"tell me little bird: is today the day?"

Today I read a bit of Miles Levin’s story (his blog is, in my opinion, worth registering at carepages.com and reading; after logging in do a search for “LevinStory”). I am sorry to have only heard about this young man on the day after he died. I am glad to have found his website and I wish I’d been reading earlier.

This entry struck me today, penned by Miles’ mother two weeks before his death:

I read an article once in Mothering Magazine many years ago when I was studying to be a mother. It made a huge impact on me, shaping my platform for mothering. It identified four key ingredients in an effective mother/child relationship [ … ] They are: PROTECTION; NOURISHMENT; STIMULATION; AND CHERISHMENT. I could write about each one more fully as I have meditated and reflected on each quality. Each, one no more than another, is essential – in equal measure – to the development of a child into his/her full potential. Each is a requirement of the parent, though some come more easily to each one of us, in order to provide the safety and encouragement, the roots and the wings, that allow the child to develop into a person of responsibility, extension, and self love.

No one has asked me what my view of parenting is, but I’m telling you. I hope that young parents who are reading this site will take to heart the critical role that parents play in raising children who are at once filled with self respect and respect for others: a tricky balance.

I read this while feeling deeply moved after having followed a few months of the successive entries of the mother, father, sister, and that of the brother / son / boy / man himself in this story. And I thought, Is that all? Almost laughing to myself with relief because I do these things, and I relish them, every day.

The thing is, I second-guess myself as a wife, mother, and person – every day. Each one of those identities (and many more: daughter, sister, American, friend, lover… the list is complex and varied) comes with it’s own pitfalls and successes – each self-noun I write here I have wrestled with in both public and private struggles. Motherhood is, however, very much with me since my children are at an age they cannot care for themselves or even be left unsupervised for any length of time. It is not only an identity it is my full-time job. This job is the cornerstone of our family right now.

Reading Nancy Levin’s words had a special meaning for me today. Lately I’ve been feeling so odd that most of my day is spent laundering, cleaning, cooking – Cooking! No one tells you that the more you bake bread from scratch and create home-cooked meals the faster these foods just disappear. There are no half-eaten casseroles in my fridge; food is rarely thrown out but eaten voraciously; I cook and it’s more more more cooking – washing hands, laying out clothes, brushing teeth, clipping nails, holding and cuddling and instructing and educating. I devote most of my day to those things and there are some imaginary voices (and some real) I hear who tell me these concerns are so small, so provincial. Where is my brain? Where is my proof of life? Where is my contribution to society? Why do I care about making pizza sauce from scratch? Why do I think so much about the clothes on my children’s bodies or the state of their bedrooms? Why do I have my hands in dough again and why are my successes getting the dutch oven going before our bike ride to the library?

But I also know there is nothing more important in life than relationships and kindness; nothing more important than striving to be a spiritual and loving person who gives and re-gives to those around me; to my family, to my friends, to the community, to the planet, to the world’s people. I know that if my last day on earth was spent baking bread, walking with my children to the hardware store, and talking with my husband on our bike ride together I would not regret this last day.

So today I am taking Nancy Levin’s words to heart today and remembering to protect, nourish, stimulate and cherish each of my children. I hope you can and will do the same for your loved ones in your life.

itemization & love from the deep south *EDIT*

Today I bought:

2 lbs. bananas
2 lbs. broccoli
3 lbs. yukon gold potatoes
2.5 lbs. green beans
7 limes
1 pint raspberries
1 lb. champagne grapes
1 very large mango
3 avocados
6 ears white corn
3 lbs rhubarb (local)
2 dozen farm eggs (local)

The total was $22. The Farmer’s Market ladies like me because A. I am obsessive about their eggs, and B. I know how to cook (as evidenced by their cagey reference to rhubarb custard pie where I rattled off my own know-how). Today while we were there Sophie also expressed concern that the green rhubarb they had to offer was not pie-able – turns out, it is, it’s merely a green variety. The pair of hens at the register were so excited this girl tracked produce. It made me think about my time at the Farm last year; nostalgic, too, to remember it now.

