Biking Benefits

Today Benji and I got to do two fun things because we ride a bike for the commute to/from preschool. I’m going to throw in a third related vignette for good measure, but these stories are practically infinite.

1. On the way there, a large work van went by and we saw it had a picture of a forklift on the side. We speculated about whether that meant there were, in fact, forklifts inside the truck/van/thing (Benji was all for this theory).

A little way down the road, there was the van, pulled over on our side of the road. I asked Benji if he wanted to stop and ask if there were forklifts inside, and he really did. So we pulled over next to the truck, the driver rolled down his window, and I asked (Benji was too shy and incomprehensible).

The driver told us that no, there were no forklifts in the back (sad!), but wait! Turns out that he was a forklift repair man going to the siding company across the road to fix one of their forklifts. We looked over there and, gratifyingly, a forklift just in our view picked up a load of pipes* at that moment. We thanked the driver and rode away, highly pleased.

*Autosuggest offered “puppies” instead of “pipes,” a wonderful and rather hilarious mental image.

2. In a very similar vein, on our way home from school, we went by a couple of City of Bothell work vans and trucks parked just off the Sammamish River Trail by a bridge over the slough. They were parked near a large blue tent. We decided to investigate, and the City workers were pleased to tell us what they were doing.

Apparently, wherever a sewer pipe crosses a bridge, even a small one like the one over the slough, there’s a pump to hurry the slurry (so to speak). There’s also a backup generator, in case power goes out. Definitely don’t want that backing up!

Anyway, if I understood correctly, after 35 years, one of the pistons in the backup generator got a hole in it. They ordered a new piston (they’re readily available, apparently, even after three and a half decades) and had just finished replacing it when we came along. The worker showed up pictures of the piston with the hole and the replacement piston.

Benji was very interested. He definitely understood the idea of helpers fixing the broken thing, even if he didn’t understand exactly what the thing was or why it was broken.

3. Finally, last week we were riding home on the road rather than the trail, when a fire engine from Bothell Fire Station 42 went by. Naturally, we waved. But even better for us, the fire station was actually in our route home, and we arrived there in time to see the truck backing into its spot in the garage.

Even more happily, one of the firefighters offered to give us a tour of the trucks, an offer we promptly accepted. We learned that the ladder truck’s ladder can go 100′ up (!) and that they use it for different uses than a tiller truck. The ladder has a bucket on the end that makes it useful for lifting equipment and people quickly, or for rescuing people from very high places. But, the firefighter said, they had to be careful not to bonk into things with the ladder when they turn the 51-foot-long truck, since the ladder extends a long way beyond the rear wheels.

We also learned that the truck had once gone out and rescued a cat from a tree, although they used a shorter ladder for that (they put the cat in a sack to carry out down).

Again, we left highly gratified and with lots of scope for play and stories.

We certainly couldn’t have had any of those exchanges in a car, zooming by too fast to stop. Biking allowed us to enjoy the journey a bit more, rather than just rushing from Point A to Point B. The fact is, although I like technology and efficiency as much as the next person, I have increasingly come to value slow time, one-on-one relationship time that only happens at a rate of one minute per minute. Benji and I have many interesting and, for him, educational conversations on our bike rides that otherwise wouldn’t happen. We certainly do use the car for getting places quickly, but I value and enjoy our biking time especially.

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Rain Garden, 2015

Well, poo. I just wrote a long, elaborate post about the rain garden and it got deleted by accident. That stinks.

As I was saying… Our rain garden is now in its fourth summer, a season it doesn’t like much. Summer is hot, dry, and sunny, all things not much beloved of native Washington plants. Many of the ferns suffer quite a bit, barely surviving. They need more cool shade, being understory plants.

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Ferns suffering from too much sunny, dry weather.

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Huckleberry barely hanging on.

The below is the last little leafy twig on a much larger, mostly dead plant that got cooked last summer, and is also prey to predation by bunnies.
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However, some things have worked out well enough. I planted huckleberries without much expectation of success – they die in captivity often – but one of the two I planted is doing decently well.

