Flow & Commerce

Even in my days where nothing happens, or it feels like not much, I guess I’m rather busy. Busy doing things I love more than anything. The time flies by.

Today I got up to find a Freecycler had dropped off two sets of bamboo knitting needles in sizes I didn’t have previously: 11s and 13s (I’m looking forward to knitting either some chunky scarves or hats-in-the-flat). I brewed coffee and finished laundry and dishes and sat down and worked on a wee knitting project (which is truly STELLAR; I will be posting pictures soon!). While still in sleepwear with my pillow-hair (very tangly) another friend and Freecycler stopped by with a dress for Phoenix (a lovely little import number) and I gave her my bellydancing practice skirt for her daughter to use for Halloween. Just as this woman left my mother called and asked me out to breakfast. Entirely thrilled with this I made ready and as she got here the kids stumbled out of bed all lovely and sleepy. My mom is always happy to have them along and she coaxed accordingly; Nels came with us while my daughter stayed at home. We went out to breakfast (it was really lunch) and had a long talk while Nels played PvZ and then at the questions of our server did indeed elucidate on the game and strategies (people, do NOT ask Nels about his computer activities unless you really do want to hear his answers!). I paid for lunch which made me feel all awesome. Usually my mother pays.

After my mom dropped Nels and I off at home I asked my daughter along to my errands and to my glad heart she said Yes (I was hoping to have time alone with her). I have the inkling to set up a little display of my sewn pieces in a shop or caf̩ around here so locals know there is a custom / homesewn seamstress around these parts. I have a few ideas about where and how to do this, and I have a few people I want to talk to. On our way to our first stop we talked with the proprietress of the local indie book store Рopening on Saturday!, and by the way, will be the ONLY bookstore in Hoquiam/Aberdeen with a population of 25,000 or so! Рand chatted for a few minutes. Phoenix introduced herself clear as day, stepping forward with her hand extended, her eyes clear and freckles popping.

In our recycled clothing shop I turned in a pair of Old Navy jeans and earned consignment to buy a new (to me) purse. Phoenix selected a lovely fall-color poncho and was very pleased with this. I bought her a burger on the way to picking Ralph up from work; the three of us then headed to the bakery in Aberdeen and I picked up a consignment form, coffee, and a cream puff.

At Thrift City we shopped, primarily with the goal of finding clothes for Ralph (and P.S. good sir, your total aversion to pleats is seriously hampering your choices). He futzed around in the electronics section while I came away with five pair of pants and two longsleeved work shirts for The Man, two trick-or-treat buckets for the kids, a pair of shoes for Phoenix, a few LPs selected by Ralph, and a – yes, a sewing machine, a vintage Wizard heavier than you can imagine. All of this cost $25. Doing laundry later today I reflected I’ve developed quite the system for our clothing, not formally or by design but in ways that make absolute sense for quality and frugality. I wear mens’ jeans and recycled clothing for cheap/sturidiness along with my trusty doc martens (and yeah, a big part of my Plan is to mostly just look a bit shoddy). For the kids, most of their gear is stuff I’ve sewn augmented by the occasional hand-me down and thrift store purchase. Ralph’s digs come from Thrift City as the men’s clothing there is well-made, great brands and in good shape. His socks we buy at Ross, his boxers I sew, his sunglasses he’s always losing and then buying new cheap ones (like we do here in the PNw).

At home Ralph made dinner while I resumed knitting and visited with a friend who dropped by looking for discussion/advice on her children’s schooling. Her preteen daughter sat at our feet and we all caught up together. After they left and I stitched my last on the now-finished project, Ralph and I walked down to my mother’s in the lovely fall inky-black night where I picked up some more yarn from my mother’s stash.

It really was a perfect night for a walk.

And of course, in addition to all this there were emails and tweets and IMs and reading articles and scratching kitties and a few other friends I ran into and wrestling and snuggling with my children while a handful of other kids ran in and out (in the evening Phoenix’s good friend S. came over and my kids went for a walk with her to a neighborhood fort).

