so ready for us, the creature fear

One nice thing about having inexpensive things is nothing is worth much except the use we get out of it. So this afternoon when I take up the purchased-from-Ross bowl I’m washing, near clean, and lift my hands and smash it into the sink with all my might, well, even given the impulsivity of the moment I know I’m not breaking anything dear. It’s a cheap outburst. Practical, really.

Sadly, my plans are foiled. The thing rather stubbornly breaks cleanly in half with an astonishingly muffled percussive noise – considering I’d aimed it at a stainless steel sink – and gently both pieces bounce and roll across the counter, not at all the shattered disorder I’d hoped to grimly and uselessly clean up piece by tiny piece. It only takes one second to put each half in the trash and then it’s all over. I’m tidy like that.

I am totally fine with walking and riding the bus today for errands, or maybe more accurately, I need a few moments to be fine with it as it was kind of sprung on me, a funny-silly car becoming a likely-tragically-not-running car, pushing our vehicular repair plans and expected expense up a notch quite suddenly (please do not make one helpful suggestion regarding the use of cars. We have a car plan. It’s just taking a while. Because of stuff like rent and food. But you should see our plan! It’s totally all awesome and on the level and going to work out just great. *shifty eyes* ), and I have all these groceries I’ve gotta get because one-day grocery shopping is not so fun with our local transit, and I’m already feeling the dark closing in on me tonight, and I’m feeding the kids but they don’t want to eat the chicken noodle casserole my mom brought over that is totally fine and they need it in their tummies because it’s going to be a long trip, and if you’ve ever gone somewhere with small children and they’re hungry and you can’t get them food yet you might understand how my anxiety ramps up at the very thought, and I’m intuiting somehow GHTransit will fuck me over (and I’m right as you will see).

Today in a moment of weakness I tell Nels I think I have to put him in school. He says, “Never”, and there is a storm in his eyes. I tell him I can’t take care of him. It’s not him. He is doing great. He’s a champion. He’s fucking stellar. It’s me. I can’t take care of him right. I keep missing what it is I’m doing wrong and he seems Unknowable but deeply-experienced (to me and by me) and feral and sweet and complicated but totally fine. You should see him. I make him food and he doesn’t want it but later he mixes up banana and milk and happily munches carrot sticks and forks up bowls of meatballs, pushing his hair out of his eyes and fastidiously wiping his hands (usually on his shirt, which he then changes after washing his hands). I give him hand-knit fingerless gloves for Christmas and he says they don’t feel right, they are scratchy. I hate myself because I actually knew he was sensitive to wool and I just didn’t think ahead.

When I can’t hit the right note with him I begin to see him as Wild, and I recognize he’s doing great, but I just feel so bad sometimes, so guilty, I’ve raised him well enough he sometimes seems not to need me, I’ve done a job many parents are afraid to do, and sometimes it hurts. Today he puts his arms around me and tells me he’ll be okay, he can take care of himself. His body is all bones under smooth skin and his hair smells so sweet and he says, “Mama, you know I can find myself something to eat,” (explaining the aversion to the casserole) and when I get home later in the evening he has the bowl in his room and runs out and says, “I changed my mind, I ate the whole thing and it was delicious!” and he’s a happy clam in the sand, and there’s not one thing I did right by him today, but he’s still going to love me and put his arms around me and beg to bathe and sleep together as if I’m someone who’s worth it.

Late afternoon: waiting for the bus takes forever. Because the 3:50 came and left early so we have to wait for the 4:30 and it’s cold and the shelter has busted-out windows and the bench is damp (but speckled with a pretty and brilliant orange fungus). Phoenie and I look up information on tornadoes on the new phone and I mess about with my camera. It’s a good time, really. She is cheerful but she is eventually cold. Avoiding the wet bench she lays on a section ofdry sidewalk for a while.


Finally the bus comes and we get out on errands and get hot coffee and hot chocolate. Every word that comes out of my daughter’s mouth is wonderful, like music. Phoenix and I wander around the Dollar Tree and I think about all the different people there, those who shop there by necessity (make no mistake, there are lots of them) and those who get to pick and choose when they can “slum it” and when they can get exactly what they want, and I’m kind of not even sure which world I inhabit, which confuses me for some reason. The thought of so many people worse off than I, in need, struggling, it depresses me, because sometimes it seems no one cares.

Phoenix is a ray of light and confidently grips her hot chocolate in her wool-encased paws and when I mutter I need pot holders and then lip balm* she knows exactly where these things are and after helping me a bit she tells me she’ll be in the toy section. Ralph meets us there and we take our groceries home and I make a lovely Mexican Chicken Soup and quesadillas and homemade refried beans and all that chopping and stirring and mixing and correcting seasoning, okay, I’m doing a little better.

