Love the one you’re with

Pristine

I’m a bit disturbed that in my once-yearly visits to Port Townsend I continue to be beset by ugly thoughts and feelings – each time I visit. Yesterday and today, in fact, I experienced the strongest negative feelings and thoughts so far. All my baggage, sure and whatever, and maybe I’ll write some of it out sooner or later, but that’s not my point. The oppressiveness of it all threw me for a loop. It was like my brain had all this static noise.

And I didn’t have much time to process. Within about five minutes of driving into town I was at a party and spent almost every waking second after this around other grownups. I didn’t have time to defrag. I did my best to be present for my friends, who along with their children are deeply precious to me.

The friends, the kids? AWESOME. I felt high as a kite to be around them. That might have been the Stumptown coffee, too.

Darts At The Undertown

After hot chocolates and hot coffee we walked down to the beach. The children played and played and played, showing no boredom and only a total interest in the beach and one another.

A Place of Interest, #3

And they agreed to assemble so I could take a group picture. This is because guess what, tomorrow they will all be about six inches taller and with more or less teeth and telling different stories and doing different things so we wanted to get them, just grab them RIGHT NOW.

Preparing...

Assembling...

Almost There!

El Grupo

El Grupo[grimacing]

At some point some of us had to move onto a warm place with hot food. At this separation, Phoenix cried mightily. But in the way of small kiddos she was very happy only moments later on our way to lunch, stopping for a comically incorrect-sized kiddie ride – one she used to ride on as a tot that is, I suspect, not much longer for this world.

Triumph

The kids sat at their own table and Cynthia, Jodi and I got to catch up. I ate this huge-ass chile relleno. I’d hoped for the Noodle House but that was not in the cards. Maybe next time.

Like The Punchline:

As we ate it got darker, and colder, and darker…

So my daughter and I said goodbye to our friends and to PT and warmed up the car to hit the road.

On the way home, the little girl fell asleep (“Mom, may I take a snooze without interruption?”). We’d sung the entire drive up (Jazmine Sullivan and Justin Bieber, volume at 11) but it was nice to have time to myself on the drive back and I was glad she got some rest. In fact, both drives were very pleasant for me and I usually hate having my ass in a car.

Andrew Bird, and the twisty-dark of Highway 101:

Ode/Speed

On The Way Home, Phoenix

24 hours and there-and-back.

I’m ready to take a hot bath at home and cuddle up to the warm and beloved bodies in my life.

Port Townsend Gloom

Beach
(Small Stone #21*)

Beneath my feet, deathly chill, the shock traveling up through my legs.
Today I don’t mind.
I’m one with the elements.
Cold and fierce.

24 Hours
(Small Stone #22*)

My son puts his arms around my neck and buries his face in my breast.
“You were gone such a long time!”, he sighs.

Small stone project

stuck in the moment

Ralph might have started the game of Blanket Monster, but Phoenix Fire ended it. By clocking her father in the face with the rather rugged and heavy phony-Christmas-tree cardboard box. The way Ralph tells it Phoenix rather reluctantly gave up her hopes and dreams of a normal life, but with a practicality and thoroughness that is so trademark to her sensible nature. “Well, I used to have a daddy, but now he’s a relentless Blanket Monster, so I’d better kill the sonovabitch.” Ralph describes “blinding white light” and staggering to the bathroom where he staunched the flow of bloody nose while our daughter apologized with sincere but pragmatic gravitas. Fucker was pulling them under the blankets by their legs, afterall. “Tickle torture isn’t funny,” she tells me later standing with a towel wrapped around her reedlike body, her freckles standing at attention under a seal-wet post-bath noggin.

Later as we left for a date our daughter calls, “Take care of your nose, daddy!” She means it in a cheerful and loving way but it kinda sounds like a veiled threat.