If I had to pick, I’d say my favorite moments (so far!) were on my walk with Ralph, or even the moment he invited me – or maybe the hugs I shared with my face in Nels’ warm sunny hair – or maybe the minutes alone with Phoenix in the car. She was heart-achingly “appropriate” in the store; my used jeans had earned me $7.50 and she judiciously looked for pieces that cost under that – no hinting on her part for more, and no need for me to state that requirement (which in this case, I didn’t have). I told her to get what she liked and the knit poncho ($9) was something she was very pleased with. She pulled her hair back into a ponytail and looked at her beauty in the sideview mirror of our car and my heart skipped a beat. I wish when she was younger I’d worried less and felt less stress as a mother. Here she’s practically raising herself and she’s doing an incredible job.

So see there’s usually nothing particularly sublime to my days, or maybe actually everything about most my days really is phenomenal. I don’t know. Days like today are typically the way I spend our time – nothing especially exalted, but exactly the kind of bliss I’m used to regularly experiencing.

I feel very fortunate. It seems like life used to be a lot more work for me a lot more of the time.

what the hell, that literally sounded like a tumbleweed blowing through, did you actually expect it to work?

Today Jen and I took our four kids up to the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia.  Then to the park, hot dogs, organic coffee, the fabric store, ice cream.  A day built around (mostly) what the kids want to do yet in such a way as parents could enjoy too.  Homemade snacks, lots of play, sunshine and rain, great grownup conversation, and some four-way bickerfests from the progeny in the two backseats of the minivan (no one child was immune to asshattery today but I’m proud to say the moms held up pretty well).

At the park today some fool in a group of fools wolf-whistled me as I walked though the grass to collect the kids.  He had to do it a couple times because he had a really undeveloped, airy whistle.  Seriously? I mean don’t bring that shit if you can’t even get it done.  And note: the group of guys housing the whistler (who’d made appreciative grunts or whatever) were silent on my return trip past them, because I had kids with me.  Awww yeah. Because a woman ain’t worth hitting on unless you’re doing it with creepy intent, surely not for children to witness.

Dr. Sophie Hogaboom:


Shopper & Chef Nels Hogaboom:


You know what’s important? Coffee.


Today: yards and yards and yards of fabric for a practice skirt for bellydancing. & now Ralph cooks dinner: Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad, Asparagus with a Parmesan Crust, and Lemon Pepper Baked Zucchini.

So, that all works out.

where we meet a tasseomancer

At 4:30 the kids and I are running about catching chickens and securing carafes of coffee and starting the car and hopping in and putting some Old Time Mystery Radio on the iPod. We have to be in the sewing shop before 6 PM to pick up my little Juki machine after its repair. I think Ralph and the kids and I love roadtrips quite a bit: especially when there’s an element of hurry, dashing along on some errand and a bit of shopping (more on this later) and for just a brief evening we can escape the clutches of the house and buy something or eat something that feeds my joie de vivre, an experience of vitality I can’t always summon with my hands in dishwater. OK, at this point, I realize I am talking about me entirely and I’m not sure how much the others like the whole thing, after all.

Despite missing the closing time of the shop by a handful of minutes, the proprietor (who’s owned the business for a long time; hanging above the counter is an old smudgy picture of him from back when he was thinner and had hair) has waited for us. Thank goodness. Downtown and Nels wakes up from his impromptu car nap and he’s hungry and just yelling and wailing and I have that flash of brilliance in knowing he won’t stop doing so until he has food in his face (and I’m right!). And the kids are cold because they didn’t bring coats and Olympia is chillier than Hoquiam was and Ralph strips off his coat and his outer shirt and wraps each kid and the kids walk through the streets, their eyes bright and everything about them perfect and precise in their self-ness.  We are on our way to the beauty shop where I buy my current hair color (since I went yellow people are often asking me the name of this color, I don’t remember these queries when my color’s name did not involve an expletive) which again, I can’t find in my little HQX. The woman at the counter gives it to me gratis as the concoction has sat on the shelf for a while and she can’t vouch for its quality.  And that’s nice, because free stuff is nice!  And we’re still hungry and Nels is still loud but things are OK, Ralph and I are functioning well. And as he orders hot dogs at his favorite downtown stand and Sophie and I move off to find our favorite downtown pizza place.

