OMG Kids running in parking lots!

A reader writes me an email, May 2010.


Somehow I got off on a tangent when replying to your post and typed out what you see below. I felt like I was hijacking your post, so I pulled it and decided to email it to you instead:

This is merely an observation about kids and parenting in general, so please don’t take it the wrong way (I know you won’t). I’m trying to point out the thought process that many parents must go through when they witness things outside of their comfort zone.

When I see these pictures[1. These.], I put [my child] K. in Nels’ place. I see my daughter sitting precariously on the edge of a table with some large scissors that are most likely hella sharp. Because I know K., my fear is that she may leap (or fall) from the table with these sharp blades or might cut herself while using them. This is because she is almost always in motion and isn’t very good with scissors yet.

Now, some parents take the next step and assume (subconsciously or not) that Nels may meet similar consequences by projecting their own child’s abilities onto him. In my case, I am aware that Nels is most likely around hella sharp scissors all the time and probably uses them relatively skillfully as well, so I can let go of my anxiety. If I had witnessed this in person and didn’t know anything about Kelly and Nels I might ask a question that would direct Kelly’s attention to Nels. If Kelly shows no indication of danger, I would assume that Nels is capable of handling the scissors safely, again letting go of my anxiety.

Time and again I see this from the other side when we visit “the Walmart”. We typically walk down the sidewalk between parked cars toward the store. As we approach the crosswalk that crosses the main drag of the parking lot in front of the store, K. breaks into a sprint. Here’s the problem, I know that she will stop before reaching the crosswalk because we have gone over it many times and she always stops, but the people driving by don’t know this. Often, they freak out and slam on their brakes, then direct their anger toward K. and me. At no time was she in danger, but because they assumed she would run into the street, they respond with their own anxiety about the situation. In fact, I think they are actually angrier because she stopped. They feel stupid for overreacting, but somehow it’s still my fault.

Here is how I handle this differently. If I am driving and I see a kid running toward the street (even if it’s at the last moment and I slam on my brakes), I don’t get angry or think the kid is dumb or the parent is neglectful. I just stop and wait for the road to be clear. I don’t see the point in getting all worked up over something that ended well. How is me honking or yelling going to make the situation better? I’m not saying that I’m always Mr. Cool. If I’m having a bad day I may overreact, but that’s my own deal, not theirs.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I wish people could calm down and consider situations before reacting. Whether it’s in traffic, or while witnessing a child being disciplined in public, or whatever, consider the fact that you don’t know the whole story and leave room for the possibility that although it may not be “ideal” behavior, there may be a reason for it that you don’t understand.

I can’t remember what book it’s from (probably a Malcolm Gladwell book), but I can try to paraphrase the story.

The writer described a scene on a subway train where a father was letting his kids run wild. They were climbing on the seats, bumping into people, making a lot of noise…being kids. The writer could see the other passengers getting more and more irritated, so he decided to say something to the father. I can’t remember what he said, but the father responded with, “Yes, you’re right. I suppose I should be doing something. They lost their mother this morning and we’re still in shock about the whole thing.” The writer of course felt like crap and offered to help if he could.

Obviously, this extreme example isn’t always the case. But whether the person is dealing with a crisis or is simply being a jerk, how does getting angry about it help anyone?

Ok…that was kinda convoluted and irrelevant. Sorry about that. I’ve just been getting fed up with people passing judgement and getting angry for no reason lately.

Hello R.,

I’m sorry it took a while for me to email back. I have been swamped with correspondance and writing and emails!

I think your assessment is spot-on. Some people live with these assumptions (usually to the lowest common denominator of “You can’t/shouldn’t trust kids to do anything, because they can’t/shouldn’t”) and this becomes a toxic element. Instead of opening their minds or asking questions or taking a lighter touch in these situations, they assume the worst (about kids and parents) and operate from there.