We got home and later discovered a bunch of items on my Mac. Some intentional video – (I think Flickr cut out some of the artistic differences our children discuss at the end of the film)…

and some unintentional (Ding Dong!):

Pools of sorrow waves of joy / Are drifting thorough my open mind / Possessing and caressing me

I’m re-reading a favorite book of mine: The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (thank you Abi for giving it to me years ago!). A more perfect book for Kelly God-damned Hogaboom can simply not be found. I liked it so much I immediately went out to find her previous work, The Secret History, which was also excellent, but since two awesome things have to have a favored choice (kind of like would I rather make out with Mads Mikkelsen in his viking-beard-and-skirt or as the tortured expatriate relief worker with a tragic secret?), I’ve gotta say The Little Friend wins out.

I’m sorry, I have to take a minute to recover from those Mikkelsen image searches.

So anyhow, I love finding a book I can read over and over and over because it’s kind of rare. I felt this way about A Prayer For Owen Meany before Irving’s sexism became simultaneously too annoying and snore-inducing to weather.  I can still read the Lord of the Rings books over and over, yes with the snooty British professorial bit and the weird imperialism and omission of lady-agency and, well, dorkiness I suppose. We only own a handful of books on a tiny corner shelf my father built for me the year before he died. Books are one of the many, many things I don’t own in a long line of things I refuse to own because “stuff” terrifies me and besides, we’ve moved three times in a year and don’t own our home and I’m still (mentally and emotionally) semi-nomadic AND please, we have so many mouths to feed and maybe keeping a home-order is one way I cope with this. My children have more books than I do; mostly we rely on librarying up like no one’s business.

Today I took the kids to see Circus Gatti – the first time we’ve been to a circus in a handful of years. Held at our huge wooden stadium here in HQX it was one of those dissociative moments of thinking how fucked-up our world is but also being stunned at the beauty of it, twisted and all. The finale act two elephants performed and stood on their hind feet to booming Latin/urban hip hop and I felt conflicting and equally strong emotions: sick with myself I was supporting likely unethical animal-husbandry, impressed with the athleticism of the hardworking circus employees, unaccountably embarrassed by the socioeconomic markers of working class we continue to evidence (by being at the circus in the first place and being unable to afford all the trappings my kids wanted), blessed and amazed by my stunned and vivid children who shouted and ran about and bought what confectionary they could afford ($4 bought cotton candy) and performing somersaults on the bright green. Pheonix also knew way more about elephants and the training therein than I’d realized.  I sat comfortably on the wooden bleacher and held my son in my arms and felt dizzy from both the height and expanse of the stadium (I am slightly agoraphobic) and the mixture of my emotions and let’s face it, only a small handful of snap peas and a slice of cheese for breakfast.

Afterwards the circus emptied out more quickly than one could have predicted; the children took me to the nearby school playground and frolicked some more. I went back for the car (I only had use of it one half day this week) and when I got back sat patiently as the kids made their way to me (not at all promptly after I called). As a finale the Boy first did an impressive monkey-bar feat and then hopped down; when I clapped he beamed at me and pulled his shoes off the hood then opened the car door and buckled in. The children asked, “Where are we going now?” To the grocery store (where I let them pick out fruit, whatever they wanted). Then home, in the sunshine, together.

gin and chocolate and lots of splishy splashy

It’s 2 PM. Overheard in our house:

Phoenix: “Nels, it’s time for breakfast. A good breakfast. A frosting breakfast!”

Yeah. At 2 PM. And yes, that was pretty much their breakfast: cake and frosting, and  yeah, as soon as I’m done with my morning reading and writing I’ll pull them out of the cheap kiddie pool where they’re gleefully playing with a friend recently-returned-from-vacation and a handful of other kids, and well go off on bikes for lunch out, in the sunshine, all the possibilities of the road before us.

We stayed out late last night at a party our friends threw and I got up to some drinking. So this morning I was not so much sleeping off a hangover, as sleeping off the effects of gin. By this I mean at 5 AM I woke and was still a little stumbly.  I watched two movies on my husband’s laptop (Happy Accidents and The Man From Snowy River, both really wonderful, and no that isn’t the booze talking) and drank a lot of water and took a hot shower and soon felt wonderful. By the time I fell asleep again I’d had to peel two children and four cats off me. Four motherfucking cats.