December 29, 2010

My mom visits and stays until near-midnight. Ralph eventually goes to bed. Giving up on sleep at a mortal hour, I cut a dress for Phoenix from sale yardage that is pleasingly leaf-green and I hope I don’t fuck it up, I mark carefully with chalk and set aside pieces and imagine the finished dress (maybe the imagining is my favorite part of all), and I just tell myself to get through each day and each night of this winter, I know I can survive it, even though it stretches out ahead of me like an unknowable abyss.

* Just as I post this my daughter wanders over to my desk, un-caps the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Scented I came away with and puts her freckled nose to it, then pronounces: “Hm… smells creepy.” EXACTLY!

continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.

Today brought increasingly cold weather and a promise of snow tonight (although I remain doubtful). We were once again foiled by the Grays Harbor Transit as we waited about forty five minutes for a bus home after the three of us acquired groceries (French dips, carrot sticks, and asparagus tonight – kids’ choice; moussaka tomorrow). I need to remember to never, ever, EVAR assume a GH Transit bus is coming anytime soon – next time we’ll huddle up in Safeway and drink cocoa and wait until I see the prostitutes drift away from the bus stop to avoid a potentially-awkward transaction when they elect not to climb aboard. But today, whoops, I thought: for sure a bus is coming soon as we are right-smack in the middle of a prime-traffic time slot. Um, no.

Good Lord, were we cold by the end of it all.

Fellow passengers were dressed ill for the weather, holding large bags of Top Ramen Valu Packs on their laps and hunching shoulders until the warm air blasting through the bus warmed them. When Nels boarded the crowded bus he sat by a young woman heading to drug treatment in Hoquiam. He talked her ear off – I mean he talked non-stop. She was very sweet and gracious and listened attentively like a total champ. And when she disembarked she told a young man sitting a few seats behind us – “You’re cute!” (and he was, with the guitar case and the tiny jeans and emo hair and blue eyes and labret piercing), so she gets total props. I held my daughter close and balanced our groceries and tried not to puke – the bus ride makes me very ill unless I breathe deep and keep my eyes out the front window. In fact I got sick enough I had to bail blocks early and walk; Nels accompanied me, swinging a bag of bolillos and skipping, happily talking about how much he wanted to eat a bite of bread. Phoenix stayed on and disembarked closer to home, breathless and sparkly-eyed from her solo jaunt when she came to the door later.

It was cold enough as soon as I got home and after I made dinner (we hosted my mother as well) I re-started on Phoenix’s wool underlined coat; it should be done tomorrow although I just ordered online for a little covered button kit to get things JUST right. She’ll have to make do in fleece and rain slicker for a couple more days.

It was a curiously tiring day, perhaps all the more so because this morning I did a lot of cooking and cleaning instead of fucking off on the internet for entirely too long. And now: a hot shower and a glass of cheap red wine; a late-night movie tucked in with kids and cats and a very sleepy-looking husband who should probably go to bed but can’t stand not to be up with us while we’re up.

of summer rains and winged things

About a year ago the kids and I found a large and impressively-vibrant poison green caterpillar while at the Aberdeen bus station. It seemed in a precarious concrete-laden scenario so we brought it home to observe its transformation (we stopped at Rite-Aid to buy a jar as we were on bikes and couldn’t carry it easily and safely). The little creature seemed rather frantic (as far as I can tell for an invertebrate), waving its body around and spitting out strands of silk. That very day it spun its cocoon on a procured branch we’d included.

How long do such transformations take? I hadn’t even had time to take a picture of the critter and try to identify it, so I could not look this information up. We waited and the alien-looking, precisely-formed bundle remained inert. When we found our new house carefully we moved the jar to a windowsill on our porch. I watched anxiously as weeks, then months trickled by. I began to be sure we’d messed up. Ralph or a guest occasionally ashed clove cigarettes into the glass even. I felt terrible about this. I began to think we’d done something incorrect that had killed the animal, but what? I thought of carefully slicing the cocoon open to see what the insect looked like mid-change, but I thought to myself What if, what if it was still alive, then I will surely have murdered it.

