no family is safe when I sashay!

I’m up before the children – three, in all – and I have those few minutes after my husband leaves for work, and before anyone else joins me. I shower, and dress. No makeup but a little lipstick – hair back in a slouch cap. Dishes, and laundry, and tidying up some tailoring work as we’ll be expecting company throughout the day.

Now I wake up the children: first, my son, who is frightened over the vaccination he’s set to receive this morning. Then, the girls: my daughter and the kids’ friend C. We’ve got to hit two doctor’s appointments back-to-back. We’ll be doing that before we get a meal out together.

It’s rainy out but I have a little coffee in my Nalgene bottle, and my warm scarf. The kids are cheerful company. Phoenix is a young woman now and would no more skip a morning shower than I. Her hair is wet; her face dear freckled face snubbed with a little powder. At the doctor’s, she finds some women’s magazine – Jane or Marie Claire or something – while the other young girl finds a Highlights.

People in the office, and later running errands – so many seem so unhappy. Irritable at those minor delays that happen everywhere. At the taquería working class men look me up and down as I ferry drinks and napkins and salsa to the table. I eat slowly, checking my phone. Enjoying that first meal of the day. I eat until I’m satisfied. And now: I must get us home. Drop one child off, receive another. Put together a few Christmas gifts.

It’s cold and rainy; my car is giving me fits. Tomorrow is payday so tonight I can write a check for our dinner, and for Christmas Eve dinner. My husband is tired – as tired as I. My knees, my neck ache. My son runs through the house, first acting out every song in “Jesus Christ Superstar” (he’s still quite fixated); later, in a pair of neon green boys’ briefs that match the garish bandaid on his thigh – his vaccination site.

The rain, the curious meow of kitties needing love. Keeps me company as the house falls more and more still.

among interests: kittens, cuddling, creatures, manga

Phoenix opened her own FB account today. You should friend her because she’s a ray of light.

Phoenix at the Mia 1

Phoenix at the Mia 2

Phoenix at the Mia 3

Italian Wedding Soup! Well, my version anyway. (Spinach and parsley):

Spinach, Parsley

Evening. Phoenix intent, playing LOTRO:
Playing LOTR Online

She is just now bathed and wearing a t-shirt of Ralph’s. All four of we Hogabooms suffer dry skin in the winter months. We put lotion on the children after they get out of the bath, then a “daddy shirt”. It keeps the itches at bay.

I finished a testing garment today and got notes sent out and pictures taken before the fading light. I can’t show you pictures – secrets! – but you can at least look at the lovely yardage I used and what is obviously a well-drafted seamline.


I also hauled the Wizard sewing machine I picked up at the thrift store ($8) to the local quilt shop. I’m a fool for old vintage machines, having them tuned and refurbished and oiled… oftentimes to give them away to those who want them. The thing is I can’t stand to have someone tempted to buy some POS brand-new plastic thing from Walmart or Sears when there’s so much old vintage goodness – better machines and not nearly as wasteful as buying a new one. And I guess it throws a little scratch to the local OSMG.

Tonight my mom took us to dinner at the local pan-Asian restaurant. Teriyaki chicken, sushi, a bento box, yaki-udon, chicken broccoli, egg flower soup in a clear lovely broth, tea. A lovely hot meal to scare away the rain a bit. When we got home friends were on our porch. The two kiddos stayed until after midnight, laughing and playing with kitties.

Good company.

of a rainy afternoon & (a brief trip to) the Outer Darkness

“wailing and gnashing of teeth”, Biblical reference (Matthew 13:42)

or, the bike ride across town to get a hot lunch at the diner. The kids were shocked at the cold and wet. Nels, behind me on the Xtracycle and thus shielded from the elements somewhat, fared better than his sister. I’d bundled her up as best I could (having the foresight to know how cold the ride would be) but she cried real tears at the cold blasting her hands, and her fleece wasn’t quite up to protecting her from the wind. At her cries it was an effort to keep pangs of guilt at bay. After all, I make quite the effort to clothe them every year against the elements – which are decidedly wet, morphing our not-so-cold to an actually-cold – and every year they get bigger and even when I have the prescient smarts to make something big enough for next season sometimes accidents happen like in the case of Phoenix’s wool coat, lost or stolen – oh and also of course my mind was churning over the fact Phoenix’s bike is already too small for her and I wish I could finagle a new one for Christmas. Nels at least is set clothing-wise; my sewing and knitting have him bundled up in all kinds of wool (although, come to think of it, the hat I made him a little under a year ago is already en-smallening). So I’m good for a few minutes where my son is concerned; until he grows another five inches in twelve months, like he did last year.

