thank you for the music

Today we four journeyed to Port Townsend to clean our previous house and establish closure on our tenure living there. Originally it was to be a “girls’ day” where I came up alone to meet with a group of friends to help clean, but these last few days I have felt a lack of family time; I ask Ralph and the four of us make the trip together.

Two friends are a no-show but the other three are there – and have already started cleaning my house! A small setback: no water. It takes me a while to figure this out and Ralph has to go to the local auto parts store to find a wrench. I find out cleaning with tubs of water from the neighbor’s hose really sucks: mostly from the cold. When Ralph finds the solution and hot comes streaming from the tap it is almost a luxury to clean. Stephanie scrubs walls and floors with a thoroughness I just can’t muster from within myself. Abbi, Ralph, and Christee take turns with the fridge and I ask if anyone there knows who stole my placenta from Nels’ birth? I am not kidding; it went missing. Spooky.

The entire job takes about an hour and a half. Thank God for a rather clutter-and-dirt free life and thank Sweet Baby Jesus even more for friends who are there for me. Thank you, really.

As I finish rooms I say goodbye to each: “Goodbye, Bathroom Number One.” The bedrooms Ralph and I fought in and loved in and nursed new babies in. The shower where I miscarried and the back bedroom where I birthed Nels. A family made in love, error, and intention; now poured out of our crucible and forged strong for a new life.

Abbi joins us for lunch at the Water Street Brew Pub and we dine majestically, and for me this includes a fine Bloody Mary and delicious fish tacos, plus dessert besides. We talk and talk and share lives that are forking in the road but cannot be torn asunder.

We hug Abbi and say goodbye, then hit the road. Coming back to and leaving Port Townsend has been painful, a last booty call in a relationship moved on from. As we drive my daughter asks us to say goodbye: as we pass through towns, “Goodbye, Port Townsend!” “Goodbye, Hadlock!” “Goodbye, Chimacum!” A pause, then Nels: “Goodbye, Ghost Rider!” Whatever the fuck that was about.

The kids fall asleep soon and Ralph and I discuss, mostly, computers. We’re home by 6:30 PM to my mother’s homemade burgers. My father has eaten even more of that pie, by the way.

Ralph: "I’ve never been so sick of my possessions."

Bart: “Me neither.”

Today. Was a big day.

All of our things are presently either with us and being lived with in a comfortable, sorted-out fashion (photos soon), or stored in heated storage. Did you hear me where I said that means all our possessions, all out of a 24′ long truck? Do you know how to do a simple volume calculation, thereby telling you how much stuff that is? The “stuff” didn’t go in one place, either: it had to be sorted out as it was moved to differentiate what went into storage units, what came upstairs in our temporary hideout at my parents’. Oh, also: did I mention we had to do a full clean of the rooms we moved into? That was mopping, dusting, vacuuming, and sundry. Holy mother of God.

Not only am I so, so tired from moving my stuff but there are many other people tired from moving my stuff! Let’s count who helped today, in very large and valuable ways: My mom, my dad, Bart, Billy (these two appeared out of nowhere to help and it was pissing down rain the entire time). Even Sophie who somehow managed to actually help, and as we unload the truck stay out of grownups’ ways and sort things properly into the “keep with us” vs. the “storage” categories. P.S. she did this for the entire duration of our sorting.

When I say they “helped” I mean they really helped. They put the “keep with us” stuff back in the truck, came along to my parents’, and hauled it up stairs. P.S. Nels did not help. In fact he took up time from people who could otherwise have helped.

I don’t know how to feel about the fact that our moving was expensive and hard for us but also relied on the efforts of others who will receive merely a “thank you” card, dinner, or beer. Not to mention on the packing end of things there were the indespensible talents of Danny, Joe, and Cynthia, who not only helped Ralph immensely but took time away from their own doings and their own families to assist ours.

