from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it

Today thanks to the invitation of my friend J. I find myself swimming with the children this afternoon. I’d woken an hour before, ran about doing laundry, packing swim bags, and finishing up a million dishes and packing a snack before bringing both kids out from a truncated sleep (Phoenix in particular was still up and texting at nine AM). It was hard going for her at first but by the time we pulled into the Y parking lot she had striped tiger eyes. She loves the water. (It’s a little after midnight and she’s remained equitable and loving all day, except for a brief episode with her brother fighting over rights to a kitten.)

In the pool a ponytailed man with his young daughter (or, possibly, granddaughter) compliments J. and I – in a way – saying it’s so nice to see parents actually playing with their children. I know what he means, but as I tread water across the depths I spend a few moments reflecting that I am not the most playful adult. Maybe that’s one reason why my kids are so delighted when I do engage in these ways. A few minutes later I float past them in the “river” while they “fish” with those float-noodles and I pretend to be, in succession, an alligator, an octopus, a great white shark, a blowfish (their idea), then finally a Tired Out Lady. I get all the kids laughing, even rather stoic T.

Ralph spent most of today and the day before recording a musician – efforts which were unfortunately partially sabotaged by rather inconsiderate grownups interrupting their rehearsal (many different people, many times). After my husband and I finally had our house and one another to ourselves, he and I took a date at our familiar and beloved Casa Mia and reflected on the last few days. Ralph and I have been, in final estimation, overhelping other people – not resting and helping one another nor ourselves enough. Some rest, respite, and dare I say genuine pampering is in order. If you think that means I’m going to finally treat myself to those octopus earrings, cherry read patent leather docs (okay, hell, also the teal pair), and that Pendleton blanket, you’re totally right. (EXCEPT I’m not, but let me just pretend I’m going to because it makes me feel badass. I’ll probably end up getting a big bulk scoop of Walmart cotton panties.)

***

Suprasternal Notch
(Small Stone #17*)

I’m transfixed by the water beaded on your flawless skin.
We hold one another very close, and for a long time.
You say:
“I should remember to listen every time you tell me about your love.”

A Visitor
(Small Stone #18*)

Linda’s voice is rich and deep,
Her laugh musical like a girls’.
She has dark skin and even deeper freckles
And large, brown, beautiful eyes.

Small stone project

al comedor

Drawing, As Per Usual
Phoenix wears the thrifted merino wool sweater I found her and it keeps her warm. Thank goodness for that. Here she draws, as we usually find her. She swings her legs and proprietress Kathi notices her dress and compliments it; later, as we are readying to go, she asks I can sew her an apron (with some very specific requests as to length, style, and fabric). Funny as I was just thinking how much I wanted to sew something for this same woman!

It was very cold today, but we all managed to keep warm. My mother came over for coffee and a long chat. That was fun.

Grave Responsibility
(Small Stone #4*)

Your hand trembles
But you pour my tea from the heavy pot
Taking care of your mama, as you say, “like a gentleman”

Small stone project

NYE

Hace mucho, mucho frío.

Snow & Ice & CRUNCH

Business AS PER USUAL for some of the family.
Business As Per Usual

Tonight, out for a roy rogers and frijoles (Nels’ favorite combo), at Los Arcos, which by right about now (being 11:35 PM) is some kind of hideous booze-soaked animal factory. [ shudder ] Roy Rogers w/Lemon @ Los Arcos

At my mother’s. My rascally, bearded and occasionally beady-eyed family.
New Years Eve Hogabooms

Happy New Year. Goodbye 2010, hello 2011.

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

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

I have been out and about a little bit.

Amore In Aberdeen

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

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

My Husband The Stoic Lumberjack

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

Post Sleep Marathon

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

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

Gadgets, gadgets, more gadgets.

Post-Christmas Computer

* Here

“Oh *hi*!”

I finished two wool coats last night! Here’s one (the size 8):

Young Blazer In Wool Plaid

And here are my little scamps “modeling”, for which, yes, I pay them. $2 a garment (their requested fee):

Mischief!

