songbird

Phoenix & Her New Bike

Phoenix & Her New Bike

Paid final installment, via layaway, through the local bike shop. A grownup bike, very lightweight with Shimano shifters. All kinds of awesome. Terry tells me it will fit her until she’s about 5′ 4″. I’m 5′ 5″ and she’s catching up to me though. I almost cried seeing her on this bike.

She couldn’t wait for us to drive it home and borrowed a helmet from Terry to ride it right that minute, she told Terry she didn’t need a kickstand. I paid right as she left then I hopped in the car and thought I was right behind her (along her route) but never saw her. I got home and she was already in the driveway with a group of neighbor boys surrounding her. My mom told me later in the day, she saw Phoenie’s first ride, along 7th Street, saw her smiling a huge smile and flying.

It hurt a lot to watch her, but I guess it was a good hurt.

Phoenix & Her New Bike

[T]he bicycle will accomplish more for women’s sensible dress than all the reform movements that have ever been waged. ~ Author Unknown, from “Demerarest’s Family Magazine”, 1895

It’s not hard, not far to reach / We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

Natural Beauty

This weekend included a cross-country interview (will post soon) as well as the composition of two articles I was rather satisfied with. Also, and more on my mind for healing properties: many sunny walks (one of them rather long, and involving salamander-catching along a slough), a bike ride, a trip out to the bay, and the meeting of, right-proper, new neighbors across the street. The seven, nine, and eleven year old children new to the neighborhood are already adhering quite quickly to my own kids. Today when Ralph and Nels and I came back from our grocery run we found Phoenix with one of our quilts, lying in the neighbor’s yard alongside her new friend L. In the sunshine, my daughter’s strawberry blonde hair shimmered like golden floss and it felt pretty damn good to think when she was ready she’d run in and grab lunch real-quick (chicken noodle soup, milk, and a banana) before running back out again, grass stains on her corduroys.

More touching than just about anything I’ve experienced in a while, my friend Dawn hosted us for lunch on Saturday and cooked for me – fried chicken (and chard, and potatoes). The kids and I brought homemade peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream (practice for Wednesday). All of it the food was delicious – I maintain there is no fried chicken to be found better than someone doing it out of their home, and Dawn did a great job. Besides my mother, I rarely get anyone homecooking for me, and it’s a wonderful treat.

Speaking of the kitchen, I’ve been baking a lot of chocolate cakes – and, just to be clear, I have more than one chocolate cake in my repetoire.Two sour cream Guinness stout cakes are currently cooling in my kitchen; these involved two cups of the beer and lots of good chocolate melted carefully and a cup and a half of sour cream and very very fresh eggs. One cake is for a friend; I borrowed her bundt pan to bake it right in there for her (I shall, of course, remove the cake and apply the chocolate ganache, and clean the pan before returning). Much like I’m so very into making baby buntings as of late, I would pretty much like to make chocolate cakes many times a week for people – and I do think mine are better than what you can get in any restaurant, coffee shop, or bakery ’round here. The price of dairy and chocolate being what it is, I can’t do so nearly as much as I’d like. Funny thing about baking is, I love to bake for other people but I hardly ever eat anything I bake. And another thing, I think the smells that fill my house are almost enjoyable for my family and guests as the food itself.

We are back down to not having a running car, and in fact will need to acquire a tow as Ralph miscalculated and believed he could have a few days’ more starting power in order to deliver it to the garage. Fingers crossed we can convince the garage to allow us to finance the repairs (tires and brakes plus, I suspect, betcha anything, glow plugs), because it’s pretty depressing to have two rotting cars laying fallow in the driveway.

But. I can’t do anything about any of that, really. So why worry?

Kids

Flats

Watermark

As I type, Nels runs out from the bath with a towel wrapped haphazardly around his wiggling, clean little body. “Freshly-baked buns, just for you,” he tells me, a joke he made up himself and repeats now and then because he knows how much I like it. I’m going to read to the children again tonight, the mines of Moria from The Fellowship of the Ring. Last time I read to Nels I was on the kidnapping of Frodo by a barrow-wight; my son’s eyes held huge and his mien quite serious as he listened to the resolution of that spooky chapter.

There are some things money can’t buy, and those are some of the best things. Good health, sunshine, an appreciation for the natural world. The love of other human beings and the love for them as well.

