it’s like falling in love

My son is tall; his coat from last year, a favorite, reaches the top of his hips and the sleeves end above the wrist. His hair is growing out from a short cut; in the morning, there is invariably a disturbed cowlick on the left side. I’ve taken to calling him “Tufty” and when he comes in close to hug  me, he is fast approaching my height.

He calls my mother this evening and – although I can’t hear her end of the conversation – it is obvious she is asking him on a date. Good; as Phoenix will enjoy undisturbed study time. She has a very hefty Biology book  – the sucker must weigh several pounds! – and today we discussed isotopes, radioactive decay, covalent and ionic bonds. The material is familiar to me but the last time I studied it was two decades ago! The rhythm of s and p orbitals, however arcane and antiquated in my memory, is nevertheless a familiar one because that long ago, that was my world.

So strange to be discussing quantum physics with my “little” girl.

I enjoy a walk with a mama and her young son; he is happy and scampers about, mindless and with a runny nose. Then he falls and cries; inconsolable. No one can carry him except his mother, who is heavy with another child. Eventually he calms and he carries his little stuffed bear in a blanket; we retire to his home and he shows me how he puts the bear down for a nap. I’m unsure if there is anything more beautiful than listening to a two year old putting together sentences – crude but, if listened to, easily understood.

The day draws colder; now, with my family and another neighborhood moppet in tow, we head for a lunch of hot noodles and then ice cream for the younger children. Home and Phee and I will hit the books; Ralph will eventually make dinner.

And to bed anon.

A good Sunday.

Baking

Baking

Melting butter and chocolate in the double-boiler; a cake cools on the counter. In the living room: four teen/preteens stuff themselves on our couch and take to lunch with alacrity.

It isn’t so much that I want to be with the kids, goofing or playing. But providing them with a date, an event, food, a movie, a drive through the countryside: this, it seems, is my vocation. I can do maths and work and produce and write and all that but what I like best is making a home for these young people, their boundless energies, their optimism, their love of one another and of music and play and the physical world. I get completely irritable about the bullocks that grownups are up to and find the conversation of children immensely refreshing.

My studio is alive again – that is to say, a mess. Painting scarlet shapes on blood-red canvas, on wine-hued twill. Another project, another design. Washing dishes, leaning against the counter while my son is asking me something about his homework but I’m thinking of design: topstitching, how many underlayers for the quilted effect? Will this new project work out or be an awkward failure?

Outside the warm weather has changed to a more typical spring chill. My husband mows the lawn; the cats sprawl on furniture not even purring – dead to the world. Likewise, my children fold their lanky frame into corners of the loveseat or bed, chewing through another massive pile of library books their father has provided them. As the children grow into adulthood, my eldest especially, their babyhoods are more on my mind than ever. The age I think of my daughter most is when she was two; she so little resembles that blond, cherubic little presence but in other ways she is astonishingly similar. The same strength, the same scowl, and the same beautiful crooked smile. Her babyhood flowed through my fingers like sand, as much as I tried to enjoy every moment.

paradise is you

The kids are out of school for Spring Break. Don’t think I even get how I’m supposed to be this schooling parent. In fact I think I have given up trying. I am often at a loss as to schedules. I don’t fit in with the culture. My kids had conferences last week and it seemed like for all the haranguing about standardized tests and attendance, the school staff and admins are lost and jumbled about it all. One of my children had a low (for the child, anyway) grade in a class. Now last week the child and Ralph tried to get to the bottom of it, and the teacher had a bunch of assignments incorrectly allocated. But here we’d confronted the child the night before – and the child had cried – over this mess. I don’t know if I’m supposed to not give much of a shit, or if I’m supposed to bust in there and straighten everyone out. And it’s hard to get too excited about something, grades and such, that seem entirely meaningless.

So anyway, school is whack and I am amazed they like the good parts – of which there are many, they’re called “other children” – enough to tolerate the rest. But they are enjoying themselves and this gives me immense pleasure. I know they appreciate that we support their rights to do what they want.

So I figure my job is to keep them in school clothes, and try my reasonable best to support them in their extracurricular activities and social lives, and feed them, and provide a safe, loving home for them to rest and recover in.