I have a lot more gratitude to offer, but right now I need dinner and downtime.

and we’re out

Today was my last full day in Port Townsend. Forces conspired to keep me home and frustrated: my kids woke with pinkeye (highly contagious, semi-gross, but really not a big deal – whatever you do don’t click on these links) and I once again was robbed of the family van. Fuck it. It’s my last day. I’m going to buy myself my birthday present (#2), I’m going to get some fresh air, I’m going to cook my kids a good lunch and rest them up, and we’re going to have a good time. Guess what? It all worked out that way.

Before I even made it out the door this morning lovely Abbi brings me fresh eggs from her chickens. Yay! Cynthia brought over morning pastries and hot coffee, her treat. Thank you, ladies.

At 10-ish we catch the #13 bus and I sit next to Kirsten and her two lovely children. We discuss move-out date: tomorrow! She tells me Port Townsend will miss us. I hear that a lot. My eyes are darting to the back of the bus where my children, experienced bus riders, are making monkey noises.

So I bought myself the bread box, and they filled it with bread, a lot of bread. About one-third of the large box of bread was filled with Pane D’Amore’s lovely hearth rolls. Like the ones you see my children eating. P.S. during the day, they ate them all.

At this point my picture-taking was at its end as Nels took over, after asking repeatedly and circumspectly for the camera. Here are three of his efforts:

Me, at the bus stop. Yes, that’s my actual hair, not a very bad wig. P.S. I am squinty most of the time or at least that’s what the pictures tell me.

On to the Food Co-op:

Olives! Our whole family likes them. A pretty picture: I think he should go into Marketing for the co-op’s website.

“UUURRGH! ME HAS THE PINK EYE-UMS!” Note my child’s version is much milder than those links above that I sincerely hope you did not investigate.

Home on the bus, again. Sophie carries my $33 alaffia grass basket, ANOTHER present to myself to say goodbye to Port Townsend (these baskets are SO PT, and let me tell you, when I asked the Co-op employee to find me a “larger one”, I was graced with the entire history of the sweet African community that makes them, and how honored a relationship “we” have with them, yada yada) with a small amount of healthy snack groceries:

Think I’m lyin’? Check it out: veggie booty, kale salad, carrots, and Strawberry Emergen-C. A PT meal. Yes, they ate it. And then they napped. And then they got up and gave me hell.

Tomorrow: bon voyage to greener, if not sweeter, pastures.

maybe on second thought maybe i never should have picked up that second wife

My family is down to our van only, having left our pickup truck at my parents’ two weeks ago. Yesterday my husband finds out he has to take a trip to his Bremerton office; ergo, I am without a family vehicle today. This morning at Sophie’s preschool drop-off Ralph asks my friend Abbi if she’ll not only pick up my oldest child at school dismissal, but also journey uptown to pick Nels and I up from our last day at Playschool. Which of course, being Abbi, she does.

At 11:30 outside the Playschool my son sees her van and smiles: “Abbi’s going to get me with the van!” (why that child likes it so rough, I have no idea). She and I pack up fourth carseat, fourth child, my Playschool journal and goodbye-flowers; head to the bakery to pick up a few hearth rolls to keep kids quiet and drive out to Hadlock for a coffee. Our conversation is familiar and full of laughter; our handling of and reaction to the four children is in sync more so than with our own husbands. We get our matching coffee drinks and pass out hot chocolates to children. Our children: “I want a coffee bean,” “Give me whip cream! I need whip cream!” I ask Abbi, “Who raised these spoiled children, anyway?” and we laugh.

Driving home in the passenger seat my chauffeur and friend takes a couple wrong turns: “I am having trouble taking you back home,” she says and I think to myself I am having trouble, too. I am talking and I am cheerful but I also feel a deep sense of loss. My life is going to change and I am so damn sad. Why do we have these people in our lives only to one day sever what we have come to cherish with them? How can I be a friend to someone from miles away? How can they be part of my family if I have taken my family from them? I have come to rely on and enjoy my rituals in my community; my community cries out against my leaving. They are a part of me intertwined with married life and motherhood. Who will I be without them?