For dinner I made rolled biscuits (Joy of Cooking), white corn on the cob, eggplant and tomato choka, butter beans, iceberg salad (w/Annie’s Goddess dressing). My children ate everything and happily (as did Ralph and I – in our foursome Ralph the Corn Weasel, and Nels, Son of Corn Weasel, in particular seemed very pleased). I was thinking of a friend’s child who was over for dinner and exclaimed about our food – “I like what you guys eat!” and I felt a good deal of pride over our nightly ritual together.

Today my Florida honey J. sent me 2 packages of clothes – equaling 48 pounds! 48 fricken pounds! You know what’s slightly sad? My middle is too big for almost all the pants. Tops fit well, except for button-ups which don’t fit across my chest. Amongst the many very cool clothes there was a small collection of long hippie-like skirts, a garment I’ve never worn before. I put one on because they were the coolest (temperature-wise) garments in the batch. My husband came home and immediately complimented my skirt – with some grabbing of the backside. I think he likes it because it gives the illusion of a full ass (rather than my very wide yet oddly flat version).

* Edit – I made a count of all the items J. sent me:

1 pintuck white Mossimo button up shirt, L
1 ON cami top, blue L
1 ON green tee shirt, M
1 ON raspberry tee shirt, M
1 ON blue tee shirt, M
1 LS brown pinstripe shirt
1 Mossimo blue v-neck, L
1 Mossimo lavender v-neck, L
1 white polo shirt
1 Mossimo white v-neck, L
1 ON brown v-neck, M
1 ON white v-neck, M
2 tattoo-art tank tops, L
1 ON tank, brown
1 ON tank, tan/lt brown
1 ON tank, white
1 ON tank, black
1 LS dark brown rugby neckline shirt
1 striped pullover shirt
1 striped tri-cot dress, S
1 pull over stretch paisley top
1 brown Olde Navy crinkle fabric top
1 pink & white striped button up long sleeve shirt
1 express LS top, red
1 LS merona pinstripe top
1 white LS peasant top
1 orange LS tee-shirt
1 striped j-crew boat necked top
1 LS blue button up shirt
1 LS black twist top
1 LS ribbed sweater, wine
1 LS ribbed sweater, charcoal
1 lg button up LS eyelet shirt
1 black sweater shrug
1 zip up striped sweater
1 ON brown zip-up hoodie, XXL
1 sporty zip-up hoodie, M
1 brown Ye Olde Man sweater. Needs buttons. Matlock!
1 brown tie-front st john’s sweater
1 ezekiel green screen printed tee
1 LS black & pink pullover tee shirt
1 Indian paisley skirt, floor-length
1 floor length patchwork skirt
1 floor length brown linen skirt
1 brown spandex skirt with flounce
1 orange crinkle floor length skirt
1 eyelet skirt, M
1 gray rayon floor length skirt
1 floor length sequined black skirt
1 floor length black polyester skirt, L
1 angels’ jeans, sz 11
1 IT jeans, sz 11
1 Bongo! jeans, sz 10
1 Bongo! jeans, sz 13
1 express jeans
1 a byer brown dress slacks
1 ON medium maternity jeans
1 dark blue stretch navy-button slacks
1 ON tech chinos, light blue
1 ON tech chinos, taupe
1 ON tech chinos, dark blue
1 Tommy jeans, sz 10
1 paris blues pedal pushers sz 8
1 Exhilaration black capri sz 11
1 off white Merona capri
1 taupe Mossimo capri
1 Levi low slouch jeans, sz 9
1 Mossimo goucho jeans, sz 11
1 ON white stretch jeans, sz 11

Thank you, thank you, J.!

st. dorothy mantooth

Today I got to have something I wanted. My husband and children accompanied me to my normal set of markets as I “forced” them to participate in errand-running rather than goofing off or relaxing a bit more. I guess my children are regular attendants often enough, but specifically I invited my husband into my world of planning, shopping, cooking etc (all food-related). I did not let myself feel guilty I was infringing on their “play time” (we made sure to play today, too). I talked about my food concerns and expected him to care (altho’ not necessarily requiring him to remember all of this – that would not be fair) even though I sometimes feel insecure that this is, indeed, most of my day-to-day living and it’s rather mundane. We spent the day having just as much fun as playtime would normally be, and I felt heard and experienced.

