“May I do the honors and have a nice slice of chocolate cream pie? It’s ‘honors’ because it’s the LAST PIECE.”

"JESUS <3s YOU" Bus

I first saw the “JESUS <3s YOU" bus as I biked past the laundromat this afternoon, returning from some voluteer work. And I thought, wish I had a camera, but I didn’t, so. Later in the day the very singular vehicle was parked on a side street we drove down – and I snapped this picture. The long-haired blonde man out front playing guitar through some amplifier shouted a compliment at my dog, in the back of my mom’s truck.

Today was a good day.

Tonight I tell my son. “I apologize.” “For what?” he asks. “For not getting you ice cream today.” “That’s okay,” he says. “There’s always tomorrow. Do you like my folder?” – holding up a semi-misshapen bit of crafting paper taped up like no tomorrow.

I like his folder so much. I like how tenderheartd my children are. I like today when we got a furniture delivery how helpful and kind the children were, and how when we left to get our groceries, Nels turned to his sister and sighed, “We have a good life.”

Oh and today I heard the best meth-story today involving a nap and a sandwich, a story from a recovering addict. I won’t type it out here but if you run into me, go ahead and ask.

of ire and misplaced laundry

Today my husband sends me this Newsweek article regarding something any traditional (that is to say, two-parent) family knows: that even in dual-working families, mom is doing more of the family work.

There are two potential reactions to this newsbit. There are those without families who read this or hear of it and they simply don’t care. Maybe they think it doesn’t really matter, doesn’t really affect them. If they start families of their own someday their tune will change and they’ll be fighting over this mundane shit. Even if they don’t start a family, these issues affect them. Cultural and societal expectations of men and women regarding work and the home infuse our entire experience of living, whether we are aware of it or not.

I found the article mostly a waste; under-explored, trite. But the subject itself is very much with me and has been for the last half-decade. In fact on Monday I sat on my counselor Cheryl’s couch in our first-ever session without Ralph and this was part of what we talked about – the societal function and personal experience of housewifery. I expressed my growing frustration and disillusionment, an ennui that in part stems from a lack of acknowledgment within my community and larger culture. Cheryl asked me to provide some examples of this and I had so much to say I almost choked on the words: the categorical assumption that my time is valueless and fluid; an observance of how when mommy starts feeling ready to work her income is deemed “supplemental” and therefore any childcare expenses are de facto deducted from her earnings (as opposed to a combined income); how in most blended families I’ve known or experienced it is stepmom, not bio dad, who manages her step-children’s school, doctor visits, social calendar, care and clothing – she is merely expected to do so and in fact Daddy often quickly sits back and lets his former and current mate to sort out the messy issues between families. Some of my examples had no relevance to my personal life (we are not a blended family and I have not seriously considered working out of the home, for instance) and most of my examples have so little to do with my own family (Ralph and the kids are genuinely full of love and acknowledgment) – but these examples and others have everything to do with an oppressive and depressing outer reality.

These issues are not a problem for breeding females alone. Whether the other caregiver (hereafter called “daddy” for ease’s sake) can express it or not, he suffers as well. Speaking in generalities I have seen how the lack of know-how, competence, and ownership that daddy feels will create – often, not always – a father who feels out of their element, constantly nagged or perhaps just not ever “getting it right”, and tempted to carve out limited space (his shop, hunting trips, the game of airplane referenced in the article) where he can experience life with his children in a meaningful way. Daddy feels a stranger, intruder, or bumbler in his own home; perhaps he is resentful or believes his partner over-exacting or on the opposite end of the spectrum, a slovenly housekeeper (my husband, having spent a year being housekeeper and caregiver – not merely a weekend here or there – never makes this erroneous charge). Daddy pines for time to himself or out with friends while often not fulfilling an egalitarian view of time at home. Neither mommy or daddy are truly satisfied and both feel frustrated with the other and sometimes, their children.

