salir a caminar

The rain let up today so I knew we were bound outside for an adventure, or at least a longish walk to who-knows-where, as yet undecided. After all, we have everything we need in-home right now and the days and nights just run together in what feels like oppressive darkness and seaside walks or wooded hikes are almost out of the question as we don’t have the gear unless you can find a day that isn’t rainy and cold and dark and near-miserable. You can imagine today with only a half-a-fuck!-level cold I planned to get out No Matter What even if we had nothing much to do.

As I was toasting homemade pumpernickel (d/l!) and peeling oranges and pouring milk for the tousled-kids’ breakfast, my mother called in and offered to bring us a hot dish for dinner. My evening meal responsibilities shelved, the kids and I brushed teeth and scrubbed faces and bundled up and took to the streets – fine, let’s take back library books and stop at our post office box.  Out the door –

where we were snooped by no fewer than five or six cats as we walked, starting with our own little Josie and continued by a relay-method of curious felines.


Phoenie was looking sharp in her new Jack Skellington hat as I continued to fail at phone-picture-taking.

Phoenie Under The Tree

And as always we found lots of little piles of refuse!

Pile Of Refuse

I am old school HQX as I can mess about with the phone while walking in the near dark (you can watch it fall during these pictures) and wetness and treacherous walkways. I need a tag just for the Hoquiam sidewalks because they are jagged and scary and mossy and slick and there are portions dug out entirely and without warning and tonight, a huge stretch along fifth street where the streetlights didn’t work and Nels fell into a cinderblock hole.

Little Ones

As we walked down M street darkness was falling… onto the creepy but cozy weirdness of my childhood home…

Chlidhood Home

Nels navigated the way with his new compass (ala his aunt Jules):

Checking His Compass

And some Christmas lights were still out (yay!).

Christmas Lights

I suspect my liittle mobile camera uploads will continue to improve – I’m new to this. But I figure if I can make my $100 point-and-click shoot pretty good shit for this journal, I can do it on the camera. App hunting is actually not too much fun for me, but a necessary business I suppose.

At the library we were (literally) hugged and kissed by one of our librarian friends and the kids played and chatted while I turned in books and picked up holds. Our library is awesome in that they are very kid-friendly and inclusive and we have a great regional system. It was dark as hell when we left but I turned on some music and the kids sang our way home through the chill.

You’re welcome, west-side Hoquiam.

of a rainy afternoon & (a brief trip to) the Outer Darkness

“wailing and gnashing of teeth”, Biblical reference (Matthew 13:42)

or, the bike ride across town to get a hot lunch at the diner. The kids were shocked at the cold and wet. Nels, behind me on the Xtracycle and thus shielded from the elements somewhat, fared better than his sister. I’d bundled her up as best I could (having the foresight to know how cold the ride would be) but she cried real tears at the cold blasting her hands, and her fleece wasn’t quite up to protecting her from the wind. At her cries it was an effort to keep pangs of guilt at bay. After all, I make quite the effort to clothe them every year against the elements – which are decidedly wet, morphing our not-so-cold to an actually-cold – and every year they get bigger and even when I have the prescient smarts to make something big enough for next season sometimes accidents happen like in the case of Phoenix’s wool coat, lost or stolen – oh and also of course my mind was churning over the fact Phoenix’s bike is already too small for her and I wish I could finagle a new one for Christmas. Nels at least is set clothing-wise; my sewing and knitting have him bundled up in all kinds of wool (although, come to think of it, the hat I made him a little under a year ago is already en-smallening). So I’m good for a few minutes where my son is concerned; until he grows another five inches in twelve months, like he did last year.

Once we got inside and ordered – cheered that even in the depressed-economy in our little downtown there were several other patrons in the eatery – I told the kids this was the time of year, it would be wet and cold, and I could find or make them suitable clothes (latest acquisition: scrumping the purchase of rainboots from my mom; predictably, she went a bit overboard and the boots are rather resented by Nels who clomped in them so loudly at the library) but that we’d be outside a bit since we only had the one car and Daddy had to have it lots of days. They were entirely sober and nodded total acceptance of this. I chided them a bit for the complaints on the bike ride and I told them I needed their help in figuring out what they needed for the upcoming cold.

