tienes siete anos hoy

This Morning, At Seven Years
Sometimes I think your brother got the better deal. By the time I had him I was over a few things: namely, the identity crisis of giving up career and status, the need to have things entirely my way, and an irrational fear of infanthood. I’d like to believe I am a work in progress. I am doing my dutiful best to improve as your mother, leader, and mentor.

Sadly, though, while I have been doing all this self-discovery you are growing up. You benefit from my unadulterated, fierce love and the energy you bring to me – but you are also the recipient of my many mistakes.

I know you. You love to sing and you love to hear me sing. You love many of the things I love: sewing, listening to music at top volume, taking baths (together!), watching B movies. You like many things I don’t: Disney princesses, jokes about bodily functions, Regina Spektor.

You love swimming more than anything else I can think of right now. Any time your head emerges from the water you are smiling. Your skin tends toward dryness so I’m always lotioning you up after you swim. Last time I pulled out the Gold Bond – very effective but with an unappealing medicinal scent – and you groaned, “Oh no!” I laughed because I should just throw it out and buy you something new – it’s so “mom” of me to continue slathering it on you until it’s run out and it’s so “you” that you complain but allow it.

You love reading, especially graphic novels. Sweet ones, quirky ones, violent ones – anything you can get your hands on.

You are kind to animals. I was looking through our many photographs of you and your love for animal life is remarkable. You carried our new kitty home the summer day we picked him up, you attempted surgery on our traumatized chicken, and you are completely at ease with creatures large and small – knowing our pets’ many moods and proclivities better than the rest of us. You’ve told me you want to be a veterinarian someday. I can see if that’s the path you choose that you will be well-suited.

Just these last few weeks you’ve taken to sleeping in your own bunkbed. You’ve also not always been willing to cuddle or sit on my lap when I want. I’ve decided to look forward to and absolutely treasure the moments. Luckily, they still happen often. This morning when you woke you came and found me and climbed into my arms while I sang you “Happy Birthday”.

Why don’t you be a little blonder and cuter? Because it’s NOT POSSIBLE.

Punkin + Punkin
Having children means the revival of the punkin-patch. Thanks for being a constant source of renewed joy in life’s little pleasures.

Summer Babies
Is now a good time to mention you not only cuddled your brother a lot but helped out with the cloth diapering tons, too? I owe you back-pay, I admit it.

Surly Fish
Marine Science Center; I had Nels in the Didymos on my back and I was enthralled with the both of you.

Tiniest Little Undershirt
The way your lip is pooched out in this picture reminds me: you used to suck your thumb! For four-point-five years.

Fort Worden, Again:  Peace Portrait
You and your friend C.; you were wonderfully suited to one another. Your daddy has always been awesome at fixing up your hair.

Of "Muffin"
I bought you this mattress, and all the bedding, and you loved it. Name of the little creature you’re holding (that you crafted in church camp): “Muffin”.

Fort Worden
Up at the Fort, ready for action.

He's Going To Outweigh You Soon
On yet another hike. Don’t tell anyone there’s like, a six foot drop under your feet. You guys were fine.

"Of The Forest"
I found this coat abandoned on some playground; you wore it for years. The hat you still have; it actually fits now.

Last Day, Port Townsend
Port Townsend, our last day. You were both ready for (more) adventure. Nels was getting over pinkeye.

Helping In The New House
“Is there a ghost in my house?” You helped us pick and move into the place on Eklund. You approved of the purple house across the street.

We ride public transit a lot more now that we’re in HQX. You and your brother are experts!

Bagel Hunter!
Cooking in the Eklund kitchen; well, I cooked, and you’re about to eat. I loved the sunlight during the spring.

Que bonita! Remember when we went tree-trimming for swags, and had lunch at Galway Bay after? You probably don’t, but your father and I do. That’s pizza on your face, by the way.

Sophie Swimminz
Doing what you love: swimming. These days you can swim the width of the pool and are learning back- and breastroke. You go off the diving board rarely and reluctantly. You enjoy doing headstands and having me throw goggles for you to hunt and retrieve.

Lake Quinault Explorers
Out at Lake Quinault. You and Nels, a precisely-tuned engine of play.

eyes on the prize
Soccer! We never missed a game this summer. You are an excellent defender.

Morning Love
This speaks for itself.

Tonight’s birthday dinner choice: Alexander’s Restaurant.

