a child’s purpose is to be a child

First. Hard at work with my first ten list. I hope anyone who reads finds it helpful.


The first rain in a long while helped me feel better. We leave the front door open and our pooch Hutch sits on the porch. He travels over to my mom’s next door now and then as she has this kind of expensive dog-treat/jerky business over there. He has probably lost about twenty pounds at this point. He’s feeling more spry every day. Saturday on our walk he chased a deer (not coming close, of course) BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE

The children’s summer activities are mostly getting into business outside, bookeneded by long periods playing video games – Terraria, Minecraft, and MapleStory. They’ve caught several frogs and delivered them to my mother’s pond. Friends come in and out of the house and eat any food that’s not nailed down. The kids are all getting ready for school. We’re getting ready to keep catching frogs and such, plus celebrate eleven years of marriage September 8th and then, get our Halloween festivities together.

Some older photos from my phone, just uploaded.

Archive Photos: Nels, Post-Bath

Nels out of the bath, ready to watch a movie.

Archive Photos: My Daughter Sleeps

Phee sleeps. True picture of sleeping. Not fake-sleeping. Yes I smooched her.


Ralph receives a huge-ass calzone. Everyone reacts.

Archive Photos: N1SF

Phoenix drew this a while back. I liked it so much I kept it around. Recently she re-discovered it and gave it to our friend Emily; I’m told there it adorns her refrigerator and meets much approval from houseguests.

“I’m starting to get the hang of this” – Phoenix Fire Hogaboom

#LiG2012 Parking Garage

Yeah, you shouldn’t go to an Unschooling conference. Unless you want your kids to have a wonderful time. You know to the point where my two are getting ready for bed and telling me they’re worried they’ll wake up tomorrow and find this was all a dream.

Phoenix and Nels are owning it LIKE A BOSS. Minecraft, Legos, swimming, playing outside, tag, board games (including made-up rules as the game literature was all in Spanish).  This is all in a few hours. I even got a (small) Recovery meeting. Good stuff!

It's ON at #LiG2012

Phoenix is part of a Fairy Godparent program, in other words she gets. She came up a bit ago sporting the Best Chocolate Bar I’ve ever tasted. We were all peeing our pants a little over it. It was a pretty sweet way to end our evening.

Best Candybar Ever?

And now, some high-quality kid-snuggling and rinsing out the chlorine from my hair. A big day tomorrow!


“Pull in your navel! Relax your shoulders! Is that the best you can do? Really?”

I feel sheepish about how little I understand some of my children’s computer activities and passions. Currently Ralph and Nels are discussing the best way to learn Java in order to write class files for modifications to Minecraft. Daily the children install mods and texture packs with fluency; they discovered, installed, and self-taught usage of an inventory editor (I’m told this is no big deal, by Ralph) and get into very excited conversations with one another, or other teens / grownups when the opportunity arises, about these features and their own methodologies and – of course – gameplay and strategy. I think of all the goatee-stroking and chortling grownups are wont to do, thinking they’ll top-down “teach” kids some skill, while anyone who’s been around a freechild for long soon is humbled at their dexterity, perseverance, logistical skills, and flexible intelligences – and, often, how quickly they surpass us when it’s something they’re interested in.

My lack of understanding when it comes to computer programming is largely a function of personal disinterest. It’s a position I can afford to take, since there is another person in the house who serves as a mentor and assistant (don’t ask me why the kids are so hopped-up on computers but have shown only passing interests in sewing – my equivalent passion, I suppose, to Ralph’s mad tech skillz; I suspect, however, the kids are learning to sew and will sew well and at least semi-regularly in the future). I know in the end I don’t need to be an enthusiastic fan to still be a supporter and advocate for the kids; it was in fact me who squawked rather loudly and uncharacteristically, knowing a while back laptops were the best next tool for our family. And, of course, our entire life is structured around supporting them in the exploits they choose whilst not wasting their times with ones they have no use for.

But the truth is my ignorance and slow-wittedness serve to imbue me with unease. Several times today Nels asked if I would look at his newest installation. I kept saying “no”, not because I was so busy but because there’s something in the whole business that panics me. It isn’t that I think I won’t be able to understand the tech aspect – the other day my daughter patiently explained the horse breeding schema she was using within the game mod, including genetic values and a complex series of stables (read through this and tell me if it makes sense) and it was like this dim lightbulb flickered and I kind of got it – it’s that I’m worried upon my grasping more I’ll feel even worse for not previously knowing more about what they love, and why. So I sit here on the fringe dithering about it, I guess.

