i tell you this because i trust you, anonymous internet reader, to know about what a horrible, horrible person i really am

About five years ago in my little kitchen in Port Townsend I baked a dozen cupcakes – or rather, I overbaked them (the easiest and most frequent of baking errors) and was standing there cursing my mistake.  I know now and I knew then the trick is to take the cake – or cookies or cupcakes or whatever – out of the oven when they’ve just barely lost the wet look; alternatively, any cake or quick bread can be removed after it’s pulled away from the sides of the pan.  Oh, and another tip:  don’t have – you know, two crying babies in diapers or whatever while you cook because that’s rather distracting.

So the cupcakes were sitting on my counter, but they were dried out and assy.  And I thought, Well… the family will still like them, and I decided to continue.  I proceeded to whip up some frosting.  Problem is, it didn’t really hold together – and I’m usually awesome with the homemade frosting bit.  In this case the confection tasted good, but was kind of grainy and sloppy.  Impatient now, I began to spoon the stuff on top of the cupcakes.  The baked goods were still a bit warm, though (another bush league mistake!) and the already-loose frosting slipped off the, heh, muffin tops.

I persevered.  Even as things fell apart I carefully, carefully did my best at frosting those cupcakes.  It just kept getting worse, though. My husband walked in the room just as I finished, stood back, surveyed my results, and then swiftly and emphatically threw the whole batch into the garbage.  He was a bit startled, sure.  And sad.  But let me tell you, it felt good to call a failure a failure, to quit trying so hard, to just say – Fuck it! – and be done.

This was not, however, how I felt today when I marched into the kitchen where my kids were sitting and took a nearly-finished homesewn blouse I’d been working on and maliciously hacked it to pieces with my scissors.

My frustration makes sense, really, even if it didn’t justify my dramatic display.  I’d started the blouse a few days ago and was trying to get the darn thing done because we’re moving on Thursday.  The curved hem required a handstitch – the thin layer of batiste underlining further requiring a very picky handstitch that easily took twice as long as usual.  I finished this in the afternoon.  Then I’d top-stitched the placket and the collar bias facing (doing a great job on a very tricky seam) and literally had about fifteen minutes to completion.  Impatient, wanting to have the finished garment in hand, I sat at my grandmother’s Singer 15-91 and installed my buttonholer and threaded the bobbin.  On the first buttonhole the machine jammed, jammed again.  Kept screwing up which it never does on buttonholes.  At some point, aghast, I realized my children had crammed about a dozen long pins in the bobbin race and head of the machine.  Even then I didn’t lose it; I tried instead to take the face plate off to remove these but the screw as a bit sticky – the machine is 60 years old – and that’s when I felt an upsurge like bile of all the rage and hurt and frustration and resentment a woman in my circumstances could possibly feel.

The blouse was a lovely one – a teal and black quilting cotton in a floral, semi-Asiatic pattern, the underlining making it sturdy and dressy in an understated way.  I’d taken the time and care to match the pattern on the front placket and added collar detail and cuffs in a lovely dusty black bamboo/cotton fabric.  And even with all this craftsmanship invested I cut the thing to a dozen pieces and left the mess on the table for my family and said a few choice words because I was so angry, ever since we moved into this house and had my sewing stuff in our living room my kids have been fiddling with dials and removing pins from my pincushion and messing about with my loop-turner etc.  And I’d asked and told and demanded and begged they stop doing it and still they did it.

After my shirt-murder my husband immediately got the kids dressed to leave.  “If Mama’s done with that shirt, it means it’s time to get the moving boxes so we can pack her sewing stuff.”  I was a hundred percent grateful for his calm and decisiveness in the moment – although I was still so devastated at how much in that moment I loathed my children.  Sophie stayed home from the event out, though, and immediately fell asleep for a very uncharacsteristic nap.  And I – helpless to do anything at all useful – watched some of my HBO show and tried to feel better and eventually got up and made dinner (Japanese noodles with asparagus, green beans, seared mushrooms and hardboiled egg; garlic saute of broccoil and cauliflower; grape tomato and avocado salad in a creamy lemon dressing).  And cooking made me feel better; it almost always does.