And in between the hot dogs and the restaurant Ralph and I start on an Upsetting Conversation that is destined to go on for much of the evening. As these things happen the conversation has parts that are relevant and must be discussed, and parts that seem like so many tired and angry words thrown about, nothing permanently damaging but portions of bitterness and virtriol and hopelessness. As this unfolds I’m sitting in a restaurant I rather like, smashing pizza into my face because I’ve barely eaten and I’m shaky with hunger, yet I can hardly taste the stuff even though I love it, and at the end of the business I feel like my husband actually ruined my meal by being someone I don’t like very much. Except it was me that ruined it, because after all these years of being a person I often don’t know how to sequence, to push my physical hunger and mundane irritations aside and apologize to my husband about something (which I did, but not as quickly as I’d have liked) and be present and focused for him and for the time it takes then slide my pizza slice back toward me and enjoy my repast, because I love food and I hate to waste good food, which I just did.

After our dinner we visit our current favorite little Oly coffee shop and while I order drinks a strange (as in, not known to me previously) woman gently places her hand on my shoulder and says, “May I…?”, gesturing to my children. I say Yes, having no idea what she’s talking about, but hey, I’m quick to volunteer up my babies for whatever.  I observe she’s set up a table in the corner of the shop: incense (actually expensive-smelling and richly appealing, not dusty and assy), a carafe of water, a deck of cards – and tea cups and saucers.  Vaguely I remember I’d seen a flyer about the place, advertising tea leaf reading (yes! This is tasseomancy, as my post title alludes) and it clicks. Here is, then, a Fortune Teller.

I order the coffee and walk over; Nels, fresh from a car-nap and completely a bundle of energy, has picked up her tea cups and is handling them vigorously, if not ungently.  I know he won’t drop them but, like I explained later to the children, picking up her tea cups is a bit like handling the dentists’ instruments: rude, mostly.  Hang back, Little Guy.  I ask him to read the little cardboard sign she has on the table.  He is so keyed-up he can’t focus on the sign, which is pretty keyed-up for him as he’s an expert reader.  My daughter steps in, saying, “It says ‘Tea Leaf Readings’, Nels.” He pauses and takes that in. “Do you know what that means?” I ask the kids.  Sophie thinks for half a beat and says in her very adult way with her baby-duck voice, “After you drink hot tea there are leavings in the cup, and someone with special skills can interpret them and tell you about your future.”  I am not kidding, this actually came out of my seven year old’s face!  I ask the Fortune Teller if we have to drink our own tea to have our leavings read and she says yes; alas, we are there for coffee only, which is ready now and I walk over to retrieve it.

As I pay for the the drinks, the woman again asks my permission to do something with my children.  I grant it and watch as she takes an Oracle deck (illustrated with very striking art; I discover at the end of the session she’d made the cards herself) and gracefully shuffles it.  She asks each child to close their eyes, make a wish, and tap the deck.  They do so.  Then she deals – if you can call it that – six cards, face down, and tells the children she will give them a reading.  Nels, finally, is still for this.

My daughter is circumspect and attentive.  The Fortune Teller begins to turn the cards over.  Sophie is told that she is a cautious and careful person; the card that led to this diagnosis shows a chess piece.  Then: in the near future my daughter must take care to avoid things with germs on them (I’m thinking the neighbor boy, who comes over often and has some kind of stomach problem and uses our bathroom often and doesn’t wash his hands, but whatever).  Finally the woman reveals the third card, sits, and then tells my daughter, “The Universe is going to present you with opportunities that will benefit you.”  Sophie is straight, her eyes direct, her posture calm and perfect and accepting.  I’m thinking This is crazy, my kids! My children! They are incredible!

Next the Fortune Teller overturns three cards to for Nels’ reading.  And my son is…  I don’t know how to put this, but spiritually cowed.  I have never seen anyone bigger than Nels and this woman, through persistence and calm and direct eye contact, beguiles him into settling.  He leaves the reading impressed and quiet.  She has told him: he must learn to slow down, and listen, because he will hear a still voice inside him: his Intuition.  “This place is in my nightmares,” Nels says to her, but he does not mean this in a fearful or dramatic way.  It is spoken calmly, and indeed the coffee shop – which is beautiful – is dark, and odd, and has crystal doorknobs set in random intervals in the dried-blood red ceiling, and this is what Nels gestures toward when he says “nightmares”.

