we’re out enjoying the sunshine, here are a few images

Phoenix's Creation

Phoenix drew an island – the far-right brown-pink blob is the living hut, which is very far away from the far-left blue blob which is the sole source of fresh water. Active volcano in the middle, sharks and monsters. I’m thinking this place would be tough to survive in.

Cats

The cats, after eating an assload of roast beef

Hardboiled Eggs With Tamari

Hardboiled eggs with tamari, part of a breakfast for the kiddos

Nels On His 2nd Chocolate Milk

Nels on his 2nd chocolate milk

Sleep-Pile

Sleep-pile, nighttime

follows like a shadow that never leaves

My son sustained a rather large, nasty-looking splinter at a playdate this AM, out in the country (as we say). He was a happy little camper all day but in the evening the small injury was troubling him. He wanted the problem gone but he wasn’t too trusting of any adult wielding a pair of tweezers. Finally I got him to give me his foot, post-bath and after most of our friends had left for the evening. I swiftly and surely placed the grasping implement on the end of the splinter and firmly but smoothly pulled. Nels shouted in alarm (not pain; later he told me it hurt “only a little”) and sat up and grasped his foot; in disbelieving shock and total relief he cried out loudly, “Mama I’m so proud of you! You SAVED my LIFE! I love you SO MUCH!” His cries were astonishing, but I put some of it down to less sleep last night than usual.

Today was beautiful. Friends helped me out. My children were wonderful to spend time with. Whatever difficulties I’d had the last few days – not all of which I diagnosed – dissipated, and I could feel the moment things finally broke free. It was a tremendous relief. A little after this episode I knew I owed my husband an apology and made good on that. I had bodywork done by an occupational therapist who told me I need to “give myself a break”. You know what, I hear that a lot. I am seriously starting to consider how to do that because so far I haven’t let go completely.

Two friends joined Nels and I for lunch out at Clarks in Artic; I hadn’t been there since age eighteen. I ate a cheeseburger and fries, fried zucchini, hot coffee, and a homemade chocolate ice cream cone. I ate with much relish. My appetite has been returning. It’s rather amazing. Holy cow. I never realized how stunted my appetite for food had been. It’s like tasting all over again.

I bottle-fed a baby today. I realized it was the first time I’d ever bottle-fed. You know what, it isn’t as easy as all that, I mean this was a little baby who had a positional preference and there wasn’t much formula in the bottle but I knew air-bubbles might make her uncomfortable. I could have whipped my breast out and done it just like years before, but everyone would have been dismayed by that, with the possible exception of myself, getting to re-live such a wonderful time. When I realized I’d never bottle-fed I felt this deep honor and enjoyed the simplicity and said a little prayer. It felt wonderful to hold a baby in my arms. Very natural. But I gave her back to her mother with no qualms.

We had a few friends as well as my mother over tonight and we ate a lovely dinner Ralph made.

J. posted a pic of the scarf I made her for Christmas. That made me smile.

Adventure.

 
Tonight I am tired but grateful to know I can sleep tomorrow morning. I hope I feel well-rested when I wake, but I am committed to being patient if possible:

One never knows what the day will bring.

the book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day

This was the first New Year’s Eve I remember in my life, where I didn’t count down like everyone else usually does. I’d planned on, after our dinner guests left, taking a friend and my family to a Buddhist meditation at midnight. Instead I was sitting with these folks in the Emergency Room, waiting to visit a friend who’d been trucked in after a collapse. My kids, husband, and my girl H. played some kind of Twister knock-off on a carpet a few feet away. Next time I looked at my watch it was thirty-four minutes past midnight.

The fireworks from the hospital’s hill were lovely. It was cold. Nels had about three girlfriends by the time we left the parking lot. A social child. Also, earlier, a grouchy child who’d disrupted our earlier dinner a bit.

My friend at the hospital seems out of the woods. I am very grateful. I gave him my number as he’s staying overnight, and told him to call if I could bring him anything at all.