Your experience with K. in parking lots is a precise experience I’ve had myself with my children. I recently had another parent write who’d had an identical issue in a parking lot in DC. Here’s the funny thing. Parking lots are a place where cars, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs and scooters, those with carts, and bicycles all negotiate space. In these stories with children, space was successfully negotiated. Why then the hate?[2. Because in America, cars are blameless, holy creatures and the rest shall scurry and scatter like chaff from golden wheat.]

I read the most wonderful articles referring to “adult privilege” today. I share them here and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

“Mothers to BHG Author – Thou Shalt Not Tell Us You Hate Our Kids” at

“My Child Takes Up Space at

Thank you again for writing, as always!

you really would totally love to live here

So my kids got to sleep in and then eat a hot homemade breakfast and then play in the sunshine and then take a huge nap on the couch (Nels) then go swimming then get burgers and a shake and then home again and their friend came over and they spent HOURS outside digging a huge mud hole in my back yard (an executive decision I made today: yes, you can have this section of the yard to dig in, what the hell, we can always repair it later) then came back in for Legos before heading outside for bike riding. And for dinner I made Indian Butter Chicken (with substitutions, and it was still fabulous) on top of basmati rice and sprinkled with ground cashews, served next to petite peas and fried zucchini. Oh and I asked Nels how he liked the food (because it was new cuisine and all spicey and cumin-y and stuff) and he said, “It’s delightful!”, except he said “deerightful”. And right now I’m sewing on a couple lovely dresses for my daughter and Nels is teaching himself chess and Sophie is drawing a new kind of mermaid-creature and Ralph is out putting away the chicks, who are now “hardened” i.e. they spend their days outside in a tractor (to keep them safe from neighborhood cats, as the birds are just a wee bit small to defend for themselves) and we met yet another awesome neighbor and Ralph took her a half dozen of our eggs. And it was sunny today and I think it’ll be sunny tomorrow too.

I like my life.

buscamos algo una bicicleta

Today’s agenda yields only sunlight, open fresh air, and life to be lived.  We have a project: last night while friends were over one of the children took Nels’ bike out and left it around the block on the sidewalk. Today after a reconnaissance mission and a phone call to the friend we haven’t yet found it.  We ride about the neighborhood a while and Sophie finds other friends she’d rather hang with (as it turns out, setting off some rockets in a parking lot).  Nels and I head downtown to have lunch at Los Arcos (the family-operated HQX Mexican restaurant) and he and I split pollo asada con frijoles refritos y arroz Mexicana, chips and salsa, and two Roy Rogers (I love the sweet-sweet-sweet coupled with the fire of the hot sauce).  After we finish we head to the police station.  I figure it’s a long shot but we may as well give it a go.

But my guess is a good one as I discover a bike was brought in this morning.  There is a tiny and satisfying little flutter as no fewer than three officers assist with the retrieval, including the use of a police radio as we head to the little bike impound.  When Nels identifies his (purple, floral, girls’) bike the policeman – a very large, intimidating middle aged fellow made even larger and more intimidating by his uniform and gear – gives a laugh and literally claps his hands in delight.  I’m happy too.  He tells me usually the bikes that come in never get claimed, gesturing to the sad little pile lying fallow a few feet away.  Later my husband will suggest that maybe people assume theft and don’t bother to make inquiries, but I don’t know.  I’m thinking most Americans have so much “stuff” that one particular item isn’t worth the trouble; better to let your kids lose it then nag when they complain about it, eventually deciding the kid needs a “proper bike” and splurging on the cheap and shiny new Walmart version for a birthday, Christmas.

I thank the officer in charge and jog behind my son as he pedals over to my own bike.  Nels is pleased he won’t have to mount a flyer campaign around the neighborhood (which was his first idea).  “Now I can ride with you!” he says happily, all sunshine under his orange helmet (he pronounces “with” like “wiff”, swoon).  He is happy to graduate to riding with me – as in on his own bike, not behind me – but I can feel the ghosts of his little arms, his little grip about my waist, already fleeting.  Today he is already an accomplished and competent rider, although Hell No if he thinks I’m cool with him pedaling around town by himself (nothing against your skills Nels, but rather the ginormous gas guzzlers that blast through town, their owners texting behind tinted windows. Mama’s gotta have some paranoia), and Hell Yes I know he’s going to be trying this over the next few weeks.

