bikin’. and stitchin’.

We have decided we are only going to do fun things this weekend.

This morning I had the zany idea to go out to Ocean Shores’ Shilo Inn for breakfast. Years and years ago we had brunch there and it was fancy so maybe I was hoping for something to bring that special feeling back (hopefully without the $16-a-plate prices). As it turned out, the brunch is actually on Sunday, while Saturdays features typical breakfast fare, the most exotic item being a “seasonal” fruit bowl (which included sour grapes and wooden strawberries, the latter of which only my children would eat) but at least we had decent coffee – and decent prices, too.

After breakfast we checked out the rather lovely large saltwater aquarium and rather dreadful (but very titsy) mermaid sculpture. Such a successful set of morning activities got Ralph so fired up he would not take no for an answer on a little enterprise he’d been talking about for years, but I’d been hoping he was kidding. He wasn’t.

Now keep in mind a surrey bike looks innocuous (dorky) enough at first but it is in truth, as I found out, both extremely hard work to pedal and also feels very dangerous, as if you are going to tip over any second or fly out of control off the embankment which Ralph came close to many times and would have had not my stentorian voice (Ralph’s word: “sharp”, said while laughing at me) alerted this crazy man to near-disaster. Ralph mocked me our entire ride for being nervous but I knew what he didn’t, that this thing was a death trap. While mid-ride he ran up to the van to get his camera, I gingerly leaned out of my side of the bike (the faggot side that had a steering wheel that steered nothing, and thank God Ralph didn’t get the episode on tape where in a panic I attempted to counter his “driving” [careening] by using it) to feel that center-of-balance point. The bike stayed pointedly and solidly on all four wheels, acting like a car. But I knew better.

Of course it goes without saying that our children, ensconced in the basket in front of us, had the time of their lives. Ralph said he didn’t realize until he watched his footage that I was laughing the entire time we were out at the beach (that’s my mannish voice you hear in every second of that footage). Big Fun Weekend is looking like a good plan afterall.

Now, sadly, a 100% “fun weekend” plan got fucked because I had a prior commitment: see, the minute I felt slightly better after my illness I also knew I had to complete my obligation to finish a quilt for my children’s school. This quilt was a sad enterprise because every thread of fabric and bit of composition had been planned out by someone else – namely, our daughter’s teacher and a friendly neighborhood quilter. It was left to me (and the very vital efforts of my mother) to finish the quilt and finally, a half-hour before the auction tonight at which the item was due, drag it in, fingers bleeding but all smiles to be done, and done doing a very good job (well, except for a detail or two).

My mother and I sew very well together. I probably tease her too much, or rather talk too much shit about my superior speed in the whip stitch (I’m not kidding, I made a joke about it). But we speak our own foreign language of sewing, developed in no small part together but also refined and practiced in many ventures apart. We work well together and laugh and my dad circles in the background and wishes for our attention and makes jokes when he thinks of them. It was good times today.

This quilt is currently being auctioned off at a fundraiser and I feel a real pang that I’m not there – especially since my lovely friend Jen and her family is.

But Family Fun Weekend calls – onward!

typical day + best. quote. ever.

Sink-eriffic
Billy comes over for lunch and to take some pictures. I wish we had a camera. Scratch that. I wish we’d get off our asses and scrape up the $100 to fix ours.

Small gaffe on Mama’s part – so today my brother is taking pictures of Sophie and the latest two shirts I’ve sewn her and she says, “I want to take pictures of my bottom and punani!” and I say (without thinking), “That’s called kiddie porn. And we’re not going to do that.” She responds crankily, “Well I want kiddie porn!”

Yes, that's what she's saying.
Billy and I doubled up in silent laughter. I immediately regretted that whole conversation. But, let’s just move on.

Boy Ningo
Nels, pensive. He’s been like that lately. I think he’s undergoing a personality change. Since it isn’t in the direction of savagery, I’m happy with it.

Sunlight
My room, sunlit. I would say “our room” but as Ralph points out, we are sleeping along gender lines these days. Unless we can trick the kids to sleep together, which we do now and then.

P.S. I found some crystal meth on my walk to my parents’ today. Yay!

"You've got meth!"

accomplishments that are worth a damn to ME anyway

Tonight I brought the following dinner to a friend who recently had a baby:

  • Chicken salad
  • (chicken marinated in lemon juice, soy, rice vinegar, and sugar, then broiled)
    red-leaf lettuce, cucumber, carrot, baby corn
    sweet sesame dressing

  • Cold sesame noodles
  • Peanut sauce
  • Rooster sauce
  • Satsuma mandarins
  • Two-layer cake with chocolate frosting (my friend’s favorite), all from scratch.

I also made marshmallows and sewed hats.

And no, I don’t work my ass off nor have a messy home nor a rigorously clean one. Nor do I use TV to “babysit” while I do these various activities. I do however have a relatively ordered home, a joy in learning how to care for it, a husband who participates in housecleaning, and children who (more or less) know how to entertain themselves or even assist me in the sewing room or kitchen.

I have found my groove in life, again.

gearing up for Halloweiner

This morning I awoke amidst the three others in my family, burrowed under blankets on a large mattress Pangaea on the floor of my kids’ room. These measures are necessary because we are currently having our house interior painted and sleeping in a freshly-painted room is, well, kind of gross and scary. That’s OK because I am secretly (or not-so-secretly) a big fan of family-sleeping. So last night I was only too thrilled to move a TV into the kids’ room and watch a movie (a “conventional but entertaining sports flick” indeed – I’m coming to believe the Disney sports films – The Rookie, Invincible, etc. – are my version of other women’s romantic comedies – which I don’t watch – perhaps because they are always well-crafted, contain a good period soundtrack, and are comforting, formulaic, and only mildly emotionally moving), a late-night snack, and all-night family snuggle.

