a new lifestyle and a new television love

Last night for about forty minutes I had the odd circumstance of having “the neighbor girl” over. Where we lived before there were very few children in our neighborhood and even fewer children our own children’s ages. Having Sophie invite our next-door neighbor’s child, and having the kids run around in our fenced yard and the childrens’ bedrooms, with little interaction between the actual adults of the two households… honestly, it was pretty cool.


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“Macaroni – let me finish – salad.”

a photo-relay winding down from the weekend

This evening we took a drive to Aberdeen for dinner. It was a beautiful day, all day.

Ralph likes to take the logging / industrial route. Believing it faster, or perhaps motivated by all the different places that service different kinds of burly equipment and engines? Here is an example of the “new” transit bus. I don’t remember when I last saw the old ass-‘n’-piss colored versions I used to ride on.

I was idly trying to get a picture of a speeding motorcyclist when Ralph burst out laughing at the “b’goyl” (his term for a creature that’s sex cannot easily be determined). I’d wager my photograph proves, or at least indicates, female-ness.

In the car Nels sings a song from The Little Mermaid, which he loves (mermaids in general, and yes this includes the Disney version).

I wish to bring you here, dear reader – no, not to this humble dwelling but to the greenness and richness of the air. It’s green green green everywhere.

Aberdeen “boasts” one Thai restuarant and it’s got great service and decent grub. They give you free refills even on the heavenly (and sugary, and fatty) Thai iced tea! My kids fucked with their food and tried to eat just the crispy shell off the spring rolls! You suck, kids!

Ralph demonstrates to Nels how to do a “Pepsi shooter” with a straw.

As we return three movies to three different movie rental joints, evening starts to fall. My favorite time of the day. WAL-MART!

Ralph catches a nice little picture involving the curious little popcorn / coffee shop. “I want popcorn!” yells one of the little ones, having dined primarily on peanut sauce and little else. Nope.

While taking above photo Ralph is accosted by street youths who lead us to “Tag Alley”, an designation in downtown Aberdeen specifically sequestered for legal grafitti work. There were some lovely and free-spirited, colorful works he shot photos of. I’ll let him tell you more.

Outside Swansons (“your neighborhood grocery store”) we read the flyers. Some things are pretty gut-damned important. What is he / she wearing around the neck right now, I wonder?

An attempt by Swansons to compete with Walmart’s assy, obnoxious signs and banners. I think it’s working well, don’t you? P.S. very decent selection, as it turns out. No more driving to Top Food & Drug twice a week.

Once home Ralph does the day’s dishes while I blog. Kids continue to give us the balls. And tomorrow is Monday, whee!

once i get that key they can’t pry it out of my hand

Today dawns with the type of lovely, sunny, still clear weather that is only recognizable for what it is if you’ve been away from it long enough to acclimatize to something else.

In a few hours my husband and I meet to sign a lease for our new place. Finally. A preview:

The front bedroom, for the kids. Sophie has tried to negotiate for a room of her own. Sorry. Mama’s sewing machine babies get their room, at the expense of my actual children.

Finally, a bedroom with some color to it! P.S. – the blinds actually work in this house! I checked them all.

Sophie goofs off in the living room. No, I did not take Nels on a walk-through – there was a maintenance dude there doing work with sharp tools and such. I shudder to think.

Random, peeling / scrappy paint, here and there and everywhere.

Ralph hates the tile job in the laundry room. Meanwhile I think holy shit, I have a laundry room again, in two days!

On our way out – purple house across the street! Note Ass-tros, facing off.

During our wait for celebratory hot chocolate, Sophie has a meltdown. All-told she was a fabulous house-inspector, engaging Maintenance Man Tom with small talk about Port Townsend and at every drawer opened and closet discovered, enthusing, “This is great!

Only a couple more days. A microcosm to myself – well, almost to myself – again.

an update from HQX, pictoral-like

Already we are as busy here as we were in Port Townsend. Mornings my mom and I go workout at the Y while the kids cavort in “Busy Town” (the childcare facilities there). Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Sophie goes to preschool; Thursday, Nels does. Tuesday and Thursday are Sophie’s swim lessons. Every night I go to bed early, exhausted (from working out and living at my parents) and annoyed because I can’t really nest the way I want to. Anyway, forget I wrote that. It’s a tired story. I am lucky, I repeat goddamned lucky, to have such a great family to shore us up while we try to find a place to hang our hats.

