while i talk about this nels is in the bath talking about his foreskin. for a change.

National "Night Out"
My dad, my mom, and I – on a beautiful evening. Robin, one of the most dear and sweet citizens of Hoquiam, took this picture from our August 5th National Night Out. This was back when I could sweetly live in the moment and savor it. It’s been a week since my father died and I haven’t had many sweet moments, although my husband and my children have been creeping into my heart in these ways lately. P.S. I stole some pain pills and take them now and then. Maybe that’s what the “sweet” feeling is.

My friends Shannon and Abi called me today on separate occasions. Just to hear their voices and live a little with them was a little slice of heaven. I miss Abi terribly, terribly. She and I used to spend just about every day together and we could giggle together without tiring.

My brother, mother and I are on these tiny remote islands. We are mostly friendly to one another. I feel some hostilities, though. Not really against each other – I don’t think. But since we’re in the know of how much it hurts we don’t have to pretend we’re having a good time, either. Talk talk talk then, total silence while we miss my father so devastatingly much. Then talk some more I guess, because what else is there to do?

It was horrid and rainy today but we had a good time; I took the kids out on the bike and picked up Sophie’s new bike and hooked it up (her front tire in the Freeloader like this) to take it home. I also had lunch at the Deli. Which always makes me feel better. And I saw Terry, the bike guy. And I met Matt, the cutest bike boy ever. By “cutest bike boy” I don’t mean crush-cute, I mean he’s probably young enough to be my son, and he welds bikes together, and he was shy and sweet a little like my brother. It’s so rainy and lame bike-wise here, so it’s great to meet another enthusiast.

this day 1949

Today in my inbox I received a newsletter from Naomi Aldort:

“It is fine to find ways to nurture yourself away from your child. But, when not available, enjoy the ride. If you knew how close the end of this period is, maybe it would be easier to relax and enjoy each moment. Discover that time for yourself, is time with your child. Being with your child is the way your nurture yourself; it is a treat available for a fleeting moment; it is the gift you chose to give to yourself by bringing this child/ren into your life.

Being with the joys of mothering now is fulfilling. Fearing that you are missing something (or needing a clean house) is painful. When the children become independent, you will find that your interests have changed anyway, or that you can pick them up further than where you left them. These former skills may or may not be relevant to you any more. Life moves only forward. Attaching to the past hurts and separates us from the happy moment of now and now and now. Without the wish to do something else, you love the moment fully and peacefully. Enjoy it. Like the rest of life, it is a passing ride that gives no second chance.”

Today I accidentally lived my life this way. I was out on the bike with the kids from 11:00 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon. We went to the bank then the market where we bought my mother* a bouquet of local sweat peas, a pie, our farm eggs. We had lunch in our favorite deli and went to my parents’ to visit and do chores. We dug potatoes. We went to the store for supplies to make a birthday cake for my mother. We walked our garden. We bought her gift and had it wrapped. I was in parallel with my children. I waited on their schedule and timeline as I would a guest. I didn’t snap or order around. Well, not as much as I usually do. They in response were agreeable, helpful, and took excellent care of our groceries and packages. Ralph was home almost before I knew it as our birthday cake was ready to be assembled.

The days I am very busy with my family and with my parents. Daily I visit them, cook for them, listen to my mom, and I talk a lot too. I sit in their living room. We go long stretches not saying much, then the conversation will liven up around something frivolous (the movie I saw last night), or something less so (this week my dad was classified hospice and has had oxygen, intense pain meds, and inhaler, a bed and wheelchair delivered). I mop the floors, do the dishes, wipe the counters. I listen as my children run around in the garden. Eventually we go and I say goodbye and tell them when we’ll be coming back.

