“It rubs the lotion on its skin / Or else it gets the hose again”

My onset insomnia comes and goes, irrespective of what’s going on in my life, for good or ill, or how much exercise I’ve had or what foods I’ve eaten or haven’t, or how hard I’ve worked or lazed about or how much I drink or abstain (pain pills are great and weed can help, but even if I wasn’t relatively cautious about getting high as a regular strategy, I am too lazy to procure even the herb, especially considering in general I find pot culture annoying). The best strategy I’ve come up with is Acceptance, especially with regards to myself; to forgive and regard with some humor my imperfection of, say, not being able to settle myself to unconciousness. I usually end up watching something on Netflix, staying up late with the kids – at which point we often fall asleep together – and then sometimes, like last night, I’m up until dawn, long after everyone else has fallen asleep, trying to find something on Netflix that is good and relatively escapist or at least not triggering. Weirdly even with that caveat I’m also able to consume dark or intense material; one morning Ralph was up and about at 6 AM to find me finishing Awful Normal then up and starting I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life & Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal (both great films, hey); when he asked what they were about and I told him he reacted with mild horror.

But it’s funny what can really bother one; when I am trying to relax and feel sleepy, it sucks when, say like last night, I’m watching some BBC special, and all of the sudden my eyes crash open upon viewing yet another creepily insensitive and misogynistic portrayal of the process of birthin’ a baby (ah yes birth: inherently horrifying, gruesome, and hell yes does mommy scream and flail on her back, and rarely if ever have I heard a depiction of low-voiced coping-through-contractions; oh and then she dies – unless a d00d is helping her out – often being cut open or bleeding profusely and graphically, because don’tcha know women are just made wrong), and my toasty feelin’-sleepy vibes get put on hold (never mind the rest of the episode, where nurses kept the newborn motherless child from the father, because don’tcha know, men can’t care for babies, not even their own). The annoying and unsettling but far-too-common scene-chewing birth drama had one upside at least: I went on a cute li’l birth-in-the-media rant through Twitter today that ended up being one hundred percent satisfying.

Point is, I’ve consumed some great entertainment lately – and some not-so-great stuff. I finally finished the adorable sitcom “Gavin & Stacy” (& have happily had a Welsh-accented rendition of “Islands in the Stream” stuck in my head for a few days), a program Ralph felt was uncharacteristically “romantic” for my taste. Getting back to the semi-gruesome fare he apparently expects of me, I’m just about caught up on FX’s “Justifed” (thanks to the recommendation of this post at Racialicious) and I’m loving it right up to I think an episode this week, which I will gleefully grab right up when I can (I’m almost never watching television as it’s happening – how exciting!).

I also watched Jackie Brown last night. I’ve seen about seven Tarantino movies during which time I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with his seemingly perennial fascination with and reification of racial and sexual exploitation, plus the penchant for favoring slickness over story development, also shooting people in the face, sometimes children, and subjecting us to gratuitous rape, and the “n-word” as much as possible, all of which causes me to feel rather unamused & disinterested about his whole bit. However! However. Jackie Brown was good, and lead actors Grier and Forster were – transcendant. And icing on the cake: toward the end of the caper where Brown walks into a building and her cerulean blue blazer is exactly the color of an outdoor wall behind her, and I felt this thrill knowing they painted the wall just for that purpose, that fifteen seconds, and it was perfect! And never mind some other minor flaws in the film, for instance that IRL contemporary people don’t listen only to old-skool Motown. Because, the truth is, maybe we should.

Oh, and I finally got around to the martial arts classic Enter the Dragon, and laughed mightily at John Saxon kicking ass in an Orlon turtleneck and really tight flare trousers, which I’m guessing had just the right amount of Comfort-Stretchâ„¢.

If it seems I’m watching a bit more onscreen – well, that’s pretty much true; I just finished a sewing project for a client in Chicago and it involved hours of handstitchery. Handsewing, unlike machine sewing, provides different opportunities. Reminds me of: my mom will sign-paint in her living room with a film playing, but it’s usually something she’s seen many times, like Out of Sight or Casablanca or Out of Africa or old “X Files” are some of her favorites, and by virtue of walking into her house I’ve seen some of those over and over, in bits of pieces. So when it comes to machine-sewing it’s a bit tough for me – because like with my mom’s signage, I need to keep my eyes on my hands which means I can’t play something I really want to see. Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (watched it a dozen times so I now only really need to keep my eyes on the part with Gary Oldman’s nipples) and the recent obligatory viewing of Black Swan worked well for that. But handsewing? I can put something on that I really want to consume and pay attention to, and for the most part I see it all.