Thank you for being a true inspiration. You are the smartest little thing in our house. I look forward to many more days with you; as many as you have to spare.

doesn’t always play well with others

My day begins thusly: lying in bed, listening to my husband and son talk downstairs. Our new house is technically a three-bedroom; the largest bedroom being a refurbished attic, a huge, long room. Our families two beds are set up at opposing ends of the room. We have three pieces of furniture and a plant besides. It is a nice room; the first time my family has lived in a house with an upstairs.

I move to the end of the bed, still yawning sleep out of my eyes, and log into my computer. The stripey cat Harris hears me stir and pads upstairs, strops himself against my legs, and scarfs down the last bit of Mexican pastry left on the blue Fiesta plate on the floor. He then moves over to a lavender catnip-filled cat toy and begins to chew on one of its legs, thoughtfully, pedantically. My daughter sleeps behind me – dead to the world. Solidly out.

Lately I feel driven to create, to sew, to knit, to clean – to drag secondhand couches home, to make party favors for my childrens birthdays (months away!). My sewing room saw the completion of two projects yesterday (one that I started in the afternoon: a new pair of lined pants for Sophie). I would gladly work myself into exhaustion each night if I wasn’t aware that life requires periods of rest and connection. This is hard for me; to sit down on the couch, play a game with the kids, make eye contact with my husband and relax against his chest for a while.

Downstairs I hear my husband clipping my son’s fingernails, their voices at a sweet murmur. The day’s first cup of coffee calls to me. Our last day together before Ralph goes back to work.

these eggs have the curious taste of triumph

I find our pets (currently: two cats, two chickens) immensely amusing; I’m aware that I can only do so in part because A. they’re healthy and B. I feel good about the care we’re giving them. Most of my time with them I’m laughing at their sheer joy of living, their ease of life; companions in our world, benefiting from my husband’s income and the TLC the family bestows on them.

So this morning when my daughter came in from egg-gathering and reported that our laying hen had a “block of wood” in her eye my heart sank. I thought, These are Ralph’s chickens! Why am I going to have to deal with this? It was a grievous injury indeed – closer to a “block” then a splinter, the piece of wood had pierced the fowl’s lower eyelid and was barbed like a fish hook, set deep in the flesh (I know – ew!). My daughter and I attempted to remove the item but it was impossible.

An “emergency” call-in and afternoon trip out to the doctor (I hope the chicken likes listening to Abba as much as my kids do) and a half hour later the heroic vet had removed the wood and told us by a small miracle the eye itself had not been damaged. So – that’s great news.

The real amazing part of the story was my daughter, who not only daily takes it upon herself to check on the fowl and bring in eggs, but who this morning discovered the injury and assisted me in our attempts to remedy the situation. She was calm and assertive with the distressed bird; I told her later this is a most important quality for caring for pets. “It’s okay, girl…” she said softly as she carefully but firmly tugged on the wood splinter (a job I did not envy; I was the chickn-holder for this venture). At one point I urged her in a particular operation and she said in a perfectly adult tone, “Mom, I’m not a chicken expert.” (It turned out the “experts” needed two people, ten minutes, and doctors’ tools to complete the job.)

I am just so immensely proud of her. She takes after her dad in the Chickn Care department.

Sophie & Sophie
Sophie. & Sophie.

little boys say the derndest things

Our younger cat Harris is an odd one; since kittenhood he has been amenable to baths and water experiences most cats fear and loathe (a blog search regarding the infamous toilet-bath administered by Nels revealed the entirely unrelated but equally infamous piss-in-a-cup-while-inside-the-van, a performance Nels repeated after his Christmas concert last Wednesday. I smiled innocently at parents exiting the church as I poured steaming urine out the van window onto the rain-soaked ground). When we take a bath Harris likes to be there up on the bath ledge, purring and accepting drips of water and stroking from wet hands. Recently he’s taken to crouching down and dipping a long paw (his front right one in fact) into the water, about four inches down, and carefully cupping the water to his mouth to drink).

Tonight as Nels and I take a bath Harris eventually moves back to the floor next to us. “Here you go, water-swiper,” Nels says as he leans forward and puts a container full of water on the floor (a large yogurt container; it’s what we use to help rinse the kids’ hair after a wash). The cat drinks and drinks and drinks.

“He wants to sip your breasts,” Nels says (my son’s parlance for breastfeeding).