I don’t need too much / Just need somebody to love

You’ll probably never see me again as one of my Christmas gifts from Ralph was a nice phone – and because he’s all S-M-R-T it came completely set up with my tweeter and texting and chat and contacts and music service and every single thing I could ever want besides another human life and heartbeat – and this development is concomitant with a hardcore case of BIEBER FEVER* (yeah, I know I am late to the game on that one) so I’m mostly located in the kitchen making bread or washing dishes and listening with very perky pop at volume 11. Bieber gave way to some New Wave about the time I was rolling out some pumpernickel bread while the kids ran through the lights-out house playing hide and seek – donning caving lights on their heads. Of course.

I have been out and about a little bit.

Amore In Aberdeen

The darkness means photo-opportunities have been slight. And since this is my first ever mobile phone (seriously… I’m like a frikken corny commercial here) I’ve taken pictures of my own finger and all that, blah blah, oh well.

Here’s Ralph this morning. He recieved several gifts from my mother and I that were entirely PNw-clothing related, a lined flannel and handknit hat and neoprene boots and such. He accused us of exploiting his new beard and trying to dress him all sexy-lumberjack. I am SO GLAD I did not opt for those Carhartts with the buttcheeks cut out!

My Husband The Stoic Lumberjack

Not everyone’s too thrilled with my new gadgetry (Phoenix has intuited the awesomeness of my phone but Nels is mentally comparing it to an iPad and finding it lacking).

Post Sleep Marathon

However, despite the grouchy mien, some people are thrilled with their Christmas robe. We’re past 24 hours wearing it.

Christmas was incredible and beautiful but also exhausting. Oddly enough I need a break. Fortunately I’m getting one soon; a day with just the kiddos and I, tomorrow, when our sleepover guest goes home.

Gadgets, gadgets, more gadgets.

Post-Christmas Computer

* Here

the worst kind of benefactor of them all

Oh god, it’s past 10:30 PM so I’m kind of too tired out to go through the whole cycle of blame.

I mean it would seem at first like the fault lies squarely with my mother, but actually the catastrophic snowball shame effect began days ago, when Karen and Shelly posted a Thank You to their pattern testers on the blog… and naturally I wanted to glance through the websites and photos of those I keep company with, as a pattern tester… and maybe to Ralph and the kids and my mother I talked a little about this or that, and maybe at lunch the other day on a totally separate topic I encouraged my mom to go visit her ex-boyfriend, because she’d been so into him and exclusive and they had a torrid affair then she dropped him like yesterday’s moldy potatoes… Well…

Long story short:
OH NOES

My MOTHER – who heard me wistful about the two kittens I’d seen on the abovementioned blog (and maybe I said I’d like to ADOPT two kitties but in the future when we can afford them! I was sure to add) – went out to her ex-boyfriend’s place (on my advice being a friendly daughter!) and he coincidentally produced two kittens out of the tandem strains of awkwardness and his (now-unrequited) love for her, and she came directly from the little commune out there and SHOWED UP ON MY DOORSTEP and when I opened the door she blurted out, “I have kittens” and proceeded to get them out for me, and just as my stomach sank and the kids swarmed over them and made every promise under the sun to care for them, and I said, “Mom… I can’t afford ‘free kittens’ right now, I mean we had to borrow grocery money from you this week, and they need de-flea’ing and food and shots and…” she then promised to pay for these various and sundry, thereby rendering herself a Kitten Benefactor if you will, and this news was so surprising and allowed the crack of hope to form in my stone heart such that I shared with my husband and upon hearing the financial bounty he took back his threat about bringing home a Drownin’ Sack, and my mom went out and got their little litterbox and litter and food and enough flea medicine for the next eight months for all my kitties ($60 just for this medicine!), and we cuddled and loved up the little Fish Mongers and the kids were so happy and I felt all tickled and then she said,

“Well, I gotta get back to work,”

And left us with these Ridiculous! Little! Bundles! of Doom! It was like this huge TRICK!

So the kids and I whipped the house into shape and made the beds up and put out fresh water and food (some fancy-ass shit!) then piled warm laundry in a makeshift bed for them.  While I finished chores and packed our bikes for a trip out the children instinctively began ascertaining litterbox training (the cats were indeed tidy in this respect) and by the time we biked by my mom’s she was out in the yard so we all went to eat lunch at an outdoor ale house and hey, while we’re celebrating let’s each have a spicy Bloody Mary. And my mom paid for most of lunch and the kids and I picked up groceries for homemade pizza and we headed home and had a summer afternoon and evening with our new babies and the neighbor kids and my mom later came over for the pizza too.

I seriously do not know how today became a ridiculous party. But it did.

Welcome to the household, Hamilton (female):
Tiger-Like Markings

and Laurence (male):
Laurence, The One With

Who can count and tell me how many mouths Ralph’s income has to feed?
This Is Bullsh*t

meaning “dark red” and symbolizing rebirth from the ashes

Phoenix Fire
It’s funny how the most unremarkably pleasant days can suddenly swerve into something kind of concrete and momentous (or as “concrete and momentous” as anything that happens in this mortal coil). We were just pulling into the coffee stand today when my daughter repeated her desire to legally change her name.