Today as I closed the porch windows against the first real rain we’ve had in some time I observed the glass where it has sat for so long and to my surprise, the cocoon had changed, split neatly one-third of the way along the carapace, vacant and mutely perfect like the cap of an acorn. I looked about quickly but of course, she must have made her escape in the many times we’ve had our door oppen. I wondered if this has been the brilliant white moth I’d seen a couple days before, simply beautiful, regal, on my porch railing. In any case although I felt a small sense of sadness I had not elected to screen the top of the jar that we might observe the miracle, I was so glad she was free, ephemeral, unhindered by our human meddling.

the daily grind

A couple weeks ago my son looked directly at me and said, “I’m going to go over across the street and meet the neighbors.” This didn’t surprise me: other neighbors have been telling me how impressed they were with my children’s friendliness and directness. Our neighborhood has turned out lovely for kid-play because, quite simply, there are a lot of kids running about and our yard abuts several houses of (so far) chicken-friendly and (as far as I can tell) perfectly lovely people happy to have a chat. Many of the neighborhood kids end up at my house, some of them over and over during the day, and I’m not exactly sure why as we lack so many of the things I’ve heard today’s kids can’t do without, like television and Wiis and junk food and whatever. I’m not exactly a doting hostess either as I wander my way through writing and cleaning and cooking and sewing and grabbing a half-clove cigarette on the deck. The kids come and go and I guess I’m just kind of used to having kids around and I seem to suit this life (very funny as I grew into a decidedly anti-kid young adult, before I embarked on the adventure of having my own).

A couple days after Nels’ announcement I was walking through my living room when a small closely-shorn boychild popped out from under the table in the dining nook, grinning at me largely and wordlessly, then climbed on my couch and began to execute mid-air flips. Very nice, I told him. Soon his brothers were in and out of my house and after about an hour their uncle I. came over and asked if they’d been any trouble. Not at all. Today halfway through laundry I found myself amidst all four of these siblings running about and peering through the house. I figured a walk was in order so I asked them if they wanted me to take them out to ice cream. They said Yes but I had to spend a good deal more time rounding up their shoes and my son (who by then had climbed fences and picked apples and gone next door while I did the shoe-thing). I met the children’s parents and, wonder of wonders, retained all six new names – I am terrible with names (this family of six lives in Tacoma but visits often, as the grandmother, uncle, and a few others live here on first street). “Can you handle them?” their mother asked smiling; I noticed her hair was pulled into an elaborate coiffure with purple glitter strewn through it. I wasn’t sure if I could handle four kids I didn’t know well on a walk along a highway but I said Yes and it turns out I could.

Off & Away

We ended up taking quite the circuitous route through train tracks and back paths even I had never crawled over as a child. Kids loving climbing on abandoned trains and I figure it’s a birthright. The elder kids helped the littler ones (the age range was three to eight) and it was an amiable and energetic journey. As we left Adams street for the houses and trailers tucked in back lots I heard suddenly bright and vibrant yelling; a woman thirty feet away was calling to the children and so was her brilliant, preternaturally blue macaw – the animal’s voice very, very eerily like a human being’s. As one pack the children streamed over the tracks to sway, entranced, and observe the birds.


M. & Her Birds


I introduced myself and she told me her name was M. I don’t know if she lived in the trailer (I think it was for the birds) but as we talked her elderly mother drove up and parked and smiled and went inside the house. I asked M. if I could take a picture of her and the birds. I could barely get a word in edgewise and you know I’m a pretty talkative person.

M. Tells Me A Story

The birds were rescue animals and she told me a bit about how to know if a bird had been captured in the wild or bred in captivity. She was pleased when I recited I’d read 75% of wild birds caught died; she was clearly passionate about these animals.  I wished I’d been less occupied with the children and I was less photo-shy because I would have loved to focus on a better portrait of she and her birds to print out and bring back to her. Maybe I’ll do it all the same.

We thanked her and went on our way; a half a field later we came across a friend’s mother L. with her dogs and I caught up with her, sliding right into conversation as I helped children up and then off the railcars as they requested it. By the time I said goodbye to L. the children were clustered near one of the old Lamb’s buildings and expertly knocking out windows with satisfying splashes. I made them stop although it must be confessed I would have liked to do one in myself. Little by little and through a bramble patch we made it to the hamburger stand for hard ice cream. Three bubble gum, two rainbow sherbert, and chocolate brownie. The children didn’t mind at all sitting next to the dusty highway to eat.

