Dispatches from Day 1

I’m writing this from the bus on my first commute to my new job. It’s hard to credit, but apparently I am, indeed, going to be commuting to the Columbia Center every day because I’m going to be working every day, in a real office to boot – something I haven’t done since my AmeriCorps internship in 2010.

The whole thing feels a little surreal right now. I’m guessing that by the time I’ve had to get up at 5:30 for the third or fourth time in a row, it will start to sink in that yes, I’ve committed to this thing, and it’s going to be part of our life now.

This weekend we went to a wedding. They had all this lovely stuff about their beautiful forever future together, and how this was a huge commitment that required both their whole hearts, and they would have to strive to communicate and listen to one another, etc., and I can’t help but see parallels with my own situation. This kind of does feel like getting married, in a way, only likely not quite so permanent. 

Ian and I are not job hoppers, always finding new jobs every few years, so we don’t have experience with this kind of transition. We have planned and strategized to the best of our abilities, and are trusting God to lead us through the rest.

The funny thing is that I haven’t actually worried at all about the job itself. We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out about Benji; a similar amount of time hashing out logistics for if adults; and a decent amount of time evaluating commuting options. I’m still not sure about commuting, to be honest, but I have several different options to try and time will tell which works best. Anyway, I know I’ll probably bus in most days and then getting home will be the puzzle.

But the job itself? I know I’ll do my best, and I figure I can learn whatever I need to; there’s not much point worrying about the rest. So I say now. The people I met at my interview seemed nice, and I trust I can get along with most folks.

I just realized that, for possibly the first time, I did this the right way: took action on what I could control and didn’t worry once I’d finished, and I didn’t worry about what I can’t control (the job duties and my ability to complete them competently). And you know, that feels pretty good.

Here goes nothing!

Lumpy the Dragon and the Whales

Remember how Lumpy and the boy rescued a princess, and as a result the boy married the Princess and became a Prince? This arrangement suited the Prince admirably — he loved his wife the Princess, and he never had a dull moment as he learned everything needed to help rule the country after the old King and Queen retired. (In this country, Kings and Queens worked together as a team to rule well, and when they got old and tired, they handed the crown off in a happy coronation ceremony. They they hung around and gave unwanted advice to the new King and Queen until they died.)

At first, this life suited Lumpy quite well, too. He had his own special building on the palace grounds, which were extensive and stretched all the way to a lovely beach; servants brought him whatever food he wanted, and in this part of the world, that included amazing fruits like coconuts and mangoes and pineapples, as well as fish and nuts of varieties even Lumpy had never encountered before.

Then, too, Lumpy greatly enjoyed the wide, white, sandy beaches and the warm, gently-lapping waves of the ocean. Every day when it started getting uncomfortably hot in his house, Lumpy would mosey on down to the Royal Family’s private beach, which abutted the palace’s gardens, and lounge in the sparkling blue water while small fish nibbled at his scales. When they had time, the Prince and Princess joined Lumpy in the water, swimming and diving, finding fish of astonishing varieties of shapes and colors.

These halcyon hours passed all too swiftly, in Lumpy’s estimation, as the Prince became increasingly absent from Lumpy’s daily routine. The boy who had once spent hours mastering woodcraft under Lumpy’s expert tutelage now had much bigger fish to fry: Alongside the Princess, he would co-rule the country one day. He had a tremendous amount to learn about politics, laws, taxes, and all sorts of dull ruler-type activities. Plus, as the future King, he would be in charge of the army, so he also had to master weapons and how to run an army and how to win a war.

In short, the boy–the Prince, I should say–had quite a lot on his plate after marrying the Princess. As time went by, he visited Lumpy less and less, until a week went by without a single visit. Then a month, and then two months.

As noted, Lumpy wasn’t stupid. It didn’t take him long to smell which way the wind was blowing. The next time the boy visited, they talked as they walked down to the beach together.

The Prince said, “I’m sorry I haven’t been to see you lately. There is so much to learn as a prince!”

Lumpy rumbled the dragon equivalent of “mmm-hmmm.”

The Prince continued: “I didn’t realize what I was signing up for when I married the princess. She’s worth it, but boy, it’s a lot of work.”

“Mmmm-hmmm.”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to visit you much for a while, until I get on top of everything. I’m really sorry.” And the Prince really was sorry. He loved Lumpy, and didn’t want to hurt his friend’s feelings. But the Prince wasn’t old enough yet to value Lumpy’s centuries of wisdom, so instead of seeking the dragon’s advice, he simply apologized. It was a good start, and Lumpy understood that, too.