This isn’t the first time she’s told me she wanted to change her name to this particular choice. When we talked about it last I told her it involved a bit of trouble: mostly paperwork and assisting friends and family in remembering your new name (which means friendly and persistent repetition). I don’t have the kind of disdainful judgment the name-change can sometimes invoke in some people* as I’ve had one of my closest friends change her name and my own sister has changed her names many times; I’ve personally seen how lives continue on much as before; and I’m all about people self-validating. I was also very impressed with my daughter’s choice as it is a very powerful name and one that suits her well.

Still, there is something kind of scary about the whole business. Names do mean something – otherwise people wouldn’t agonize over these choices; otherwise you wouldn’t hear anyone mock certain names (especially names in certain groups/types/ethnicities). I won’t deny I felt an odd fear at having to call my daughter something else than the name I’d known her by – her entire life, which felt like a big part of my life too. Still, I can tell she’s serious about it. She called both her father and my mother and told them; they were enthusiastic and supportive. She has some awesome grownups in her life.

I know I have to get some kind of court order to change a name in my family. I know I’m going to have to call doctors and the YMCA and a few organizations blah, blah. I know I’m going to stop calling her “Soph” as I have done for years. But even today in the grocery store when I called her by her new name she immediately snapped up and came to me. She has been calm and happy in this way I recognize when she’s made a choice that really, really works for her.

Welcome to our home, Phoenix Fire Hogaboom.**
Watching You

* Although of course, the people who sneer at name-changes often have no trouble with married women taking their husband’s surname.

** You can email her at phoenix.fire AT hogaboom DOT org to congratulate her – I know she’d love it!

my little splishy splashy

I think I’m pretty kick-ass for the most part: I can ovary-up and do things I’m afraid of. However, I’m not sure people know how often I’m afraid. And today facing my shift as a timer for my daughter’s swim meet rattles me from the get-go. For one, I’ve always loathed the uber-competitive parent or coach – you know the asshole I mean, screaming and intense and all sports-lingo’y and often unable to discuss anything else except the heat, or the meet or their (seven year old’s) form or whatever. But honestly? I can kind of handle these people. More to the point – because in general I’ve found these swim events to be merely highly active, a bit chaotic, and a positive experience overall with friendly people – I just don’t want to screw up and I’m rarely in a high-pressure situation these days that I don’t know my way around. Organized sports? Not so much.

This afternoon as a timer I’m part of both a secondary and tertiary backup system – that is, there is an official time activated by electronic sensors and equipment, and a physical button (me) also tied into this system should the sensor fail (ours later did); finally, myself and another timer are also responsible for hand-timing with stopwatches. I know, it sounds simple. And it kind of is, except at two minutes to the meet start I haven’t taken position and I am just hanging back and acting mellow (like Ben Murphy!) but inside thinking any minute there’d be this bullhorn and a crying kid and red-faced adults and everyone’s disapproving eye would swing around to my dumb ass and I’d be the only parent there who didn’t “get it” and was being this huge dick. Maybe even a record-scratch or slow-motion heads shaking in disgust.

But of course, none of this happened: when I finally make way to my lane – assuming, correctly, my timing accoutrement would be there – I find my lane is seeded with the slower swimmers and empty during low-attendance heats. My timing partner is a rather experienced one; he knows how to do the job well enough and he’s knowledgeable about swim meets in general so I get a bit of an education there (it’s been many, many years since I was in a swim meet myself). We spend our shift in companionable discussion when we our lane is empty, an official-looking intensity when a child thrashes through their race. I get the pleasure of timing my own daughter in one of her events: today she competes in two relays, 50 breaststroke, 25 backstroke, and the 100 individual medley (I know! She’s fucking awesome!). Not to mention that instead of waiting 15 freezing minutes for a bus we’d walked to the YMCA in the first place – a brisk stroll.  At the end of her meet my mother takes us out to lunch and my girl, who usually doesn’t eat much, demolishes macaroni and cheese, applesauce, lemonade, and half of a fudge volcano dessert. I’m thinking she’ll sleep well tonight.

As a side note, we’d missed our original 11:50 bus staying too long in Hoquiam’s new recycled clothing shop. I found a lovely line of soft cotton cami tops ($5) and happily selected three. Sadly, the women’s clothing tops out at about a size 10 so the shop holds little for me (and um, lots of other women I know – at a size 14 I am America’s average). Besides the shirts I purchased a glittery mask for Sophie at her earnest request.  Just as I laid my purchases on the counter Sophie brought me a pair of large, gold and red earrings – very striking, very bold.

