summations

Today:

I sat next to another Soccer Mom and knit while watching my daughter’s first soccer game of the season. I truly feel like an interloper at these sporting events. I could list on and on why: I have the shittiest car in the parking lot, I often am sitting on the grass getting wet instead of packed into North Face and cozy under a big umbrella, I tend in conversation to immediately be espousing controversial ideas instead of trading in niceties, I am not a screamer urging my kids to GO GO GO GET ON IT MOOOOOVE SHOT! SHOT! – et cetera. That said it is a delight to watch my daughter play; as in everything she does, her spirit shines forth. She worked hard today and I took her out afterwards for cheesy bread, tomato soup, and a Sprite.

My husband told us he woke early and while he cuddled my son he watched me sleep for a while. He told us I looked “beautiful… her hair was perfect, and her face looked so beautiful”. I told him thank you, but not before I had to make an amusing crack at the fact I am so much prettier when my beak is shut, right?

Ralph assembled the IKEA furniture J. and I shopped for last night (my first time at IKEA and yes, I had their meatballs; tasty enough but mine are better). When he went off to band practice he left all the packaging out on purpose for Hammy the kitten to totally tear the hell out of the business. I mean she really ripped the lid off of it.

I brought my grandpa hardtack and my mom some hazelnut chocolate I bought from the abovementioned; the two were deep into their nightly wine-drinking and watching Casablanca and totally in the catbird seat.

Haven’t got up to the sexiness with the husband in a while; today watched Antichrist and now I’m not sure I’ll ever want to again. Also Lars von Trier, that was a total piece of uber-misogynistic dogshit, I don’t care how brilliant you’ve convinced yourself you are (the fox part was pretty good tho’).

I am about to collapse with exhaustion. In the last week and a half it seems the days I don’t eat red meat I feel quite fatigued. This is a bit daunting as I don’t know how to prepare red meat (what cut to buy and how to cook it), I don’t really want to eat steak dinners out daily, and pasture-finished cruelty-free beef is hard to come by around here unless you buy half a cow and I never have the money nor the freezer and remember that part about not being good at cooking red meat.

Fin.

just to sear you in the eyeball

I seriously, seriously dare you to watch the entirety of this video:

Look, I enjoy both Jamie Lee Curtis and John Travolta as performers, but sometimes people we like very much do some very wrong things in tiny and upsetting shorts. I am completely distressed I watched the first few frames* and that I then I dared myself to watch until the end, which came seemingly ages later, and by then I was a changed person, my eyes flat and despairing and my soul sucked from my body, I mean just how long did whoever that director was think we wanted to watch sweaty man-batch bouncing around in the most graphic fashion while attached to an eerily smiling perpetrator, let alone the delight this seemed to afford his yelling aerobics instructor – and yes no matter how lovely Ms. Curtis is I would rather not watch anyone in a leotard thong “presenting” to the beat of tepid Jackson has-been pop while leading a large cult of 80s fitness-Hell minions who are seemingly oblivious to all the creepy eye contact… good Lord, even typing this is sucking me back to the Darkness again…

Tonight while handsewing – painfully, my arm hurts, and the end result of 1.5 hours of my time looks too shitty to use anyway – I watched the 2008 film Defiance. Daniel Craig is total eye candy whether classed-up as Bond or super-smudgy and thyphoid-infested as in this film but he is also (as far as I can tell) a rather impressive actor as well; the film itself was devastatingly rough – not quite what I was looking for while stitching, but good nonetheless. Besides all that, Ralph’s afternoon nap was incidentally tortured by phantasms including shooting, explosions, screaming, and violently-shouted Russian (as well as an Actual Real Kitten who batted at his hair and face while he slumbered).

* How/why did I run across such a clip? Why from the rather charming video here: “Dancing at the movies” and just because you’ll probably never trust me again let me offer full disclosure: the “Dancing” video is a mixed bag: super-annoying Loggins music-action but very fun movie clips.

rapscallion kitchen

Tonight was Phoenix’s first soccer practice this season.

The Team

Field

(Here’s our daughter her first year (2008) and then last year. She is looking more like a young lady every day.)