“There’s no more milk in my breasts,” I tell him, thinking with a bit of regret that it’s going on three years since since this was the case.

“You should drink some milk to fill these up,” he says, gently patting me.

“That’s not how it works,” I reply. I explain it to him briefly – I’d need to have a baby. “Well Harris is going to be your baby,” my son responds. I repress the involuntary shudder. Before I can reply Nels says conversationally, “When I grow up to be a girl I will nurse him. But I’m kind of scared to nurse a cat because it might bite my nipples off.”

I turn my head to the left to meet my cat’s unnerving stare, inches from my face. It’s a bit eerie and at first I can’t think why; then I realize his head is level with mine and he’s looking directly, almost threateningly, into my eyes No blinking, no looking away. I have heard the old myth that cats suck breath from infants; perhaps they want something of more sustenance from adult females.

Tonight as I pen (or type) my blog entry Nels emerges from the tub and decides to redecorate the tree: like the scene from Elf he vaults halfway up the noble fir in an attempt to secure a candy cane. Then he’s back at my desk, climbing over me to grab a piece of technology Ralph secured from the college’s library. I take it back from him: “You can play with this after you put on some underwear.” I am nothing if not creative at bribing the savage spirit.

The weird thing is I’m sure the camcorder, candy cane, and nudity are all part of some Master Plan of my son’s; I’m just not always willing to let him carry this stuff out.

of lizards and liaisons

This morning our mission was simple: a sojourn to the local pet store to do some homework. My daughter has been persistently requesting a new pet: lizard or turtle. Today we went to find the appropriate animal for her care (verdict: leopard gecko) and price all the accessories we’ll need for said animal. Sophie brought a clipboard and pen for our research. After we move into our new place I’ll venture out again to acquire the animal (hopefully from a home that no longer wants their wee lizard).

It was a snowy walk to meet the bus; slow going, as the roads were still icy and treacherous. After boarding (fare is free most of this month for Christmas) we head to the back of the bus; I get violently carsick on most public transportation unless I’m assiduously facing forward. We sit next to a grown man in scuffed leather coat with a coarse dark beard and skull-printed do-rag. My daughter looks out the window at the snow; there’s never been a child more interested and invested in finding ice to crunch with her boots. My son takes up Sophie’s clipboard and flips the page to the lyrics for his Christmas concert (tomorrow night) which he’s been practicing. In a clear, measured voice he sings the versus of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”.

After my son concludes this recital the man next to me leans over. “Thank you for the carol,” he says, holding up two shiny quarters for the children (even though Sophie hadn’t sang). “Oh, thank you!” I say. “I didn’t know that was part of the deal.” The man apologizes for what he now perceives may be an intrusion. “I hope my tattoos didn’t offend you, ma’am,” he says, showing me two very homemade-looking on the back of each hand: “JESUS IS KING” and “JESUS IS LORD”. Tattoos don’t offend me; neither does passionate Christianity. With his long hair and dark beard he reminds me of my father and brother, of company my family used to keep when we lived in Southern California. I talk to him a bit more, sharing a story about walking a long distance the day before because I didn’t have bus fare, not knowing that fare was free this month. I enjoy talking to strangers and I am somewhat eager he sees I do not scare. I see his jeans are torn and underneath he is wearing bathing trunks, presumably against the cold. Where does he live? Where is he going? The words stick in my throat; I don’t want him to think I’m intruding.

Across from Swanson’s he rings the bell to exit the bus. “Have a nice day,” he tells us, and unless I’m mistaken there is something guarded in his tone. Does he regret offering the quarters? Does he think I scorn him based on his appearance – as so many before me doubtless have done? Is he just lonely?

“You too,” I say warmly. “Thank you.” I’m smiling as he leaves and my eyes feel wet, grateful for the contact between strangers.

We chug up the Simpson Avenue bridge on the bus, only blocks from our destination now. I think to myself how much the human soul wants connection, wants to be seen and not judged, wants to strike up a conversation with someone they’ve never met and likely won’t see again. I also think to myself that when I’m out on foot, on the bus, on the bike, I am so much more likely to experience the expansion of the soul, the pauses that end up in their way more rewarding and real than the rushing about I am wont to do in my many plans and errands.

My children in the pet store are perfectly behaved; their tender handling of the fragile, small reptiles betrays their gentleness. The lizards themselves, animals I hadn’t been prone to notice before, are amazingly beautiful; looking as if made of glass, but soft, barely warm to the touch. A delicacy in each face as if it were formed by an expert craftsman, which indeed many think is the case. Sophie asks as we leave if I’m going to indeed bring a lizard into our new home. “I promise I will take good care of him,” and I believe her.