In our various errands and dealings today about six grownups think Nels is a girl and identify him as “she”.  I have no idea why this would be; his hair isn’t even the shoulder-length it’s been in times past.  To be honest, I think it’s in part because when my son and I are together (without the distractions of his father and sister) he displays a fair bit of circumspect behavior, adroit physical coordination, calm presence, eye contact, and a sweet-husky voice (my friend Karen referred to him as an “angel” today – too far!); all of this often (not always!) reads as “well-behaved” and in general, sadly, girls are usually expected to perform this service.  Of course any socialized behavior my son demonstrates is not to be laid at the feet of my direct tutelage and may immediately be followed by something rather shocking or unwelcome, like him climbing into a backhoe and attempting to operate it.  I think being Nels’ parent has created within me a watchfulness and calm and alacrity, a Boot Camp that prepares me for Shit Immediately and Totally Hitting the Fan at Any Moment.  And I actually enjoy this very much.

After we pick up the bike we make our way home in no great hurry, first cruising through the plots at the community garden. My son suggests we re-up our membership as we have since its inception three seasons ago.  We make our way home and a few minutes later my daughter, according to that psychic connection we seem to have, busts through the door, her eyes bright and cheeks flushed.  It’s almost time to get your friends I tell her (we have a sleepover scheduled tonight).  She devours the half hamburguesa y papas fritas I’d brought home and we’re back on bikes (Ralph home now), the family splitting in twain to receive our two diminutive guests. Back at our house with the four kids and they are biking, jump-roping, chasing cats and chickens, fighting and wrestling and climbing trees.  Inside and hands are washed and dinner laid out (my children have designated Fridays as hot dog night – we also have cole slaw, potato chips, carrot sticks, celery sticks, and orange juice) then the kids are back outside and Ralph cleans the house and we run a bath and get the kiddo movie ready and make beds and spread blankets.

Full house.

“completely rid me of my perishing thirst”

A day like today, even with a lack-of-sleep hangover and no car and a mild feeling of cabin fever and all that, the sun was shining and my son heckled me mercilessly to accompany him out on the bikes and so we did. And I’m not complaining about my day when I get to bike in the sun.

I had a skit running through my mind all morning and I’ve been laughing and laughing about it:

(I actually love it when something silly plays over and over in my head), AND THEN when Sophie and I biked to get our groceries, outside the shop there was a rather scruffy looking middle-aged fellow drinking a huge silver can of beer, so I was just super-pleased to see that. Before we went inside we browsed the posted flyers and the man shuffled over and offered to pay for a ride on the red quarter airplane (a mildly dilapitated kiddie ride). I thanked him but Sophie wasn’t interested.  So then he asked if when I was a kid I’d gone on the same airplane kiddie ride and I said Yes and smiled and he cackled and actually slapped at his thigh and took another pull on the beer. So that whole business was great because usually most all the time I love talking to strangers.  I always have.

While Nels visited with his Gram it was good to have a handful of minutes with my daughter, even if all we did was pick up groceries and go to the new local pizza eatery (a nice enough place with very sweet owners, huddled in a rather depressing stretch of highway and dilapidated neighborhood buildings and sidewalks).  When my daughter and I are alone sometimes we barely even talk to each other, but we do touch a lot and I hold her and she puts her hand on mine and her head on my shoulder.  When we got home today the schoolkids were walking along the sidewalk and she caught up with some friends, her smile wide and her freckles popping and her legs pedaling furiously.  She brought Little P over and helped train him in drawing dragons (Sophie is super-accomplished on this account) and then the kids played Legos for hours.  Nels came in and out, digging a hole in the sideyard to explore under the house, his lean little body wrapped in his father’s hoodie to keep spiders away.  After this adventure concluded he planted new seeds and took a bag of fertilizer out to apply in the garden (he tells me his pea shoots are already coming up) and chased the chickens.  Ralph and Nels are the gardeners in the family; I guess come summer I’ll see just what they’ve been up to but I hope pumpkins are involved at least.

