black thumb would be my pirate name

I’d been saying easy come, easy go with my gardening efforts but I won’t lie: it was a bit of a disappointment to view – on the morning before the last frost date for the area – the crispy terrain in my backyard covered with ice. My broccoli starts reproachfully eyed me with their mouths open in frozen death screams. Well who knows, maybe something will have survived.

Another rather silly thing is that I’m actually one of the charter members of the Community Garden this year, and I can’t really grow a thing. I’m going to be helping the grade school kids with their own garden plot. So that’s even more excellent: planting tender flower shoots, say, only to find them next week brown and sad and dead. “Hey kids, failure is a natural part of life so let’s learn about it!”

I’m really hoping I get some help from a Master Gardener.

it’s sprung!

vintage ad 1958
Originally uploaded by sixtiesbooks

Yesterday I put this year’s first load of clothes on the line and they were dry within hours. Today, walking (to check out a house my mother is interested in), biking and gardening all while wearing a new (gifted) spring skirt, t-shirt, and sandals – it just feels amazing. Ralph built up two garden beds and we have runner beans, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, sunflowers, amaranth and a handful of other flowers (gifted from Abbi) to put in beds tomorrow, not to mention seeds to start (peas, carrots, lettuce, onions, beans, and more flowers). The kids are in spring spirits too, having their first dirty-feet day of the season and staying up late.

Tonight: first bonfire of the season, including sleeping bags, quilts, and snuggling.

missions accomplished

Today heading back on Cherry against fierce headwinds I would have given up and turned the corner for the nearest bus stop if I could have – that is, if I’d practiced popping off the front wheel to load the bike on the bus.* It wasn’t just the run-of-the-mill tiredness after working a school shift and biking with Nels against the wind, it was that I’d been running late this morning and Nels and I got absolutely dumped on (rain the likes I’ve never experienced before) which led to the compromise of even our winter-prepared gear and ultimately Nels spent his birthday – the last day in his 3 /4 preschool class – wearing tight Barbie jeans and a babydoll fluffy sweater (spare clothes of the preschool’s – and don’t think the wardrobe wasn’t his dream come true) and I never felt I got dry before I had to head back home.

Even worse for me was a pesky creepy Ju-on rattle emanating from the back of the bike: somehow the child’s seat is sitting lower than the 1/4″ clearance off the snap deck. Not only does this unsettle me (a potential safety concern), I also am not interested in my seat or snap deck being marred. It’s hard for me when something just eats away at me and I can’t fix it anytime soon.

I finally got home after dropping Nels off at my mother’s. I cleaned and sorted and emailed and filled out acres of paperwork for tomorrow’s pediatric dentist appointments, then picked up Sophie for some one on one time. My mother ended up taking Nels on a birthday shopping trip: a soccer ball, dump truck (for hauling dirt in the garden), socks, shoes, underwear, shorts, shirt, and hat. At four PM he swaggered out of her van all decked out and directing her to carry his parcels (reminded of: “Big mistake,” Julia Roberts sasses while toting huge shopping bags in Pretty Woman).

Tonight we dragged ourselves to Casa Mia (my foursome, my parents, and friend Jasmine) for our dinner and Nels managed to stay awake, although looking very sleepy (his second wind set in: he’s awake behind me as I type this). We had a magical moment as another table serenaded a sixty-something member with a happy birthday, erupting in operatic vocalizations and ending in a round of hearty applause. My husband took Nels over to introduce himself as another birthday and after making acquaintance the group sang even louder to Nels, the entire restaurant joining in as one – it was like listening to a choir performance. I wish I would have asked them who they were or how they came to sing so well. I was trying not to collapse into my dinner with some kind of exhaustion, but that didn’t prevent me from smiling like a fool and feeling the sting of tears.

The evening eventually wound to a close at my parents’ after birthday cake and gifts. Nels received four presents, two of them additional Lego sets which he has not stopped fixating on since two and a half hours ago. He tells me, “I’m happy on my birthday.”

Yes indeedy.

* Last week the children and I rode out to the bus barn on the Aberdeen / Hoquiam border to practice my hand at quick loading of the bike on the front of a transit bus. After a few minutes waiting in the lobby a supervisor came out and told me she was sorry but due to insurance concerns the public were not allowed in the bus yard. She went on to tell me it was easy to put a bike on the front of the bus. I stopped her then and explained that no, it wasn’t – I had a special, extra-long bike I needed to take the front wheel off of to proceed. When it started to dawn on her I’d ridden my two children out the barn for the sole purpose of this practice run, she flushed and, from the looks of it, felt rather taken aback at her legalistic refusal. However, I’m not usually in the mood to ask someone to bend the rules. The handful of employees craned their necks out at the bike as I whisked us out and away. Nothing like leaving someone with that, boy do I feel like a douche feeling.

so I had a new baby…

3/28/08 2:15 PM: date and time that my precious, precious X joined the family. I feel superstitious and odd about it though because, A. it isn’t fully paid off (but will be soon!); B. heck, even when it’s paid off it was a lot of money!; C. I haven’t put it on the front of the bus yet (have to try that out at the bus barn and hopefully while it’s not snowing); and D. I’m still getting used to the very different handling of this new vehicle.