The party debauchery was the cap to a wonderful day yesterday – my husband’s birthday. We spent it together as a family indoors/outdoors, grocery shopping for birthday cake accoutrement and then a late lunch/early dinner at our favorite HQX eatery, and the kids climbed on and off our laps and Nels talked our ears off sweetly about his newest and most favorite online video game, Fancy Pants Adventures (if you’ve never met us, you can play this video game and watch the animation of Fancy Pants and that is exactly who my son is in demeanor and speed and appearance). For birthday presents Ralph took the children shopping and bought them Legos (yes, he bought gifts for them for his birthday) and while they constructed these at home I readied us for the gathering we’d be invited to, whipping a mascarpone filling and baking three layers of chocolate cake to top with my favorite glossy, rich double-chocolate buttercream frosting. The sunlight filtered through the kitchen and a low chill began to form outside as I stacked the confectionary all up and pulled aside some homemade hummus for a hostess gift.

This morning my children are so very sweet; after waking near me and holding and petting me I tell them I need to sleep a little longer, I was awake in the middle of the night. So they rise and groom themselves and get glases of milk and read to one another and begin going outside, coming inside, bringing kittens out to play, and splashing in the cheap little kiddie pool where they currently are; four neighbor boys are with them, one white and three dark-skinned, all six children in a variety of states of dress and undress. My daughter comes inside and the first thing she says is, “Mama, did you manage to get some good sleep?” She is calm and paces into my arms, her eyes are serene and clear like a tiny fierce predator.

I honestly believe in many ways my children have such a wonderful childhood, which I do not provide for them inasmuch as I’m able just because I love them, but because I care about what they will in turn provide for the others they meet along the way. And – maybe this seems odd to some – my children’s joyful life is contagious, it infuses me and changes me for the better, daily. Their lives give me strength. Last night at the party a friend told me he respected how much I seek out and consume and write on activist subjects. I told him it wore me down at times and he said, “Well thanks for wearing yourself out for me so you can provide these pieces to me.” I wonder if maybe my children and the future they hold in their hands are my reason I do wear myself out, voluntarily so. If that’s true I also recognize how incredibly restorative they are to me.

My own little joy-capacitors, and we infuse one another with loving care and joyful energy.

este día en la carretera hace mucho calor

Nels is looking different today from yesterday as about thirty minutes into our biking adventures he biked right into a car (while vying for the attention of children outside in a daycare yard). The daycare employee who witnessed this (I only heard the thunk! behind me) ran inside to get Nels first an icepack then an Otter Pop for good measure. She was a beautiful, beautiful girl with deep tanned cleavage and long shiny black-brown hair and I’ll bet she even smelled nice (I didn’t lean in to check) and with her sympathy and the ice pack and the ice cream, well, Nels didn’t seem to mind being hurt so much. My son spent the next half hour wearing the pack, and as a result his black eye is slightly less gruesome than it otherwise might have been.

Ice Pack

Today started out with our typical feral rituals: the kids went outside and ate (for breakfast) marshmallows, bananas, and special dark chocolate. In the yard, half clothed. By then I’d finished my morning writings (here’s some of that) and housework so I asked them inside where they each took a big drink of milk before we biked our errands, ending up at the Central Playfield park where now no longer do we have shade-trees (cut down by the City) so the sun bakes us all and the adults who wish to talk have to shout over the sound of two highways (the trees helped absorb that too). The bathrooms are also closed down as well (Honey Buckets in the summer sun, kids – and grownups – love that sort of thing) but the pool is open from noon for a few hours and the kids? They love it. My kids were in their underwear as I hadn’t brought the suits. You know, I don’t often use the term “ghetto” but, well.