* It’s her birthday! 59 years old.

good flower bad butterfly

My son is brave, impulsive, good-natured, loving, willful, his energy ramped to 100% for every minute he’s awake. I guess in reading the above list I’m a lot like him. A few episodes in our last twenty four hours:

Yesterday I am forced to truncate his dessert in a diner and take him out to the car. He’s angry, yelling. I’m gentle but firm. As I straighten from placing him in the carseat and swing the door shut he looks at me with angry tears in his eyes and yells, “Everything out of your mouth is CRAP!” Of course I’m dying laughing, internally, but it’s not really funny to talk to someone that way, and it’s definitely not okay to laugh at someone when they’re angry. The door shutting allows me to keep my smile to myself. When I come back to the car with my purse, coat, other child, etc. Nels is wretched, his face tear-stained. “I’m sorry I said what you said was crap,” he mourns. I say, “Thank you for the apology Nels,” and reach a hand back to him. He and I forgive one another a hundred percent and move on.

This morning he takes me on a tour of the garden. He shows me the new cucumber, the one bean on the bush (he can spy the very first new growth of anything). He remembers, in our unsorted and untidy yard, where things were planted. “I planted an apple there,” he tells me. “The love-in-a-mist is blooming. Look what happened to the snapdragons!” “The tomatoes are having Good Times.” (yes, he actually said this). “Sweet peas, calendula…” (both blooming fresh). “The amaranth, and…” he trails off, pointing. “Nicotiana,” I remind him (a real success story – so far – as they’ve come back from near-death via slug).

This evening we play a game I play with my children (one he enjoys more than my daughter), a simple exercise in reverse psychology: I say, “Don’t come over and push me off the chair and climb on top of me and kiss me on the lips, I’m really busy right now.” He starts laughing right away, head thrown back, runs over, pushes me, and tries to wrestle on top of me. He is strong, with a spry strength in his long-bellied little boy body. What I like, what I couldn’t and don’t do, is that he devotes all his energy, balls-out, into trying to overcome me. And laughs and laughs and kisses me, finally, and he smells of the pint of raspberries he bought (with his own garden earnings!) from our Farmers Market, and ate almost every one in the car.

in our best previously-loved finery

I love to shop. I love to buy things. Being a one-income family of four I’ve had to adjust a bit. Mostly, I focus this pleasure of mine on the acquisition of groceries and food. I enjoy immensely learning to cook something new; to find something different to pursue, to go on a hunt for a rare item, to try a new restaurant (although mostly I limit my restaurants to our favorite deli and our local Latino fare). I enjoy buying a big or little thing for the house (last week it was two $1 prisms and fishing line to hang in our small living room windows), to clean or meagerly furnish my “nest”. I’ve always been this way.

Our local garage sales are excellent for spending frugally, and ’tis the season indeed. Some of my best Fridays and Saturdays lately have been spent biking around Hoquiam and Aberdeen with kids in tow, hopping off at various yard sales and going though piles of clothes in hunt for our wardrobe (my children especially do not benefit from newly-purchased clothes). This weekend’s garage sale expedition was largely funded by my lettuce sales at our local Public Market (oddly, while visiting my family before I left, my dad first made fun of how little money my lettuce raised, then insisted I wasted it all by driving to the Market. But in reality I haven’t driven to that Farmer’s Market once in my produce-selling escapades and in fact had just disembarked from my bike to share my excitement).

This Saturday for $11 I purchased the following: an evening scarf (Kelly), 2 t-shirts (Kelly), 2 t-shirts and a dress shirt (Ralph), dress pants (Nels), a pair of herringbone cotton pants (to refashion for kids), denim jacket (Kelly), hoodie (Nels), ls tee shirt (Sophie), and 2 vinyl albums (“South Pacific” for me, “If I Could Only Remember My Name”, hippie David Crosby for my parents).

getting over that hump

It’s 5:12 PM and I’m irritated. I’m irritated because it’s taken us a bit longer than I’d thought to walk across the bridge. I’m irritated that despite the sign on the Public Market proclaiming hours until 6, they close down an hour earlier, and I can see the two cars pulling out and away and: I’m irritated because I was counting on some meager produce earnings from the Market to get me a bus pass because (Irritation #3) the kids and I ended up on an overly-ambitious walk (made so because of duration coupled with the amount of exercise we’d had previously this day and our lack of food and water and means to get them). Accepting our loss at least today of lettuce-money now I know that if I want to catch a bus home I have to grab the kids up and cross the street in front of blasting log trucks and wait in a chilly wind God knows how long before a bus comes along and at at that point I’ll have to beg off on 15 cents I don’t have to complete our bus fare (and the drivers around here might even say No – I’m serious). In this moment I notice the kids have found and are enjoying the very, very poor excuse for a playground that is alongside the Market and I know they won’t like abandoning the “park” for this half-assed bus plan but neither should they have to walk all the way home and you know what? It’s my decision, my responsibility, to figure out what to do.