This morning I disentangle myself from the litter and start coffee; Ralph and Nels soon follow in waking up and while I shower Nels lays on the floor whinging as Ralph washes breakfast dishes (apparently being hungry for ten minutes in the morning is an existential nightmare for our son). After getting dressed I snuggle next to my daughter’s sweet body and we lie in bed quietly for a while. Then she starts talking, whispering to me of a purple dragon, a dragon “that saves people”. She sits up cross-legged and holds her hands in front of her, meshes the fingers to cup someone gently, and tells me the creature has long claws to hold people, as she talks she is gazing off, remembering. “The dragon had a very friendly face,” she breathes, her smile beatific.

Today has been a near-madhouse of activity, mostly including family events – playschool responsibilities, Halloween costumes, trick-or-treating – and significantly hampered by having the house torn apart for painting. But yes, I got all my Halloween sewing done, easy. And don’t think I’m not thrilled that I have had emails asking me to post photos! And you would think I’d get to breathe a breath of relaxation now the Halloween sewing is done. My last day of my sewing workshops is tomorrow, however – so I have to prepare for that. Zippers. Funsies.


Nocturnal animals in my car, from the other night’s late-night grocery run. Which I and the kids enjoy. Note Nels’ many layers of scarf, which he wore all night without even toppling over.

one of those ways people think I’m a Good Mommy, but I’m actually a Bad One

Today after a breakfast out (I begged Ralph and he only begrudgingly agreed) we took the family to Slobberdale so I could buy fabric. Because I am a huge frakin’ sewing dork. This year for Halloween my daughter is going to be a Corpse Bride so I have to get crackin’ (Nels’ “Ice Bat” is all done). I just got home with my fabrics and pattern, threw the kids in bed, washed the fabric while cutting out the pattern:


(Butterick 4887) for her gown. I’m doing a lace overlay and a tulle peplum and currently cutting out tulle and it’s really, really weird stuff. Oh, should this be going on my sewing blog? Too fucken bad!

In other news, ever since Girls’ Movie Night (v. October ’06) I can’t stop thinking about Patrick Swayze. And not in a pervy way, either. More an intrigued way. Why doesn’t he work much these days? Why has he aged less like a person and more like a sleek rock formation? How did he get away with his hair for so long? Why doesn’t he have a better ass? I just told Ralph to go rent me another Swayze film – I gave him a trifecta of choices in order of my preference. “And,” I said, “If those three are all out, then someone in this town loves Swayze more than us – and we should just back off.”

chemo cap

Edited December 13, 2009: Today I started on a new knitting project and reflected on how much I love to knit – even if I only make a few items a year.  I wrote this almost five years ago and published it in my first zine, the PT Breeder.

A week ago, I took my friend Jen up on her long-standing offer to teach me to knit.  She has some misgivings on the ambition of my first project (small needles, tight stitches) but helps me in picking out my yarn and loans me her needles.  At my house, after dinner with our two families and a couple glasses of red wine, she casts on 120 stitches and watches as my fingers tremble through their first attempts at an age-old maneuver passed down for centuries.

I have decided to knit my father a chemo cap.

My family has been through this before.  “Secondary cancer” – or “distant disease”— means he has less of a chance of survival than the first time.  His first round with colon cancer a few years ago we got to see what cancer treatment looks like.  He was poisoned and irradiated and large pieces were cut out of his body.  He lost his hair, he lost weight, he had sores in his mouth and was sick all the time.  He suddenly aged.  Wheeling him out of surgery on a gurney he looked as if someone had hammered him flat.  But, we thought we had a success story.  He recovered quickly due to a healthy lifestyle as a long-distance runner and some good Polish prole genes. We thought we had one of those “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” family stories you hear about.  And then we find out, a day before Thanksgiving this year, that the cancer has bloomed again in his chest.  I realize this will probably be the disease that kills him, sooner or later.

I want him to live.  I want him to live to know my children.  I want him to live for my sake and his, too; but I am thinking of my children when I imagine him gone from my life.  The one grandparent I never knew is a mystery to me whereas the other three are each people I know, I have a history with.  I want him to be there for them as they enter kindergarten, play their first soccer games, graduate from high school.

I am powerless to heal him, but I want to believe I can nurture him even here, miles away.  I keep at the knitting, doggedly forcing my hands into yet another repetitious task.  As I inch along I remember suddenly how we called him “Captain Kiwi”  a few years ago in a lighthearted recognition of the fuzzy new hair growing in after they stopped treatment.  I smile to myself as I think of him; my fingers and hands gaining a body memory and the stitches flow like water from my fingers.  I sit down to knit in the quiet times of my day, a few minutes stolen on the couch, kids asleep, no sound except the hum of the heat, and the knitting needles clicking conversationally with the soft strains of the radio.  I think of the Psalm 139:  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.  With each stitch I am knitting together a healed body; I am holding vigil.  The cap will be about 12,000 stitches when I am done.  12,000 stitches, more than the days I lived in his house, and with each one I am envisioning joining his cells into wholeness, combating the poison that even now is flowing through his veins.

My 2 1/2 year old daughter is up from her nap.  She climbs up to join me at the kitchen table and watches me.  “You’re knitting a hat for Grandpa?” she asks.  Yes, I say.  “Because he’s sick”, she says.  Then looks in my eyes and asks, “Is he feeling better?”  I am suddenly so sad I can’t answer her.  I don’t know if he will ever, in fact, feel much better.  All I can do is hope, and pray, and keep my hands busy.