reptile drama; a coda

I’ve been busy. Embarking on a belly dancing class (you should see how much I suck!  It is kind of breathtaking!), the privilege of attending a workshop of spoken-word guru Desdamona, and trying to sew at a more brisk clip than, as it turns out, I really have time for (but I’m not giving up on my goals! It ain’t over until I’ve made the entire family miserable by disappearing into the sewing room all too much while they are forced to fend for themselves!).

Poor little Anna Dell Geckaboom.  My kids had a bit of a skirmish – a very small one – and Sophie fell while holding her gecko.  The animal lost its tail – something it can afford to do, but nevertheless a traumatic event.  For everyone.  In fact I even hollered a lot.  I mean I am a tough person who’s usually good in a scrape.  But I still lost my mind for a second – because it was gross and disturbing and awful (the animal is fine, thanks for asking).  I do credit my reflexes in that I quickly composed myself and directed the family – Sophie to get her reptile book and Ralph to round up the lizard and its…  truncated appendage (see video below; then puke).  Nels cried and cried, feeling so bad about the animal, feeling so guilty – and waiting for a reprisal he was sure he deserved.

Ralph consoled the children and soon they recovered.


The tail wiggled for well over forty minutes after it had left its host.  Seriously, this was just about the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.  I guess, really.  I don’t like Nature very much.
Wiggling Tail

And no, I wasn’t laughing or smiling during ANY of this event, so I don’t know why Sophie said these words to me. I think she was pretty upset and likes to blame me for her feelings at times. That’s the lot of many of us mothers, I’m afraid.

in the gloaming

Today was lovely; besides finishing a super-awesome sewing project that had been plaguing me in the details – yay! and: Shhh! Secret for my daughter’s birthday – we were out on the bikes for most of our afternoon and evening. It was brilliantly, beautifully sunny. Packing up when there’s no chance of rain is a simpler affair:

Adventure NecessitiesColoring books! Crayon roll-ups! Swim gear! Coats!

Ralph teaches an evening class on Wednesdays and so far each evening has been wonderful. You’d think being with the kids all day I’d rather loathe having them by myself even further. Perhaps it’s that when my husband is home I feel competing urges to be with him and the children (and myself, sewing!), but I find our Wednesday evenings sans Papa to be relaxing and intimate. Go figure.

Where I Live
We stopped at Hodge Podge, the Habitat for Humanity store; Nels found a little red vacuum cleaner he has decided to purchase. Nels is building his own house out of a cardboard box and an assortment of homemade furniture including, for practicality’s sake, a Skee-Ball arcade game (lumber purchase pending). We already own a vacuum but I guess it isn’t good enough.

Nels & I, Deep In Study
While Sophie swam I read some library sewing books and Nels wrote up a list for his new domicile. I think you can see here how lovely the sun is.

On Our Ride Home
On our way back from the YMCA I glanced in the front yard of a little apartment complex on Aberdeen Avenue. Imagine my surprise when I saw an apartment inhabitant walking – not a pair of small dachshunds like she had been the week before – but a pair of cockatiels! We motored right over and the kids spent several minutes playing with the friendly and beautiful birds.

It was a good day; I didn’t even have to use my AK.

small wonder

Today was my daughter’s 8th birthday. I snapped a picture of her right when she woke up; then crawled in bed with her and we talked. She was in wonderful spirits. Like most mornings, she immediately rose to tend to her gecko and to play with the kitties.

Harris Whisks Away

Before we left for lunch we harvested the lemons on our lemon tree, a plant we ordered by mail last summer. It had only four blooms when we received it and two were destroyed in its early weeks – thus, only two lemons grew. My lemon tree is one of my favorite material posessions, and is also the result of a two-year-old running Hogaboom inside joke – if you know the story, you are indeed in our circle of trusted friends. If you don’t know it, let me tell you sometime in person – it’s not such a good one for the writingz.

Squeeze My Lemon

Sophie, Wonderment

Kids Contemplate Lemonage

This next lemon harvest is looking impressive; there are hundreds of blooms bursting out of the tree! Guess the diet of menstrual blood and cigarette ash has boded well.

