My son climbs in the bed and flips his hair, which is soaking wet from the shower. Even a few moments on my pillow will leave it wet the rest of the night, as much hair as he has and how well the tangles hold moisture. “I will love you forever,” he tells me as he settles into my arms. It’s late and he’s exhausted but he wants to fall asleep here with me. I hold him for a while but send him to his own bed. I fear tonight he may have night terrors; he used to get them so often when he was much younger. Now we see them about once a year. Frightening and brutal, but for all that I am glad for their infrequency.
I slept well last night and indeed have been sleeping well lately, and I am grateful for this. I am struggling with so much anger of late. My little family gives me so much solace and joy; so does my volunteer work. So too, does my yoga. Maybe it is just that I am so faithful in all of these and it’s my faithfulness that sustains me.
I set forth in my studio and work on a pair of velveteen trousers with gathered knees, and double-welt slash front pockets, and flower-shaped fell-stitched back pockets, a jaunty little pair of luxe knickerbockers for a small child. The velveteen is gorgeous but dot not perform well when cut, shifting irritating bits of fluff all about my clothing and sewing machine table. For all that I persist – building and constructing a half-lining similar to a pair of men’s dress trousers. Grosgrain ribbon for the inner waistline. When finished they are a delight; I set them aside as I will be adding more pieces soon, for this same child.
Part of my irritation may be the cold in my studio; I think it fatigues me to work there. My hands are cold when I come upstairs and I heat them by washing them, or pouring another cup of hot coffee. Last week I put together the hummingbird feeders again as a solitary soldier was visiting now and then; so I can look out the window while cupping my mug, and watch the alacrity of the birds, the sun and rain outside on the fierce and fine weather we are having.
“This isn’t even a scary bug,” my son says cheerfully, as he carefully pushes into the bathroom. I’m scrubbing my face, getting ready for bed. He comes alongside me and proudly displays the specimen on one of his long, beautiful hands. It is a hideously large, creepy-crawly moth with burly legs and massive febrile antennae. And my son is brandishing it about four inches from my face.
“Oh wow,” I say, neutrally. I am waiting for it to flutter it’s deathly dusty wings in my face. Any moment. Incredibly, it is quite at home crawling about sluggishly on my son, who is pleased as punch.
“… Can I put it on you?” he asks me politely, after a moment.
“Oh, no thank you. Hey – I am getting ready for bed. I’ll be out in a minute,” I tel him, now. We are both so polite. So civil. I am wearing a top hat and monocle.
“He’s looking at me with those big black eyes,” Nels says fondly, as he leaves.
I shudder. Look in the mirror.
I’ve been raising my kids to be gentle, to be kind. So, there it is.
Driving home I’m sad. It’s gorgeous out. And I’d like to feel better. I get tired of all the hate in the world, all the people who are unhappy and willing to splash it around at leisure. Today I got hit with some splatter, let’s just say. Someone hurting I suppose, who elected to be nasty.
My mind touches on happy memories form the last 24. A stripey kitty with white socks, running across the street. I’ve never lived with a stripey kitty with white socks (although I hosted one briefly, this summer). Maybe that can happen someday.
The other day, at breakfast – Nels exclaims happily, and points out the window. “Mom, come look! You will like it!”
I come look. It’s an inchworm, a little yellow guy about an inch and a half. He’s racing along the railing of our deck. Yes, I do like it. I step out to take a picture.
Nels has been bringing me inchworms because he knows they make me happy. A recent specimen was only about three millimeters long. They are always so busy and earnest and they move so quickly. We only examine them moments before my son takes the back, always back to where they came from.
Yesterday my son comes alongside me as I am fooling with some noodles, straining them in the sink. Making a lunch.
A really deep cut!
My son tells me, upon waking, he thinks he may have developed a case of mycelia. “It’s a state, often observed in ants or other insects, where a fungus uproots the function of the brain.” He is very serious, very sedate as he shares this horrific thought with me – before breakfast, even. Then, he adds thoughtfully: “It’s either that or a highly emotional fever.”
I am amazed I can get up to a body of work – both professionally, artistically – with the kids in the house. Yesterday while I tried to sew I couldn’t get five minutes without an interruption; on days their friends visit it can be even worse. Feeding extra kids is Extra. I don’t mind, but I also have to give myself credit for how much I do get done.
“Do you work from home?” a child asked me today. I got to tell her. Maybe she will stay less ignorant than so many Grown-Ups.
But today, “working from home” took us on the road, as it often does. We spent the better part of the sunshine on a little highway and back again: delivering a child to a counseling session. It was hot out, and my car – clocking over 200,000 miles – has a busted A/C long since fallow. The windows down, and the air roaring through, it’s good enough. Tying my hair up into a couple buns and wrapping with a headscarf and still by the end of the day I feel wilted. Hot shower and into pajamas a little early, methinks.