Once we got inside and ordered – cheered that even in the depressed-economy in our little downtown there were several other patrons in the eatery – I told the kids this was the time of year, it would be wet and cold, and I could find or make them suitable clothes (latest acquisition: scrumping the purchase of rainboots from my mom; predictably, she went a bit overboard and the boots are rather resented by Nels who clomped in them so loudly at the library) but that we’d be outside a bit since we only had the one car and Daddy had to have it lots of days. They were entirely sober and nodded total acceptance of this. I chided them a bit for the complaints on the bike ride and I told them I needed their help in figuring out what they needed for the upcoming cold.

Phoenix took a napkin and drew a new coat I could make her:


A black and white trenchcoat, double-breasted, waterproof with interlining. Assymetrically colorblocked sleeves and a contrast front placket. She designed it in about thirty seconds and I already know what pattern I own I can use, and I already know it’s going to rock.

Phoenix Quickly Designs Her Winter Coat

Nels asked Phoenix to order for him. They split a grilled cheese sandwich and a hot fudge cherry shake. They were very pleased with the whole business. And of course like always they like fixing up my coffee. I generally take it black but I can’t really resist how much they enjoy doctoring it for me.

Cream In My Coffee

As we ate the rain picked up. “It’s going to suck riding back home,” Nels said – but he said it cheerfully. We ended up diving into the library (a scant block away) and waited out the worst of the weather. When it seemed clement enough to go home we went for it. A few minutes later and only a little bit wet we were stomping inside the warm house and carefully storing the foil-wrapped remainders of grilled cheese for later snacking.

What lovely, lovely people to spend the day with.


like backdraft, but with a room full of comfy chairs instead

Today a rather cold, dismal rain sneezes on us and my children and I miss a deadline because I invite them to participate in cleaning the living room – while I relax with a book. Some days it’s just not in me to come home to an overly untidy house. I can always rely on the wee ones to do the chores when I’ve got a good carrot in front of them (as opposed to the lash behind them). Today’s carrot: a field trip to the Fire Department and a book event at the Library.

Those who watch my family interactions know that I am more patient with my son Nels than my daughter Sophie. I chalk this up to wisdom regarding my secondborn and folly on the part of my first. Try as I might I find myself expecting far more out of Sophie, her lot in life to sport the unfortunate trifecta of firstborn / girl child / less dominant personality, my son seeming younger, more of a known quantity, easier to feel relaxed about raising. The last few days my son has severely tested even my reserves of patience for him, however. If I wasn’t his primary ally (in contrast to Ralph and my mother, who tend to scold and shame) I’d be doing far worse in applying compassionate care.

Today’s field trip was a pleasant one, despite a long slog in the rain to get there. Since I’d spent a few days out of the classroom setting I was struck by the extremely well-intentioned series of commands, reprimands, and seemingly unnecessary restraints vested in the manners requirements of our small group of preschoolers (“Say thank you, Johnny!” “What do you say, Johnny” – at one point my son duly reciting with a smile, “thankyouthankyouthankyou” like the most winsome parrot). The nine or so kids are allowed to look but basically herded in a don’t-touch-hardly-anything walkthrough that seems to me not so much cruel as baffling. I sat back and watched because, really, everyone was having a good time. Internally I found myself laughing at the thought that these massive, extremely rugged fire trucks would be treated like china glass – to hear the words of the accompanying adults. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been struck by this if I hadn’t been on far more hands-on and lengthy fire station tours. The fireman leading us through was an attractive, doe-eyed gentleman obliging the many questions of the children (half of them flat statements, like my son’s brilliant “Um. Hospital bed.” contribution) and a few of the parents (volunteering a younger man to slide down the pole for our edification).

My son and daughter had a spry attention span and asked many questions. Besides my son’s flat statement above he also found it necessary to revisit the concept of the paramedic’s oxygen – “The air that blows, it’s to help you breathe and put energy in your body.” At this I quietly wiped away tears as I knew his two comments had everything to do with what he watched his grandfather go through late August (as likely did, now that I think about it, Sophie’s answer to the query, “What does an ambulance do?” “It carries dead people.” – prompting a jolly laugh from the group).

Some of the events I’ve always loved about the life of children – especially when I was one – were trips like these, being taken out into the community to see how bells whistled and levers clanked. I truly feel blessed that my life allows not only for me to send my own children off on these adventures, or bring them to them, but a re-appreciation for the simple wonders of the daily existence.

missions accomplished

Today heading back on Cherry against fierce headwinds I would have given up and turned the corner for the nearest bus stop if I could have – that is, if I’d practiced popping off the front wheel to load the bike on the bus.* It wasn’t just the run-of-the-mill tiredness after working a school shift and biking with Nels against the wind, it was that I’d been running late this morning and Nels and I got absolutely dumped on (rain the likes I’ve never experienced before) which led to the compromise of even our winter-prepared gear and ultimately Nels spent his birthday – the last day in his 3 /4 preschool class – wearing tight Barbie jeans and a babydoll fluffy sweater (spare clothes of the preschool’s – and don’t think the wardrobe wasn’t his dream come true) and I never felt I got dry before I had to head back home.