Ralph and Nels got home as I was finishing the meal preparations.  My son once again apologized, and I sat with that a bit.  While I drained the soba noodles I told my husband that I knew I should be sorry for what I’d done and said, but I didn’t yet feel sorry.  Ralph said, “I can’t speak for Sophie, but Nels and I don’t think you did or said anything terrible.” This was a relief to hear.

And of course… as lovely as the blouse was, in reality I sew a lot and it’s merely another thing I made.  It just died before its time.

My husband goes back to work tomorrow.  Today he and the kids have been having good old fashioned fun while, as it turned out, I frittered my day away on wasted efforts.  The three built an elaborate, large, and gorgeous diorama for the kids’ dinosaurs, started a rock-candy experiment, and built a cardboard house from a few spare moving boxes.  It was one of those days where I was deeply glad to be partnered, even if the fellow in question is the one who’d impregnated me with my (lovely and well-loved, really) hell-spawn in the first place.

I love my children and family but sometimes my resentment is larger than one can imagine (actually, if you’ve been a mom as long as I have, maybe you really, really can imagine it).  At times my biggest worry is that I’ll always carry the resentment or that it is somehow growing – how would I know if this was the case? – that forgiveness and good humor and let’s-try-again will run out and I’ll just be this bitter vessel who is not even a shred of a human being.  It helps tremendously my children really know, really know, how to apologize – and how to accept my apologies.  And that coupled with all the love I have, a love that dwells within me as constant as the rush of blood in my veins, an amazing huge boundless love, really more incredibly large than I could have ever forseen, I just hope it’s enough.

and hours later i’m still thinking about her

Today in the grocery store I had my eldest child only, which meant I wasn’t having to deal with two children fighting or (and this is worse, I swear) climbing up the side of the aisles or running full-tilt through the store or pestering me every second for brownie mix and cream-top yogurt and coloring books.  In fact I was having a great conversation with my oldest; doing the math to shop for groceries.  An excellent exercise; I think I was in my twenties before I started noticing how much food cost.

In the produce section I ran into a friend and she looked beautiful but rather stressed; we talked about what was stressing her for a bit, then talked about some upcoming gatherings we’re planning, and caught up as best we could.  And toward the end of the conversation we heard the kind of heart-wrenching crying that usually comes from an infant in distress, an all-out sobbing that if drawn out for any length of time is hard for most parents to hear.  “I’m going to go nurse that baby right now,” I joked to my friend, and she admitted to having the same impulse.  We parted ways and my child and I headed to the canned vegetable aisle to get olives for tonight’s dinner, homemade French bread and Salad Nicoise.

The crying was not in fact coming from an infant but from a child old enough to walk, sobbing and screaming and trailing behind his mother who gripped the handles of one of those huge, pain-in-the-ass carts that’s supposed to be extra fun for small children but is really cumbersome to drive, at least in my opinion.  The screaming child looked to be between three and four and he was distraught and so was she, although of course full-grown women aren’t allowed, socially, to holler or collapse in the aisles of supermarkets.  As I passed I smiled at her and she smiled back, but her eyes weren’t really seeing me.  She looked almost calm – and of course, many parents can be calm while their child has a big, loud upset in a public place (the family I grew up in denigrated children’s emotional displays by calling them “throwing a fit”) – but I knew the look of tension and anger in this woman and I knew she was very upset.  I moved down the aisle and as my child and I spied the olives and noted their price I heard this mother at the end of my aisle lean down and near-yell at the child, telling him to shut up and I can’t remember what she called him.  Then she’d straightened again and continued shopping.  The child remained inconsolable.

Here’s the shitty thing, there were lots of people in the store and they were all either ignoring her or sending off hostile looks and vibrations.  This broke my heart into tiny pieces.  When I passed her again I said “Ma’am, excuse me, can I help you in any way?  Would you like me to hang out with him for a little while and you can finish shopping?”