While watching I leaned on my bike and talked to J., a winsome and buxom freckled mother I knew from homeschool circles (our daughters were also in the same public kindergarten class two years ago). I spent even more conversation with new acquaintance N., a small woman with beautiful skin and a soft girlish voice who had much poorer English than my Spanish (a rare event as most native Spanish speakers I meet have better English than I have of their language), and I was pleased to have got along fine with her in conversation although I kicked myself for not knowing some of the verbs crucial to our conversation (juegan, which rang a bell but I couldn’t place it and she couldn’t elaborate; I looked up when I got home). I self-identified as having meager Spanish but she told me she could understand me: “Entiendo tu español”, actually I think she said “se entiende” which was a bit more encouraging even, and I am pleased enough with all this. She asks about uniforms and I tell her I don’t know what’s in store – la año pasado no numeros, pero todos son del mismo color; I introduce her and her daughter to another mother. I’m pleased with myself for (possibly) socially lubricating things to positive effect and not screwing anything up.  I am talkative and social anyway, and I work hard with my little brain to intuit whether someone wants to speak with me or not, which is not something I can always say with confidence I get right.

Nels and I biked back home and left our girl to come home when she was done playing afterward. It wasn’t that much longer I heard the door close and her satisfied voice saying, “I’m home!” tromp tromp tromp, shedding soccer accoutrement on the kitchen floor. “Phoenix, will you please put your soccer stuff away?” “Yes Mama.” Ha!

Tonight Ralph is in Portland at a Neutral Uke Hotel concert with friends and I’m making headway on a wonderful little sewn item, yet another surprise I cannot yet share, and I’m cutting many pieces and measuring carefully with only the smallest bits of yardage that go in the bin, the remainder of the fabric either folded (if large enough) or wrapped for donation to the local senior center which seems to love my donations and indeed I observe they sell. Sewing often means I am so incredibly not-wasteful in my remainder supplies, that I can move through yardage and thread carefully, putting up needles with remaining thread on a strip of cloth tacked to my wall, taking an inventory of fusible interfacing or half-inch elastic or needles (I wish I could buy sewing needles in bulk as I change them so often), leaving the project ready for the next day’s work, very satisfying until I see the kitten Hammy clusterfucking my serger threading which as you know, is such a joy to re-do.

While I am thus employed my son comes in the back room and tells me he’s hungry. I move about the sewing room and suggest dishes I could make for him (since Ralph isn’t here and I wanted to sew sew sew I didn’t prepare a sit-down meal). Nels asks me in the kitchen and I step in our little pantry and say, “How about a sandwich and some peaches?” selecting a can of my mother’s home-canned stuff, delicious they are, but the old lady did not clean the jars and the sugary goodness makes it stick to the shelf, and in freeing it my hand fumbles –

and in the split second before the crash registers my son says, “No peaches,” cheerfully. Then we stand there in ruin and I realize I’ve wasted the food and made a mess besides and of course miscalculated what The Boy wanted anyway! I’m completely pissed (not at anyone, just the Universe) and Nels looks at me with widened eyes and then without removing his gaze slowly reaches to his immediate right and selects the broom off the wall. “No baby, that won’t work, there’s syrup on the floor and we’d gum the broom up.”

The thing is, I could have closed the door to the pantry and left the whole mess for Ralph, and he wouldn’t have begrudged me one bit, because if there’s one person who understands how much work housework really is, it’s that man, and he would have been happy to clean it for me, to do his part. But I’m thinking of him and how hard he’s working and I clean it myself, a total mess best done carefully with wet rags, the hefty weight of syrup and laden beaches having caused the jar to break into many rough pea-sized components, many I’m leaning on with my bare palm as I assiduously wipe the mess (later as a total coincidence my Maytag washer will choke, smoke, and die while rinsing out the mircoscopic glass shards from these very rags), and eventually the job is done.

There were a half-dozen other little things, and doing the dishes and getting the new batch of pickling business ready and sewing a button on Ralph’s shirt and washing the kids’ hair and my son cleaned up the bath toys and said with a sweep of his hand and his little gap-toothed smile, “Voila!”

