Fall Projects

that will probably become clear later, like the French Revolution

Fall Projects

The summer weather turned so fast I’m still reeling. We are amidst autumn traditions now: baking pumpkin bread, knitting, sewing up wool garments. I’m keeping busy in Halloween sewing (ONE more day. Well, one-and-a-half), rehearsals for Jesus Christ Superstar (I got my apostle name today! #w00t), and of course – raising my kids, caring for the home and five pets, and putting the time into my Recovery life. Kidney stones got the better of me a few days ago for a couple days but I hung in there. I’m still watching and reviewing vampire films like a menace. What can I say? Life carries on.

JCS, Keeping WarmKeeping warm in a chilly theatre.
Sequin Removal

This was my life before I knew anything different than the removal of sequins. Don’t worry, I got a lot faster at taking them out. I have removed one hundred billion sequins. The results are going to be amazing, but mostly the results are going to mean I am no longer cutting sequins, which is something I keep thinking I’m doing, because it’s the only thing I’ve been doing, ab aeterno.

Punkin

A little punkin’ & a big punkin’. Which is which?

My little ones had their school counseling sessions today with their father. I couldn’t be more proud of them. They are performing well, and better than that, they love school. I still miss them terribly during the day but the satisfaction I get knowing they are where they want to be (for now) is worth my occasional restlessness.

Nights I find myself having trouble falling asleep. But I have a warm bed, and loved ones, and (for now) some health. Life is very special. It is a miracle!

Wishkah

hollow (wo)man

Wishkah

This last week I’ve had three members of the community ask for a private conference for the following: putting homeschooled kids into school, and taking schooled children out of school. I guess now I’ve got enough experience on both. I’m honored to be trusted, and I hope my listening ear, and my shared experience, helped these concerned folk.

The thing is, with any life change a parent has the opportunity to examine the agenda they’ve crafted for their child. And I mean, deeply examine it. If they’re not willing to do that, then little I say makes a difference much.

This of course brings a preternatural calm to all such conferences. It’s easy to be calm. Who is going to see their agendas, let alone set them aside? My children’s own attendance on a daily basis at a little rural school miles (and miles!) away from home life is, I’d like to think, a bit of a referendum on that concept of I just want what’s best for my child. (because: what parent doesn’t?) Their internment in the walls of a brick and mortar school for me means: I trust. The school? I dunno. The kids themselves? Yeah. Yeah, I really do.

Wishkah

Wishkah

Today I spent several hours at this very school, my first volunteer gig of the year.I first directed one class in a small activity – some cooking and crafting – and then watched both my kids in their respective Physical Education classes.

It was a surreal, exhausting experience. I don’t know how kids get through it and have energy left over to play sports. Or as my daughter did – go to soccer practice, come home and do chores, go for a run with her father – and then finish up her homework.

Beat, querulous, confused, tonight I attend the last of my yoga series. Half the class of twelve has dropped out. I open up to the possibility of gratitude – for myself, my practice. Come home and put kids into the shower and put away laundry and take a hot shower.

But I’m unearthed; sands have shifted.

People act like when your kids grow up, you’re sad because you’re this empty husk that has no meaning to life now that you aren’t meeting their needs. But it’s not like that. It’s exactly like realizing every moment is one you’re probably squandering, wishing for things to get better or easier. Then one day they’re easier (in those particular respects) and you realize the groundlessness was your own thing, had nothing to do with circumstance. And the thing you perhaps squandered entirely, was that precious time with those children, which is the best thing life’s going to offer. That potential for perfect intimacy with another human being.

You throw away, that Best Thing. 

Why am I willing to live like the walking dead? And so many others, they do the same. So then: the fear. A haunting thought: What will keep me from forgetting again?

Late night: the dryer hums, the dog and kitties and rabbit are settling in. My husband’s movements in the bedroom: small, sedate. Tattered pajamas and a cool, peaceful bedroom.

And then tomorrow. Tomorrow can I live it? Instead of fleeing the moment, running and running to some destination that is less real than the illusion I create it from.