There were no takers on our proposed lunch date in Olympia, and my daughter decided she’d rather not go. So instead we visited Sophie’s second choice of venue, My Sisters Bakery here in Aberdeen. After getting home she spent the afternoon and into dusk outside playing with the neighborhood pack of kids – no seriously, they are riding bikes and climbing trees and building a tree fort by the train tracks! – and then we went to dinner with friends at Alexander’s in Hoquiam. Which was also funny because my son was being what many would consider Rude, and the proprietor was clearly annoyed, but deliberately put a “polite” face on things. And I did thank the proprietor for his patience and we did tip well, but it kind of made me laugh to see him stand at attention with his hands behind his back, giving Nels the polite attention he so clearly felt the child did not deserve.

So, I want to talk about Sophie a bit.

I remember so much about my pregnancy – which over the last nine years has been rendered into fragments, impressions, and sometimes vivid experience. My reaction upon taking the pregnancy test: stunned, from across the little studio apartment I could see the little double-line result and it was like a scene in a movie where the camera pulls back and zooms at the same time – actually kind of like alot of this imagery and terrifying orchestration, not necessarily a positive reaction at all, and I would not be able to cook the dish I’d been preparing that day, ever again; and I remember getting a second test at the Health Department (recount: whaddya know! Comes up pregnant again!) and later that day Ralph’s reaction (amazing, so sweet, so tender, so excited)…

My pregnancy went very well. I was praised by coworkers for working as shift foreman, working as hard as a man even while carrying my spawn (now I know to say “FUCK off, seriously, I do love you guys but I do not work nor pregnate for your approval”*, but I didn’t know this at the time and I lapped up the “Good Girl” compliments). Pregnancy and, later, pregnancy while nursing and then, nursing two, was awesome – I felt physically amazing and had the appetite of a linebacker. Yet with Sophie’s pregnancy I was nervous and tried to “do things right” during the duration (again, learning a little FUCK OFF is a lesson I’d love to impart to today’s breeding families) but I suffered no ill effects and, after a rough birth, took to breastfeeding and baby-loving with a wonderment and energy that has never subsided since.

Ah, Sophie. Has any baby been more loved than our baby girl? Her second year of life I quit my “Good Girl” job and we received unemployment benefits (due to a big OOPS on the part of my former employer) and this was life-changing and instrumental to our family life and what it was to become. Ralph built his computer business up enough that it changed everything; during this year he was home so much and although work-from-home and no-one’s-really-employed wasn’t easy (thank you so much, State medical, which covered my child and myself for one year), it was like a respite and a deep dive into family life, and it was incredible. This was Ralph before he grew to hate me for various and sundry, before our second child seriously challenged our worldview of PARENT IS BOSS AND IN CONTROL, before we had four mouths to feed and the high cost of living in Port Townsend caught up with us (NSF, sorry, no groceries, hungry lady-with-two-hungry-babies!).

But these idyllic memories are concomitant with so much baggage and weird shit I believed, like my baby should behave well and look cute and that other restaurant patrons have the right to never once have the experience of Children foisted on them (this is a big one for me, as I’ve always enjoyed eating in restaurants) and perhaps more importantly, this is before I knew that children grow so fast, and that it doesn’t make sense to do anything but enjoy every minute you have with them, truly, even if that means you don’t get the shit done you want to, or they splash in the tub and you have to clean the bathroom; and please, cleaning the bathroom floor while your baby / child laughs and watches you and loves you so much, is there any reason this isn’t just as amazing and wonderful experience as anything else? Fuck-yeah! to being happy to be alive and to have those we love beside us?

My daughter is cited as the “easier” child in the minds and mouths of those who know us and who hear us talk about our son – but of course, she is not “easy” because to the extent she is a more convenient child she is one we can wound, suppress, and over-socialize. We can so easily teach her – and when parents do this is it almost always, always inadvertently – that her compliance and Good Grades and Good Behavior are necessary for her to upkeep to receive our love. She is strong yet (usually) defers to authority; she is rugged yet impressionable. She sees deeply into the truth of things, probably in part because I do as well, and I’ve passed this on to her – but also, of course, this is her nature. I asked a lot of her as an older sibling, and I still do, and maybe one thing incredible to me is she knows this and accepts this most of the time; yesterday in my mother’s old truck as we drove home in the sunshine she said, “Being older is better, but it means we have to do more work.”

