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.


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!)

reptile drama; a coda

I’ve been busy. Embarking on a belly dancing class (you should see how much I suck!  It is kind of breathtaking!), the privilege of attending a workshop of spoken-word guru Desdamona, and trying to sew at a more brisk clip than, as it turns out, I really have time for (but I’m not giving up on my goals! It ain’t over until I’ve made the entire family miserable by disappearing into the sewing room all too much while they are forced to fend for themselves!).

Poor little Anna Dell Geckaboom.  My kids had a bit of a skirmish – a very small one – and Sophie fell while holding her gecko.  The animal lost its tail – something it can afford to do, but nevertheless a traumatic event.  For everyone.  In fact I even hollered a lot.  I mean I am a tough person who’s usually good in a scrape.  But I still lost my mind for a second – because it was gross and disturbing and awful (the animal is fine, thanks for asking).  I do credit my reflexes in that I quickly composed myself and directed the family – Sophie to get her reptile book and Ralph to round up the lizard and its…  truncated appendage (see video below; then puke).  Nels cried and cried, feeling so bad about the animal, feeling so guilty – and waiting for a reprisal he was sure he deserved.

Ralph consoled the children and soon they recovered.


The tail wiggled for well over forty minutes after it had left its host.  Seriously, this was just about the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.  I guess, really.  I don’t like Nature very much.
Wiggling Tail

And no, I wasn’t laughing or smiling during ANY of this event, so I don’t know why Sophie said these words to me. I think she was pretty upset and likes to blame me for her feelings at times. That’s the lot of many of us mothers, I’m afraid.

“You’re the best parent I know” – actually spoken to me a couple times recently, by two different people

Tonight my kids assploded into an absolute four-alarm no-holds-barred dual emotional meltdown.  After Sophie’s swim team practice we let them play Mario Kart at the YMCA as long as we could – Ralph and I whiling away the time with a few Rock Band competitions, which were incredibly fun – but, finally, we had to go.  The kids started crying.  Nels threw the YMCA’s Wii controller (this really sucks; he didn’t damage it though).  But ah, the Hogachitlens, they were not done.  More was to come – we’re talking crying and sobbing as we took them out of the Y (Sophie walked while she cried, Nels – unfortunately, as we’re trying not to do this anymore – had to be carried) and – in Grays Harbor, where honestly it feels like people are pretty much cool with you parenting however you need to – we got lots of stares.  Once in the car it increased.  I’m talking dual, intense screaming which included, “I’m going to kill you!” and “Fuck you. FUCK YOU.” (hey, this was all from the kids, not us).  It was so bad that Ralph and I passed through the angry stage and the shocked stage and just started laughing.  I mean we tried to stop laughing, because it wasn’t funny for the kids at all.  It was just, that over the top.  I wish I would have recorded it.

Oh, don’t worry.  I had all the obligatory Bad Mom thoughts.  Here are some as follows: our kids are “so crazy” because they are weirdly isolated in some way that Normal Kids aren’t, maybe because we don’t have video games at home or don’t let them do something enough, or we make them do something else too much, or maybe we feed them wrong or something.  And we should have video games, clearly it’s not normal for kids to flip out like this, the cussing and screaming and death-threats, so that’s All My Fault there because no one else’s kids do that, ever.  We seriously have screwed up so very bad in some way that up until this moment I’d only guessed at and even now I’m not sure what it is and of course I have no idea how to correct it.

And while I’m on the subject, what is up with these Bad Mom thoughts?  Because when I feel like a Bad Mom I sometimes ask myself – well okay, I’m a Bad Mom, sure, but am I a Bad Parent? and I find the standards are so much more flexible, and have a long-term view, and show so much more compassion to myself and my family.  When I ask myself if I’m a Bad Parent I find I don’t expect myself to be able to solve things this second (like I do when I’m being a Mom).  I find myself able to experience a rather horrid experience (like the one in the car tonight) with humor and acceptance.  Yeah, that’s what my kids are doing right now. I don’t have to like it but it’s just Life. And we’ll figure it out.

And you know…  I think the escalation into hysterical death-threats and language that would make Quentin Tarantino blush had to do with my kids’ sense of Justice more than anything else.  Pretty early on in their crying and carrying on as we left the Y the kids knew they weren’t handling it well and they were very upset (angry, hurt, embarassed) that they’d blown it.  And after they’d ramped it down a notch, as we drove home, that knowledge of their fears illumniated me further. Was I going to take away the YMCA video games for weeks, or for forever, or give them a stern lecture and consequences (on the drive home Sophie was sobbing, “I know I’m grounded for three weeks!” – although she’s never been grounded).  My kids were clearly full of remorse and knew precisely they’d done wrong by refusing to leave and regretted their spiral into violent language.  As I sat in the car and blew into my winter-frosted hands I was torn on the course of action I might suggest to my husband.

Sophie fell asleep immediately after we arrived home, and when she woke an hour later she was calm.  At the dinner table – pan cubano, frijoles refritos, huevos rancheros with a homemade salsa – the kids apologized and confessed they were worried I wouldn’t snuggle them that night.  Their bright, sad little eyes were on me and Nels’ little body was very still in his chair.  I said, “I will cuddle you.  I’m not even mad.  It was wrong to say all those things, but I understand how upset you were.”  Ralph and I told the kids we understood now how very, very much they like playing video games at the Y (boy, we had not understood fully until then!).  Nels, grateful, melted around the table and curled into my lap.  I said, “It seems like you’re worried I’m angry with you and don’t like you,” and both kids nodded.  And I said to Nels, “If I said Fuck You and yelled at you, would you still love me?” He said, “Yes, but… not that second, not right when you said it.”

And the episode drew to a close.