When we got home Ralph volunteered to make dinner (Cabbage Rolls and mashed potatoes) and left him in there, by himself, not helping nor bossing. He’d say, “Should I put these in this pan?” and I’d answer or tell him to figure it out, mild in my manner and not really thinking much about it and letting him do it (he was working off my recipe). By the end of the (somewhat laborious, especially for him) process he said, “I like making these.” I felt not only did he help, did he take my shift and get another glimpse of what I do; he also felt how satisfying it could be to do what I do.

So yeah, I have been asking directly and specifically for more help around the house. Why does it feel like so much of the SAHM’s life is unappreciated? Would I “need” my husband to observe and experience if I felt others supported and experienced my life? Ralph and I like sharing one another and our experiences; he tells me about his job and I listen and chime in. I wonder how much of today’s experience was just about me, how much was about my desire for more social time with my husband, and how much was related to validation.

But for some reason it meant something to me to share with my husband why I buy my olive oil where I buy it; how I figure out what to cook; what market I get my forbidden rice from and how I found it.

Now it’s 7 PM and suddenly the rain is coming down in a torrent; heavy, rainforest rain. Amazing. Dinner is served and the family is at the table. Thank you, husband.

today the Alpha-Bitch presents:

Housework 101

Some of us keep house. Some of us hang on to housekeeping as the only thing that makes us feel self-worth (nervous, bitter laughter). I am no Domestic Goddess but I take it seriously; on a site I’m active on I was accused of being organized and asked to write out my manifesto: here it is, today at least, and in most of its glory.

Own Less. Don’t buy more shit in order to organize your life! I think it is a well-perpetrated myth that more storage and more organizational tools organize the house better. Organization resides in the mind. Organization – for me – is about having fewer items. I see people drive around malls looking for a certain storage unit at Target or whatever or flipping though IKEA catalogs and lusting after the spice racks. I’m like, “Go home and do your fucking dishes, you’ll feel better.” Not to mention that shopping and looking for things can stimulate the “I wants” – a consumerist state of mind that actually does the opposite of bring peace and order to your mind (which you need to bring peace and order to your house).

Some people exist happily with tons of material items with nary a thought of the emotional baggage “stuff” carries, nor with internal gripes about the state of mess, clutter, or squalor – to those people I say “as you were!” and bless them for finding what works for them. Too bad 99.9% of moms I know aren’t this relaxed about it.

Use What You Have. From keeping your pantry clean to a tidy fridge to kid toys being used and respected – if you use it frequently, you will love it, care for it, polish it and put it on the shelf, repair it if it’s broken. If you’re gripping onto it because it’s your “stuff” or it “might come in handy” it will weigh you down and likely be a nuisance except for the very random time a year you use it. Look at anything in your house and ask yourself when you last used it and how much you like dusting it or putting it away or eying it on the cluttered shelf.

My life, like most Americans, contains parasitical clutter or items I don’t use daily; of course I have a closet with camping stuff on the shelf where it resides except for a spare few times each year. There is a trade-off to ownership and it’s personal to everyone. I will say this; I have never regretted culling an item from my life and I sure wished I’d culled more when we moved recently!

Every Item Needs a Home. If every item has a home, it is as easy to put it away as it is to throw it on the floor. If someone else throws it on the floor you don’t go crazy being pissed that it is on the floor, that there’s nowhere to put it, and why do you have all this shit and why does no one help? You say, “Nels, please put the scissors back in Mama’s sharps box.” Two times later and Nels knows where the scissors go and – gasp – will put them away himself! Let me tell you, watching your kids help you keep an ordered house is pretty damn gratifying. P.S. this is the gold standard at the Hogaboom house and hardly a constant state of affairs.

