see a dog, maybe a few birds flying high.

A couple things.

First, I TOTALLY MADE THIS, and even though the prudent and reserved thing to do would be to blog it on my son’s birthday – it’s a gift for his 9th on April 7th – I am feeling SO AWESOME about it and must post now! But to be clear, this is my daughter modeling – and no, my son has no idea I made this for him. Yet.

Luigi's Mansion Hat for Nels

Luigi's Mansion Hat for Nels

Luigi's Mansion Hat for Nels


In other news, my daughter enrolled in a college-level course in Biology; she is trying to pursue experience that will help her get a job at an aquarium. I will be very interested to see if she is willing to go through a bunch of slog to get accreditation, my guess is No. But she is tough, so who knows!

With her permission, I’ve published part of her work today, an essay (problem statement in bold):

Problem Background: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a history that dates back to the late 1950s. NASA was the United States’ response to the “space race” with the Soviet Union, in which the two countries were developing space technologies as a way to maintain their status as world powers and as a “military necessity” (citation). NASA’s early missions emphasized developing technology to get spacecraft, satellites, and eventually people into space. NASA’s work now affects many aspects of our lives that often go unnoticed. TV, GPS, and weather forecasts all rely on satellites and many of the things that we use at home were developed by NASA. Among them are cordless power tools and smoke detectors (citation).

Space exploration is now one of NASA’s major roles. Officials at NASA are seeking your help in preparing for their next mission: the search for life elsewhere in the universe. Your team of biologists has been recruited to advise NASA in the search for life away from earth. In particular, they would like to know 1) where they should search for life away from earth and 2) what they should be looking for once they have determined where to search?

In order to defend the expenses for this mission, NASA needs scientific justification for both where and what they searching. Additionally, it would be useful for your team to explain why the exploration for life is important. After all, Congress and the American tax payers are generally interested in the benefits or applications of scientific research. Without it, funding for research may go away.

To provide scientifically justified recommendations, you will probably want to address several questions.

1. What are the fundamental characteristics of “life”?
2. Under what conditions do we think life as we know it began?
3. What things are necessary for life?
4. Beyond conditions that may be appropriate for life, what evidence should we look for
to indicate past or present existence of life?
5. The search for life sometimes begins with a search for water. Why?
6. What is it about water that makes it uniquely important for life as we know it?
7. If life began under different conditions, how might the things that we search for differ?


The search for life is important because of curiosity. A puppy would have never left his bed if he didn’t have curiosity. Curiosity is what makes the puppy find his food bowl or his mother. Curiosity is something that every animal has and what makes them special.

The search for new life on planets we haven’t even discovered would probably be like the “Space Race”. What new tools could we invent while on this quest to find life on other planets? What new tools will we make for people’s everyday life?

The fundamental characteristics of life are animate, breathing, at least more then 50% of the body is made up of water and cells. Must have cells.

Water is one of the main conditions the earth might have been in. The early earth probably must have been damp and moist. Other planets don’t have this feature, but also no oxygen.

Bones and preserved waste is one of the keys. To present day existence of life, look around, see a dog, maybe a few birds flying high. Also preserved trees, also called charcoal. These are he things NASA could look for.

Water is a key element to life. Without it in our body, we wouldn’t get the proper nutrition. Earth is made of 70% water. Cells are usually surrounded by water. WATER IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE.


I know, right?! It is straight-up better than your average TED talk. Mostly because it relies on puppies as a key point, in such an eloquent way I was about to cry, reading it.

She is fabulous.

the book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day

This was the first New Year’s Eve I remember in my life, where I didn’t count down like everyone else usually does. I’d planned on, after our dinner guests left, taking a friend and my family to a Buddhist meditation at midnight. Instead I was sitting with these folks in the Emergency Room, waiting to visit a friend who’d been trucked in after a collapse. My kids, husband, and my girl H. played some kind of Twister knock-off on a carpet a few feet away. Next time I looked at my watch it was thirty-four minutes past midnight.

The fireworks from the hospital’s hill were lovely. It was cold. Nels had about three girlfriends by the time we left the parking lot. A social child. Also, earlier, a grouchy child who’d disrupted our earlier dinner a bit.

My friend at the hospital seems out of the woods. I am very grateful. I gave him my number as he’s staying overnight, and told him to call if I could bring him anything at all.


We had a good day today; the kids and I accompanied another family to adopt a kitty for little E. It was pretty choice, getting to visit with and pet the kitties.

