the mouse and the bat

Goodness gracious, I’ve had a busy last few days. Some of which I’ve written on, as I’m sure readers will notice, more or less privately. And that’s just that. I cannot share the password at this time: this is for the sake of others, and I promise I do not withhold for creepy reasons. I will have to throw this disclaimer up top of my blog somewhere. I’ll get to it soon – promise.

In the meantime, here are some pictures:

Weird/terrible/oddly fun show in Elma.
Elma

Giving blood. No longer terrified, once the prick-test is done, the needle is in the arm, etc.
Giving Blood

Josie quite helpfully gets so much cat hair on my latest sewn creation. Thanks, Ass.
Thanks

Nels is beautiful.
Pensive

The YMCA lifeguard the other day was so incredibly insensitive, annoying, and – what’s that word when someone seems to get off on enforcing pissant and arbitrary rules? I don’t know. But the kids had fun, and I took a picture of their nudie awesomeness when we were getting ready to go. They really were lovely.
YMCA Nudies

Last night I was able to get away from the family for a bit while Ralph cooked, so I could watch Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend (1945). I cannot get across how much I love this film, most specifically the performance by Ray Milland, an actor who thrills me in every fiber of my being. The film has so many others on the same subject, dead-beat. Everything about it is perfect; it has been called a noir-style (which I frankly do not get) – but the atmosphere, performances, writing, the wardrobes, the theramin-enhanced score, “delirium is a disease of the night”! Ye Gods I wish they still made films like this, most frequently so. Watching these old classics, I think I’m going to have to indulge in my James Mason crush here pretty soon.

And speaking of Milland, I mean – the shortest Oscar acceptance speech on record. He’s just fan-fucking-tastic.

And finally, an announcement: week eleven of the Conch Shell went well; this week the Conch Shell is on hiatus.

The Bay

¡feliz cumpleaños!

Birthday Party Morning

Yesterday Phoenix woke up, recieved a custom-tailored hot dog for breakfast, then was hustled through washing up and dressing and out the door for a swim party. Directly after that she was whisked to my mother’s for a birthday / piñata / dance party / cake and ice cream / costume contest and ended her evening staying all night with Grandma and up until about 4 AM reading.

Definition of happy memories, methinks.

Piñata

I Don't Think You're Ready For This Jelly

It was an old school Kelly Hogaboom party, in that I had many friends from many different corners of my life Рthirteen children and sixteen adults, including a few out-of-town guests. I was weirdly exhausted from all this, but happy to see our friends. Between a few of us Рmost notably my mother, brother, friend Amore, and I, we put a fair bit of work into the party. My brother created an amazing pi̱ata (the turtle, pictured above, filled with copious amounts of rather posh candy) and Amore brought some extra-special food.

Lineup

We also had a wee costume contest with prizes, and goodie bags for the kids.

(My little Gulper Eel:)

Gulper Eel

Friendly

So let’s see, okay for food, we had chile and cheese tamales (with all the fixings), frijoles refritos, fresh chips, pan de los muertos, bean salad, “beefy” taco dip (everything was vegetarian so you know, not really “beef”), banana pudding, a jack, chile and corn cake, and Mexican rice with peas and coconut oil. Amore’s birthday cake and some Breyer’s Natural Vanilla ice cream rounded out the aggressive amounts of chow.

Cake

Then there was a Dance Party which mostly involved Ralph, Shannon and I being way too into it (by other people’s standards anyway – & yes… we were sober) and a long chat with Jasmine, who arrived home early from work.

At the end of the evening – when I finally left my mother’s and all was calm and the party had been cleaned up (my mom, husband, and I share this compulsion) – I kissed my daughter goodbye and asked her, “Did you have a good party?” She looked up and me and smiled the most genuine, warm smile and said, “It was great.”

So, that worked out pretty well.

***

Today I stumbled out of the bedroom for a quick cup of coffee then an afternoon with our out-of-town overnight guests, Cynthia and her two dogs. Along with Nels and Ralph, we took a walk on the flats thanks to the sunny weather (Phoenix was at my mom’s, having stayed the night and reading Harry Potter hardbacks like a machine). Nels took a shovel and did some digging for precious gems.