And that leads me to: my new sewing digs are up and running; while I suss out the perfect (dirt-cheap) studio in Hoquiam, Ralph bought and installed shelves in our backroom which converted that little space to an awesome work area (here, take a tour). Tomorrow I start on a shirt for a friend’s son, unless it’s sunny and warm, at which point I’m headed outside tout de suite.

& now: it’s almost 1:30 AM. Tomorrow’s Conch Shell lasagna is tidy in the fridge; the fresh-baked cheesecake smells delicious and cools on the stove. I’m cracking a beer, fixing a tomato sandwich for Nels & I, and getting up to some snuggling and, knowing my kids, a nature show. I’ve got my hopes set on “The Jeff Corwin Experience”.


“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.


something waits beneath it

Our household is usually such a peaceful and cozy one and never so much than late at night, dishes done and the house tided, the kids (usually) on their laptops or one of the other computers in the house – or like now, playing with clay and reading quietly. Ralph is asleep and so are all the cats; Hamilton in bed up around his neck, Harris under the kids’ easel, Josie on our phonograph, and Mable in a cardboard box Phoenix found today and brought home to fit with towels for this very purpose.

The family is happy and healthy. I am feeling better and drinking (booze) less (yay!). The kids are joyful and content. Ralph suffers a bit as at night he typically stays awake longer than he should (for his sleep’s sake), because he wants to have time with us. As for the kids and I, our night-owlery is something we can afford to do with no ill effects; without a school schedule we are free to pursue the sleep and rest and activity we need.  I am quite surprised to see how different our winter rhythms are than summer was. One of the principal joys of having seasons is appreciating the one you’re in and looking forward to ones to come.

That said, the children don’t seem to mind the gloom and cold, yet this year I do. I wonder why?

A Bath With My Young Son
(Small Stone #5*)

Your skin like velvet
Even in the cold pale of winter,
Rich like coffee and cream.

Small stone project

hasta mañana

For Nels’ birthday my son requested enrollment in Spy Camp at the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia (his actual birthdate is this Wednesday).  He chose the week of half-day events over a Netbook* which I think is pretty indicative of his desire to learn Spying, as he is a little computer freak just like his grown-up little computer freak father.  I begrudge the thought of driving to Olympia (a 45-minute trip) five days this week but given I’m an infrequent driver most of the time and my mother has loaned us her van (which comes with a Sirius XM radio, which I am addicted to, yes 80s hits mostly) it’s not so bad.  And I’m super-glad to do something special for Nels who is suddenly on the verge of turning six, which is really weird because I just gave birth to him a few minutes ago.

So today I lost my temper at the kids, in a major way, not once but twice.  And I feel so bad about it it’s as if I shouldn’t have made the effort (to have a good day) at all.  Yes, I feel bad about myself despite getting up and packing a great lunch (my kids eat so. much. goddamned. food) and getting the children dressed with their teeth brushed then whipping up to “the city” and dropping Nels at his event and taking Sophie around on a walk about town, including a reclaimed materials art gallery and vegetarian lunch and a stop at a bakery I knew she’d love.  No, after all this and even with a dose of Mellow and lots of good humor I still behaved horridly, and No I still can’t give myself a break over it, but TIA for suggesting it, kbai.

And don’t even say that it’s precisely the inner-applied pressure of trying to be Perfect Mom that makes me snap and behave like Mommy Dearest.  Nice try, Pop Psychology, but that’s really not it.  Because I know I’m not Perfect Mom and I know in my logical brain that I provide enough awesomeness to my kids, and I don’t need to do better or work harder or whatever.  I mean I know this.  (Don’t I?)

And it’s not because kids are so hard to deal with and that’s why almost everyone farms them out in school.  Because in so many ways I am so used to my kids and who would have thought it, I completely love living my life with them most of the time.

Maybe it’s just that when I screw up I really tend to feel like I’ve Ruined Everything.  Even if for all I know my family doesn’t feel that way and I really should give myself a break.