Even worse for me was a pesky creepy Ju-on rattle emanating from the back of the bike: somehow the child’s seat is sitting lower than the 1/4″ clearance off the snap deck. Not only does this unsettle me (a potential safety concern), I also am not interested in my seat or snap deck being marred. It’s hard for me when something just eats away at me and I can’t fix it anytime soon.

I finally got home after dropping Nels off at my mother’s. I cleaned and sorted and emailed and filled out acres of paperwork for tomorrow’s pediatric dentist appointments, then picked up Sophie for some one on one time. My mother ended up taking Nels on a birthday shopping trip: a soccer ball, dump truck (for hauling dirt in the garden), socks, shoes, underwear, shorts, shirt, and hat. At four PM he swaggered out of her van all decked out and directing her to carry his parcels (reminded of: “Big mistake,” Julia Roberts sasses while toting huge shopping bags in Pretty Woman).

Tonight we dragged ourselves to Casa Mia (my foursome, my parents, and friend Jasmine) for our dinner and Nels managed to stay awake, although looking very sleepy (his second wind set in: he’s awake behind me as I type this). We had a magical moment as another table serenaded a sixty-something member with a happy birthday, erupting in operatic vocalizations and ending in a round of hearty applause. My husband took Nels over to introduce himself as another birthday and after making acquaintance the group sang even louder to Nels, the entire restaurant joining in as one – it was like listening to a choir performance. I wish I would have asked them who they were or how they came to sing so well. I was trying not to collapse into my dinner with some kind of exhaustion, but that didn’t prevent me from smiling like a fool and feeling the sting of tears.

The evening eventually wound to a close at my parents’ after birthday cake and gifts. Nels received four presents, two of them additional Lego sets which he has not stopped fixating on since two and a half hours ago. He tells me, “I’m happy on my birthday.”

Yes indeedy.

* Last week the children and I rode out to the bus barn on the Aberdeen / Hoquiam border to practice my hand at quick loading of the bike on the front of a transit bus. After a few minutes waiting in the lobby a supervisor came out and told me she was sorry but due to insurance concerns the public were not allowed in the bus yard. She went on to tell me it was easy to put a bike on the front of the bus. I stopped her then and explained that no, it wasn’t – I had a special, extra-long bike I needed to take the front wheel off of to proceed. When it started to dawn on her I’d ridden my two children out the barn for the sole purpose of this practice run, she flushed and, from the looks of it, felt rather taken aback at her legalistic refusal. However, I’m not usually in the mood to ask someone to bend the rules. The handful of employees craned their necks out at the bike as I whisked us out and away. Nothing like leaving someone with that, boy do I feel like a douche feeling.

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

and ask our esteemed panel, why are we alive?

We had an outdoorsy day today: from taking a 9 mile roundtrip to get Nels from school straight to the bike shop where Terry and I (mostly Terry, although the kids and I were there for a lot of it and I even helped and learned parts of my bike, yay!) Franken-biked my Giant into an Xtracycle! Since my bike was torn apart before my eyes this involved me finding a way in poor weather to Sophie’s school and back home without wheels – in horizontal rain for part of it. Bitar’s Bike Shop is also slightly colder than the outdoors, and the outdoors were cold. Short story, it’s almost 9 PM and I’m still not warmed up.

The bike conversion is – so far – as lovely as I’d hoped. As in, I might have trouble sleeping tonight. In Bitars as I removed parts from the box I gazed upon them and fondled these parts (Oh, sleek Snap Deck!) as if they were so much excellent and rare porn, finally delivered into my hands after a seeming lifetime of waiting. The Xtracycle was fun; the g-d euro child’s bikeseat (I shall not name specifically and therefore print libel here about the annoying setup instructions) ended up taking us past 6:30 PM and Terry’s departure time so my S.U.B. will not be street-ready until tomorrow (pictures later; I’m kind of exhausted). I’m hoping dearly for a better day than today’s offerings (of which I had to bike, walk, bus with children) but I will test-ride that thing come rain or shine.