We moved the chicks out to the garage as part of the “hardening” process.  I kind of miss their peeping and scratching and the occasional and inexplicable MASSIVE POULTRY THROWDOW bash-about.  I’m also looking forward to putting them out in the back – when they’re ready – for the two-flock action (think: West Side Story fruity and deadly dance-fighting).

Spring, it’s good times.

a maiden voyage

Oh good Lord. If more days were like this they’d make up for a baker’s dozen of bad ones. It wasn’t just that my head cold lifted and the sun came out, and I got to watch the kids swim in really awesome lessons at the Y, or that we spent most of the day outside and ran into all sorts of friends and neighbors, and had a wonderful late lunch at our little Chinese American diner including an illustrative discussion with the proprietess (who loves Nels, and this is reciprocated) and some old-timer schooling me on the “class of people” living in Grays Harbor (ugh!) – all of which were wonderful, wonderful parts of my day.

But no, early in the afternoon kind of as an afterthought I hauled out Nels’ “new” bike ($9 at Thrift City, $5 for tune-up and new seat from our bike shop) and asked him if he wanted to learn to ride. And he said yes. And what the hell happened if he didn’t get on the bike and just start pedaling, steering and balancing, perfectly. Yes, his very first time ever on his own two-wheeled bike. I thought Sophie learned fast but this was amazing. Also: no training wheels BTW, as the bike guy told us years ago to not bother, so we never have. I will point out instead of $10 training wheels they’ve been riding on the back of my longtail bike which had a considerably larger price tag.

Nels rode well and with joy and competence from the get-go. He asked for help at first (barely steadying him as he got started). He crashed several times. But he even crashed awesomely – quickly and efficiently and when necessary, swiftly disentangling himself from the bike so not to go down with it (yes, there was blood and bruise and he got right back to things every time). On Karr Avenue he hit a truck, sort of but not really, because he used his handbrake and feet to avert a bone-rattling crash then sprang off the bike elegantly as it slid under the vehicle while he gently placed his hand on the door as if soothing a riled-up stallion.

And of course I really do mean it about the longtail experience being hugely instrumental to his abilities, because he also displayed an incredible awareness of traffic, space cushions, lane position, and braking distance – besides the balance and steering bit. Trust me, I’ve ridden bikes with many children and a lot of them are never trained properly and it kind of makes my hair stand on end to bike with them as they jet across streets without looking and ride into oncoming traffic and weave back and forth wtihout shoulder-checking and crash into the rest of the bike party. My kids have learned to ride a bike by sitting on the back of mine for a couple years. Kind of an incredible bonus to cargo biking.

But, and I want to be very accurate here: while there was a part of me that was amazed (although I shouldn’t be) at just how effortless, natural, and inspiring my kids’ process of learning is (when it’s not forced, coerced, or prompted), the thing that most stuck with me was the joy inherent in the entire business. Nels radiated concentration, ability, success, and happiness; a vitality thrummed through his veins, not something my camera caught (I did grab a bit of video) or that’s even easy to explain. His eyes flashed at me when he felt he was getting into a tricky bit of terrain. His voice rung out assertive yet gracious enough when he asked me for help. He hurt himself a couple times, enough to bring tears. I held him and pet him and he was back on the bike with no regrets nor fears. I felt so fortunate, just amazingly happy, to be with someone learning something new in such a way, all the joy and ability and in-the-moment presence of this child. It’s not something I often see in adults.

It felt like we biked all day.