“You certainly have a great deal to learn,” Lumpy acknowledged. The Prince opened his mouth to say something, but Lumpy forestalled him. “I do not want to distract you from your learning, so I am going on an adventure by myself. I will come back in a while, after you have completed your training.”

The Prince stopped in his tracks. His jaw and heart dropped. “You’re — leaving?” He had never imagined life without his best and oldest friend.

“Not forever,” Lump assured him calmly, “Just so you can focus on learning to become a prince. I will return. Don’t worry.”

They resumed walking down to the water, the Prince silent and pensive.

Lumpy left the next day.

The Princess gave him a big hug and a kiss on his scaly nose; the Prince, surreptitiously wiping his eyes, hugged his old friend tightly. Then he stepped back and, summoning his Princely training, said, “I wish you a safe journey. Return to us soon.” He only ruined it a little by sniffling a bit at the end.

To the Prince and Princess’s surprise, instead of leaping into the air, Lumpy headed for the water. He waded in, slowly vanishing beneath the white wave tips with one last flick of his tail.

Although the Prince had never thought of it, Lumpy found the water fascinating. In his forests, he had certainly encountered plenty of rivers and even lakes large enough to swim in. However, the oceans called to him. Perhaps dragons originally came from some kind of eel, or perhaps Lumpy just liked water; but either way, he found he loved swimming almost as much as flying.

Swimming with the Prince and Princess, Lumpy had heard some strange sounds underwater, sounds unlike anything he’d heard before in all his many years of living. It was a carrying sound that he could tell traveled through water better than air, and it seemed to emanate from animals far off the coast. Many different animals of the same type made the noise, apparently for communicating with one another.

For his adventure, Lumpy had determined to find the creatures making this sound and learn about them.

The first part of this adventure took almost no time at all. He found the pod of whales (it was whale song he heard) near the continental shelf as they browsed on the abundance of sea creatures that populated the area. The whales were huge and a dark-gray color, with the adults fully as large as Lumpy; they swam along with their mouths open, using what looked to Lumpy like some kind of strange teeth (people call it baleen) to strain something tiny and swimmy from the water. Smaller juvenile whales swam around the adults, some with their mouths open, others not.

“Hello!” Lumpy called through the water, emitting little more than a huge stream of bubbles.

As soon as the whales noticed him, the biggest adults circled up the babies and faced out, looking aggressively at Lumpy. Lots of the noises emitted all around, nearly deafening Lumpy. “Ouch!” he bellowed, and popped his head out of the water. Immediately the sounds ceased.

Lumpy put his head back under the water and tried making some of the sounds back at the whales, keeping his mouth closed and making the noise deep in his throat. The whales’ postures seemed to relax and they almost seemed to find his attempts humorous somehow.

I won’t go into all the details of how Lumpy learned the whales’ language; he did, and that’s what’s important. It took a long time, but once they learned he intended no harm, the whales accepted Lumpy into their pod as a very strange whale.

During his time with the whales, in addition to learning their language, Lumpy learned all about their habits and culture. A matriarchal society, females of all generations helped raise the young, who were exceptionally precious to the entire pod. The entire focus of the pod centered around rearing young and passing generational wisdom on to them. The males were smaller than females and generally traveled farther afield, visiting their offspring and mate occasionally with news of the wide world.

Lumpy learned that, over the course of the year, the gray whales migrated very long distances. In the summer, when it was warm up north, the whales swam up to far northern waters, where their favorite food, little shrimpy-like things called krill, grew in great abundance. In the winter, when the water started getting too cold for them, the whales swam back south to the tropical waters where Lumpy had met them. This cycle took a whole year, as the whales swam steadily along.

As part of getting to know the whales, Lumpy migrated with the pod all the way to their far northern feeding grounds, where he saw nights when the sun never set. He saw tremendously huge mountains covered with snow even in the warmest summer days. He saw astonishing animals of all varieties that he had never imagined before. He ate delicious salmon and enjoyed exploring territory far from where he had ever flown before. Occasionally he would leave the whales and fly around, exploring, and on some of these excursions he saw smoke from fires far away, so he knew people lived there. But he kept a good distance, never letting them see him.

One day, the matriarch whale called the entire pod together. “It is time to head south,” she told the pod, and all the other whales agreed. They had all felt the water cooling and seen the days growing shorter. Seals and other sea mammals had started changing their coats, and Lumpy reported seeing frost on some mornings. It was time to head back south before the seas became too stormy and the water too cold.