I give into the moment and sit in the grass and let the children play. They don’t know it, but it’s a dismal day, the kind of grey soul-swallowing bleakness that gave Aberdeen such notoriety the Kurt Cobain set (many of them not raised here) often cite. Alongside the river and I’m walking and I know how to dig in my feet and survive, burrowing down into my jacket and being as patient with the kids as I can and hoping for a more promising tomorrow. After all, I have things to look forward to: friends coming over for dinner. The cough syrup nap at night (sadly, still necessary). A day closer to the weekend, where Ralph and I try to enjoy our time together.

This morning the first thing I did to try to make myself feel better than I had yesterday was bake a rhubarb cake and do the dishes. Housework is soothing; I’d enjoy it in perfect bliss if it weren’t on a Rinse-Repeat cycle many times daily (ironically: it was having children that made me overcome my dislike of housework). We did have some excitement yesterday: the first hatchlings in our incubating chicken eggs. One died (in my hands – second bird in a month?), two have survived – we now have ten living entities in this house. I know cats and rats and chickens don’t count for much by some yardsticks but feeding and cleaning up for them kind of does, especially along with my much more messy and complex (but it must be said, far more rewarding) human younglings. Our cat Harris is pleased with the chicks; he offers his nannying skills regularly although we repeatedly defer.

Tomorrow: city park free lunch program (at my son’s request), a date with Jasmine, and Try #2 for gardening proceeds.

an imaginary journey to FRAMPS

I’m standing at the kitchen sink and have been for some time washing, cleaning, cutting, blanching, boiling, freezing. Right now I’m tenderly slicing the tops off strawberries. Some are for our dessert this evening: strawberries so tender and red-ripe all the way through such that no honey or sugar or accoutrement is needed. I just chopped and froze a mix of spinach and arugula (for use in lasagna, or calzones, or casseroles). For dinner tonight: frittata with garlic scapes, arugula, sundried tomatos diced and softened, spinach, and fresh eggs; focaccia with mozzarella and red sauce to dip.

Most of the food bounty is from our CSA share. Because we traveled to a local farm, because it is fresher and superior to the produce one generally buys, every single bit is tenderly pored over, nothing wasted (the strawberry tops go in our compost pile). Tomorrow I’m making a meatball and escarole soup, substituting our head of lettuce for the escarole. After a Monday grocery trip for staples at the Marketpace – 25 lbs. bread flour, olive oil, garbanzo beans, vanilla – it feels nice to have a full larder.

For some reason, despite a day of doctors and cross-town errands, and the repetitive nature of doing dishes again and laying out strawberries on a baking sheet to freeze and having a messy house (I scrubbed the bathroom and washed the table and windows and vaccuumed but it’s the paperwork piles that frustrate me the most!) I feel oddly content at the sink. I’m in a work trance; tired but soldiering on. My son flits by, singing to himself about Framps – significance: birthplace of eclairs* and croissants, the latter of which we finished today – and baby peas. Earlier today he found the first pea to go from flower to peapod and has asked each family member to come see, including my mother when she visited. So as he comes by this time I ask if he’ll show me and it’s a request that makes his day.

We walk out and the pea vines are frighteningly large, jumbled. I can’t tell where the pod might be as it looks so much like the leaves. Nels finds it though. I smile and look to him and he’s watching my face, beaming. I pick him up and we wordlessly hold one another as I carry him back inside. I feel oddly light-headed, slightly drunk on the cool summer night and The Boy and our bounty, only bathtime and bed ahead of us before kisses and legs kicking at blankets and soft, solid bodies and nighttime.

* Nels pronounces them “Maclair”, we joke like a Scottish clan.

"the *lemon tree* is doing well"

No, I’m not much better physically, but the codeine helps at night. Everything else is going well. This weekend was spent on the beach, in the yard, working on the garden, making sweet love, watching family movies, baking bread and yes, even sewing! (a polka-dot shirt from vintage fabric for yours truly).