Caveat to the Last Tenet. A temporary but cohesive home is probably a better first-time goal than a Martha-Stewart organized fuck-all project which will make you nuts running around for the drill bits and printing out labels while meanwhile your son’s breakfast oatmeal rots on the counter. A cardboard box will serve as an “entryway organizer” for now if it clears spare bills and correspondence off the computer desk; when you have time, please do upgrade the cardboard box. In our house we have an (assily-named) “Technology Shelf” in the utility room – all cords, cables, extension cords and tech bits go on a shelf. Every now and then I ask my husband to organize and cull it. If we’re ever wondering where any electronic item is we go look there; if we find something around the house that qualifies we throw it in there. I’ll get around to color-coding the sub-shelf space one of these days.

Don’t Always Look For The Shortcut. It is also a hoax that “convenience” items categorically make life easier. They add to life’s difficulties and management duties too. For instance: yesterday I spent time in the backyard hanging laundry with my kids. We got two loads done. I spent probably an hour and a half total hanging and minding the laundry, folding it, etc. Meanwhile I had a great time and got some sun, I didn’t drive and use gas, I didn’t eat food out or get a latte, I talked with and enjoyed my kids, no one was inside messing up the house or going stir-crazy and oh yeah – I didn’t use my dryer at all. Plus my clothes smelled great and the sun removed stains from my dinner napkins like no chemical could.

Enjoy your home. Find a corner you can retreat to, something you love. Do your best around the house but take a break when you need a breather. For me, it’s a clean bathroom and waiting tub with lights out, candles, and an open window with the breeze coming in; the perfect thing to look forward to after sweatily vaccuming like mad or scraping rice off the kitchen table.

beans are my friends, and i say this without sarcasm

We have a unique situation this week as I had thought Ralph was getting paid on the 6th – and it turns out it’s the 10th. Four more days of scraping by and not paying bills when I said I would (tee hee!). This actually coincides nicely with the offset time period I was planning our weekly menu. Without further ado, here is our attempt to be vegetarian, economical, tasty, and easy:

(You may notice my life consists of a few meals a week of Mexican food. Fuck you.)

And for this, the grocery list (all purchased yesterday):

1 head cabbage
1/2 head red cabbage
1 lb. jalapenos
1 lb. carrots
1 large bunch broccoli
1 head garlic
1 lemmon
2 serrano chiles
1 bunch green onions
2 lb. green grapes
2 cans medium olives
1 can kidney beans, 16 oz.
1 can navy beans, 16 oz.
5 lb peanut butter (no sugar added)
3 cans vegetable broth, 14 oz.
1 can green chile enchilada sauce, 19 oz.
1 large can chunky organic tomato sauce (1 lb. 12 oz)
1 lb. bag tortilla chips
1 dozen eggs, brown organic
14 oz. firm tofu
5 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
2 lb monterey jack cheese
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
1 pint sour cream
50 corn tortillas (2 lb. 14 oz.)
1/2 lb nutritional yeast, large flake
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/3 lb. white figs, dried
2 lbs. great northern beans, dried
2 lbs. pinto beans, dried organic

The total for everything was $67. Sixty-seven dollars for quality groceries for a week! Now, I will be buying a few odds and ends – I think milk and eggs perhaps. I’ll make sure to post the full weekly total when I have it.

Tonight for our company I made the No Mas Carne Enchiladas, chile relleno, and Hogaboom Trademark Roasted Jalapeños.

My brother teases me on the phone tonight (we totally have matching Swatch phones!) that my enchiladas (which I accidentally called “vegan” because, well, they are) aren’t any good. First off, I had Ralph drive him over a plateful to prove that little monstrerd wrong. Secondly, there are two types of veg*n food in life: the kind that leave you barely full, vaguely pissy, and longing for real food – and the kind that is delicious and does not leave you ruminating on what’s lacking in the meal but rather energized by the goodness of the fare. So help me God, I don’t believe I make that first type and I willingly accept the daily challenge to make the second. Even Brother Ass himself reluctantly agreed my food is not bland hippie fare and has variety – although he then went on to say I will soon be making Assy Veggie Loaf. I didn’t think I’d say this past the early nineties, but Whatever.

fucking off, SAHM-style

Much of my life consists of cooking and cleaning and most of the cleaning is really following along after creatures about three foot high and re-organizing, sweeping, de-cluttering, sweeping up, wiping down surfaces, and crying. Over and over. Think a parade with the horse poop-shoveler merrily right behind the horses. Except I’ve been doing it for years in a continuous loop and I’m feeding the horses the food that makes them shit.