I appreciate this woman’s work and I ask the children if we should pay her.  We place a bill in a glass jar she has set for the purpose.  The woman bows a bit and says, “Thank you for your generosity,” and perhaps in gratitude for these wages, or because the reading of the children went according to her satisfaction, she presents the children with a gift: a small crystal ball they’d noticed earlier and cited as one looking like those juggled in the 80’s fantasy film Labrynth.  The kids thank her; she instructs them to share with one another (something my children do very well in most cases, being one another’s Evil Twin and loving much of the same things).  Being a parent, I have been witness to my children receiving gifts, and no matter the offered item I am always humbled by the generosity of friends, family, and strangers.  The kids talk to her a bit more about the film and I quip to the Fortune Teller, “Do you have any David Bowies in tight pants in your bag?”* because I Am Immature and seriously why does this film keep coming up? and the woman laughs her low laugh and says, “I wish!”

And I tell her we’ll be back another Tuesday night, and have some tea.  We say farewell and I’m back outside kind of … stunned, again, at life’s tiny meetings that so often make an indelible impression.

*I’m not going to link to that! Neither photos nor the many, many homemade drawings that have been rendered!

what a life i lead in the summer

I know I don’t want to live in the city – but visiting Olympia I get a small taste of the kind of freedom I’d feel, hauling my kids about during the day and seeing hardly anyone we know and getting to do almost anything I want within my cash flow restrictions.  We walk on the waterfront and look at boats and sand sculptures and find some delicious pizza with a pint of delicious organic amber draft beer and then walk a couple blocks for the cup of coffee so wonderful it’s the most special thing, and then wash our hands and faces and get a drink from the artesian well that flows downtown.

Later, miles away at the music festival on Helsing Farm, a few women approach Ralph and tell them how beautiful our daughter is: they’d noticed her in Olympia earlier that day. Ralph keeps the conversation short; Sophie is holding a hand bleeding from an injury on the hay-bale pyramid the kids are all gamboling about on.  We walk across the road and the kids swim while I catch up with my friend S. and her son, naked, throws rocks in the river.

Back in time for the music; it is great family fare but also funny, a full two bands with the word “Pine” in their monikers, a lot of pseudo old-tymey stuff, each band with a young hipster girl sitting on her knees playing some minor instrument: tambourine, washboard. That said the sound is perfect and the venue is wonderful.  The number of festival-goers feels right – a well-behaved gathering, cozy yet festive.  My kids eat tamales and fresh vegetable stir-fry and drink juice spritzers and alternate between our laps and playing with the other children.  I sit and talk to S. and her husband W. and feel no rush to go anywhere.

We’re home at 11:30 and the kids are asleep in the back seat.  In cases like this I haven’t the heart to make them take their evening baths – I wash their faces gently with a warm washcloth after lying them in their bed and we tuck everyone in for another very busy day tomorrow.

my affair with joe

I had a friend who once told me that because of her dad’s habits in childhood, she’d always get a positive, warm and fuzzy feeling from smelling beer on a man’s breath. And sure enough, she ended up partnered with a beer-drinker and in fact drank a lot herself. For entirely coincidental reasons I had years ago decided I didn’t want my children to smell alcohol on my breath night after night as I kiss them to sleep. Alcohol riddles my childhood; I don’t want to be a slave to or obsessed with the eradication of it in my life, but until I sort all that out I really don’t want my children to either.

But lest you think this was a long, meandering post about my triumph over alcoholic tendencies, you’re wrong. Because this is about what my children likely associate with Love-Mommy, and what Nels just commented on this morning when he told me my breath smelled good: Coffee. I like coffee. I drink coffee. CoffeeCoffeeCoffee. I’m sick, slavish to it. I could probably not go a roadtrip without it unless it was after 6 PM or so (when I’m ready to be done drinking it for the night). You know how smokers need that smoke break? I’m almost like that with coffee. I think about coffee. I treat myself to coffee. OK, I’m not a total fiend: I won’t drink “bad” coffee – I won’t bother with something from 7-11 or most diners. Living in Washington state though, it’s easy to find good (or at least decent) cup of the stuff.

This morning Nels snuggles me a bit before I stick him in bed next to his sister; their fresh pancakes await in a warm oven, and in a moment I’m off to bath, breakfast, and a bit of yoga before the day truly begins.