Phoenix took a napkin and drew a new coat I could make her:


A black and white trenchcoat, double-breasted, waterproof with interlining. Assymetrically colorblocked sleeves and a contrast front placket. She designed it in about thirty seconds and I already know what pattern I own I can use, and I already know it’s going to rock.

Phoenix Quickly Designs Her Winter Coat

Nels asked Phoenix to order for him. They split a grilled cheese sandwich and a hot fudge cherry shake. They were very pleased with the whole business. And of course like always they like fixing up my coffee. I generally take it black but I can’t really resist how much they enjoy doctoring it for me.

Cream In My Coffee

As we ate the rain picked up. “It’s going to suck riding back home,” Nels said – but he said it cheerfully. We ended up diving into the library (a scant block away) and waited out the worst of the weather. When it seemed clement enough to go home we went for it. A few minutes later and only a little bit wet we were stomping inside the warm house and carefully storing the foil-wrapped remainders of grilled cheese for later snacking.

What lovely, lovely people to spend the day with.


photos or it didn’t happen

Soccer on Sunday:


What a wonderful, exhilarating game – maybe the hardest-working one the girls had yet. The other team had two more teammates which meant they were less taxed. The game was quite close. Phoenix made a beautiful assist to a classic-teamwork goal, and did a good job defending and passing as well. Only minutes after the game ended – the girls, having worked so hard, immediately clapping and hugging one another and the opposing team – a huge rain- and windstorm devastated the field and drove us shrieking and dismayed into our vehicles.

Nels, on our way to the game:

Nels, Pensive


Cat decadence (more to follow):


Come Hither

That night Grandma invited the kids over for a movie (How To Train Your Dragon) and the kids in turn asked if Ralph and I could come. When we got there Grandma had set up a cozy little living room scene; she also made fresh popcorn, pumpkin pie, cookies, and a variety of drinks. It is so rare I get “taken care of” or hosted – it’s usually me on the hostess end. So this brief date was a really lovely experience. Not only that, but every time I’m around my mom I’m reminded of how far she’s come in being loving and present and responsive to children and  what wonderful spiritual and emotional support she gives me and my family. I think a lot of families feel a certain degree of tension or (resentful) “agree to disagree” issues tugging at the fabric of their relationships. My mother and I increasingly grow of similar accord, providing a wonderful, nurturing environment for the children and in turn, all of us.


This morning when I woke I found three of the four cats were sleeping with my daughter, on the pallet on the floor. This doesn’t surprise me; all sorts of people and creatures of all ages and sizes find my daughter incredibly appealing, including Harris, the snoring beast we see on the left who’s approximately the size and demeanor of a Great White Shark.

I Simply Have No Words

You may be asking yourself where the fourth cat was (the one we occasionally call “lardon”). Answer: she was waiting just outside the bedroom, ready to ambush me with screams for a refilled food dish. And like a reconnaissance mission, as soon as this was done the other two little ones were in that kitchen gobbling as well. They went back to bed with Phoenix afterwards, of course.

This afternoon I get an email there’s a Halloween Fun night planned at our library. The kids’ costumes aren’t ready (twatever, I’ll get to it before the 31st) so they dress themselves. We five (always with the extra kiddo or two) cram into the car. The wet car. That is rusting apart before our eyes. [ sigh! ] But the library was great – lots of wonderful costumes and wonderful children. They had an energetic time laughing and singing and shouting:

Led By Lisa

Nels Is Having A Good Time

Nels Is Having An Even Better Time

And then Lisa told a spooky story:

Lisa Tells A Spooky Story #1

Lisa Tells A Spooky Story #2

Lisa Tells A Spooky Story #3

Whereupon Nels’ attitude abruptly changed, huddling very small on Ralph’s lap and begging for assistance in stopping up ears:

Nels Regrets Listening To The Spooky Story

Phoenix was, of course, clear-eyed and analytical as to the quality of spooky content (that’s her on the far-right):

Children Listen To Spooky Story

Afterwards, the children painted pumpkins:

Phoenix's Pumpkin

Paint Removal

And went Ghost Bowling:

Pumpkin / Ghost Bowling #1

Pumpkin / Ghost Bowling #2

We came home to homemade frijoles refritos and pork loin shredded in homemade salsa verde, wrapped in fragrant tortillas and served aside homemade coleslaw from our CSA veggies.