Sophie was still at school when I loaded Nels up and went off on the inaugural run to get groceries. It was literally hailing, I was in the lowest gear (I didn’t realize this at first) and wobbling, and I could hear Terry (Bike Shop Guy) behind me making nervous, doubtful sounds as I rounded the corner. Once I sorted the gears things went better. The bike felt long and strange – even though I’m used to a much longer tail (vis-a-vis trailer – but obviously there is a “bend” in the trailer set-up). Nels up behind me instead of on two wheels on the ground felt odd but he seemed to really enjoy it. We hit Swansons and I kind of wondered around the place getting groceries, still excited about the bike (we bought Ralph some Jones Soda and the rest of tonight’s repast).

From there we headed home, briefly warmed up inside and went off to get Sophie. The hail had subsided but the wind and cold were fierce. Adding another kid to the bike felt very wobbly and odd but the little monkey mounted, dismounted, and held on perfectly. The little kiddos will need gloves for sure as the elements were very, very rough.

This morning Nels took a tomato start to his teacher (actually his substitute teacher who was filling in during maternity leave; today was her last day) and I sent two to a couple AmeriCorp students Ralph knows at GHC.

The weather may not have tuned into this fact – but Spring is indeed here!

Tomato Starts

even when I’m a mess / I still put on a vest / With an "S" on my chest

Today I felt defeated by the end of the day. Really, I’d had successes and I’d had good times but somehow around 4:30 I deflated with a big, listless pfffffthbh.

The Genius At WorkMaybe it was that I’d left my bike guy with the go-ahead to drill holes and install a piece of wood to part of my new bike work. I dunno, that took the starch out of me a bit; but it had to be done.

Bitar's Bike Shop, Detail
The Bike Shop has some excellent systems for running smoothly.
Here’s the thing, it’s so incredibly cluttered and crazy yet Terry will never lose even your tiniest set screw (although it might take him a minute to find it).

"Mama...  I Can't Feel My Legs."
Sophie makes do in the Lariat while we wait for our keys to be re-delivered to us. It has been so very, very cold – alternating between sunny, sleet, rain and wind.

Highlights of the day:

Cleaning up my sewing room (yay!) but even more meaningful, once again moving my tomato starts to an even sunnier spot and making a hallowed little place for them (tonight my mom asked if I’d named each one). I think growing green things might keep me cheerful this spring.

Driving next to Nels and listening to our latest download (Alicia Keys’ “As I Am”) while he puts his arms around me and sings to me.

Getting a coupon for free bread at the Franz outlet – what a creepy yet almost wondrous place that is! Nels got a “Cookie Credit Card”, an ingenious marketing ploy to inspire children to pester overworked parents to stop in for mass-produced refined grains.

Making dinner, despite being so tired I didn’t want to.

Having dinner with the kids; simple fare (homemade pizza dough with layered cheese; roasted brussel sprouts, sauteed tomatoes and squash) but so nice to see their joy in eating and pouring their own beverages from their little pitcher of water.

My husband trying to take care of me. He doesn’t always know how much I appreciate this.

and ask our esteemed panel, why are we alive?

We had an outdoorsy day today: from taking a 9 mile roundtrip to get Nels from school straight to the bike shop where Terry and I (mostly Terry, although the kids and I were there for a lot of it and I even helped and learned parts of my bike, yay!) Franken-biked my Giant into an Xtracycle! Since my bike was torn apart before my eyes this involved me finding a way in poor weather to Sophie’s school and back home without wheels – in horizontal rain for part of it. Bitar’s Bike Shop is also slightly colder than the outdoors, and the outdoors were cold. Short story, it’s almost 9 PM and I’m still not warmed up.

The bike conversion is – so far – as lovely as I’d hoped. As in, I might have trouble sleeping tonight. In Bitars as I removed parts from the box I gazed upon them and fondled these parts (Oh, sleek Snap Deck!) as if they were so much excellent and rare porn, finally delivered into my hands after a seeming lifetime of waiting. The Xtracycle was fun; the g-d euro child’s bikeseat (I shall not name specifically and therefore print libel here about the annoying setup instructions) ended up taking us past 6:30 PM and Terry’s departure time so my S.U.B. will not be street-ready until tomorrow (pictures later; I’m kind of exhausted). I’m hoping dearly for a better day than today’s offerings (of which I had to bike, walk, bus with children) but I will test-ride that thing come rain or shine.