Spoils Of War

The four neighbor children flagged a little on the walk back but we made it home okay.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I feel a little tired here in the summer with the extra responsibility of other people’s kids, a responsibility I take on willingly enough but is a different pace from even a month ago before the weather turned. In addition Ralph’s schedule is such he works longer days (ameliorated by a short Friday) and with only one car between us he’s either kept away from home for a period extended by bus schedules, or I’m at home on foot or bike with the kids.  Breaks for me feel few and far between. I’ve learned to be patient and wait; soon the perfect moment will come of calm and peace and only a few dishes before I can sew for even a few moments in the quiet.  Maybe one day we’ll even have both cars running or some extra cash. I’d love to buy the kids some more books and a couple of small desks or maybe curtain rods for our austere little Hotel de Hogaboom staying cool from the sun.

suspicious characters

My husband takes a deep breath, sighs, looks pointedly at the steering wheel, then kills the engine.  I know exactly what he’s thinking.  Is the truck going to start when we return? I’m hoping it will as we have kids at home getting up to God Knows What while we shop for groceries and believe it or not, asking people for jumps gets a bit old (although it must be said in Grays Harbor people are really ready for this eventuality, my friend J. tells me they also carry chainsaws in their trucks ready to cut down trees lying across the road, you know, just in case).

The truck thing is kind of his fault.  A few days ago before he embarked on fixing my mom’s troubled beast I’d asked him if the vehicle mayhap have a charging system problem, not so much a battery problem, take it and get it diagnosed first, blah blah.  He figured it was the battery, a good guess really plus he was doing the repair bit on lunch break, so he bought a new one on my mom’s dime and now the damn thing still dies every two days (if you use headlights at all).  OK: so, fine.  Tomorrow I’ll take it to the shop my dad always recommended.  And the kids and I will bus back. And I hope it’s not raining, ugh.  You know, that whole hour in between buses shit in the wind and rain.  Today was sunny but cold when you’re out hoofing it.

You know in Hoquiam and Aberdeen very few people take their errands or their work commute by walking, biking, or the public transportation?  It’s fricken rare to see people hitting the streets who aren’t poverty-level or dealing with a variety of drug, court, mental health and/or welfare problems (I currently have none of the above). Most peeps in my peer group are in their cars, minivans, trucks shuttling back and forth.  In fact there are huge swatches of pretty much normal Aberdeen where by being seen walking you’re judged to be either down-on-your-luck or poor or prostituting or mething and heavily judged or WTF’d based on any of these assumptions (actually, don’t even click and read the comments in that link, it’s just kind of depressing).  As for the supposed sketchy areas of the fair township, my pwecious widdle babies and I walked some of them today, first getting a hot dog at the stand by the carwash (not very prepossessing in appearance but delicious all the same) then some helado a la tienda naranja before ending up in my Monday afternoon belly dancing class.




P.S., why am I in a belly dancing class. First off, most the ladies in there seem really into the scarves and skirt and jingles.  I own not one skirt except a denim mini (which I happened to wear today b/c of the sunshine).  I don’t like flowing veils or fringe or all that wispy twirling around with scarves thing.  So, I dance in my jeans with my fat rolls hanging out the top.  FTW.

Which brings me to:  I do like the dancing.  It feels great.  I like the ladies in the class, especially my friend J. and the instructor L.  I like really dancing, energetically so.  I try not to glimpse myself in the huge studio mirror, because my cavorting looks so much less impressive than it feels.

Which is my second Why am I in a belly dancing class query, because really?  Yes, I can do a bit of a camel walk or a figure eight or large hip circles or a shoulder shimmy or a veil drop.  But ask me to combine two or more?  Why don’t I just fall down, break my arm, and piss my pants while I’m at it, because that’s where I’m going to end up.

Oh and by the way, Ralph and I made it home from the grocery store.  The truck survives to fight another day.


Documenting my domicile: our little porch.  Adorned with the Hogaboom Lemon Tree and (lower left) a Thrift City bifurcated rag rug for $2, which I carried all grimy-like in my fist for a half hour in line at the store, then washed and dried at home and you should have seen Ralph’s expression, although he has come to believe it’s a nice addition, so that’s good.

ch-ch-ch, tra-la-la

Some self-guru or other said, “You have the life you want,” all smug-like and distinctly sounding like Quit Bitching, You Totally Deserve Whatever Terrible Shit Is Happening To You. Truth or fiction, in my view this adage lacks both compassion and helpfulness when delivered to those who are suffering – especially as I often seen it delivered by parties currently enjoying more than their share of helpings from Life’s Comforts Buffet.