My son’s birthday is tomorrow – he turns eleven. I am hardly prepared – mentally, emotionally, or any other way, really. I sound a mess and maybe I am.

This afternoon I picked up my car from the shop. Gotta rob some rent to pay for that. But that said the kids and I were grinning like fools to have the car back.

And we were driving home and laughing with my mom, talking about our cat, trying frantically to bury a slimy mushroom on the floor. And I realize that with the little ones by my side, I’m really at my best somehow. I don’t know I’ll ever do much better. It’s like a really small, ignoble little victory in my heart, that I’m really okay with this.

“Take away love and our earth is a tomb.”

Today the rains finally came.

I wrote another piece of prose for publication, and sent it off to an editor. Perhaps it will find an audience. I hope it will help someone. Perhaps it will bring me some food money for my family.

I am tired. My sewing business is growing. I don’t have time to entertain frivolous requests, and I will soon get to increase my prices. The solution is elegant; the logistics will take a bit of time.

Because the house, the children, the groceries, the volunteer work – all these are priorities over my craft. I smile at this because it will not always be this way. The children are growing and our lives change swiftly.

The children are growing. I am tired, and my children are growing faster than I am capable of keeping pace with. I practice a mindfulness breathing practice. Breathing in, I know I have a body. Breathing out, I smile at my body; I reconcile with it.

My days seem too short, and full of too much work. Something is amiss. The first Noble Truth. Something is amiss.

I am feeling less angry, more at peace with the events of this last year. I am thinking of my days before I found out terrible news, or should I say, hard news. Those days “before” are now a completely innocent memory to the pain and trouble I’ve wrestled with. This has tired me more than anything else. All that anger, and mistrust, and hatred, and fear. Near exsanguination. Crawling back to life now, a few moments in the sun here and there.

My child and I have an exercise. Every day I ask: Is there anything I have done today to hurt you, or to offend you? This is the one thing my child must answer honestly every day, no matter what. Today my child says, “You said ‘No’ to me, abruptly, and pointed your finger at me.” I hold my child close.

Both children put their arms around me, their hands in mine. Their trust in me and their love for me is something very precious. Is it wrong that in my mind I somehow fear to lose it, when it is likely one of those things that can somehow never be lost? A mystery no one can explain, that echoes through space and time with only itself, and the love cast out over many generations, to keep company and bear witness.

the untrained mind

Tonight I wrote, by hand, a letter to the men responsible for my child’s sexual assaults.

I wrote by hand until my hand cramped. I wrote as articulately as I could. Even as I wrote I knew I had a bit of spiritual wisdom; wisdom I did not used to have. Even as I wrote I knew that these men had destroyed my sleep, my peace of mind. They had taken things from my child, things that can never be fully restored. Doubtless they had taken things from other children. They had removed my security regarding the person I love most.

But they had not taken my compassion, and they had not taken my faith.

Folded-up sheets of yellow paper sit at my elbow. I will read my letter to one of my spiritual mentors, the woman who told me to write this letter. She is a Catholic and I am a Buddhist but she is the only human being who has given me lasting comfort because she is not afraid to tell me the truth. Of all those I have had the dubious honor to deal with during this time – the advocates, the professionals, the social workers, the counselors, law enforcement – many who have added to my confusion, one who has misled us intentionally, some who have caused my child more harm than good – this woman alone has been able to help me because she has been where I have been and she knows the thing, the Bravest thing, the truth about faith that so many are afraid to surrender to.

I will likely never meet the men responsible for what happened to my child. I wrote the letter anyway because my friend told me to, and I trust her.

People think a sexual assault is just the assault. But when the law gets involved, it is much worse. We have had agencies, strangers, crawling up in our family business. My child has had interviews in a police room, suffered many night terrors and panic attacks (for many months we were entirely ignorant as to why), been submitted to a rape exam, and had many freedoms curtailed. My child has endured mistakes by the adults, professional and familial, who are supposed to protect. My child has endured the inept, clumsy, and stupid mistakes Ralph and I have made – because no parent is prepared to deal with this well, no parent.