Gee, when I write it out I sound like a tremendous assy coward.

[ * cough, cough * ]

Tonight my mom literally rescued me from an intense case of ennui by taking the kids and I out to a burger joint (where I had my all-time tired-ass choice, a veggie burger and fries). It was pretty funny (to me) that we ordered all this food, and they didn’t have what my mom wanted (a corndog), so she said, “That’s OK!” and sat with the kids and snuggled and loved up on them, and after the lady rang me up I said, politely and all classy-like, “Are you paying?” and my mom said, “Oh!” and grappled at her wallet, and I laughed because I got one over on her and I always feel appreciative when she helps support us but it’s also just kind of funny, like she’s getting screwed, which is kind of how I feel about this whole having-kids business, although I love them dearly of course, and it just is what it is, including Grandma’s generous support. The bill was a little over twenty dollars and my mom waved at me to give a few dollars tip (which, judging by the near-empty jar, is not something most customers do). Speaking of the tip bit, she’s always like that. Really an incredibly kind-hearted person.

Her car wouldn’t start so we walked home in the light rain. Nels was dismayed about this and wailed loudly for about a block, then soon he and Phoenix were running full-tilt down the wet and scary sidewalks in torrents of musical laughter while my mom and I hoofed it behind them and I texted Ralph to help her out with her new and temporary car-ass scenario.

After we got to my house my mom headed home and the kids and I settled in; while I await the opportunity to purchase carbon chacopy paper I am sewing a decidedly-custom coat for Phoenie. Ralph arrived home late after his class and brought in Jasmine – they have a drag act they’re performing on Friday, my birthday (not for my birthday, just a coincidence). As they got started on the choreography I made coffee and watched for about two minutes before intervening. Look, Jasmine had one hundred percent talent but Ralph’s dancing concepts and skills in moving less like a huge energetic man were just not cutting it. I’d been thinking about how often I don’t claim my talents and you know what? I can dance OK. What followed was an intensely funny, as in peeing-our-pants-laughing, two and a half hour series where I am not lying when I say I turned into a sweaty and intense dance monster and at practice’s end frenetically smoked on the porch while seething the show acts were not open to the general public and even considering some kind of sabotage. Later in the evening, after Jasmine left, Ralph would be washing dishes or something and I’d say, “Look, let’s try it again, don’t move the rest of your body, for a shimmy just punch one shoulder forward then relax, let the other one follow.” He eventually told me I’d worn his body and mind out and that he wasn’t sure if he had it in him anymore to do even one more move.


OK – it’s almost 3:00 AM as I type this and I suppose I should go take a look at what that Nels has been making a fuss about.

Deep breath.


you are what you love not what loves you back

Today I was published in the January / February issue of Life Learning Magazine, found my work extensively quoted on HoboMama, and named as “one of the most compassionate persons on Twitter”. I am imbued with a sense of gratitude I am reaching the people who find me helpful. Especially in working with the magazine. Editor Priesnitz is one of those real-life mentors I actually get to work with in, you know, real life. What a world, this inter-netz!

Speaking of Priesnitz her blog entry today, “How to Work (Learn) in a Sausage Factory”, is its usually compassionate, insightful, whip-smart example of acute brevity. Contrasted with the condescension of school officials expressing the importance of teaching high school students the value of “rules” (high school! My kids knew what “rules” meant long before kindergarten age and you probably did too!), she has this to say:

“I would imagine that by high school, kids have either learned most of what they’re ever going to learn about following rules or not (and it’s likely a bit different than what the school folks think they are teaching). What these young people really need is to learn how to make their own decisions, including how to decide which rules are still relevant and which not; how to democratically collaborate with others to change rules and policies; and how to challenge disrespectful people trying to enforce arbitrary or insulting rules – without losing their livelihood.”

Um, yes? Yes! The breathtakingly good news is, many young people are finding their way despite this sort of (endemic and oppressive) business. Writer Idzie Desmarais has collected some wonderful interviews of extraordinary young people who are hitting it out of the park. That collection of interviews is even better than Cute Overload for lifting my spirits.