I do, however, feel pretty confident ascribing the mantra to myself – You Have The Life You Want – if anyone reads here and, you know, feels bad for my troubles or even worse, gets all SOLVE-Y about them (because seriously? You can ask if I want to solve the problem and I might say no! For reals!) As in:

The vehicle we’ve been borrowing (since our Mercedes threw the crankshaft pulley a week ago, my mom’s huge ginormous truck, died about a half hour ago and before I’d really got my day started. It turns out the truck has a charging system weakness whereupon engaging the headlights drains the battery in an exceeding fashion. So even though last night after our extensive shopping trip at Thrift World I raced home to safety as fast as I decently could before the sun went down (RIP Haim!), I did in fact find it necessary to turn on the headlights for a few minutes or else be in violation of the law, tapping my foot nervously as the kids turned up The Gossip on our little rigged-up mp3 / amp, thinking to myself, “Hell, no big deal, I’m only a few miles from home” –

and No I did not elect to force Ralph to re-charge the thing (he was very sick yesterday, so sad), and No I did not charge it myself, being occupied with laundry and cooking and cleaning and writing and chasing cats and children around the house, so today after the kids’ and my first stop downtown I jumped up in the cab on top of the world and put my key in and: the vehicle simply clicked and wouldn’t turn over.

So as of 1 PM all my children have consumed are cupcakes and green pop from the City Hall St. Patrick’s Day fundraising lunch (we arrived too late for the food, which sold out quickly, but please do know I generously donated for the cupcake breakfast) and we’re hauling around Beeps’ leopard gecko (their choice) and my plan to buy “new” sheets at the abovementioned Secondhand Mecca have all gone down the drain. Ah, and I have such modest, silly, Kelly Hogaboom plans most days: this morning after putting the St. Patrick’s Day roast in the oven (brown sugar! beef stock! garlic! salt! Worcestershire!) I’d measured our mattress and squirrelled my sewing tape into my bag so I could acquire decent sheets and outfit our bed for a few bucks, because bedding and sheets are one of those things I don’t get around to purchasing and then suddenly they’re all falling apart. (No seriously, I have the same sheet on my bed that I stole from the Surfcrest Resort when I worked there in high school!) And yes, I wash it often, which is a testament to the strength of the bedding used in the hospitality industry, especially since the sheet was already used when I ganked it.

Oh and for the record, I’m sorry I stole the sheet from the Surfcrest, even if it was a terrible job in some ways (but an excellent one in others; I worked with two of my best friends and my own brother, and for the only time Ever my mom made us paper bag lunches, and we watched “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”, the full hour, every lunch, and we had lots of smoke breaks in between rooms, and the in-joke “Snake!”, are you listening Reecho?) it is still wrong to steal, and I do regret it, and let me remind you I was eighteen at the time.

Today the sun is shining though, and I practiced bellydancing in the morning and took a hot bath with my lovely children and put food in the oven and yelled after my kiddos, who upon dressing and brushing teeth and tumbling outside are my Favorite Companions Ever, and even though I must away soon for the cupcake-in-belly scenario seems hardly fair to their growing bodies, it is difficult indeed to get me down. Even if piling up around our ears are various and sundry old boxy vehicles that need our elbow grease in the from of DIY or Ralph’s sweat-income, and I mostly fritter away my days just, you know, living Life and not having a great deal to show for it.

Still. Life is still pretty great.

* Thrift World is FTW GH: I purchased three pair of new pants for Ralph (Dockers, Gap, Falconable), pajamas, a Twister game for the kids, two pair of shoes for kiddos, two t-shirts for myself, a new notecard set for Nels and a Chanel-style coat for my girl J. – all for $28!)

creatures of the night and sea

ACTION! (Like A Little Seal)

It’s almost a two-mile walk from the YMCA to my house. When we’re on foot it’s always a near thing: should we wait for a bus or walk home?  This is a bit more either-or than it might seem, that is you can’t necessarily just start walking and catch the bus when it comes because A. Transit drivers around here are known to not respond when you flag them down in the middle of a block – despite the policy they will – and B. there’s a very long stretch from Riverside to the HQX station where if you were walking, you wouldn’t be able to jump onboard anyway – it won’t stop along the river and across it to the station, the better part of a mile.

Waiting for the bus, however – especially at the apparently indecent (?) hour of 6:30 PM – can be a long, long process.  A loooong process.  You may think you could walk home in the time it takes to get picked up, sure.  You might also think you will die a lonely death in the (not weatherproof) “shelter” while straining your eyes vainly, your bleached bones gently rattling against one another on the long, late summer day when the bus finally pulls over and shhh-thhh’s its doors open, your skeletal hand loosely clutching the clinking fare.  Tonight was made extra cruel as we had two false alarms – school buses disappointing us in the last instant, and people around here drive such big damn trucks I kept thinking our vehicular savior was near at hand.  I was pretty close to resorting to prostitution at the end, not so much out of desperation for a ride, which had died in my breast seemingly ages ago, but a boredom so profound I wasn’t even sure I was human anymore.