I notice Daddy’s consistent contributions seem to be alternately glorified or denigrated. If I hear one more time how “lucky” I am that my husband can and will “babysit” the kids I’m going to deliver a cock-punch (altho’ it’s usually females that tell me this). On the other hand, when is the last time we ladies earnestly thanked our partners for some of their consistent and not-so-glorious efforts for the family? For instance their willingness to drag the garbage can out in the freezing morning rain, to take a late-night drive to the store (and yes A., I know M. really likes to do that; most people don’t), their tireless efforts to actually accomplish tasks on a list that we make for them (I would not like to do that, myself). Have we thanked them for their good spirits when the fact is their work – whether they love or hate it – is made liquid into cash which is devoured, literally, by those in their household? Have we stepped back and marveled at their ability to eschew powerful cultural expectations of being lavicious, selfish caveman lusting afer boobage and instead remain faithful, sexually available, and loving to us for life?

I am grateful to my husband for everything listed above and more. But when it comes to the distribution of household work, I honestly feel like if I worked outside the home it would be easier to know when I’m being taken advantage of for being Mama. Because as it stands, it is right and good that I am doing more work than Ralph. Ralph has his fifty or so hours away from home and during that time I’m expected to do my job – cook, clean, launder, run errands, and mess about with the kids by grooming, loving, reading to, feeding, disciplining and encouraging them; an endless series of repetitive tasks, none of which are rocket science but the balance and coordination required to pull them all off can be by turns draining or exhilarating.

I imagine in dual-earning families it often just seems like a heck of a lot of work when parents return home; both of them tired and wanting respite, wanting time together, time alone, time as a family. Frustrated by projects or housework that is never done to one or both’s satisfaction (ask my brother about, “This house WAS looked good!”) but at least a fair bulk of the work needed is not definitely placed in one parent’s sphere (as in the SAHM’s case). I feel like if I worked outside the home as much as Ralph did I sure as hell wouldn’t meekly accept more of the dishes than he does.

I have some thoughts regarding the deficit in husband / daddy care – opinions that are based on my own experiences and that of close friends (literally three minutes after Ralph sends me this link a friend (mother to two) says via IM, “Kelly, I need to ask you a question. How clean is your house? … [I]f you are busy now, I would really like to have this conversation with you at a later date. I trust your opinion and know we are coming from a similar place as domestic workers.”). I’m sure I’ve exceeded Chris’s word count tolerance; I’ll step off the soapbox in just a minute. Here’s my summation, since the article above came nowhere close.

First, let’s have some acknowledgment of one another. People – especially you boys – take some time off to say, “Thank you” to your Mama, even if only in your own mind and heart (in person would be better). The truth is, your mom probably worked too hard without enough self-care and respect for what she did. Perhaps she never took the time to find out what she wanted for herself. That’s her deal. But in the meantime, thank her for her efforts.

Men, put your minds to how you can help out at home. Diminishing the significance of the ongoing argument about where the dishes go after they’re washed is Assholian. You benefit from these systems as does your children. Man up. You have a big brain in your cavity; you are not a clueless Homer Simpson even if you sometimes use it as an excuse to be lazy. Still not convinced? To be over-frank, putting your mind into your household will get you laid. And I mean your wife will buy something slutty and do something really dirty
to you. Do you want that or not?

Ladies, ask your man what he might need. Let your kids be dirty or unfed or screechingly loud for a few minutes to focus on your man. It may surprise you. Maybe he doesn’t need a night out with friends or more time at his hobby. Maybe he needs more sex (that goes a long way for lots of men), a nicer dinner on the table, or ten minutes to himself when he gets home – after which point he should focus his ass on the family a bit more. Ask more from him and rather than nagging or complaining or accepting his hangdog I-fucked-up routine, meet him with clear-eyed questioning and don’t let him off the hook. Don’t look at this as you being a Mama to another (adult) child; look at this as an adult who has an agreement with another adult.

And ladies, since you’re kind of an overworked mess, take time to acknowledge your needs. Quit pretending that’s anyone’s job but your own.

Kids, maintain. You’re doing good. We love you.

today the Alpha-Bitch presents:

Housework 101

Some of us keep house. Some of us hang on to housekeeping as the only thing that makes us feel self-worth (nervous, bitter laughter). I am no Domestic Goddess but I take it seriously; on a site I’m active on I was accused of being organized and asked to write out my manifesto: here it is, today at least, and in most of its glory.

