Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mt. Shasta

Mt. Shasta, originally uploaded by Corbie.

There and back again...

It's always a risk taking a family vacation, especially when you have as many kids as we do. At home, it seems like somebody is always upset about something, which I guess shouldn't be surprising when six people live under one roof, so the potential for road trip disaster always slipstreams along behind us on the freeways. This time though, it kept its distance. Sure, the adults endured the usual comical stream of, "how much longer?", "are we almost there?", "I HAFTA GO PEE!", as we headed north, but we made good time, making it to the motel in Weed (just north of Mt. Shasta) in about five and a half hours. There was snow piled up in front of the office, so in short order the kids had changed into snow gear and gotten their first real taste of snow. Uncle Jay and Staci showed up after awhile, and we caravaned up the road to a hill near Mt. Shasta (the photo accompanying this post was taken while standing on it) for some sledding. We made good use of the plastic loaner sleds and the two disc sleds we'd gotten during our purchasing blitz last week. One of Alex's first descents resulted in him temporarily losing his hat and at least one of his boots, but soon we'd all more or less gotten the hang of it - as much as one can get the hang of hurtling out of control down a frozen slope, that is... At the end of it all, nobody was seriously injured. We celebrated by going out for pizza. By this time, it was snowing pretty hard, and the roads were turning white. The pizza place was disconcertingly situated across a T - junction from where a highway met Main st. - a highway on which the traffic seemed to consist solely of eighteen-wheelers with heavy loads. I had no doubt in my mind that, despite the barrier of metal poles, should one of them hit some black ice we'd be sharing the inside of the pizza place with one of them. Thankfully, this didn't happen.

The next day, we made our way up to the ski area, stopping to put on cables (the mini-van version of tire chains) once we started slipping. Staci and Jen did most of the work, while I stayed at the wheel, noticing that some of the vehicles stubbornly passing us sans chains had wheels spinning twice as fast as they normally would have, given the speed of the vehicles. Once we were set, Staci went over to lend a hand to the hapless vacationers in front of us who were having trouble with their cables. We got in and drove away. So did Jay, thinking that Staci was going to hitch a ride from us. Later, at the ski park, we had a comical moment of panic when we realized that Staci was back on the road somewhere. Jay went and got her. By this time, everything was white - the road, the parking lot, the embankments, the tops of the cars... This made the local pair of ravens stand out in stark relief. I watched them as we got the kids properly bundled.

All of the kids ended up taking lessons - the boys snowboarded and the girls skied (Willow was somewhat indignant about not getting to use ski poles - "I DON'T HAVE MY STICKS!"). Inspired by this, Jen and I took an afternoon skiing lesson. Jen's yoga skills paid off, and the instructor was impressed. I managed to do okay too, only falling while attempting to walk uphill while wearing skis. By the end of the afternoon lessons it was snowing quite heavily. Jay had fallen on his butt and somebody had absconded with his rented snowboard. Willow and Nate were upset that the ski park was about to close. Despite this, the day was a success. All of the kids did quite well. Tempers receded as the snowfall increased. We finally made it back to the van, which by this time was covered in snow, and after a bit of window wiping and defrosting, headed back down the hill. At one point, I managed to spin out (the van is front wheel drive, so the cables were only on the front, causing the rear tires to lose purchase), coming to a stop facing the way we had come. Luckily, there were no other cars nearby at the time. About halfway down the main road headed towards I-5, we stopped and took the cables back off. Then it was back to the hotel, and out to dinner. Willow got a piece of chocolate cream pie with a candle in it to celebrate her birthday a day early. We had a chuckle over the display of tourist paraphernalia at the cafe - hats, mugs, and shirts emblazoned with what apparently is the town's slogan: "I'm high on Weed!" Afterwards, we slowly made our way along the now-treacherous Main st. back to the motel.

The next morning, we waffled about whether or not to go sledding again, with Nate being the voice most in favor. Traveling down I-5 in blizzard-like conditions, we decided against it and parted ways, with Jay and Staci heading north, and the rest of us heading back south. We had to off-road it for a couple of seconds to get around a couple of disabled big rigs blocking the on ramp, and a short time later we had to inch around a jackknifed big rig taking up the median and all but one southbound lane. After that, it was slow going for and hour or two, as we made our way through the mountains under a combination of snow, sleet, and rain, punctuated with fierce gusts of wind.

We made it back though, and it only took us an hour and a half longer than the trip out. Despite the long car drive, everybody wants to do it again.

Oh - back at the hotel, Jay gave Willow her birthday present a day early. Now we all have I-pods. Willow is thrilled. On her actual birthday, we had cake and ice cream and she got a few more presents. The party will follow soon.