Wishkah

day 5

 

E. and I pull up to where Nels is waiting for us, after his appointment. He’s on the side of the rather busy road, standing upright like a little reed – playing his new (to him) trumpet. The sight of him cheers me immensely. It’s been a hard few days. The kids are in school, and while it’s hardly the free time extravaganza people without children might guess it to be (for instance: in five days I’ve had to drive out to the school three times; I am also literally a soccer mom which is a big time-suck); all the same it is a change.

Later, on the yoga mat: lying prone, sweating into my kerchief, not looking so “pinup-cute” as I get called regularly. Rumpled and tired, my wrists a slight throbbing agony. I patiently wait to return back to flow. I’m so tired I’m pretty good at just being on the mat. In general, my mind doesn’t race like it used to.

Home: sewing a heavy, disagreeable vintage wool fabric. It’s hot. The kittens race around the room and Hutch follows me with his steady brown eyes, wishing with every fiber of his being for me to give him Nels’ lunch chicken bone. Ralph on his way, after getting groceries. Sunlight through the curtains, the sounds of children (not all of them mine) laughing in the living room. Preoccupation. Planning. And then: gently setting aside the plans. I’m here now. I can do now.

Night falls. Ralph and Phee are off on a run. Nels asks, “What is for dinner, mom?” I am longing for hot shower and a bed to fall into. Tomorrow: a meeting, more yoga, soccer. Tomorrow: fabrics in the mail; a new project.

But that – is tomorrow.

Fungus Among Us

the Lunts

“[…] You should’ve seen him when old Sally asked him how he liked the play. He was the kind of a phony that have to give themselves room when they answer somebody’s question. He stepped back, and stepped right on the lady’s foot behind him. He probably broke every toe in her body. […] Then he and old Sally started talking about a lot of people they both knew. It was the phoniest conversation you ever heard in your life. They both kept thinking of places as fast as they could, then they’d think of somebody that lived there and mention their name. I was all set to puke when it was time to go sit down again. I really was.”

Yeah. I’m all set to puke tonight. I guess I knew I’d get a little nervy the night before the big day. I knew I’d get nervy but I forgot what it was like to be nervy.

See, Nels is off with his sister to public school tomorrow. His first day at school ever.

My first day at home without a kid. Or two. Or four. My first day since, you know, becoming a parent. No big deal.

Except it’s massive.

I’ve managed to avoid thinking about this much.

First, I did the things I should: put together their school supplies, clothes, backpacks, lunch boxes. Talked things (by “things” I mean: as an unschooling family, having two kids in fulltime school) over with mentors, with a counselor, with my partner, with a couple trusted friends.

It occurs to me tonight that maybe, unconsciously, that’s a reason I’ve been so very busy lately. More tailoring work than even makes sense. Volunteer work, writing assignments, medical tests. And now I’m 50% done with the enormous work of putting together a benefit event – including three radio interviews today! so fun! And I’m not being sarcastic! – with another couple days hitting the pavement hard on that. Today I finished a sewn ensemble for another benefit event. I hadn’t finished the stitching on that before I was asked to contribute to a third good cause (so I guess: people admire my work, love my work, are starting to pay for my work – but more notably are also starting to ask for donations. Interesting!). Honestly, I’ve said “no” to a thing or two, but things do pile up.

So I’ve been busy with all that and it occurs to me I’ve done this on purpose maybe? And now as of this week, I’m processing some new medical information (sort of new, not-so-great medical information), and that’s been really hard.

Yeah. I almost got up to today, to my last day as an at-home carer without school or daycare, you know like my last day in like thirteen years – 

I almost got to today without kind of freaking out.

But don’t worry. The freak-out is in evidence.

The kids’ clothes are laid out. Their school bags are packed. Forms are filled out. Rides to and from the bus stop, arranged. Nels says, casually to me: “First day of school tomorrow.” Like a Sir. LIKE A BOSS

Me? For the first time in over three years’ sobriety, I kind of feel like I used to when I had to drink. I don’t have to drink, now. I get to just have Feels.

Big, massive Feels.