They swam for many days together enjoying the warming water and renewed abundance of food. Lumpy started thinking about returning to see how the Prince progressed with his studies.

Then, one day, something changed. When the whales surfaced, the seas rolled angrily. Whitecaps formed and the wind blew harder than it had in many months. A sense of pressure oppressed the entire pod, including Lumpy. “What is it?” Lumpy asked.

“It’s going to be a big storm,” the matriarch explained.

“Is it dangerous?” Lumpy asked, rather anxiously. He had flown through huge storms before (not by choice) and didn’t relish the prospect of enduring another one.

“Not for us,” the matriarch answered; “We take extra-big breaths and dive deep, only coming up occasionally. Under the water it’s quite safe. But this is another reason we migrate: We, too, prefer to avoid these big storms. There is some risk, especially for the young, when coming to the surface in these conditions.”

This somewhat reassured Lumpy. He could hold his breath as long as any of the whales, for many minutes at a time. The young whales had to surface more frequently, and he noticed that the females drew closer together, at times rising up beneath the young whales and supporting them from below as they fought to surface for a breath. None of the whales ever seemed in danger, however, because they all looked out for each other so carefully.

Soon the wind howled and whipped wildly, throwing spray everywhere and lashing the waves into a frenzy. The sky was black and the sea was black with whitecaps foaming at the peaks of mountainous waves that crashed down into enormous troughs. When the whales surfaced, they didn’t dally; they took their deep breath and dove again. Lumpy followed suit with a renewed appreciation for the protection of the deep water after the fury of the storm above.

“Mother,” he asked as they dove (this was the polite term for the matriarch of the pod), “is this storm normal? I have lived many years and never seen such a thing.”

“Nor have I, and I have completed more than 80 migrations. Look to the young. We must watch them carefully, for there is more danger here than I anticipated.” They drew near the younger whales and swam on.

Next time they surfaced, Lumpy glanced around quickly. Unlike the whales, who didn’t lift their eyes out of the water, Lumpy had to take his entire head out of the water to get a good breath. This time, in the midst of the storm’s blackness, Lumpy thought he caught a flash of light. It was just a glimpse, a bright burst that slid behind the next enormous wave.

“Did you see that?” Lumpy asked, ducking beneath the water again.

“Do not tarry,” the matriarch scolded, “We dive now.”

“I think I saw something,” Lumpy insisted. “It might have been a boat.”

“We do not concern ourselves with boats,” the matriarch replied. “They use sharp harpoons to kill us if we approach. We have learned through great pain to stay far from the boats and their cruel human crew.”

Still, despite the matriarch’s injunction, the next time they surfaced, Lumpy rose up higher from the water, fighting the wind and waves to look around again. He immediately spotted the boat, not even that far from the pod.

It was a small sailboat, perhaps some kind of fishing boat caught in the fury of the storm. It raced down once side of the waves and up the next wall of water, cresting the wave to crash down the next side. Clearly the little ketch couldn’t last much longer; the masts were gone, as was pretty much anything that might have once been on the deck. The wheel spun wildly. Now only some jagged railing and stumps of the mast remained. Just as the small craft disappeared from sight, Lumpy caught a glimpse of a person struggling along the deck towards an unmanned tiller.

“There is a boat!” Lumpy called to the whales. “At least one person is aboard. We must help!”

“Certainly not! We dive now!” the matriarch snapped, sounding alarmingly authoritative for a moment. She rarely laid down the law, but when she did, no wise whale disobeyed.

But Lumpy was not a whale, and his closest companion for the last couple decades had been a person. “I cannot allow the sailors to die!” he called back. “You go; I will assist the sailors.”

“Foolishness!” came the echoing call as the whales disappeared into the deep.

Lumpy turned away from them back to the seething, frothing chaos of the storm. He took a bearing on the small craft, still miraculously afloat. It was difficult seeing through the spray and water flying everywhere, but Lumpy’s keen senses served him well again. Even over the howling of the waves, he could make out the faint cries of at least two sailors, and he followed the sound toward them, swimming and surfacing periodically to orient himself.

In a few minutes, Lumpy had reached the boat. But in those few minutes, waves had finally finished their brutal work, smashing the ship to splinters just as Lumpy arrived. Two people were thrown into the sea, clinging desperately to wooden debris as the ship shattered in all directions. In a flash, Lumpy lunged forward and, just as they began to sink, snatched the sailors from the watery depths. The sailors, seeing a sea serpent charging toward them through the spray, promptly fainted from terror.