Sophie’s swim team ended at 6 PM: we boarded a bus at 7:15 PM, making for a wait outside of 45 minutes.  The temperature was 49 degrees and my children’s hands were ice-cold. Yet they had kept relatively cheerful running around in the parking lot, howling like wolves (Nels was thrilled he got a neighbor dog to join him), climbing on the industrial-sturdy garbage can, and in general behaving like little demon innocents.  I took a few pictures, and even in the grainy streetlamp-lit images it struck me how much joy and love you can see between the two.

Night Creatures, 1

Night Creatures, 2

Night Creatures, 3

Night Creatures, 4

Night Creatures, 5

Still, whatever our delays and provincial walking/biking journeys, in a way it’s a joy to slow down and spend the time with the kids doing nothing or at least not doing anything efficiently.  We seem our best on our mini-nomadic adventures. Tonight after disembarking at the station we hoofed it over to our local Mexican eatery – tengo un certificado de regalo, then after we ate – a lovely, lovely meal – the three of us ran like ghosts through town (“Nels, keep tu globo from getting tangled en el árbol!”), picked up our bikes from my mother’s shop, and winged our way home to await our late-returning Ralph.

the ghost of moving yet to come

Today I’m twisting my hair up on top of my head in the bathroom mirror and my mom walks in to talk to me and I’m thinking, this is pretty much the last day in the house, the last time I’m going to have someone just walk in on me or stick their head in to talk to me when I don’t want to be talked to or infringed on in ways I don’t like. Housemates have not been jerks or rude in any way, but it turns out I like my privacyon my own terms and that didn’t change these last few weeks (in this case my mom immediately blurted out what she bought for Ralph for Christmas – she likes to tell me presents she’s bought people, even though I’ve told her don’t want to know ahead of time – she also likes to reveal plot points in movies I haven’t seen even though she knows I don’t like that either).  The thing is, sadly, sharing a house is hard for many of “us” (I mean, almost everyone I know), perhaps because most of the people I know aren’t raised to do it well.

At any rate, there are people we love sharing with and people we can’t bear to and somewhere in between are most of the roommates we have in our lifetime.  And I love sharing the house with Ralph, the kids, the cats, the chickens (even though they’re molting and not laying, the lazy sods!) and in just a handful of hours I’ll get my own space again and do what I do: answer the phone when I want to talk, have a door to child-rear and sew and cook and live behind.

We have the chore of moving tomorrow; then we’ll have the work of setting up the house and then coming back here and tidying it all up and then getting my mom some kind of Thank You present for letting us stay here for four months and change.  I’ve been in a rather not-very-productive space for the last week – since we secured the house via verbal contract.  I tell myself not to put too much pressure to have a “good” or productive week once the move is established because that’s just a set-up to be dissatisfied with myself and I’m struggling not to succumb to that.

Oh, and it’s cold here.  While out and about today riding a total of four buses and walking through our fair city Aberdeen I was kind of amazed at the coldness, just looking around at those who were also walking and thinking, what the heck? The kids weren’t dressed warmer than I, but they seem to fare better in the freezing temperatures.  Nels “ice-skated” on a pool of water at the Aberdeen transit station construction site and I held onto a delicious, hot americano from My Sisters Bakery and we just killed time together because home is a bit odd and doesn’t feel fun to be cooped-up in.

On our way home Sophie got off the bus in East HQX and visited first the pet shop, then rode Route 20 to her play practice at the Library; she came home with her parts delineated in the scripts of both “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and “A Christmas Carol” – the part of several Whos in the former, and The Ghost of Christmas Present, Mrs. Cratchit, and a Passer-by in the latter.  She was a cold nose and bright eyes and a happy, independent little girl when she got home and I scooped her into my arms and held her close.  My kids and husband have been my anchor at the time of transition, a difficult one for me.

i parent pretty good despite my clingy, needy instincts

Last night Sophie and I stayed up until about 2 AM laying in bed together, holding hands and talking long after everyone else had gone to sleep.  My daughter is so incredibly funny if you take the time to have a conversation with her – she had me laughing a lot. But what she didn’t know was that bearing down on me – despite the joy and intimacy I felt being beside her – was the fact she’s leaving me in three fscking days, she’ll be flying on a plane* and staying with my extended family – my grandfather, my aunts and uncles and cousins – and my mother, then driving back up the coast and stopping at all sorts of cool stuff.  I won’t see her for two weeks.  It hurts so badly to think about it. And although I feel a bit of panic when I think of the clock ticking away our time together, I know I should enjoy her for the now, for the moment I have her.  I even recognize the reminder that really, all we have is the now, and who we love, who is still with us.  I also know this trip is a Good Thing, and in fact an awesome possibility made available by our lifestyle – specifically, homeschooling.  And I know that Nels will enjoy having his parents to himself for two weeks – and that Sophie will really love her time in California with a large, doting family.