***

We had a good day today; the kids and I accompanied another family to adopt a kitty for little E. It was pretty choice, getting to visit with and pet the kitties.

My Lovely Daughter

Phoenix was a very kind little girl at the shelter, taking stock of each kitty and remembering their names and tempraments. There was another Phoenix working there as a volunteer, a teen boy. He and my daughter got along great, although I think like many he didn’t, at first, think a younger child could conduct themselves with aplomb at a kitty shelter.

E. & Her Daddy, Talk Kitties

E. and her father discuss adoption plans.

Raider

Raider. A favorite of J.’s. He was a handsome kitty. But E. was intent on adopting a lady kitty.

I LOVE YOU NOEL AND I KNOW YOU FEEL THE SAME ABOUT ME

Here’s a kitty I like to call Noel, MY NEW BOYFRIEND. HE LOVED ME SO MUCH AND IMMEDIATELY CLIMBED IN MY ARMS right after I snapped this. He is the handsomest thing I have ever seen. Not convinced? Would you like a closeup?

NOEL IS MY NEW BOYFRIEND

I am going to get a tattoo of Noel and his likeness. His green-blue eyes are the inspiration of many sonnets. I’m sure he will be adopted out in no time and it just kills me.

Nels + Noel + Erin

E. + Nels + Noel. You can click through for like eighteen adorable pictures of them all looking at a “flashing light” they saw outside.

Nels + Noel

Nels reacts to something Noel said, probably something very suave and witty.

Erm... No Thanks, Panther

Panther may have trouble getting adopted.

Happy New Year. Anyone reading here with any regularity knows how grateful I am for my life. How blessed. I don’t mean “blessed” because so much good shit has happened to me or because God is super into me, I mean “blessed” because I’m very glad for the gifts I have. It is the gladness, the awareness, the awakenedness, when I have it, that is the gift.

Here’s Ralph taking a picture of me tonight just before tacos, because I wanted a new photo for Twitter. Thank you, husband, for taking a picture and making it of my ENORMOUS FACE.

New Years', Pre-Tacos

A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.

Flores, Que Me Envió Mi Esposo

Today I came home to flowers by my door. I thought of a couple people they could be from; sure enough they were from Ralph. It’s a lovely boquet and tomorrow I’m going to put it in the sunshine, right when you walk in my front door.

Cosleeping

Cosleeping. One of the most wonderful experiences in my life is sharing our nights as a family. Recently, Nels has been reading his father to sleep – making his way through every volume of the Children’s First Encyclopedia set (gifted my children by their great-aunt). When the two of them sleep this way it’s the most wonderful thing; I’ll peek in at one AM or so and Ralph is fast asleep, Nels reading aloud softly and petting his father. These nights I get the reciprocal love and affection from Phoenix; usually staying up and watching something funny and giggling together, finally turning off the screen and holding one another and talking about how much we love the other. Last night I ended up staying up later than everyone else and at two AM I started crying over something and my daughter surfaced a bit while sleeping and pet me and said, “It’s okay, Mama… it’s going to be okay.”

I would not have missed our nighttimes together, just like our daytimes together, for the world.

Today was a good day.

“A child’s hand in yours – what tenderness it arouses, what power it conjures…”


Happy Birthday!

To my son, on the eve of his seventh birthday,

Nels, I keep forgetting just how small you and your sister are, until you display such an incredible openness as you observe something new: you ask if only the government can print money, or you demonstrate impeccable penny-candy math with the jar of coin and cash in hand before cheerfully marching to the store. “Is that right?” you ask often, tossing your hair out of your eyes and looking up, pronouncing the final word, mmmright?