Fighting the wind and waves became much harder now. Lumpy had to keep his entire upper body above the water so that his unconscious passengers could keep breathing. He tried rolling onto his back, but found this battered his passengers too much as he couldn’t see what was coming next.

There was nothing for it but to try to fly out. Flying from a watery start is difficult even under ideal conditions, which perfectly described the northern summer weather in which Lumpy had practiced originally. Now, carrying two people, with the elements fighting him every inch, his even spreading his wings against the gale proved nearly impossible.

Valiantly, Lumpy strove to hurl himself from the waves, using momentum from the crest to throw himself into the air, spreading his wings wide — Only to be smashed back into the rock-hard water, shattering his right wing with the impact. The pain was beyond anything Lumpy could have imagined. It blazed. He thought wing had been sheared off or had caught fire. Yet still Lumpy fought to keep his poor unconscious people above the water, riding the waves, striving now only to stay above the water.

With his wing dragging behind, a dead weight acting as a sea anchor, it didn’t take long for Lumpy’s strength to wane. He could no longer keep the sailors above water all the time, and he himself began fully submerging for long moments before he could struggle back to the surface.

Just as he finally gave up and began to sink for good; just as he was about to release the unconscious people with a hope that they might survive; just as the storm defeated him, Lumpy felt something smooth and solid pushing him toward the surface. Lumpy gasped and choked, rolling onto his back and gently curling the people onto his chest, looking for all the world like a very strange giant otter with its treasure.

“Foolish dragon,” the matriarch whale called to him as she and the rest of the pod firmly and strongly lifted him and the two sailors to the surface.

“My thanks,” Lumpy rumbled, “You have surely saved our lives. And saving the life of a dragon is no small thing.”

“We save the life of our pod-mate,” the matriarch replied. “We care for our own, however foolish they may be, that they might learn greater wisdom in the future.”

The whales held Lumpy and the sailors at the surface while they all rode out the remainder of the storm. It didn’t last much longer. As the weather moderated, the whales guided Lumpy to a small fishing village on the shore. He crept ashore, wing painfully dragging behind, and deposited the men near a battened-down cottage. The two sailors, still unconscious, coughed, but both breathed well.

When the men woke up, the people of the village didn’t credit their story that a sea serpent had rescued them when their ship broke up. From that day on, those men gave up the sea and became farmers well inland. And when they told their kids and grandkids about their wild rescue at sea, nobody believed them then, either.

Meanwhile, Lumpy dragged his injured self back to the sea. The whales had experience treating broken fins, and helped and advised Lumpy at the treatment of his wing. Fortunately, dragons heal quickly and typically recover fully from their injuries (which is part of what makes them so irritating for knights); in this, Lumpy proved no exception. He healed well under the care of the whales, and soon resumed flying again, although it took some time to rebuild the strength and dexterity lost during his convalescence.

With his injured wing, Lumpy remained with the whales for several more migrations. In fact, he lost track of time and stayed away for longer than he realized. He did return to the Prince and Princess in time, but that’s a story for another day. And that is how Lumpy the dragon met the whales and saved the sailors.

Trainbow

Benji & Trainbow
Benji arranged his many train engines in color order. We are really into rainbows and rainbow order right now.

Benji's Own Track
In related news, Benji built this entire track himself, except for the one segment that goes under the bridge. But all the rest was his, including all the problem-solving to get parts hook up right. He’s growing up, building his own complicated tracks all by himself!

Treasures

At school they are doing “woodshop” with the preschoolers. I remember when we looked at this school, seeing pictures of the kids doing woodshop, and I vividly recall thinking, “Gee, is that a good idea? Letting 4-year-old kids use hammers and drills?” Well, here we are, and although he didn’t use a drill, Benji did use a hammer and a LOT of glue.

The fun thing was that Papa Gary volunteered to help with the activity, so he and Benji got to have fun with that. I expect a lot more wooden “treasures” from here on out.

Woodshop Creation

Woodshop Creation 3

Woodshop Creation 2

Woodshop Creation 1

I honestly feel like these could practically be some kind of modern art. It’s got that aspect of randomness that makes you think there should be order there, if you just look carefully enough. Ian guessed that it was a kitchen, which seems like a good guess, but honestly Benji just seems to have had a blast with glue, golf tees, and colored wooden blocks.

At the moment, we’re pretending the wooden “treasures” plus some wood and tile scraps from the garage are a Micro Machines obstacle race course.