This has been the hardest thing I’ve gone through, no matter how carefully I’ve tried to do the right thing. Since late September my world has changed and it has been relentless. My anger, my confusion, my grief has exhausted me. It has kept me depressed and anxious so that even while I function “properly” and do the things I’m supposed to, I am never without this pressing fear, a fear few intuit or even think of. Prayer and meditation have helped; helping others has helped immensely. “Restraint of pen and tongue” has been a godsend. Doing the next thing I’m supposed to – doing the housework, returning texts and calls, helping friends – has kept me sane.

Tonight I needed there to be a point to all of it. To what has happened. Because I know there is. So even though she was dead-tired I grabbed my friend and mentor. I talked with her and she told me some things. I cried – but less than you might think. Because I am ready to understand a little more than I’ve thus been able to understand.

Before we parted she told me, “It’s like that tree across the way. The leaves will fall soon and they’ll pretend to be dead. But you and I know they’re not dead. They are fertilizer for other things to grow.

“This experience is going to be food for you, it is going to make you stronger;

“But first you have to fall.”

How do I deal with a toddler who hits?

Last night, with Nels, watching “The Adventures of TinTin”. We typically don’t get five minutes in before I’m sleepy. He loves the show; I find it quite clever and sweet.

***

So it’s been a minute since I wrote about parenting issues here; I do get asked for advice fairly often. Yesterday I received an email yesterday so I thought I’d post it, and my response:

Hi my name is m*** and I was reading through comments on the “spanking facts” video on YouTube and would love to know what methods work for you. I have a 16 month old who hits everyone bites growls very angrily at myself and others when he doesn’t get his way. I have spanked yet as he isn’t even 1 1/2 and that’s awful but I need some kind of structure with this before he’s kicked out of anotherrrr daycare :/ love&light  <3 m*** 

m***,

I have a few resources for you, that other parents recommended to me. First, a little about my history.

I have always known it wasn’t right to hit children. When my kids were toddlers (as yours is) I tried not to hit them, but I did anyway. “Positive discipline” books and sites didn’t help me much. That said, here are some resources that other parents have recommended (so I can’t speak to them personally); I will then give you some of my own writings and recommendations.

Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers, a book recommended by Carla Bergman (@joyfulcarla on Twitter).

Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems, as recommended by MaLora (@MaLora_Ann on Twitter)

http://shop.kidsareworthit.com/, a site featuring the works of Barbara Coloroso, as recommended by Carla Bergman (@joyfulcarla on Twitter). I have not looked into this author but probably will take the time to do so since Carla sent this along.

Now here are some works I have found helpful.

Anger: Wisdom for Cooling The Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh

For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty In Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, by Alice Miller (this book is very dry and also very intense, but quite wonderful).

And here are some things I’ve written personally about non-punitive parenting. They have helped others; perhaps they will help you:

https://kelly.hogaboom.org/tag/non-punitive-parenting/

I more have a few thoughts. If you know you don’t want to hit your kid, but you are afraid that his hitting and growling will get him thrown out of a daycare, those two things may eventually come into collision. Your situation will feel strained, and that doesn’t help us be gentle with ourselves, so that we can be gentle with our children.

It might be worth the time to talk with your daycare supervisors in a calm moment and ask that they help your child in a gentle way, to not hurt others. Tell them you are sure your child’s behaviors will wane if he is in a kind fashion removed from hurting others when he hits, and treated with patience. If they seem unwilling or non-receptive to this, you may want to find a daycare that is 100% gentle and well-staffed enough they can handle a child who growls and hits. A little one who growls and hits is not a monster or “spoiled” or anything – he just needs some help! Even if a better daycare costs more or it is a bother, it is worth it because you are learning not to sacrifice your child’s wellbeing to other people’s harmful concepts of discipline. It is your child’s childhood and that is so important.

I did my best not to hit my kids but I kept hitting and yelling. Eventually I discovered that I was very sick with a disease I did not know I had. When I took responsibility for myself and my illness, things got better. I am a gentle mama today and although I can’t change the past, it is at times painful for me to think about. If anything I write or say helps others to be gentle with themselves and their children, I will consider it a partial amends for my early parenting years.