The truth is, I give a shout-out “Amen!” daily that my duties no longer contain too much literal shit, having both children potty-trained (my son actually perfected his skills upon our move rather than the oft-predicted regression). This has actually freed up a significant amount of time in my schedule. So my (local and national) peer society tells me I’m supposed to plug a few more things into my life as well: working a job, volunteering for school functions, making crafts with kids, keeping the house even cleaner, visiting friends, taking trips to Costco to “save money”, growing my own food, working out, owning a matching and nice-looking furniture set, giving a fuck about furniture in general, doing yard work, looking sexy for my husband or the UPS dude, making a positive difference for our planet, getting a new hobby.

I think I’m hitting about a 14% on the abovementioned exploits. Mostly right now I’m (mentally) leaning back and enjoying not cleaning up shit anymore.

This could take weeks, if I want to do it properly anyway.

"Okay, Ryan, you told Toby that Creed has a distinct old man smell?"

Today I bought a pound each of sunflower seeds and cranberry beans, two pounds of Thompson midget (dwarf? miniature? I can’t remember) raisins, two pounds of mung beans, two pounds of extra-thick rolled oats, four figs (at Sophie’s request), and four pieces of organic black licorice.

The total came to $5.54 for this food.

I am learning things daily now that I don’t cook meat. For instance – did you know that when you get those big sprouts on your salad or on top of your noodle bowl – the whitish yellow ones – they are usually mung bean sprouts? Did you know these beans are grown predominantly in China and in the states, Oklahoma (another punch to the groin of any 100-mile diet ambition)? Did you know even though I now have mung beans I will never make daal, because it’s tasteless ass?

My children are accompanying me on learning new ways to buy, store, and prepare food. Today I was pleased Sophie recognized the figs she likes: fully 1/2 of the bulk food available at The Marketplace are things I have never tried! Some things I have and found worthless (carob, bee pollen, any kind of “natural” refined-sugar substitute), many others I am slowly learning the skills to prepare. But as I more earnestly throw myself into preparing delicious, nutritious, environmentally-friendly and economical food I really hope my children don’t view these foods – as I did and sometimes do – as tasteless “health” staples that lack flavor and texture (P.S. extra big “fuck you” to carob, I am not interested in losing my bigotry there). I like the idea my children really will know what these foods are, even if they don’t care for some of them. Fuck you carob. Again.

I am determined not to go overboard and invest in any fancy-assed veggie accoutrement and yes, that includes not even buying large, inexpensive glass jars to hippie-display my beans and grains in (by the way, beans really are beautiful – I can see the temptation). Right now anyway we have a hierarchy of what’s needed for our food and sundry. Our kitchen is lacking in general dishes, especially plates: we have a grand total of seven. Payday on Monday and Ralph has (sort of) given me permission to buy a few place settings. Whee!

"You’ve got 15 minutes to shove pie down your hole then it’s camper time!"

So, I’ve decided to go vegetarian. Sort of. And no, I don’t mean “except for bacon”.

It’s been a long time coming. I don’t want to bore you with my reasons but my decision was precipitated by watching Fast Food Nation the other night and it’s my simple truth that eating meat – as it’s produced by most methods in this country – is just fucking vile. Vile for us, the animals, the planet, everyone involved except maybe those who make good, good money in the industry.

Now, here comes my “sort of” – if I can find meat that is raised healthily and killed “humane”ly (yes, there really are better and worse ways for these animals to die) – I will gladly purchase this meat and cook it, with my blessings. Since I don’t know what we have here – even at the lovely Michael’s Meats in Aberdeen – I am cooking vegetarian until I can buy into a pig or whatever! This is basically a COUNTDOWN TO BACON, but meanwhile I’m going to be pretty damn busy planning food for my family.