"like hot chum"

Here’s what I love about pets, specifically of the cat variety. They’re like, all of a sudden, total whores that want attention and assume you have the same instinct at the same time (P.S. the earlier instinct was to eat tuna; earlier still, race across the room and then suddenly stop to lick one’s balls). So I’m sitting at my Juki sewing, and he comes over and is like, “I’ll bet now is a good time,” and is up on the table and getting in between me and the machine. He puts his paw out, kind of stutters it toward my lap, purring loudly – right in the way of my arms trying to sew. “I’ll just… let me… just like this,” as he weasels in to my lap in a way reminiscent of Lundberg’s stapler-grab in Office Space (yeah, I didn’t feel like using my typical imdb link!).

Decadence On The Carpet
I can smell his fishy breath from looking at this photo. Nels and Sophie take many pictures of the cat. Because he’s so fascinating.

Sleep Weasel
Ralph and I disagree about the comfortable temperature inside the house; and rather than consulting the actual thermostat, we look at the position the cats are in. Spread out like this? It’s a little too hot.

In other news, I was interviewed today by American Public Radio’s “Weekend America” for a Flickr photo I posted (good God, not those above of course!). Let me first say: I am no natural for a radio interview, and I said some really dumb things, all in the course of trying to tell the photo’s story in the way they needed. I am also thinking they may be able to edit me into looking like a total arse / unfeeling, mean mom. T-hee!

adventures in sreeping

I’m not in top-form this morning so I don’t have a great analogy for my nighttime experience, where I go to bed with one or maybe two people and wake up next to about three, usually with one or two cats as well and with no idea who surrounds me. Today as it happened I was flanked by Sophie and Nels, my daughter’s leg thrown over mine and my son soft in the blankets, his features delicate and skin as perfect as a cherub (sleeping is the only way he looks so). Last night I know I’d fallen asleep with only my daughter next to me, my son in the next room and my husband wandering the house with a case of insomnia (rare these days for him).

Only part of the musical bed games are due to the fact we are still painting my daughter’s loft bed. I think my parents think I’m some slacker who can’t be bothered to finish the job while my husband works during the day. But the truth is I had a horrible time painting the thing and my husband even said I wasn’t doing it right (he said this in a very circumspect way) and I just kind of bolted from the bedroom and haven’t been back. Our only other usable bed right now is a twin in my sewing room, just a couple arm’s lengths away from my own. I think I’ll miss when the kids are installed in their beds and I can’t see them from my pillow.

In her old age and with the cold winter Blackie has let go her snobbishness and her anger (at the world) for allowing a new kitten into our home; in the morning she is minutely hunched just to my left, sleeping silently and leaving a mat of black cat hair such that each morning she sleeps with us I have to clean the bedclothes. Harris is less prepossessing, stretching over whichever victim is the most asleep and therefore won’t struggle, laying on his back with his legs open and front paws awkwardly poised in the air.*

And here I’ve been thinking about getting a dog. But if we got a California king bed, I think we’d have another 6″ along the bottom of the bed…

* And no, I can’t tell a cat story as well as Mr. Levin.

of hobgoblins and horking

It’s official. I like vacations. I don’t really get tired of the kids being underfoot. I like sleeping in with the kids, cooking for them, and doing projects with them and all this is far, far easier during schedule-less times of the year. Case in point: Christmas break. My children have been off of school / “school” (the second option being the handful of hours Nels attends his co-op during the week) and we just screw off all day in between the work I have to do. They are pretty good at taking care of themselves if I also make sure to put in some solid game time or, now that they’re old enough, include them in chores.

Case in point: devising a children’s mail system (pictures soon). Nels, Sophie, and I have also been practicing jumprope. Sophie jumps and smiles, Nels swings his arm (the full radius he can actually swing it) and screams laughter. Today we got up to twenty jumps sequentially.