Kelly

on the present moment

This afternoon I did not want to put aside my work (which had been delayed enough already), and pack children into the car – rowdy children, not all of them mine – and go to a few shops, and pick up groceries for a summer dinner, and come home and prepare that food. I did not want to pay for or organize a cookout meal next door at my mom’s, but I did it anyway. I did so because I knew my mother and the children and the dog would enjoy it. I knew it didn’t matter if I enjoyed it so much.

It was my job. I was that guy. I want to be that guy.

This morning I didn’t want to be honest with a suffering friend. I worried my honesty might hurt an already-hurting person. I worried I was wrong anyway. Why speak up, if I might be wrong? But I also know: I want to be that guy. I want to be that friend you say, “She always told me the truth.” I want you to know I meant what I said when I said it. It’s my job. “You’re not thinking straight,” is how I actually started the main part of the conversation. It went from there.

I have more than one friend suffering and suffering over shit that is real. As years go on sometimes it seems I can help so very little, although I often wish I could help a great deal more.

I am a Buddhist. When I am thinking straight, I know I don’t have big problems or little problems, I just have Problems. I soothe myself with gentleness. I don’t know if I was helpful today. I know I tried to be helpful. I don’t know if I harmed someone today. I know I tried not to. How can I task myself with doing anything perfectly – whether counseling a suffering friend, or offering assistance to someone homeless, or teaching children how to play charades, or organizing a hot dog roast at my mothers’?

It doesn’t feel like Doubt, it feels like sadness. It isn’t always easy to stay on the path. My foot slips and there’s that moment I wonder if my journey matters much at all.

But life is too short to take seriously. I remember that. I lift my chin. I realize I am not easily intimidated, and that I like the company of myself. When my day is rough, I am my own best friend. This is new; it happened sometime in the last few years. It is wonderful.

And that I have a boundless love. When I lose it, when I let the fire down in the damp, I put down my load and go look for it. Right away.

I keep my love alive.

say how you feel

Kids are in and out, here and there, eating the pancakes I cook on the stove and then later out in my yard digging a “mine” (in other words, a giant muddy hole). From the latter they extract old rusted hooks and fittings and large nails, glass, “obsidian” (according to Nels), and “rocks that we THOUGHT were ore” (Nels, again). Nels is trying to find treasure so he can afford a video game system, the Wii U, which he’s wanted for many many months if not longer.

At the table having lunch and the kids are talking about a local boy they all know; they’re telling me this boy is a bully. I’m trying to figure out who they’re talking about so I ask for a physical description. They begin to describe him hesitantly (but tactfully) and I realize he’s the boy I’m thinking of. Then one of the girls at the table says, “He looks… kind of like… a mean elf.”

At this I shut my mouth, swiftly drift into the kitchen, and near-double over in silent laughter. Because that. Is. Exactly. What he looks like. I couldn’t have said it better.

lock and load

I get home in the gloaming, darker and darker earlier at the end of summer. I put the bike inside and take my dog out for an evening piss. Halfway up the block I hear the unmistakable run of a child and look up to see a glowing white shirt, blue jeans, tossed long brown hair: the neighbor boy rounding the corner, running to my home. He’s been gone a few weeks visiting his father and I can tell he came running as soon as his mama let him.

“I got here as fast as I could!” he announces with a flourish – happy, proud of himself.

“I can see that. Welcome back,” I tell him. I give him the dog’s leash and he hardly breaks stride to run to the library and find my two children. Only a few minutes later they’re outside my open kitchen window, their voices bright and breathless and excited to reunite.

Later, as in late: Ralph and I go out to Aliens (1986) at the theatre, just a handful of us in the place, eating popcorn with real butter. The movie is awesome – I’d never seen it on a big screen. I startle – quite badly – at the parts I thought I already knew, and the Director’s Cut editions. Ralph, who’s never seen the film, is placid as a lake next to me. The film is better than I remember and Ellen Ripley might be the best action hero ever. Yeah. Kind of reminds you how unimpressive, if amazingly pricey, most action films are today. #getoffmylawn

“Oh, it was a banner f*cking year at the old Hogaboom family!”