Because this makes my already challenging cooking-from-scratch-for-four (plus guests) difficulties a little more… tricky. Here’s how I was raised: you assemble dinner by cooking a meat, a “starch”, a vegetable. Sure, I cook vegetarian fare now and again but it’s a lark, a money-saver, not something I do daily. When I cooked vegetarian food more often it was still “assembled” around soy, usually tofu. And I don’t want to tofu-out our asses as I’ve seen many a vegan / vegetarian do; studies are finding out nor should we rely extensively on processed “meat”-like products to live a vegetarian lifestyle.

Last night we had spaghetti squash with butter, home-canned tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, roasted garbanzo beans, and a simple cucumber salad. I was thrilled, and I mean thrilled, to see my children eat this meal happily (and not trouble about the fact there has been no meat in this house for a few days), but it’s not unexpected either; I’ve been cooking lots of vegetables and cooking from scratch ever since they were born. My husband supports my choice as well. And damn, anyone in my family is free to go pursue their meat-laden dreams somewhere else if they’d like to.

For now: making a list – which I shall soon post here – of this week’s menu and grocery list. P.S. I do not have the grocery money for this yet! Wish me luck.

put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty

Today I have a few moments to myself; my parents journey up to Lacey for a medical test, my husband leaves for work, and my children are still sleeping. Shower, dress. Cup of coffee. Pack the gym bag. Boil some eggs for breakfast. Soak some beans for dinner. Get the kids’ clothes together. Take laundry upstairs (we are currently hustling our laundry up to our room as fast as possible in vain efforts to obfuscate just how much laundry we do). Hang drip-dry clothes. Make beds. By nine AM I’m wishing I was having a vacation instead.

get up, shower, workout, eat, nap, eat, bed

That about sums it up. Life in the village, today: my mom and I did not workout together since she needed to be at the Y at 8 (for volleyball) and my kids slept. I motivated myself by buying a new album (soundtrack for The Departed, as it turns out all Old Fart Music) and taking stuff to the gym so I could shower and get cleaned up afterwards before grabbing the kids outta kidcare. Forty-five minutes on the elliptical machine at a heart rate of about 160. I feel great.

My father and I had yet another good discussion: today, his medicine, his chemo, his choice in treatments. He is currently getting what I call a conservative / aggressive treatment – they won’t let him off the chemo very easily even with a (relatively) low CEA. He is hopeful tomorrow his PET scan will reveal the mass on his lung has not grown, then he will ask for a month off. “If I get a month off chemo, I may even take up running again,” he says, and I know he would like nothing better. I am silent, hoping the mass hasn’t grown. But he knows the drill and one thing long-term cancer survival teaches you is nothing is certain, not imminent death nor the guarantee you will survive another two months.

Another subject my dad brings up to me: his antidepressant, which my mom and he are arguing over (the doctor and my mother’s POV: take it, fool!). He says, “Let me ask you something. If someone told you that you had to take a pill the rest of your life to survive, to enjoy a quality of life, would you do it?” Excuse me, is this The Matrix? We choose once, into the unknown, and there’s no turning back? I answer, no, of course not. I would look into it. I would do a bit of research, find a doctor recommended by trusted sources, and ask a second opinion. And then yeah, I might take it. I don’t know what he’s talking about at first until he reveals this is about his Lexapro. He says in response to me, “OK, you’d seek a professional opinion. But what is your personal opinion?” I say that yeah, it seems we over-diagnose in this country. But that doesn’t mean the medicine itself may not help his situation. I go put a load of laundry in and think about it, remembering when psyche meds were offered to me and I declined. I come back into the kitchen. “Dad, you’re biased against this type of medication. If you had to smoke pot daily in order to eat and keep your weight up, you would. You are biased.” He is silent on this and I wonder what he’s thinking. The fact he brought the question to me is a good sign, at least.

Tonight we have my mother’s old boss over for dinner. He’s recently widowed and about four thousand years old and a real sweetheart. I watched him take about fifteen minutes to park (badly) in front of the house. I just completed a cold sesame noodle salad and my asparagus is roasting – my mom grills pineapple and marinated teriyaki steak. Ralph brings the kids down, scrubbed and in their best clothes, if not on their best behavior.