My mom and Sophie, just before church last Sunday. Sophie has a secret. Can you guess what it is? She is not wearing panties. Before she went to church, I told my mom, “Make sure she’s wearing panties.” Guess when my mom found out she wasn’t? During church service.

For me, to chase the blues away: a little materialism goes a long way. In this case, abovementioned DC hoodie and:

A pair of Keen shoes. The shoes are not yet broken in but soon, I will wear practically nothing else. On my feet, I mean. (hoodie and shoes courtesy of zappos.com – the closest online thing to instant gratification).

Mom and I trade off cooking each night and everyone else benefits. My brother had several helpings of my Vietnamese Sticky Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

Weekends, I sometimes cook a special breakfast. (this version is made with a cardamom-challah made locally at the Farmer’s Market – open year-round here).

OK, just to prove to you how weird my family is (mostly my mom and brother), they made this “dog hair sculpture” after my mom gave Tuck his cut.

Actual dog, post-haircut. I try to be nice to him. He has “issues”.

Today: my father has his nasty chemo and my brother and I try to feed him milkshakes (this went very badly) and I try to keep the kids upstairs so he can sleep.

strategems for squatting; "let’s get a taco"

Days ago I pushed for an upstairs “living room” despite an initially uncooperative family (P.S. it worked out well enough, and my brother apologized for his reticence over moving his possessions, which I thought was very sweet of him, and I apologized that our move-in even happened, goddamnit, because I have not enjoyed displacing other people for our own needs). But as many Kelly Plans end up proving, my push for this space was a very smart move. No longer are we living in a two-room hotel situation – we have a whole wing of a house. In the mornings I have a rule that they are not allowed downstairs until I can go with them; I don’t need them all up in the Grampen’s business first thing in the morning. I also ask that we do some room and personal cleanup: making beds, toothbrushing, and (usually) getting dressed – before we descend.

So this morning we go downstairs and as they eat their breakfast I wash the dishes and clean the kitchen counters. Then I send the children upstairs to play while I do “computer stuff”. I know it probably doesn’t make sense to you, dear reader, but writing about my life has become an addiction. I wish I did it more, I wish I did it better. But the point is, it has become important to my own integrity, peace of mind, and whatever “body of work” I am creating to do it as often as I can. And without a space of our own upstairs, I wouldn’t have that ability. They’d be downstairs running amock and my father would be pissed, or maybe that’s just the way he always looks (thirty years and I’m still not sure!).

The children love having their toys here, love having bedrooms and “a living room”, and love having exact places to put our things and it really is possible for me to feel a sense of order and a lack of “cooped up”. Which makes all the difference in the world. P.S. No one except Ralph has truly acknowledged that his work is up and swimming the way it was expected to, and my work is a big cock-up. By “no one” I mean specifically my mom, who considers St. Ralph the most important in the family re: happiness, because he’s a man and because he throws bigger tantrums than me when he’s unhappy so must be mollified at all costs. I’m glad she dotes on him, honestly I am. She only dotes on me less because she thinks I don’t need coddling.

Boring, boring. In other news: today, our first visit to one of the many, many Mexican restaurants here. Guess what HQX has PT didn’t? Fucking chicken tamales. OK, yes PT friends, Rosa’s Mexi-Cart had amazing tamales. Where the fuck was she, ever? And why did they sell out by 10:30 AM every Saturday at the Farmer’s Market? Could you buy a bigger truck? Because all you’re doing, Rosa, is making me get my hopes up for tamales, and then – no tamale.

The food was good at this place and of course, reasonably priced. Even: we ordered just after two tables of four, but got our order first, and I believe this is because it was myself and two ninos. How sweet! My children ate their weight in authentic pinkish refried beans and rice and I grudgingly even let them have some tamale, although the relleno was mine, all mine.

splish splash

Even though my entire life I never went for more than six weeks before visiting “back home”, to live here again is to be wide-eyed and observing every little difference, all minutae; from the pleasant vinegar-smell of the paneling mill in the west end to the mercurial weather which changes here from sunny and ringingly clear to overcast and grim; torrential rain and then balmy and clear again.