Yesterday we discovered Queen’s “Bicycle Race” on the iPod – which if you think about it, is just a perfect children’s song – as we were running our errands for Ralph. The kids were just – entranced. I sometimes forget how cool it is to be a grown-up and show someone something new for their unadulterated reaction (they absolutely, absolutely carry on for this one – in fact now they are currently listening top-volume while jumping on my bed, and yes I confiscated the pick-up stix they were holding while jumping like crazy because I am a good Mama). The three of us also have been pretending – all day long – the three of us are hobgoblins*, living in rags in the forest and stealing things. Mostly food I make (I am apparently a human woman when I make the food, a hobgoblin mommy for all the snuggling and errands we run). They filch blankets and make nests of “lemon leaves and twigs” and twine their arms around me and whisper in my ears.

Reality does occasionally set in. “Blackie horked on my bed,” Sophie tells me, dismayed. We peel off the offending quilt and put on a new sheet. You can hardly get the cats to go outside these days because we have the fire on so much. They lie around like hair-puddles, exhaling hot chum when they yawn and expecting life to be easy.

* Inspired by my current bedside fiction.

"Spooning with a stranger in the back of a van, now that’s a violation!"

Yesterday afternoon I found myself in Aberdeen in the van while it was pouring rain, I had our kitty Harris in the passenger seat, and we’d just escaped the a shop after being hijacked by two separate store employees who were lonely and we’d been in there so long I’d had to timeout Nels (watching the van through the window) and by the time I got out to him he’d been crying and holding his pee and had to go and I wouldn’t go back inside (both b/c of the employees’ overtalking tendencies and Nels’ immediate need) and I said, “Sophie, give me that cup!” and like a well-trained pit crew member she knew what I was doing and got the cup and took off the lid and I got Nels out of his carseat and pulled down his pants and he peed and RAPIDLY began to fill the cup, stopping 1/4″ before the top.

As it was happening I was thinking how all of it made sense on some level (except the kitten but he was really lonely and is a good car rider) but I’m pretty sure no one else would have thought it made sense to watch how it all went down.

Afterwards, I poured the fresh hot cup of steaming urine into the gutter. I’m sure that’s not the first time anyone’s leaned out of a car in downtown Aberdeen and done the same.

Tonight I finished “Freaks and Geeks”. I’ve never seen a show before like it and I see why it’s rated so high on IMDB. The funny thing is, it started out decently enough for the first ten or so episodes (there are 18 total). But by the end I was in tears just about each chapter. I’ve also never experienced high school all over again, but I sure did during that show in the most amazing way – in a good way. Thanks Chris, for the recommendation. I got through them all eventually.

Tonight also marks the first five inches of my first sock! Yes, I’m knitting socks. I’m told it’s addictive although it seems to be more like: knit knit knit knit for hours and hours and hours – here’s a wristband!

And finally: newness in our household as Nels gave the kitty a bath. Using the toilet. Yes, it really happened. I can’t really talk much more about it.


with a very important announcement! And yes, it’s kitten-related.

Today was kind of a busy day. I was out in the early morning to pick up my brother (who I’m now calling Princess) and head out to visit our parents in Pacific Beach. While there my mom treated us to a very tasty burger stand – they had not only veggie burgers but spicy black bean burgers! Yay and thank you! – and then headed home around 1 PM. I dropped my brother off then headed to the salon for a haircut and color; something I’ve always found so boring in past sessions but I’ve come to enjoy my time with my stylist Traci very much. From there I directly came home, loaded kids and their snack into car, and journied to the Y for Sophie’s swim lesson (additional news flash – yesterday a kid – not mine! – vomited into the pool and there was a mass evacuation), then hit KITTEN ISLAND, aka a very funky old house in Cosi with four friendly kitten creatures who tried to act like winsome orphans for our benefit.

Yes, you heard me. KITTEN ISLAND. This is the magical place where kittens climb on you and rest and look cute and you think about taking two instead of one. By the way, it had been a number of years since I’d had a kitten and I’ve forgotten things about them. Like they can’t jump up to your knee even on a low sofa so they climb it. Like they are incredibly trusting to new people. Like they can hide anywhere apparently (this one is doing so as I write this).

The kitten is, we believe, male. The kitten is stripey and has grey and white eyeliner. The kitten doesn’t have a name; yes, I have taken pictures and will post them soon. The kitten got a flea bath before the kitten’s paws touched the floor of my house. I also told the kitten I was sorry to take him from his brothers and sisters. Then I said, “But that’s what happens to kittens…” and the male of the couple whom we were adopting from nodded gently and said soberly, “That’s life.”

Let that be the last sober and sad reflection towards our new family member at Casa del Hogaboom.

Welcome, kitten!