Oh yeah because Nels lost his first tooth last night, I forgot to mention, while entertaining a group of kids and while houseguests and my mom were over, and he was a little celebrity for a minute (today he told me while eating the cookie last night at first he thought, “There’s an almond in here!” yet it was his tooth) and there was enough chaos I could put my head against his chest and shed quick tears. First haircut, first tooth loss: these milestones change the look of a child, makes you realize how fast it all goes, makes you realize how little you really are needed for things to progress as they do.

Grass & Co.

Self-titled by Slowreader

Perfect at most social gatherings of no more than ten
Perfectly groomed people keeping tabs on what they spend
Dear, I looked and looked for days
Only arrows pointing straight between my ears
And I could almost say a sound
But I’d rather sit and stare with you my dear

stuff we’ve been up to

My husband is making a drum machine. But not like you might think. Like a physical drum set that is beat upon by a robot. A robot he powers from a MIDI-sequencer and arduino and hand-built circuit and solenoids. I’m not even making this up. It took a while for his friends and admirers to catch on he’s actually building a goddamn amazing robot and after he’s done with this maybe I’ll tell him to build another one to terrify the hell out of you mere mortals.

Robo-Drummer

Brilliant Man

I made a pair of pants for Phoenix that were PERFECT in every detail. Here’s a picture of the pocket bags. Yeah I know. You stitchers want to punch yourself in the crotch that this is the INSIDE of the pants and looks so good (I am feeling cocky and all about the CAPS LOCK tonight). You’ll be seeing the rest of the pants soon enough. For now, weep at the preview of awesomeness.

Pocket Bag

I cooked down all our extra CSA veggies yesterday (and we had a lot) and made a resultant slow-cooked organic veggie puree and froze it in batches and gave one batch to my mom and used a batch in tonight’s dinner and will be making up some soup this week (for my SOUPTAKER daughter) and have a little more besides. Tonight’s dinner was amazing, because I have finally hit on the perfect spaghetti and meatballs recipe and it’s good every time. We had my mom over to share and she baked brownies and covered them with Tillamook vanilla ice cream. I haven’t had any dessert yet because I’m still recovering from MEATBALLS AND RED PEPPERS.

August 8th, 2010

Our kittens found another place to perch, prairie-dog, and sleep. When the living room carpet is entirely dry from shampooing THIS rug will be rolled back out and they’ll have to take their shady business somewhere else.

ON THE RUN

Also: bike rides, friends over for music recording and talking and tea, lunch date with my husband, many snuggles, my son sneaking under the covers to the bottom of the bed last night to gently massage my feet and then pop his blonde head up and smile at me, my daughter opening her eyes first thing this morning and saying dreamily, “The nights go by so quickly…”

Good times this weekend.

of flannel and warm fuzzies

Breakfast!
August 4th, 2010
(I have three whole followers on my little food-update Twitterstream – and one of them is my own husband! Make no mistake at just how much of a nerd I am who does a bunch of stuff hardly anyone else cares about!)

Today one of my ladyfriends L. came to visit. She’d been a student of mine at GHC winter before last. I really like her. She’s sweet and funny and since she likes sewing and fabric well, we have plenty to talk about. I was a scattered hostess, trying to cook up the daily fare and talk sewing and try to keep my wits about me under duress because the neighbor kids were in and out and they were a little rambunctious. Within their first five minutes in my home they’d broken my back screendoor and put their hands in the goldfish bowl and smeared the results (combined with the extra stuff on their hands, a few of them are routinely very dirty) on my front door. While L. was here I made a chicken pot pie for the kids tomorrow and a devil’s food cake with fresh strawberries and cream for the lot today, which incidentally when I served the kiddos I only got back three out of seven forks; the rest are outside God-knows-where.