I listed the jackets at Homesewn; you can peruse endless construction technique at the Flickr tagset.

Trademark

Out and about in Hoquiam!

My Kids Doing Tommy Wiseau Impersonations

The kids (my two, anyway) are doing Tommy Wiseau impressions. If you don’t know what this means, I urge you not to find out.

The local American Diner (yes, that’s its name) has kid lunch specials including entree, side, fruit, drink, and ice cream for $4.99. Of course the children love it there although I find the food highly depressing. However I sat nursing a sub-standard coffee and loved watching and listening to the kids enjoying themselves.

The minute we sat down Phoenix flipped over the kids’ menu and began drawing.

Immediacy

“A black eagle”, she told me:

The other children followed suit. Sasha didn’t have a name for this one:

Drawing By Sasha

Here’s Nels’ work:

Drawing By Nels

Nels wrote out his soup recipe in graphic detail. From left to right: carrot, a can of chicken broth (on top of a real chicken), a pot, and broccoli. The planning of this soup was kind of the Biggest Deal Ever for our son.

I have observed most grownups I know have lost the ability to draw as decisively, joyfully, and unselfconsciously as most children I meet.

When we left the kids found a brand-new stuffed animal tucked in the dispensary of one of the fifty-cent claw arcade games. They were completely thrilled by this find; the smiles on their faces and joy in their eyes reminded me of childhood… the magic in simple things.

We stopped at the new thrift store which had some rather intriguing stuff, including a very old New Home sewing machine with manual and buttonholer. Oh, and frayed death-electrical-cord. If I could have tested the thing I might have brought it home. It was sturdy but lightweight and looked – besides the cord – well cared-for.

New Home

We got home to our sleepy cats and Nels got busy on his soup recipe (which, to his credit, included nori and miso and was entirely delicious).

Ralph’s had so much time off work he’s actually almost catching up on sleep.

It’s a good thing.

Christmas Imp

of a weekend

Friday night – dinner out with Steev and Kit; our kids stayed home so it was a grownup thing. Sheesh, it’s become a distant memory, the wretched aspect of small-childville when the only people who would help look after your little ones were other (very frazzled) mamas with young babies or people you had to call and arrange and Pay and sometimes they cancelled etc. What a bunch of bullshit. Anyone reading here who might breed: please consider either being able to afford regular babysitting (in addition to the expense of the meal/moviedate/whatevs) or, if you’re like Ralph and I – scrabbling to pay the bills At All – just be really pissed and resentful, for years, at the lack of village life in our culture. Anyone reading here considering not breeding, make friends with a family and get comfy with their kids so maybe you can help them out a little.

But anyway. Dinner was very lovely even though the restaurant was busy and we waited and waited for our meal. I don’t mind when it’s good conversation.

Amore In Aberdeen

Lunch: a noodle and tofu soup with veggies, onigiri. My family loves onigiri but Ralph and Phoenix prefer not to have any nori. With the home-canned tuna canned right of the docks in Westport, it’s a delicious meal indeed. & yeah, here comes the Rooster.

Soup With Sesame, Tofu, & Somen; Onigiri; Fresh Orange

Last night the kids pulled an overnighter gaming with people from all over the planet; I awoke to their laughter at 6 AM and found them tucked in their bedroom at their netbooks, chatting and playing with those little cartoon bubbles and birds over their heads – entirely blissed out. I put them to bed where they fell asleep promptly and slept in. When they awoke we were socked in with snow. They ran outside all bundled up, having snowball fights and introducing the kittens to their first snow and whatnot, while Ralph and I cooked up their very late breakfast.

It’s the earliest snow most folks ’round here can remember. It was here and gone but I think we’re going to get more.

Tonight we gassed up at the Y then headed to Aberdeen for groceries and some crafting supplies. The town was quiet; not many people out. It was nice.
Gassing Up @ 7-11 & First Snow

Gassing Up @ 7-11 & First Snow

Gassing Up @ 7-11 & First Snow

Gassing Up @ 7-11 & First Snow

The snow (such as it is, which isn’t much) shut down Ralph’s campus until 10 AM tomorrow; he’s happily staying up and working on a side project while I bake rugelach in preparation for Thanksgiving (tomorrow: a deep-dish apple pie and securing beef and lamb from Western Meats).

