a fine mingling of letting go and holding on

“That’s what I can do with my fifty dollars,” my daughter muses quietly, mostly to herself. I say, What’s that? and she replies, “I can give it to a homeless person.” She turns her eyes to me; they are large, liquid brown, filled with love; her eyes are smiling. “The eyes of the Buddha”, a friend recently reported to me about this child.

I wrap my arms around her while we wait in line; a small number of household sundries in the Walmart. I had a rough morning today, worse than I’ve had in a while. Being out with my daughter is balm, soothing my nerves.

It’s cold enough out that in the evenings and early mornings one has to be careful not to slip on black ice. It gets dark so early it feels like I’m living in darkness. Today a friend mentions Spring and it reminds me how deep into winter I go. I resign myself to the cold and depths, and I hold on for dear life. Somehow I forget that Spring comes, I really do.

[ deep breath ]

“i want to become big and healthy like you, mom. where i don’t ever have to brush my teeth.”*

Very Ill

Phee falls very ill, and quite suddenly. I notice she isn’t dropping off to sleep at her normal hour. At two AM she becomes quite distressed and begins to quietly but sharply sob. Within fifteen minutes, she is vomitting violently and doesn’t stop for a while. She staggers from the toilet to resting on the floor. Then: bouts of explosive diarrhea (her words). Her body becomes limp as she travels from bath to toilet and back.

Quite shocking, really. An hour into it, I’m thinking I might take her to the hospital. I clean up and help her at each stage of the fugue. She falls asleep in the bath and I prepare clean clothes and lay soft warm towels in her bed. I gently get her up and rinse her off, then dry her; she is incoherent, and her very measured manners (“I’m sorry for the mess, mama”) turn into a helpless peevishness. She collapses across the bed. Even in the low light I can see her skin take on a greenish-white translucence I am familiar with; though rarely ill, it is an unmistakable pallor.

I take her temperature and through the night while I sleep beside her I put my hand on her. Her breathing is regular and she is cool to the touch. In the morning she tells me she is “feeling much better” and that she “needs to replenish fluids”.

Feeling Better

The rest of today she was much herself, if only a tiny bit more physically demonstrative, moving a little slower.

Nels is back on a fitness kick. Just now he announces: “After drinking all that milk, and getting all that bone energy from eight** glasses I drank fifteen minutes ago, look at how fast I can run!” He races across the living room. A little more of this kind of thing and then he fatigues, probably because there are many ounces of milk sloshing in his little puppy-belly. He prostrates himself on the couch and tangles his legs around mine. After a bit he runs upstairs to play with his Legos or his little handheld video game machine.

Earlier today: we borrow my mother’s truck to take our Christmas tree for disposal. We run across a rainy parking lot to the grocery store; we buy supplies for the next few days, funded by a side client of Ralph’s, pile the bags of food across our laps. Home, I ask my son to run upstairs and bring me down his new pants so I can have them cleaned. “You mean the new wool ones you made me?” he asks. He pronounces it, woooool. I tell him yes and he says, “When I’m stressed out I go upstairs and put them on to relax.”

My kids are perfect.

Up Late Playing Mad Libs

* I brush my teeth every morning and evening.

** three

a child’s purpose is to be a child

First. Hard at work with my first ten list. I hope anyone who reads finds it helpful.


The first rain in a long while helped me feel better. We leave the front door open and our pooch Hutch sits on the porch. He travels over to my mom’s next door now and then as she has this kind of expensive dog-treat/jerky business over there. He has probably lost about twenty pounds at this point. He’s feeling more spry every day. Saturday on our walk he chased a deer (not coming close, of course) BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE

The children’s summer activities are mostly getting into business outside, bookeneded by long periods playing video games – Terraria, Minecraft, and MapleStory. They’ve caught several frogs and delivered them to my mother’s pond. Friends come in and out of the house and eat any food that’s not nailed down. The kids are all getting ready for school. We’re getting ready to keep catching frogs and such, plus celebrate eleven years of marriage September 8th and then, get our Halloween festivities together.

Some older photos from my phone, just uploaded.

Archive Photos: Nels, Post-Bath

Nels out of the bath, ready to watch a movie.

Archive Photos: My Daughter Sleeps

Phee sleeps. True picture of sleeping. Not fake-sleeping. Yes I smooched her.


Ralph receives a huge-ass calzone. Everyone reacts.

Archive Photos: N1SF

Phoenix drew this a while back. I liked it so much I kept it around. Recently she re-discovered it and gave it to our friend Emily; I’m told there it adorns her refrigerator and meets much approval from houseguests.


