Story Wonders: Equity Day with Kids

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The last time I went to Equity Day in Olympia, or something like it, I was single, about 25, and ended up getting interviewed on some news channel before the whole world started watching social media.

Here’s how different it was this past President’s Day:

My friend Billie Jo has 3 children, 6 and under. Together with my six year old, we had a pack of kids with us, and I felt much more like a kitten herder than any sort of political activist.

We van pooled down there to arrive at 9:00 am before things got going at the capitol building. Quinton, usually the loudest in his home crowd, objected at one point to the noise level of our trip. We told him it was all a part of the adventure.

After a brief circling of the main streets, we found Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters where we set up shop in the corner of their broad space with polished wooden floors.

With coffee for the moms and donuts for the shorter people, Billie Jo gave them card stock to draw onto and stickers to add. After they finished, Jo and I wrote messages asking our legislators to fully fund their public education. They have a few years in front of them! Because we live in Western Washington, my friend also packed ziplock bags to keep our words and art dry.

Then we tromped up the hill from downtown to the capitol where people of every order gathered to listen to speeches and lobby for equity of all kinds. It was even noisier than the van at some points and the crowd stretched from one set of stone stairs to the other.

Inside the building we found more quiet and the marble stairs of a building that looks like it lives in another time. The kids gazed up at the chandeliers and the giant dome where Quinton’s uncle Kim once worked to repair the earthquake damage of 2011. They stared down at the golden seal with George Washington on it in the middle of the floor and threatened to stress their mothers by stepping through the barrier ropes.

We even made it into the senate chamber during a recess. The suited guard ushered us in with a smile and asked us to put our pointy umbrellas to the side.

Sitting on the cushioned benches, we looked down into the chamber below with the swivel chairs while Quinton admired the piles of papers on some of their desks and the interns in suit jackets milled around. We talked about how the laws get made and the two branches of government working a little like a mom and a dad at home. Sam the four-year-old found this dull and circled the benches from beneath flashing us dangerous grins.

We did not push our luck and left the senate viewing before things got any wilder.

Before our bathroom break, I found my cousin Roxy and got to give her a quick hug next to the bust of Washington and the booths with Civics Day information.

Just like mountain climbing, the return to the van was more challenging than any other part of the trip.

The kids were tired. The moms were tired. And the five blocks to our parking space felt like five miles with whining about the walking and sidewalks too close to the traffic for the kitten herders.

But we made it. The kids settled into snacks and the moms loved the chat on our final push back home. I don’t know if any representative saw us but the kids know more about government, and I got to enjoy one of my favorite friendships once more.

I wouldn’t trade with the 25-year-old on TV for all the coffee in that shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What to Do When You Crash and Burn

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On New’s Year Eve, I crashed and burned so hard that I am still recovering here at the end of January.

It all started out so well.

My son and I were at First Night in Tacoma. December 31st was the kind of cold that made everything hurt from the tips of my nose to the 4th chamber of my heart even when wearing a fluffy coat, gloves, and a hat. It was clear, it was crisp, and the frigid air made Quinton and me want to race to the next indoor place.

So we did.

We ran from the Tacoma Art Museum (which has very little for 5 year olds to do), hoping to get to the Washington State History Museum before we iced up like Anna in that climactic scene of Frozen. We held hands smiling and laughing as we zipped along toward a group of boring people walking calmly up ahead. It was one of the high points of 2015, and I knew I would remember the moment long after Quinton grew into a young man.

Then the tree root under the pavement happened. 

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Scene of the crash along with the guilty tree

Before we made it to Union Station, Quinton tripped and swung around in front of me. It was all I could do not to squash him flat onto the concrete.

We lay there stunned until Quinton began to sob.

“It’s a bad one, Mom,” he said holding his eye.

I felt like I’d done the splits without warming up after about 15 years since my last successful attempt.

I knelt on the icy pavement, holding him as the boring but uninjured people walked by while asking if we were okay.

I nodded. Quinton sobbed a little louder.

The night slowed down after that. We hobbled to the history museum, only to find it was not ‘participating’ in First Night.

Then we made it to Harmon’s Restaurant and drowned our sorrows in a big plate of fries.

Quinton’s eye healed in a few days. I’m still doing physical therapy for my hip and it’s slowly getting better.