It was funny because the other day I was taking a bath and my girl came in the room to join me. She was carrying some sci-fi fantasy paperback she’s been reading, and she asked if she could get in the bath. I was thinking how when my daughter was born I would have wanted all the things I currently have (“have”): a smart, intelligent, well-read, well-adjusted, polite, slim and beautiful little girl. But I would have wanted these things for many wrong reasons: to glory in my “accomplishment” of this child and to be assured I wasn’t screwing up in some way, and in some way to prove to everyone Look, I Can Do It, or maybe more accurately, to ensure I would never receive criticisms for making Huge Mistakes in my role as parent, because holy damn, making mistakes as a parent really, really sucks, bad, it hurts worse than any mistake I’ve made in any other way – jobs, relationships, anything.

I’ve since released myself from believing my children’s behavior and choices are direct reflections on me and my worth, my work ethic, or my intelligence. I’ve since rejected the concept that my children’s lives should be used as sole measure to justify or denigrate my parenting STRATEGIES, my personal strengths or weaknesses, or my savvyness at making-sure-I-get-my-way and kids-need-to-know-their-place,-see?-mine-sure-do; likewise, I release my friends and neighbors from these same dogmatic correlations and when my Judgment wells up I gently address it.

And in releasing those who judge based on my children and their accomplishments or good behavior – or lack thereof – I have in the meantime been delivered the most glorious and amazing children. They couldn’t please me more, simply put, although when I am complimented on their manners or intelligence or forthrightness I do not feel smug or Right in how they are; I feel grateful and humbled and joyous, and more than this I feel so excited because they are doing this all themselves, I am only their love and a bit of guidance and I feed them and care for them, but I do not hold it as my job to mold them – not anymore. I am still reeling from a change in worldview, that it is not solely my efforts that make amazing children – or my lapses that create conflict and fights – and I’m still so excited when I talk and it spills over sometimes I worry it sounds like bragging when it Just. Isn’t.

Today my daughter, I couldn’t be more proud of her, but I am not proud in the way I thought this meant so many years ago. I am proud of her in that I cannot believe my good fortune, and the miracle that may occasionally move through me, but really isn’t about me at all.

Sophie, Upon The Morning Of Her 8th Birthday

* “pregnate” = Not A Real Word


This video is RIDICULOUS because it sums up a little too much our life. All off-script, including Mable’s screech and my pathetic succumbing to Harris’ begging-for-food charms.

Anna Dell Geckaboom, with my daughter, who is not only an experienced and loving lizard-custodian and would-be herpetologist, but is also getting pretty good at handling crickets as well.

Our Newest Member Of The Household

Pegasus/Unicorn Roller Skating Birthday Party

let’s not make it a habit

Oh my goodness – I bought a book! I did! I never do this! As in, if you come to my house you will see the smallest-ever little pile of books, because we are so incredibly selective about the ownership of said libros! I have literally never known of anyone who had fewer books!  (Pssst, there’s this secret thing called a library, they totally give you books – for free! and then you don’t have to own them and have them clutter up your house! It’s crazy!)

But purchase a volume I did, just yesterday – and it arrived today (speedy!).  The book: Sewing Clothes Kids Love: Sewing Patterns and Instructions for Boys’ and Girls’ Outfits (that is one decidedly non-catchy title, bro).

I bought the book for a two compelling reasons: 1. the styles, techniques, and layer-ability of the resultant garments are stellar matches for my children’s preferences and lifestyle (that is: active!), and 2. at $16 with free shipping, ten multi-sized patterns, and tons of directions for modifications and embellishments, the price and convenience of doorstop-delivery were “compelling… and rich”.  Today at lunch as the kids colored their coloring books and worked on math worksheets I flipped through the book and drooled – the Manhattan Special Occasion Dress!  The Avalon Jacket! – and reconsidered some of my upcoming sewing projects (my girl’s birthday, see below) to accommodate breaking into the pattern sheets.