“Pull in your navel! Relax your shoulders! Is that the best you can do? Really?”

I feel sheepish about how little I understand some of my children’s computer activities and passions. Currently Ralph and Nels are discussing the best way to learn Java in order to write class files for modifications to Minecraft. Daily the children install mods and texture packs with fluency; they discovered, installed, and self-taught usage of an inventory editor (I’m told this is no big deal, by Ralph) and get into very excited conversations with one another, or other teens / grownups when the opportunity arises, about these features and their own methodologies and – of course – gameplay and strategy. I think of all the goatee-stroking and chortling grownups are wont to do, thinking they’ll top-down “teach” kids some skill, while anyone who’s been around a freechild for long soon is humbled at their dexterity, perseverance, logistical skills, and flexible intelligences – and, often, how quickly they surpass us when it’s something they’re interested in.

My lack of understanding when it comes to computer programming is largely a function of personal disinterest. It’s a position I can afford to take, since there is another person in the house who serves as a mentor and assistant (don’t ask me why the kids are so hopped-up on computers but have shown only passing interests in sewing – my equivalent passion, I suppose, to Ralph’s mad tech skillz; I suspect, however, the kids are learning to sew and will sew well and at least semi-regularly in the future). I know in the end I don’t need to be an enthusiastic fan to still be a supporter and advocate for the kids; it was in fact me who squawked rather loudly and uncharacteristically, knowing a while back laptops were the best next tool for our family. And, of course, our entire life is structured around supporting them in the exploits they choose whilst not wasting their times with ones they have no use for.

But the truth is my ignorance and slow-wittedness serve to imbue me with unease. Several times today Nels asked if I would look at his newest installation. I kept saying “no”, not because I was so busy but because there’s something in the whole business that panics me. It isn’t that I think I won’t be able to understand the tech aspect – the other day my daughter patiently explained the horse breeding schema she was using within the game mod, including genetic values and a complex series of stables (read through this and tell me if it makes sense) and it was like this dim lightbulb flickered and I kind of got it – it’s that I’m worried upon my grasping more I’ll feel even worse for not previously knowing more about what they love, and why. So I sit here on the fringe dithering about it, I guess.

Gee, when I write it out I sound like a tremendous assy coward.

[ * cough, cough * ]

Tonight my mom literally rescued me from an intense case of ennui by taking the kids and I out to a burger joint (where I had my all-time tired-ass choice, a veggie burger and fries). It was pretty funny (to me) that we ordered all this food, and they didn’t have what my mom wanted (a corndog), so she said, “That’s OK!” and sat with the kids and snuggled and loved up on them, and after the lady rang me up I said, politely and all classy-like, “Are you paying?” and my mom said, “Oh!” and grappled at her wallet, and I laughed because I got one over on her and I always feel appreciative when she helps support us but it’s also just kind of funny, like she’s getting screwed, which is kind of how I feel about this whole having-kids business, although I love them dearly of course, and it just is what it is, including Grandma’s generous support. The bill was a little over twenty dollars and my mom waved at me to give a few dollars tip (which, judging by the near-empty jar, is not something most customers do). Speaking of the tip bit, she’s always like that. Really an incredibly kind-hearted person.

Her car wouldn’t start so we walked home in the light rain. Nels was dismayed about this and wailed loudly for about a block, then soon he and Phoenix were running full-tilt down the wet and scary sidewalks in torrents of musical laughter while my mom and I hoofed it behind them and I texted Ralph to help her out with her new and temporary car-ass scenario.

After we got to my house my mom headed home and the kids and I settled in; while I await the opportunity to purchase carbon chacopy paper I am sewing a decidedly-custom coat for Phoenie. Ralph arrived home late after his class and brought in Jasmine – they have a drag act they’re performing on Friday, my birthday (not for my birthday, just a coincidence). As they got started on the choreography I made coffee and watched for about two minutes before intervening. Look, Jasmine had one hundred percent talent but Ralph’s dancing concepts and skills in moving less like a huge energetic man were just not cutting it. I’d been thinking about how often I don’t claim my talents and you know what? I can dance OK. What followed was an intensely funny, as in peeing-our-pants-laughing, two and a half hour series where I am not lying when I say I turned into a sweaty and intense dance monster and at practice’s end frenetically smoked on the porch while seething the show acts were not open to the general public and even considering some kind of sabotage. Later in the evening, after Jasmine left, Ralph would be washing dishes or something and I’d say, “Look, let’s try it again, don’t move the rest of your body, for a shimmy just punch one shoulder forward then relax, let the other one follow.” He eventually told me I’d worn his body and mind out and that he wasn’t sure if he had it in him anymore to do even one more move.