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Huckleberries sheltering beneath day lilies.

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Sapling sprouting.

I don’t fight all incursions by all weeds; I evaluate and decide whether to let it stay or not. This has really worked out in the grasses department, where all those grasses, sedges, and reeds I put in coexist with wild ones. Aso doing well are the dogwood I planted and a tall, woody, purple-flowering thing that I planted and now don’t know what it is. Anyone who has identification ideas, let me know. Those have both leafed out and provide lovely shade.

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Looking out from inside the rain garden towards the house.

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Rain garden shade, from inside the garden.

Oh, and in the category of plants doing great in this weather, but that aren’t in the rain garden: the honeysuckle. It’s grown from zero to nicely climbing this season, and even has some new flowers. Also, the avocado tree, which has grown at an alarming rate since I put out on the front porch. I have to keep it short enough to bring inside in the winter, potentially a very real challenge given that it’s grown something like 18″ so far this season.

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So pretty!

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Five foot tall avocado tree, grown from a pit I planted when Benji was a newborn.

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Something is eating my avocado tree, but what is it? How do I stop it?

A Little Trespassing

Today mom, Benji, and I toddled 3/4 of a mile to our nearest construction site, where they’re building a new braided on-ramp system at the freeway by our house. This has remained a steady source of truck-related entertainment for a long time, but they are finally moving away from the secondary road and out of easy sight. This means we have to take increasingly drastic actions to see the trucks… Including, in this case, going into the third floor of an empty building and looking out those windows.

I should explain that this building was built almost 10 years ago and had remained 2/3 empty this entire time. I can be specific with my estimate because one of three floors is occupied – by a travel agency, which is unaccountable; how are they in business at all?! – but the remaining two floors are completely empty. You can see in from outside and it’s quite clear there’s nothing going on in there.

We went up to the vacant third floor and looked out. Benji loved the freeway view; mom and I had a few guilty conscience startles, but mostly marveled at the ease of entry. Just go in the front door, push the 3 button, and there you go. Doors are all unlocked. Bizarre.

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An Idea

I have an idea, and I’d like to hear what y’all think about it, and if you’d participate.

Here’s the background: I love bikes. You all know that. But when I’m in a social group, I tend to not talk much about biking, or keep it to a very brief mention, because I know that 99% of people don’t like geeking out on bikes nearly as much as I do. Out of respect for social mores against being boring and dominating the conversation, I don’t talk about biking much. I suspect that most people have a hobby, interest, or passion that they don’t bring up much in social settings, for similar reasons.

My idea is this: To provide a venue for friends to get together and learn about one another’s hobbies, and to allow us all to totally geek out on our passions, in a socially acceptable way. The format might go like this: A group of friends get together and one person gets to talk for a set time, about any topic about which they’re really excited, passionate, or expert. It doesn’t have to have universal appeal or applicability. They just have to be excited enough about it to share their thoughts. The whole group listens and asks questions, if there are any, and then it’s another person’s turn.

It would basically be like mini-TED talks, but in just groups of friends, and the talks would not be rehearsed or anything. Just a sanctioned way of talking more about something you might not normally talk about, out of consideration for everyone else’s interest. I’d love to hear what lights up my friends.

I know that public speaking freaks people out, so the point would be to not have it be some big deal, but just chat to in a friendly group about what you’re excited about.

What I Want to Know

… Why does Benji play by himself the best when he’s pooping?

… Why are some foods delicious one day and unspeakable the next?

Benji now says “One more very last (item; i.e., story)” and if you say yes, he immediately says, “Two more.” Then if you say yes to that, he says, “Six more.” Why must we negotiate every single thing? -I think I actually know the answer to that: Because he’s two, almost three, and that’s what kids that age do.

… Do I really say “definitely” that much? Because Benji now says “this definitely police car,” or “this definitely strawberry” for things that are self-evident. It’s pretty funny.