In other news: we’re busy planning Sophie’s birthday festivities, which include a shared Unicorn / Pegasus skate party – Sophie (turning 8), and Michael, Ralph’s drummer (turning 22). If you don’t think this late-night roller skating party is going to be so incredibly awesome, well.  You’re wrong. And stuff.

Kids, late-night, roller skates, sugar-snacks, costume horns!

Kids, late-night, roller skates, sugar-snacks, costume horns!

the dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun!

Oh my goodness!  Do you remember last year’s huge, huge drama when I forgot about the Homeschool Sports Valentine’s Day Party, and I was feeling all pissy and tired, and the kids found out about the party after they had their sports session and they begged – begged with tears in their eyes and sad clowns in their voices – to go back and get like ONE COOKIE PLEASE MAMA, so we went back to the party room and there was every single homemade treat you can imagine and a couple dozen amazingly original artsy-fartsy handmade Valentine’s Day card boxes, and everyone was having so much fun, and my kids got a cookie but at the sight of the festivities went all crazy wanting to stay, and I marched them out of there to the tune of much, much protestation?

Because Oh, I remember it.  Sadly, I do not seem to have blogged about it at the time.  I wish I would have because the only thing better than being the mom of the only kids who don’t get to do an activity they really want to do – merely because I assed out on knowing about it – is having them flip their shit in public, yelling, screaming, probably sharpening a complimentary YMCA pen into a shiv and going for my neck while we struggled out to the car.  I don’t remember all what.  I just remember feeling like I really showed my ass on that one.  Oh and sometimes I wish I could just be the mom that lets my kids eat a bunch of cookies and get a bunch of Valentines even when we didn’t come prepared to reciprocate, because honestly in situations like this most of the other parents don’t mind, everyone is happy and just wants to share and What was up with that grim harridan so cruelly herding her sad, sad children away from our fun party?

So anyway.  You can bet, motherfucker, that this year I did not forget about the Homeschool Sports Valentine’s Day Party.  In fact my husband came home last night and was asked (nicely) to march through a series of party-related endeavors (while I frittered my time away on some crafts, see my last blog post) and this morning even after severely scalding my own hand I went through the remaining motions to make sure we got to that damned thing armed and ready (thank God it was my left mitt that had to be immersed in ice water for an hour).  In short, at 1:30 PM we sashayed into the Y loaded up with homemade refreshments, handmade Valentine’s Day mailboxes, and Ralph-and-Sophie-crafted cards. vvv


Oh, and I’ve been silently laughing all day at Sophie’s dinosaur/Valentine’s Day pun: “can i claw you up to say hello?” next to the fossilized deinosuchus (the flipped-over Valentine in the picture above says, “let’s meat again”).  She is so smart! And a bit grim.

So, the YMCA’s Homeschool Sports crowd is very…  Christian-y.  I haven’t talked to a single parent in attendance who didn’t reveal early on they were Christian and church-going.  Christians do this, you know, sort of to let you know RIGHT OFF THE BAT that’s how they roll.  So in the gym if you’re listening you’ll hear lots of Lord this and Lord that and God provides this, pray that, etc.  I’m probably one of the last social agnostics on the planet who is not offended by Christianity.  I mean I can see by the behavior of some of my so-called “progressive” friends it’s fun and right to hate on Christians, because they’re so wrong and silly!  And I know non-believers who avoid Christians and their activities like the plague.  Weird because last I heard you can stand next to or talk to someone religious and not be overtaken by their beliefs against your own will.  Or maybe you can’t, and it scares you.  I don’t know.

Today while the kids run about in the gym, I slip into the party room to slice up the delicious rhubarb stir cake my husband made.  As I plate the wedges a tall, pre-teen girl with long, swinging hair bursts breathlessly into the room and starts fiddling around with some of the set-out goodies.  “Is your name L*?” I ask the young woman.  “How did you know?” she gapes at me, her head cocked like a bird.  “You hit my son in the face a couple weeks ago and gave him a bloodly lip.  He told me your name,” I respond.  Instantly the girl says, “Oh, I didn’t even know I did that!” her wide, beautiful eyes absolutely innocent.  But she’s not well-seasoned at deception because she follows this up with, “That happened when I was in Homeschool Sports, now I’m in Teen Fitness.” I ask her how old she is, but she barely has time to answer before her mother marches in the room, stabbing her finger and fuming, and begins to berate the girl for running ahead into the party room.  L. adopts her innocent tone at first, but upon being snarked at in such a focused and extensive manner I hear creeping into her voice a very smart, very guarded, and likely soon-to-be brilliantly-rebellious spine of steel.  I resume cutting the cake and listen to this mom douche out her kiddo for the next few moments.  BTDT, I no longer even feel the remotest bit smug, superior, or even uncomfortable when I hear some other parent lose it.