Lineup

I’ve pretty much got the beauty of Hoquiam in my bloodstream.

The Flats

After lunch I crashed. I’m frankly disappointed in my low energy, but it seems it can’t always be helped. Today I took the opportunity to watch a classic B-movie which cheered me up more than just about anything else. Lovely, earthy Anne Francis! Leslie Nielsen in an Orlon jumpsuit! Mansplainy science! A sassy fucking robot! Lasers and monsters of the Id!

My heart was also glad at the sunshine, the cold but springy smell of the greenery, and Nels working along in the backyard (note SEKRET CAT!).

Mining

It was a good weekend.

(Do click for Ralph’s panoramic work):

The Bay

love is in the air

Swimdate

I don’t think I will ever tire of the early part of my day, getting up to writing or dishes or housework or a run or laundry or sewing or yoga or all the above, walking in and out of the bedroom where the kids lay in the most peaceful and beautiful sleep. Later when I (most likely) don’t have children living in my home, I will miss this very much; this is why I try to breathe deep and enjoy most every day like this I have. Fortunately it’s so lovely it’s easy to savor.

Their sleep is one of the more satisfying “white noise” presences I can imagine, besides a clean house and purring cats and the sound of water (and thinking on it, those usually accompany my mornings as well). Most nights after bath the kids slip on their chonies, no pajamas or anything, before tumbling into bed with me (eventually) and watching some bullshit on Neftlix (we’re into nature shows, cryptozoology, sketch comedy, and survival documentaries as long as they’re bereft of asshattery). By morning, however bitterly they may have fought in vying for position to lay on top of me, they are now in a big brother and sister tangle in the middle of the king size, all smooth skin and tangled blonde hair (the other night Nels sighed in the most exaggerated manner, said, “Man I need to take off my underwear!”, then slipped them off and slept nude – it was odd as first of all he never had done this before, secondly I fail to see how the garment was confining as they hang off his bony little hips and constrain him in no way I can figure).

Today I woke them (I rarely have to do this) by rubbing their backs and speaking sweetly for a while. In time they surfaced and I told them grandma wanted to take them swimming and did they want to go? (Yes!) I’d packed up their swim gear and had clothes ready and asked if I could dress them. Soon they were running about the house, wiry and bright-eyed and having brushed their hair, washed their faces, and brushed their teeth. Just before my mother drove off with them I handed them some money to pick up a pizza on the way home, an errand Nels accomplished with much aplomb, feeling very much like he’d provided for us all.

I have a sore throat and very slight head cold; today’s mundane errands (book store, consignment to earn us some more clothes, donating the clothes not consigned) I accomplished sedately; I don’t want to drag my illness out or make it worse. Fortunately I had some handsewing to do so I sat through a couple Baz Luhrmann films and drank tea and tried to be patient with my ailing body.

Ralph came home and – at my request – made a late night matzoh ball soup and we watched a little of “The Jeff Corwin Experience”, a goofy but very satisfying nature show. Phoenix, budding naturalist with a major in herpetology, called out the names of each species presented with total acuity. Nels added his own impressions of how the handled snakes and skinks and anteaters might feel, swearing like a pirate all the while.

I’d rather be well so I could get out and stretch my legs, and finish this late bit of sewing awesomeness. But patience, patience, my time will c ome.

Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy. – Lao Tzu

Valentines Day Flowers

from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it

Today thanks to the invitation of my friend J. I find myself swimming with the children this afternoon. I’d woken an hour before, ran about doing laundry, packing swim bags, and finishing up a million dishes and packing a snack before bringing both kids out from a truncated sleep (Phoenix in particular was still up and texting at nine AM). It was hard going for her at first but by the time we pulled into the Y parking lot she had striped tiger eyes. She loves the water. (It’s a little after midnight and she’s remained equitable and loving all day, except for a brief episode with her brother fighting over rights to a kitten.)

In the pool a ponytailed man with his young daughter (or, possibly, granddaughter) compliments J. and I – in a way – saying it’s so nice to see parents actually playing with their children. I know what he means, but as I tread water across the depths I spend a few moments reflecting that I am not the most playful adult. Maybe that’s one reason why my kids are so delighted when I do engage in these ways. A few minutes later I float past them in the “river” while they “fish” with those float-noodles and I pretend to be, in succession, an alligator, an octopus, a great white shark, a blowfish (their idea), then finally a Tired Out Lady. I get all the kids laughing, even rather stoic T.