For now: some hot water with lemon and knitting… still trying, and failing a bit, to rest up and recover from this cold.

i’ve found there are some things you can’t take away

I hate to talk about the inter-netz, because it’s boring, but I had kind of a shitty day online, overdosing on content by people whose work – I realize today – is ultimately not contributing to my mental and emotional health nor my growth as a strong, compassionate and wise person. It sucks to realize I need to cull, to change, to edit a bit of my consumption, because I feel like I’m cutting loose those who in many ways I admire. Still, having subjected myself today I now suffer a hangover but not from anything corporeal; rather, a spiritual malaise from words ingested, words bereft of deeper meaning but rehearsed hurts and seemingly cyclical suffering and other-centered blaming.

I get so depressed with how the American mainstream conversation – everywhere I go – frames children (when it deigns to consider them at all). Sometimes it seems as I’m one of the few parents who truly enjoys most every moment with my children and truly has almost every moment with them (waking and sleeping). I’m going on a decade now of living life with them! I don’t make jokes (not sure if I ever did) about shitty teen years or when I’ll be “free again” when they’ve moved out. If I ever felt that way before I don’t now.

What’s wrong with me? Everywhere I look kids are either dismissed, dehumanized, sentimentalized (the latter is really a combination for the former two for our own convenience) – or erased. Parents act like it’s so much work and drama to orchestrate their kids’ lives (and it is!), but I don’t relate because I don’t do this anymore. Fathers absent themselves from nurture; we modern ladies are told we’re supposed to aspire to such separation from progeny, grab at “me time”. Work in-home is worth than far less than a paid and status-y career (middle class conversations don’t much concern themselves with jobs that aren’t terribly thrilling, jobs many Americans work), that if we take care of children we necessarily won’t have time to do more important stuff: earning, activism, brain-learninz (so I guess: so much for the idea women are strong and multitasking superheroes). “Mommy bloggers” are mocked or dismissed (and I guess, as someone who’s loved publishing my journal online for eight or so years to much personal reward and thanks from readers, I qualify as such), our concerns trivialized and sneered at.

So today I’m realizing the activist circles I glean my readings from are too narrow: depressingly bereft of anything but cosmetic cares for children for all their lip service to “intersectionality”. I’m gradually weaning off those who don’t take child rights and child stewardship seriously when it’s brought up (as many, many don’t) because you know what? –  There are those who do. Few and far between, perhaps, but when I find them how wise, wonderful, and inspiring they are.

***

Many countries have outlawed discrimination based on gender and race, but still allow discrimination based on age. What justification is there for the assumption that anyone older than a teenager knows best what is good for those who are younger? Our adult grasp of life makes us feel superior to young people, and we use that to justify the substitution of our priorities for theirs. – October 31st, Wendy Priesnitz on Twitter (here, and so on…).

***

If any sensible person thinks deeply, he will respect justice. There is an inborn appreciation and respect for justice within our human body. In children, we find what is natural to be human character. But as they grow up, they develop a lot of conditioning and wrong attitudes. I often feel there is more truthfulness in a small child and I find reasons to have confidence in human courage and human nature. – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

***

Here’s some more from my life:

Last night my son was up late whispering in my ear. He kept telling me how much he loved me, and that he couldn’t wait to take me on “a date” (in our house a “date” refers anything one-on-one). He told me what restaurant he wanted to take me to. He asked me what I’d order. He told me what he’d order. It was his big Plan. I held him and felt him entirely bony and warm and not like anything else I could hold in my arms. So: a date tomorrow then.

I had nineteen dollars in my wallet. But I figured I’d have to make it work.

During the night he’d say in his sleep, “Is it time for our date?” He’d put his hands on me and drift back to Slumbertown, Population Nels.