Local stuff:

Fungus Among Us

Local

Die-Cut

Trillax

Chile Today & Hot Tamale

living on the water 5ever

On Phee’s last day, of her first year, of school:

Such a wonderful girl. I have more to say about that, at a later date. But with this photo we also mark the fact I DID NOT EVER EVER MISS THE BUS, PICKING HER UP! I am so beyond impressed with myself on this one. So impressed. I drove 8.4 miles per day to get her from the bus stop. It worked out every time. I am a goddamned champion because lots of times I can’t do anything right.

At the Chehalis today:

Aberdeen, Washington. I love where I live, down in my bones. I may live and die here; I may travel and park myself somewhere else for a while. Who knows? It is beautiful here, so beautiful.

The Little Ones. They spent their first summer break day today being very tender to one another. Nels missed her very much this last year. I think the hard work of school made her cranky, too. He had a lot of angry tears this last year. We shall see!

A random apple, floating in the river. It was in perfect shape, and just bobbing away. A bright hard ball of lovely red in a sea-bleak riverscape.

By Ralph, whilst chaperoning the end-of-year fieldtrip with our children and Phoenix’s class. Cloud-cover and sunburns:

 

I welcomed a sunny, peaceful day today. Yesterday I was hit with the worst kidney stone I’ve had in a little under a year. I was sitting in a meeting when it came up. I gently rubbed my thumbs over one another and I felt myself sweating and shaking. A friend kept leaning over and offering me “help” but I was in my own little pain-world. It was bad enough I considered the ER; I gave it time, and after an hour and a half it abated. It took a lot out of me, though. Today the pain was so much less that I felt incredibly grateful.

Another day; another few steps on this spaceship Earth. Did I make the most of it? Was I loving – was I kind?

I meditated in the morning and asked for help, and inspiration, and tact. I met with a friend to help her, and served her pie and coffee. I called two other friends to check in on them. I manned my Wednesday volunteer shift. I took time out of the day for my children, and my husband, and my mother. I performed a bit of housework, I cared for our pets and plants, and I put a B-movie on while I did some sewing work (yay!). I thanked my husband for the wonderful dinner he made. And now: a hot shower, candles lit, a bit of journaling, and to bed with my lovies.

There’s nothing else for it!

leiden

I ask Ralph to slow down – “or pull over,” I amend. I feel so ill I’m almost certain I will vomit.

He pulls into a boat launch; the kids make faint, empathetic noises as I exit the car. I place my daughter’s just-now-finished band concert blazer on her lap, and close the car door, walk over to the edge of the clearing. Under a grove of trees and I hear something up high – a small nest of baby birds, perhaps? Three magnificently large fungi adorn one of the birch trees, about twelve feet up. I focus on these and breathe through my nose. There isn’t enough fresh clean air to calm my aching head, to soothe that sickness that roils in my chest.

Soon we are back on the road as my illness, though still with me, is manageable. In the passenger-side window my skin looks terrible; rough, pallid, green. I focus on the words Ralph says; I ask about his day.

We’re installed on bleachers to watch the end-of-year music concert for my daughter’s school. My daughter looks so adult; she shakes her hair, black and teal, out of her face. When did she get so grown? She has the most animated, happy face of the children there. She is wearing a bit of eyeshadow and slumps slim and sophisticated in her black suit. She is so gorgeous. It’s like on one hand I understand when people say she looks like me but on the other hand I watch her from far off and I think How can she be so beautiful? Maybe when she is up close I worry about feeding her and parenting her and caring for her and getting her new socks. And when I see her in the crowd it’s like a wild thing, something precious. I used to call her Creature, and it wasn’t kind when I did. But now she’s a Creature, a sense of humor, a quick wit. She never turns away from a hug from me,  and she returns the embrace with such presence and tenderness; one of those blessings money can’t buy.

It is time for her band performance. Her slide positions on the trombone are swift and decisive. She is focused but not tense. I am glad to watch, sitting here swaying in overcrowded bleachers, despite being ill I am glad I made it here. I know I don’t have to do anything but pay attention. That, I can do.

We leave earlier than my son would like; he has found friends on the playground. He shouts at us that we have to go home. We’ve a dinner to prepare, laundry to wash, pets to feed and love up on.

I’m tired; but sleep with come eventually.