I’m not having an easy time with you lately. You shout a lot. You shout when you’re happy, you shout when you’re upset, you shout when a new thought or construct occurs to you. You run everywhere, you can climb and navigate and weave your way through trailside and across streets and on your bike and you are confidence, personified. It isn’t that the shouting or the running is a problem it’s that I have this tissue-thin sensitivity and I am so scared, deep down, that something might happen, a car usually is my terrified fear, watching you setting down the sidewalk with the satchel across your shoulders, going to grandma’s to check your sprouting corn, you can seriously grow anything even from very old seeds rattling in the junk drawer for a couple years.

And I forget sometimes, it’s shameful but I really do, that my job is to help you. Mama, I need some milk. And I’m irritated at you that the cupboards are too high for you without some gymnastics. Can you please help me put on my shoes? (Guess what, one way I have pretty much routinely screwed up as a parent, is not to have every pair of my kids’ shoes, ever, slip-on). It just kills me I’m such a shit about it, because you are growing up and up and up and I will miss you when you’ve up and gone.

We must be doing something right because you’re so often helping us. Can I get you something to drink? Mama, do you need anything? Or how every time you visit the shop you think of the rest of us; a daffodil for your father or Phoenix’s favorite sucker (you know the flavors she likes) or without fail offering me a drink of your juice or a bite of your Hershey’s bar (“Harshey’s”, you say). At night: stroking your father or I as we lie in bed, loving and giving always, when you’re not sleeping or it must be confessed, fighting with your sister or running rather wild and feral with confident plans of your own.

Yes, I forget how little you are, when we watch the silliest old B-movie and you’re terrified of the most remedial film artifice, creepy dry-ice effects around a biology-sample skull. “I’m scared alone,” you say – now and then, at night, not a frightened bone in your sister’s body but you are a different child. I’m rather exhausted and anxious at night but I respect you for speaking out, every time, about what you need, maybe someday I can do the same, and in final estimation it makes it a lot easier to do right by you.

Nels, you are little, but after I think about it a bit, you’re pretty big too.

I love you times one million as we like to say.

Nels, Satisfied

Little Chef

 

I’d go to any country, anywhere, any snakes, not a problem

Today? Was big-ass snake day.

Phoenie Smiled All Day

Mystery-Snake

Phoenix & The Albino Monocled Cobra

Baby Gator With My Baby

Cloudy Eye

Lurve My Anaconda Don't Want None

Goofing Off With The Anaconda

Black Mamba

Two Headed Red-Eared Slider

Osage Copperhead

Emerald Tree Boa

Even the finest photography (of I we cannot boast) is nothing compared to seeing these animals in the flesh. Truly incredible. I took about a zillion pictures (specifically, Phoenix took a picture of each and every animal, but I didn’t upload them all), and captioned with commentary.

Worth the cost (gas + admission etc. was about a week’s worth of groceries). Every penny. My daughter was delighted times one hundred. The employee there complimented her snake knowledge, dedication, and technique in handling the animals. It was a magical day, even with five hours ass-drive, hydroplaning on very wet freeways.

Your moment of Zen:

Thirsty Eastern Diamondback

we will know won’t we / the stars will explode in the sky

It’s quiet in our living room while my husband rests his head in my lap; the kids are in the newly-appointed craft studio in the back of the house. A hot cup of herbal tea freshly brewed sits on the coffee table, forgotten (I’d made it thinking Ralph might find it relaxing). My husband falls in and out of sleep and then after a bit wakes and asks, “Are you bored?”

“No,” I tell him. “I’m thinking. I’m hoping to live a long life with you.”

Ralph is tired. Over-tired. We both are. Tonight the four of us attended a lovely and lively show – the Handsome Little Devils, hosted at the college (talented, hilarious, and so kid-inclusive and wonderful). The show I wouldn’t have missed, but this was after a long day: in my case, running errands and visiting a potential studio locale; then cooking from-scratch cabbage rolls and Guinness Stout cake (for the Conch Shell tomorrow); freezing an apple pie and homemade Hostess cupcakes (for company coming Thursday). And of course, all the requisite cleaning and kid-wrangling (mine and others’) I get to do. Tomorrow, in the cooking sphere: garlic mashed potatoes, chocolate ganache, winter fruit salad with lemon poppyseed dressing.

