Last Day of Preschool, 2016

Yesterday/today were Benji’s last days at Bucky Beaver Preschool. I hedge a bit because Thursday was his official last day, and he ate his “end of the school year Popsicle” on Thursday. But all the T/Th kids were invited to come for an hour on Friday to watch a magician perform. We went to that, which makes today kind of the last day, too. So, Thursday first.

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In case it wasn’t clear, this was the silly picture of the Tuesday/Thursday class, comprising mostly the younger kids. Mommies got to come early and eat a special Popsicle; when that was done, most of the kids played, but Benji gave me a comprehensive tour of the school, including his favorite outside toy, the climbing area:
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Alas, the interior was pretty much a bare, neutral room since Molly had to sell the house and get rid of all the preschool decorations and equipment in the process. I feel that the biggest loss was the really amazing kid-sized lofts built to give four little discrete areas for a store, a house, a coloring area, and something else I’ve forgotten. The lofts, very sturdy built-in furniture, were ripped out, as were all the toy/storage shelves that had previously lined the walls. Truly agonizing, even though Molly’s retirement is a happy event, to see 30+ years of accumulated preschool decorations and equipment disposed of. Guess Molly isn’t the sentimental type, or she’s found a way to keep mementos that don’t take up an entire downstairs.

But, on the bright side, filed under “get rid of all the preschool equipment,” is this: We inherited the train room carpet. They were going to take it to Goodwill, because nobody wanted it. Well, WE wanted it! Yesterday, our library looked like this:
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Today, after some heavy lifting and vacuuming on my part, it looks like this:
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Benji spent all afternoon doing train/car races, driving our cars on the roads, and humming/singing made-up theme music to himself when he wasn’t narrating his vehicular activity. It was a pretty tight fit, even in the library, but I’m glad it worked out. This carpet will be much appreciated here.

Where was Benji while I did all that lifting and vacuuming? Because let’s be honest; he would’ve been freaking out to see me demolish our previous, super-cool arachnidaceous track.

Funny thing… He was back at Bucky Beaver watching a magician. Yep, a magician for preschoolers. Lucky for me, they started late, so I got to watch the last 20 minutes or so of the show.
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This guy, Kirk Charles, was wonderful. He did tricks that were fun, but his routine was so perfectly age-appropriate for these kids, they followed right along and were amazed without it being far beyond their understanding. Benji literally peed his pants when he saw the first trick (and had to borrow a spare pair for the rest of the show! Oops), and kids were saying “WOW” and “How did he do that?!!” out loud. Almost the entire time I was there, they remained rapt, in their seats. Even the grownups were enthralled.

The tricks were good, too, so it wasn’t completely obvious to the adults how everything worked either. Yet at part of the show, he actually taught the kids how to do tricks with their hands — make their thumbs disappear, pull their thumb off and suck on it, make their thumbs longer, that kind of thing. Benji enjoyed it, and I’m seriously thinking of seeing about hiring this guy for Benji’s birthday party this year.

So we finished at Bucky Beaver and said goodbye to Molly on the porch one last time. My heart feels a little bit sad, I must admit — I wish Benji had two more preschool years with her, and I’m sorry her experience, wisdom, and approach to preschool are being lost. But I’m glad she’s getting to retire and be closer to her family, and that Heidi is moving on. Hopefully they do well.

We’re on to our next adventure, too: A totally open summer schedule, followed by a new school in September.

One, two, free, here we go!

Flying Wheels 2016, My Singlespeed Adventure

I love gears on my bike. I’d say I’m, if not gears’ biggest fan, close to it. This probably has to do with the fact that I like hills and I like my knees, and prefer to not have the former destroy the latter (as is not uncommon with singlespeed and fixed-gear riders). Plus I just shift a lot, I guess to keep my cadence pretty regular. I don’t use a heart rate monitor or power meter, so I shift in response to how my legs feel. Novel!

Anyway.

So today Dad and I did the Flying Wheels Summer Century, as we do most years. Last year, I squeaked in with a just over 20-mph pace (that’s a sub-5-hour century) — a big accomplishment for me! This year, the route completely changed, but Dad wanted to aim for that same goal again. I wasn’t sanguine about our odds, given our pace but figured we could give it a shot.

Dad and I rode down there and it was a beautiful morning, with mist in Sammamish Valley and Mt. Rainier lit by the rising sun.

Thanks to some pretty speedy people in the group who pulled us along quite briskly, we actually were doing great for the first 64 miles — at that point, I had a 20.5 mph average. Only 40 miles left! We can do it! …Except that at 64 miles, my rear derailleur broke. The first 15 miles or so I thought it was a broken shift cable, which would be a bummer but easily fixable. Maybe not fixable by the rest-stop mechanic, but definitely a quick fix by my bike shop.

So that first 15 or 20 miles I rode with a two-speed: The big and small chainrings. We were able to yoink my rear derailleur so the chain was kind of mid-cassette and I could maintain an decent pace. Except that the derailleur kept shifting down, so I went slower and slower until I stopped to yoink it back again. But that’s when it was clear our 20-mph goal was going out the window. Dad heroically stayed with me, while the remainder of our group rode on (this is the difference between friends and family on a bike ride).

