it all makes sense in his monkey-brain

Life with children is precious, amazing, hilarious, and quite freeing – if you actually hang out with the children and observe them. Bonus if you let them decide things about their own lives – you know, the things that don’t really matter all that much, so why not let them have it their way. This is something I think my dad did well while we were growing up. In fact if it had been just him raising me, I think I would still have leaves and twigs in my hair and missing a few teeth, but I’d probably be a more happy, peaceful soul.

Two minutes ago: my son, wearing skirt, bandanas tucked into waistband, soccer shinguards, and sparkly silver mary jane shoes (he tells me he’s a Princess; Sophie is a Leopard) – he’s standing in the hallway, looking into the bathroom while our stripey cat Harris hunches on the floor making horking sounds. Nels holds a Barbie lunch box and just watches, emanating total focus and curiosity, as the cat goes on and on (at this point I call in Sophie to help him deliver the cat outside – they’re a good team on this).

As I type the above paragraph Nels has moved on from the cat drama to compose and deliver a hand-typed message to his sister (we have an old Royal typewriter set up in the living room). Sophie kindly tries to read it but has trouble because of his typos. “It says, ‘I love you!'” my son yells furiously. She, used to his Random Outbursts of Rage, offers to read him her newest library book. They settle in, sweet as pie.

Today: making French bread, packing up dinner, and catching the bus to Cosi for Sophie’s first soccer game of the season.

one in the hand

Today while Ralph and I were making up labels on a little home-brewed project of mine (see below) I spied our kitty Harris outside with a bird in his mouth. This is the second one in three days. The bird from Friday was quite dead, and perhaps not even by his hand (or paw, such as it is). This one was still alive. Ralph ran outside and retrieved the cat and went inside the house to look for the phone number of a rehabilitation group. I picked up the bird. The children ran outside and crowded around me. Our neighbor’s daughter called over the fence, asking for updates which my kids gave. I couldn’t hear them because I was rather distressed.

The bird went through agonies in my hand, arching back it’s head and opening it’s beak as if gasping. It’s gasps began to have sound. Then it died in my palm. I laid it down and it changed very profoundly from something fighting to live into something dead. Something left it’s body so obviously as if it was an entirely different thing altogether. I cried. I don’t care if you think that’s silly. You weren’t there.

Sophie cried a little out of shock and then went inside to tell Ralph. She came back outside and the children took turns holding the bird and talking about what happened. They weren’t upset. Ralph dug a hole in the yard and we placed the bird, a few worms, and a flower inside the hole.

Life went on. For us.

Madame Marie's Elixer for Mature Gentlewomen
My mother asked me to make something nice up for a few friends.

what we’ve been up to, abbreviated

1. We got two rats – Strawberry and Maude. Maude is very sick, probably for lack of care of previous owner? Please pray for my rat.

2. Nels gave Harris a whisker-trim. He did an OK job, actually.

3. I’ve been working super hard on the Community Garden and learning a lot about the local politics of extending community outside the status quo. ¡QUÉ LÁSTIMA!

4. I finished the g-d Harris costume for Nels. He loves it. It hurt my ego to sew it.

5. My children and husband are minutes away from leaving for the weekend on a little trip.

"like hot chum"

Here’s what I love about pets, specifically of the cat variety. They’re like, all of a sudden, total whores that want attention and assume you have the same instinct at the same time (P.S. the earlier instinct was to eat tuna; earlier still, race across the room and then suddenly stop to lick one’s balls). So I’m sitting at my Juki sewing, and he comes over and is like, “I’ll bet now is a good time,” and is up on the table and getting in between me and the machine. He puts his paw out, kind of stutters it toward my lap, purring loudly – right in the way of my arms trying to sew. “I’ll just… let me… just like this,” as he weasels in to my lap in a way reminiscent of Lundberg’s stapler-grab in Office Space (yeah, I didn’t feel like using my typical imdb link!).