OK – it’s almost 3:00 AM as I type this and I suppose I should go take a look at what that Nels has been making a fuss about.

Deep breath.


edification / disarray

Today Ralph spent about half his day working on the CD pressing and sleeve construction of “Mighty Holidays”, a compilation of SW WA artists’ – most of them our friends – seasonal music (more or less). He’s creating hard-copy albums for the artists who participated and any others who want to purchase a CD (the download is free, of course).

My husband is, to me, a deeply-energizing presence – yes, even as he struggles with fatigue and low-grade depression he still holds my interest and deep respect more than any other grownup I’ve met. He is not only talented (in many ways), smart, incredibly funny, hard-working, interesting, beautiful, deep, strong, an asset to his workplace, relentlessly ethical in almost everything he does, and deeply invested in family life – he also routinely is considering those in his life and how to help them or build them up, occasionally to the point of his own exhaustion. This particular album was a labor of love in part because he wanted to showcase his friends’ work and in part because he wanted to then gift this work to other friends. He spent many hours emailing, recording, meeting, and assembling (as a final touch our friend Ira donated the mastering – a big help). And now he’s offering the finished product for free because he’s a Creative Commons junkie. And I adore him for all that and more.

Case in point: my husband performed today’s work with the assistance of C., a teenager and friend to our family who has been suffering illness and migraine; as a result of this his mother was being hassled by the school district for truancy under the Becca Bill (um… I’m not going to go into my thoughts on this, just pretend I ranted for a few pages instead mmkay?). During this arduous drama C.’s mother decided to homeschool C. and, since she was had been turned over to court at this point, was required to submit a homeschool “cirriculum” to the judge (major *eyeroll* here). To help the family, Ralph offered the young man an internship in the website management, promotion, and production of local music. So today we got to have C. as a guest in our house while the two worked together and Nels and C. talked about Minecraft (of course!). I loved listening to Ralph; he’s a natural leader and teacher and children of all ages (infants through teens) love him. I think Ralph and I have figured out by now that having children in one’s life (your own or other people’s) is an opportunity to empower, support, learn, and exchange, and we grownups get as much as we give, if not more.

As for me, I spent most my day yesterday and about three hours today helping my girlfriend J. in party preparations for her most ambitious party yet (among other things I fried LOTS of meatballs!). I enjoy cooking and I enjoy helping, so it was a pleasure to do – and unless I really miss my guess, the party came off beauitfully.

Long story short I am now behind on Christmas sewing – but I have hopes I can pull through. And Oh Yes, believe me I have photos that I cannot wait to upload and share, when it will no longer run the risk of spoiling surprises! Given how hard Ralph and I have been working our house is in an uncharacteristic shambles and I’m a bit frazzled. The weekend flew by and I felt I barely had a resting moment at home –

But it was a good, productive, hard working, and joyous one at that.

wee little grimalkin

Today when my daughter woke up she did what both my kids do upon surfacing – she asked for me to come hold her. We talked and hugged and kissed for a while then I sat up to go prepare her some breakfast. And I told her I didn’t want her to get upset, but I had a question. “I kind of think you might be a shapeshifter disguised as a human girl, because you have leopard eyes. Is this true?” Phoenix reflected for a moment and then said quietly and with utmost seriousness, “I don’t know.”

I have to be very cautious playing make-believe as my children can either love it or hate it. They very much want to be taken seriously but they also flit in and out of devotedly-enjoyed games of Pretend (and is it even Pretend so much?). This goes for games of small-scale terror and overpower, too. One of my favorite amusements with Nels is when he’s laying in my arms; I tell him one of my hands is a stroking hand and the other is a pinching hand. He immediately smiles and squirms and says, “Which one is the pinching hand?” and I tell him Try not to worry about it, just whatever you do, don’t mess with me, or who knows which hand might respond. His smile gets bigger and you can hear the laughter in his voice as he ruffles my hair or tugs on my shirt and says, “I’m messing with you!”, his voice higher and his body tensed and – well, sometimes it’s the stroking hand that tenderly ministers to his little body. But he can’t help messing with me again and – you know the rest, as PINCHING HAND is then released in full-force upon his wee puppy-wiggling body and to his delighted screams. Kept entirely in his control he loves, LOVES being tormented this way.

Today Ralph worked a 12+ hour day and came home tired; he comes home spent from work very rarely indeed (it usually takes our nut-slapping family antics to wear him out). I had the house in great shape and the housework all done and was delightedly listening to a girl band anthology and sewing a Christmas present on my old Singer – a delightful machine that purrs along nicely. We passed our evening in peaceable family time – well as peaceable as it generally gets if Nels is conscious – and my husband fell asleep in my lap while I stroked his hair, like he has been doing the last few nights.

