photos or it didn’t happen

Soccer on Sunday:

Soccer/Windstorm

What a wonderful, exhilarating game – maybe the hardest-working one the girls had yet. The other team had two more teammates which meant they were less taxed. The game was quite close. Phoenix made a beautiful assist to a classic-teamwork goal, and did a good job defending and passing as well. Only minutes after the game ended – the girls, having worked so hard, immediately clapping and hugging one another and the opposing team – a huge rain- and windstorm devastated the field and drove us shrieking and dismayed into our vehicles.

Nels, on our way to the game:

Nels, Pensive

Beautiful.

Cat decadence (more to follow):

Hygiene

Come Hither

That night Grandma invited the kids over for a movie (How To Train Your Dragon) and the kids in turn asked if Ralph and I could come. When we got there Grandma had set up a cozy little living room scene; she also made fresh popcorn, pumpkin pie, cookies, and a variety of drinks. It is so rare I get “taken care of” or hosted – it’s usually me on the hostess end. So this brief date was a really lovely experience. Not only that, but every time I’m around my mom I’m reminded of how far she’s come in being loving and present and responsive to children and  what wonderful spiritual and emotional support she gives me and my family. I think a lot of families feel a certain degree of tension or (resentful) “agree to disagree” issues tugging at the fabric of their relationships. My mother and I increasingly grow of similar accord, providing a wonderful, nurturing environment for the children and in turn, all of us.

Playing

This morning when I woke I found three of the four cats were sleeping with my daughter, on the pallet on the floor. This doesn’t surprise me; all sorts of people and creatures of all ages and sizes find my daughter incredibly appealing, including Harris, the snoring beast we see on the left who’s approximately the size and demeanor of a Great White Shark.

I Simply Have No Words

You may be asking yourself where the fourth cat was (the one we occasionally call “lardon”). Answer: she was waiting just outside the bedroom, ready to ambush me with screams for a refilled food dish. And like a reconnaissance mission, as soon as this was done the other two little ones were in that kitchen gobbling as well. They went back to bed with Phoenix afterwards, of course.

This afternoon I get an email there’s a Halloween Fun night planned at our library. The kids’ costumes aren’t ready (twatever, I’ll get to it before the 31st) so they dress themselves. We five (always with the extra kiddo or two) cram into the car. The wet car. That is rusting apart before our eyes. [ sigh! ] But the library was great – lots of wonderful costumes and wonderful children. They had an energetic time laughing and singing and shouting:

Led By Lisa

Nels Is Having A Good Time

Nels Is Having An Even Better Time

And then Lisa told a spooky story:

Lisa Tells A Spooky Story #1

Lisa Tells A Spooky Story #2

Lisa Tells A Spooky Story #3

Whereupon Nels’ attitude abruptly changed, huddling very small on Ralph’s lap and begging for assistance in stopping up ears:

Nels Regrets Listening To The Spooky Story

Phoenix was, of course, clear-eyed and analytical as to the quality of spooky content (that’s her on the far-right):

Children Listen To Spooky Story

Afterwards, the children painted pumpkins:

Phoenix's Pumpkin

Paint Removal

And went Ghost Bowling:

Pumpkin / Ghost Bowling #1

Pumpkin / Ghost Bowling #2

We came home to homemade frijoles refritos and pork loin shredded in homemade salsa verde, wrapped in fragrant tortillas and served aside homemade coleslaw from our CSA veggies.

Home to our cozy nest protected from the fierce elements –

Outside my window the world has gone to war / Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

for health and food, for love and friends

sacrifice, verb:
TO OFFER UP: immolate, slaughter.
TO GIVE UP: abandon, surrender, forgo, renounce, forfeit, relinquish, resign, abdicate; betray.

I think our vehicle is just about the spookiest car ever during the cold and wet weather we have to come – weather like we had tonight. There is about a half inch of standing water on the inside (in the soggy months we grow mushrooms and once, quinoa, in the back footwells) which means the window interiors are completely fogged up when you enter. A handful of stuff doesn’t work right: example, the dashboard lights, leaving it dark and inhospitable as a little waterlogged crypt. Tonight upon leaving my date with J. I peek in the back to affirm no one is lurking there and waiting to strangle me (DAMN YOU violent/scary television shows – I only have watched one of such in the last several months and it has me half-terrorized!). Then I’m driving home and it’s dripping and dank like a WWII U-Boat but without any sweaty German sailors to keep me company.

I’m a little blue, probably because I had to throw out my last pair of pajama bottoms and my second-to-last pair of jeans a few days ago, they finally fell apart. Last night I slept in a too-small t-shirt and tiny shabby men’s boxer briefs. There’s some kind of place on my little Comfort Gauge that gets tripped now and then when the variety of Needs becomes too much to navigate; I don’t mind juggling but I hate feeling overwhelmed and sad (things used to be a lot harder; I’m grateful today we can pay our bills). Like when I don’t have a single dress for winter and I’m carefully washing my four pair of socks and a friend online posts pictures of their entire closet piled with of shoes and I go count and I have six pair, including one pair of Old Navy flipflops (Doesn’t Work For Winter) and a pair of Danskos I bought long ago and don’t wear (anyone want ’em? size 39), or when Phoenix’s child friend comes over and looks in my closet and says, “These are ALL of your clothes? I have four times this many!” or when I can’t really figure out what to scrape a few bucks off to buy (because Ralph will bend as far as he can to help me be happy and would not begrudge me anything) simply because I don’t quite know where to start.