My Lovely Daughter

Phoenix was a very kind little girl at the shelter, taking stock of each kitty and remembering their names and tempraments. There was another Phoenix working there as a volunteer, a teen boy. He and my daughter got along great, although I think like many he didn’t, at first, think a younger child could conduct themselves with aplomb at a kitty shelter.

E. & Her Daddy, Talk Kitties

E. and her father discuss adoption plans.


Raider. A favorite of J.’s. He was a handsome kitty. But E. was intent on adopting a lady kitty.


Here’s a kitty I like to call Noel, MY NEW BOYFRIEND. HE LOVED ME SO MUCH AND IMMEDIATELY CLIMBED IN MY ARMS right after I snapped this. He is the handsomest thing I have ever seen. Not convinced? Would you like a closeup?


I am going to get a tattoo of Noel and his likeness. His green-blue eyes are the inspiration of many sonnets. I’m sure he will be adopted out in no time and it just kills me.

Nels + Noel + Erin

E. + Nels + Noel. You can click through for like eighteen adorable pictures of them all looking at a “flashing light” they saw outside.

Nels + Noel

Nels reacts to something Noel said, probably something very suave and witty.

Erm... No Thanks, Panther

Panther may have trouble getting adopted.

Happy New Year. Anyone reading here with any regularity knows how grateful I am for my life. How blessed. I don’t mean “blessed” because so much good shit has happened to me or because God is super into me, I mean “blessed” because I’m very glad for the gifts I have. It is the gladness, the awareness, the awakenedness, when I have it, that is the gift.

Here’s Ralph taking a picture of me tonight just before tacos, because I wanted a new photo for Twitter. Thank you, husband, for taking a picture and making it of my ENORMOUS FACE.

New Years', Pre-Tacos

bella ragazza

For her next expression of personal style, at first Phoenix wanted to do some purple. Then while we were saving up for that, she decided she didn’t enjoy the dyeing process much (I don’t blame her!). We mustered our hair-stylist friend and Ralph’s partner musician H. who came over and cut the girl’s hair (Ralph’s too, which is looking sharp by the way). Sorry for the extra-dark pictures. Mobile phone at night, because late late night is the best time for haircuts!

We asked my daughter if we could take a picture part-way through, since we loved the little fringe in front and a long braid in the back:


Phoenix let us, and agreed it was a “cute” look, but wasn’t swayed from her original vision: all of her hair at 3/8″.

& After!

I told Phoenix the neighbor boys might give her shit, and taunt her that she looks like a boy. She said, “I know, I planned it that way. I get to look like a boy and be a girl.”

So, seriously, I have the best little roomates ever. Oh and P.S., as for our living-room stylist, I love supporting the under-employed right now, because it sure is happening around us a lot.

A cat named Mustache

a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives

The last few days I’ve thrown myself into new work with addicts and alcoholics, giving rides here and there, buying breakfast for the flat-out underemployed, caring for other people’s kids, teens and pets, taking a friend on a birthday date, and helping those who have a hard time making ends meet.

Plus all that other stuff of caring for my own kiddos and husband and pets and household as best I can. And having a bit of a social life, and a sewing life, to boot!

So, I am behind on both writing here, and responding to comments. I apologize.

One thing I want to point out is the few people I’ve helped recently, or a handful of them, have given me a valuable lesson. A friend I took a dozen eggs to yesterday because she didn’t have food money until today, the difference between she and I (back when we couldn’t afford food and utilities and our lifestyle, and were bouncing checks and igorning collection bills because it was all so overwhelming), is this friend asked for and accepted help. Asking for and accepting help, in appropriate ways and from appropriate parties, has been a new(-ish) cornerstone of my life. Let’s face it, without help I was flailing at best and often a Toxic Asshole either running from, or attempting to selfishly dominate, many of life’s challenges.

The Toxic Asshole part of me is still live and kicking and surfaces more often than I’m proud of, but there’s another presence within that I like a lot more. She’s like a Baby. Baby Awesomesauce. Baby Awesomesauce is growing up just fine, but things take time.

Of course giving back gives me immense rewards so it is in itself a selfish activity of sorts. One of the hardest things going right now is to know when to give freely to others, and knowing when if I were to do so, it would rob my family of something I should be giving them (time, groceries, mostly).

I put my faith in the path set before me and I know that one day I’ll look back and see with clarity where my life is heading, and why.


In lieu of Friday links I have two pieces of local interest:

First, Ralph and I put together a collection of my sewn pieces for sale at the On Track Art Walk tomorrow. I would love to earn money for my craft, to have my pieces find gleeful homes, and – most of all, to find a sewing community. If I had a dream it would be to be involved with a community center/studio where I could create, and help others do the same. I don’t have the resources to start this myself, but perhaps someone out there does. In any case, I’m ready to be Out There a bit more.