“You should get these, Mama,” she says, “They’re beautiful.”

“Oh, I like them…” I say (true, very much). “But don’t you think I wear too much red?”

“You have red hair and your coat is red – you look good in red. It will be a nice touch,” she says – simple lilting sophistication in her seven year old duck voice! A few ladies in the shop turn around at this, laugh, smile. I laugh too but feel the sting of tears. I honestly feel I’ve already raised my kids; they’re so uniquely themselves and I’m always thinking, Where did that come from?

I got many compliments on the earrings today; Sophie was right.  And I could tell she was proud of selecting the earrings for me.  It was a pretty wonderful little thing between us.

my little tendril curled back up again

Tuesday evenings are odd for me because I’m coming off sewing class – a rather active experience for me mentally (and sometimes physically). I try to provide a semblance of professionalism as a representative of the College but today I was A. not prepared for the students who arrived early, and B. had unfortunately chosen an alternate venue that was at first very cluttered and then suffered from extremely inadequate lighting (both we were able to remedy). All of my students attended, including one who was starting to feel very sick. She worked as much as she could, and left early. I felt gladness in my heart to see everyone there.

Class is getting interesting because each student is embarking on their own project. At first I was teaching a clinic of basic skills. Now I am hopping around like a butterfly and finding delight in answering each question, assisting with each problem. One student wanted to learn to sew on a button correctly; wanted it so bad she cut a button off her own coat to practice!

Dean Martin plays over the stereo as I bring coffee and tea to the students. One of them, a friendly young girl with hair painted the color of a fresh bloom, sits on the floor taping together a pattern while the proprietor’s young child makes her necklaces out of red wrapped candy. My “slowest” student has – this was predictable – moved on to being a great deal more confident, showing gratifying progress. One student speaks to me in sign language while she talks (a habit; her job involves the deaf). Another woman worries her completed muslin was made incorrectly. It wasn’t, though – and I admire the precision she’s learned in her seam allowances. A friend from the college, not enrolled in my class, attends and sets up at a table to twist wire, putting together lovely jewelry and talking with these women she’s just met.

The only sad thing about Tuesday nights is as of this week I am missing one of two weekly sessions of my daughter’s swim lessons. Today I learn from Ralph that she swam across the pool by herself and dove off the diving board – and, even though it had been a year since her last lesson, she remembered her father promised her french fries after diving. So that’s what they did.

After they get home she takes her bath and falls asleep early. It was funny though, today. It’s almost as if I knew the day would be here and gone quickly; I took my time in talking to her and holding her close while I had her.

a modest series of impressive protoges

My husband supports my sewing to an extent I have simply not seen in any other partner towards their spouse’s hobby.

From the beginning he has championed my habit and praised my talent. He was the one to suggest a sewing room (and therefore, a shared bedroom for the kiddos) and he has hauled all my very heavy sewing machines from house to house. The first day after we moved in our new domicile he prioritized buying the expensive bulbs in the studio so I’d have good lighting. I mean he made a special trip to get me those bulbs. Whatever our budget indicates, he puts money aside for my fabrics or whatever else I might need. Now that I’m back to doing a bit of teaching, he prints out class notes for me and has driven from the college to home and back to bring my huge ironing board to class and in short performed a million big and small errands with the cumulative effect of feeling immensely supported.

Today due to the snow the on-campus class was canceled. Ralph called right away to tell me. I decided to invite my students over to my house during class time. I was able to reach three, and one couldn’t attend due to road conditions. At 5:30 a lone student, S., shows up for instruction.

It seems every person I’ve ever helped has delighted or surprised me – usually both. It had been a while since I’d taught and in my foolishness S. had seemed nearly hopeless to me a few weeks ago when we commenced class. She exhibited fear or trepidation at nearly every step. I would have to explain something to her more than once, not because she didn’t understand my verbiage but almost as if she literally did not hear me the first time. She showed what I at first would call a low social awareness: in class she would interrupt my “lecture” even if only seconds previous I had just personally assisted her. She is quiet – so quiet it is nearly impossible to hear what she’s saying, even if I’m in the same room with her. So I’d hear her interrupting but have to ask after her question nearly every interruption.

On the first day she attended class she took up a piece of work we’d sewn on the machine and embroidered a perfect elegant flower, freehand.