At mile 85, there was a rest stop. That’s when the truly bad news came out: My cable was fine. The tiny titanium spring inside the derailleur that keeps it, well, springing… broke. This meant: (a) Time for a new derailleur ($300); and (b) We were going to have to do something drastic to keep my riding for the next 30 miles. This is what we did:

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In case it’s hard to see, let me describe it: The mechanic, one heroic guy named Mike from Pacific Bike & Ski, shortened my (brand-new $50) chain into a single-speed chain. Now I couldn’t shift in the front or the back, but my chain wasn’t going anywhere. I could finish the ride… on my singlespeed. I had him put it in the big chainring, a 50; and it ended up in a middle cog, maybe a 15-tooth cog.

I’ll summarize the rest of the ride by saying that the first section I went pretty slow because I was getting used to having no gears. Also, at first, the chain kept jumping around all up and down the cassette, until it finally settled into whatever cog it fit. Then it stayed in place the rest of the ride. The remainder of the ride involved some hills, and boy did I wish I had some gears. But on the bright side, I rode up most of the hills really fast, since it was either do that or tip over. Which tells me that maybe I should work harder on some of the hills, huh?

Dad and I split up at the very end, when he needed to stop and I needed to just keep going (starting again from a stop was tough with just the one gear). I found some people to wheelsuck the last 10 miles and we were doing great… until a cop pulled us over 1/4 of a mile from the end for running the stop signs on the road through Marymoor. Which we totally were doing. Us, and all 4,000 other bicyclists on the ride. But thank goodness he just gave us a talking-to and let us go without ticketing us. So we finished, conscientiously stopping at the one stop sign between us and the end. Bah!

Overall, I’m proud of the 19.5-mph average we eked out, especially given that it was just me and Dad that last 40 miles.

Then Dad and I rode home into a headwind uphill and the last little bump up by the freeway overpass felt just like the last mile up Haleakala: Headwind, and me standing with no more gears and legs totally burned up.

A 125-mile day. Good times. Thanks to Ian for making it all possible (including the pending derailleur replacement).

Big, and Bigger

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In our neighborhood, the biggest “pickup” truck I’ve ever seen, an F-650, with our almost-seven-foot-long bike for scale. After stopping for this picture, Benji wanted to stop and take a picture with every other truck in the neighborhood. But seriously, that is one BIG truck.

Attitude

At the end of our cul-de-sac, there is a large tract of property with an adult family home on it. I’d estimate it’s a few acres of mostly grass. Well – at least, it was, until earlier this month, when a crew of construction vehicles rolled in and started work on some new houses.

This work first entailed ripping out a large screen of trees that had been planted on the edge of the property, a noisy and depressing process. The work continues to progress from there, with a great deal of extremely loud rumbling, beeping, crashing, smashing, and general noise and mess you expect from construction sites. Oh, and of course I have to mention the rumbling of trucks up and down our formerly quiet street. It’s like garbage day every day, all day, and especially intrusive and onerous when the weather is nice and we open our windows.

When this all started, I immediately began feeling resentful and angry. It’s going to go on all summer, making having windows open miserable, and even after summer who knows how long it’ll go on; when the trucks are done, we’ll just switch to hammering and banging of the actual home building. And then we’ll have people moving in, and lots more traffic in and out our (as previously stated) formerly quiet dead end street. Oh, and the folks in our HOA voted not to include this development in our HOA, so they don’t have to adhere to our CC & Rs.

Grrrr! Put on my curmudgeon hat, with a NIMBY scarf.

But some of my friends have been helping me see the bright sides:

– Entertainment for a truck-obsessed preschooler within easy walking distance.
– New neighbors means we could meet new friends!
– Better construction here in the ‘burbs than clearing some forest land out in the foothills.

I’m trying to keep these upsides in mind wherever the huge trucks are especially loud. And when I start feeling angry or resentful, I pray. I pray for the construction workers, who do have a very dangerous job; and I pray for our future neighbors, who we don’t know yet but hopefully we’ll get to be friends one day. This helps somewhat.

But, honestly, it’s just going to take time to resign myself to these changes. Development is happening everywhere around here, on any property even remotely suitable. I guess it was only a matter of time.

“If you can’t change something, change the way you think about it.” I’m trying.

Imaginary Airplane Indicator Lights

A while ago Benji got really into warning and indicator lights in the car, and then we started noticing warnings everywhere. Today he asked about airplane warning lights, and we started brainstorming possible lights. I drew little icons, Benji colored them, I cut them out, and there you go: the Airplane Warning Light Game was born. The airplane flies and then an indicator comes on – oh no!

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My favorite: "Running into a pillow indicator"

Couch Gymnastics, and more

Benji has started doing some kind of isometric exercises using the couch and coffee table.
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The new kids’ pastor at church is pretty enthusiastic.
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Last but not least, Benji and I have biked to school the majority of the days so far this year, but I’ll be honest — we rarely look as cool as we did on Tuesday:
Ready to ride to preschool!

In unrelated news, my avocado tree is threatening to grow too tall for our south-facing bay window; and, if last summer’s growth spurt was any guide, too tall for our ceilings, too.
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Dulcius Ex Asperis