Saturday, May 22, 2010

Slugs and stealth

Its 8.25am and Frost, Wren and I are on way to the corner bus stop where the school bus will pick up Frost. Its always dramatic. Frost is anxious we will miss the bus and so shouts at everyone to

"hurry, get your SHOES WREN! NO! You don't have time for the iPad! Come OOOOON!"

Wren has a long, slow conversation with himself about whether or not to bring his scooter.

"I will take my scoot. No. I will take the bow. Can I put the bow over the top and hang it? No. I will fight! I will take the scoot. Will you carry the scoot down and I will carry the bow down and I can fight with Frost...?."

"COME OOOON!" yells Frost, halfway down the steps carrying his scooter, and strangely concerned that he will reach the bus stop without us.

I buckle Wren's helmet, the pediatrician's words echoing in my mind "It must be instinctive to have a helmet when riding whether its a scooter or a tricycle or bicycle..." and he lifts his chin extra high to avoid a pinch. Despite doing the same thing for Frost, his instincts have worn off and he considers a helmet unnecessary for scooting and downright uncool.

"When have I fallen off my scooter?" he sighs at me.

Of course, I have been consigned to that well worn stereotype of the neurotic, uncool and out-of-touch mother [as opposed to the stereotype of the "dude" - those who get it.] I still insist on the bicycle but after so little practice through the winter I am not even sure he remembers how to ride it.

Frost is out of sight down the sidewalk as Wren climbs on his scooter, hangs his plastic bow over one handle and launches after him at breakneck speed, carefully navigating around the large bumps in the sidewalk where the roots of the great neighboring evergreen have thrust up a mini dividing range across the path.

We reach the corner with 5 minutes to spare.

This is the moment when the boys do scooter fights. That means chasing after each other and taking swipes with imaginary weapons. At times the scooters are horses and they are jousting knights. At times they are a large brother tripping up or terrifying a smaller brother. Today, they decide to scoot fast to the corner and are about to go off when Frost realizes there are slugs.

The bus stop corner is very sluggy. Whenever the weather is temperate and damp, the slugs come out in abundance. Its infested to the point that you can't walk blithely without treading on one. Frost asks me to hold his book. He's reading the sequel to Chasing Vermeer, a mystery novel about Frank Lloyd Wright and fish. This morning he insisted on reading right through breakfast and got nutella on the book as a result. He is now scooting around with it hanging from the handlebars.

I take the book and Frost and Wren walk slowly up the sidewalk where they want to scoot, collecting slugs. Frost is quite squeamish about touching them but does so with a puckered up face. He places them next to a stem of fallen Iris blossoms. They cluster around the wilted flowers, presumably eating them. While examining the ground the boys discover a large glob of sputum and wonder about it. I tell them that somebody spat and it is their phlegm.

It is slightly bubbly. We cover it with grass.

Even when the path seems clear, both boys are anxious and continue to walk up and down checking for smaller slugs. Frost is reluctant to scooter over the grass covered spittle. Soon, Wren tires of this indecision climbs into the garden and hides behind a large tree.

"I am a knight! A bad knight" he announces, hugging his bow to his chest. "You can't see me!"
"What kind of knight are you?"
"I am a knight!"
"But what RACE? Are you a human, a half-orc, a goblin, an ogre?"
"I am a goblin. No, I am an ogre!"
"An ogre knight! Pioowww" [That is the noise of an attack]

They fight imaginary battles a while, forgetting the slugs which revel in the iris buffet, until the bus comes.

Frost rushes to pick up his things. "Quick, where is my book? Oh GOD, my book? Where did I put it?"
"I have it. You gave it to me. I folded the page for your place."
"What? You did that! That's a really bad habit!"

He grabs the book and jumps on the bus.

As soon as he is gone I must take his place as Wren's adversary. He is now a goblin and 'hides' in plain sight to ambush me. I shoot an imaginary bow and he dies with gurgles, then recovers and shoots back. I have to push two scooters home, avoiding the odd slug.

From timeto time Wren develops an obsession with a particular object. This attachment goes beyond the comfort and love he feelsfor soft shirt. After the past few months these objects include:

Gnoll archer
The playmobil Egyptian with a golden bow.
His wooden bow made at Camp Orkila.
His plastic bow from the thrift store.