Own Less. Don’t buy more shit in order to organize your life! I think it is a well-perpetrated myth that more storage and more organizational tools organize the house better. Organization resides in the mind. Organization – for me – is about having fewer items. I see people drive around malls looking for a certain storage unit at Target or whatever or flipping though IKEA catalogs and lusting after the spice racks. I’m like, “Go home and do your fucking dishes, you’ll feel better.” Not to mention that shopping and looking for things can stimulate the “I wants” – a consumerist state of mind that actually does the opposite of bring peace and order to your mind (which you need to bring peace and order to your house).

Some people exist happily with tons of material items with nary a thought of the emotional baggage “stuff” carries, nor with internal gripes about the state of mess, clutter, or squalor – to those people I say “as you were!” and bless them for finding what works for them. Too bad 99.9% of moms I know aren’t this relaxed about it.

Use What You Have. From keeping your pantry clean to a tidy fridge to kid toys being used and respected – if you use it frequently, you will love it, care for it, polish it and put it on the shelf, repair it if it’s broken. If you’re gripping onto it because it’s your “stuff” or it “might come in handy” it will weigh you down and likely be a nuisance except for the very random time a year you use it. Look at anything in your house and ask yourself when you last used it and how much you like dusting it or putting it away or eying it on the cluttered shelf.

My life, like most Americans, contains parasitical clutter or items I don’t use daily; of course I have a closet with camping stuff on the shelf where it resides except for a spare few times each year. There is a trade-off to ownership and it’s personal to everyone. I will say this; I have never regretted culling an item from my life and I sure wished I’d culled more when we moved recently!

Every Item Needs a Home. If every item has a home, it is as easy to put it away as it is to throw it on the floor. If someone else throws it on the floor you don’t go crazy being pissed that it is on the floor, that there’s nowhere to put it, and why do you have all this shit and why does no one help? You say, “Nels, please put the scissors back in Mama’s sharps box.” Two times later and Nels knows where the scissors go and – gasp – will put them away himself! Let me tell you, watching your kids help you keep an ordered house is pretty damn gratifying. P.S. this is the gold standard at the Hogaboom house and hardly a constant state of affairs.

Caveat to the Last Tenet. A temporary but cohesive home is probably a better first-time goal than a Martha-Stewart organized fuck-all project which will make you nuts running around for the drill bits and printing out labels while meanwhile your son’s breakfast oatmeal rots on the counter. A cardboard box will serve as an “entryway organizer” for now if it clears spare bills and correspondence off the computer desk; when you have time, please do upgrade the cardboard box. In our house we have an (assily-named) “Technology Shelf” in the utility room – all cords, cables, extension cords and tech bits go on a shelf. Every now and then I ask my husband to organize and cull it. If we’re ever wondering where any electronic item is we go look there; if we find something around the house that qualifies we throw it in there. I’ll get around to color-coding the sub-shelf space one of these days.

Don’t Always Look For The Shortcut. It is also a hoax that “convenience” items categorically make life easier. They add to life’s difficulties and management duties too. For instance: yesterday I spent time in the backyard hanging laundry with my kids. We got two loads done. I spent probably an hour and a half total hanging and minding the laundry, folding it, etc. Meanwhile I had a great time and got some sun, I didn’t drive and use gas, I didn’t eat food out or get a latte, I talked with and enjoyed my kids, no one was inside messing up the house or going stir-crazy and oh yeah – I didn’t use my dryer at all. Plus my clothes smelled great and the sun removed stains from my dinner napkins like no chemical could.

Enjoy your home. Find a corner you can retreat to, something you love. Do your best around the house but take a break when you need a breather. For me, it’s a clean bathroom and waiting tub with lights out, candles, and an open window with the breeze coming in; the perfect thing to look forward to after sweatily vaccuming like mad or scraping rice off the kitchen table.