“No, he’s just a brat,” the woman says.  She is a blonde and tiny, her face tight with strain.  Her voice is harsh, she looks up at me and then away, and her chin shakes.  I say, “I understand.  I have two of my own,” and I put my hand on her arm. I have tears in my eyes.  She passes on and I put my hand on the little guy’s head too, and I let them go. I think to myself I hope it means something to her, that I saw her and saw what she was going through, and I felt only love and compassion, and I didn’t cast her out or condemn her like everyone else I saw in the store.  And even as my words offering help came out of my mouth I thought it was so unlikely she’d avail herself of my assistance – although I was totally willing, and if she’d have had a few moments to herself to shop I’ll bet she could have pulled it together and come back to her child refreshed a bit, and I only wish she would have let me do this for her.  But I’ve myself been that mom who needs help, and had help offered, and sometimes I take it and often I don’t, and I hope every damn person who’s done it realizes how much it meant to me.

The thing is some people look at this woman and think she’s a bad person, or a bad mother (totally different, so much more pointed and awful and loaded), and feel sorry for the child in this case in that sort of nosey, pathetic what-about-the-children?! type of feeling sorry.  And I felt sorry for the child, sure.

But I also know the chances are most every other minute of every day this woman is loving up on this boy and sticking up for him, and just then she needed someone to stick up for her.

what’s pretty funny is that the childfree person has absolutely no clue

Today went well except for a brief period this afternoon when I felt like such a bad mother I stared out the window of my car at the pissy rain, earnestly believing Sophie and Nels would be better off without me.  I don’t have a choice, of course.  I could never abandon them in any way, never screw up so badly I could leave, but that’s not the choice I’m talking about anyway.  I mean I don’t have a choice whether I’m their mother or not; I am forever and ever, Amen.  For better or worse, and this time I felt worse.

Luckily such episodes are short-lived; and in part this is my own doing because in some ways I’ve raised the children well.  One of the more amazing things about growing a couple kids is that soon they are able to help you with some of life’s thornier problems.  Like today when Sophie and Nels sat and listened to me tell them fuck it (I didn’t use that phrase), I wouldn’t take them swimming – it was just too frustrating that they hadn’t helped me pack the swimgear and that Nels had been shouting at me all morning – and Sophie looked straight at me and although I was telling her about the worst thing she could imagine (she loves swimming about a thousand percent), she remained calm.  “Is there anything you haven’t done yet that I could do, Mama?” The crazy thing is she wasn’t trying to save the swim date by being “good”.  She was trying to solve a problem.  I didn’t change my mind about the family swim-date and she took it in stride.  We’re going to try again tomorrow.

Later in the day after Nels ran outside of the grocery store, got in the car and kicked over my coffee, she righted the cup and said, “Oh Mama… I’m so sorry this happened,” and put her little arms around me.  My children’s hugs are the Best Thing Ever, and I’m kind of wondering if they feel the same way about mine.

A tangent, sort of:  I met my online friend Jasie for the first time in person on Saturday, during Ralph’s Port Townsend show weekend.  I’ve met many people online and met them later and it always been a little odd – no matter how much I read about their passions, opinions, or activities, the pieces that include their voice, mannerisms, and physicality is often a bit disconcerting.  But in this case it wasn’t, as the woman herself has blogged many pictures and videos and I had a more well-rounded formation in mind.  It felt like meeting someone for the first time that I’d already met.

The day before we laid eyes on one another she wrote a blog entry entitled “insecure perfectionism”, well-worth a read for those of us who have children (and honestly, those without).  And although at first glance it may seem I don’t suffer from perfectionism and a lack of good-humor for my mistakes – I’m attempting both a novel and running a 5K in public this month, for crying out loud – I felt like I related, big time, to what she’d written.  After all, what else could one call it, being prone during personal setbacks to despairing that I’m such a bad mother (not “parent”, interestingly) I might as well give up?

It makes me wonder: how bad of a parent do you have to be before you should give up?  My guess is: it doesn’t matter.

Never give up.

aim low, so low no one knows you even tried

Today Ralph and Nels wrote a new song.  They have two recently added to their repertoire – songwriting is something they do in the few minutes between chores, meals, bike rides, and the various Hoga-shenannigans we get up to.* I think I love every song they’ve written.  Nels is going to put out his own DIY recording soon; email me if you’d like a copy.