But you know what?

It was worth it. 

That moment running down the sidewalk when 2016 was right out in front of us while my son raced with me to meet it will stick in my mind.

Maybe that initial joy will stand out more because of the freezing cold, the crash, and the burn of the pain.

I would do it all again.

(Okay, maybe next time I would avoid the tree root.)

In fact, the writing projects I’m in right now have great potential for pain and loss. Still, I plan to keep running down the creative pavement because I feel as alive as a five year old on a cold clear night when I do. 

May you all know great highs and console one another over french fries when it all falls apart like it sometimes does-

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Foster Kitty Adventures: Double Syrup Whammy

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The only thing slightly more syrupy than kitten stories has to be a story with kids and kittens.

Brace yourself for syrup.

This week Quinton started helping me to change the blanket in the kittens’ basket by holding the tiny ones in his lap on a blanket.

We had thought Glitter might want to roam a bit to get some time to herself but when she saw the kitties on Q’s lap she curled up in his lap to nurse them there.

My five year old was born with dimples. His indented smile was so deep when he looked at the cat family in his lap that I thought his cheeks might not recover.

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Meanwhile, the babies are growing and starting to look at our faces like they know we exist even as they begin to scootch around on their bellies.

Life in this house is grand.

May you know great small joys in your own place.

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The Fountain of Youth is in Seattle

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I recently heard Neil Gaiman tell an interviewer that getting old involved doing fewer and fewer things for the first time.

I came up with a cure for that kind of aging that involves two parts:

1. Do something you’ve done before in a new way.

2. Bring a kid who is still doing everything for the first time.

A couple days ago my four year old Quinton and I stepped out of our car culture and took the train to Seattle. (I hear Q in my head correcting me: “Not car, Mom. The VAN!)

At first, I was afraid we might not make it. The parking lot was packed, and we hadn’t left early enough for me to figure out what to do. We ran from the spot I found 2 blocks away and raced to the ticket booth where — thank the heavens above — we found a man in a reflective transit jacket maneuvering a wheelchair with a guide dog at his side. He had seen my distress at the fancy ticket machine and offered to help us, got us tickets, and told me Q was free (FREE!).

(Yes, I had tried to figure this out before. No, I had apparently not worked the websites enough to understand. I’d like to think of this as being youthful rather than uninformed, if you don’t mind.)

With his wonderful help, we even had a few moments to spare before the train came. Quinton spent the time bouncing and saying: “I’m so excited! I’m so excited!”

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As the Sounder rolled in, we climbed the stairs to sit up on the second level. At 8:00am, most of the commuters had already made it to work, so we had the place almost to ourselves.

We saw my ancient middle school Dieringer that is now a construction company along with the power station the no longer moves the waters of Lake Tapps where I grew up. I thought for a moment how often I saw the trains go by when I was in school (long before the Sounder came to be). Looking at the world from the train’s side twisted my perspective just enough to make the whole scene familiar but strange – like a new old experience.

The country rolled by and I loved how easy it was to get to Seattle without traffic jam stress. Another family climbed on board at Sumner with excited kids and content parents and grandparents. Quinton eavesdropped and was impressed that they were talking about ‘not burning gas.’

“Burning gas!?!” he said to me, loud enough to let the family know he heard.

From King Station, we took the link to Westlake and then the monorail to the Armory (which I still want to call the Center House).

We played in the Children’s Museum, then the fountain and then the museum again until one o’clock when the museum lost it’s appeal to me (not to Quinton – he could have stayed there longer if I could have taken one more round on the fake mountain looking at the plastic bugs under fake rocks).

 

We made our way back to Puyallup, stopping at the Magic Mouse Toys in Pioneer Square (Buying ANOTHER truck. Sigh.) and Uwajimaya in the International District.

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The 3:12 train back home was just about perfect. We got back exhausted and pleased with ourselves. Quinton is already planning our return trip.

It wasn’t international travel. But it was an adventure. It felt like doing something for the first time (complete with the edge of fear that we might get lost and stranded) – a way to be young again for me and to finally get on one of those trains for Q. Mission accomplished.

Even if you don’t have a kid around to egg you on, I strongly recommend looking for new ways to do old things. The adventure will add a zip to your days.