Ergonomically Positioned

My kids’ weird positions they adopt while on the laptops is very amusing to observe. They are as dextrous lying on their backs with the laptop against their chest as they are sitting up. Nels dances and moves around and stretches and hauls cats while he – guess? – plays Minecraft and studies online tutorials.

I don’t normally say goodnight in this journal but – Goodnight!

(Small Stone #7*)

Fanning air out out the bathroom window
It’s too cold to smoke outside.

Small stone project

edification / disarray

Today Ralph spent about half his day working on the CD pressing and sleeve construction of “Mighty Holidays”, a compilation of SW WA artists’ – most of them our friends – seasonal music (more or less). He’s creating hard-copy albums for the artists who participated and any others who want to purchase a CD (the download is free, of course).

My husband is, to me, a deeply-energizing presence – yes, even as he struggles with fatigue and low-grade depression he still holds my interest and deep respect more than any other grownup I’ve met. He is not only talented (in many ways), smart, incredibly funny, hard-working, interesting, beautiful, deep, strong, an asset to his workplace, relentlessly ethical in almost everything he does, and deeply invested in family life – he also routinely is considering those in his life and how to help them or build them up, occasionally to the point of his own exhaustion. This particular album was a labor of love in part because he wanted to showcase his friends’ work and in part because he wanted to then gift this work to other friends. He spent many hours emailing, recording, meeting, and assembling (as a final touch our friend Ira donated the mastering – a big help). And now he’s offering the finished product for free because he’s a Creative Commons junkie. And I adore him for all that and more.

Case in point: my husband performed today’s work with the assistance of C., a teenager and friend to our family who has been suffering illness and migraine; as a result of this his mother was being hassled by the school district for truancy under the Becca Bill (um… I’m not going to go into my thoughts on this, just pretend I ranted for a few pages instead mmkay?). During this arduous drama C.’s mother decided to homeschool C. and, since she was had been turned over to court at this point, was required to submit a homeschool “cirriculum” to the judge (major *eyeroll* here). To help the family, Ralph offered the young man an internship in the website management, promotion, and production of local music. So today we got to have C. as a guest in our house while the two worked together and Nels and C. talked about Minecraft (of course!). I loved listening to Ralph; he’s a natural leader and teacher and children of all ages (infants through teens) love him. I think Ralph and I have figured out by now that having children in one’s life (your own or other people’s) is an opportunity to empower, support, learn, and exchange, and we grownups get as much as we give, if not more.

As for me, I spent most my day yesterday and about three hours today helping my girlfriend J. in party preparations for her most ambitious party yet (among other things I fried LOTS of meatballs!). I enjoy cooking and I enjoy helping, so it was a pleasure to do – and unless I really miss my guess, the party came off beauitfully.

Long story short I am now behind on Christmas sewing – but I have hopes I can pull through. And Oh Yes, believe me I have photos that I cannot wait to upload and share, when it will no longer run the risk of spoiling surprises! Given how hard Ralph and I have been working our house is in an uncharacteristic shambles and I’m a bit frazzled. The weekend flew by and I felt I barely had a resting moment at home –

But it was a good, productive, hard working, and joyous one at that.

in other news of the rather unrefined

Today I had my first dental cleaning in oh, four years or so. No reason for the delay, given Ralph and the kids have been seeing their practitioners without interruption since we moved from PT – just, Mama takes care of herself last (sometimes). I enjoyed my PT dentist (a very gentle, whisper-thin fellow who smelled and looked exactly the same the many years I frequented him. Looking back, he may have been a cyborg) but this office looks pretty good and seems to be keeping up on current methods and equipment. Today my appointment was with a hygienist for a cleaning and periodontal survey. It think she found me a low maintenance client if a bit interrogatory. She’d take instruments out of my mouth and I’d repeat my understanding of the lingual or facial surfaces, or ask about the Michigan O probe measurements (mostly 2s, w00t!), or question how exactly they did quantify gum recession (as it turns out, through recognition of the CEJ). First she said I was “smart to catch all that”. Then I was “very observant!” Finally: “You’re good! You should go to hygienist school!”