Due to events I won’t go into I felt a little crazy-angry with my lively, selfish, rambunctious family – so while they went out to a barbecue and gathering at the Humptulips River I stayed home, smoking cloves with our housemate J., working on a new dress for Sophie, and drinking wine in the middle of the day while watching some neo-noir (honestly, I wish I lived this way and talked this way, second only to the lifestyle in Hitchcock films).  At the end of the afternoon I didn’t have much to show for myself except I didn’t murder anyone in the family nor stab a steak knife into my thigh.

*P.S. You should add Ask Nels to your feed reader because it is the best site, ever.  Four questions a day! Send them in because he can literally change your LIFE.

choosing to breed, Surprise # 437

I am learning to cook some modest amount of French cuisine (and loving it, I might add).  Today for breakfast, on a lark: oeuf en cocotte; eggs baked in ramekins – with cream and butter and a wee bit of fresh parmesan.  At 10:30 my son thundered down the stairs, “What smells so good?!” he shouted.  The kids set the table, scrambled up.  Their faith in and love of my cooking is truly an inspiration and quite heartening for me.

It took longer to get the food on the table than I’d expect; I need my egg whites at a medium finish.  Peeking in and out of the oven, edgy and bored, and the kids’ rowdiness in our small kitchen grated on my last nerve.  As I finally brought the hot morsels to the table some clumsy or abrupt movement of a child climbing around set me off.  “Stop it. STOP IT!” (they are literally unable to hear me when they are all revved-up.  “This isn’t playtime, this is fucking food!” I fumed as I whacked down a ramekin.

The kids were silent; Sophie slid her plate away from me.  I turned to the oven, brought the rest over.  Moved back to the table with the salt and pepper, contrite: “Would you like some orange juice?” I asked.   My children softened.  They are more or less used to my temper, or more specifically, they know that it doesn’t last.  I mixed up the juice in their pitcher, sat down, and deliberately apologized for my outburst.  We enjoyed a surprisingly delicious breakfast; I felt giddy at yet another delicious dish learned.

I think one of the pleasures of life is serving a meal to your loved ones and watching them tear into it, pausing only to repeatedly praise the repast.

Later, after groceries and errands, I fiddled about in the kitchen cooking beouf bourgingnon while the kids entertained themselves, including drafting up a garage sale, cracking a child’s schoolbook on study habits (purchased last Friday at a church rummage sale for ten cents), and drawing then cutting out ferocious kitten masks decorated brightly and ferociously like luchadores.  Both their spelling and worksmanship impressed me; my son’s writing is improving enough that I can’t always tell it from his older sister’s.

Although I am fiddling with the temptation to place my children in a private school next year (with a generous scholarship this is just financially feasable for us), it sometimes seems obvious that our current track of unschooling is what works best for our family.

I have a few problems with this.  First, I sometimes feel I am only just able to handle having my kids around me near 24/7.  I feel the fault is my own; I am simply not a groovy-enough Mama to accept without protest or miniature breakdown the infringements on my daily freedom.  To be fair, I know that if I worked all day and came home to the wee ones I’d have about the same amount of miniature breakdowns. I guess I am just a colossal ass.  I am not sure what to do with this aspect of my persona, something that has given me a lot of personal emotonal pain.

Secondly, the same part of me that longs for freedom knows on some level she would not allow much more of it to herself.  The prospect of school for my children gives me the illusion I’d have more time for myself, and that I’d actually spend that time – on myself.  Sometimes I fantasize about having more time to do yoga or work on the home-sewn lovelies I so love to create; yet God Knows what I tend to prioritize is cooking and housecleaning and doing things with the kids when I have a choice of where to put my efforts.  I know from Sophie’s first and only year in public school that I would likely find myself to and fro the schoolhouse anyway, volunteering my time and staying up making flyers or binding little project books.