Micromachines Obstacle Course

In unrelated news, it’s been clear and cold for a long time. The sunrises are beautiful, and Benji’s getting to learn about ice. This is also the first time, to my knowledge, that he’s ever willingly worn anything on his hands. He still has to figure out where to put his thumb, but it’s progress.
Sunrise Jan 13, 2017 - 7:40 am

Exploring Ice Footprint

I Love Winter Mountains

Here are my 1,000 words for the day.
Norway Chill

A few more words of explanation: I went for a ride today while it was “warm” (above freezing, barely) and light. There aren’t many hours like that this time of year around here.


I’m still slow. It’s life. I consider it a win just getting out at all these days. Too bad Strava doesn’t list “got outside” as an achievement.

I finished the ride by going up my favorite local climb, Norway Hill, and the afternoon light on the mountains was just beautiful. I stopped and took some pictures, but my brand-new, super nice Google Pixel phone with allegedly stupendous camera couldn’t really capture the vividness and beauty of the scene. The mountains looked brilliantly crisp and clear, bright and clean against the cold blue of the sky. The dark green of the trees in the foreground and the cloud ceiling moving in overhead framed the mountains as if to accentuate their gorgeousness.

I love the winter mountains here, with their glittering snowpack and the sharp blue lines, the shadows and the slanting golden light, the cleanness of the air that makes everything look close and clear. Summer in Western Washington brings its own delights, but I feel that winter rewards us for going outside by offering the most breathtaking vistas just around the next corner or over the next rise.

How Lumpy Saved the Princess

As you know from previous installments (Part 1, Part 2), Lumpy the dragon was a kindhearted soul, quite different your run-of-the-mill dragon. While most dragons hoarded treasure and stole princesses, Lumpy preferred gentler pastimes like watching bees collect nectar or playing with his friend the boy.

However, Lumpy remained like the other dragons in one important respect: Like the other dragons, Lumpy lived practically forever. By the time he met the boy originally, he was hundreds of years old, with every expectation of living for hundreds more years. So his entire time with the boy was an eye-blink to Lumpy, while to the boy it stretched on for most of his memory.

I mention this because this particular story takes place when the boy had mostly finished growing up. He and Lumpy had been friends for more than ten years, which by the boy’s estimation might as well have been forever. Lumpy didn’t worry about time since he had so much of it; besides, dragons didn’t have clocks, aside from golden ones in among the treasure. He just knew that, since meeting the boy, he’d spent much more time with another creature than in previous centuries.

They spent a good amount of time playing games in the forest when the boy wasn’t helping his family with their pigs. The boy particularly enjoyed hide-and-seek type games, where he would try to hide so Lumpy couldn’t find him, or sneak past Lumpy to some specific target. Any time the boy succeeded, or even partly succeeded, he celebrated! After all, Lumpy, like all dragons, had exceptionally keen senses. It was nearly impossible to hide from Lumpy, who could see, smell, and hear far better than the boy.

But, over time, the boy discovered that dragons do have weaknesses. They can’t smell things hidden underwater, for example, so the boy would hide in a pond with a reed to breathe. Pig smell masks pretty much any other smell, so the boy (who didn’t mind a mess) rolled in the pig pen and sneaked by Lumpy disguised as a pig. Eventually the boy also learned that dragons don’t see well in the dark, and after many hours of playing, the boy became able to sneak and hide even from Lumpy.

The boy also learned all sorts of other useful things from Lumpy — where to find food in the woods; how to build himself shelter; the behavior of animals at different seasons; and how to find his way so he never got lost. They spent hundreds of hours together, and Lumpy became the perfect blend of best friend and loving parent to the boy.

As a result, Lumpy experienced the novel sensation of caring for someone. It’s not that Lumpy was uncaring before, mind you; he had always tried to make his actions have a positive impact rather than a negative one, preferably for the greatest number of other creatures. But that’s is a big, general philosophy. After spending enough time with the boy, Lumpy found himself actively wanting the best for this specific other creature.

In short, Lumpy’s heart changed as he spent time with the boy. One day, when the other dragons kidnapped a Princess to eat for dessert at a feast, Lumpy, for the first time, decided to help the Princess. For all those years before, he had abstained from participating, going for walks in the forest far from the depredations of his kin, but never directly opposing them. Now, though, Lumpy found he couldn’t just sit by and watch his fellow dragons destroy a person for no good reason.

He knew that he could fly faster than any other dragon, even with a person riding him, but he needed help rescuing the Princess from the middle of the dragon town. He sought out the boy, who by now was a tall, strong young man able to move so silently and stealthily through the woods that even a dragon wouldn’t notice him pass.