I watched The Dark Knight last night. It was a great film and I plan to see it again. I put a film review up on a site I write for (hee hee, not linking to it, it’s a secret) and in looking up some details of the film on on imdb I see a post: “Who else found the Joker sexy?” Yeah, OK, it needs to be said: the Joker was sexy (and scary. Those things can go together, you know). And this is why – he was extremely self-validated. Probably the biggest turn-on, ever. Well, for me at least.

funny little frogs

It’s noon and the van is packed, the kids have enough water (it’s a hot day), and swaddled in my basket is a lunch of cheese on multigrain bread, roasted garbanzo beans (Nels calls them “grabanzo” beans), and carrot sticks in ice water. This morning I spent $7.34 for the food I brought my daughter’s class (a weekly ritual), have exactly $21 for the tank of gas to the city and back( the trip will take every penny), and retain $2 to buy myself a coffee (with tip) on the road.

I’m tired of driving to Olympia and back. This is the third time in about a month for the kids’ dentistry. After today, though, we will be done with sealants and fillings and the next trip won’t be until their October checkups. If I had a few bucks to buy some lunch or visit Danger Room Comics or a fabric store I’d have looked forward to this trip. Or even better, if I had someone along with me to chat. As it is I am instantly thrilled to my bones with horrific boredom at the little stretch of highway I have to traverse. I’ve never enjoyed repetitive car trips and incline my head with respect to those who don’t mind.

My daughter does well at the dentist’s and doesn’t even vomit later due to the nitrous gas administration (like she did last time). Driving back I’m impressed with my children; they are champs, not whining, not begging for McDonald’s or ice cream or telling me they’re bored. I have one earbud in (my iPod converter does not work) and the kids cope without DVD player or strenuous kiddie-music song recitation or even books, looking out the window and lost in their own thoughts. When we get home I give them something cold to drink and hug them and tell them I’m proud of them.

weekend to weekend

This weekend found us at my family’s cabin* up near Shelton:

It was beautiful, cold and clear at Mason Lake (note: “Little Hoquiam” where my great-grandfather settled with friends!) for all three days.

My Great-Grandfather Killed Lots Of Antlered Things
My knitting + rustic decor. I also sewed Suse a pair of pants with a cute, but horrible-to-work-with, polyester woven I bought years ago.

Miscellany At Mason Lake
A state of such permanency the label my grandmother made lives on and on. There’s also a box marked, “Whiskers Nails & Armpits” (for razors, fingernail clippers, and deodorant, natch).

Suse Samples The Wares
“Let’s go to town, kids!” On Sunday we hit Olympia in part to take Ralph’s guitar to Music 6000 for an expert opinion. At the Blue Heron Bakery we had a picnic of our own home-made sandwiches followed by cookies, coffee and tea from the shop. Let me tell you something: in my entire coffee-drinking career I have never taken a coffee back for being too bitter, but I had to in the case of the Heron’s americano. I asked the barista if there was a mistake or …? After coyly pouring a bit into his own wee cup the be-mustached, fey young man replied, “Yeah, that’s pretty much what our espresso tastes like.” Feeling like a puss, I switched out for a drip coffee which smelled faintly like hippie feet (I am not kidding nor exaggerating) but tasted fine enough. The cookies were great and the Garlic Kalamata Sourdough loaf was divine.

Tragedy Strikes
Sadly, during our lunch someone joked about eating the “top cookie” (that is, the cookie in the top of a package of five identical cookies) and the teasing was taken quite seriously by my son before we could convince him that yes, the “top cookie” was reserved for him.

As for the sweater: this is the least feminine thing Nels wears these days. His sister’s a good sport, sharing her clothes with him.

Last weekend, my school friend Jodi visited along with her husband Doug and their children Cyan and India:

Picture Log, By Suse
Sophie sat in the stroller and chronicled our gray stroll – down the highway and to a greasy spoon for soft-serve ice cream. Nothing but the best for our treasured guests!

Lake Eklund
Did I mention we in Hoquiam are sinking into the earth? Now I know why, growing up, people who met me out in the world would ask if I had webbed feet.