Oh, and Monday I was interviewed on by a college student (with his ladyfriend taking photos) for some coursework that involves Sure Nail & Fire. My zine is being featured as a small-town effort extolling the virtues of Harbor life; I listened to my interview today. I was really impressed with the editing job, especially after the NPR experience and how much coaching that entailed for just a short blurb; and considering Monday’s relatively low-fi recording device. For the record both interviewer E. and his girlfriend (photographer) K. were the most charming, sweet visitors we’ve had in a while. Smart and easy to talk to as well as cute as if kittens could be made into people (I bite my tongue to not refer wistfully to their youth).

It's ALIVE!!

how i roll

It wasn’t for eco-smugness or personal virtue that I biked to Aberdeen and back today; it was simply because my mind has been over-active and I thought some intense physical exercise might help alleviate that (it did). Only a small part of the reason I was keyed up was an invitation to the Hoquiam Business Association meeting to speak on the zine; it was a short and pleasant meeting as well as extremely informative. Everyone was dressed nice (suits and pumps); my “nice” was a flannel shirt covering the skull t-shirt underneath. Whoops!

8.7 miles and counting; the distance I biked today. I had Nels in the trailer about half that time. On the highway I got a wave from M. and J. (I later found out they’d gone around the block to re-wave so’s I’d see them) and was treated nicely by not one but two log trucks; it kind of made my day. Getting off the bike at Swansons for groceries (tofu, carrots, broccoli with my dwindling week’s cash allowance) the post-physical afterglow made me feel like smiling and making conversations at everyone; many shuffled out of their cars in sweats and did not make eye contact going into the store.

From there I hit our idiosyncratic bike shop to negotiate the ordering and installation of my longtail bike mod and to get Nels’ helmet refitted. The rain finally started coming down and the last leg of the trip was a little damp. Home to cats waiting for the fire to be turned up.

a town with wings and no feet

My trip to Port Townsend, taken almost a year after we moved to HQX, has come and gone. I enjoyed myself doing what I like to do; taking a leisurely schedule and breaking bread with a handful of dear friends. I was oddly relieved to see that very little felt different; the town was just as it was, warts and loveliness both. Business owners will still doing their thing and restaurant menus and offerings remained the same. The weather competed for Grays Harbor in terms of winter blah (although my logical mind knows this was only a kindness bestowed on me by the weathergods to soften the soaked mossy reality of my new home). My friends’ lives hadn’t suddenly taken wing without me. The children I’d so missed hadn’t changed so much as inserted about 6″ in their middle somewhere. Port Townsend itself did not evoke wistfulness or sadness so much as seemed a comfortable, parallel dimension of home.

There were cosmetic differences. Ladies seem to have traded in their Danskos for Merrells. An acquaintance’s art shop had moved downtown and Swain’s checkout counter had moved up in the store. On Saturday I went to a yoga class and re-connected with that aspect of the community, which I discovered I’d missed very much. In both Friday and Saturday night’s gatherings I was inspired by the community I’d known with their impulsive creativity, a bubble that expects, experiences, and serves itself a high quality of life indeed.

I spent almost no time alone this weekend which was highlighted by a little incident on Sunday afternoon. Two o’clock found me outside the Model T Pub and Eatery in Hoodsport with my vinyl green suitcase and my sock knitting (Nels’ Christmas socks, still unfinished). It’s cold – very cold, but brilliant and sunny. I don’t want to go inside the pub (a pleasant place) because I want to see my family when they arrive. As I knit away, yarn ball tucked in my pocket, a man emerges from the restaurant and into the sunshine to smoke. He looks like Grays Harbor stock – handsome but weathered, black jeans, cowboy hat, and biker jacket. “Knitting!” he drawls, surprised. “You making gloves or socks? Whyn’tcha make me a pair?” I show him my son’s socks and he replies, “Well, I can’t wear wool. And I can’t wear colored clothes, you know, dye. If I wear dye, it soaks into my skin and makes me sick. Of course, I’m sixty-five now, so maybe something’s changed…” He goes on to talk about his truck – a Mazda like mine that’s just had repairs – and his son who happens to be a mechanic in Port Townsend. He talks about himself and his life as if I’d been standing there waiting to hear, which in a way I had.

Our discussion is interrupted by the arrival of my family. By the time I’ve put my suitcase in the car he’s stepped back inside for another beer or coffee. I wish I would have said, “Nice talking to you!” because I like those interactions. I like having a break from thinking about my own life’s plans and experiencing the realities of others, of strangers.

On the drive home my husband queries me about my trip; he asks after our friends, what the surprises were. My kids insist I reach back and hold their hands. They’ve missed me. When we get home Nels, still feverish and strange from his Saturday illness, directs me under the covers of my bed to “cuttle” as he calls it – folds his hot little arms around my neck and kisses, kisses, kisses me. I can wrap my hand almost all the way around his upper arm. The house is messy and tomorrow we have to travel again but for the moment I feel great being home.