I might think I long for more time for myself and my exploits, more space (what does that mean?), but my genuine joy and interest in my kids’ day-to-day life – and a personal ambition, as well as some sense of obligation I can’t quite put my finger on – keep me away from these such that at present I might be getting the most of this “me time” I’d allow myself in any case.  At the end of the day the laundry is done and the counter wiped clean and maybe I haven’t gotten quite as far on the silk shirt as I’d hoped; yet most days I’ve acheived at least an hour of sewing.

I call this a victory, for now.

being the ghoul i’m not afraid of after all

More strawberries. I’m standing at the kitchen sink going through the latest large colander full from my husband’s efforts. I’d left them covered on my counter (instead of in the fridge) for two days and so a few of them have gone bad, a few of them have gone too soft or have mold. I think of myself as the kind of flibbertigibbet who’d just debate for a minute and then throw the whole batch in the trash. As my husband says, Kelly, it’s fine, we have so many more. But my actions sometimes show me different than how I imagine myself, because instead I stand there and pick through them, carefully winnowing the bad from the good, taking tiny nicks out of tender berries to remove the soft spots. I think how amazing it is, while alive the ability we have to know with the merest touch of our thumb the difference from a perfectly ripe berry, to one that has gone over to the decaying process; perhaps not something I could write a standard operating procedure for here, but if you stood with me at my sink you’d see what I mean immediately and you’d take your own small knife up and we’d talk about other things while we did the bowl full.

I am thinking of one of my character flaws, something so innate it’s like an ego-twin whose shadowy form has followed me most of my adult life. In comparison, giving up smoking or cursing would be much easier*; it’s almost hard to isolate or describe this thing I’m rolling about in my mind, and it’s certainly a bit humbling when I get my hands around it and begin to see it’s shape. I’m thinking of my tendency in my close relationships to account actions vs. words and, if I find them not in accord, to judge or resent these offenders for this “sin”.

The friend who airily maintains he only has a beer now and then but is clearly an alcoholic. The acquaintance who says over and over she’d love to see more of me but does not make the time and effort to do so. My mother who insists she’s independent and enjoys being alone, but who has been so quick upon widowhood to begin thinking about and searching for a new man (incidentally, I meet her boyfriend this afternoon). The friend who goes on soliloquies about punctuality and integrity, but has last-minute canceled on many of our plans together.

It is so very important I pause here and clarify, because the “sin” I respond to is nuanced. It’s not that I am lacking in quality friendships or obsess on those that are less quality. I do not judge my mother for dating on her own schedule (in fact, I have not once teased her in any way about it – which for me indicates a good deal of restraint!). I am realizing when I write this that my character flaw, as I call it, only rears it’s head when I am close to someone. It’s as if after giving myself in some way to someone the disconnect between their actions, their behaviors, and their words will begin to seem like a personal affront. They are asking me to listen to them, to care about them, to pay attention to who they are, and to bring my own integrity to the table – then asking me to look the other way when their repeated real-life actions contradict their heartfelt words. The words say, “I am like this, I care about that,” but their behavior belies this. They are my friend and want my friendship to include my honesty and intelligence, but then they want me to suspend these qualities so they can spin out their more comfortable concepts of themselves.

And yes. I know “they” are asking none of this. This is just how it feels.

As I write this I realize how very incorrect I am to allow myself to feel slighted by someone else’s difficulties or personal disconnects. Because no one who “sins” in my scenario is beyond my understanding when I focus and consider the individuals who offend me in this particular way. The women who say they want friendship but repeatedly do not nourish it – and there have been many – are often just very busy people. This is such a typically-voiced mantra in so many of the friendships I’ve had in the last decade (“Oh, I’d love to sew, I’d love to learn yoga, I’d love to spend more time such-and-such“) that I have at least learned to notice especially those who put time in to what they say they value – including Me. As for my mother, she is to some degree independent – everyone is – but more importantly, I would guess she does not give herself permission to self-identify as lonely (many people eschew that word or concept quite vigorously, especially when it’s true). Alcoholism? I am still sorting that one out.