Left awake, my night-owl children and I, awake to ponder Christmas presents and the requested lunch and dinner I’m making my kiddos tomorrow (hot dogs and cole slaw for lunch ala Phoenix; slow-cooked spaghetti and meatballs alongside broccoli for dinner ala Nels) and friends going through difficult times and family conversations – and upcoming sewing projects. I got a fabric order in yesterday – an order I obtained through a loan for my mother – so I now have the velveteen needed for a winter coat for my daughter (better late than never since her previously provided version mysteriously disappeared). I am making the pattern myself and desire a unique sleeve based off the techniques in a vintage sewbook but I can’t quite figure any of it out. Ralph’s brilliant at that sort of thing but Ralph’s pretty overscheduled these days so I don’t know if I’ll make the request.

It’s late – late, late – and my daughter asks for my observance as she plays National Geographic‘s Animal Jam. I notice she is well-liked in online communities and no wonder; she’s a fast typist and an extremely empathetic and witty little creature. It’s more lovely than you’d think, sitting alongisde her and watching her play and listening to her voice and smelling her hair and feeling her warmth next to me. Just: lovely.

Hallowiener (a prelude)

Littlest Ghast

This year Ralph and I surpassed all previous records in ingenuity, speed, and thrift where the kids’ costumes were concerned (a major departure from my more ambitious efforts in previous years). Pheonix wanted to be Death – she made this selection a while ago. I made her hooded robe and applied her makeup; Ralph made Nels’ ghast costume and Phoenix’s scythe – and we did all this after Phoenix’s soccer game this AM so we could be ready for the Haunted Halloween downtown Trick or Treat. We spent about $30 all in all, had a wonderful time, and, most importantly, our kids were thrilled. (better pictures of Phoenix tomorrow, promise)

Sasha, Phoenix, Nels, & Patrick

What’s a “ghast”? Nels is glad you asked. A “ghast” is a new MOB or “bad guy” or whatever you want to call it in his (current) favorite game Minecraft. Not only is his costume that of a character in a video game, it’s actually a character in a Halloween update, which was then released today (instead of tomorrow) – we discovered this upon coming home from the downtown Trick or Treat. Nels has been more pleased than anything how all of this has gone down.  The best part is trick or treating downtown today when grownups say, “OOOoooh we have a skeleton, a ninja, a princess, and a…” and then they stare, smiling with vacant wide-eyes, at my son. Who beams back and says, “A ghast!” and then explains it all. Every time.

Here he is, using the costume as a windbreak on the last leg of our tour (& no, he can’t lift his arms in the costume, but he is fine with that):

Chilly Ghast

So yeah, today was just the Halloween downtown trick or treating business (full Flickr tagset here). Two friends asked themselves along and we all braved the rain. Tomorrow’s the real event! Nels came home and had one piece of candy then asked me to make broccoli for dinner. Phoenix ate about a bucket’s-worth of confectionery.

It was wonderful to see so many grownups and children mingling so happily.

Hardware Store

Creepy Hand

Robin As Groucho

Some People Like To Wear Masks A Little TOO Much

But some grownups seem to enjoy themselves a little too much, if you ask me.

party in the u.s.a.

Steev’s birthday party yesterday. Every single picture was taken by my children and these are all the pictures taken by them as well. They were sparing and quite artsy, methinks:

Party, Skewed

Ralph At Party



Today the sunshine continued – a tiny bite of cold creeping in. One of the nicest things for running for me are those days I have a breakthrough, marvelous session. Today was such a day. From the sighting of a woolly bear caterpiller to the boost in speed and distance and the two deer I saw and the glittering water and sunshine –

And today instead of just lifting my hand in a sedate acknowledgment of car and bike fellow travelers I did a full-on wave and smiled. And Every. Single. Car – so many – smiled and waved back! The bigger wave admittedly means I risk looking rather foolish but, I don’t care.

Today's Run

The View On My Run

It was beautiful today!

From a little earlier this year: gifts I made for JJ and Alden and their two bambinos (what a total fucking score I went searching for JJs blog address and I saw B. was wearing the hoodie!):
Hoodie For B., Booties For Baby Sib


Rayon Knit

We have a new mini-deity in our house and it’s called Minecraft. As might be expected Nels has been learning at an alarming rate. He is finally on the mend – his throat no longer sounds constricted and his tonsils are almost normal size. He still looks alarmingly thin and he has not been eating much. I’m plying bananas, milk and peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Let’s see how it goes.