"broiled owl shit", as my grandmother used to say

Today was more like a work day than I’ve had in recent memory. I got a reminder call this morning regarding my duties this afternoon as Helper Parent / Snack Parent at my children’s preschool co-op. My husband and my experiences differ, but I am so far very impressed by our choice of school which features low tuition, professional staffing and scheduling follow-through, a great ratio (seven kids to at least two teaching adults), kid crafts that are somehow elaborate, beautiful, but kid-friendly, a plethora of books and songs, and a rather academically-oriented program. I looked forward to today’s school day.

But after last shift’s debacle I was left wondering a bit if my attitude and my menu needed an adjustment. I thought it through and came up with non-health-nut fare: carrot sticks with dipping sauce, pink lady apples, and homemade chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

As it turned out, the actual class time was great. Because there are so few children, I am already getting to know them and their individual natures. The shy reed-thin artist who meticulously colors inside lines, cuts exacting shapes, is quiet and polite but rages like a maniac during Open Gym time. The Observer with sleepy blue eyes and tangled fawn hair, very thoughtful and deliberate in contributions to the conversation. The tall red-head who watches shyly and levelly with an almost adult gaze and when you return the look smiles in a big, toothy gap. Then there is it – a creature I have mentally coined “The Monsturd” because of its bossiness, rudeness, lack of any native please or thank you and, for two sessions in a row, very obtuse comments about the food served. This particular child took a break from free time where everyone else was playing to come over and point to the first thing I was putting on the plates – ceasar dressing for dipping carrot sticks – and said, “I don’t like that.” “OK,” I reply, moving around the table and trying not to feel irritation. “I DON’T LIKE THAT” the little reptile said again, more loudly. “I don’t care. Go back and play.” Readers, I am not prone to speaking that way to any children but my own, whom I would likely hug and apologize to after. My lack of empathetic response during what was mostly a lovely day should indicate just how appalling I find the child’s behavior.

Note to self: practice tolerance and love. Praise children I find difficult to like.

Despite one or two annoyances, I loved my time with the children today. I observe my Sophie is very adroit in reading, spelling, “math” (memorizing phone numbers and counting days of the month), and even the artistic projects, which she finishes quickly and efficiently. I find myself wondering if she, like me, will find school easy and if she will enjoy it as much as I did. As much as I liked school I did not, as some might worry, grow up “performance-oriented” or what I like to think of as Lisa Simpson syndrome. I find myself – I’m horrified to admit – taking her natural prowess for granted and focusing on anything she isn’t doing perfectly – “Sophie, you need to sit still during story time,” “Sophie, don’t lose your ponytail holder today.” Etc. Etc.

Note to self: let own children relax during their preschool hours. Surrender their behavior to their teachers’ and peers’ moderation.

Nels loved time with the big kids, too. His modus operandi: find whichever kid was doing the wiggliest storytime sitting, the loudest singing, and copy. Pure bliss.

np – Muse’s Origin Of Symmetry. No one else in my personal sphere seems to realize how great this album is.

"That’s why when I have kids everytime we drive past McDonald’s I’m going to punch them in the face."

My brother recently told me the reason gambling is such an addictive behavior is that there is a constant potential for a random positive reward. According to him, that is the best way people learn, and that’s why it’s easy to “learn” to (become addicted to) gambling. I found the idea fascinating, and even though I’d never heard this until a few days ago, I now realize we have a constant potential of random reward thing going in my house. And I have actually found that my children operate well with that system. It doesn’t mean they don’t misbehave ever (the only systems that guarantee that result are authoritarian ones and there is a huge price to pay for those). It means we have more fun getting along in the house and every reward is a fun experience, not one the kids get to hound me about or expect.