Decadence On The Carpet
I can smell his fishy breath from looking at this photo. Nels and Sophie take many pictures of the cat. Because he’s so fascinating.

Sleep Weasel
Ralph and I disagree about the comfortable temperature inside the house; and rather than consulting the actual thermostat, we look at the position the cats are in. Spread out like this? It’s a little too hot.

In other news, I was interviewed today by American Public Radio’s “Weekend America” for a Flickr photo I posted (good God, not those above of course!). Let me first say: I am no natural for a radio interview, and I said some really dumb things, all in the course of trying to tell the photo’s story in the way they needed. I am also thinking they may be able to edit me into looking like a total arse / unfeeling, mean mom. T-hee!

adventures in sreeping

I’m not in top-form this morning so I don’t have a great analogy for my nighttime experience, where I go to bed with one or maybe two people and wake up next to about three, usually with one or two cats as well and with no idea who surrounds me. Today as it happened I was flanked by Sophie and Nels, my daughter’s leg thrown over mine and my son soft in the blankets, his features delicate and skin as perfect as a cherub (sleeping is the only way he looks so). Last night I know I’d fallen asleep with only my daughter next to me, my son in the next room and my husband wandering the house with a case of insomnia (rare these days for him).

Only part of the musical bed games are due to the fact we are still painting my daughter’s loft bed. I think my parents think I’m some slacker who can’t be bothered to finish the job while my husband works during the day. But the truth is I had a horrible time painting the thing and my husband even said I wasn’t doing it right (he said this in a very circumspect way) and I just kind of bolted from the bedroom and haven’t been back. Our only other usable bed right now is a twin in my sewing room, just a couple arm’s lengths away from my own. I think I’ll miss when the kids are installed in their beds and I can’t see them from my pillow.

In her old age and with the cold winter Blackie has let go her snobbishness and her anger (at the world) for allowing a new kitten into our home; in the morning she is minutely hunched just to my left, sleeping silently and leaving a mat of black cat hair such that each morning she sleeps with us I have to clean the bedclothes. Harris is less prepossessing, stretching over whichever victim is the most asleep and therefore won’t struggle, laying on his back with his legs open and front paws awkwardly poised in the air.*

And here I’ve been thinking about getting a dog. But if we got a California king bed, I think we’d have another 6″ along the bottom of the bed…

* And no, I can’t tell a cat story as well as Mr. Levin.

it was a brilliant, clear, and lovely day today

Today I was blessed with many things. Not just time with my most loved ones, ever – and also fresh air and exercise and good coffee. Most of all: walking home after picking up Sophie it was streaming sun and the sky was laden with puffy, white clouds accompanied by a few glowering dark ones. And predictably out of this rose a rainbow; a brilliant, vibrant presence that inspired its own shallow doppelganger just above it. I listened to my children’s delighted descriptions and a block later we were met by Harris the Fierce Not-So-Kitten; he follows us most of the way to school these days then disappears a block a or so from the final destination. Then on our return he prounces up to us out of whatever yard he took to exploring that day, running ahead and behind and inspiring liquid giggles from the kids.

It must have been a special day because only a few blocks later cross-traffic commenced with the Coleman Mortuary’s hearse (a new one, it looks like) passing by up the hill to the cemetery. A caravan of twenty more cars followed, fresh from rain and transitioning from the service to the burial. The faces in the cars, some are sad, some are happy, some preoccupied, some are tear-stained and devastated. I watched them all as we waited the cars out and I answered the questions the children asked. Harris hid in the tree behind us and then, when we crossed, darted after us on hunter’s paws to skid ahead of us into our front yard.

for halloween i want to be … gastronomical!

"What Are You Supposed To Be?"