Home to our cozy nest protected from the fierce elements –

Outside my window the world has gone to war / Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

volunteer efforts

I’ve been busy; tonight and the night before I logged in time volunteering at The 7th Street Theatre here in Hoquiam; last night I was up late (verrry late) baking up a storm for today’s Birth Fair at the HQX Library (Ralph and I both attended the discussion and were all loudmouthy and birthy while our kids read and entertained themselves upstairs in the library for 2.5 hours).

Most exciting to me personally, I finished my very first pattern test for my friend’s fledgling pattern company, Patterns by Figgy’s (you can look at way too many Flickr photos in my tagset).

Hace Viento

I can say without reserve this pattern is drafted in a most excellent fashion; in particular I love the lines of the sleeve and the topstitched raw-edge details. It also sewed up very quickly, in about a half hour. I stabilized my pattern seam allowances first using a technique my mother-in-law told me about – dissolving some sheet stabilizer in water and “painting” it along the edges (I also used some of my spray stabilizer, with is almost the same thing). After letting the pieces dry it was much easier to sew on the stretchy knit than it would have been otherwise.

Whenever I plug my camera in to retrieve photos I find pictures by my kids. Wacky pictures.
Goofball Sister
Modern Dentistry
Ralph, Kitchen
They suffer small and delightful insanities.

the ghost of moving yet to come

Today I’m twisting my hair up on top of my head in the bathroom mirror and my mom walks in to talk to me and I’m thinking, this is pretty much the last day in the house, the last time I’m going to have someone just walk in on me or stick their head in to talk to me when I don’t want to be talked to or infringed on in ways I don’t like. Housemates have not been jerks or rude in any way, but it turns out I like my privacyon my own terms and that didn’t change these last few weeks (in this case my mom immediately blurted out what she bought for Ralph for Christmas – she likes to tell me presents she’s bought people, even though I’ve told her don’t want to know ahead of time – she also likes to reveal plot points in movies I haven’t seen even though she knows I don’t like that either).  The thing is, sadly, sharing a house is hard for many of “us” (I mean, almost everyone I know), perhaps because most of the people I know aren’t raised to do it well.

At any rate, there are people we love sharing with and people we can’t bear to and somewhere in between are most of the roommates we have in our lifetime.  And I love sharing the house with Ralph, the kids, the cats, the chickens (even though they’re molting and not laying, the lazy sods!) and in just a handful of hours I’ll get my own space again and do what I do: answer the phone when I want to talk, have a door to child-rear and sew and cook and live behind.

We have the chore of moving tomorrow; then we’ll have the work of setting up the house and then coming back here and tidying it all up and then getting my mom some kind of Thank You present for letting us stay here for four months and change.  I’ve been in a rather not-very-productive space for the last week – since we secured the house via verbal contract.  I tell myself not to put too much pressure to have a “good” or productive week once the move is established because that’s just a set-up to be dissatisfied with myself and I’m struggling not to succumb to that.

Oh, and it’s cold here.  While out and about today riding a total of four buses and walking through our fair city Aberdeen I was kind of amazed at the coldness, just looking around at those who were also walking and thinking, what the heck? The kids weren’t dressed warmer than I, but they seem to fare better in the freezing temperatures.  Nels “ice-skated” on a pool of water at the Aberdeen transit station construction site and I held onto a delicious, hot americano from My Sisters Bakery and we just killed time together because home is a bit odd and doesn’t feel fun to be cooped-up in.

On our way home Sophie got off the bus in East HQX and visited first the pet shop, then rode Route 20 to her play practice at the Library; she came home with her parts delineated in the scripts of both “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and “A Christmas Carol” – the part of several Whos in the former, and The Ghost of Christmas Present, Mrs. Cratchit, and a Passer-by in the latter.  She was a cold nose and bright eyes and a happy, independent little girl when she got home and I scooped her into my arms and held her close.  My kids and husband have been my anchor at the time of transition, a difficult one for me.

dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis

Driving over the bridge this afternoon the kids were both immersed in books:  Nels advancing his reading fluency by using a story his sister wrote, illustrated, and bound, and Sophie poring through a favorite of hers. A few minutes later we shared a bento box for lunch and while I sipped very sweet, hot tea and consumed a chapter of my latest read (here in HQX we Hogabooms use the library tons, I mean tons) Sophie asked to go next door to the Dollar Tree. I used this opportunity to suggest she finish her bowl of egg-drop soup (she’s barely been eating lately) and after she left having a companionable, quiet lunch with my Boy.  Sophie returned fifteen minutes later, having taken careful inventory of the store and purchased a clever addition for her father’s intended Halloween costume (hint, he may be sexy but he is kind of a fantasy dork).