Suits Not Required

Central Playfield in Hoquiam

I ended up scrunching under a pitiful amount of briefly-supplied tent shade and talked to a father there with four of his seven kids, a handsome, deep brownish/red-skinned man who could balance with me on the proverbial non-native language teeter totter, meaning he had about as much inglés as I have español (the vast majority of native-Spanish-speakers here usually have very good English although I do meet those que no entienden). One example: he told me he and his wife were “broke” so I asked ¿Tienes el trabajo? then he managed to convey he meant, he and his wife were broke from relationship with one another and I said “Oh! Divorced. Separated. I thought you meant no tienes dinero.” Then after we’d shared where we lived and how long we’d lived there I told him, “Mi esposo trabaja en el colegio” in case he got some ideas I was a scheming single mama looking to juggle a family of nine kiddos (instead I’m rather a scheming conversationalist who loves talking to strangers like a Huge Nerd) or in case he had similar ideas (seriously? A mama out with kids in Grays Harbor is not immune from flirtations from random strangers). He had the most beautiful one year old clambering around on him, a boy with shoulder-length locks and deliciously plump limbs who took interest in my bike wheels. “Fue agradable hablar con usted,” I said to this father as we biked out, my kids soaked and newly cooled down and me as hot as ever as we headed to our little grocery store for dinner provisions.

It’s no wonder to me my kids are getting a great education as letting them out and running and biking and playing and eating and drinking means when we get home they absolutely want to read an encyclopedia or give themselves spelling/English work or learn times tables or teach themselves history (or even clean their room, as my daughter is doing at this moment). And another thing, I never hear my kids say they are “bored” – ever, which is something to ponder given we have no television or video game system! (In full disclosure, we do have a computer which they are allowed to use if I am not using it). (Also, now that I have had the hubris to even slightly brag or more accurately, take joy in a facet of our little fringe lifestyle, the children are going to immediately come inside and chant in demon-voice how bored they are).

Tomorrow our day will consist of 100% beach time out in Ocean Shores with my mother and a picnic basket and sunscreen. And that’s going to be pretty goddamned awesome.

As I type the kids run off with the various and sundry neighbors catching the ice cream truck (the frosty treat-bait has caught some full-grown, some still children); my husband on his way home is picking up fresh mozzarella for insalata caprese and tahini for tomorrow’s hummus and also – very important – a pool for our front yard. Because like many PNw’ers we don’t have air conditioning and employ the strategies of lowered blinds and open windows or fresh cooling water.

Phoenix Attempts To Rejoin Her Mistress, The Sea

things are looking grim in “the most widely viewed children’s television show in the world”

I submit for your perusal three videos to compare.

The first is the debut intro to the television show “Sesame Street” (which aired in in late 1969):

The second is the intro as seen in the seventies:

Here is today’s intro:

Watch them for yourselves. No, go on. I’ll wait.

No really, go ahead.

OK, done? Now here are my observations.

The first two intros looked like actual kids actually playing. The third is clearly a set of actors.

The first two intros show children playing “dangerously” (by today’s mainstream standards) while appearing relatively unsupervised/free range. The children’s play includes climbing farm equipment, swinging and hanging upside down from monkey bars, unhelmeted trike riding (no-hands even), roller skating and running as a group, running some more, chasing farm animals, feeding animals at the zoo, rock climbing and tree climbing, more running (lots of running), jumping from some agri-industrial platform, siblings helping small children go down slides or run across concrete, two children riding a horse bareback (and unhelmetted), hanging clothes in a backyard, and even a little girl crying (which is awesome because hey, little kids cry and it’s okay!). There’s even a toddler holding what looks like a green glass beer bottle, which gave me a giggle (although I’m sure it wasn’t beer).

In the first two intros the kids are a variety of ages, races, thin-to-chubby, and wear a variety of real-life dress – or undress. The two horse-riders are shirtless and the girl helped on the slide is wearing a little dress so short you can see her bloomers.

In the first two intros, the kids’ activities are shown in relatively long shots; that is the camera follows the children in their authentic play.