The children and I enjoy a late-night walk with the dog, most nights. And every time we do at least one of our cats – and sometimes up to four of them! – follow us. Our little tuxedo Herbert Pocket races alongside, flashes of her white grabbers at the end of sleek black legs. She waits in a dusty lane for us, and I know coyotes or even a mountain lion could meet her there – it’s remote enough. Life is scary!
We’ve always had the highest quality air here, but this summer has had some wonderful, beachy breezes. I’m aware as we walk that we are approaching the end of our turn in this neighborhood: off to a new house, a new adventure soon. I make my preparations: sewing a quilt, selling bits of furniture, putting together a wishlist, going through our clothing:
Working From Home.
I live somewhere incredible. Only about twenty minutes from my house you find pristine waterways – with no one else there, even in 80-degree weather. It’s like a little bit of Paradise, and I grow fonder every year.
Above? That’s me after our trip. Nels probably has chocolate on his lip. My hair is two shades lighter than when I went in the water at noon! It was hot as Balls.
That said, today’s three-hour river-float down the Wynoochee (yes my lovelies from far far away – we have the best names where I live – especially for rivers!) – was also a lesson in anticipatory terrors. Most of these terrors were experienced last night while planning the trip: the fear I’d select the wrong leg of a river, and we’d end up (best-case scenario) having to squelch a few miles on foot, in our swimwear – or (worst-case scenario) drowning and/or skinned alive by an errant black bear or redneck murderer. I am an Adventurer in very specific ways, sure – but outdoor unknowns that involve the safety of my children? I’m more of a Planner. (or an Obsessive.)
So I did all the planning, and last-night’s worrying. This morning after Ralph and I take a brisk morning walk with our dog, we roll the kids out of bed and pack up five kinds of sunscreen. My husband makes up some food and secures some water, then straps our huge truck-sized inner tubes into the back of my mom’s old pickup.
And I resolutely ignore the silent pleas of my all-time-bro Hutch, who knows we are up to something fabulous. Maybe next time, li’l dude! (so many regrets!)
Finding our base and access points is easy – for the upstream put-in, a friend lets us park at her lovely place. We have the obligatory, run-into-a-super-local who says a bunch of cryptic stuff that makes me think we are going about the whole thing wrong.
Finally, we’re in the river. The water is cold, the sun is hot, and I am still a little worried. I mean we are talking crawdads, leeches, horseflies (seriously!), sunstroke or hypothermia (or ye Shit Gods, both!) if I’ve misjudged the right distance – and fishing hooks hiding in the riverbed! As well as: I am terrified of water that is over two inches deep and not crystal-clear (for obvious reasons).
So: the first forty minutes is a little edgy. For me. The river is about as low as it’s been in about a hundred years (no joke), so floating over the occasional deadhead is a little unnerving. My husband and I are sharing the largest of our tubes when we hit our first rough rapids; he immediately and inadvertently almost drowns my ass with his frantic scramble to avoid a nasty stump and branches snarl. He is apologizing as we are still flying around the bend to our doom and I am laughing uncontrollably at the transformation from placid meander to sudden deathfall, and I am angry at his mistake, and kind of stuck in both those places for a bit.
Ultimately we have a wonderful, trip, and a safe one, Saints be praised. We also met my friend’s donkeys (unbelievably sweet!) –
and after all of this, ran right into town for pizza and Pepsi, which after all that sun and water was more satisfying than can be expressed in words.
It was a beautiful trip, and just the right amount of time out on that river.
Maybe the best memory of the day is showing my daughter how to pull the straps down the swim top, to avoid strap tan lines. Maybe the best memory is knowing my kids will remember our trip the rest of their lives.
Summer? It’s a little different.
Today I spent some time in an in-depth mentoring session, then gave blood, then ran my mom over across town for errands, then got my ass to yoga, then went to a meeting. On top of the kidcare and housecare and petcare. I’m beat.
It’s been a very busy summer. But a beautiful one.
We took a page out of Phoenix’s 2013 birthday trip, and headed off to Tacoma today. We had a carload of rumpus!
I seriously cannot with five preteens. As in, cannot believe how wonderful they are! Here I’m just ordering them buckets of chocolate milk because we were on the first leg of the trip and had to get from point A to point B etc.
They were all grownup and ordered salads with their meal! Instead of applesauce. One child ordered applesauce, then hid it from view when this choice was remarked upon. Can you tell which child?
And then – off to the zoo!
So like, in no way was our sole male attendee shunned by the girls… but neither was he particularly invited in when they’d cluster up like this. Which gave me no small amount of amusement!
Rarely do I regret having just a phone camera (and no training) – but failing to capture the African Red Tip Starfish is one of these times. Gorgeous!
Six tigers sighted – including these little tigers. Some feistiness in the tiger enclosure. They are wonderful animals!
So, this lobster was massive. I found the other zoo attendees comments about eating him quite insensitive. Isn’t it exploitive enough he’s in a cage being bored off his ass – or whatever lobsters have for asses?