The human brain is an amazing thing. I mean people can behave so stupidly and I’m no exception – for instance the other day I scraped my parents’ van with my own for no apparent reason and it wasn’t even a tricky parking scenario – but no matter how dumb any of us are there is a hugely primal, instinctual core in our organ that can spring into action at any moment it’s needed. Like last night at 2:32 AM when my son woke up and vomited in the bed I immediately registered he was puking, I dragged his half-sleeping body away from the freshly-washed bedding, and called out to wake up Ralph while simultaneously thinking, This is only the second time in his life Nels has vomited. I wonder if, like last time, he will do it just ONCE and get it over with? P.S. that’s exactly what he did.

I spent the night doing laundry (while Ralph and Nels took a sleepy and sweet bath together) and most of today as well. This morning Nels called Grandpa and really gave him a blow-by-blow, feeling a small sense of celebrity in his accomplishment of the night. He was quite grave, “That candy made me sick.” No regrets though, I can tell.

Because we had simply the most lovely time trick-or-treating last night. I mean it was just great. See, ever since our kids were born we’ve done the PT thing; this mostly includes a downtown costume parade (translation: stand around 45 minutes freezing your nuts, walk for five minutes parading in front of those in town not costumed) followed by an intense, hundreds-of-people downtown blowout where the “trick or treating” is reduced to a methodical, massive cattle-shuffle and kids just grab and move on, no eye-contact. There are a few neighborhoods that have traditional trick or treating, most notably an uptown strip where every house goes all-out (which as an inhabitant of that strip it always felt weirdly artificial and, I confess, sad for those who would have rather not participated). Our neighborhood (and most in town) had no “real” T-or-Ting the way we think of it.

But HQX still exists in the bubble I remember when I used to prowl our neighborhoods, literally scouring the block for those with lit porches, occasionally knocking at a refusal, and always looking for the spookiest house. This year it was so odd – and exhilarating – to experience it again and with excited, willing children. The sidewalks in HQX are their own menace more frightening than any front-yard ghoul sculpture (since no one in the Hogaclan came home with a fractured kneecap I call it good). Across the not-very-lit streets you could see other children and families flitting through the night with giggles and only when you got up close you’d discover a neighbor or friend. We got to T-or-T my own parents’ house. Then hand out candy ourselves for a while before making our way north a half mile to the best-decorated house (complete with hydraulic porch, tombstones of rock stars, and my personal favorite: a barbecue with human parts “shish kebab” and lots of blood). When we got home Harris greeted us with the trademark bushy tail and paws prouncing.

It was a very special night.

Yes, even with the puking.

My Lovely Li'l Dragon

"Spooning with a stranger in the back of a van, now that’s a violation!"

Yesterday afternoon I found myself in Aberdeen in the van while it was pouring rain, I had our kitty Harris in the passenger seat, and we’d just escaped the a shop after being hijacked by two separate store employees who were lonely and we’d been in there so long I’d had to timeout Nels (watching the van through the window) and by the time I got out to him he’d been crying and holding his pee and had to go and I wouldn’t go back inside (both b/c of the employees’ overtalking tendencies and Nels’ immediate need) and I said, “Sophie, give me that cup!” and like a well-trained pit crew member she knew what I was doing and got the cup and took off the lid and I got Nels out of his carseat and pulled down his pants and he peed and RAPIDLY began to fill the cup, stopping 1/4″ before the top.

As it was happening I was thinking how all of it made sense on some level (except the kitten but he was really lonely and is a good car rider) but I’m pretty sure no one else would have thought it made sense to watch how it all went down.

Afterwards, I poured the fresh hot cup of steaming urine into the gutter. I’m sure that’s not the first time anyone’s leaned out of a car in downtown Aberdeen and done the same.

Tonight I finished “Freaks and Geeks”. I’ve never seen a show before like it and I see why it’s rated so high on IMDB. The funny thing is, it started out decently enough for the first ten or so episodes (there are 18 total). But by the end I was in tears just about each chapter. I’ve also never experienced high school all over again, but I sure did during that show in the most amazing way – in a good way. Thanks Chris, for the recommendation. I got through them all eventually.