“The other dragons have stolen a Princess,” Lumpy told the boy, “and they’re going to eat her tonight at our big midsummer feast.”

“Not if I can help it,” the boy answered. “We’ll sneak her away, don’t worry.” After some thought, he outlined his plan for rescuing the Princess. It was crazy, but better than Lumpy’s idea (“grab the girl and fly away really fast”). Dragons are excellent tactical thinkers, but they tend to fall down on strategy. Lumpy and the boy had come up with many plans over the years, and Lumpy had learned to trust the boy’s strategic planning skills.

The sun set very late in the day in summer in the forest, so they waited most of the day before starting the plan, which relied on darkness. When the bottom of the sun touched the tip of the trees, and shadows grew long, Lumpy and the boy went to work.

First, the boy rolled in the pig pen. When Lumpy confirmed that he smelled nothing but pig, the boy gathered up his family’s entire herd of pigs and herded them into the forest. The pigs, no mean tactical thinkers themselves, figured out that they could find all manner of tasty food in the woods, and went along willingly.

When they reached the edge of the dragons’ village, the boy hid carefully in the shadows at the edge of the village, feeding the pigs slops he had brought along to keep them quiet and close.

Meanwhile, Lumpy went back to the dragon village boldly. He started crashing around, shouting: “You are wrong to steal and eat people! It’s evil! And you should stop stealing treasure, too, that’s wrong. You didn’t make it or earn it!” He rampaged around, loudly smashing into things and causing general mayhem, acting as if he’d finally lost his temper after all those years of watching passively.

All the other dragons left their feast and went to subdue Lumpy. He got rather beaten and battered up in the process (the other dragons saw this as their opportunity to get in a few good blows to one they saw as a pathetic disgrace to dragonkind) but put up enough of a struggle for the boy to implement the second part of their plan.

Just as the dragons finally got Lumpy under control and half of the dragons started dragging him back towards his home, the boy released all the pigs, who ran squealing through the village. They smelled the delicious pile of food the dragons had collected for their feast, and went straight for it, not noticing (at first) the crowd of remaining dragons heading back to their feast.

The boy, covered in pig muck, ran along with them, slipping stealthily through shadows as the herd of pigs approached the food pile. In the middle of the pile lay the Princess, tied up and silently terrified. She wasn’t the fainting type, but even the bravest soul would find the prospect of becoming dragon dessert alarming.

The pigs fell upon the food with gusto, and the boy crawled and sneaked his way among them, staying low and getting stepped on with sharp trotters as well as becoming increasingly covered with food filth and pig filth. He ignored all this, worming his way along he ground quickly until he popped up right next to the startled Princess.

“Sssshhhhh,” he cautioned, one filthy finger to his lips. The Princess’s mouth and eyes grew round as saucers in surprise, but she obeyed, remaining still and quiet as the boy swiftly sliced her bonds.

At that very moment, the pigs noticed the dragons and did what any sane animal would do: They squealed loudly and went running in all directions… and with them, amidst the crowd of jostling, stinky pigs, sprinted the boy and the Princess, crouched down to stay below the pigs. The dragons all roared and began chasing pigs, which they loved to eat, but the pigs were quick and disappeared into the darkness of the woods before the dragons could catch them.

Lumpy, meanwhile, had crept into the woods from where the dragons has tossed him. They didn’t care to restrain him, or hurt him particularly; they just didn’t want him bothering them. Lumpy went to his favorite clearing and laid down, nursing his bruises and waiting for the escapees.

The boy and Princess dashed through the darkened woods. While the boy could have escaped easily at any time, thanks to his years of practice with Lumpy, the Princess in her (formerly) white gown was another matter. She stood out like a flamingo in a murder of crows; besides which, she crashed through every bush as loudly as you could imagine, and she almost immediately began flagging as they ran. She wasn’t accustomed to dashing around, having learned instead things useful for running a kingdom — politics, literature, languages, reading and writing, and of course the ladylike arts of instruments and art and sewing, etc. So she was quite skilled, but unfortunately a very slow runner who became winded quickly.

About the time the Princess started gasping–maybe five minutes after they entered the woods–the boy and Princess heard roars of anger saw the woods lit up with bright flashes of flame. The dragons had discovered the Princess’s escape, and it wouldn’t take long for the boy and Princess to be caught.

The boy hadn’t counted on this. He’d planned on dashing to Lumpy’s clearing in just a few minutes, but it became clear the dragons would catch them long before they reached safety.