I don’t know how parenting is supposed to feel.  Sometimes it feels awful, and right now it’s feeling kind of awful because I’m doing it right.  I do a pretty good job of balancing the family’s needs – yes, even mine.  But when it comes down to it, I’m in this for the kids. Yesterday afternoon Sophie and Nels took a total of two buses to get to their father’s place of work for a lunch date.  Thus we have the Hogachildren’s latest feat, accomplishment, and adventure: the public transit system.  And of course, they had a wonderful time.  Not only that, but right up to the trip you’ve never seen kids more readily helpful at washing dishes and doing laundry and packing a lunch – they were so looking forward to their travels.  And when I picked them up later that afternoon, they had puffed up a few extra inches, delighted with themselves and their adventure and dare I say, time away from any Mommy or Daddy or grownup telling them what to do.

Sophie simply twittered later that night, “I rode the bus today with Nels.  I felt brave.”

When I think about my children’s future I feel amazed at their potential, and excited for their lives ahead of them.  I know I’m preparing them better than I was prepared, and I’m probably loving them a little fiercer and more explicitly too. I give them more independence and autonomy than most kids I’ve met – but definitely not more than they can handle.  Which by the way, if you dare to live this way you will be considered negligent or lazy or all of the above and worse by a whole heck of a lot of people.  Sometimes I wish I could just be left alone, entirely, to do things the way I know works, the way that my family thrives on.

At 2 AM last night, just before sleep, I’m telling Sophie about the cats we’ve owned in this house I grew up in.  From our first little castaway manx, a handsome devil named Shere Khan, whom I found just under the window of this very bedroom we’re now sleeping in when I was just about Sophie’s age, to his friend Jimmers and Raksha and her two kittens Puma (who lived to nineteen) and Rocket, and then Maui, a pathetic little black snippet with crossed eyes.  And just as I’m listing them all of my daughter reads my mind: because despite being there for Puma’s death, and knowing my mother snuck off and euthanized Shere Khan (feline leukemia), there are some holes in my family cat history:

“What happened to those other cats?” Sophie asks.

And you know, I’m stumped.  I mean in the period of about ten years we had four cats that have gone missing or just sort of “vanished”?  I don’t think so.  I’m starting to think my parents tried to “save” my brother and me from some unpleasantness. Which is a nice word for “lying”.

“I don’t know,” I tell Sophie.  “I mean, a few of them just disappeared, and I never knew…”

“Which makes Grandma…” Sophie trails off –

“A murderer!” I say, suddenly inspired and awake for a moment although I’d nearly fallen asleep.

“I was just about to say that!” Sophie collapses into giggles, and swipes me with the pillow.  A beat later and she says, “Well, I was going to say killer.”

* Friends have asked, “Are you worried about her travelling on a plane?” No.  I mean, I could worry – but I choose not to.  But hey, P.S. and more to the point, this means I won’t get to hear her voice and tickle her and swim with her and smell her hair at night and see all the amazing pictures she draws and listen to her reading to her brother or see her face all flushed after riding the bike or wrap a towel around her after bath and “worried” is not the word I’d think of, it’s more like agony at missing her so!

raising some sort of sasquatch-like creatures

I admit I find a lot of people guilty of idiotic statements that for some reason I allow to deeply annoy me.  One high on my list is: “blah blah blah see how boys are different than girls because blah blah blah“.  About a third of the time I’ll be telling a story about my son and how Hell On Wheels he is in some particular situation the person I’m talking to – without being asked, and for no reason relevant to the conversation – will offer up, “Well he’s a boy, and boys blah blah blah” or some such drivel.  I never know exactly how to respond to this, because it’s annoying, and usually this person has selectively ignored the myriad of “girl” that my son exhibits (examples below), and bottom line, I think gender stereotyping in social conversation is just plain lazy (interesting: I have never heard the converse – someone attributing an aspect of my daughter’s more compliant persona to femaleness).  There’s probably some really snappy phrase describing the phenomena of someone wanting to see a certain connection and lo and behold finding “examples” everywhere. Maybe I need to look that one up and arm myself with it.