As for the tacit agreement my friends and family at times seem to require – the requirement I do not speak up and say, “Yeah, you say that, but I notice this” – even behaving as my best self I am unsure what to do here. I love my friends all the more knowing in the particular ways they are human, they have flaws – but I also feel clumsy when I am honest with them, and I worry that I have hurt feelings when I’ve done thus. Sometimes I wonder if this is a part of being female; there are many unspoken codes about what you’re allowed to say, what you should say, the quid pro quo of you stroke me, I’ll stroke you (I believe women do this very much with regard to things moral!). I wonder if loving someone deeply, being interested and courageous enough to truly know them, and being able to understand down at the depths of my gut what it’s like to be human may not make up for when I unwittingly or deliberately break these rules.

Maybe people are more rugged than I give them credit. I myself have not yet encountered that person, that “monster” who says the things about me I want no one to voice aloud. There is no nemesis out there I will avoid because they love me and see keenly into me and “out” me for my unfavorable traits. My favorite and best-held friends have been those who have had the courage to speak out and tell me what they notice about me – even if it’s not praise. Those people are rare, I confess. Either it is something about me in particular that is intimidating – or uninteresting! – or many people truly do see it as a gaffe or impermissible to say, “I see this about you, do you see it too?” and merely wait for the response.

* Nothing would be harder than giving up coffee, however.

it’s like a mantra, i’m not good enough

This morning I told myself no matter what, I was going to hang out with my kids. Forget housework, “getting things done”, errands, my own me-time. I’m just going to focus on the wee ones. Nels and I are up early and at first I’m there, cuddling him, thinking, what do you want to do today, boy?, then pretty soon I’m doing yoga and he’s alternatively climbing on me and running downstairs and outside to get fresh strawberries.

The problem is, we don’t often like doing the same things. The kids want to run around, wrestle and make bathroom jokes, produce prolific art projects, and scrabble in the dirt and garden outside (they can spend hours in our yard, doing what I have no idea). I’d rather help organize and clean-up after than actually sit down and draw with them. I can pick up a toy to play make-believe and within seconds my mind is elsewhere; counting fabric yardage in my sewing room, an inventory of the groceries I need to get for dinner. My kids know this about me – or at least Sophie does, who with more acuity and asperity these days identifies me as a mom who doesn’t play. Nels this morning said he wanted to have a lunch date with with Daddy, not me; Daddy was so much fun. I’m thinking of last week as I sat and finished a dress for Sophie in the kitchen (something awesome in the oven) and Ralph was out with the children, all of them barefoot and he showing them the absolute limits the plastic bow and arrow could shoot (as it turns out, much farther than I’d imagined). Well hey, I do give myself credit for breeding with someone playful and awesome in this way!

Because it’s true, I’m not that fun. I am affectionate, intelligent, compassionate, and loving, but it’s rare that I play on the same level my children do. I am more likely to work around the house, making beds and cleaning rooms, cooking up food and bandaging knees, helping the kids with their projects. They can pull me into cuddling or carrying them or cleaning them up proper or tending to their (many!) scrapes during the day. I enjoy these things and do well at them. Yet in the back of my mind there’s always this thought that I should do more of this or that, as if my personal sense of play and relaxation needed to be honed to perfection or risk stunting theirs (which seems innate and is daily lived out).

My father was home more than my mom. I don’t remember him “doing stuff” with us either; he was doing his own thing, and I was free, welcome even, to come and go, participate or do my own thing. It feels disconcerting, but it makes sense, that I would parent similarly. Sometimes I compare myself to the mother who spends the day doing creative, perfectly-designed art projects with the kids then hunkers down on all fours building forts (in my mind she’s in a cocktail dress and heels, having somehow also put the roast in the oven to be finished just in time for her husband’s arrival). Then I tell myself, this is bullshit, mothers and daddies and everyone else raises children, and they raise them as best they can, and we are all lacking in some ways.

Sophie wakes just after 10 AM and comes up the stairs. Twining her arms around me her eyes are like predatory stripes, and she says, “I smelled something yummy when I woke up!” The scones I’d baked to towering perfection, steaming on top of the oven now.

Well, that’s a good enough series of memories there, I’d hope.