Today my mother took on Nels for a few hours this morning so I could go work out at the Y, which has been my savior in terms of getting some “me” time. And getting out of the house, and out of the communal space, and giving the kids a way to work out their sillies via “Busy Town” or the pool. Sophie started her first swim lessons here today – she missed the first session and today was put in the “pike” class. At 11:20 one hundred million little children splash into the pool. Once I figure out which pool my daughter is in, I slide over to the bleachers where a young mother is formula-feeding her very young infant. I blink a bit; I am not used to baby bottle-feeding. I sit next to her and observe a Spiderman towel in her bag so I say: “Oh, my daughter loves Spiderman. Where did you get that?” I ask, and “Walmart!” she chirpily answers (of course; and P.S. I just found out Hoquiam / Aberdeen’s one bookstore is closing). Further P.S. the day before in the Y’s daycare another little girl asked her Mama if my willowy, long-haired daughter was a girl or a boy: “A girl’s not supposed to wear a Spiderman shirt!” this four year old proclaimed. Groan.

People here make more eye contact, smile more. They talk louder and gawk more. Children are named “Madison” and “Tatum” instead of “River” and “Sage”. In the locker room post-swim I see many little boys running about and see they are circumcised; another cultural difference I will have to get used to (but probably not take statistics on, and as my dad asked later, “How old were these boys you were looking at?”).

Sophie showers off and gets a granola bar; we head home in the sunshine to a snack and then three-way nap.

the apex of moving drama, pretty much, as it turned out

My ability to ask for support, for reliable help when I need it, actually keeps me *genuinely strong* (not “stiff upper-lipping it”) when I am called on to be strong for others. Mostly emotionally. Example: with this moving thing we’re doing? My husband called having a shit-fit on Friday, because U-Haul had fucked up and sent our van 40 minutes away and not ready until the NEXT day (and he without a car of course, because he was planning on driving the U-Haul). On the phone today I talked him down from anger / depression and gave him a plan while he waited for the truck. P.S. this is when on my end of things, down in our new town, the HOUSE WE WERE MOVING INTO was falling through.

I kept this latest information from him because it wouldn’t have helped. I wasn’t feeling the weight of the world or nuthin’ because I’d been asking my parents for help with my kids, I’d been telling my friends what I was up to (and thereby receiving their emotional support, which really matters to me), and taking advantage of favors offered (like letting friends cook for me etc). I was able to be there for Ralph when he really needed it because despite a lot of stress I’d made sure not to stretch myself too thin.

I usually don’t look back on difficult episodes of my life and know I suffered needlessly and alone. I usually suffer the right amount, and with my loved ones fully present in my life. Here are some aspects of this trait that are a bit challenging:

1. Asking for what you want means people will sometimes say “no”. Far, far worse than this is the ones who say “yes” but really mean “no” (my latest blog entry contains a good example). This is painful, hurtful, assy and lame. You are vulnerable when you ask, and that’s all there is to it.

2. Leaning on others means you have to sometimes make a judgment call, and later realize you were being lazy or spoiled. Oh fucking well. All you can do in this case is apologize to the one you asked a favor of, or whatever, and try to learn from your lapse.

I am really trying to think of other “cons” to this character trait, but honestly? It’s a good thing.

like a bad string of johns

Two blocks away from where I sit, a house is emptying of its current tenants. A house with shag carpets swaying in two small bedrooms and a bathroom just as small as the one we left, but without benefit of a second one in the house. The house was that of a girlhood friend and her single Mama. My father, oldest child, and I visited it yesterday. In this case the owner was a calm, friendly person who seemed on good terms with his tenants. A kitchen larger than the one I left (that’s good!) but wait, with too small of a dining area for our table (that’s bad!) A fenced yard (that’s good!). A cyclone fence (that’s bad!). I hope to never live in a place with a cyclone fence. “At least it’s a fence,” says my mom. She’s right. P.S. cyclone fences around here usually surround yards peppered with dog turd landmines half the size of my child.