I don’t know how to tell my friends of the places they occupy within me. Mostly I don’t even want to tell them, because in the telling the truth becomes clumsy and inaccurate. For me, something larger is lost if I try to express it. I think they know they are loved as much as I know they love me. My feelings aren’t best expressed in sentimental cards or hugs and kisses but rather this: those I care most about I take great care to let them know who I really am. The most pure form and the deepest, calmest place within me.

Back at my house I shuttle my kids inside and get a wet rag to wipe down a chocolate spill in Abbi’s van. We discuss a park trip for the children later, if the weather gets a little less damn cold. Tiny, humble rituals meaningless but meaningful that I will soon have robbed myself of.

the gift that keeps on giving

I’m not sure how to express the deep shock I felt yesterday when I followed Cynthia and Paige up to the penthouse of the Swan, they opened the door, my mind stuttered and hitched when I saw the fabulous cake on the table (lovely custom cakes that have price tag minimum of $250), and suddenly people sprang out from the balcony and yes, yelled “Surprise!” and I saw all sorts of smiling faces and next Molly was walking toward me with a hand-embroidered handkerchief. I couldn’t have been more surprised unless someone jumped out of the cake. Because even as I mounted the stairs behind Cyn and Paige knowing something was up – sure, a ladies’ lunch with a half-dozen girlfriends – nothing prepared me for how many people and how lovely they all looked to me. And yes, I cried (“Goddamn it!”) but part of it was just overwhelm – the party following one hour after I heard my cat had been murdered by a coyote, turning thirty, seeing my family who I was sure were 120 miles away. I was just floored.

The afternoon / evening was a lovely one and included many lovely goodies* (homemade hummus from Becca, Abbi and my current favorite meatball recipe, truffles and Poison Pussy Pie, this crazy bacon / date / almond appetizer from Nancy), fresh coffee and my favorite beer, my husband waiting on me hand and foot and the kids were out with a babysitter (everyone’s were, in fact), a cigarette with Sara and Steph and Molly, gifts – all of them either homemade, very special, or both.

My friend Cynthia was the lead organizer, in close cahoots with my husband and friend Abbi. Cynthia announces to me around the table I am “very difficult to plan a surprise party for” because I am “suspicious” and “not compliant”! I don’t know why everyone laughed at that one, but they sure did. The rest of the event I was told a handful of stories where my (I swear!) innocent curiosity caused friends and family to sweat bullets as they tried to keep the lie going.

Today is an extension of the fun as I am treated to the 41 gmail messages between my husband and the organizer(s) – this doesn’t count chats, of which Ralph tells me there were many. Example:

Jan 27
Ralph Hogaboom

to Cynthia
Kelly’s on to you (not me). She’s talking to her mom right now, saying
that you just ‘accepted’ the lack of party. she’s saying that she
expected you to be a little pissy, or put up more of a fight. Your
radio silence about it is clueing her in!

Feb 10
Ralph Hogaboom
to Cynthia
Kelly locked in 2 pm with me. I made some noises about her going out AGAIN, but that I’d take the kids up to fort worden or something. That gives me an excuse to get them out early (i.e., go pick up Rachel). I’m coming back from picking her up at 1:30; I’ll drop her, kids, and jogging stroller off at Grant Street and head on down to be there early. So, FYI, no Freecycle Documentary story, it’s “Fort Worden with the kids”.

I did the smallest bit possible pouting about how lame I am for not doing anything for her bday. She bought it! Heh.

You get the idea.

Then there’s the Google spreadsheet of Ralph’s where I can see the chronicles of my husband and dear friend assimilating the right guest list and sorting out email invitations (see above). The “Notes” field of each entry contains text like “Friends with Kelly from the mill”, “… ’cause Kelly has that love/hate thing going on with him!”, and “INFANT” (is that a warning or what)?

This morning my bath at the penthouse featured such a large tub I could literally float in it. My FOO left and my children and I had a lovely breakfast together at the Blue Moose with Abbi and Rosie, a walk down at the Marina, then home. Home for a cleanup, pajamas, movie, and yes – a nap. Sophie, Nels and I. I needed it.