The third intro shows by comparison almost child non-activity overlayed by frenetic cartoon/puppet character action. These (monolithically well-dressed, well-groomed, spotless and slender) kids are seen: coloring decidedly-grownup-and-therefore-phony-versions-of-“childish” art while sitting/laying on the concrete, riding in cars, playing stationary “pattycake”, blowing bubbles while standing in place, a single child riding a bike (helmetted), a single child jogging slowly, and finally two children dancing in place on some steps (stop me before I pee my pants with excitement). In contrast the cartoon/puppet characters fly, play, and overwhelm the screen with laughter and whimsy and *lots* of quick cuts to keep our attention span. (The puppets get to mail letters in a public mail box but apparently actual children do not).

One thing to the credit of the third intro: at least it includes a child using a wheelchair (altho’ I know the original Sesame Street was relatively inclusive of people with disabilities).

Given we are at the crime rate of 1970 according to Department of Justice statistics (crime rates against children are in decline), the possible reasons today’s version is so sanitized with over-the-top cartoon vacuity and “safe” and inauthentic childplay seem quite troubling.

Sigh.

H/t to Daniel Bigler for tweeting these videos.

a visit to the smack-forest

Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other. – Edmund Burke *

Helping

Apparently at a college function a couple days ago my husband was beset by two coworkers with questions regarding our homeschool life. SOOoooOOOO predictable what people ask or what “advice” they give (unsolicited). I’m sure Ralph fielded the (friendly as far as he could tell) inquiry just fine. He’s pretty awesome at that kind of thing.

Funny because no one plagues me much about (to take the top-ten bingo-winner of all time!) “socialization” concerns because anyone who spends time with me is concomitantly exposed to my children – I’m with them near-constantly. Thus the friends, strangers and acquaintances I run across see first-hand how excellently our kids navigate with just about everyone they encounter, including grownups, teenagers, authorities, people with mental or emotional health issues, rowdy friends ([cough!] Flo, I’m looking at you!), crying babies, clueless or rude relatives, etc. etc.

Tangentially, my children’s “social education” has some notable upsides as these little ones hold their own up against a variety of asshattery flavors that most kids have been trained to either accept or work around through dishonesty and/or avoidance. For instance my mother recently related that last fall when Phoenix spent a couple weeks with my (patriarchal ass of a) grandfather, my daughter was “the only child in Grandpa’s family experience who didn’t fawn over him. And it kind of got his nose out of joint.” Without going into any family history I must say I was floating on air to think of how this played out in two weeks of my absence (in contrast to my daughter, I drank liberally of the “Grandpa is Jesus Christ Himself” kool-aid until my late twenties). Anyone who knows Phoenix knows she is a level, circumspect and polite child.** She’s also a child who has a Center, as we say; someone who can’t be bullied by any whozit who runs across her and thinks that because she is a Small Pretty Girl and has only been on our planet a handful of years she deserves less respect or autonomy.

New lessons: today deep in Sam Benn Park the kids found a large cedar stump that had been hollowed out by a creature or perhaps (less likely, given its remote location) other children. The stump was surprisingly deep, enough that my children could fit inside and their heads not stick out the top. Inside it smelled lovely, cedar and loam. Nels dropped a cheap golden “pearl” necklace (he’d just recovered from the tennis courts) into its depths and Phoenix used a variety of forest tools to attempt to retrieve it. Sadly it was lost; I hope a woodland creature finds it, maybe as a gift for his Lady Squirrel.

Tree Stump Of Mystery

Minutes after our stump tomfoolery I spied a discarded hypodermic needle, very classily capped off so there was no protruding sharp. I showed it to the children and asked them if they knew what it was; Nels called it a “shot”. I gave them the proper term and told them someone was probably doing drugs in the area and left it. “If you find one, don’t pick it up unless you’re sure you can do so without sticking yourself. If you get stuck you might get very sick and will likely actually need a shot. If you do pick it up you must throw it away. Some bathrooms like the library have a big red ‘biohazard’ container these are meant to go into.” The kids nodded in recognition. Phoenix found another needle a few hundred feet away and this time she knew what to do.

See, you learn something new every day in Aberdeen.

* Thanks to Mamapoekie for the quote today!