Tonight we spent most the “class” at my house in silence, as I directed her in tracing patterns. I tried to make small talk but she is not much of a small talker (although she did seem to enjoy my cats). Having her alone I was able to observe her more closely. She may not know this yet, but she has shown a tremendous amount of progress since I saw her first drive her machine. Her caution and trepidation have resulted in exact, precise results of cutting and stitching. Her requests for repetition means once she starts operation she does not make mistakes. What may have seemed at first like a dragging pace is actually serving her well for the rather advanced project she’s picked: many small, repetitive steps. She is, in short, a precise, meticulous seamstress in the making, right before my eyes. I had a wonderful time being with her tonight.

I think I could be as addicted to teaching the craft as I am actually sewing myself. Each student I have had is so unique. They see themselves as flustered, in a new territory. Most of them get rather peevish when given a difficult problem! Then in a few minutes with my guidance they are able to accomplish it. I see their potential talent. Every person I’ve helped has shown talent. I laugh (internally) at their colossal mistakes even as I laugh (internally) at myself for once again forgetting they are beginners. I remember once having a girlfriend show me the threaded bobbin for her brand new machine – it looked oddly formed. I asked if something was wrong with her winder and she gave me a quizzical look, “Well, my husband wound it” – by hand! I laughed but at the same time thought of course that made a lot of sense – and was so sweet besides.

It is sometimes odd to have to explain things I’ve known how to do since before I can remember knowing most other things.

What my students like S. probably will never realize is I am sure I love teaching them and watching them more than any of them like learning to sew.

while i talk about this nels is in the bath talking about his foreskin. for a change.

National "Night Out"
My dad, my mom, and I – on a beautiful evening. Robin, one of the most dear and sweet citizens of Hoquiam, took this picture from our August 5th National Night Out. This was back when I could sweetly live in the moment and savor it. It’s been a week since my father died and I haven’t had many sweet moments, although my husband and my children have been creeping into my heart in these ways lately. P.S. I stole some pain pills and take them now and then. Maybe that’s what the “sweet” feeling is.

My friends Shannon and Abi called me today on separate occasions. Just to hear their voices and live a little with them was a little slice of heaven. I miss Abi terribly, terribly. She and I used to spend just about every day together and we could giggle together without tiring.

My brother, mother and I are on these tiny remote islands. We are mostly friendly to one another. I feel some hostilities, though. Not really against each other – I don’t think. But since we’re in the know of how much it hurts we don’t have to pretend we’re having a good time, either. Talk talk talk then, total silence while we miss my father so devastatingly much. Then talk some more I guess, because what else is there to do?

It was horrid and rainy today but we had a good time; I took the kids out on the bike and picked up Sophie’s new bike and hooked it up (her front tire in the Freeloader like this) to take it home. I also had lunch at the Deli. Which always makes me feel better. And I saw Terry, the bike guy. And I met Matt, the cutest bike boy ever. By “cutest bike boy” I don’t mean crush-cute, I mean he’s probably young enough to be my son, and he welds bikes together, and he was shy and sweet a little like my brother. It’s so rainy and lame bike-wise here, so it’s great to meet another enthusiast.

so I had a new baby…

3/28/08 2:15 PM: date and time that my precious, precious X joined the family. I feel superstitious and odd about it though because, A. it isn’t fully paid off (but will be soon!); B. heck, even when it’s paid off it was a lot of money!; C. I haven’t put it on the front of the bus yet (have to try that out at the bus barn and hopefully while it’s not snowing); and D. I’m still getting used to the very different handling of this new vehicle.

Sophie was still at school when I loaded Nels up and went off on the inaugural run to get groceries. It was literally hailing, I was in the lowest gear (I didn’t realize this at first) and wobbling, and I could hear Terry (Bike Shop Guy) behind me making nervous, doubtful sounds as I rounded the corner. Once I sorted the gears things went better. The bike felt long and strange – even though I’m used to a much longer tail (vis-a-vis trailer – but obviously there is a “bend” in the trailer set-up). Nels up behind me instead of on two wheels on the ground felt odd but he seemed to really enjoy it. We hit Swansons and I kind of wondered around the place getting groceries, still excited about the bike (we bought Ralph some Jones Soda and the rest of tonight’s repast).

From there we headed home, briefly warmed up inside and went off to get Sophie. The hail had subsided but the wind and cold were fierce. Adding another kid to the bike felt very wobbly and odd but the little monkey mounted, dismounted, and held on perfectly. The little kiddos will need gloves for sure as the elements were very, very rough.

This morning Nels took a tomato start to his teacher (actually his substitute teacher who was filling in during maternity leave; today was her last day) and I sent two to a couple AmeriCorp students Ralph knows at GHC.

The weather may not have tuned into this fact – but Spring is indeed here!

Tomato Starts