I enjoyed L.’s visit very much as she’s a person I genuinely enjoy. She brought me fabric gifts and I cut off a length of a lovely deep-purple satin for a project for my daughter.  Before she left I asked her what she might need. Her eye fell on three yards of a lovely Alexander Henry flannel I had on my shelf (dear reader, I image-searched to find you the pattern and now I am weeping and gnashing my teeth with fabric-lust! And I didn’t find the fabric anyway). It was a wonderful bit of yardage and perfect for the pajamas project she was contemplating. I rarely have more than a yard of any particular fabric anyway, as I am rather quick to sew up what I buy. Seeing this L. asked if I was sure I wanted to gift it. But I felt like absolutely; I’d had the yardage for about four years now and had stashed it away as one of those “precious” items but had not cut into it. It felt wonderfully freeing to gift it, part of this was happiness at giving a present that was well-received and part was happiness at letting go of my hoarding impulse.

In other news I am buried under email despite my best efforts. Some email provides a respite, something lovely to read. Some is designed specifically to get my goat. For instance, my husband and my brother Billy like to call me Bird and make fun of my beak and dirty feathers, delivering various pathetic attempts at wit and commentary now and then or emailing me pictures of fat and/or clumsy birds. They especially like to tease me if I’m sleepy or have had something alcoholic to drink.

So Billy writes, “Hey, I found a clip of you online.” and sends me this:

And finally. There’s something insulting about how much I run around trying to get shit done with THIS under my nose at every turn:
KITTEN DECADENCE

You probably aren’t even noticing Laurence’s back leg extended at maximum pleasure-stretch while he sleeps!! WHO LIVES LIKE THIS?! The only thing they like more than sleeping on my down comforter is sleeping on a pile of warm laundry on the down comforter. They get up to this about twenty hours a day. The rest of their time is spent eating food and liberally pooping in the litter box. Then once we’re in bed they form a rift in the Space-Time Continuum to make MORE time to fight viciously, usually in my hair, until my just-fallen-asleep ass has to re-stumble out of bed and throw them in the bathroom to sleep. And I am not even joking, they immediately stop horsing around and sleep. All night.

It’s a good life. (For them.)

mealtime manners

Late evenings we’ve been watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe on Netflix Instant. I’m probably the last person, ever, to discover this show but if you don’t know it, I can vouch that it’s fabulous. It’s a simple enough premise: a television personality going around the country (and occasionally abroad) performing one day of the kind of work most people don’t know about and won’t be clamoring to try after they see it. The show is interesting, it’s funny, and I love that it shows the underpinnings of our society (another great reason to watch with kids) – and okay okay, my husband is right, I have a teensy crush on the host, probably mostly because I like to watch guys work and get all messed up (and yeah, Ralph… network server stuff isn’t quite dirty enough).

So last night we were watching the episode Alligator Egg Collector – rather self-explanatory, really. As we watched Rowe push apart a nest to retrieve the leathery treasure therein my daughter commented, “That nest is farther from the water – those are probably mostly male eggs.” I sat there in stunned silence with my second glass of wine in hand. My kids are always telling me things I didn’t know previous and I can tell exactly by their tone of voice when they’re telling me a fact. I usually kind of shrink a bit and feel my Limitations and timidly ask them in what way now they’ve now advanced beyond me (I don’t use those exact words of course).  So I ask my daughter now, “What? What do you mean?” Patiently, she explains that the temperature of alligator nests determine the sex of the babies – if the nest temperature is under 85 F the clutch will be all-female and if over 93 F the eggs will be male. “Nests farther away from the water are warmer, so all the babies are male.” she says calmly. I ask her to get me the book where she learned this and she obliges, sliding out of bed and padding into the living room to retrieve it, flipping the encyclopedia open and pointing. Her eyes are predator-stripes, her body sleek and alive and All Is Right in the world.

Today the kids slept until almost 1 PM at which point they called me in the bedroom to play a trivia game; answers I got right required a kiss to Nels, answers I got wrong I was forced to kiss my daughter. We all liked this game Times One Hundred.