Not that anyone wants to or needs to hear more about this, but because I need to write it out: driving home in the pissing-rain I felt eight kinds of terrible.  The layers of Terrible were blended in a perfect mental-emotional culinary mess of Fail.  I felt terrible I’d blown up at my kids.  I felt WORSE in that I’d been a great mom for the entire day and then somehow turned into a monstrer (yes, this is the correct spelling), instantaneously.  I felt terrible some dude may or may not have heard me totally yelling and losing my shit, and that this dude may or may not be a dude I’m going to see more of as he may or may not also have kids in the camp (ugh!). Then I felt terrible I should give so much of a damn what some random person might think when the really terrible thing is that I yell and cuss at my kids. I felt surprsingly devastated – devastated – I was going to miss my dance class (later I would find out the dance class would have been missed in any case – I was an hour off in my calculations, if you could call them that. And by the way, you can imagine how listlessly – stupid doesn’t encapsulate the word – I felt later when I realized my tantrum was based on a total erroneous supposition, that I could have in fact taken my son to camp without missing my class). I hate that feeling when I realize I’m not taking care of myself in my daily life, which means I cling so tenaciously to some little thing I have to have or else I’m going to be so upset. Danger! Danger!  And then I resent the hell out of everyone who, you know, doesn’t have small children, and then I know that’s unfair but.  Whatever.

I can’t quite describe the full depths of ass-ness that were attempting to overwhelm me during the first part of our drive home.  My wonderful kids were quiet.  They were not afraid or angry but simply present with me in my misery.  I drove and believed all sorts of bad things about myself.  But there was this tiny glimmer of light somewhere within me that kept saying, “What we think we become.”* I know this to be true, so I tried to stop myself thinking I was a Bad Mother or a Horrible Human Being, even though the evidence therein was in place. Terrible thoughts rose in my mind but I didn’t want to make them my reality.  I tried instead to believe I am someone who can change.  This is hard for me to believe.  I shifted my thoughts to knowing I’m someone who does very well much of the time.  This felt irrelevant.  I shifted my thoughts to know I’d been so good to my family most of the day. And I was going home to make dinner and take care of them some more.  I knew I could do that much, at least. I knew it would happen.

About 5:30 when we got into town I met up with Ralph at the bus station (he bikes/busses to work now that we’re vehicularly-compromised) and I had him take me to the dance studio while he and the kids ran to get dinner groceries.  Which was a weird request because my class was long dismissed.  But like Richard Gere shouted to his drill instructor after doing a butt-load of sit-ups, I had nowhere else to go.

There was a tap / jazz dance class in attendance at the studio, a very small one: the teacher L. and two students who seemed about high school senior age.  The threesome let me stay and watch.  I’ve never particularly liked tap nor jazz dance.  But watching these dancers was the perfect prescription for my bruised ego.  L. is a teacher who obviously enjoys just about every kind of dance, so it’s pretty wonderful to watch her.  Singing a show tune and mapping out choreography and lifting her arms she is a beautiful sight to behold not just for her skill and physical beauty but for her enjoyment of the dance itself.  I’ve known her, albeit not well, since she was a little girl.  She loved dance then, too.  Funny thing.

A few minutes after I arrived the class tried to encourage me to join them.  I was so drained and exhausted and kind of crazy-sad I didn’t have the energy to stoically refuse (which would be a typical MO).  Fortunately my very wide feet  (raised in Doc Martens and therefore untrained to cram into ladies’ narrow fashions) kept me from fitting in the pinchy (¡pinche!) shoes.  I sat in my sock feet and watched, warmed and grateful for a respite. The dizzying and fast footwork were oddly completely soothing.  It was like feeling like a terrible person but somehow still being safe because no one was needing me nor paying attention to me.

Home and I read to the kids; but not before cooking a (vegetarian, Ralph and I are tasting the Hate and Suffering in meat lately) dinner: butter parmesan noodles, pan-roasted garbanzo beans, sauteed kale, cucumber salad, roasted cauliflower, and steamed broccoli.  And I washed the clothes and folded and put them away and got things ready for tomorrow. Because:

Tomorrow is another day.

Nels, posing for his Spy Camp badge:

Urbane & Sophisticated

* Not the real link we would use to purchase, as my husband would find some way to get the damn thing cheaper.

** The entire quote is: ““All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” It is attributed to Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.