It’s dark by the time we stop at my mother’s; she’s not at home. Sophie wants to stay the night. She suggests she write a note to my mom. A few minutes later she hands it to me: “Hello Gram, My mother drooped [sic] me of [sic] to stay the night. I hope that’s OK, Love Sophie”. I laughed and laughed because I meant a note we left to ask my mother to get back to us, as opposed to a note that we tape on the window after the assumptive act of abandoning the child (which is, in fact, what we did; and yes, my mother upon her return did agree to the scheme). Sophie and her bike stayed at my mom’s and Ralph made reconnaissance with our daughter’s suitcase.

It was a really fucking great day.

First Family Bike Ride, Sort Of
Photo courtesy of Little P, a neighborhood boy who accompanies us on bike trips when his family lets him.

tollhouse helps

After groceries I had Nels lead me to the proper house and we knocked on the door.  The man B. came to the door and recognized me instantly.  His face opened in a smile.

I told him I felt I might have come off badly the day before.  I thanked him for helping my son. I also introduced my family by name and showed him where my mother lived (just across the street). I explained to him that Sophie and Nels traveled regularly around the neighborhood and specifically back and forth from their house to their Gram’s.  I made sure to mention our names and my mother’s name a few times.

He told me I hadn’t come off as rude the day before, merely preoccupied, and that he wanted to share his concerns.  I nodded and said I didn’t worry about stranger abduction as a relevant daily threat, being as it is such a statistical anomaly.  We even talked about the disappearance of Lindsay Baum in McCleary, something that has hurt our community to say the least.  I said, “I know how much this hurts, and I know people get worried. I knew what you said yesterday was out of concern, and I wanted to come back and make sure to tell you this.”

When I said, “I want my kids to be able to walk around the neighborhood.” B. seemed to absolutely relate to this, and he nodded and voiced understanding.  And of course, now that he knows us – and we know him, and his name, and his standard poodle’s name – I can’t help but think this is what makes neighbhorhoods “safe” (or safer, or as safe as things can get) – speaking to one another, connecting, meeting as fellow humans, increasing our connection.  The kids on the street aren’t just children who may or may not be at risk or may or may not be properly taken care of.  They are children with names, and their caregivers have names, and he is welcomed into our lives, into participating, into voicing his concern and hearing my response.

I gave him a stack of cookies to seal the deal. And I pet his dog, a lovely animal.  And then we said farewell for now.

It was a good meeting.

so, now i owe some elderly gentleman an apology

When I got home from Olympia my son had already left my mother’s house to walk home and meet me there. Driving home I spotted him at a majestic neighborhood chestnut tree, whacking away with a stick. I pulled over to talk to him and he told me his aim: to release the spiky-hulled chestnuts in the tree branches so he can crack them and retrieve the lovely, shiny fruit-treasure he uses to play conkers. I tried to tell him it was too early for the chestnuts; but since he’d found some on the ground (from last fall) he was sure some were still hiding amongst the leaves. He didn’t want to hop in the car and accompany me to the house.

So I drove off home, a bit irritated at my son (because he doesn’t do what’s convenient for me) but also understanding he’d have to conduct his own investigation before he was satisfied. An hour or so went by and after a time I convinced Sophie to go find her brother. Dinner was almost ready. Looking out the window as I chopped vegetables I saw her astride her bike. She snapped on her helmet then paused and raised her hand in a smile and a wave. Nels was in a blue car pulling into my driveway, driven by an older white man.

I came to the door, my heart filled with gratitude for this stranger’s kindness yet my mind a bit weary at the thought of being lectured to in some way: my son was found wandering around lost (not true), or whatever. It didn’t quite go down like that, though. The fellow did (relatively kindly) launch into some Stranger Danger stuff (so funny, people always say, “You know, ’cause stuff can happen” and I say, “Like what?” and NO ONE wants to say exactly but they imagine they are In The Know and concerned and educating me) but honestly, this fellow didn’t register too high on the douchehound scale. He told me I should talk to my son and tell him not to ask strangers to do things for him. Of course, what Nels had seen was a man come out of his house and walk up to Nels and so Nels said, “Would you drive me home?” He did not wander up to a heroin-laden werewolf in a tattered trenchcoat drinking from a jug marked “XXX”. It’s always funny when a kind, helpful “stranger” tells you that talking to “strangers” will result in Something Horrific (mutilation! raping! abduction! by aliens! that rape and mutilate!) instead of the Something Kind they are themselves engaging in.