UM A DADDY SEAHORSE, PREGNANT
Her last day of being twelve. Excuse me, I have something in my eye!
And after the zoo – I got us to Krispy Kreme. Because, hello!
Home to yoga, and delivering a meal to a new family with a brand-new baby, and unwinding a bit before crashing into bed.
I’m standing in the classroom, stirring a fragrant broth loaded with vegetables, shredded chicken, garlic, spices, and pasta. The classroom I am borrowing is a somewhat-converted Home Ec facility: the stoves serving as counterspace, now, and counters cleared of kitchenware and hosting physics experiments and water testing equipment. Sinks and cupboards full of scientific equipment and rinsed Tupperware. A fridge housing God-knows-what. A dingy space but, as far as classrooms go, a fairly cheerful one. The teacher here loves his job and it shows in how he attends to the children in his care.
I come out every Monday to lead my son’s class through either a bit of arts-and-crafts – or, as in today’s case, cooking. I’d set forth volunteering to cook during Phoenix’s inaugural year, in the sixth grade. Parents who actually spend time in the classroom are as rare as ever. I think it’s because, although schools serve at our behest, they still feel like foreign territory.
This week’s Monday, however, the hot plate I’d purchased for my son’s class proves inept at getting a good boil of soup on; thus my return on a Thursday to finish the job – borrowing another classroom. A lot of driving back and forth to this rural little school but it is worth the effort, time and expense to support my children. The drive is a pleasant one, too. Often on the trip I come across a herd of about thirty Roosevelt elk – I’m so used to it I give them only a cursory glance. Until I think it through and realize many people in the world would be in awe at such a sight.
Finished now, I tidy the kitchen space, thank the resident teacher, and carry the large tureen through the hallways – carefully, arms out ahead so I don’t slosh on myself or the floor. I’ve the soup – which the kids have been looking forward to since Monday – and two loves of day old bread donated by a local deli. The class is happy to eat what they helped prepare – children will dine in a much more democratic fashion when included in the cooking work.
It is a cold and soggy day outside; as a few other classes filter out for a wet recess, I talk with my son’s teacher about her pregnancy – her first. I’m tired, but content to have a job to do, a simple one at that.
Tonight, finally – the last work of the evening, making a pan of homemade double-chocolate brownies at my husband’s suggestion. My son stands on a stool, putting clean and dry dishes away. “Mama, I love you. Who wouldn’t love you?”
“Oh… lots of people don’t love me. Don’t even like me.” The moment I say it, I know he will be shocked.
Sure enough: “What? Who? Who doesn’t like you? Mama?” Nels is amazed.
“Oh…” I tell him. Thinking of a few names. Then I say, “I can’t tell you. Because actually – I don’t know for sure.”
“Who wouldn’t love you?” He is less distressed than confused.
Then, when he sees I am still not forthcoming:
“Can you tell me a little bit, maybe just someone you guess might not like you?”
“No, Nels.” I am firm. “It’s not my business anyway.”
“Oh. … then can I have some cake batter?”
We finish up in the kitchen – I place the batter in a pan in the oven. Nels finishes the dishes.
Today was a good day.
My sleep – fitful. I wake early while Ralph and Phoenix prepare for a long day: she is off on an all-day field trip and Ralph has to have her out at her rural school location by 7:15 in the morning.
But my sleep is poor not due to our slight shift in our morning schedule, but because I was plagued with a nightmare. Very unusual for me. I know the root of this, at least – sort of. I am worried. I am worried for someone I love. It is this gripping kind of fear; nothing abates it, I only get a moment here or there of reprieve. My hands and heart seize.
My worry has not died of neglect yet. Oftentimes, this is the case. But since it hasn’t, I know who I should talk to. So many love me, but many of those don’t have the strength I need right now. I share my feelings and thoughts with my loved ones if it seems appropriate. Something like this, I talk to someone who has a correct view. Who will understand where my heart is and will listen to my troubles – but also give me direction in how to set aside my fear.
I’ve only survived and thrived as much as I have, because I have learned how to take spiritual direction.
Kidney pain, car repairs, and stressful appointments with professionals. The kidney pain is one thing: the worry (about the future), quite another. Relapse into illness brings me to a dark place. I am glad though nothing can slap my gratitude from my mouth.
And, there is much to be grateful for. All the daffodils splashing across the countryside. A wool coat, found on sale – a deep grey and cranberry. Visits from friends. Email messages from those who seek my friendship and counsel. Watching a nature documentary with my son – we are enraptured by the tiny, impossible perfection of the flamboyant cuttlefish. My daughter, sliding into my arms and letting me put my hand on her soft belly.
My new phone! And: Ralph’s new phone. He didn’t think I’d buy him one, but I let him choose exactly the one he wanted, and then I bought him a case for it as well.
Taking care of myself, and my family, as best I can.