how could such a little thing as this / Hold death

It’s a perfect kind of night for a funeral. It’s dark and quiet, no wind. A chill in the air, but nothing a car coat won’t stave off.

My husband, son, and I make our way a mile down the hill and the bluff stairs, back through a quiet neighborhood along a canal, under a bridge into a wooded area my children are now calling Chu’s Crick. With us: our dog, cheerfully taking his favorite walk of the day. Our kitty Herbert Pocket, whisking alongside, and then ahead. Brave and proud. Nels carries a flashlight; my husband, a shovel. I follow last with a cigar box. Inside: a nubbly bit of soft cotton fabric swaddling four tiny babies, their little mouths peeking open to nurse, which they never will. Lucky, who was born without breath. Sardine, who passed soon after. Chu and Anchovy. Anchovy was the strongest. The little blonde head I held close, and so carefully.

They are silent, and hold no warmth, but they are still soft, their limbs loose. Their weight in the little box is somber. They are sharing sleep.

The night lights are orange, burning in the midnight deep, a senseless flame. The woods are foreboding enough I would not venture there without company. On the path, with my family, I am safe. The earth is soft with spring promise. Water trickles through the loden banks, icy and careless of my feelings.

Nels finds us a sturdy tree. It is good soil. My husband digs deep, very deep. I read a small eulogy.

It is harder than I make it sound.

It only takes a moment to fill the grave. My son collects his hands in a prayer, summoning us to be silent. Then he walks into the wood and finds a green leafy branch, plants it in the earth. “There,” he says grimly. I put my arms around him. What a birthday present!

We are walking back. A funeral in the night, it is good for being alone with your thoughts.

I feel terrible leaving those littles in the cold earth. There is no comfort for me as I climb the mute steps back up the hill.


Jon-Won Kitten / Cupcake Party

on hospitality

Jon-Won Kitten / Cupcake Party

Today is less peachy-keen than yesterday. Still very low levels of kidney pain – most of the day, non-existent – but I am fatigued, and suffered a good deal of nausea rising in the later part of the day.

I do the best I can: rescheduling an appointment, making a few more. Laundry (a neighborhood gentleman came over and helped inspect our dryer), dishes, and food – cupcakes and chicken sandwiches for our later event. Drive to the bank to make a deposit.Thankfully, the deposit gets there before the check for rent pulls funds.

Put the house in order; light candles. Cut out three layered t-shirts; return pattern to envelope and filing system. Fold clothes and make a pot of hot, strong tea.  Drive the rainy distance along the river out to pick up my children, and one other young one, at the bus stop. Put a call in to a friend.

The sandwiches, the tea party: a few visitors today, one very special. My friend E., my daughter’s best friend A. – and the kitten new to A.’s home. A kitten almost identical to our own Pip, but of a fluffier nature with a hard, round, low-slung belly.

You can see why it was pretty important we make it a real Occasion.

Jon-Won Kitten / Cupcake Party 

A. and her kitty leave a little after 8; I tidy up. It’s 9 PM – my makeup is fading; my body feels ill. My son collapsed at six PM, clothes and all, in his bed – lights on. His early bedtime somehow leaves me feeling lonely, sad and ill. The early sunset isn’t a great help, either.

I remind myself that just because I am not feeling well, does not mean those in my home are similarly afflicted. It is so important to give them all the love I can.

No matter what!


No-No, Day 2 There are ACTUAL, documented, SCIENTIFICALLY-SOUND reasons we are devoting so much time to kitten-snuggling. We are socializing this little one such that she can fit in with any combination of cats, dogs, and humans – as long as those creatures are willing to Play Nice, too. No-No has been getting TLC pretty much non-stop from many people. She slept with three humans and one cat last night; she spent all morning chilling with Nels. It’s a good life. No-No, Day 2

of flannel and warm fuzzies

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:

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.)

firework firework, siren siren

Tonight we hosted a lovely family for dinner: friends Sara* and Rob and their two kiddos.  This was after  a full day of my kids behaving, well, bat-shit crazy.  I should have known the day might go a bit sideways: both children, upon waking separately, asked me if we were going to get fireworks.  First thing out of their mouths, I kid you not.