This morning I was fortunate to have the car while Ralph bussed to work. After getting showered and dressed and putting some work in and some sewing done and spending too much time reading online and cooking up and putting aside breakfast for Phoenix and hemming some pants and sending birthday post, I was pretty excited to go out with with my son. At some point he popped straight of out bed, jumped up and dressed, brushed his teeth and hair and put on his newest homesewn coat and we stepped out into the sunshine. And I was treated to quite the conversational stream, Nels prattling along about pirates and parrots (the latter apparently serve as translator between the former and the ship’s crew, since pirates only say “Arrr!”), Minecraft, weather, animal husbandry, and parenting.

“Daddy told me he posted on Facebook you shouldn’t hit kids, and some people posted and said you SHOULD hit kids,” he told me (referring to Ralph’s anti-spanking linked article and polemic some time ago).

“Oh,” I said, surprised he was thinking of this now. “And what you you think?”

“Grownups shouldn’t hit kids,” he replied. I looked in the rearview mirror to see his brow a small thundercloud under his blonde hair. Consternation.

“What happens when they hit kids?” I asked. “Do you think kids get scared or angry?”

“They get angry,” he said emphatically. Then: “Angry enough they might kill themselves. Because they just want it to stop.”

So.

At the restaurant Nels was the soul of courtesy, including gently reminding me to keep my elbows off the table, which I found hilarious considering here is a child who will slither to the floor now and then out of his seat (from boredom). He ordered pink lemonade and a personal pizza, asking for half the pizza in a box to take home to his father. I ordered fettucine and a salad. He said “please and thank you” to the waiter (without prompting of course). He asked if fingernails were bones. I told him about keratin, amazed I had one fact in my head that could be of use to him. He asked me about nutrition for dental health. We talked about green leafy vegetables. Just when I thought I couldn’t be having a better time he carefully pushed his lemonade close to me, then his plate – and came over to my side of the booth. “I love you,” he said, simply. A serenity beyond space and time.

He paid (with my cash), walking the leather billfold to the server, smiling, laughing. I slipped to the restroom while he settled the bill and while away the phone rang and he answered. “Is Mama there?” my husband asks. “Yes,” says Nels. “Who’s dis?”

Then: my son and I step out into the sunshine to head back home to my daughter, stopping at the Post Office for mail and City Hall to pay the water bill. I peel off twenties and remember my father, who paid most things in a huge bundle of cash.

Another day and another chance to appreciate those things deeply meaningful; trivial and sublime. Living and breathing.

“My friends tell me I have intimacy problems, but they don’t know me, so who cares what they think?”

I think some people think I’m kind of tough as nails and/or rather fixed in my understanding of the world and, at any given point, my personal “right” thing to do. Of course none of this is true. On the last point, I am often lost and unsure of how to parent or negotiate friendships or even how to spend portions of my day.

Tonight is a good example; my husband and I decided to take the 2+ mile walk to Casa Mia and meet my mother for dinner (after her choir practice). Phoenix said she wanted to stay home but I told her I wanted her to come with us. For one thing, she hadn’t seen much of her grandmother of late, for another, I felt a disconnection from her I knew a walk would likely cure. I felt a bit squicky about pressuring my daughter to go, but I did it anyway. As we walked we were joined by friends, mother and daughter L. and S., who decided to come along and invited a friend of theirs along as well.

Soon Phoenix and S. and I were deep in discussions about school and friends while Nels and Ralph stayed back and kept their own counsel. My daughter put her hand in mine most all the way, stroking and hugging me and leaning against me – until she was at one point bitten by a spider she’d picked up whereupon she cried inconsolably for a few minutes. My daughter’s intimate and natural expressions of love were welcome to me and something I realized I had been craving. I was also aware of the fact I shouldn’t have had to insist or, more accurately, strenuously suggest she come along with us. While I could tell she had a good time it is hard for me to let go of still telling her what to do. At some level I worry if I don’t “make” her be friends, she will not love me. I suppose I should tell her this.

Nightwalking

Night-walking. It was perfect weather for it. I was wearing this hat I made from a wool sweater, a hat with ears. Some people smile and exclaim in admiration over this hat, but I think one person drove by and hecked me for wearing it (according to Ralph).