The common theme is bows and arrows. Wren is very attracted to bows and I recently bought him an old book titled Archery Is For Me. This small hardcover picture book was published in the 70s and talks about a boy learning archer (on a recurve bow) with his friend (a girl) who has a compound bow. Wren calls his twig bow his recurve bow and his plastic bow is his compound bow. He dreams of shooting at targets. Since reading the book he inserts objects into his bow and then throws or drops them as "shooting arrows."

We made it home. I have the gnoll archer in my bag, we park the scooters, hang the bows and head in for breakfast.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Relax and think about happiness

It was Tara's birthday today and we spent the afternoon at the naked-lady-spa baths aka Olympus Spa in Lynnwood. I always enjoy that place. Its lovely to wallow in the hot and cold pools and to get scoured within an inch of ones life on a slippery massage table by a woman in black underwear and catching up on the trends in tattoos (asian, calligraphy, blackwork, little fairies).

What's not to like.

Well, it turns out that something bothered me. As I was lying on the scrub table the masseur / scrubber leant close to my ear and whispered "relax and think about happiness."

Think about happiness.

I guess I am one of those over-analytical people who doesn't think happiness is an end in itself so there I was trying to relax and ponder the meaning of "happiness". I was already in an odd space on this issue since I received an email from Jonathan in London asking what I am doing with my life besides mothering. I couldn't answer that either.

Oddly, the first and strongest association I had when told to Relax and Think About Happiness was a recollection of a visit to a roller rink some time in the late 70s or early 80s. I was learning to skate and did not find it easy. However, I had managed to go around and around on this rink which smelled of rubber. Perhaps I was watching my skates, perhaps I was biting my lip. Anyway, a skate monitor (young 20s and cool) skated up to me and said "relax, this is supposed to be FUN!"

At the time, I found this extremely embarrassing. So much so that I spent of lot of time thinking about being a serious person who does not have FUN. Of course, I thought I was over it. Over considering serious and fun as a dichotomy.

I am now going to bed instead of finishing this thought in an elegant manner. I can do this because I am fun and relaxed (and well scrubbed).

Happy birthday Tara!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Raccoons get into the chicken coop

Last night a raccoon got into the chicken coop. It was around 1.30am. The chickens made a loud noise and Joshua, who was still awake, rushed out and had to chase a raccoon from INSIDE the coop.

It was our fault.

We had left the chicken coop open - we try and shut it around dusk but sometimes forget until later. Its one of those shared responsibilities which, in the absence of any visible raccoons, slips into the after-the-kids-are-in-bed-turmoil and then, sometimes, later.

No more!

This morning the only signs of the invasion are some feathers and a large boulder against part of the coop where the foundation of the chicken coop is a bit weak. I can see that part of the bird netting over the run (which is supposed to stop the chickens flying out over the fence) is pulled down and is, presumably, where the raccoon climbed down off the fence. Bird netting is not going to stop a raccoon but we shall have to ensure that the coop itself can withstand a more direct attack now that the raccoons have them on their radar.

Edited to add:
Josh says that they first got in when the door was open. He rushed out when he heard them shouting. There were two raccoons, one in the coop and one outside. The chickens were flapping around and pucking like mad. He hit one raccoon with a rake and, displaying his pastoral roots, vowed he would have shot them if he had a rifle. This is why we not have a rifle.

He explained that no animals mess with our chickens.


Then, at 3am, the chickens started up again. Josh went outside and found the raccoons had returned. This time they had removed a cinder block which is part of the foundation of the coop. It is a very heavy cinder block and was partially buried so this took persistance. Josh moved a large boulder to reinforce this area and has been out there checking on it this morning.

In another development, this morning I removed all the eggs from the henhouse by mistake. you are supposed to leave ONE egg so the chickens continue to lay in their nesting box. Apparently they count in a binary manner - Egg 0 or Egg Some. If you take all the eggs the chooks will relocate the nest to a safer spot. The chickens were very agitated when they went to lay and found the eggs gone! We replaced a few eggs and they settled down.

The chickens' intelligence has grown in our estimation as well as their ability to communicate.