* The food and drink were so good, in fact, they kept one person up all night and sent another to the hospital with acute gastritis, and I’m not kidding about that. P.S. that guest is doing just fine now.

here’s what you need to know

1. Yesterday we found out my cat Fancy had been killed. R.I.P. my beloved, sweetest kitty.

2. The last 22 hours have been me at a surprise 30th birthday party / going away party / slumber party with my FOO and my most dear friends. I am still kinda shell-shocked (including, see #1). I need time to myself with the kids – to clean up (us and the house), rest, relax, nap, and pull myself together.

Individual thank yous will follow, but for now: thank you to all my friends and family who really, really surprised me with a wonderful thirtieth birthday party. It was a lovely experience.

routines, familar and new

Today we walked down to the Blue Moose again. Where I am moving will I find diners that I like as much as this one? It isn’t all that special, but the food is good enough, and it’s somewhere clean and fun for the children and I to go. The walk is nice, too. Sophie carries my purse, they hold my hand across the intersections. People smile at me and my smartly-dressed children. Where I’m moving, I’ll be walking along a highway to get places. But my children will enjoy our journies all the same.

The morning boy: ready to go. If I walk with him I have to first discuss with him he will be riding in the stroller for the duration, otherwise he is pissed. He wants to walk. Problems with this: he’s slower than I want to go, he runs into culverts, he picks up old cigarette butts and “smokes” them.

Abbi and I have started a mini-routine during the week while our oldest girls are in school. Here Nels feeds Rosie some chips, carefully opening his own mouth to help Rosie’s endeavors:

Nels first visited this deli when he was about nine hours old. Tonight we re-visited prior to swim lessons and bought: roasted flank steak, jasmine rice balls, pepperoni, coffee, roasted carrots, and a big-ass brownie. The total was $412.53.

Tonight: swim lessons for Ralph and Sophie while Nels and I watched. Oh, did I say “watched”? I mean, while Nels climbed on perfect strangers and tried to escape outside or pull the fire alarm. Ass.

Sophie is the cutest child in the pool because she wears a blue hibiscus suit and matching purple goggles and cap. She is like the world’s tiniest, least wrinkled, perfect little old lady.


Have you seen the new Google pedometer features?

See if you can identify these halmarks of Abbi and my two-mile walk:

  • Abbi’s plantar fascitis acting up
  • Rosie screaming in my ear as I backpacked her
  • Really sweaty
  • Trespassing, through yard, hauling stroller and cranky, wet Nels
  • Sharp bowel pains strike (jalapeno + strong morning coffee)

My daughter is currently discovering soy milk. She’s enjoyed it before of course; but today she requested I buy it and I did. She is very pleased with the experiment so far.

wait, don’t go… i… i… i don’t know how to love!

I wonder if every day until we leave I will have to carefully craft how I handle my life. Last night I worked hard to get a peaceful sleep; I achieved it. One victory in a series of perilous days to come. It seems like my world, for the next four weeks (and probably more), is going to be one of pacing myself. A skill that is not my strongest.

It is harder to leave a place that loves you than a place that doesn’t, and people who love you than people who don’t (go to Waterfront Pizza – on the “bad checks” public-shame list I believe our names are up there with a “x2” or “x3” after them. I can’t quite tell, I have to squint to see and I worry they’ll think I’m being nosy although I’m really only checking out my own self). The verdicts are coming in and frankly, people – in the most loveliest of ways – are making this hard on us. Today I am stopped by a mother of one of Sophie’s preschool peers and her very sweet, very gracious and genuine sadness makes it difficult for me to fly my very brief, very matter-of-fact, very surface-level rehearsed lines. God, of course we are so sad to leave. Do I have to go through a heartbreaking conversation once or twice or more a day? Thusly I adopt cheer and a deep breath and perhaps it comes off as flippancy, which is of course not how I feel about this measured decision.