A few minutes later and the rest of the children begin arriving, excited. Now, some of y’all readership may think we are a crafty bunch of Hogabooms, always doing this or that cute thing out of paper or fabric or tongue-depressors and Band-Aids. But these other homeschool kids, well, I’ve never seen such elaborate and fabulous card mailboxes.  There were wedding-cake based boxes and baseball boxes and doilies and Legos and clay.  One child had created created the standoff between wizard Gandalf and the Balrog from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – a two-foot tall papier mâché sculpture complete with licking flames (made of paper, duh)! I kind of wanted to make fun of this little dweeb but my daughter immediately recognized the scene and loudly began praising the boy’s skills and taste to the room at large, and even as I watched this unbidden in my mind I heard the words, “the bridge of Khazad-Dûm”! And yes, I did give both children and myself a revenge-swirly for being such colossal nerds.

I stand back as the kids trade Valentines, then dig into the food.  My children are so deeply satisfied, and despite scar tissue from my earlier kitchen accident and the fact I’d left the house in a mess and whatever else, I am so glad I got them to this silly party.

L. hands me an extra Valentine: the only version – in addition to our set – handmade and not storebought (crafted mailboxes: tres hawt. Crafted valentines: Try-Hard).  It is simply a square of construction paper taped to a bag of M&Ms, carrying a photocopied message hand-cut and glued: “God is Love.”


After the party, we drive through the sunlight to the local mall. I order my late lunch in Spanish and eat a vegetarian burrito and drink a sugar-Coke (hecho en Mexico) while the kids win at Skee-ball; we spend almost an hour in Penney’s buying the kids jeans and one button-up shirt for my boy. Something about the pathetically-limited, yet adequate, childrens clothing choices in this old-school store – and our townships at large – comforts me. Things seem peaceful and easy, and in no small way does the sunshine help me feel good.

On our way home we encounter a column of black smoke and come upon the most intense fire I’ve ever seen in person; we park and exit and watch for a while, the crowd excited, the fireman efficient and almost relaxed in their efforts, the heat from the building (an empty one – no one was hurt) feeling creepily delicious.

Home and I’m worn out from it all, but in a good way.

* Not her real initial.

i make some more stuff

I PWND This Zipper

A hoodie for my Ralph, a Valentine’s Day gift. This was made using a supple tomato-red rayon knit from Joanns and Green Pepper’s Mount Hood Polar Hoodie pattern; I saw the fabric and immediately put it all together in my mind. He likes it; it fits him well. He is a large, but an XL for his height.  You know what’s awesome – in looking at the above picture – I suck at embroidery! But I still always feel so cool whenever I do it!

My Seams Are Good

Side-seam, pocket. Topstitching rayon knit – ugh!

Simple Cuff

I gambled that Ralph would like the loose, casual-finish cuffs (double zig-zagged) because I knew I could add ribbed ones later if he preferred. He likes them as-is. Good job, me!

Speaking of bad embroidery, I spent the studio-hour or so making the kiddos a couple of customized crayon roll-ups (using this lovely tutorial: [ link ]):

One For Each

Deploy Coloring Equipment!

You know, I am an Intermediate seamstress – maybe even Advanced Intermediate (it’s fun obsessing over classifications no one else could possibly care about!). That’s why it’s so rad that a simple, simple project like this almost always gives me trouble. And it did. My omission of pre-shrinking the interfacing, my several-times-over f*cked-up triple top-stitch, my poor choice of a homespun-weave houndstooth, and the many, many times I drew and re-drew the stitching channels to house the crayons (folks, did I not mention that this tutorial completely lays all this out, and yet I still fail?). Maybe this is one reason I love sewing: it never ceases to mess with me and keep my ego in perspective.