What’s Next?

Benji has been going to a pre-preschool, Stepping Stones, at Kindering since January, receiving early intervention in motor and speech. This is mostly paid for by the state (our taxes at work!) as part of what’s called “early intervention.” The goal is to help kids be ready to succeed when they reach kindergarten by fixing issues while they’re very young. Benji has made huge leaps, especially in language use especially, but somewhat also in physical skills.

This has worked really well for us, but the kids age out of early intervention at age 3, a milestone rapidly approaching for us. The therapists have evaluated Benji and confirmed that he’s within the normal range for motor and speech now — which is great! What a huge improvement! The only area Benji qualifies is in articulation, meaning how well he enunciates what he says. Right now he talks a lot, using relatively complex ideas, but most people can’t understand much of what he’s saying – that is, even less than you’d expect for a kid his age. Little kids do tend to be pretty incomprehensible.

Anyway, this dramatic improvement means that Benji will not qualify for the school district’s preschool program, which would be the next step if he still needed help. Now we’re pondering what to do next.

Option 1: The Kindering teacher invited us to stay at Stepping Stones after Benji turns 3, and Benji already knows and loves those teachers. But I’ve noticed that kids who turn 3 soon outgrow the class activities: The class is geared for 2-year-olds, and much beyond that age, the kids seem to get bored. After age 3, the kids are just ready to move on anyway. So even if we did stay, it would be for maybe 6 months, maximum, and probably much less.

Option 2: Even if we don’t qualify for school district services, we have the potential to send Benji to the school district preschool as a “peer model,” basically a normal kid who shows the early intervention kids age-appropriate normal activities. Tomorrow we have a meeting with the school district to see what our options are, regarding preschool and any other intervention services for Benji. We’ll find out then about the availability of peer model spots in their preschool. Also, this is much cheaper than private preschool.

Option 3: Finally, we do have Benji signed up for a regular preschool starting in September — we set that up before we got involved with Stepping Stones. We’d have to cancel that soon if we decide to not to go there. The caveat of that school is that it’s run by a lady out of her home, and she’s retiring after next year. Only this one year is guaranteed, and it’s likely we would have to find a new preschool for Benji in fall of 2016. Plus, while this isn’t the most expensive preschool by any stretch, it’s going to have a significant (though manageable) impact on our finances.

Until tomorrow’s meeting, we won’t really be able to make any decisions. But right now, I’m feeling that Benji would benefit from going to the school district preschool, with all the specialist teachers, even if he doesn’t receive services specifically. Benji’s speech therapist agrees with this idea. We’ll see.

Never get comfortable. Just when you think you know what’s going on, that you’ve got a routine, it’s time to change again.

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Things

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It should take about 2 seconds fit the laundry to dry today; it’s in the mid-80s in the shade, but our porch is easily 10 to 20 degrees hotter, thanks to the sun reflecting off the house and deck. Add in a nice breeze and you get perfect laundry-drying conditions. The only downside is having to get baked myself, standing out to hang things up.

The rest of the yard is pretty sunny, except for the shady corner I’m sitting in, thanks to a tall and leafy poplar tree in the neighbor’s yard.

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In other summer-type news, I got our first CSA pickup in Friday. We now have more lettuce than we can possibly eat in a week.

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This is what the CSA looks like. The white board tells what we’re getting, and how many of each; the veggies themselves live in the blue bins, for freshness, I assume. I select which specific veggies I want from the bins.

Also in summery news, Benji has started finding red, ripe strawberries in our berry patch.

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He’s actually quite good at only picking all-red berries, and checking with us before picking (usually). I’m kind of expecting some kind of fecal repercussions from this increased berry consumption, but so far, so good.

Finally, I don’t have a picture, but I think I saw a bird nesting in one of our hanging baskets. I hope so, because Benji would love that. I doubt it’ll stick, though, because we water the pallets every night.

Dulcius Ex Asperis