My husband reports his officemates keep stopping in to ask him why he’s going, to clasp his hand, to report they will miss him. The proprietor at our most-frequented Mexican restaurant gives Ralph a double-armed hug. A very close friend tells me yesterday she’s planning on being mean to me so she gets to leave me, instead of the other way around (nervous laughter… I hope she’s joking). Today Ralph runs into to a man I worked with for years at the paper mill, accompanied by his wife who I worked with at the Farm this summer. Ralph IMs me:

Ralph: She said you were an amazing person, and that summer at the farm getting to know you was special to her. Her husband says, said ‘Hey, it’s flatter there [Grays Harbor]! You could get really into mountain biking. Quinault, and some other places north of Monte …’

“.. oh, and there’s Olympia! You guys would love it there. We used to live at the beach, and we’d drive once a month to shop at the coop up there.”

The supportive, excited, forward-thinking comments are great. The give pause, a template for positive yearnings to come, instead of sad thoughts of what we leave behind.

agricultural tourism / culinary savagery

Today Molly, her son Julian, my kids and I all went further west in order to get some foggy, eerie Sequim-weather while we had some Mama-chat and jostled my iPod about in trying to avoid my children’s requests for the Starlight Vocal Band. First we visited the Dungeness Valley Creamery (which included a pickup of Mt. Townsend Creamery’s Trailhead cheese), then Nash’s Organic Produce (seven dollars bought loads of delicious greens, carrots, garlic…), decided last minute on a trip to the Olympic Game Farm (watching once-majestic beasts sit up and beg for stale white bread – but the kids loved it), finally ending up at the Buzz coffee shop for our home-packed lunch and treats afterwards.

Nels did not get his treat. Now first let me say this: I hate the word “spoiled” in reference to children, but let’s just say Nels is… ready for some tough love on a couple behavioral issues. Specifically, when it comes to taking Mama seriously (kind of a big one, eh?). “Nels, finish your sandwich so you can have ice cream,” I tell him. He smiles and fiddles with his food: “I don’t want ice cream!” he responds (lying) while pushing the remnants of my lovingly-made sandwich across the table. Wiggling his ass saucily and without remorse (Ralph calls our son’s booty his “cup-a-cakes” because you want to hold those tender cheeks in your palms). Rinse and repeat; I tell him he is not going to get ice cream if he doesn’t eat lunch, he says he doesn’t want ice cream. On about the third iteration I realize this is going to go badly for him, and I am sad, because for this child, I can’t be so hardhearted as to not let him have what other children have – nevertheless, that is clearly the right course of action. So I remove the lunch, he tumbles off the bench, happily exploring the coffee shop and confident than when ice cream is delivered, he will be a recipient.

The other children meet the Mamas’ standards of lunch ettiquette so we pick out ice cream varieties and pass out the cones. It dawns on Nels ice cream is served and he clambers back up on the seat. He waits, expectantly. I gently remind him he doesn’t qualify. He starts to bargain – he wants his ice cream now. Well, too late. He starts to bargain more loudly, panic rounding out his husky boy-voice. “Don’t yell at Mama or I will have to take you out to the car,” I respond calmly (yes, I know I should talk in first person). His sister shares a bite (lovely girl) but he can’t be satisfied. His eyes tear up, his hands dart towards nothingness, he cannot believe what is happening. He decides he is angry. He grabs a paper cup and taps it, almost lightly, looking at me with bewilderment. “I … Mama…” words cannot express. “Fucken!” he finally stutters, then: “I … don’t… LIKE … it!” I remove him from the table and carry him to the car. I am not mad at him and I don’t need to explain more about it. I tell him I’m sorry, and maybe next time. Back in the shop and we pack up our items to join Nels in the car, who is thoroughly bested and reminds us of this on our forty-five minute drive. Thank God it is not a screaming, howling tantrum but an occasional percussive ejaculation: “I want ice cream!” “I want to eat… my samwich!” and sad, sad, broken wail.

I don’t know why, but even though this is a minor incident, it makes me sad – and it makes me want to laugh. Mostly, it makes me love my little boy and how much fun it is for us to learn together, even when the lessons are hard for both of us.