It’s the little things that make you laugh.  Or more to the point, my kids make me laugh all the time for their random, crazy shit they get up to.  Like just today I’d only peripherally noticed Nels clambering up on our dresser and messing about with the one piece of our “art” in this house – a 2.5″ by 3″ portrait of Jesus, looking relatively put-out and sad.  I told Nels not to remove it from its spot.  He apparently ignored my suggestion, because just now putting away a spool of thread in my sewing closet I found Nels’ little gallery on a small wall in the house.  Apparently he’d been scavenging several worthy items for this display and hung them in a small, discrete corner of the living room: the aforementioned Son of God portrait, 2008’s “school picture” of the two kids (they hadn’t been in “school”, of course), a paper seahorse Sophie yesterday drew, colored, and cut out, a packet of Addition flash cards, and a sinister drawing, also by Sophie (“Ah, flowers!” a feline-looking girl says, her smiling face buried deep within a bouquet; behind her, coming in off the right-side of the paper, a multi-clawed, grinning monster is only a few inches away from grasping the unsuspecting lass).

We’ve been requiring more chores of the children; Sophie has now been upgraded to doing all our family laundry.  I do mean every bit of it, including folding and putting away.  It’s kind of weird that I no longer have to do this chore – up until now a staple of my day.  Nels helps Ralph cook – when Ralph cooks, which isn’t too often – but also every night the two males do the dinner cleanup together.  As a result of our efforts, tonight by 8:30 PM (an early hour for we night-owls) we had all our household chores done.  I put on some Nat King Cole, Sophie requisitioned my help in handmaking two felt sleep masks (for her and her grandmother’s use on their So.-Cal.-to-WA roadtrip in October), Nels invested some time in Tux Paint, and Ralph worked on promotional efforts for the film we’re showing this week in town.

Yesterday I finished Sophie’s Halloween costume; today I start on yet another. Yes, the Hogabooms love to geek out on Halloween.

one small step for a housewife, one large step for *I feel awesome!*

So, yesterday while I cooked up some homemade garden tomato sauce, made bagels from scratch (one of my favorite things to cook!), and brewed nuoc cham for our dinner with company, my friend and housemate Jasmine first bleached all the color out of my hair (something she’s good at, having lots of experience on her own tresses) and then applied a series of bright, neon-, yellow-, and blue-greens.  Now I have, well-ahead of Halloween schedule, bonafide Halloween hair.  My family loves it – especially the boys.  But I do admit this is one of the very, very few times in my life I wish for a moment I lived in the city; gawks from locals are many and frequent, and can get a bit tiresome.

The act of putting stupid stuff in one’s hair at home is one of my favorite rituals.  Doing it with a girlfriend while cooking – and having a few minutes without the kids, who were off gardening with my mom – simply heaven.  I can’t actually fix my hair up in any way but I love messing with it: I have put egg, honey, mayo, aloe, henna in my hair – sometimes on the same day.  I often had my hair bright, unnatural colors as a twentysomething but since moving here I’d refrained long enough for my hair to have its natural color all along the length (upper-back).  Being green my hair feels more “me” now and serves as a safety device when riding my bike on the road.

I now sit in our library while a few feet away a very, very old man flirts with one of the librarians – the slender, fox-faced one who dresses a bit schoolmarmish and wears dark lipsticks.  He asks her if he can call her “Laura” (not her name), and goes into a very long story about why he’d be prone to do this, a tale that involves back when he lived on Think-of-me-Hill and had some neighbor with a sister and…  “You can call me whatever you want,” the librarian responds in her low, musical voice.  Most – but not all – librarians are the nicest people, and Hoquiam’s seem particularly so-designed.  I think how wonderful it is for an older gentleman to have a pretty red-headed librarian be so sweet to him for a few moments out of her day. 