Skepticism & Orange Soda

Phoenix does not like being teased or goofed by her parents about 50% of the time. She’s reacting to something Ralph just said to her.

Intertron, & A Rather Tired Husband

Nels & Ralph await food and, at least for Ralph’s part, sleep.

1 AM and my daughter calls to me so snuggle where I shall now go.

CHOPPY

Last night I had one of those not-really nightmares, more like a nuisance-dream, where I couldn’t get the neighbor boy and his brother to leave my house. This dream was not likely that important or relevant but I think there are some anxieties I’ve been feeling about the care of this neighborhood child. The older brother hardly ever steps into my house except to order the younger one home; but the younger one is at my house nearly every minute his parents are gone and/or he is not required to be with family or in school.

So today when he came at his customary time I told him I wasn’t ready for company in the home. To my surprise I later realized he was merely sitting in my backyard (after having asked permission to be there) and waiting, preferring this over his television and many video games at home.  He did not as in days before knock on my door every five minutes (I am not kidding about this frequency). I like to think he has listened to my petition that he please not do this – and hopefully he trusts me I relay to my children immediately upon their waking that he wants to play with them (which I do). Today Phoenix played in and outside and while she was in this neighbor boy merely waited patiently for her to re-emerge. His loneliness and desire for meaningful connection is palpable.

It was a big day for Choppy – yes, you heard – CHOPPY, the (very horrid) grasshopper Phoenix had been trying to rehab. Choppy is/was quite large and my daughter requested I pet him/her goodbye. Look at the maniacal, angry eyes:

Incredibly, Phoenix knew this was a locust – a bit more specific than the descriptor grasshopper. I’m thinking (after doing a bit of research in Insects of the Pacific Northwest by Peter Haggard and Judy Haggard) Choppy is of species dissosteira carolinus aka Road Duster or the mourning cloak grasshopper.

Ralph had a long day in conference up in Tacoma. We went to pick him up and when he got in the car to the tearful hugs of our son (who was crying because he’d mispronounced the word “office” repeatedly while leaving Ralph’s work phone a voicemail) I asked if we could try one of the few new restaurants in the area. Downtown Aberdeen was hosting a Clint Black concert at the D&R Theater so our original choice restaurant had a rather large waiting list. In lieu of this Phoenix asked for Teri’s Steakhouse, a repurposed building that used to be a rather unappealing bar. And I could tell our daughter was worried we’d say No since we are not super steak-y.

So... I Don't Get It

Here’s something I love about me, or something I did today I’m happy about. They had modestly-priced Kid Menu items, just a couple. But Phoenix loves steak and was disappointed this wasn’t in the “kid” options like Nels’ choice of chicken nuggets. Our daughter thought this meant she couldn’t have steak. I told her of course she could, just to order off the adult menu (she looked for the smallest-size steak, ever mindful of Appropriateness). And of course she could have chocolate milk. And would she like soup or salad?  Ralph and I split a cheaper entree rather instinctively because hey, steak dinner, expensive right? And I knew I’d have so much pleasure in watching her eat exactly what she wanted. She was quite serious about critiquing the soup – a navy bean and ham. “Spicy, but quite good!” she said  – and ate every bit.

Navy Bean & Ham Pt. 1

Navy Bean & Ham Pt. 2

Navy Bean & Ham Pt. 3

Ralph and I were hungry and we’d ordered short-shrift so after demolishing our little salad we tried to control our still-ravenous appetites and act polite. When Phoenix was finished with her food we poked around and ate tomato slices and bits of New York steak and fries. It was rather efficiently done. The restaurant gave us complimentary cake at the end. A cream cheese frosting drizzled with caramel. Rather lovely, all of it.

Photography by Phoenix:

Ralph & Nels, Photography By Phoenix

Teri's Steak House, Photography By Phoenix

You know, I don’t mind living here much, maybe because the little stuff like trying some new restaurant out and watching how happy it makes the kids, and it’s lovely outside and all.

(Edited to add re: Choppy):