Second, our local town’s annual festival came out with their official t-shirt. Many HQX residents do not endorse the shirt and are taking actions, including boycotting, writing letters to the editor and City etc, and printing a better shirt and donating profits (you can read more about it here, if you have Facebook).

From my G+ post here are some of my thoughts:

“I love my town and I love my country. One thing I love about both is the right to protest ideas and products that are violent, offensive, and bad for children and grownups and probably even small puppy dogs. Yay local Jokay Daniel who’ll be selling the alternate shirt & donating profits; also J. for being instrumental in creating alternate shirts.”

Reading the comments in the Facebook group is pretty darn cool and makes me proud of my HQX peeps.


And finally, something to ponder:

A cat named Mustache

part of this complete breakfast

I’ve had this song and video stuck in my head all day. Which totally works for me.

In other news, a child over today tore our house apart grabbing blankets and furniture to build forts and then torture-imprisoned many cats in said structures until I (nicely) requested for the child to stop (with the cat thing). After agreeing to Ralph’s request to put a few things back before leaving, the child scuttled out the door and back home having done no such thing and leaving the kids’ room and our bedroom in a total shambles. This child also seems to have a hygiene problem, which I find unappealing and depressing; also a problem with perpetually telling untruths. Yesterday upon seeing a jar of cash and coin in our house I heard the child telling my son it belonged to a friend, hoping to take it home.

I have no idea why today I let this behavior get to me. Actually after having typed it out, it seems reasonable enough I did. I’m proud of myself though that I provide a good home to any child who visits, as long as I’m not distracted by the other stuff going on which is REALLY EASY because I am kind of a busy and frenetic person. I’m not nearly as mellow as some people make me out to be. As for these “badly-behaved children” (usually under-nurtured ones so, hard to pathologize the child itself) my job is to provide a warm, welcoming house – and food, and as much freedom as possible – to the kids in my life (my own and others’). It usually works out great which is probably why a lot of kids like being here.

In this case maybe today I simply preferred the company of my own children and private homelife, a series pf lovely episodes: we’d spent the morning taking baths together and then the kids asked for an unconventional breakfast: popcorn and fresh oranges (we have some really lovely citrus in the house). The popcorn I prepared old-skool, as I don’t own a popper or microwave or anything – just a pot with a lid and a little oil, potholders and stove top. I have many memories of my father (usually shirtless) popping up a huge batch before family movie night – we had an electric element range and sparks would fly off the burners as he banged about. After he’d pour the popcorn into a large paper shopping bag, then swirl butter in the pan to melt; add the butter and some salt to the bag and shake-shake-shake. I do the same, now; except I add parmesan cheese and nutritional yeast. Today as the kids sat happily in their underwear I showed Nels how to section an orange without a mess and how to carefully eat so not to crunch a seed (is it my imagination, or does citrus with seeds taste sweeter than seedless varieties?).

I cleaned up breakfast and the kids ran around snuggling cats and reading and drawing and building Legos. I felt a little blue at today’s wetter and gloomier weather and thus made up a batch each of niter kibbeh and berbere sauce. Dicing chiles and garlic and grinding spices and clarifying butter? Yeah, that worked out fine. My daughter ran around in her little tank top with her hair up in a ponytail singing Pink songs and my heart broke in half at how young-lady-like she’s looking (taking her measurements the other day for sewing I observed her waist and hip measurements have a 6″ difference… yes, growing-growing, they don’t slow down). I’ve gotta remind myself to slow down and enjoy the time I have.

Halfway through Ralph’s evening errands he was stopped by a family man feeling exhausted by family and work life. The guy ended up telling my husband he wanted to talk to him more about our family life. He said, “Your kids are so nice and polite, and smart, and you all seem to get along… I want that.” It’s cool to be noticed and acknowledged, although not for the reason you might think. I really want to help other families find their way into loving family life all the more. It happens; it works, for realz.

I’ve got a bottle of organic wine and fresh-washed bedding and a couple of squeaky-clean bathed kiddos and sleepy cats. It’s all working out OK.