Tomorrow, the sun will come out tomorrow!

low key

I’m stitching the facing to the backside of bound buttonholes on Nels’ newest coat and I’m tired, tired, tired.

“You could wear a dress,” I tell my daughter.

“Which one?” she asks, politely.

“The green one.” I mutter, stabbing through the thick layers of fabric. The jacket didn’t quite go As Planned and I want it done!

“The peacock one? This isn’t a formal event. There are donkeys involved,” she says, judiciously.

I’m like, “Well -”

She muses, “You know – unless it’s show business, if there are donkeys involved, it’s probably pretty redneck-y.”

I fall silent, and she just keeps talking – in a low voice, to herself I think – and I am shaking in silent laughter at her vaguely disapproving tone. It’s like she’s slightly offended there are going to be donkeys indoors. She goes to this little rural school in the middle of nowhere but she fits in great. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the main reason she wants us all to go tonight, is so she can see her Crush.

Phoenix has the most appropriate sense of everything, in just about any social situation I’ve seen her in.

So then without my inappropriate fashion advice, she proceeds to select her own attire for the evening: grey chambray shirt, her jeans with the “legendary fit” (her words!), her father’s grey fedora, and a simple necklace. A bit of face powder, hair back in low ponytail, then: “Smooooth,” she says to herself in the mirror, nodding approvingly.

!!!

So even though donkey basketball is totally A Thing, and has been for many years, somehow I’d completely missed the concept.

A first time for everything.

After a surprisingly-close game, we pack up and drive home through fog and chill winter roads and back home. Ralph’s baking bánh mì and I’m about to dust off my resume.

Night-time meds: a tablespoon molasses in hot milk. To get my blood iron up.

the rustle of leaves / going on a journey

So apparently some grading milestone has just passed, because we got a different grading report this week. And it turns out our unschooled daughter made the honor roll.

This is all the more impressive (to me) given she has had two near one-week absences already for family time, and I know she didn’t turn in all the necessary makeup work for those intermissions. (Getting an organized list of make-up work is weirdly logistically difficult… children have incredible amounts of homework assigned to them these days and I think overworked teachers can’t always keep it straight).

I’ve thought a lot about writing about our family’s experience of the eldest’s foray into schooling – especially since I’ve been asked to write about it. Long story short: my daughter is killing it. Meaning: she genuinely enjoys school and is a faithful and willing participant. She seems to be managing the social stuff well, although let’s be honest – if she was being a shady Ass she might not be willing to report to me. Time will tell; further observation will tell.

Academically, she is one of those bright kids praised for critical thinking, leadership in discussions, and friendly deportment. No one reading here is surprised. She is ranked the top reader of the class and … bottom… math-er (how would you put that?).

The math bit is interesting. Phoenix is catching up very quickly, positing that a child who’s never touched math workbooks in a classroom can catch up to five years’ of public school in a few months. [ inserts tongue into cheek ] I am not even kidding about how much she couldn’t do worksheet-math when she started. Her first week at school she’d look up at me and say, “What is ‘5’ plus ‘2’?” Part of her difficulty with even simple exercises in a math worksheet seemed to be her own conviction that she “didn’t do” math (her words, although of course she’s managed many fiscal matters quite sensibly and plays video games which involve math, estimation, and strategy). Part of it was she was a bit overwhelmed with those first couple weeks. She is now quite calm about math and cheerfully enough completes the volumes of homework required. As I type this she is downstairs filling out a bunch of balls’-numbing long division problems. You know, one of those things we grownups use our calculators for.

School administrators and staff are very interesting to work with. I live in a small enough community I will keep some of my opinions to myself, although I am fine with a one-on-one or email conversation for the genuinely curious (I am not down with gossip, so you will get nowhere with me if you try it). I will say that school staff seem to know school isn’t so great for kids and this knowledge is reflected in an odd combination of muffled obfuscation and obsequious, careful sizing-up while talking to a parent. That said, from what I can tell the staff are adults who genuinely enjoy children. I ain’t gonna lie, some adults like kids inasmuch as they can boss, rank, file, and even tease them. But that doesn’t mean they don’t love them, too.