“I can’t–run–anymore,” the Princess gasped, stopping at the bank of a creek and doubling over to rest her hands on her knees. “Go–without–me…”

“Ha!” the boy snorted, “Not after all the trouble we’ve gone to, rescuing you and all. Don’t worry, I’ll think of something.” He looked around quickly, getting his bearings. The dragons couldn’t see well in the dark woods; and they wouldn’t smell him, but they would certainly smell the Princess, and they could follow her scent anywhere… Except underwater.

“Quick!” the boy whispered. He slashed some reeds with his knife and handed one to the Princess. “There’s a pool just a little ways down. Get in the water and run to the pool. We’ll hide underwater. I’ll show you.”

They splashed through the creek until they came upon the pool, a place the boy had spent many hours catching fish and playing with Lumpy. He showed the Princess how to use the reed to breathe, and they both submerged. The boy put the Princess up against the muddy bank beneath a bit of an overhang, while he himself pressed against her, using his dark peasant’s clothes and the creek mud to hide the brightness of her white gown.

They slipped underwater not a moment too soon. Seconds later, dragons went by, splashing and roaring and flaming in anger. The dragons found Lumpy, innocently laying alone in his field, and they roared at him in anger, too. “You know something about this!” they yelled, but Lumpy just said, “About what?” and they stormed off on their fruitless search.

A long while later, shivering and cramping and half-suffocated from sipping air through a reed, the boy and Princess emerged from the pool. The boy came out a bit cleaner than he went in, the water having washed away the pig and food muck, while the Princess came out quite a bit messier. Her gown was indubitably ruined. But as the boy helped her from the pool, grasping her hand to keep her from slipping on some mossy rocks, his heart turned over in a way he’d never felt before. She looked beautiful to him right there, bruised, dripping wet and muddy, hair tangled in a mess — nothing like a fairy tale Princess. But, as a true Princess would, she remained poised and surprisingly calm throughout the entire escape, never once screaming or fainting or doing those useless things that girls usually do.

And when she reached out to hold the boy’s hand as they stepped from their watery hideout, the Princess’s heart did a little flip, too. He certainly wasn’t a fairy tale prince, he was young and strong and clever, and he had risked his life for her, a complete stranger. It was a good start.

Fortunately, neither one let the skipping, flipping heart-leaps distract them from the fact that a village of angry dragons still sought them. It was only a few more minutes’ quick walking (in deference to the Princess’s tired legs) to Lumpy’s special clearing. The sun had just started rising and the sky turned just grey with a tinge of gold as the boy and Princess stepped out of the trees. Lumpy lay, waiting patiently.

The Princess balked. “Wait, a dragon? Didn’t we just escape from dragons?”

“Don’t worry, he’s my friend,” the boy explained. “Lumpy, meet the Princess. Princess, Lumpy.”

“Oh… well… all right,” the Princess agreed. She wasn’t entirely sure of the wisdom of this plan, trusting a dragon and all, but she did trust the boy. So she went along as Lumpy extended a leg for them to climb onto his back.

“Hurry,” Lumpy said. “You had to hide in that pool a long time. We need to be gone before the sun rises much more, or they’ll easily see us on the horizon.” The boy helped settle the Princess and swung up in a practiced, easy motion. In a trice Lumpy had launched straight up, powerful legs and wings carrying them high into sky.

The Princess directed them to fly east; she came from a land far beyond the eastern mountain range in the distance. Lumpy flew swiftly toward the rising sun and none of the other dragons saw him. By the time they flew in search, Lumpy and his passengers had become just a tiny dot in the blazing ball of the midsummer morning sunrise.

After a long flight and other adventures not covered here, they reached the Princess’s home. By then she and the boy had truly fallen in love. It wasn’t long after the King and Queen had finished celebrating their daughter’s safe return that the entire kingdom celebrated the wedding of the Princess and the boy, who became a Prince.

As for Lumpy, he found he enjoyed the Princess’s country far better than his own. She lived in a tropical land, always warm, with fruit growing abundantly. They had vast sandy beaches and warm blue water with beautiful exotic fish and fabulous underwater gardens. The Princess and the Prince (as we must now call the boy) made a special home for Lumpy in the palace grounds, and he got to eat whatever delicious things he wanted from then on.

They lived happily for a number of years. But, as you know, nobody lives happily ever after. There are more stories of what happened with Lumpy and the Prince and Princess, and maybe I will tell them some time.