The children’s sleeping-in gave me plenty of time to cook, clean, and sew a bit before they rose and we went on our bike errands.  I’m on Day 3 of arranging a large tray of comestibles for the kids. They love this and so do I. They are flush with compliments for my food and my general personhood; they sample nearly everything that’s put out, lazily thumbing through a book and cracking open edamame shells, stacking fruit on small plates, pouring tea.  Between the four of us the tray’s fare is devoured with maybe one slice of peach going out to the chickens by day’s end. We are definitely eating more of a variety of foods, especially simple fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tonight dinner was spaghetti and meatballs, the sauce of which was started yesterday and simmered down to the Most Delicious Thing Ever. Ralph made the meatballs, a bit larger than usual, dropping them in the simmering sauce while I stitched away in the sewing room.  We sat down at 7:30, a kale and carrot salad from our local CSA rounded out the meal along with the few snap peas (also from the CSA) from today’s tray. Dining as a foursome, I’m eating and I can’t believe how good the food is. I ask my husband, “Is this what my spaghetti always tastes like?” He says Yes. I say, “This is the best spaghetti & meatballs I’ve had in my life.” (I seriously invite any of you all to come weigh in on this). Phoenix immediately pipes up: “I agree!” Nels takes a bite of the salad and says it’s “delicious and sour.” Phoenix kindly tells us lettuce makes her barf. Ralph explains it’s not lettuce it’s kale, and I mention it’s high in calcium (she’s been interested in what foods are good for dental health). Phoenix says, “That’s great, but it still makes me want to barf,” and goes on in an avid description of exactly the kind of gagging that results from trying to eat such a thing. Ralph gently asks her if she wouldn’t mind not talking about puke at the table. I’m trying not to laugh.  I hated lettuce and greens at her age too; I’m still rather picky about them.

My mother comes over after dinner to pick Nels up; she and the kids have been working on putting together pieces for this year’s Young Artist Showcase at the Harbor Art Guild gallery. While they’re gone Phoenix plays games on the computer and I sew on my current Fabulousness for Nels.

As soon as I’m settled in the sewing room, every time without fail, ALL FOUR CATS dart in. Mable lays at my feet, pornographically delighted to have me touching her; Harris lays on his side for a few minutes before rising and sitting up at the door silently, his handsome nose a dignified arrow, “Let me out, please.” And the two kittens.  They climb my fabric and try to tear things up to shit. Today I chucked a book at Hamilton (not hitting her, just trying to startle) to get her off a noisy activity and she lightning-fast spun towards me, her “arms” up in an alarmed ‘Y” and her mouth popped open with a fishy smack – a comical expression of dismay and surprise. I laughed loudly and she scrambled away, her body – only miliseconds before engaged in aggresive horseplay – crumpled up like a concertina of Shame.

“It’s hard to concentrate on the work at hand when a kitten is playing at your feet.”

The neighborhoods we walk in and bike in often contain derelict houses, overgrown lawns/lots, jagged unfriendly pathways (seriously I could keep up an entire blog mocking the HQX sidewalks). One time last summer as we made our way across Hoquiam and Aberdeen to get our groceries my daughter, irritated at the broken bottles, garbage, and variety of obstacles she was having to steer past on her new, almost-too-big-for-her bike, querulously asked, “What is this, a Glass Parade?”

This morning at 5 AM when I finally surfaced out of a lovely sleep as I realized I’d been hearing a crystalline “tink”, “tink”, “tink” for some time. I came to and discovered Hamilton the kitten was on the windowsill, six inches from my head, repeatedly and rhythmically tapping the window-blind cord stop against an empty glass. I removed the cat from the sill and disentangled my feet from her slumbering brother and got up for a glass of water and heard the sound of one of my adult cats outside, fighting/arguing with another feline from the neighborhood (you know that low, threatening cat-growl that sounds so alarming).

So that’s when the phrase, “Cat Parade” enters my mind, i.e. a world with Let’s Face It, too many tuna-breath little scurriers who, somewhat humiliatingly, follow me through the house and much like my children enjoy nothing more than being with me as I A. sew or B. cook. In fact as far as sewing goes at this point when I’m in the back room contentedly stitching the floor is so littered with cats in such extremely excessive states of repose I often feel embarrassed for them and myself because of how much pleasure we take in our company.

As I type this I feel one of the kittens begin climbing my back (fortunately I’m swaddled in a blanket so I don’t scream in pain and anger). I reach back and gently grasp the animal; you can tell it’s Hamilton because she has a very fat, round tummy (her brother is quite skinny). A few minutes later and she’s up watching me, cuddled up near my computer monitor. A couple minutes after that and she’s become singularly obsessed with attacking the mouse (computer-mouse that is) on the desk.