** So, um… on the Nels front. He has – of his own volition – stopped using swear words and now subtitutes his own “beep!” sound in their place. & Yes, I am so proud.

the darling in the exam room

Before parenthood there were some things out of the breadth of my life experience which I now, fast-forward, idenfity as regular facets of it.  Like creative urination rituals, or being screamed at in public, or a midnight run to a grocery store for a box – you heard – of wine.

Or, concussions.

Both my children are incredibly active and as they are not required to sit at a desk in school all day they are mostly riding bikes, climbing trees, swimming, skateboard, arc welding, etc. In short they are a mass of bruises from the knees down and often their hands and feet have scratches as well, which heal with a remarkable alacrity (think: alien life form, it’s actually quite scary).

Especially Nels.  With the injuries, I mean. Who today, after we got home, got into a horrific scooter accident before the screen door swung shut behind my ass as I brought our groceries in. He had hopped on the scooter to go down the block and check on a much-younger child who was alone on the corner (to make sure the kid was okay).  But his shoe caught on the treacherous motherfucking HQX sidewalk and down he went. Phoenix came right inside and told me Nels had fallen. She was completely calm but she let me know it was a serious fall. When I got to him he was sitting on the grass crying but no harder than a minor spill. He put his arms around me and I saw the abrasion on his knee and felt that familiar pang of sadness, softness, empathy and love. Inside the house Phoenix ran a bath (to bathe his wounds) and got him some new clothes. He was calm before I sat down with him on the couch. Then I noticed the alarming goose egg under his blonde hair. Like: gross. Massive. I almost threw him off my lap.

I am no stranger to kid-injury of course. Last time we had a bike accident that warranted medical attention I managed to get right into the doctor for a look-over.  This time, no dice. The receptionist told me I had to get him to the ER.  Now honestly, this didn’t seem necessary, but since the doctor wouldn’t see me and we don’t have Urgent Care anymore … well fine.  So my afternoon was spent in the hospital, a place I don’t find particularly depressing or distressing. Nels was a hit with the personnel because I think they are used to parents talking for their children, and of course I don’t need to speak for Nels at all. He made sure to tell each person who helped us that he was not there to get shots.

A not-too-long wait and lots of paperwork and interviews of the little guy…
It Is The Waiting That Is Difficult

and poking and prodding (they even had him get into a wee little hospital gown!)…
Warmed Blankets

And we were on our way home with the normal, “Call us if you see vomiting or if he gets nauseated or an eyeball pops out of his head, etc. etc.”

I’m glad my little guy is okay.

Oh and P.S.: today in the bike shop he reiterated his desire for a unicycle. So. Yeah.

Our adventure put aside my sewing project, a kick-ass coat for the little fellow. Sneak peak:
Almost Done!

More outdoor lurve:
Lass In The Glen
Phoenix, at last week’s visit to the Polson Museum.

And Nels in the lumber-mill of the same – playing with something sharp and dangerous-looking:
Danger Machine

Kids @ Grandmas

of sylvia and salamanders

Today it’s like gritting my teeth to take a day off; but we do, because I’d promised the kids a return to Lake Sylvia. This is a beautiful but not oft-visited location for us.  We’d stopped there on Wednesday on our way home from Olympia; the city was too hot, and the lake a perfect respite. As we were making way to get going I saw my doula, her husband, and their child pull into the parking lot, on the last leg of a roadtrip. Small world, I suppose; they live hours away. Yet the sight of her was familiar and welcome to me and we caught up for a few minutes before parting ways. Nels was in the backseat, tossing his hair out of his eyes and viewing this woman with quiet speculation – she’d been at his birth! – his long brown torso and his bright white underwear (the “swim gear” my children had employed; keeping them out of water is never an option) completing the picture.  Beautiful and fierce, the same child he was the day he was born.