So anyway, as an aside, Nels asking for a ride home? I have to chew on that one for a while, because it bothered me and I don’t know why. My kids display a great deal of problem solving skills and competence in both meeting their goals and participating in the Real World (they are for instance intimately acquainted with our family’s spending plan and do a bit of our shopping for us when we need them to – just one example I am daily reminded of). Nels knows it’s OK to be direct and ask for help. These are good things. And in this case, the fellow had the right to say “no”. He even had the right to call me and tell me to get the child, or to call the cops. So I can’t really fault Nels for what he did… Not really.  Why then did it bother me?*

Anyway, so I thanked the man, and when he said something about “danger” I just cocked my head and said, “What do you mean exactly?” And given I didn’t immediately capitulate and say “Point taken, sir, thank you so much” or grovel**, I will say his eye hardened and his tone changed.  I was disappointing him, I suppose.  I managed to be very open and thankful for his help because I truly feel this way.  He drove off and my son and I went inside.

Here is what it’s like to be Kelly Hogaboom. After this fellow left I couldn’t help thinking that A., as far as paranoid Americans go, this one was one of the better ones. His tone was one of concern – although he did have a little anger and/or judgment creeping in there toward the end of our conversation, where I didn’t fervently give credence to his implied assertions that OMG MOLESTATION TEH CHILDREN. But the fellow did help my son and didn’t call the cops (as far as I know on that latter bit) nor rant at me (thanks, because seriously, being ranted at would have exhausted me at that point). And I know it’s sad I should yardstick someone by the worst-case television-watching media-saturated fearful person might. Yes, I know he gave me a mansplainy conversation. I know. It’s just – and this got me thinking even harder:

B. I don’t want this fellow to – after his encounter with me – go back home and feel more angry or fearful or confused, thinking there’s “another” parent out there who doesn’t protect her children properly – or is incredibly naive (reader, it is more than likely I know my crime statistics and probabilities better than he, precisely because this life is my work and my heart and my passion and I love these children like my own life). While he and I may end up disagreeing on how “dangerous” vs. advantageous it is for my son to talk to strangers (you’ve all heard the “fear side” of the arguments ad nauseam; here’s a couple of mine in brief: I think 100 abductions a year in a country of 4 million children is not an organizing principle to base our lives upon; I believe freedom, autonomy, fearlessness and knowledge to be so damned important when we allow it for our children; I want my kids to engage their intellect and gut so they can recognize Safe and Unsafe – not to rely on me  to give them lists of “do this every time, don’t do that ever) I do want him to know – in so many words: I’m on the case.  I care.  I do.  I want him to know this not because I owe him an explanation but because I want to assist him with his needs, his fears; I’m one of “the Helpers” (I try to be) like I imagine he believes himself to be.  I can’t convince him but I would like to talk to him, to introduce myself by name and try a connection to a man in my neighborhood.

So tomorrow I’m going to hit the Farmer’s Market and buy two pies – one for my family and one for this man – and go to his house and tell him, again, thanks for bringing Nels home, and try to connect with him on some other point.  I don’t know how it will go because I am not armed with facts nor rants or “proof” or anything but my Self, wanting to understand him more and hoping he’s open to understanding me.

Hopefully both of us will feel better.

* I figured it out: it bothered me because Nels said he was going to do one thing – walk home, yet he did something different – ask someone for a ride.

** Here’s a tip: lecturing to women about how to be better mothers? I’d like to be patient and kind here but I must say:  SO. OVERPLAYED. Also: much more frequent than lecturing fathers!  MEN who lecture women on how to do things better (how to look, think, feel, perform)?  Also: very – VERY – common. I’m not a “man-hating feminist” but when I think of all the condescending lectures I witness daily I want to go get a pair of bolt-cutters.