This is Hamilton:
Natural Defenses Hamilton is blurry in this picture. Now we own an incredibly cheap camera, I admit it, but nevertheless I rarely end up with an unfocussed picture like this. So I’m pretty sure she looks blurry because she is starting to feel sleepy.

Don’t tell anyone I was online reading “kitten quotes”, but I totally was, and I liked this one:

“A kitten is so flexible that she is almost double; the hind parts are equivalent to another kitten with which the forepart plays. She does not discover that her tail belongs to her until you tread on it.”

I know my kittens are just sort of Nothing to anyone else, just a blip, another mouth to feed or a series of rather uninteresting anecdotes. For me the little ones remind me how fleeting life can be; how special is our Now and our time of self-discovery. My kittens remind me of the incredible good fortune I have, how I find I am able to give a little more to care for one more person or one more body and how I can always find more love. My kittens (are far, far, FAR easier than caring for a child but) remind me of babies and newborns and that when one chooses to care for others there is a lot of feeding and cleaning and loving-up and chores and just plain stewardship and often the acts themselves are the “rewards” and not all see how this is so. Some of the people I like best in the world are those who care for others – deliberately and with great joy – because people/pets/the world all need care.

But I’ll tell you one thing. If I’m going to own four cats I’m a little resentful that there have been moments when I totally want to sit down and have a cat on my lap and none of the little creatures are willing to provide.

I have the feeling I could own twice as many cats and never get that lap-love guarantee.

r.i.p. & pbbbth

We had a milestone today – a really crappy one. Early, early this AM one of our pullets was killed by an opossum. This was Felix Jr. – or “Rattlesnake” as the neighborhood kids called her for her speed. She wasn’t fast enough apparently. The other birds were shaken up but today with a few strawberry tops and sunshine they seem to be back to normal.

Ralph buried the bird last night and trapped the possum, bent on murdering it. I tried to talk him down. He is not a vicious man but he was heartbroken and angry. I told him What about the possibility of baby possums? etc. I went to sleep hoping I’d convinced him.

This morning while he was at work we IM’d:

me: Did you kill that opossum?

Ralph: No.
I won’t, either.
I read about them a lot this AM, and had a change of heart.

me: Good

Ralph: They’re not very intelligent, they’re migrant, and they eat whatever they can find. They’re opportunists, and generally beneficial to various areas by cleaning up organic matter – carcasses, often – when available.

They’re kind of like zen animals, doing largely good things.

Besides, that piece of shit dug out from where I’d trapped it.

Ha! But: yeah.

We’ve kept our hens pretty damn safe considering we’ve been in four different homes with them in neighborhoods with people who let their dogs loose. This is a good track record considering we’ve owned chickens for a couple years now (at least I think it’s about that long, and I canna be fucked to look it up on this blog) and besides loose canines the raccoons and possums can be quite determined (they have all night to get to it as hens at night won’t raise an alarm nor defend themselves). Our good track record and our loving TLC is comfort right now when, like any pet owner, he and I both feel guilty, sad, and suppressed that something went wrong.

We are sad at Felix, Jr.’s passing.

In other awesome pet news we’re dogsitting my mom’s poodle/terrier mix Tuck, who loves me very much, likely because I treat him very well and take him everywhere I go. Today he’s had a stomachache from eating something wrong and he’s alternated between keeping his tail clamped over his ass and his back humped up in pan, vs. shitting into the clamped tail, the latter of which led to the most vile shit-cleaning experience I’ve ever had (reader, please ponder on my breadth of experience). While I was at it I gave him a Dr. Bronner’s bath. Ralph dried him off and put him out on the deck to dry in the warm sunshine, where he currently sits and I where I decidedly hope he is not brewing another Fecalstorm.

Ralph and I just made the below video while cooking lunch for ourselves and an extra kiddo (lunch concluded with strawberry shortcake made from home-baked poundcake and lovely local berries, ripe and red all the way through). It cheered us up. (Soundtrack by my husband):

EPIC NAP:

The Sad Life of Kittens from ralph hogaboom on Vimeo.