I’ve written about these feelings before, borrrring. I inwardly grown at the thought of hearing postulated “solutions” because what I mostly want to do is write about it, the writing itself moves me to clarity. Regarding less personalized dictums, hearing the frequent admonitions to mothers to “not put themselves last” and to make sure to get themselves a pedicure and have a cup of tea by themselves in the morning, it chaps my ass. First off it’s typical condescending be-ladying (Right. TEA will solve our problems! and P.S. large edifices in our entire culture flourish by mothers Putting Themselves Last, and most people don’t seem to mind). And the fact is some things have to go last, for a time at least, and sometimes they’re my things, and I have the right to talk about my feelings now and then without being told How I Could Do It Better as Wife/Mother/Laydee.

I rarely, ever, think about what life might have been like without children. I remember when I was just about to come off maternity leave after Phoenix was born and my husband, slated to return home to raise our child, received a rather generous employment offer from the mill where we were employed. Our combined salary would have been over six figures and that seemed like a lot to me then (it seems like a lot now!). I was sitting in my parents’ living room when the phone call came in, nursing our firstborn. Ralph and I looked at one another and my mom excitedly asked us what we’d do. It felt momentous to have to choose but at the same time as familiar and simple and fierce as who was lying in my arms.

Of course even if we’d dual-incomed this whole family business we would have still had kids and the work and commitment children require for those who take responsibility, well, I could never have imagined beforehand. Today I can’t craft a picture of my life without them and I don’t get up to much guessing or claims about it either (just like I didn’t predict the structure of life-with-kids before I had mine, either). One thing that irritates me when talking about starting a family is people act like you could have it all figured out or planned or all Awesome ahead of time. Maybe some people can, I dunno. In my experiences my kids changed my life (absolutely and finally, and for the better) and since I went down that road I’ve had to make choices I never thought I’d imagine and I’ve been challenged and surprised just about every damn day. It’s like going through some kind of Hell that is better than anything I’ve ever experienced. Even my trip through postpartum despair and mania (after Nels) helped me dig deep and now I have the gift of being able to remember myself with Awe. Events have been as formative as my DNA and no longer can be separated from my personhood.

So why should I feel silly about our car, or my steadfast and day-to-day choice to ignore the cultural messages a woman who really cared about herself would dress up, would not “let herself go”, or would perform some other task of Ornamental Femininity that involved something other than used men’s Levi’s hacked off at the ankle, and old Doc Martens carefully tended, and coconut oil as moisturizer, and a careful plate on my secondhand dresser with a collection of $3 earrings. Someday my children will be out of my home and feeding and caring for themselves (likely) and I’ll have a little more for myself (maybe) and maybe I can have some of those many Nice Things I see so many others enjoying or maybe I’ll be smart and blessed enough to have learned to not think about it all too much.

That said, the concept of “sacrifice” in order to raise children has always irritated me. Partially because it frames childraising in, surprise surprise, a negative light (and frames child as “choice” instead of part of human life). Something that once you pick means you can’t have a lot of other really awesome shit like The Cool Kids do. Like there was all this other, better stuff out there and you’re scratching it off the list with gritted teeth, to later tell your kids how you did so. (That sounds like a great way to make my kids feel pretty shitty, then they can grow up and make their own kids feel shitty.) I have no problem if other people want to frame it that way, sacrifice. For me being pissed about it or wistful or using it as an excuse to live a less-full life, it would be like having a private mental life fantasizing about other people besides my partner (or having an active physical one screwing around, behind his back). If I don’t want to be here, don’t want to do it, I don’t have to. And I know it.

Today we went to a friend’s birthday party and I got to meet some lovely new grownups. My children played and raced around and ate and picked apples and delighted me entirely. Phoenix was complimented on her name and she said Thank You. And after a beat I told the group, “She chose it herself.” (She’s never bragged on this and I think she should!) The party attendees were a little confused as it obviously did not occur to them how this could be, that a small child could have chosen their own name. I told them about the change and the adults responsed favorably, one woman saying, “That is so cool you let her do it!” And I thought to myself yeah, it really is. The thing is I didn’t learn how to be a better person on my own nor improve much upon my nature unaided. I have the kids’ help, for which I’ll always feel a deep, bottomless gratitude.

man of mystery

Man Of MysteryYou can tell he has much wisdom behind the cold, austere visage. You can see it in the keen gaze, the manful handling of the steering wheel, whatever weirdness he has shoved in that plastic bag behind the driver’s seat. Stopping for a bit of bracing sea air before tearing off on the next adventure, the next mastery, conquering the mountain, a man we mayhap not see again but will always live on in our memory.

So what really happened is Steve helped me dig my car out of the beach. This took about an hour and eventually included shovels. We missed almost all of Phoenix’s soccer practice.

Digging

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.

Entranced

M. & Her Birds

Cockatoo

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.

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 Lame 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 life served at the Comfort Buffet. I do, however, feel pretty confident ascribing the mantra to myself if anyone reads here and, you know, feels bad for my troubles or even worse, 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 car 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 ungrateful cats 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 Sophie’s leopard gecko (her 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 beef 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 measure decent sheets and outfit our bed for a few bucks, because bedding and sheets are one of those things I never bother to buy 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 only eighteen.

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!)