SERIOUSLY with those bits of fluff that look like tiny legwarmers? WTF?

One of the best things about our new neighborhood is when the sun comes out the kids do too.  Thusly as I cook today (eggplant parmesan, butter noodles, sauteed spinach with pine nuts, homemade graham crackers, roasted roma tomatoes) there’s a little pack running about outside and climbing trees and yelling at one another (sometimes quite savagely) and biking and scooter-ing and taking trips down to the corner store.  My kids are pretty cool in that they mostly play outside in the fray but periodically come inside if they need water, want money, or require some TLC, a bandage, moral support, food, or something new to do (Sophie’s pets and her expertise in handling them – four chicks and a leopard gecko – gain her extra popularity).  The neighborhood kids seem to like our house well enough because, I think, there’s often cooking in process, it’s tidy, there are many pets, and there’s no television blaring.  A couple weeks ago when I made cookies for the group of neighborhood boys who were engaging in various ass-hattery, the fellows tromped in the house – carrying toy guns, which these few never seemed to want to put aside – and gaped at our spare household.  “This is a really nice house!” one of them finally blurts out, clearly impressed in some way.

Today my children realized some neighborhood child had the same walkie-talkie set.  They discovered this – to their everlasting joy – by hearing the voice of the child(ren) first, then trying to suss out who was speaking and where their new friend lived.  This adventure turned into many others as the sun soared above our cold little bright block.

Nels has a new scooter, a birthday gift from my mother.  I watch this afternoon as he enthusiastically makes a run up and down the block.  Then he throws the thing aside into the grass strip along the road and whips out the aforementioned communication device.  “HELLO?!” he yells into the handset, delighted to be called by one of his fellow agents.  I used to worry a bit about cars or assholian neighbors or the lack of things for the children to do outside, but this neighborhood has been the most active and affable that we’ve so far known.

Things do occasionally go south in the little gang.  Ralph peeks outside to locate the spare child we’ve been entertaining today (as her mother and father spend time at home with their newborn twins); it is almost time for him to go home.  The kids are in a group at the end of the block, having made a fortress of my mom’s old truck in the driveway and affixing it with a hand-lettered sign: “Everybody Allowed Except P.*”.  When my husband is ready to bike down to the store to pick up some groceries (parchment paper for aforementioned graham crackers) I suggest he ask P. along for the trip – a boy who is often the target of group exclusion.  But P. has already found a niche in the group again and is uninterested in leaving.  It’s hard to keep up with the social alliances that shift, ebb, and wane.

By the way, and off the subject of the kids for a moment.  This is the kind of motherfucking shit I have to deal with:

The composed creature in close-up is Silver, who seems to be a natural leader of the flock.  She is also a Silver Sebright and for some reason (her enviable plumage?) she cost 75 cents more than the other three (a pair of Americaunas named Fury and Felix Jr., and Light Brahma named Johann).  The cats show no sign of wanting to tamper with the chicks but do enjoy sleeping next to the chicks’ little habitat (likely because it’s very warm).  Lots of little lives clustered in the Hogaboom homestead.  If we ever have a fire we’ll be making a lot of trips into and out of the house.

* The name of a neighborhood child.

in the gloaming

Today was lovely; besides finishing a super-awesome sewing project that had been plaguing me in the details – yay! and: Shhh! Secret for my daughter’s birthday – we were out on the bikes for most of our afternoon and evening. It was brilliantly, beautifully sunny. Packing up when there’s no chance of rain is a simpler affair:

Adventure NecessitiesColoring books! Crayon roll-ups! Swim gear! Coats!

Ralph teaches an evening class on Wednesdays and so far each evening has been wonderful. You’d think being with the kids all day I’d rather loathe having them by myself even further. Perhaps it’s that when my husband is home I feel competing urges to be with him and the children (and myself, sewing!), but I find our Wednesday evenings sans Papa to be relaxing and intimate. Go figure.