In any case, speaking for our family, “boy” vs. “girl” seems to be most obviously delineated by genitalia differences and chromosomal count, less descriptive regarding my children’s preferences, affinities, or temperaments.  For instance it is my son who loves pink, passionately enjoys gardening, cooking, and washing dishes, has a more forgiving nature, wears his blonde hair long by choice, adores playing with Barbies and watching Disney Princess films, and on lunch dates likes to eat a small salad and order Diet Coke and then for dessert a big piece of cheesecake because he’s been so good all day.

So understand the reason I was surprised that it was Sophie, and not Nels, who dropped trousers to piss in the small hedged-in hilled area behind the Hoquiam Transit station today is not because I think it is more “boy” to urinate in public places but because one thing about Nels is he has generally been rather free in general to mark territory with his urine. And why not?  We’re an outdoor, active family. Kind of difficult to instruct a small child in the finessey differences when semi-public urination is a perfectly good solution (like a camping trip or long highway trip “bathroom break”) versus when it’s a kind of regrettable idea.

I think Sophie could have known better though, especially given there are perfectly normal actual bathroom facilities on the premises.  In any case, I have no idea if the kids had ever previously peed back in this miniature no-mans-land, so in a way I’m glad the kiosk Transit employee caught my daughter red-handed.

The woman’s reaction, however, is near apopolectic.

I look up as she’s striding toward the kids and yelling, “No, NO! No!”  In fact her voice is raised so angrily that for a moment I feel a stab of fear that something terrible has happened.  Then I hear the woman continue in a thundering lecture: “You don’t do that back here!” as my children obediantly and with open, agreeable faces trot out from the shrubbery, my daughter re-seating her linen pants and heading towards the bathroom.

Witnessing this interaction I feel sadness, disappointment, and anger.  A month ago this same woman had spoken nearly as harshly to my son for the grevious sins of attempting to make a call on the public phone (which was in fact out of order), and a few minutes later, not sitting in one spot on the cold metal bench I was located (adults are, of course, allowed to roam freely).  In the case before I’d disliked how rude this woman was to my son but I’d figured hey, she was having a bad day or whatever. Even now as she stomps behind my children I’m thinking I’ll just file away her behavior and give her another chance next time because of course my kids are doing something “naughty” that to those without small children could seem shocking.

But no, even as the kids have obeyed and are on their way back towards me she’s still angrily lecturing on the point that they need to use the bathroom and not the bushes (I counted, and she literally repeated this four times).  Sophie and Nels are now of their own volition in the restroom washing their hands (see? their manners are actually quite Fancy) as she barks at them from a few feet away.

So I step forth and say, “Ma’am.  Ma’am. I’m sorry, I can see you’re upset.  But you really don’t need to use that tone.”

She’s angry but is attempting to avoid eye contact.  She starts in, for the fifth time, to explain to me the problem.  I hear her out for a minute and say, “I completely understand.  I will talk to them,” I promise, “but this is the second time we’ve been here you’ve spoken to them in that tone, and I can assure you it isn’t necessary.”

This brings her up short.  Someone has actually watched and noted how she treats the public?  Who’d have thought? “Well good then, okay, fine,” she says, stomping off, admitting a kind of defeat: upset I’d confronted her (as anyone might be) but grudgingly convinced in my overall Decency because I had not defended my child’s right to soil the public facilities willy-nilly.

(Incidentally, as we waited for the bus we did see the Transit’s Code of Conduct posted on the wall.  Rule #3 reads “No spitting, urinating, or defecating.”  I guess they do have to spell it out, even to some grownups. By the way, I heard later from a friend this exact woman had had the unfortunate circumstance of discovering a grown man’s bowel movement back in the bushes, on an earlier occasion.  Once bitten, twice shy I suppose).

Sitting with the kids and I make sure they understand the decorum I expect of them at the transit station.  I’m a little irritated, rubbed raw in the way I get when I feel the world is unfair to my kids. “I’m sorry she spoke so rudely to you,” I wind up.

“I didn’t mind,” Sophie says. Yeah, and I get it, because I know I raise my voice in a similar assy fashion to them, they’ve heard it before – and some days more than once.  But perhaps even more striking, I’ve observed children seem to have a more rugged Ego when it comes to being corrected in public.  It’s like they hear what the person is saying and aren’t as angry or defensive as an adult might be.  This is a humbling thought; and a great trait I’d like to have myself.

But when it comes down to it, my kids don’t have to mind one way or another, and I’m not one to swoop them up in big, protective arms each time the world is a shit to them.  But every now and then I do say something to adults who think it’s perfectly permissible to speak to children as if they were second-class citizens.

We continue on our way, loading the Xtracycle up on the bus and venturing out for Sophie’s soccer gear and some groceries.  We arrive back home at four o’clock, a day without driving, a beautiful sunny one at that.