Detail shot, and you know, I think I did do a great job when all was said and done:

Crayon Roll-Up Close-Up

The kids deeply, deeply love their latest homesewn gift.

creatures of the night and sea

ACTION! (Like A Little Seal)

It’s almost a two-mile walk from the YMCA to my house. When we’re on foot it’s always a near thing: should we wait for a bus or walk home?  This is a bit more either-or than it might seem, that is you can’t necessarily just start walking and catch the bus when it comes because A. Transit drivers around here are known to not respond when you flag them down in the middle of a block – despite the policy they will – and B. there’s a very long stretch from Riverside to the HQX station where if you were walking, you wouldn’t be able to jump onboard anyway – it won’t stop along the river and across it to the station, the better part of a mile.

Waiting for the bus, however – especially at the apparently indecent (?) hour of 6:30 PM – can be a long, long process.  A loooong process.  You may think you could walk home in the time it takes to get picked up, sure.  You might also think you will die a lonely death in the (not weatherproof) “shelter” while straining your eyes vainly, your bleached bones gently rattling against one another on the long, late summer day when the bus finally pulls over and shhh-thhh’s its doors open, your skeletal hand loosely clutching the clinking fare.  Tonight was made extra cruel as we had two false alarms – school buses disappointing us in the last instant, and people around here drive such big damn trucks I kept thinking our vehicular savior was near at hand.  I was pretty close to resorting to prostitution at the end, not so much out of desperation for a ride, which had died in my breast seemingly ages ago, but a boredom so profound I wasn’t even sure I was human anymore.

Sophie’s swim team ended at 6 PM: we boarded a bus at 7:15 PM, making for a wait outside of 45 minutes.  The temperature was 49 degrees and my children’s hands were ice-cold. Yet they had kept relatively cheerful running around in the parking lot, howling like wolves (Nels was thrilled he got a neighbor dog to join him), climbing on the industrial-sturdy garbage can, and in general behaving like little demon innocents.  I took a few pictures, and even in the grainy streetlamp-lit images it struck me how much joy and love you can see between the two.

Night Creatures, 1

Night Creatures, 2

Night Creatures, 3

Night Creatures, 4

Night Creatures, 5

Still, whatever our delays and provincial walking/biking journeys, in a way it’s a joy to slow down and spend the time with the kids doing nothing or at least not doing anything efficiently.  We seem our best on our mini-nomadic adventures. Tonight after disembarking at the station we hoofed it over to our local Mexican eatery – tengo un certificado de regalo, then after we ate – a lovely, lovely meal – the three of us ran like ghosts through town (“Nels, keep tu globo from getting tangled en el árbol!”), picked up our bikes from my mother’s shop, and winged our way home to await our late-returning Ralph.

balaclava, minor changes, sunshine, hooray!

Mama + Little Guy
I wasn’t able to get to sleep at a decent hour last night.  But from my spot on the couch, while I watched an old episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” (this film is like a Conan the Barbarian but with less credible sleaze and a more unappealing “hero”, yes really), I could see my son as he ventured into the kitchen, poured a glass of milk (eschewing the Hershey’s chocolate this time), fetched a homemade whole wheat roll, split it, slathered peanut butter on it, pulled up a stool to the counter, then ate and ate and ate.  His attitude was one of deep satisfaction; I thought to myself how most things I do when I’m awake are for these children, and everything’s working out well enough, and I just love them so incredibly deeply.

Last night besides getting up to movie-watching and sewing and painting our fingernails hot pink, my daughter – who’d recently made a “Sopping List”* of various grooming accoutrement she’d wanted for herself – including a brush, nail polish, and new shampoo and conditioner – got her long-standing wish to dye her hair black.  She paid our friend Jasmine one dollar to help.  The result is a deep black-blue, like a comic book shero. And she’s lovely.

Lurve, Bit Of Poppy

In the bathroom, Sophie, upon rinsing out her new hair says to Jasmine, “I can tell I’m going to have a good life.”

* Ha ha! She totally can’t spell and I take every opportunity to joke about this!