(Let me tell you a little secret, it was LOUD and ACTIVE in the kitchen while this was made, also, the kittens followed up filming by a huge, huge long nap on my bed).

school’s on for summer

Tonight during dinner (a lovely Vietnamese dish augmented by grilling tri tip steak outdoors) the kids brought up “playing school”, which is, oddly, something we do only a handful of times a year. I don’t know why this is such a rare event exactly as we (the kids and I) are huge nerds who like nothing more than doing “workshops” and workbooks and crafts and dressing in “uniforms” (the kids) and me ordering them to get my coffee then go feed and water the “school cats” and clean the “school bathroom” (in other words, having them do every chore, ever) and they do everything I say and learn things so fast I get a little creeped out.  Maybe we don’t do it that often because I am incredibly lazy in some organizational way; certainly when we do play “school” we always have a great time.

In tonight’s case we got started about 9 PM.  After dinner the kids dove into their room and cleaned up and made a sign for the “school” (naturellement!). People donate schoolbooks and workbooks to me now and then and of course there’s the inter-netz so in no time I’d worked up a few activities on the subjects they’d requested (math, “fireworks”, and art). I arrived at the “school” just as the kids hung their sign for the “Smiling Faces School & Pet Co.”

Phoenix and Nels made a little graphic displaying themselves as the two “i” characters in “smiling”. They were one hundred percent serious and intent about this.

First we diagrammed sentences in an oceanography lesson (time it took for my six year old to grasp “noun”, “adjective”, and “verb”: one minute; Phoenix had already educated herself on this through something she’d read at sometime or another).

Diagraming SentencesThen we did some math. Both my children enjoy math-on-paper but my son is a bit more adventurous in tackling it; Phoenix is such a perfectionist she is less of a risk-taker and thus slower to adopt strategies. I encourage her to use “baby” methods like finger counting or pictures or whatever she needs; somehow this less pressured approach helps her leap and bound into understanding more complex concepts within minutes. Today she worked on times-tables from downloadable fourth grade worksheets and said, “Oh, I’m totally grasping this concept!”

Nels added and subtracted three digit numbers. What’s amazing too is that he is very good at this but he still now and then flips a “5” or a “6” around completely backwards. I love that were he in school he’d be harped on about this (thus each subject gets to be also Penmanship and Manners and Taking Ones Turn and every other goddamned thing). Nels laughed in delight every time he got a problem right (which was every time) and he smelled so good leaning against me I just about had butterflies in my stomach.

Nels Adds

For Nels’ “fireworks” unit we did a math worksheet (this one probably a kindergarten or preschool “level” involving sticker activity) and then a silly little oil/water/food coloring activity where non-emulsified color droplets settle in oil to then meet and “burst” in water. Slowly our pitcher began to bleed the green of the “fireworks” and the kids ran out to the garage (where Ralph was recording music) to beg him come and see:

We took turns reading excerpts of a world history book.  It was a bit dry but they followed along just as well.  The book had a brief and useful selection dilineating “fact” vs. “opinion”. I went over it with the kids; I’d have one of them make a statement so I could guess “fact” or “opinion” and they’d get to correct me. Nels did confusing little numbers like, “Nels wants a pencil,” with this smart-ass smile when he’d say it (shit! Really! I think that’s a “fact”, right?).

So I asked Phoenix to give us a fact/opinion and she immediately said: “Spitting cobras can aim at enemy targets up to six feet away.” Then, she giggled and amended, “Well, these snakes do not actually spit their venom.” (!!!) She thought for one more minute and then offered, “The Egyptian Cobra can stretch the ribs in its neck to give itself a dark and scary ‘hood’.” She even ducked her head a little and did scare quotes around the word “hood”! I just about died laughing. The laughter was not mockery, or perhaps it is self-mockery that my children are so much more intelligent, exacting, and – this probably is the most important – deeply in the moment than I. My laughter is a pure joy and amazement at them, tandem feelings that fill me up when I slow down enough to spend Actual Time with them.

So I guess I’ll do some more of that tomorrow.