The logistics of school life is a tiny bit tricky, but we are making it. Phoenix and Ralph get up quite a bit earlier than Nels & I (except for days like today, when Ralph was out of town and I got the opportunity to take Phee to school). We drive nine-point-four miles to get her to a bus stop (then back to town or work). With our car and gas situation this is often sketchy, but it has worked out and it is a nice break, a nice bit of family-only time. I’m still glad we chose the school we did for a variety of reasons, and my daughter feels a part of the school community.

So far, so good.

I don’t pine for my daughter like I did at first. It is still amazing to think of her just doing some shit all day long and I have no idea what it is. I am really glad for our family’s intimacy, though, and it keeps us strong. I enjoy having more time with just-my-son, and I enjoy having some work time. I enjoy watching my daughter build a life of her own.

My daughter is still one of the most directly affectionate people I know. When I pick her up from school at the end of a little rural road she walks right into my arms and kisses me and I hold her for a bit. We walk back in silence or talk about our day. I can see that friendship between us and I know that although it’s not a sure thing it will remain strong, so far it has been so wonderful, so rewarding. My daughter is probably the easiest person on the planet for me to be around. She is pretty special. Whomever she shares herself with is very lucky indeed.

I know over the years of writing here I have influenced many adults who are trying to figure out what is best for their children. I earnestly hope I have done more help than harm. As an unschooling parent for about a decade now, I have a few words as we journey through this latest bit. Parents and carers, if you are involved with your kids, love your kids, pay attention to your kids, and are brave enough to consider going against the grain – please don’t listen to what anyone ever says about school performance. Kids aren’t meant to be ranked and filed, “kept busy”, discussed like show dogs in a lineup, labeled, and with regularity told when they can eat and when they can take a crap.

Now if that’s your kid’s daily reality, Cool Beans, it’s one of my kids’ daily realities too. But I still say; if you’re thinking about it, YES, it is VERY WORTH IT to put off that reality for as many years as you can. Today, so far, I am pretty comfortable as a parent-whose-child-chooses-school, but to be fair it’s nothing I’ve done personally – it’s trusting Phoenix. We trusted her enough not to send her to school and let her be her. It was a smart investment.

It is an honor to be her mother and friend, to accompany her on her journies. I look forward to the next chapter.

heaven forfend

“We are going to get an apartment together,” my son announces, looking up from the pie tin he’s getting the second half of dinner from. He and Ralph have this plan. It’s all fun and games now while Nels is nine and only about sixty-six pounds. When he’s fifteen, he and his father will be fighting over leftovers in earnest.

Nels is either laughing and running, or running and scowling. Or he’s sleeping. Perhaps the time before Nels sleeps is one of my favorite things, because I’m with him and have been his whole life. His clear, bright voice asks me questions – “What’s the opposite of aqua?” “How do you spell ‘dungeon’?” His voice is musical in my ears, a silvery, tumbling stream. But it’s late, and I’m very tired. I try to answer. Sometimes the questions get existential and confusing, or intense. We watch a little movie and finally I’ll turn the tablet off and he and I lie together, the only two awake anymore. Eventually I’m listening to him breathe and he is damp and so surprisingly warm, scalding to the touch. A tiny bread loaf. A wee hot little frog buried under the covers. For a very long time he had to cover himself all the way up to sleep. He was afraid of something. He no longer does this. I hope he is healing from whatever frightened him.

Ralph and I have been working very hard; and because we have, our children have too – especially the eldest. She attends a long day at school, comes home, completes homework, and cheerfully enough attends to household chores and of course, playdates with friends. I worry she’s overworked, but she seems very happy all the time – unless she’s trying to work with her brother on a bit of housework. She talks to him in such a harsh tone sometimes, made only a bit embarrassing as I know exactly where she learned that tone.

At night I read to her and she falls asleep in her own bed. She only sleeps with her parents now on the weekend, when she can sleep in. In the morning, without fail, she comes in and kisses me goodbye before Ralph takes her to the bus stop. Finicky as we are, her wee rural school setting means we drive 9.4 miles just to get to the bus stop.  And so far, mysteriously, neither Ralph nor I have been late on the pickup or dropoff.

It’s almost like we’re grownups for realz.