Connect Four Times Four
This was actually quite brilliant: the four children found a Connect Four game at the local coffee shop / popcorn factory and immediately began playing the game differently than intended. Without any noticeable communication (although children this age together can develop a monkey-language of their own) they’d fill up the board with alternating colors for each vertical row. Sophie, Cyan and Nels instinctively worked together at a high rate of speed while India (the youngest at 2) just did what the hell she wanted and the older children would either firmly grasp and re-direct her paw or, if she succeeded in dropping a color out of sequence, quickly retrieve the offending gamepiece and secure it. After a while the chore of catch-India-before-she-fucks-it-up got old and Cyan and Sophie started broadly hinting that maybe “someone” shouldn’t play anymore.

* Built by my great-grandfather back in the day; shared by hordes of extended family now.

adios la mer

Today we say goodbye to the yurt, to the park, to our little vacation town(s), the surf, the wildlife (I saw two snakes on my morning mile walk), the unexpected and dazzling sunshine. I sit in a cafe / roasteria in lower Long Beach – a coffee shop that, besides plenty of seating and free wi-fi seems oddly discourteous and annoying. My husband bought an americano here but I snuck next door to the Organic Market for their superior brew. And yes, to answer your unspoken question, much of this trip has been coffee-centered.

We have a few pictures I’ll be uploading tonight – camera phone, unfortunately. Ralph is chomping at the bit – so sayonara, vacation!

thank god it’s fatal, not shy

My son Nels loves to dress himself. But he puts everything on backwards. I mean everything, except shoes, which he attempts to put on the wrong feet. And I just can’t bring myself to let him go out like that. So I either ask, wheedle, reason, cajole, or demand and wrestle him to the ground to fix his clothes. Of course he complains about all this; “Bad Mama!” Because he wants to do everything by himself. But if he gets stuck – like he is right now, trying to pull up his pants while simultaneously standing on them – he makes these crazy, help-me-grunts. Then when I help, the second he’s decided I’ve helped enough, he starts in yelling again.

On the other hand, his fine and gross motor skills are quite impressive for his age. Yesterday he stole a basketball from a teenage boy shooting hoops at the playground.


The ONE day this week we don’t have a dinner engagement! Oh, except we kind of do – we’re off to swim lessons and Ralph and Nels have Playschool. Tomorrow: family of five coming over and I’m not sure what I’m going to make for dinner.

I’m about to chuck the kids in the bike trailer, head to my current favorite North End drive-through latte stand (Morning Fix Espresso), and go to my mom’s and hope to get some lunch.

I’m just a little pathetic today.

"Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit smoking cigarettes."

My son is driving me nuts.

This morning for the third time in the last couple months he poured a bottle of my perfume out – this time, on the kitchen table. I totally lost it – I was so pissed. I tanned his hide. I put him in his room. I cleaned the mess. I was practically crying. He has done this three times now.

But even as I threw heavily-scented kitchen towels in the washer it didn’t take long for me to stop being mad at him. The damage was done; it was over. I went back to his room and he flung himself into my arms and sobbed and cried and said, “I’m sorry, Mama!” and yes, it was genuine on his part. I was sorry too and I told him so. Sophie hung back crying because in my fit of temper minutes before I’d told them I wasn’t taking them to the Y. After some three-way discussion and cuddling I realized I still had it within me to get them dressed, ready, and pack my gym bag. So that’s what I did.

But heck, even that is ancient history. Right now (post-gym and a lunch date just Nels and I at Billy’s restaurant) he’s making me crazy because he’s in his room playing and talking instead of napping. There is just something more claustrophobic knowing they aren’t napping, even if theoretically they are occupying themselves (making a mess) which again, theoretically gives you “free time” (P.S. likely time later you have to bust hump to help them clean messes).

I know I’m lucky to have 5- and 3-year old nappers. I’m spoiled. Not just for the break in the day (altho’ that’s the obvious bonus) but for the fact my children are most always well-rested and happy up until their rather-late bedtime. Oh, and I get a good sleep-in if I want it (I do). For now, my solution to Nels’ happy squawking in his room is to put some headphones in as I go about chores.

I need a cup of coffee.

ETA – Overheard a few seconds ago as Ralph opens a care package mailed to us from a family member: “No, no, no! Don’t touch that! It’s broken glass!