Ah, family.

i tell you this because i trust you, anonymous internet reader, to know about what a horrible, horrible person i really am

About five years ago in my little kitchen in Port Townsend I baked a dozen cupcakes – or rather, I overbaked them (the easiest and most frequent of baking errors) and was standing there cursing my mistake.  I know now and I knew then the trick is to take the cake – or cookies or cupcakes or whatever – out of the oven when they’ve just barely lost the wet look; alternatively, any cake or quick bread can be removed after it’s pulled away from the sides of the pan.  Oh, and another tip:  don’t have – you know, two crying babies in diapers or whatever while you cook because that’s rather distracting.

So the cupcakes were sitting on my counter, but they were dried out and assy.  And I thought, Well… the family will still like them, and I decided to continue.  I proceeded to whip up some frosting.  Problem is, it didn’t really hold together – and I’m usually awesome with the homemade frosting bit.  In this case the confection tasted good, but was kind of grainy and sloppy.  Impatient now, I began to spoon the stuff on top of the cupcakes.  The baked goods were still a bit warm, though (another bush league mistake!) and the already-loose frosting slipped off the, heh, muffin tops.

I persevered.  Even as things fell apart I carefully, carefully did my best at frosting those cupcakes.  It just kept getting worse, though. My husband walked in the room just as I finished, stood back, surveyed my results, and then swiftly and emphatically threw the whole batch into the garbage.  He was a bit startled, sure.  And sad.  But let me tell you, it felt good to call a failure a failure, to quit trying so hard, to just say – Fuck it! – and be done.

This was not, however, how I felt today when I marched into the kitchen where my kids were sitting and took a nearly-finished homesewn blouse I’d been working on and maliciously hacked it to pieces with my scissors.

My frustration makes sense, really, even if it didn’t justify my dramatic display.  I’d started the blouse a few days ago and was trying to get the darn thing done because we’re moving on Thursday.  The curved hem required a handstitch – the thin layer of batiste underlining further requiring a very picky handstitch that easily took twice as long as usual.  I finished this in the afternoon.  Then I’d top-stitched the placket and the collar bias facing (doing a great job on a very tricky seam) and literally had about fifteen minutes to completion.  Impatient, wanting to have the finished garment in hand, I sat at my grandmother’s Singer 15-91 and installed my buttonholer and threaded the bobbin.  On the first buttonhole the machine jammed, jammed again.  Kept screwing up which it never does on buttonholes.  At some point, aghast, I realized my children had crammed about a dozen long pins in the bobbin race and head of the machine.  Even then I didn’t lose it; I tried instead to take the face plate off to remove these but the screw as a bit sticky – the machine is 60 years old – and that’s when I felt an upsurge like bile of all the rage and hurt and frustration and resentment a woman in my circumstances could possibly feel.

The blouse was a lovely one – a teal and black quilting cotton in a floral, semi-Asiatic pattern, the underlining making it sturdy and dressy in an understated way.  I’d taken the time and care to match the pattern on the front placket and added collar detail and cuffs in a lovely dusty black bamboo/cotton fabric.  And even with all this craftsmanship invested I cut the thing to a dozen pieces and left the mess on the table for my family and said a few choice words because I was so angry, ever since we moved into this house and had my sewing stuff in our living room my kids have been fiddling with dials and removing pins from my pincushion and messing about with my loop-turner etc.  And I’d asked and told and demanded and begged they stop doing it and still they did it.

After my shirt-murder my husband immediately got the kids dressed to leave.  “If Mama’s done with that shirt, it means it’s time to get the moving boxes so we can pack her sewing stuff.”  I was a hundred percent grateful for his calm and decisiveness in the moment – although I was still so devastated at how much in that moment I loathed my children.  Sophie stayed home from the event out, though, and immediately fell asleep for a very uncharacsteristic nap.  And I – helpless to do anything at all useful – watched some of my HBO show and tried to feel better and eventually got up and made dinner (Japanese noodles with asparagus, green beans, seared mushrooms and hardboiled egg; garlic saute of broccoil and cauliflower; grape tomato and avocado salad in a creamy lemon dressing).  And cooking made me feel better; it almost always does.

Ralph and Nels got home as I was finishing the meal preparations.  My son once again apologized, and I sat with that a bit.  While I drained the soba noodles I told my husband that I knew I should be sorry for what I’d done and said, but I didn’t yet feel sorry.  Ralph said, “I can’t speak for Sophie, but Nels and I don’t think you did or said anything terrible.” This was a relief to hear.

And of course… as lovely as the blouse was, in reality I sew a lot and it’s merely another thing I made.  It just died before its time.

My husband goes back to work tomorrow.  Today he and the kids have been having good old fashioned fun while, as it turned out, I frittered my day away on wasted efforts.  The three built an elaborate, large, and gorgeous diorama for the kids’ dinosaurs, started a rock-candy experiment, and built a cardboard house from a few spare moving boxes.  It was one of those days where I was deeply glad to be partnered, even if the fellow in question is the one who’d impregnated me with my (lovely and well-loved, really) hell-spawn in the first place.

I love my children and family but sometimes my resentment is larger than one can imagine (actually, if you’ve been a mom as long as I have, maybe you really, really can imagine it).  At times my biggest worry is that I’ll always carry the resentment or that it is somehow growing – how would I know if this was the case? – that forgiveness and good humor and let’s-try-again will run out and I’ll just be this bitter vessel who is not even a shred of a human being.  It helps tremendously my children really know, really know, how to apologize – and how to accept my apologies.  And that coupled with all the love I have, a love that dwells within me as constant as the rush of blood in my veins, an amazing huge boundless love, really more incredibly large than I could have ever forseen, I just hope it’s enough.