Tonight also marks the first five inches of my first sock! Yes, I’m knitting socks. I’m told it’s addictive although it seems to be more like: knit knit knit knit for hours and hours and hours – here’s a wristband!

And finally: newness in our household as Nels gave the kitty a bath. Using the toilet. Yes, it really happened. I can’t really talk much more about it.

lady driver, let me take your wheel / touch my bumper, hey let’s make a deal

Today I had about two hours to myself with both kids in school. I spent about an hour doing some computer work, thirty minutes of chores, and thirty minutes getting set up to sew. While I was doing all this I was in mellow, steady-moving state. Kind of the perfect time you think a certain little kitten would want some love. I mean, I would have been happy to put down the dishes and sit with a purring furball on my lap for a few minutes.

But no, it wasn’t until I sat down and started winding a bobbin that the wee kitty finally stumbled out of bed (currently favoring the “hammock” of fabric in the box spring) and came at me all sleep-eyed with stick paws kind of stumbling around. He climbed up on the sewing table and started to purr then saw thread spools and then started batting with harmless velvety paws. He was really warm from sleep and really energetic.

A few days ago while on our trip our housesitter came up with a good word regarding Harris:

Paige: Harris has only gotten out once!me: Oh, that’s good. He seems to know how to come home. I probably won’t let him out regularly until I can chip him and collar him.

My neighborhood is a little sketchy so I want him to be fully protected.
Paige: Ah, yeah. He prounced around the back yard for a little bit, letting me know that I couldn’t catch him if he didn’t want to let me, then he let me.

“Prounced”! That is exactly what kittens do!

I actually love this song and was belting it out in the car today; I felt inspired to search for the video and, um?:

(Billy, check out the move at 1:24. Or the stair declension here at 0:57. Watch and learn).

our newest member and the beat goes on

Our kitty (se llama Harris).

Today my friend Jen and I carpooled our kids and went for lunch in the park. We tried to converse while being besieged by each of the four children, alternatively needing attention, lunch, water, help with clothes, advocacy with other children: the subjects Jen and I attempted ranged from marriage, her political campaign (mayor of HQX!), parenting, our own upbringing, parents’ illnesses, employment, counseling. Later in her backyard the children strip down and play together mostly nicely and Nels, with a runny nose and feeling down today, wants me to hold him. I put my arms around him and Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter” comes on over the stereo. The song is such a nostalgic one for me. My friend I’m with today we’ve known one another since we were eight years old and now our own children approach that age. I think we have an understanding that has only strengthened now that a few years of family are behind us and our second childhood looms.

Today finds me with a sick child, a tooth-dangerously-loose child, a diarrhetic kitten, and a busted checking account. A few minutes before I take my kids home from our playdate and I’m wiping the nose of one and the blood off another (Sophie scraped her foot playing in the pool) and it feels like I’m a magnet and things just snap to me. Children and pets and husband hang off me when they can. It isn’t at all uncomfortable for the most part, it still surprises me though. Motherhood, should you choose to take it on in any involved way, is endless, relentless, it never stops. It’s beautiful, though, and my favorite thing to do so far (well, the favorite thing I can share publicly). Even our little kitty gravitates towards Mama; last night as I drowsed in the middle of the night I realized that in between in the blanket hammock formed between my legs in the figure 4 position – the little kitty slept and purred, a tiny, insignificant engine. In the morning then: homemade bread toasted, eggs, ripe pear for the children; milk for our grown Blackie kitty (pissed off about little Harris); fresh water and food for the animals. Clean up the breakfast dishes – “Kids, go wash your hands and brush your teeth!” and set clothes out and pack a lunch and then after the lunch and driving and playing and pulling off clothes and nursing sad children home to clean up kids and wash their clothes because they got muddy.

(update 3:56 PM: Sophie just lost her second tooth; she reaches symmetry again for a brief period).