Mommying

I feel like there should be achievement badges for adult activities like parenting. For example, a couple weeks ago, Benji came crying to me and said he’d bonked himself; I looked and gave him a hug, but told him, “If it’s not bleeding, you’re probably OK.” It felt like a milestone in parenting.

The last week has reminded me of what being Mommy exclusively looks like. For example, take the last two days:

Wednesday

5:30 am – Wake up and go downstairs to start making oatmeal.
5:45 am – Benji wakes up and is starving. Give him some almonds and water to hold him for a while.
6:00 am – Benji officially “gets up” and wants to play.
6:00 am – 8:00 am – Help Benji make his own oatmeal; troubleshoot issues with oatmeal (not enough banana slices, need more oats, need more water); try to eat own breakfast before it gets cold; read Benji story while he eats; Ian takes over playing with Benji while I brush teeth and put on clothes; play games until school time.
8:35 am – Pack up nap bag; get Benji and self ready for going out in the 18-degree temps. Leave for school.
9:00 am – Drop off at school. Teacher reminds me that I volunteered to make play-dough for January.
9:05 am – Stop at potential daycare for discussion. Write check for first month. Feel conflicted. Get phone call from friend about date to go for a walk.
9:15 am – Put gas in car.
9:20 am – 9:45 am – Drive to friend’s house.
9:50 am – 1:30 pm – Go for walk at the Arboretum and out to lunch with friend. (Ellen Aagaard, who we try to see monthly and usually manage quarterly.)
1:30 pm – 2:15 pm – Drive to parents’ house. Pick up swimming suit for lessons starting this weekend.
2:15 pm – 2:45 pm – Walk with mom to grocery store. Purchase groceries (long line), walk back to car, drive home.
3:00 pm – Get home. Make play-dough for school.
4:00 pm – In-laws bring Benji home. He’s a in a good mood but tired from not napping.
4:00 pm – 4:15 pm – Try to plan logistics with in-laws but constant interruptions make it difficult.
4:15 pm – 5:45 pm – Play with Benji. Ian coming home late.
5:45 pm – Feed Benji dinner.
6:00 pm – Ian gets home tired.
6:00 pm – 6:30 pm – Play more.
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm – Ian puts Benji down for bed.
7:30 pm – Eat leftovers with Ian and discuss daycare.
9:00 pm – Go to bed. Sleep badly due to anxieties about daycare and new job situation.

Thursday

Another busy day; instead of going blow-by-blow, let’s do another metric. On Thursday, in addition to all the necessary stuff like getting everyone fed and dressed, dealing with kitchen cleanup and dishes, making lunches, dropping off/picking up from school, and putting down for nap, I:

  • Cleaned out the garage. Filled recycle bin and garbage can. Swept garage and tidied up remaining stuff. Figured out what will be given away.
  • Sorted through humongous pile of rags and retained only the ones good for bike cleaning. The extras filled up an enormous paper yard waste bag.
  • Sorted through all old bike parts and collected everything to be recycled. Tidied everything else.
  • Drove to recycle place and dropped of huge load of recyclable clothes and old bike parts, including a big pile of tires and tubes.
  • Stopped by Big 5 to buy new toe warmers. (Who knew they expired? They do. It’s disappointing to have tepid toe warmers.)
  • Cleaned out my bike area of the laundry room and broke down a bunch of cardboard boxes. Filled recycle bin with flattened boxes.
  • Researched Light & Motion light replacement (8 years old; amazingly, the battery still works, but is fading fast) and obtained existing-customer 30% off coupon (yeah!).
  • Continued to research childcare options. Filled out next year’s kindergarten registration form. Read daycare packet and began completing forms (there are a lot).
  • Did trainer ride with intervals during nap time, making it a whole 20 “miles” and finishing 5 minutes before Benji woke up.
  • Printed out planet pictures for Benji. Drew extra planets that were missing (all the dwarf planets, plus the Asteroid Belt, Kuiper Belt, Oort Cloud, and the Sun). Helped him cut them out. Played “planet game” twice before going totally crazy.

My days this last week reminded me how much work it can be just to be a full-time mommy. Every day this week has involved more activities and running around even than when I was working from home; after all, back then I had a responsibility to complete my work, so all my free time went to that. Now I have some time to get all those neglected around-the-home chores tidied up before I start the new job, and it’s reminding me how much unnoticed work mommies do to just keep life running smoothly. Kudos to all mommies out there! You deserve a gold star!

Gold Star

Now I’m off to join the ranks of the fully-employed, and only time will tell about when all those mommy jobs get done, and by whom!