Dinner time: I cooked and cooked and we ate and ate (spaghetti with meatballs, salad from our garden – a huge red lettuce!, roasted garbanzo beans, oven-roasted tomatoes, farl, sauteed asparagus, and chocolate-frosted rainbow cake). It’s the third of July which means lots of fireworks already. Out in the backyard watching a rather impressive display up on the hill and my daughter shouts, “Oh yeah?! We have hens and they lay eggs!”  At first I thought she was referring to our real-live poultry; no, she meant the very modest firework Ralph had procured.

After bath the kids are so tired that Sophie goes to bed crying (this is too bad) and Nels climbs into my bed, is magically joined by the sleepy kitty Mabel, and within seconds they are asleep, curled up around one another.  Two babies instinctively seeking one another out for warmth and affection.

The sight of that makes me want to have a kitten in our household at all times.

(Thank you Ralph, for working so hard on my new blog. I had that anxious feeling all day as I longed to commit Facebook-suicide. I have you to thank for making that step.)

* Sara creates and sells the best natural body care line of products I’ve ever used – NAYY, I am just an addict!

if you really think about it, it makes perfect sense

“Mama, mama, mama!” I’ve run a bath for my son in the middle of the day; he and our kitty Mabel just spent a solid hour in our greenhouse exploring and eating tomatoes. They are both filthy upon their return. Now he’s calling for me, his voice audible over the sound of rushing water.

“I need a knife,” he tells me when I come in. He’s crouched in the tub, naked, his hair blonde and skin golden as the sun, with two of the dirtiest heels I’ve ever seen.
He needs a knife – in the bath, while naked – because the bar of soap is cemented to the bottom of the clawfoot tub. I decline the request for cutlery and peel it loose, hand it to him.
“Did you see me pee in the greenhouse?” he asks presently. This is funny. Because he knows on some level I’d tell him not to urinate, you know, right on the food we eat. He can’t figure out a way to ask me if I spied this naughtiness (I did not) without coming out and outing himself.
“Oh,” I say, declining to answer the question (this child, I’d hope to keep him in the illusion Mama is all-knowing, all-seeing).”Do you think you should have done that?” I ask him.
“Well, I put Mabel outside when I did it,” he defends.
So… pissing in the greenhouse, totally fine – as long as you don’t subject the 14-week old kitten to the sight of it.

"typically followed by functional impairment while awake"

Today’s ill-timed wakeup at 4:30 AM doesn’t seem to have an upside. At first I felt merely deliciously sleepy; padding downstairs to use the bathroom, washing hands, and slipping back to bed next to the other three members of the family. My children sleep snapped together like a magnet set. Today right in between Sophie’s curved small of her back and Nels’ tummy was our little kitten Mabel; purring and happy as a clam in the sand.

Getting back to sleep might be an impossibility but at least I get something done: petting this little creature, who has benefited not only from proper diet and medicine but also more love than seems possible for her tiny frame to absorb. Her narrow little rib cage feels flexible and fragile, housing only the guts she needs to eat and shit, and some kind of intense purring machine. She stretches her paw out over my chest and puts her face down, the picture of contentment. Is petting cats therapeutic? I’d read this somewhere. It certainly seems therapeutic for her, and is definitely pleasant enough.

An acute case of insomnia seems all the more cruel given yesterday’s perfect ritual of hard work, exercise, and functional menu. Last night we hosted two extra children for a sleepover; a long bike ride, a big dinner with guests roughhousing and up late. 6:30 AM and one of the children is awake. 6:30, really? This is taking me back to those days with infants; my own children usually rise anywhere from 9 AM to 11 AM. I tell myself that after the extra kids are gone I’m going to try to recover some rest; no, really I am. And I almost believe it.