A few hours later and my mom and I cruise a house on Stewart Avenue. A lovely, lovely house that ultimately is too large and yes, in Aberdeen, which my husband is dead-set against and I’m OK with his preference. Why did I look, then? Good question. One minute I’m desperate enough to consider anything including places you need eighteen locks and a shotgun to live in; the next I’m sensibly holding out for my requirements, of which I have a half-dozen that are a bit rare to find overnight.

My point is for every house you look at your mind instantly moves in, you think, what would it be like to live next to that condemned, falling apart shack next door? or, hey look, there’s a picnic table in the backyard!, you juggle the type of heat and the power bill estimation and the neighborhood and the distance from school and the jagged tears in the kitchen linoleum and the size of the yard. After days and days of this – the first installment a few weeks ago, now another installment thrust upon us – I start to feel I’m somehow being screwed over by these places. Exhausted. My friends email and tell me not to settle. I am already “settling” in some way. I look forward to and hope for, quite sincerely, a home.

welcome to HQX. here’s a shit sandwich.

I am a nester by instinct, ability, and natural inclination. So when yesterday in late afternoon my children and I arrived in Aberdeen, met with property manager E. to our new place, I gave her my money, got the key, parked at my ‘rents house and checked out our new digs since it was – according to E. – “ready by tomorrow”, and found that upon opening the door it smelled like 12 KINDS OF ANIMAL EXCREMENT, well, I was a bit sad. And a few other feelings.

Which is how it smelled before it was cleaned and when we checked it out three weeks ago – because some trash were living there and letting an animal menagerie (which included birds, rodents, and a snake, the latter two categories presumably kept separate) shit or piss wherever, including a poor dog who my parents tell me howled and whined nonstop, poor thing. According to E. yesterday it had been “professionally cleaned, the carpet is clean and it smells good” but it was JUST AS BAD AS YOU CAN IMAGINE and my father who has lost half the senses in his body completely agreed as did anyone else I let in there (the children, telling them not to TOUCH anything). As in, I couldn’t even move my possessions in or those possessions would quickly end up smelling like a particularly vile cocktail of animal ass.

OK, breathe. It will be fine. Maybe. Today I went to see E. as soon as her office was open. The conversation did not go well and in fact got worse and worse as she was unwilling to take responsibility – “unforeseen circumstances” – WTF? – let alone apologize that a family of four counting on a move-in date of the 16th will now not have a place to move into. At this point, as much as I loved the house (sans the ass-smell), I was glad I had not signed a piece of paper with this woman. I got my money back and gave her my key. As it sits now – after a heated conversation where she told me I “need to calm down” because as you who know me know, I am just the type to be loud and crazy – she’s supposed to check the place out and sort out if and how they are going to make it liveable and if they are, when it will be ready. At this point I honestly don’t even know HOW they can get that odeur out without some major carpet tear-out, treatment, etc. perhaps including a match and kerosene. Mostly, also, E. was such a shit that I won’t cry tears if I have zero future dealings with her. Which is a shame because it’s a neat place, across the street from my parents’, I knew the guy who lived in it for years and years back in the day, and I would have loved living there. Again: minus the ass. The worst part for me in some way is that E. will probably rent to some other tenants who will take similar non-care of what will increasingly be a less beautiful old house. P.S. this happens in Grays Harbor, a fair amount.

So Ralph will be here tomorrow with a 24′ long u-haul (that’s feet, not inches) and I’ll probably have to put our shit in storage and be back to square one looking for a place. Balls.

Luckily we are not set up too shabby; camped rent-free (so far) in my parents’ large house, Ralph and I are getting along fine, and the kids are doing well. I am very stressed but I hear moving is one of the most stressful experiences to go through, so at least it’s par. Which somehow makes me feel better although I don’t feel that good.

This afternoon after my children had napped a bit (they are STILL at it) I crept up to the upstairs bedroom, set up my Mac and connected via wireless (P.S. this took three minutes) and took a deep, deep sigh of relief. With my Mac by my side, and family too I guess, things are a bit better already.