And yes, since you asked, I’m doing about five thousand percent more dishes now that we’re running our “restaurant”.

Sometimes I think Ralph and I overwork and I wonder if we’ll ever be able to get out of that habit. It makes me sad at times to hold the man who was the boy I knew who didn’t have shit to worry about. But at the end of the day, we’re together and I have time to reflect how much this means to me. Holding his hand, I study it and I tell him I like being with you. He says, “It’s pretty great being with you too, you know.”

And so it goes.

a pleasure as well as a necessity

The Conch Shell Deli

So, I know what you’re going to think: our new enterprise is fabulous. No, but seriously. Check out that menu. For realz. All that home-cooked fare? I am telling you it’s going to be good.

So yes, Nels and I are going to run a restaurant for a while. Well, it’s a “restaurant” anyway. Nels named it (I made the logo) and designed the scheme (when Ralph and I finished the website he was very impressed) and was quite opinionated about the selected dishes as well. Every Wednesday we’re making food (a fully-rendered dinner, paired dessert, and drink of choice), and packing it in reusable takeout for friends and family to opt-in. Yes, we came up with a market-value donation equivalent to, you know, if this were an actual business. Yes, we have one “customer” confirmed (my mom), and color all three of us food-geeks excited!

And while I’m at it, if it isn’t clear already, let me tell you something: EVERY aspect of this venture has my son in the driver’s seat. He’s emphatic we get paid (more in a bit). He’s also emphatic we freely share, too, though:

Sour Cream Banana Cake

Nels’ second part of our business plan: he wants our food to be free for those who can’t afford it – the “homeless” and “poor” (his words). And don’t think I’m not totally impressed he put forth this construct. He’s awesome.

So today we did just that with the above-shown cake – after errands Nels hopped out at the bus station with a colander full of wrapped sour cream banana cake parcels and handed them out; the kiddos walked the remainder through the front door of the Mission. Both Nels and Phoenix were very interested in all this and Nels talked, all the way home, about being happy he helped, and how he wanted to help more.

So I’m sure you’re thinking Wow that’s really cool, Kelly’s such a good / supportive / creative / talented mom, and That Nels is so sweet and bright etc. etc. But you don’t know the whole story.

I mean I’m not sure if I’ve rendered, fully, how fucking tenacious this child is. I mean I’ve talked about it here and there. Until recently he had the video game Minecraft occupying his body, mind, and soul. Now that he’s off the video games (for now) he has his 110% energy up to cooking, making menus, and heckling. Dear god the heckling. Let’s make this, let’s make that, put spaghetti and meatballs on the menu, also that Vietnamese dish, with the noonles (not a typo), and let’s test out dough for bread.

And the questions. I mean even as we’re making the goddamned bread at 1 AM. The questions, Great Balls. Why can’t we have an actual business and make money? Why would we have to pay to do that? Why do we have to have licensure, insurance, and cook in a different kitchen? I like cooking in our kitchen. Why can’t we just tell people about it, make ads and flyers? Can we serve breakfast, lunch and dinner? Can we share just dessert? Should dessert be ten dollars?

Who is homeless? How can you tell? Is a homeless person dirty with a cardboard sign? Why can’t I ask someone if they’re poor? Why does ______ keep saying they’re poor when they have a bigger house than us and two nice cars? Why did the city of Aberdeen post signs that tell people they shouldn’t help people? Is what we made healthy enough? Could we make something different tomorrow?

Can I give homeless people clothes?* Can I give them a computer? Would they like this palm pilot? Can I give them my money? I’m going to invite a homeless person to sleep at my house. I’m going to grow up and build a house with four extra bedrooms for people to sleep in. I’m going to have a hostel. People care too much about money. People should help.

