Balloon Quest

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It was Ike’s second day of school. After attending my step-writing group, I was hoping to have some to write or, at least, clean the house a little for the impending arrival of the in-laws. But, the beautiful weather was calling and I needed balloons for a papier-mâché project I wanted to do with Ike. We came up with a great idea for family Halloween costumes and I am having a difficult time locating a bull mask for a child that doesn’t look too much like a cutesy cow.

In a previous life (my mid-twenties), I did a lot of papier-mâché. I was living in San Francisco in a typical San Francisco 3-story row house apartment with two flats per floor.  My housemates and I lived in one flat the top floor and some friends lived in the other. We would have big parties opening up both apartments, one for dancing and one for chatting (or slurring as the case may be). We would decorate with papier-mâché fish or sperm and egg piñatas that we would make during the prior weeks tweaking on starch and newspaper and drinking beer.

So, I decided to try my hand at a papier-mâché bull head. First, I needed balloons. I was going to hit the store after picking Ike up from school (I still do this by car due to a big hill and the need to cross the main highway), but the sun was shining and I wanted to move. I pulled out my trusty silver steed and bike helmet. While doing so, I was delayed my an old man who stopped to inquire about the trailer on the side of the house. He asked if was for sale, which it is, so I gave him Josh’s number. He wanted to chat, but time was a-ticking so I kindly said good-bye and off I rode. I thought I would try the hardware store first as it is a little closer and it doesn’t have a crazy parking lot to negotiate. They used to have a ton of party supplies but now they are limited to multi-colored paper plates and cutlery. By the cashier’s response to my asking about balloons, you would think I was looking for them to fill with heroin. She informed me they only sell balloons already filled with helium, not in bags.

Then I tried our trusty supermarket. There, on a bottom hook near the greeting cards, I located a $1.99 bag of assorted balloons. I saw a sheriff walk down an aisle on my way to pay and another on my ride home and I wondered if the hardware store lady called in about a suspicious women trying to buy balloons to fill with drugs.

Just as I arrived home, the duck quacked on my phone alerting me that it was time to pick-up Ike (I set this up in case I am on a roll writing or elbows deep in cat-litter). The search took me over an hour. No time for lunch or cleaning the bathroom…darn that little old man and useless hardware store.

Postscript: The project was a bust. Ike gagged at the site of the wheat paste so he didn’t even want to try it, it was extremely messy (starch is way neater, too), and the paper towel tube horns were unwieldy taped to the balloon so it kept tipping over. And, I forgot to take a picture and it is gone due to wind or fire. In the end, we decided on plastic horns and face paint for the costume.

Minotaur

Since I forgot to take a picture of the paper-mache head,
I give you the model.

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To the Right

 

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Just a quick trip to the library. I had planned a longer bike ride in the morning, but sometimes it is necessary to go with the flow of the five-year old. Ike’s choice of morning activity was to play in the backyard and eventually climb the fence into that of our neighbors. We didn’t get on our bikes until after lunch and the coolness of the morning fog was long gone. We took books back to the library and were going to tool around in the primary school parking lot, but firefighters were holding some sort of training there. Instead, we took the long way home. Ike was weaving out of the bike lane more than usual and even tried to cross over when he changed his mind on what route we were going to take. I was chanting a constant refrain of “stay to the right” and “look where you are pedaling.” I really love riding around with him, but I enjoy it more on roads where we don’t have to worry about cars much and I can ride along side of him. Maybe I need to get a book or show some video on bike/road safety to him. Any suggestions?

 

A Break in the Rain

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Since living in the Northwest, I have learned to be more spontaneous because of the weather. In the SoCal of my youth, there are endless days of sunny days with no guilt about staying indoors and little worry about having to change outdoor plans due to rain.

Last week was true summer: coastal fog in the morning that burned off to glorious sun way before noon, bright afternoons, and long, warm twilights. But the rain would return; too much forest, mountain, sea. The original plan for today was a trip to the beach, but last night, not five minutes after I brought a bunch of toys inside, the deluge began. As I was going to sleep, I thought the rumbles and flashes outside the curtains were from July 4th leftovers and wondered if it was still raining.

I went to a step-study group this morning and we opened the curtains to better see the lightning. Thunder’s roars have been sending bolts of adrenalin through me all day. Sudden glimpses of blue sky are followed by sheets of rain. In one break in the rain (the longest of the day as it urns out), I was able to get out for a ride. I came home from the study group to find a notice from the post office. The weather at that moment was fine and felt I should take advantage of the moment and task. Ike decided to stay home with grandma, so off I rode pleased to go at my own pace. The certified letter was good news from a bad situation, which one day I may write about when I have more time and inclination. Since I was close to the store, I stopped to pick up some cat food and once again was grateful for my basket. I pedaled home thinking, “what a great way to travel.” I put my bike in the garage, came upstairs, said “Hi” to Ike and grandma, then looked out the window and it was pouring. Not a minute too soon. So glad I jumped at the opportunity and did not procrastinate or wait for Ike to want to go, I probably would have never made it out.