And I think I like living in Hoquiam, even if the yokels sometimes stare.

over some oolong

There are small universes inhabiting each individual, and being a parent I’ve had the opportunity to learn (or perhaps re-learn) how to plumb these.  Today my daughter looks over my shoulder while I’m online scrolling through some sewing pictures or some such thing; I absently ask her, “Did you brush your teeth yet?” She is pretty good at impassivity but I can tell by the merest flicker of her eyelashes that she has not in fact performed this morning ritual.  It’s kind of crazy that every minute of the day I can know somebody so well, although I often don’t marvel on it.

Before our morning trip to do the things we want to do, we tell the kids they have to dress and clean themselves up then work with us on some household chores.  Every day but Sunday Sophie walks down to pick up our mail at the PO Box, one of those errands I genuinely dislike and am glad to have a free-ranging kid to perform. After she returns home this morning the kids help us around the house happily enough for a while for a while (Nels in the kitchen with Ralph; Sophie accompanying me folding laundry, changing bedding, and sweeping); eventually though they are wailing through the torture of household work.  It’s kind of funny, because my daughter’s desperate, dramatic sobs perfectly embody how I so often feel on the inside when I’m doing the same chores.

By noon I’m hungry and Ralph has the fridge torn apart to clean it.  Even if it was easy to cook at home, I’m obsessing on Sweet and Sour Chicken at the local Chinese restaurant (a charming establishment still sporting 60’s Chinese American restaurant style decor).  Yeah, so, Sweet and Sour Chicken is probably one of the only things I eat that I kind of feel bad about eating (especially as a humane chicken farmer).  But damn, it’s just so good.

The kids are often annoyed by being forced to sit through restaurant meals (I think they get this from their father) and instead they want to go to the library.  Now, it’s taken me a shockingly long time as a mom to realize I don’t like doing a certain amount of the things my children enjoy, and hey that’s okay, and what’s more, I don’t have to feel terrible if I don’t do everything possible to make it all work out for them.  So instead of arguing with them about the order of business (“I need food!” I have tearfully whined on too many occasions before), or forcing them to sit through my meal, or dragging myself resentfully and famished to the library, I tell them I’ll walk them to the library and leave them there.  I will continue on the block to eat at the diner, and their father will pick them and then myself up for grocery shopping when he’s done with the fridge.

I know this sounds like no big deal but if you have little kids you may recognize this is in fact a very big deal.  A chapter in our day where everyone is getting their (different) needs met, without sacrifice on the parts of the other members of the family.  I am still, truth be told, defragging from years of programming that tell me I need to be right next to my progeny, every minute of the day.  I mean they might get abducted or dart in front of a bulldozer or (heaven forbid!) be loud enough to annoy some entitled, assholian grownup who truly subscribes to the “seen and not heard” adage.  But let me tell you, having active, smart kids who can tackle the world on their own here and there?  It’s just goddamned priceless – for all of us.

It’s a beautiful day for a walk: warm but with a cool breeze, the slightest wet kind of warmth that borders on the humid.  Nels drops the two large slippery hardback books I’ve entrusted him to carry.  One of them is a copy of the book Julie and Julia and seeing this, he exclaims “Mama! But you love this book!” (actually I’d really wanted to like it but found it decidedly un-gripping).  I tell him well, I finished the book, and I’m going to read something else now.  Specifically this is a copy of Moby-Dick, my latest book and film miniature obsession.  Enjoying a meal and reading in the day time?  By myself?  Who’d have thought?

We continue down the broken sidewalks of my hometown (no seriously, these sidewalks are rough as hell) and on to the library.  I leave them there and spend what ends up being a lovely lunch – the aforementioned chicken fresh hell accompanied by fried rice, vegetarian sub gum chow mein, hot tea and a cozy noodle soup – reading my Melville and feeling my humanity warming up my core, like the embers on a slow fire.

hurry up and stay present

Today my son awoke with a croupy-sounding cough and flushed cheeks – the sickness, presumably, that’s been going around his preschool. I decided to keep him close and subject him to my crazy “wisdom” in treating the common virus: fresh air, a wee bit of exercise, hot food, lots of fluids, and lots of rest. Having a sick child – especially my youngest – means I must put aside, as much as I can, my vast list of things I’d like to do in the day and be there for the Boy instead. Indeed as we go about our day I wonder that I’ve let myself be as busy with outside interests as I have.