Now things are all back to normal. Jen is back at the office. I'm in the middle of my own work week, and feeling tired. Sophie and Nate are home sick (Sophie with a fever, and Nate no doubt soon to have one).
Oh well...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I get a break from work this week. I've got an assignment or two that I have to finish up for school, but I can probably get those done tomorrow. I'm looking forward to getting something approaching a normal amount of sleep too, at least for a week.

We're planning a little trip up to the Mt. Shasta area later this week. We're meeting Jay and Staci there, since it's a midway point between us and their new(ish) home in Portland. We spent the last day or so shopping for snow gear, which gets expensive when you're shopping for six. We stopped my Mel Cotton's sporting goods store the day after old Mel passed away. What a strange coincidence. While we were there, we were treated to the spectacle of a rather foul-mouthed dissatisfied customer shouting at the employees until they had to call the police on her. We managed to get some gear though. We still need a few items, including tire chains (cables, actually) in case we run into inclement weather.

Right after we get back, Willow turns five. Birthday celebrations are being planned.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I went up to Berkeley on Friday night to see A.P.P.L.E., missing the opening night of the kids' play. Bad dad. My only excuse is that I've liked A.P.P.L.E. for around twenty years and had never seen them live before (they'd been disbanded for most of that time, and hadn't left the East Coast when they were active) and that the kids had another performance on Sunday. Read my review of the A.P.P.L.E. show here (all is not happy in A.P.P.L.E.-land).

After the show, I got to sleep at about 2 AM, and got up again at 6 AM to go to class down at CSU Monterey Bay. Of course my once-a-term class would have to fall on the day after a late night out, and of course the late night out would have to fall on the evening of the school play. The class was fun - I learned how to make Powerpoint presentations, and received lots of information on web-based resources for teachers. By the time I got home I was exhausted and cranky, and should have gone to bed, but didn't.

On Sunday, I finally got to see the play. My mom came too, and Greg made it down from Berkeley for the occasion. The kids all did a great job. Alex had the title role, and his best friend was the villain. Nate and Sophie had smaller roles, but performed them well. All of the rehearsal time they logged in over the last few months really payed off.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Hanging Around

Hanging Around, originally uploaded by Corbie.

No more Raccoons were spotted inside the storage room, but I did find a small Black Widow in the laundry room. I obligingly paused in its rapid ascent to the ceiling so I could take some pictures.

The three older kids are staging their first performance as characters in their school's Aladdin play tonight (with Alex in the starring role). I'm going to see their Sunday performance, because tonight I'm heading up to Berkeley to see A.P.P.L.E. play at Gilman Street, a venue at which I spent many a weekend during the eighties, but haven't been to in years. I'll probably post a review of the show on my music blog (see link in the sidebar).

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A couple of nights ago, I managed to encourage the second Raccoon to leave the storage room, but, somewhere in the shadows, a third lurked. He was spotted inside the room last night. Maybe they're spontaneously generating out of old curtains or unused office supplies.

Also, sometime yesterday afternoon, a number of campers (and cabin leaders) were the victims of an old-fashioned panty raid. The first I knew of it was this morning when a couple of cabin leaders reported most of their underwear missing. It seems like some of the kids must have seen some of those old seventies camp movies, and being unthinking subscribers to the idea of herd mentality, have taken it upon themselves to copy this dubious scenario. It makes me wonder if kids ever act on good ideas they've seen in movies. Of course, for that to happen, they have to watch movies containing good ideas. That said, I'm not ruling out the possibility that this was merely an idea handed down by older siblings who've been at camp in previous years. The teachers are going to corner the boys thought to be responsible, so by the time I get to work tonight, hopefully everybody will have their underwear back.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Raccoon in the Storage Room

Raccoon in the Storage Room, originally uploaded by Corbie.

My routine was interrupted last night by a pair of raccoons who somehow managed to get into the storage room. I encouraged one to leave by using my camera flash again and again, but the other one managed to get up into the central heating duct that runs along the ceiling. The last I saw, it was looking down at me imperiously from its lofty perch. It vanished a moment later. For all I know, it's still in there somewhere.

I also saw an impressive buck on the front lawn. It vanished like a ghost. There was a small Chorus frog on the wall by the camp office too. During the day, I've been watching the pair of Ravens who hang out in the dead birch trees out front. They're always in conversation with each other, either croaking or using elaborate body language. There's something perfect about them - they look like bird-shaped holes in the fabric of reality. With their supernatural blackness, it's no wonder they figure so heavily in myth.

As for the kids, a bunch of them went home this week, either for not following the rules or because they were ill. Last night began and ended with fevers and vomit. One girl started throwing up on the doormat in front of the camp office (or "hub", as we call it), and I had to quickly redirect her to a nearby bush. There's definitely something going around. I don't think I've ever seen so many kids get sick in the space of a week.

At home today, I took Willow over to pick up her new glasses. She says she can see much better now. I hope her excitement lasts. Pictures will follow soon.