We also have a constant system I do even better at, called you never know when Mama is going to lose it. Like today, as my son is on a two-day streak of bad behavior and by 11 AM this morning, I’m still doing well dealing with it. One small example of his particular mood of late: as I bring the kids to register Sophie for kindergarten today (lovely, clean and seemingly well-organized new buildings with cheerful staff a few blocks away – yay!) Nels decides he is upset I won’t let him play outside and makes the meanest, loudest yell I have ever heard. He stomps repeatedly and yells at me over and over right in front of the door we are about to pass through. Still, I patiently crouch down, ask him not to yell at Mama, pat his head, and lead him in. I really am a good Mama. The rest of our morning goes this way: he is unreasonable and pissed and says things like, “You don’t do that, Mama!” in a “big” voice and either yells or complains at most decisions I make. Finally we make it home and I am getting food out of the kitchen to make lunch (cheese quesadillas and salad w/romaine, carrots, baby corn, olives, cherry tomatoes, and Annie’s Goddess Dressing) and he is tagging right next to me in the fridge trying to paw rice milk out and loudly grousing when suddenly I cannot handle the near two-day complaints and I grab him up, whack him on the shoulder, and set him on his back three feet away in the living room, telling him “I’m going to cook lunch now. You must stay out of the kitchen.” He starts crying in earnest and writhes on the floor. I am instantly full of repentance but I take him up and bring him to his bed, gently. Then close the door and return to the kitchen. Sophie comes in, tearful, and says, “You are being mean to us all the time.” (not even remotely true; she has been teary and fearful since she got wind she is due for three shots before school next fall) and I say in a level but multilayered Crazy Voice, “Go to your room.” She runs off, crying as well. Great! Two for two.

But by some odd form of miracle they stay in their separate rooms quietly while I finish cooking and set the table. I call out, “Children, time for lunch! Please wash your hands.” and by God, they do, and cheerfully.

So I guess the Random, Crazy-Assed Mama Tirade works well enough, too. P.S. Use sparingly.

Tangentially: I owe my husband an apology. Recently at a movie while we watched the trailer for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (in which I am inordinately pleased at how large the Surfer’s smooth and gleaming package is) I lean over to Ralph and whisper, “I thought the Silver Surfer was a good guy?” to which Ralph responds, “No, he was originally sent to destroy earth by Galactis.” Then I snort and say derisively, “No, Galactis was from Transformers,”* There was a confused silence as my husband thought that over, obviously questioning his Marvel ‘verse knowledge, and I smugly patted myself on the back for knowing more comic / action series lore than my husband. But today I see was, in fact, correct. It was Galactis (P.S. read, “This page is currently protected…” wikidendum for a good laugh).

* Turns out I was confused with Unicron.


I get a call early this morning as I’m getting the kids ready for errands and preschool.

A woman, sounding hurried: “Hi, I’m sorry – we talked on Friday. What’s your name again, dear?”

People who call my house and don’t know my name. OK. “This is Kelly Hogaboom,” I say.

“Oh, well, this is Barb. [ brief pause – because, you know, I have nothing going on in my life so I know who this person is. ] – “You know, Barb from Ass-hat Air*. We spoke on Friday.”

“Oh, OK. Hello.”

“Well…” small, this-is-so-unbelievable chuckle, “The owner of Ass-Hat Air went over to your house himself Friday, and…” the breathless voice drops to a conspiratorial whisper, “no one was home.”

I am one-thousand percent irritated. “I was told by the office he would be over within the hour. I waited an hour and fifteen minutes, then I left. I left a note on the door.”

“Oh you must have just missed him… Well…” pauses, presumably waiting for my apology or further explanation… “Well, someone from the office should be calling you shortly to reschedule.”

“Actually, I just spoke with a technician from your office a few minutes ago and we set a time up for today at 1 PM.”

[ snip – sorting out which Ass-Hat Air boy would be stopping by. ]

Barb: “Oh well would you mind if I came over and peeked at the insert, just peeked at it? I’m thinking of putting one in my rentals and I’d just like to look at it.”

Me: “O-kay. Would you like me to call you when I get home this afternoon or … ?”

Barb: “Wow, you must be gone a lot…” (the SAHM judgment crunch: either I’m home too much and doing nothing for my own personal enrichment / feminism / household, or I’m not home enough and conveniently so for repair personnel).

And so on.

Goofball. Or is it me?