Homeschooling is hard for me in one or two respects. When I had my daughter in public school last year I could wait to be told how she was performing or behaving – or I could ask the teacher myself (this happened often enough since I volunteered twice a week). Now on my own I have to figure it out with only occasional outside commentary. I’m well aware my children are ahead of the curve in their reading, writing, and math acumen (Yesterday in the library I was interrupted at my computer by the head librarian cackling and signaling my son. She’d tried to help him at the self-checkout terminal – unnecessary, as he knows how to operate it – and had said, “OK, click the blue button!” to which Nels responded, “You mean the one that says, ‘Continue’?” This tickled her. “I was just schooled by a four year old!” she crowed). If your children are doing well academically, for the moment anyway, what then do you do for “schooling”?

There’s a lot of newness in all this for me. As a youngster I did well in school and thought that was the be-all end-all “job” as a child – to perform well, to get A’s. This simply isn’t how I see it any more. For instance, I see Sophie’s self-directed interest and pursuit in embroidery as a pursuit as valid as any school curriculum: perhaps more so, since she herself sets the goals and decides how to execute them. I have discovered I am not an academic-success-at-all-cost kind of mommy, yet I still don’t know what kind of mommy I am vis-a-vis school. Sometimes I can’t decide how much work I should put in to finding them things to occupy their minds and bodies, and how much should be self-directed. Most days, like today, there is a happy medium: to know my children and know what they’re ready for, then to suggest it (or bike them to the event or set them up with paints) and get out of the way.

This afternoon we finish swimming (a blissful, calm 1.5 hours in the pool sans throngs of post-school kiddos) and sit down to eat a bit before heading home. My son eats. And eats and eats. “You going to finish that, Sophie?” he asks his sister (who is silently weeping, distraught the sandwich I brought along includes lettuce). After devouring the sandwich he has juice and string cheese, then a short car ride home and I tuck him upstairs in bed. Sophie is enthralled in her new book so I tuck Nels next to me and queue up On The Waterfront on Netflix. I am nearly instantly misty-eyed at what is one of my alltime favorite movies. My son asks questions and maintains his interest until we are interrupted by Ralph’s arrival home. I feel only a tiny bit claustrophobic – wishing to be out, itching to fold my tons of laundry, longing for an hour in the sewing room. I’ll get to those things again, and soon enough.

And as if on cue, my son slides off the bed and next to me here on the floor. He says, “I’m crying.” I ask, “Why?” And he tells me, “Because I love you. It’s happy crying.” His forehead is hot, his eyes are bright, he’s full of love, and I’m just hoping I don’t catch whatever it is he has.

the daring adventures of

The HQX bike shop isn’t somewhere you’d want to be in the case of an earthquake. Or maybe even someone closing the door ungently. I can see pieces of lath and rafter through many holes in the ceiling. Funnily enough even though the business in the rest of the building – one that’s been here for 96 years – is closing shop, the bike shop owner is hoping to not move. I guess he’s more confident in century-old, rain-soaked and barely-maintained Harbor structural integrity than I am.

After an hour and a half slot – about what I budget for this bike shop for even the most simple repair – I leave with my new bike hooked up to my old trailer, a setup I had heretofore not managed due to the old hitch on the trailer and the new disc brakes being incompatible. I’ve also learned a bit about bike pieces and a bit more about T., the shop owner. Putting my kids in the trailer I see they are almost bursting the seams – leggy Sophie looks like she’s in a frank breech. I am also dismayed to discover just how much drag the little pot-lickers put on the bike, even on a flat thoroughfare in sunny, clear riding conditions. Also: I’ve spent a total of $59 (gift money) on two new hitches (my bike and Ralph’s) and a cable lock (when the bike costs money I tell myself: one car family, one car family…). The ride is nice, despite the new drag factor.

Our internet was not-so-mysteriously connected and the library remains my spot to scavenge time on gmail. I say adieu!