After an hour my teeth felt great and I, relieved things hadn’t gone all Tooth Beaver in my hiatus from dentalwork, called Ralph to pick me up. We headed to Aberdeen in the torrential downpour to acquire groceries. Veteran’s Day: the store was busy and lots of people were driving their carts with their faces fixed in sour expressions. Stacks of packed pumpkin and marshmallow pillows and boxes of stuffing mix – I forget Thanksgiving is coming right up. We got hamburger and broccoli and milk and eggplant. We ran into a friend who suggested I look at offering a sewing class at the local alternative high school.

Driving home from our post-grocery lunch date (hot coffee, beef stew special at the Ale House) I ask Ralph, in half-despair, half-jest, “Do you want me to get a job? Then we could afford a car.”

“We can afford a car,” he tells me.

“This isn’t… affording. It’s falling apart around us,” I respond, half-crankily, carefully moving my feet around in the soggy footwell.

“We could afford one. We could go to a used car place and get a loan and bring home a two or three-thousand dollar car,”  he replies. (He’s so smart!)

“Well why don’t we do that?” I ask, jovially.

“Because then we’d have three.” This is true (seriously, if we could fix the other one before the one-year mark I’d feel awesome); we already have a cat-farm, we don’t need a car-farm.

“We could sell the silver Mercedes to that one guy. You know the one that had his clothes covered in grease, and was smoking and standing in our driveway staring at me?”

A brief pause and then Ralph and I start laughing. I keep remembering laughter is good for your body. It certainly feels good, maybe especially because I struggle when the weather starts putting us in the house day after day. Last night Ralph and I ended up abandoned by the kids (they were running their own Minecraft server) and finishing an episode of “MonsterQuest” together. There was a series of scenes involving a polygraph test: the test administer would sit behind the locals who’d reported seeing a beast and he would ask them all these questions then watch the computerized sensor bio-feedback readings during the interview. The problem was, the examiner himself looked like he was lying. Like he’d ask a question and at the very end his beady brown eyes would shift entirely laterally to look the back of the head of the person answering. “Are you lying about seeing some hominid creatures in the woods?” *shift* “Did you report seeing creatures in the woods to the sheriff?” *shift* Every time, he wouldn’t move his head, he just looked furtive. * shift * I started laughing and I couldn’t stop. Tears came out of my eyes and I had to put my head under the covers.

Today when I ask Ralph a question I slide my eyes at him keeping my head real still, but I’m not sure if he knows what I’m doing.

Hallowiener (a prelude)

Littlest Ghast

This year Ralph and I surpassed all previous records in ingenuity, speed, and thrift where the kids’ costumes were concerned (a major departure from my more ambitious efforts in previous years). Pheonix wanted to be Death – she made this selection a while ago. I made her hooded robe and applied her makeup; Ralph made Nels’ ghast costume and Phoenix’s scythe – and we did all this after Phoenix’s soccer game this AM so we could be ready for the Haunted Halloween downtown Trick or Treat. We spent about $30 all in all, had a wonderful time, and, most importantly, our kids were thrilled. (better pictures of Phoenix tomorrow, promise)

Sasha, Phoenix, Nels, & Patrick

What’s a “ghast”? Nels is glad you asked. A “ghast” is a new MOB or “bad guy” or whatever you want to call it in his (current) favorite game Minecraft. Not only is his costume that of a character in a video game, it’s actually a character in a Halloween update, which was then released today (instead of tomorrow) – we discovered this upon coming home from the downtown Trick or Treat. Nels has been more pleased than anything how all of this has gone down.  The best part is trick or treating downtown today when grownups say, “OOOoooh we have a skeleton, a ninja, a princess, and a…” and then they stare, smiling with vacant wide-eyes, at my son. Who beams back and says, “A ghast!” and then explains it all. Every time.

Here he is, using the costume as a windbreak on the last leg of our tour (& no, he can’t lift his arms in the costume, but he is fine with that):

Chilly Ghast

So yeah, today was just the Halloween downtown trick or treating business (full Flickr tagset here). Two friends asked themselves along and we all braved the rain. Tomorrow’s the real event! Nels came home and had one piece of candy then asked me to make broccoli for dinner. Phoenix ate about a bucket’s-worth of confectionery.

It was wonderful to see so many grownups and children mingling so happily.

Hardware Store

Creepy Hand

Robin As Groucho

Some People Like To Wear Masks A Little TOO Much

But some grownups seem to enjoy themselves a little too much, if you ask me.