Thursday, May 29, 2008


So I've been "involved parent" this week and last and chaperoned trips with both the kids.

For O, the outing was to the Toledo Zoo. These kindergarten teachers had each kid bring a "special adult" so that no one adult would end up managing multiple munchkins. Not surprisingly, some kids didn't these kids would just not get to go. In reality, though, these kids were placed with willing adults who could attend.

I've heard folks raving about this zoo for years, but this was our first visit. I didn't like the layout of the place -- lots of land to cover -- but the exhibits are well set up for human-animal viewing. I don't know if this works all that well for the animals (I hope it does, soft-hearted vegetarian that I am), but I know it worked well for the human animals. We spent a long time watching the orangutans, in particular. The momma even dragged her tarp over to one of the windows, and laid it out for a nap. Then her kid came over to playfully pester her, but she gave as good as she got. Roaring white lions, a pacing snow leopard (with a giant fuzzy tail!), a meandering hippo with shit all over its hind quarters were all amazingly close. Watching the polar bears belly flop into the water was a treat. O was done by this time, but I was fascinated.

For O, though, the trip was much more about the social world than the natural world. He didn't want to walk around with just me and look for animals, he wanted to be with his classmates. We ended up spending time with one pair of boys and then a larger gaggle of kids (escorted two parents). When the latter group hit the gift shop, my boy nearly lost it with envy. "What do you have?" and "Where are you going?" meant far more to him than whether we got to see any zebras or otters. In this sense, the teachers' plan didn't really work all that well. I was just not enough for him -- until he slumped over on me for a good long nap in the bus seat on the way home.

Today, I went to The Henry Ford with E's fourth grade class. She was delighted to have me along, though I did get a few too many lectures about all the rules we were supposed to be following. Since her BFF's mom was also attending, she and T ended up in separate groups but we scored her buddies N and O, along with another girl I hadn't met before. I am super proud of E for making sure that J, who is not a part of E's usual gang felt included. She even insisted that J pick the first place we visit. Yay!

The kids were great. N is hilarious -- such a suck up. He laughed loudly at all my jokes, stayed glued to my side, and always asked ever so politely for the map. How many 9 year olds do you know who greet you with "It is so good to see you again." Hehe. He is one of 6 or 9 kids... wonder if he is desperate for adult attention.

I thought it might have changed, but my overall impression of the museum is much the same as when I was a teen and last visited. It is such an odd hodge-podge of stuff. The kids loved the trains, the 1940s diner, and (I swear, I didn't lead them at all on this) the bicycles -- especially the 8-seater. They were awfully good sports when I asked them the "what do you think that was used for?" questions and made them put a post-it note response on the wall under the question of "What does freedom mean to you?" before they could have lunch. The trouble of having E's mom (aka: the History Professor) as chaperone is that you are going to have to discuss hearth ovens, the Selma to Montgomery march, and the significance of Amelia Earhart. Ah well, they survived and E didn't roll her eyes at me once.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Peer Pressure in the Springtime

I'm not going to give in. Since so many of my friends seem to be overrun with garden-mania, I am just going to proclaim here and now: I don't garden. How uncool is that? All I intentionally grow is grass, really, and that is just because I like to roll around on it with my kids. I don't really even pay that much attention to the grass.

I do find myself swept up in the romance of the tales of planting running around the friendly blogs these days and I'll probably envy their haul once things get going, but I'm just not that kind of hippie. Oh, okay, I might put in a few herb plants (that someone else started) and a tomato plant (but that is just so that I can use my composting worm's poop), but no more.

Just remember all you garden freaks (and I say that with love), I'm happy to soak up your extra produce and I make excellent zucchini bread!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Well done, Bike Ypsi... but now what?

Run down of the bike festival:

1. Gorgeous day. Bright and chilly in the morning, but stayed bright and got warm quickly.

2. Lots of folks. Maybe 20 on the long rides and 60 on the not-so-long rides. Over 100 rode the community ride.

3. Good booths. Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition, St. Joe's, Project Grow, PEAC, Rails to Trails, and the Ypsi Food Coop all had tables. Wheels in Motion and Tree Fort really turned out. The former tweaked mechanicals on lots of bikes, including a bit o' work on my back wheel and squishy brake. My next biking business will go to them.

4. Minimal no-shows. AATA was supposed to send a bus so we could let people practice putting their bikes on the racks but some sort of crisis downtown distracted them and the bus never came. I did get a call from them this morning apologizing (good) and they are eager to come out to our next happening. Two Wheel Tango notified us a few days before the event that they were not going to come -- disappointing, but at least they let us know. Ypsi Cycle just plain did not show. I do not understand that one.

5. Surprise hit. Bike polo and kids apparently go together quite nicely. I was really happy to see that the usual crowd of polo playing adults mostly wore helmets and then happily worked with the kids who got curious to teach them the game and let them play.

6. Nice rides. It looked for a while there like I was again going to have to shorten my ride, but the folks who were not up to the 19-20mph pace of the fast group proved happy to do the whole 30 miles at 16mph. I don't mind riding slow... as long as I get to ride long. I did have to do a few wicked sprints to move between the front and back of a way stretched out group (which we eventually broke into two) and a mechanical breakdown and the main group. Pretty fun to see that I could get 23.5mph -- and not just on a downhill. The community ride (pictured above) was a bit intimidating to launch but rolled nicely once we got going. Letting the group break into groups during the ride actually seemed to work, but that was mostly due to having sooooo many Bike Ypsi people there to make sure somebody who knew the way and would look out for the group was at the head of every clump of riders.

7. No major disasters. One kid fell (he was fine), we ran out of hot dogs (Andy got more), we forgot to mention that we were selling t-shirts (let me know if you want one!)... but really? Nothing big. No fires to put out. Nice.

So now what? I've been a part of planning the Bike Ypsi Spring Ride and Festival for months. K tells us it has been [deep breath] 5 months in the works. Wow. I didn't really notice that because there were a few other issues along the way (like weekly rides, Bike to Work, and preserving the Ford Blvd road diet/bike lanes) and because I really enjoy the people in Bike Ypsi. The meetings were fun, the post-meetings involved happy hour at the Corner, and the between-meetings meet-ups usually had us on bikes pedaling out and about in the world.

I suspect that with this second big and successful event (you might recall that we had a fabulous fall ride in Oct 2007), there will be some fresh blood looking to get in on the Bike Ypsi love and the group will change because of that. There will be new agendas. Organizational issues will have to be dealt with. People will take us back over ground we have already covered. Personalities may clash. I'm happy to have new recruits (we don't want to burn out!), but I just gotta say, this first year has just been a blast.