river.  Eventually Zane wanted to see the other side of the river, so we carefully made our way over.  We discovered a small branch of the river entered there, and someone had dammed it up making a lovely swimming pool!  We saw another even smaller stream coming in that had also been dammed into a pool, but we didn't take a closer look.  After poking around for quite a while we thought we ought to head back, only to discover the rest of the crew coming over to join us!  We had 4 kids and 6 adults on this part of our adventure, and everyone thought the pool was cool.  Then Auggie's dad Eli discovered the very small pool from the stream was lined with what seemed to be bentonite clay, the green clay used for fancy-pants spa treatments!  Eli pried chunks from pool and soon we were all smearing ourselves with clay.  The kids loved smearing themselves, and Zane thought it was even better when I invited him to coat me with mud.  We hung around in the sun letting the clay dry while the kids played in the water.  Eventually it was time to rinse off, and the adults plunged into the water with exhilarated whoops while every single kid screamed and cried while they were washed.  We made our way home for lunch, and I managed to carry a chunk of clay back in a zip lock baggie.  I still have it under my bathroom sink!

The afternoon was filled with laid back walks and bike rides.  By dinner time, the thunder was rumbling again, and the rain had come as a soft drizzle.  We had to eat under tarps, but it wasn't too bad.  The kids didn't seem to care at all!  Zane was just about to lose his marbles, though, as he knew tonight we would make s'mores, and he couldn't wait for dinner to be done!  All of the kids were milling about the fire like rogue electrons, waving sharpened sticks.  We tried to corral them and make some rules about fire and sticks, and then we got down to business.  They were deee-licious!  When are s'mores ever not.  It was a great fireside end to an amazing day.

Rain and thunder came all through the night and started to get the floor of our tent wet, but not where it mattered.  The next day we discovered the only functioning water pump at the campground had quit, so we all packed up a bit earlier than we otherwise might have.  I'm so glad I finally got Zane out for some camping, and having a bunch of his friends around, too, made it magical.  Everyone agreed, we can't wait to do it again next year!