So here we are again, at this lake, having this time packed a sizable lunch (grapes and dolmas with chard – delicious! Also, tomato sandwiches from the tomato abundance that is our greenhouse) and coffee for Ralph and I. The kids play, and play, and play. And play.  I almost convince Ralph to leave them to their swimming and come on a short hike.  Instead he and I play some frisbee in the water (I do rather impressive catches and the occasional comically poor throw) then go for a short walk across the bridge.  Talk to some tweens fishing off the dock (“Caught anything?” In unison: “No.”  “What are you using?” “Worms,” and so on.  The boys friendly, but muted).  Sophie catches a salamander and enjoys a brief bit of celebrity status among the children.  The kids perform coordinated stunt-dives off the old dock platform – the dock disappeared sometime in the last decade or so since I’d been out here.

Home from the trip and I’m already cooking and sewing like a madwoman. A grape and goat cheese tart and some homemade bagels to bring to a yoga retreat tomorrow. For our dinner: paneer fried in niter kibbeh, beet salad with ranch dressing, roasted garbanzo beans, and marinated kale.  Ralph takes the kids out – again – to a park, and I retreat to my sewing studio to trace the many pieces of a fitted coat pattern for Sophie.  The comforting space is now framed with long lengths of scarlet batiste and Bemberg rayon, awaiting cutting – the breeze ripples the lovely layers of fabric and a little kitten keeps me company.

Grandma has been watching the kids here or there; taking them out to her boyfriend’s place in the sticks, having them for the occasional sleepover:

Kids sleeping in; at my moms for the night

Kids sleeping in; at my mom's for the night

of sports and sport peppers!

The legend of the Wendigo holds that the creature who consumes the flesh of his fellow man gains the additional strength of the victim. Life with children is like that sometimes. My kids seem to get stronger and more active as the day goes on – no matter the number of walks, bike trips, swimming dates, and garden-play sessions they indulge in – and sometimes as early as 4 PM I’m ready to lie on the couch but at that point they want to crawl on me or, soon thereafter, eat dinner. By the time the meal is over it’s Ralph who takes over most the household chores; I admit defeat and although mentally awake my energy level has dipped; tomorrow will be another day.

Today the children and I spent an easy, sunny trip to Olympia with a friend J. and her daughter E. The children’s exploits set the pace for much of the trip: playground tomfoolery, a pier walk (Nels and I were adroit at spotting jellyfish), some time in the fountain (why is it although I fully support my children’s right to play in full public in their underwear I also feel the twinge of “neglectful mom” when I do so?), hot dogs from a very impressive little Chicago-style stand*, and a trip to the Hands On Childrens Museum. J. and I rated a ten-minute trip to the fabric store; but we did make determinations that were helpful and relevant to our goals.

I am glad my children had so much fun with a little friend, and a good enough time playing to their heart’s content (although when we got home it was play play play swim play play some more). But for selfish reasons I found the car ride wonderful in having time with J., a woman intelligent and progressive-minded; someone who seems to match me in conversation pace, empathetic drive, analysis, and interests. My mind and heart have been battling for some time now over decisions in the family: new journeys, additional responsibilities, identity crises. In my fashion I tend to research much, and discuss much, with the small but treasured few who provide me good feedback. I work and work and digest and then an answer comes forth. Today J. was someone who helped me along in these ways, besides being a genuinely pleasant person to spend time with.

This evening Sophie, despite missing a significant amount of swim lessons as her bike ride scars healed, passes her last session with flying colors. She has now graduated to “Flying Fish” should she take lessons in addition to the three to five days weekly at the pool on the swim team. My mother glows with pride tonight at our celebratory ice cream sundae – she’s so glad Sophie is such a strong swimmer. I’m just glad my daughter has found something she loves to do, over and over and over. Perhaps this is in part not merely concerning the character and health of my child but for my own sense of personal dissatisfaction in myself; that I am a flighty, purposeless person easy to succeed at many endeavors, easy to please in most as well; but someone who given some sort of discipline and focus might have accomplished “more”. Although I enjoy my day-to-day life – especially my freedoms – immensely, I have never given up the notion that a more rigorous and driven lifestlye would somehow lend itself to better rewards, although what these might be I could not say.

* My choices: veggie dog on poppyseed bun, sweet mustard, dill pickle spear, and sport peppers!