Where I Live
We stopped at Hodge Podge, the Habitat for Humanity store; Nels found a little red vacuum cleaner he has decided to purchase. Nels is building his own house out of a cardboard box and an assortment of homemade furniture including, for practicality’s sake, a Skee-Ball arcade game (lumber purchase pending). We already own a vacuum but I guess it isn’t good enough.

Nels & I, Deep In Study
While Sophie swam I read some library sewing books and Nels wrote up a list for his new domicile. I think you can see here how lovely the sun is.

On Our Ride Home
On our way back from the YMCA I glanced in the front yard of a little apartment complex on Aberdeen Avenue. Imagine my surprise when I saw an apartment inhabitant walking – not a pair of small dachshunds like she had been the week before – but a pair of cockatiels! We motored right over and the kids spent several minutes playing with the friendly and beautiful birds.

It was a good day; I didn’t even have to use my AK.

tengo una cita con m’ija

Last night I made fresh bread for a few personages: a friend who’d given us a bounty of wonderful homemade Christmas candies a few days prior, and our brand-new neighbors who moved in next door only a handful of days after our own move.  Nels wrapped the bread and, in the case of our neighbors, included a ribbon and homemade card and delivered it himself, wearing the “Dickensian” (according to the fellow at the GH Public Market) little coat I made him and looking quite fetching and sweet yet wild and older than the baby I want to think he is. By the way, Nels has grown four inches over the last year, so the coat – besides seeing a lot of wear – is not fitting the length of his belly and his arms.  And I’m sewing a new one as fast as I can.  Which he will promptly outgrow.

If there was one thing I could change about our life right now, I’d have arranged more time with my kiddos elsewhere, one at a time; I thrive as a mother (and non-insane person) when I can spend time with just Nels or just Sophie (and, wonder upon wonders, the bits of time I get with just Ralph or just myself!).  I’ve found my kids when together can occasion an intensity that easily overwhelms me these days; yet taken separately, we do much better and enjoy our time together as a foursome all the more.  Case in point, Ralph and I did a lot of kid-switching on our various vocations today: errands for the both of us and band practice for Ralph.  Sophie and I enjoyed a lovely lunch date which included buying a set of glass pitchers and having lunch in a Mexican restaurant.  While buying her a special drink at an espresso stand we talked about intersexuality and hemaphroditism, attractiveness as rated in society (“Mom – when are boys going to start finding me attractive?”), and her plans for returning to a form of school (age 10, she has decided for the time being).  And then in Ross Dress for Less, pitchers in hand at the register, she turned to me and said with a savvy confidentiality, “That woman is buying a bikini, and the bottom – right here, where the punani is – is this small.” [showing the space of an inch between her hands].  “She doesn’t know how much that is going to hurt!” my daughter shook her head, lowered her voice and waggled her eyebrows upon delivering this experiential wisdom. And something about my delight in her ever-observant brain (I hadn’t noticed the “bikini” – actually bra and panties – purchase and was probably counting grocery money up mentally) as well as her supposed wardrobe savvy made me burst out laughing, much to the surprise of fellow customers.

Driving home we saw an inflatable Santa – bereft of air, collapsed in a yard and flaccid. “Santa partied too hard,” I said, and we laughed.  “Too much booooze,” Sophie offered, “Too much sex.”  And we laughed and laughed and laughed, Sophie with this particular whinny-like quality she gets when she’s making jokes that make me smile.  And part of my laughter is that guilt, because supposedly we’re supposed to shelter our kids from such subjects, but it’s kind of funny, because that’s just Life and it’s out there, and as long as it’s not her family life where she’s seeing her mother collapsed in the yard after “too much booze and too much sex”, I’m probably doing pretty okay for my kids.  And she was sitting in the middle seat of my mom’s truck bench seat and she leaned against me like my bestest ever girlfriend.