Oh, and Monday I was interviewed on by a college student (with his ladyfriend taking photos) for some coursework that involves Sure Nail & Fire. My zine is being featured as a small-town effort extolling the virtues of Harbor life; I listened to my interview today. I was really impressed with the editing job, especially after the NPR experience and how much coaching that entailed for just a short blurb; and considering Monday’s relatively low-fi recording device. For the record both interviewer E. and his girlfriend (photographer) K. were the most charming, sweet visitors we’ve had in a while. Smart and easy to talk to as well as cute as if kittens could be made into people (I bite my tongue to not refer wistfully to their youth).

It's ALIVE!!

"your mother doesn’t work here" – oh wait, she does

I’ve been reluctant to write much about my hours spent in my children’s schools, but the fact is I spend a lot of time with my children in their educational environments and I think about those environments a great deal. Today I performed my Monday morning shift in Suse’s kindergarten class along with a substitute teacher. I was surprised to find the typically well-behaved twenty plus children suddenly turn into rowdy, loud, inconsiderate pupils. And like some kind of virus, the misbehavior was not able to be contained by the substitute nor even a little speech of my own (listened to respectfully at least).

Sophie’s teacher impresses me because she has established control of the classroom. Her first few weeks of class were spent almost solely on behavioral issues, the benefit of which is that almost two dozen small children typically experience a safe and ordered environment. But as I herded them into their lunch line today it occurred to me that staying in the public school system meant – besides the occasional luck of a great teacher – my kids would probably have many, many days like this one – an atmosphere of chaos above order, busywork above engagement, admonishment from adults rather than curiosity, expecations, and mutual respect.

My Monday work is typically in helping children with an art project. The time and energy that goes into each project is incredible, yet I notice in the classroom setting each child typically doesn’t have enough time to carry out the project in a way that informs him or her in their own interest and skills (or lack thereof). Because of this time constraint my favorite art project this year was an uber-simple project of picking out clippings for magazines (high school assistant J. and I pre-cut animals from National Geographics) and gluing three of them to a piece of paper divided into sections. In this case the project was simple enough I got to talk to each child about their choice of animal and layout; an artistic and relational growing process in my mind far superior to the sometimes more elaborate products we produce by giving curt directions and doing half the work for the child.

Any discussion about my children’s school environments isn’t nearly so much a criticism of the system or a worry about my children’s experiences as it is a learning experience for me. I think it’s a sign of my deferment to authority I’ve always believed school is a given establishment that is for The Good and therefore is itself Good – that is, sometimes children misbehave or have a horrid time there but, all in all, The System Knows Best (P.S. I know exactly which parent I co-opted this concept from). It is so odd I find myself realizing the system is, well, relatively arbitrary. Do I have the courage to think for myself what I want for my family and myself when society around me has been encouraging me to take advantage of the free babysitting provided by the state?

It’s lighter in the early morning hours. I have learned Spring weather in Grays Harbor is capricious, at turns sunny and brilliant, ominous, or dismally wet. The thrilling rains of Fall have given way to the saturating showers of spring, keeping our backyard wet, wet, wet in the interim before the sky opens up again.

If You Build It, They Will Sleep

you’d think this would tire me out, but nothing seems to

Lately I’ve spent some time noticing vehicles on the road. Man, they are large. Yesterday on our way to Olympia an Acura SUV thing idled behind me, the driver quick to hop on my ass as we traveled from stoplight to stoplight in the motorists’ tedium that is downtown Aberdeen. In my rearview mirror I saw a man alone in the cab with his left shoulder up, draping his hand over the wheel of his Amazing Driving Machine and the other alternately on the phone or down out of sight, texting or fondling his balls or whatever. In front of me a Silverado rumbled as it spread it’s huge asscheeks all over the road, easily larger than the Acura and laughing back at my seemingly miniature Mazda “light” pickup. And today on the road I saw some kind of Mazda – it looked like a car, but way bigger, or close up with a tiny person inside. This person sat well above the cab of my truck. These cars are huge but don’t seem to boast a lot of room inside – they mostly just boast being big. I find myself wondering why we have so many gleaming, gigantic vehicles out and about, especially in an area that is said to be “economically depressed”? I guess I will start concerning myself with people whinging about gas prices when I see just a few fewer bewheamoths out on the road.