"Mutant Horse" by Phoenix Fire Hogaboom & Adam Moe

Christmas Gift

A few months ago I picked up one of Phoenix’s beautiful pieces from the many, many we have lying about, and sent an email to an embroidery artist I liked (I can’t quite remember how I first stumbled on his Etsy shop). To my utter delight he took up the commission and we traded emails, then upon completion some cash. About nine days before Christmas I opened one of the happier packages I’ve received in a while. Today the piece was featured on a blog I follow, Mr. X. Stitch:

"Mutant Horse" by Phoenix Fire Hogaboom & Adam Moe

The blog post was the kick in the pants I needed; I figured I’d better throw up the scan and commit to getting this sucker framed. My mom and I tried our own framing for Christmas but it wasn’t quite right. The framed piece is leaning on the kids’ desk right now but I’m going to take it in tomorrow and get a quote.

Here’s the original work:

Mutant Horse by Phoenix Fire Hogaboom

Here’s the treasure hunt “clues” my daughter found on Christmas morning that led her to this present. (P.S. I totally whipped these little clues up fast, no criticizing!):

A gift for Phoenie
A present for you
is hidden away.
First look to where we
your fine art display! [clips]

Patience is needed
if you know what I mean –
go to the locale
where you splash to get clean. [bathtub]

Your brother likes something
with nori wrapped ‘round.
Where is the place
the other ingredient is found? [rice cooker]

Your mom owns no diamonds
their beauty untapped.*
But if she had jewels
where would they be kept? [dish on my dresser]

You’ve been searching and searching –
you must need some rest!
Try a soft, high place
that Harris likes best [bunk bed]

When my daughter found the piece in her room I heard her say, “I can’t believe my eyes! I drew that!” Ha. She was quite impressed and quite pleased.

I feel stunned by the amount of artwork Phoenix produces and how very much she enjoys it. She has been working with a bit of Sculpey clay I bought and shows the same expressiveness, joy, desire, and innate talent. Now she wants more clay. Claywork is more expensive than pencils and pens but I’m going to make it happen, no matter what.

So I might as well put a call out to readers – any drawing (paper, pens, pencils) or clay supplies you can recommend (or those you don’t), let me know! I feel a bit lost in these worlds.

* Not passive-aggressive, I swear!

This is your life / Don’t play hard to get

This afternoon while I attempted to get some sleep Ralph took my mom’s shop vac to the interior of the car – he picked up gallons, apparently. The vehicle was instantly a lot better (no splashy sound when you step in) – less condensation, and in the shouldn’t-have-surprised-me category it was far less cold for driving (I guess we’ve been running around in a portable DIY air chilling unit, ha!).

Little things like that cheer me up. It’s cold out – approaching freezing temperatures, about the coldest we’re acclimated to here – and wet. I have a headcold and am somewhat frustratedly committing to rest this weekend. So instead of having an active day getting shit done and running around then finally relaxing to some B-movie viewing, I spend the day… doing nothing. Except knitting and reading to the kids. Both good things, both not what I wanted to limit myself to today. And gee, the B-movie isn’t much to look forward to when I’ve been ass-bound all day.

I got up to a little bit of cheerfulness sitting at the Y and typing away on the laptop while the family went swimming. There was another family there with a pretty little baby and I sat there and with my Mind-Control willed the father to Bring Me The Baby (he didn’t, and in any case, I wouldn’t hold a baby while contagious). Ralph and I locked eyes across the pool. BABY. We have a signal.

Tonight after swimming we park in front of my mother’s; Ralph runs inside to help her move something heavy. Nels is filled with remorse because a few minutes previous I had nixed his plans to purchase a little bottle pop. He’s taken this very badly as I’ve been short with him all day; at this last straw he starts crying. “Nobody wants me, nobody likes me… You don’t even want to kiss me.” I pull him onto my lap; the car is warm, the strains of Balmorhea from the speakers and the purr of the heater and his little pink nose and tear-streaked face and the smell of his skin and hair. I kiss him. And I apologize for being short with him. He’s right, I’ve been treating him poorly of late.

Nels is more forgiving than anyone I’ve met; he knows with rapier-sharp acuity a sincere apology vs. an insincere one; he accepts sincere ones when provided (this is a rare and gracious trait). Ralph and I have a terrible tendency to find Nels cute; it’s this that our son bridles at when he sternly tells us not to laugh at him. I put my arms around him now and re-commit to taking him as seriously as a Big Person. And I try to swallow those feelings I have, occasionally, of being worse than a Wire Monkey Mother.

By the time I get home – and Ralph and I roast a chicken, make mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and carrot sticks with ranch dip, then set the table and sit down to eat – I realize I’ve overextended myself. My head feels stopped up and my eyes are itchy and I’m a bit dizzy and I’m thinking, I can’t even rest correctly.

So who wants to get a shot of whiskey, listen to Freddie, and have a good cry with me?