Ralph put a webcam up on our garden:

Now available to view in real-time: Nels watering garden, cats lying under the broccoli.

out by the ole potato patch

Today we didn’t do much outside the house, at first. I caught up on many emails. At 2 PM we went to the official opening of the HQX Community Garden:

The Proverbial Old Train Track Shot
I love taking my kids to the garden site. Did you know that the very existence of train tracks means kids can entertain themselves – for hours at a time?

Courtesy of Mlle. Fisher
My mom has been painting garden plot signs for anyone who asks. She does something custom according to what the “customer” wants and what she feels like doing. It adds a lot to the congenial atmosphere of the place.

We had coffee and cookies and people fussed over my bike. It is re-invigorating shopper’s lust within me to trick it out further (DLG and Wide-Loaders, anyone?). Yes Laura, I realize I need to get pictures of the damn bike. And my car, come to think of it.

Afterwards I biked to the Silver Pony, an antique store in Hoquiam, with the intention of doing an interview and feature in my next zine. This is a really great shop, and I browse there often and buy there every now and then.

Grays Harbor Miscellany

typing while daughter hangs off me and begs to look at octopus pulp covers

Today I had one of those delightful days – a full schedule, just a skosh shy of being too full. Nels and I were off at 9:55 this morning – hauling two rakes, a hoe, a shovel, three small digging tools and two watering cans on the bike – for our end-of-year picnic and inaugural garden installation for Nels’ preschool. From there we journied to my favorite diner where it was packed and I ended up doing dishes for about an hour and a half. Then to Sophie’s school for my Monday slot of classroom helper. Nels attended and worked all these events; I forget sometimes how well-behaved my children can be. (Relatively; at my last shift at Sophie’s school Nels urinated on the playground in full view of say, five thousand people).

Tomorrow: babysitting in the morning, movie night with the girls in the evening, a secret shipment of strawberries, cream, and pound cake to Sophie’s teachers and who knows – maybe even a minute or two sewing!

making indentured servitude fun & educational

This weekend was a busy one – coming off a dinner party (of sorts) on Thursday we took in the school carnival at Lincoln elementary, the bridge opening celebration at the HQX Farmer’s Market, the Shorebird Festival, and a private rollerskating birthday party (where I discovered I could still skate reasonably well). All traveled to by foot or by bike and on a shoestring grocery budget. Ralph also worked most of Saturday in the yard mowing, weed-eating, and finishing our “greenhouse” (which Nels calls a “pinkhouse” for absolutely no reason – the truth is it’s kind of this DIY recycled materials shanty). I joined him to hang laundry and put out the starts I’d been working up: lettuces, cucumbers, peas, bush beans, cilantro, sunflowers, love in a mist, snapdragons, amaranth, sweet peas, and calendula. Now if only the cats would stop using our lovely large bed as a lovely large litterbox. In fact today I had a very, very sad cat crap experience I won’t elaborate on. Yeah, it was really, really bad. Just know this and be glad it didn’t happen to you. P.S. I’ll be telling Billy every detail.

Yesterday’s daytime activities were a very sweet affair: the kids and I played “homeschool” in part inspired by the old-fashioned child’s desk we found at the Public Market’s associated garage sale (where I also made a new friend, an RN who works up on the Quinault Reservation). The children loved the school play – and I mean loved it. Sophie would call Harris “the school cat” with the most pleased expression of eye and tooth. During the subject of “bath time” I made up report cards in categories Science & Discovery, Art & Creative Play, Exercise & Pet Care, Food Preparation, Personal Hygiene & Clean Up, and Conduct. I wrote things like, “Very good at washing dishes,” and “B- : forgot to flush toilet” and, “Was the catcher during ‘Parachute Toy Science Experiment’.” Smart Mommy and Daddy readers will immediately see this enabled me to also get the entire house clean with their help. Maybe I’ll graduate up to Coffee Making and Foot Rubbing extra credit projects.

Tomorrow finds me back to the “normal” school routine and I already miss our weekend together. We had a lot of sunny, easy hours together.