Saturday, May 30, 2009

Baseball and Clamming

It's spring in Alaska. Not only did our neighbor's horse have a baby, but moose are starting to appear with their babies. I have not seen any yet but Alana and I saw the tiniest moose tracks on her road last week. The boys found a robin's nest under our deck. Riley came in the house holding 4 bright blue eggs in his hands. I freaked out and yelled at him to put them back. He did and the mother is still sitting on them, so I'm hoping they will still hatch. Riley can see the nest from his bed. We have banned skateboards and scooters from the deck for the time being.

We moved Chris up to coach pitch. On the first day he got hit in the head with a baseball during warm ups, thrown by another kid. He cried hard and wanted to go home. I thought, what have I done? I held him for a while then forced him to sit on the bleachers until he decided to play. He got a couple of hits at bat and even got two outs while playing first base. He's having fun now so I'm glad he got back in the dugout.

On Memorial Day we went across the bay to dig for steamer clams with our friends Randy and Marilyn. We weren't finding many steamers so we switched to harvesting mussels. The boys enjoyed exploring the beach at low tide the most. Maya enjoyed the boat ride the most.

I decided to take the boys to Ninilchik to dig for razor clams. Razor clams can get up to 6-8 inches long. They are harder to dig for because they tunnel away from you. The hardest part is not breaking their shells when you dig. I was going to do a whole blog on Razor Clams, 101.

Wednesday morning we woke up to 45 degrees and blowing. It was so cold when we got to the beach, we didn't even want to get out of the car. I put rain gear on the kids in the back of the truck and duct taped the bottom of their rain pants to their rubber boots. I sent Riley and Chris down to start digging while I got Maya geared up. By the time I got down to the beach with Maya, Chris was cold and wanting to leave. I drove 45 miles to dig for razor clams and wasn't going to give up that easily. I was determined to spend at least as much time digging as I had spent gearing up.

So I sent Chris and Maya back to the truck to get warm while Riley and I kept digging. The only reason Riley was still digging was because he was expecting his best friend Bradley to show up with his family. We never did see Bradley. Ninilchik is a huge beach and they were at the other end. After an hour Chris came down to the beach yelling at me to leave. We took our meager bucket of 12-18 clams and headed back to the truck.

On the way off the beach I was driving on soft gravel and got stuck. A kindly older gentleman came up and told me I needed to stop spinning my wheels and ask someone with 4 wheel drive and a tow rope to pull me out. It was early and most people were still digging for clams. So I headed for the only house on the beach. I asked a young woman in the yard if she had a tow rope and a 4 wheel drive. She asked me where I was stuck and said she would start looking for a tow rope. When she and her friends arrived she said her dad told her she couldn't bring his truck down to the gravel. I was obviously stuck in a bad place. She offered to help push me out. I was studying Matt's truck manual trying to figure out how to get it into 4 wheel drive. I finally heard the mechanism engage and was able to drive out without much pushing. The girl told me the key to getting off the beach was to stay in someone else's tracks.

After recovering from the sting and humiliation of a "failed" clamming trip I realized that I had learned a lot that morning. First, I learned that clamming is not much fun for kids unless it is done with a fun group of people, including someone to entertain the little ones. Second, it's not much fun clamming in bad weather. Third, I learned that it's okay to make mistakes.

At the time I was beating myself up. What made me think I could take the kids clamming by myself? I had done it once before and it was no fun. I thought it would be different this time because I was expecting to meet up with this other family. Next time I will arrange to follow them instead of meeting them there.

I was beating myself up for thinking I was a hardy Alaskan. Living in Alaska for 10 years does not make you "bush" worthy. Sitting in the truck with the manual open made me realize that I am still a Yuppie Liberal from Northern California. I thought about the beautiful young woman that helped me out. She looked like she was born and bred in Alaska, directly descended from the Vikings, comfortable around water and boats, salt water in her veins. I thought about people who grow up in certain environments. They have learned the ins and outs of living in their unique environment, from watching their family and friends, and doing it over and over.

I wondered what I was good at. I did not grow up around the water or in the woods. I couldn't survive in the wild for more than 3 days. As soon as I lost my contact lenses I'd be a goner. What did growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area uniquely qualify me to be good at besides parallel parking and eating Ethnic foods?

It wasn't until the end of the day that I was able to gain some perspective. I now know that I can read a manual if I am forced. I learned how to put a Toyota Tundra into 4 wheel low. I learned not to drive on soft gravel. I learned it's better to drive on sand in someone else's tracks. I also know how to ask for help.

I am grateful that I live in a place where people are always willing to help a stranger. Even if you don't have the right tools, a kind word and the willingness to help is balm for the bruised ego. I guess the willingness to try a new adventure is not a bad thing either, if you don't get into too much trouble. A wise person said: Wisdom comes from experience. Experience comes from making mistakes. Sometimes failure is a better teacher than success.

Chris' Hot Wheels birthday cake (from Safeway).

Chris' favorite snack is salt and vinegar potato chips. I bought three different brands and had them do a taste test. Kettle was voted #1, Boulder (health food store) was #2, Tim's was #3.

Slacker mom takes low maintenance birthday party to new low with this big cardboard box.

Maya helps hold the bag open while Marilyn digs for steamer clams. The blue buoys in the water are an oyster farm.

Giant sun stars on the beach at low tide.

Randy let Maya drive the boat.

I love the faces barnacles make on rocks and shells. Spaghetti with mussels in red sauce.

Slugger Chris at bat.

This is the robin in it's nest under our deck.

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