Off to put on sunscreen and retrieve peas from the greenhouse.

a nauseating bit of minutiae

A little stream of consciousness, for those who’d willingly get to know me better:

My husband and I listen to music a lot. We’re always trying something new – he more often than I. Ralph writes music – so much so that today in the car I heard something beautiful through our car stereo and after a while I realized it was something he wrote. I truly am in awe of his talent, and I’m so thrilled he’s expressing it. Our children are growing up musically adventurous: listening to our selections, their father’s songs, and writing their own music.

I’d love nothing more than to actually sing in a band in front of people. This is so completely unlikely to happen it’s funny I would even mention it. I think my voice is okay, but it can’t carry. And I don’t have the confidence to sing in front of others, nor do I want the applause or esteem some performers crave. I just like singing a lot and would like to do it more.

I stockpile rags. It’s kind of one of those good habits that becomes obsessive and shameful. Recently I reduced my rag inventory by at least half. This took me months to consider doing. I will point out I use only cloth at home: no paper towels, paper napkins. I’m forever swiping down things and dusting with these rags. P.S. old, sturdy cloth diapers are the best rags ever.

My feelings are easily and often hurt. I find myself mentally churning over arguments or sleights (some real, some imagined) while I’m washing the dishes or biking my kids somewhere. Sometimes I don’t answer my children’s questions or even listen to them very well because I’m thinking of people, online articles I’ve read. I am considering this character flaw as something that deperately needs to change.

I’m pretty good at confrontation. I’m good at telling people how I feel when it’s necessary or would cause more pain to demur (my recent discussion with the neighbor vis-a-vis her dogs eating my chickens is a good example). I loathe the personality trait that finds it “awkward” or weird to have a conflict of interest or a dissenting opinion with someone. I also heartily dislike bullying, which is the resort many will take when they believe they need to win out. I’m more of the, Tell them right away! approach. This has occasionally backfired on me. For a trivial example: one time at a party everyone was gushing about this odd apricot / cheese pate on the table. Everyone had their say and at my turn I said, “I don’t care for it” and the room of chatty ladies got silent. You’d think I’d climbed on the coffee table, dropped trousers, and taken a piss. Ever since this incident I’ve wondered when it’s cool to be “honest” and when one is being “honest” in a way that isn’t necessary, and is in fact rude. I literally wonder about this every day.

I find my life with children more fulfilling and fun than anything I’ve previously known. It isn’t that my kids give me a social life, or something to live vicariously through, or that I didn’t have a fun life before (I did!). It’s that they’ve multiplied love through my life by a hundredfold. It’s brrn amazing to have so much love in my life.

In some ways I don’t think anyone knows what makes me tick; although I have a spouse, and a few close friends, who know bits and pieces.

i couldn’t think of a post title, but as i type this my husband is explaining the details of crucifixion to my children

Today I knew something about myself concretely: I will not be the mom who has a hard time with my kids growing up and growing older and getting a life separate from me.

No, but really. And this is a good thing for me to know.

Let me explain. Today’s trip to downtown HQX ended in a rather frustrated attempt at the bike shop: intending to order both riding gloves and a new helmet for my daughter, I had to leave after not being waited on for several minutes (this happens sometimes and I do not hold it against the oft-busy shop owner) and experiencing a exponential increase in douchey behavior from my secondborn. So fine: bike errands another day. Not a half hour after we return home I hear the children talking outside to some grownups and join them to see my daughter talking with our friends and sporting a new helmet. I am completely amazed at this and thinking – I did not even update my Facebook status to indicate helmet shopping. I didn’t even tell my husband! No: it turns out earlier today my daughter had called a friend of the family’s to invite him on a bike trip. Apparently they got chatting on this and that and Sophie revealed that A. she needed a new helmet, but B. she was sad to see her old one go as these friends had adorned it with a sticker she loved. So here our friends are, providing her with a lovely helmet with a second charming sticker – and she’s wheeling around in it, having manifested a own solution nicely.

I might not be able to explain this to the childfree – and perhaps even some fathers I know. But my life often revolves around the constant assessment of my children’s needs and acquisition of said sundries or provisions. Just before the cold weather set in this year I remember trying to explain to my mother how small I felt that most of my waking thoughts were on boots, coats, and gear for my kids to keep warm. She thought I was saying something I wasn’t (I think about feeling inferior in some way), becaus what I wanted to convey was a constant running preoccupation that borders on obsessive thought.