This morning on the bike I found a good route to get to Nels’ school; ducking out of highway traffic and staying on a relatively quiet side-street for much of the ride. The route was nice; the bike ride not so much. It was clear but cold, with a head wind persistent enough that on mile two my legs stopped complaining and just did their drudgery dispiritedly, like listless indentured whores. Nels sat back in the trailer amidst winter coat, wicker basket full of juice and snacks, and a big quilt my mom sewed him several Christmases ago. He wasn’t complaining.

It was quiet out and comforting enough. At the end of Cherry I hit a small snag and had to backtrack half a block for an alley. Finding my way back to a road I heard my son from the trailer: “You can do it, Mama. You can find my school!” I felt oddly heartened and touched by his cheerleading. An hour later when he was chosen in his classroom to describe today’s weather, he put the weather dials to “windy” and “cold”. I thought he was in a special position to know, having braved the elements with me.

On the way home he fell asleep; I aborted my shopping plan (only after I’d already parked, chained the bike, and removed my helmet to discover him in Slumberland, Population One) and headed home where I brought in his artwork, dirty laundry from the school, leftover juice bottles, and one sleeping boy to strip down and tuck in for the remainder of his snooze.

Sometimes – not when I lose my temper or get distracted doing my work – but sometimes, I wish I was my own mom, and I was a little kid who got to be taken care of by her.

weekend to weekend

This weekend found us at my family’s cabin* up near Shelton:

It was beautiful, cold and clear at Mason Lake (note: “Little Hoquiam” where my great-grandfather settled with friends!) for all three days.

My Great-Grandfather Killed Lots Of Antlered Things
My knitting + rustic decor. I also sewed Suse a pair of pants with a cute, but horrible-to-work-with, polyester woven I bought years ago.

Miscellany At Mason Lake
A state of such permanency the label my grandmother made lives on and on. There’s also a box marked, “Whiskers Nails & Armpits” (for razors, fingernail clippers, and deodorant, natch).

Suse Samples The Wares
“Let’s go to town, kids!” On Sunday we hit Olympia in part to take Ralph’s guitar to Music 6000 for an expert opinion. At the Blue Heron Bakery we had a picnic of our own home-made sandwiches followed by cookies, coffee and tea from the shop. Let me tell you something: in my entire coffee-drinking career I have never taken a coffee back for being too bitter, but I had to in the case of the Heron’s americano. I asked the barista if there was a mistake or …? After coyly pouring a bit into his own wee cup the be-mustached, fey young man replied, “Yeah, that’s pretty much what our espresso tastes like.” Feeling like a puss, I switched out for a drip coffee which smelled faintly like hippie feet (I am not kidding nor exaggerating) but tasted fine enough. The cookies were great and the Garlic Kalamata Sourdough loaf was divine.

Tragedy Strikes
Sadly, during our lunch someone joked about eating the “top cookie” (that is, the cookie in the top of a package of five identical cookies) and the teasing was taken quite seriously by my son before we could convince him that yes, the “top cookie” was reserved for him.

As for the sweater: this is the least feminine thing Nels wears these days. His sister’s a good sport, sharing her clothes with him.

Last weekend, my school friend Jodi visited along with her husband Doug and their children Cyan and India:

Picture Log, By Suse
Sophie sat in the stroller and chronicled our gray stroll – down the highway and to a greasy spoon for soft-serve ice cream. Nothing but the best for our treasured guests!

Lake Eklund
Did I mention we in Hoquiam are sinking into the earth? Now I know why, growing up, people who met me out in the world would ask if I had webbed feet.

Connect Four Times Four
This was actually quite brilliant: the four children found a Connect Four game at the local coffee shop / popcorn factory and immediately began playing the game differently than intended. Without any noticeable communication (although children this age together can develop a monkey-language of their own) they’d fill up the board with alternating colors for each vertical row. Sophie, Cyan and Nels instinctively worked together at a high rate of speed while India (the youngest at 2) just did what the hell she wanted and the older children would either firmly grasp and re-direct her paw or, if she succeeded in dropping a color out of sequence, quickly retrieve the offending gamepiece and secure it. After a while the chore of catch-India-before-she-fucks-it-up got old and Cyan and Sophie started broadly hinting that maybe “someone” shouldn’t play anymore.

* Built by my great-grandfather back in the day; shared by hordes of extended family now.

better than most "real" news reports ’round these parts

Grays Harbor Wind Storm – The Hogaboom Report from ralph hogaboom on Vimeo.

Seriously, I will love Shannon for the rest of my life with how much she thrilled Nels during this. As she was pulling Allison (her own daughter, the first child you see “stranded”) Nels got the biggest, and I mean biggest grin and started crying out, “Shannon, Shannon, help me! Help!” and was like the girl elected as Homecoming Queen when she went back for him.