At the Post Office

Knights of Veritas

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Have I mentioned I love our library?…and that I am a bit of a geek. The summer programming for kids is so awesome. Tuesday night, there was a demonstration of actual medieval sword fighting, not Hollywood Errol Flynn or LOTR, but how knights really fought. Knights of Veritas “is a non-profit organization specializing in interactive educational demonstrations of medieval arms, armour, combat, knighthood and chivalry.” They go around to schools and libraries and thrill kids with the martial arts of knights, metal suits, and long swords. Ike was a bit antsy until they put in the armour; he was impatient to try a helm and hold the sword. It was worth the wait and he  has been talking about it ever since.

We took our bikes, of course, even though the demonstration was after dinner. Thanks to long northwest twilights, true night does not fall until 10 p.m. or so.

Late

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So you can see I lost momentum. I was trying to write the logs on the same day as the ride as a low-pressure way of regular posting. But, life got busy with other projects and events and I barely had time to ride let alone write about it. So here I am, trying to catch up.

The library has become the primary biking destination, especially as our local holds amazing kid events. Last Friday was Boffer Club. We have been anticipating this event for the past month because the kids were going to make their own foam swords. I knew it was going to be crowded and had every intention of arriving early. But, the gods conspired and there were interruptions in my planned flow of the day such as needing to go jump-start my mother’s car and making lunch. At ten minutes ‘til, we were racing to find our shoes and hop on our bikes. We hurried down the road as fast as a 5-year old can pedal.

It was a warm day and the conference room was packed with boys of all ages, a smattering of girls, a fairly equal number of dads and moms who needed to stay with the under 9 set plus a few who just wanted to hang out. There was a scent of sweaty impatience and fear of not having enough. It was just the right setting for a meltdown. But, something about riding the bikes there helped me remain calm and Ike held it pretty together as well. We waited for our materials and then instructions and were able to use the duck tape of choice (black with yellow flames for the “blade” and red for the hilt). It seemed to take forever but when we were done, there was still over an hour left to spar and battle. Ike made a new friend; I chatted with the mom. Both boys were made King for a mock battle. Ike was having a blast and I felt so relaxed, no gnawing urge to get somewhere. The world just seems to slow down a little when travelling by bike.

Favorite Errand

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I had a big plan of taking a long solo ride today. My son was in day camp at the Y and a had a nice chunk of time to myself. Unfortunately, I whittled away my time doing this and that…good things, things that needed to be done but I didn’t get on the bike.

I picked up Ike from Pirate Camp and remembered that, instead of stopping by the library on the way home to sign up for the summer reading program, we could just go home, grab the bikes, and ride down. The sun wasn’t shining as bright and a few rain drops fell as we pulled up to the library, but it was nothing ominous.

Have I mentioned how much I love that we can ride bikes to the library. I always thought driving there was ridiculous, but walking added too much time or something…or it just not very fun? Now it is a favorite errand.

Ike signed up for the program, found some books, did a craft. Then we hopped on our bikes and took the long way home.

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Momentum

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It rained the past two days and I didn’t get out on the bike. Yesterday, we had a much-needed stay-at-home day after a busy week. One of the nice things about living around here, you can depend on rain coming to give you an excuse to remain indoors. I paid bills and placed some orders while Isaac built Lego spaceships and cyborgs. Today, the sun came out and I regretted not going to see Brave last night instead the planned matinée of today. But, we went anyway figuring the sun would still be shining after.

I am much more interested in the bikes I see around now that I am riding too. I find myself looking for the old roadsters, the fixies, the mixtes, and cargo bikes. The weather was so fine that there were lots of folks on bikes in town.  We were in the car, however, as town is about 12 miles from where we live (I don’t usually call the area we live as a “town” though we have some necessary establishments: market, post office, library, a couple of restaurants, and a farmer’s market on Sundays). We stopped at the Food Co-op on the way home and that nagging, critic voice asked me what right I had writing a blog about biking. I am not some long-time biking activist or some touring enthusiast. But that’s just it. I am not really writing about bikes, but about the experience. I am discovering the joy of riding. I am exploring my world in a new way and feeling a little more a part of. I am basically having a change in consciousness, and I am trying to express it somehow. It is also about practice. Practice in how to keep pedaling through fear, inertia, and doubt whether on the bike, in my life, or on the page.

We came home from the movies and Josh was not feeling well. I don’t want to lose momentum nor enthusiasm. It is too easy to think, “I will go out tomorrow…tomorrow I will go on a long ride.” Ike and I jumped on the bikes. We returned a few books and a DVD to the library then took a long way home. At first, I thought it might rain again but the sun broke through the clouds and I took off my sweater. I don’t need to remind Ike to stay to the right as often and he is able to take the hills a little a better. I enjoyed the sun on my face, the sights of summer flowers, and the clicking of my bicycle chain. I feel my body move; I relax my grip on the handle bars, which I sometimes find myself holding too tightly; I watch my son pedaling in front of me and coasting down the hills. I did not experience childhood on a bike in Los Angeles. I didn’t really start to ride until I was 10 and even then, not very consistently. I feel like I am learning with him and am so grateful that he gave this gift to me.