* Not her real name nor the company’s – on Friday our gas insert started making a horrible, burnt smell and I put a call in to the property manager who then quickly fielded it to the installation contractor. This receptionist or whoever she is told me someone would come to my house to sort it out; I waited as long as I felt comfortable, having postponed an engagment. Since he didn’t show, I just decided to avoid running the gas until they’d come over and sorted it out. I was a little irritated they didn’t show on time – but no biggie.

so, I was at a party last night, and I’ve discovered…

… in the world of womankind, the gossip quotient is staggering.

I’m not just talking about the, “Oh my God, did you hear that Betsy…” full-on reporting and back-talking that happens immediately after the poor woman in question is out of sight. I’m talking about the constant realigning and discernment of friends, foes, bitches, and ho’s (is that how you spell “ho” in the plural?”). I’m referring to the morbid interest women show when there is in-fighting amongst girls, especially former friends who used to be tight.

At the party in question I quickly self-segregated into the handful who were intermittently heading upstairs to the pool hall (read: smoking area – hey, I was a Designated Driver and needed some fun). Even though I didn’t make the rounds to everyone there, and had a relatively small number of interactions with different women, I was surprised at how many times attempts were made to seduce me into making or decrying particular alliances. A couple women bitched about a woman not present. One woman threw out a subtle barb referring to a perceived insult I had experienced from a third woman there (I didn’t take the bait, though). A couple women commented on my tank top (not revealing, but tight and busty) in a way that seemed not-altogether-nice. It was sort of like a bunch of cats all sniffing one another. Except everyone was drinking, so a little like cats in heat. Or something.

Now, for the exactly three fellows who read my blog, this isn’t to say I prefer the company of men, or that I believe an all-male get-together to be a more honest, open, and fun event. Hardly. First of all, the incidents where men get together – and do all the organizing themselves – are about once a year. If a man doesn’t enjoy the pasttimes of either A. killing things, or B. golfing, this number is even more drastically reduced. Also, on the flip side of the female’s more vicious inner workings exists a camaraderie, fierce love, and emotional openness that I can’t honestly see a group of men exhibiting (I could be wrong, having no experience there). Part of the package of the intuitive and maternal Goddess is the murderous Kali-bitch who has a string of heads hanging around her neck.

And for the record: no, I’m not interested in back-biting, no matter how tempting; and yeah, I was fine with how tight my shirt was and the resultant boobage and soft-middle that was displayed.

that homecoming crown, still so elusive

What is that feeling I’m having again? It’s so familiar. Not a good thing, either. Why am I acting so awkwardly? Why am I not talking? What’s wrong?

Oh yeah. I’m the odd one out.

It happens every once in a while. Very rarely, really. In this case, it’s me and a small group of ladies I would call acquaintances (as opposed to friends). They’re friendly. They’re nice. In their presence, I feel like a dork. I’m not telling the right stories. I’m not keeping my crayon between the lines of the coloring book we’re using. Maybe I have an intensity about issues I shouldn’t. Maybe it’s how I wave my middle finger in the air to punctuate a story (never at somebody, more like to make a point). Maybe I should have smaller boobs and stop wearing tribal earrings (I swear, the only remotely “edgy” thing I have going!).

It’s times like this I am grateful I (generally) like myself, and that I know people who like me for the person I am. Most of these people are women who are – to use my friend Steph’s descriptive of yours truly – “brassy”, irreverent, and outspoken, like me.

But sometimes – like now – I feel an elusive cliquishness that distresses me. I don’t know how to break the code and play by the rules. I want to. I don’t have a problem playing by different rules. So I stop saying anything snarky, or the word “crotch”, or talking about my husband’s ass. Still, I can tell I’m not fitting in. It isn’t working! Last resort? Be quiet. Be a wallflower. Go home to those who like you. Call best friend up and share an amusing sexual harassment story.

These days I know enough about people to know that exclusivity is often not deliberate – it’s a miscommunication between species. In this case, the vanilla-wafer jock / cheerleader girl with the overly-friendly, foul-mouthed trollop who takes smoke breaks behind the gym (guess which one I am?). It doesn’t even hurt, exactly.

And then I wonder – do I do the same to other girls? Who are they, and what’s their story? And why are they silent?

If that’s me, I’m truly sorry, sisters.