This morning my children, husband, mother and I, as well as my kids’ friend A., hit the road and headed to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium as day ONE of our daughter’s BIRTHDAY EXTRAVAGANZAAAAAAAAAaaA

Tiger Cub, Snack

Tiger cub does BLUE STEEL —

***

OK then. I took a billion pictures of the red wolves – because I love wolves so much. They are spookily beautiful. Pictures can’t capture it. But maybe this stretch will translate pretty well:

Wolves

Wolves

The wolves really do move around in an eerily-coordinated pack; they grapple but silently.

Wolves

Feeding stinky waterfowl; many were shy about getting a tasty fish:

Dinner For Waterfowl

Dancing Shrimp! You are looking at their tails, here. They were shy and would not turn around, but they did have a coordinated dance going on. They were less than an inch long. Beautiful.

Dancing Shrimp!

A spooky octopus. No way to get a good photo; I just enjoyed her as she moved about.

Spooky Octopus

A handsome goat that kind of reminds me of Jasmine’s dubstep boyfriend. I refused to take a photo of the even-greedier goat to the left.

Handsome Goat

The arctic fox. Ralph and I have a great little story about this fella but it’s probably only funny to us. Anyway, my mom was so excited by his cuteness. She laughed and clapped and turned around to smile at Ralph and I as we walked toward her on the trail and I said to him, “the littlest grandma.”

The Arctic Fox

“‘Sup, we’re gibbons. DEAL WITH IT.”

Sup, Bitches

Children in the bamboo, being lovely. Nels:

Nels In The Bamboo

A.:

A.

Phoenix:

Phee In The Bamboo

Peacocking! These peacocks were shady as fuck. Like one creeped a single mama out to her car and stood there watching her and I think she felt a bit weird about it.

Peacocking!

Nels took many photos and texted them to his friend D.’s mama. So, there’s that.

Nels Sent Many Photos To His Friend D. Today

Tiger cub, playing! This was rather touching. You could see this fellow really loved the little feline. “Little”, a six month tiger cub about sixty-five pounds of muscle and hungry potentiality. Very powerful to watch, even as a baby.

"Play", Or, Practice

The two of them kept playing (the guy was like, “I’ve got a tiger, you don’t, so I’m awesome”) but I noticed the tiger would crawl up on the stump behind his human playmate, then jump on his neck and gnaw on it. This is how most tiger attacks go down – from behind, at the neck. And the VAST majority of tiger attacks are successful – for the tiger. (Here are some tiger attack tips! Also, LOLOLO). So anyway it was cute this guy thought the tiger was “playing” but it was actually, “practicing how to kill and eat him.”

***

This is E.T. the walrus. He is 3300 pounds of sass, and he likes to play with his massive walrus-dick (oosik represent!). While we were watching him he did this magnificent half-somersault, except instead of completing it it grappled his own business and whiskerly-chewed on it.

E.T. The Walrus

A photo on the steps; the kids talk about E.T.’s “trick” somersault, because my mom kept calling it a “trick” delightedly as she hadn’t caught the naughty bit of it until the kids finally detailed her a bit.

Friends @ The Zoo

Two siamangs cuddle after eating bananas. I gotta admit, it is satisfying to watch monkeys eat bananas. And it’s sweet to watch monkeys cuddle. And it’s sad to see monkeys in enclosures.

Siamangs

The touch tanks. Today was kind of special. I got to see the very moment a docent talked my son into touching an anenome; and he did. I got to watch him go from fear, to wonder. It was pretty cool.

Kids At The Touch Tank

Nels, staring down a nurse shark.

Nels + Nurse Shark

After our lengthy stay at the zoo, we traveled to pho, had coffee and doughnuts at the Krispy Kreme (the kids enjoyed watching them make the doughnuts and spent several minutes enthralled), and then I shambled my various coupons into Jo-Ann’s Fabric & Craft for some sewing supplies (I am not much of a coupon-er but FABRIC COUPONS are an organizing principle of my life).

Today was a good day: day one of three of Phee’s birthday. Tomorrow we have some more awesomesauce. We Hogabooms go hard, it must be admitted.