I cannot be alone in this. Everytime I pull a load of clothes out of the dryer I note the wear on the pant hems, the elastic popping out of the underwear’s waistline. Every time I open the fridge: how much milk is left? This is not because I am particularly fastidious, controlling, or even that excited about the mundane details of running the household. This is because seven years ago I hit the ground running with a newborn, the experience like a sledgehammer to the chest and suddenly altering my adult life of, Ho hum what’s my schedule today? into a sprint where you are required, at first, and for years, to meet every single need of a living, growing, high-energy lifeform – who by the way, makes your heart leap and your breath catch in your throat on a regular basis, running the gamut from an almost oppressive experience of deep love to the worst kind of worry a human being could feel – and one never knows when these staggering emotions may be invoked.

The acquisition of a helmet is of course, no big thing. But watching my children figure out their own goals and priorities and make these things happen is a pride and a privilege – and only a bit disorienting in that I’m hardly needed.

Next week we are considering sending the kids to a five day sports camp at the YMCA. The seven-hour-a-day program includes lots of sports activities, a field trip to a bowling alley, a day at camp, and roller skating (although I hope not at our local rollerskating rink where they’re likely to get knifed by a gang of mangy ten year old boys with shiv-sharpened peppermint sticks). If we put the kids in the program the amount of time I’ll have to myself will likely feel at first startling, then quickly be frittered away in my fashion. The camp is also $120 per child: no mean sum, even with my little paycheck as a sewing teacher at the college. I think it’s funny that many people use daycare or school to allow them to earn a second income; I decline such convenience, and here I am on spring break considering blowing $240 on my kids so they can have a great time. By “funny” I mean, occasionally I think I am completely stupid not to do things the way most people seem to, because by the dollars and cents, I don’t make sense.

More biking today. Cycling with my daughter is a delight. I realized today that it’s not just the lack of fifty-something pounds on the bike that makes our trips so much easier – it’s the fact she and her brother aren’t being annoying together on the snap deck (where about one trip out of five they piss me off so badly I finally “pull the car over” and chew them out, humiliating for us all since unlike a car anyone can hear me bicker). Nels’ persona on the bike is different now that he’s alone; he clings like a spider monkey, rubs his cheek against me, kisses me, watches for traffic, and sings songs of his own authorship. It’s lovely, really. I think if everyone spent more time on a bicycle they’d probably get along better, with everyone else.

nicey-nicey

The very lovely young mother who’s been sitting next to me during our twice-weekly swim lessons kept the chit-chat lighter than normal: having invited us twice previously to her church programs on Sundays, perhaps our repeated non-attendance sank in as some kind of snub. Perhaps she was snubbing us out of judgment or boredom. Or perhaps there is nothing to speculate – she was merely quieter than weeks past. Typically a woman in my position makes sure to make extra-nice in the scenario – as if to say, “I’m not going to attend your church but I want you to know it was so nice you invited me, and I still want everything to be okay between us.” That’s the way most ladies are. It’s not that I don’t care to be polite. I’m just so damned tired right now.

A tendency to anemia during my menstrual period, hormonal fluctuations, the abstention from drink, or the rainy, dismal weather: I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been in a dangerous mood. It paints my perception of the world into something utterly different than how I usually experience it. The children I spend time with are rude, horrid, or slow; adults are clueless, irritating. My mental state is like shark cruising, waiting for the scent of blood to distract me, edgy, keyed up and ready to strike. I haven’t yet crossed the threshold into Full-Blooded Bitchdom where my husband is concerned, but my kids have certainly been on the receiving end of my precipitate hostilities.

On my Pandora station Band of Horses’ “The Great Salt Lake” begins playing. Coincidentally this is Sophie’s current favorite song. She’s sitting next to me reading (and thus so enthralled she can’t “hear” it), but my mind is full of memories of her precise duck-voiced singing, which makes me smile.

Another day, another night to get through; maybe things will look or feel better in the morning.