Meet Mabel


Today we adopted a new kitty. She has been a little shy. And sleepy. Here she is conked out on my 50 lb. bag of flour:

Meet Mabel
(image taken by Ralph’s computer camera and adjusted slightly for “kitten glow” effect)

This morning, before we found her, I joked that in acquiring a third Hoga-cat we were crossing into “animal hoarding”. My joke was made a bit stale later that day; it was clear from the moment we set foot in the kitten’s house of origin that this woman was in fact a hoarder. There were at least twenty cats on the premises and she had two litters we could choose from. The trailer was very stuffy and reeked of cat and cat urine, and many of the animals did not look too healthy. Touching, and sad, just before we left this woman (who seemed very shy, giving only two-word replies in a sort of downturned mumbling speech) opened up her body language and darted forward to give us her name and number should the cat “not work out”. “I’d rather have these kittens back then just, you know, dropping them off to just any house,” she told me. I assured her we had two cats already we took very good care of, and that we adopted kitties for life.

I thought of the cat-shopping advice I’d read – to pick a cat that was disease-free, clean, had her shots, bright-eyed. While we ultimately chose a little ginger tuft of fur who looked lively and seemed affectionate enough compared to some other kitties around the place, she also had a cold (eye discharge), ear mites, and seemed small for fourteen weeks of age (however, roaming older sibling litters indicated the family of cats might run small). Tonight I realized as Ralph and I gave her a bath – and he carefully pulled each and every flea off her body with tweezers – that if any family was going to be able to nurse a wretched little scrap back to full vim and vigor, it was us.

Sophie was an amazing little girl during this. She held the cat on the car ride home (I thought to bring a towel, worrying that using one of our cat carriers might have an upsetting odor to our little “orphan”), completely calmed the creature, and when we arrived home both helped her in orienting to the litter box and food dish, as well as spent a couple hours walking the cat in a sling against her chest (Ralph later reported he saw Sophie out in the yard cupping the kitten in the sling with one hand, then plucking a strawberry, putting it on the ground, and smashing the berry with a rock – all the while talking quite seriously to the cat about the nuances of this particular branch of science).

Most of the day I go about not thinking of the amount of neglect, suffering, and the lack of stewardship of the planet employed by the human race. This little tiny creature wrecks me. Her life is nothing, and yet it is all she has. I cannot personally adopt too many kitties, and of course adopting a domesticated animal (and sterlizing her, and caring for her all her life) is probably pretty damned insignificant on the list of ways to make the world a better place. But today we brought home a living breathing little spark, who has been bathed, eye drops administered, fed properly, and given lots and lots of love, and whose path will continue on with us for a while.

Welcome home, Mabel.

nearly a barf-o-rama

I feel absolutely crippled – physically and a bit mentally – by how busy it’s been around here these last few days. All very, very enjoyable stuff: waitressing, teaching, birthday presents, desktop publishing jobs, having company, sewing, having more company, more sewing, garden work, and two trips to Oly.

I Want You Out, Bro
Harris Vs. Ralph. Every day.

Next week is this quarter’s last class. I have enjoyed teaching so much. But I look forward to not having to help anyone for a while, and being able to focus on my own things.

Last night’s trip to Olympia yielded, among other things, the twin pleasures of fabric buying – 13 wonderful, fabulous yards of it – and dinner at Quality Burrito (recommended it by locals who obviously didn’t have children; however, it was a great meal despite hipsters and b.o. of waitperson). This evening in the bath Sophie told me she had named the plastic dragons Ralph purchased her at the craft store: Four-Winged Glory, Drake, Godzilla, Wyvern, and Cling-To-All-Surface. I admire her brain for the imagination it holds. I’m like the orange peel in our worm bin, all scraped bare and used up.

And I just want to remind the general public who reads that when you are parents to children your every peaceful, fun outing can be immediately transformed into a type of nightmare – just like that. We were about thirty feet from the entrance of the fabric store when my daughter – despite our repeated suggestions she stop reading her comic books in the car – complained of being ill, then leaned back in her seat, called out to me, and began sputtering out puke (don’t ever watch someone vomit when you have a direct view of their mouth, just a friendly tip). Our son had fallen asleep in the car so Ralph had to drop me and the sleeping boy – who weighs four hundred pounds while unconscious – off at the store and go in search of wipes etc. to manage the mess.

Sophie’s first words upon completion of the hurlage: “Oh dad – you were trying so hard to sell this van!”

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).