It’s not just that eventually I’m at the point of “Mama why is the sky blue?” “Just shut up and eat your french fries”, it’s that rather early on I realize Nels is just right about everything, and I get tired thinking of how the world kinda sucks a lot of the time, and I’m pissed and tired I have to defend or explain. Any of it. Oh and I don’t want him to change, to lose this compassion and this intelligence and this love, and I’m scared one day he will, but I feel powerless to do anything. Except stay up all night baking bread while he pours in every cup (of eleven) of flour and says, “I love you, Mama.”

They’re exhausting. The kids. But it’s the right kind of exhaustion, I guess. Truthfully, I have no idea how long my six-year old will remain interested in this project, but I can say I’ve been enjoying the last few days immensely. Besides the menu and web design we’ve been testing recipes: three-bean chili with shredded pork, honey white bread, bún thịt bò xào, jalapeño jack cornbread, and sour cream banana cake. Tomorrow: yeasted Tabasco-cheddar biscuits, sesame slaw, and coconut muffins.

Yeah, it feels right.

Oh, and this Wednesday evening? Palak Panner, Vegetarian Korma with Carrots, Potatoes, and Cauliflower; Basmati Rice in Ghee with Cardmom and Cinnamon, Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade with Mint, and Coconut Cupcakes for dessert.

(The Mission, & a Grays Harbor Black Dog:)

Grays Harbor Black Dog

* Yes, I’ve explained how my extremely careful tending of clothing, including last week at the Aberdeen Clothing Bank, is in fact donating clothes, although Nels has a point about just going up to someone and offering them something.

murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas…

“Mama…” my son says, lying warm and still beside me. “Cats are more likely to bite you than snakes. Foxes are rough… but they’re so cute when they’re young.” Nels is falling asleep. A beat later he says, “Foxes are so cute, I just love them so much.”

It’s 9:30 PM and we’re lying together in the kids’ bedroom. It feels so safe and secure and cozy and well-tended: the kind of room I’d have loved as a child with everything in its place, soft starlight-lighting and clean sheets and nooks to read or sleep in. Ralph and Phoenix, a few moments ago, had put the room back in order (after a day of Legos, drawing, reading, and respite from outdoor shenanigans) and now a pink nightlight bathes us in a glow and Nels is snuggled next to me under a down comforter. It’s seemed warm inside today so the window is open for fresh air. He holds my hand and sighs and kisses me and his blonde hair falls across my face now and then and his body finally grows heavy with sleep and his skin is so soft and smooth.

It was a hard day for he and I. He made a fool of me in the coffee shop or rather, he behaved like a six year old and I responded poorly, making a fool of myself. For quite some time afterward I was angry and unforgiving even after he’d repented (for his part) and after I realized I’d done him wrong (and apologized for it). It’s like – some days I don’t bounce back so quick. Eventually I softened and we rejoined in holding one another close (physically and emotionally).

Still, I was grateful for a walk with the children in the cold, crisp air, and a night cooking dinner on my own (teriyaki chicken and sticky rice; carrot and celery sticks and baby corn with dipping sauce) while Ralph taught his late-night class. Phoenix is knee-deep in her book series and surfaces to run around outside for a bit (the kids are digging a “mine” in the backyard) or eat; little else.

In living with children sometimes I feel I’ve been given this extraordinary privilege and gift, like a bottomless well of light and joy I can sample from any time I choose. I write and write and write to get across what it’s like when I’m wise enough to choose this way, but I can only capture glimpses and I suspect I’ll never make it fully known how deeply I love and enjoy these little ones. I’ve had wonderful friendships and family and jobs and experiences and moments in my life but nothing as magical as these children have been.

Now at 10:30 Ralph warms up my mom’s truck so we can head out for groceries (provided our plastic doesn’t bounce), and a few minutes alone and on the road. Tonight in the hours before I sleep I’ll go into the room and kiss my sleeping son, before crawling in bed with my newly-bathed daughter and watching B-movies or nature films into the wee hours. This winter continues to be hard on me, but family provides much respite and healing. I feel so fortunate to have them.