Ralph spent most of today and the day before recording a musician – efforts which were unfortunately partially sabotaged by rather inconsiderate grownups interrupting their rehearsal (many different people, many times). After my husband and I finally had our house and one another to ourselves, he and I took a date at our familiar and beloved Casa Mia and reflected on the last few days. Ralph and I have been, in final estimation, overhelping other people – not resting and helping one another nor ourselves enough. Some rest, respite, and dare I say genuine pampering is in order. If you think that means I’m going to finally treat myself to those octopus earrings, cherry read patent leather docs (okay, hell, also the teal pair), and that Pendleton blanket, you’re totally right. (EXCEPT I’m not, but let me just pretend I’m going to because it makes me feel badass. I’ll probably end up getting a big bulk scoop of Walmart cotton panties.)

***

Suprasternal Notch
(Small Stone #17*)

I’m transfixed by the water beaded on your flawless skin.
We hold one another very close, and for a long time.
You say:
“I should remember to listen every time you tell me about your love.”

A Visitor
(Small Stone #18*)

Linda’s voice is rich and deep,
Her laugh musical like a girls’.
She has dark skin and even deeper freckles
And large, brown, beautiful eyes.

Small stone project

This is your life / Don’t play hard to get

This afternoon while I attempted to get some sleep Ralph took my mom’s shop vac to the interior of the car – he picked up gallons, apparently. The vehicle was instantly a lot better (no splashy sound when you step in) – less condensation, and in the shouldn’t-have-surprised-me category it was far less cold for driving (I guess we’ve been running around in a portable DIY air chilling unit, ha!).

Little things like that cheer me up. It’s cold out – approaching freezing temperatures, about the coldest we’re acclimated to here – and wet. I have a headcold and am somewhat frustratedly committing to rest this weekend. So instead of having an active day getting shit done and running around then finally relaxing to some B-movie viewing, I spend the day… doing nothing. Except knitting and reading to the kids. Both good things, both not what I wanted to limit myself to today. And gee, the B-movie isn’t much to look forward to when I’ve been ass-bound all day.

I got up to a little bit of cheerfulness sitting at the Y and typing away on the laptop while the family went swimming. There was another family there with a pretty little baby and I sat there and with my Mind-Control willed the father to Bring Me The Baby (he didn’t, and in any case, I wouldn’t hold a baby while contagious). Ralph and I locked eyes across the pool. BABY. We have a signal.

Tonight after swimming we park in front of my mother’s; Ralph runs inside to help her move something heavy. Nels is filled with remorse because a few minutes previous I had nixed his plans to purchase a little bottle pop. He’s taken this very badly as I’ve been short with him all day; at this last straw he starts crying. “Nobody wants me, nobody likes me… You don’t even want to kiss me.” I pull him onto my lap; the car is warm, the strains of Balmorhea from the speakers and the purr of the heater and his little pink nose and tear-streaked face and the smell of his skin and hair. I kiss him. And I apologize for being short with him. He’s right, I’ve been treating him poorly of late.

Nels is more forgiving than anyone I’ve met; he knows with rapier-sharp acuity a sincere apology vs. an insincere one; he accepts sincere ones when provided (this is a rare and gracious trait). Ralph and I have a terrible tendency to find Nels cute; it’s this that our son bridles at when he sternly tells us not to laugh at him. I put my arms around him now and re-commit to taking him as seriously as a Big Person. And I try to swallow those feelings I have, occasionally, of being worse than a Wire Monkey Mother.

By the time I get home – and Ralph and I roast a chicken, make mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and carrot sticks with ranch dip, then set the table and sit down to eat – I realize I’ve overextended myself. My head feels stopped up and my eyes are itchy and I’m a bit dizzy and I’m thinking, I can’t even rest correctly.

So who wants to get a shot of whiskey, listen to Freddie, and have a good cry with me?

the littlest giant

Today the children and I went off for a lunch date and then swimming as soon as I’d done the laundry and made all the beds blah blah blah. We got sandwiches together at Subway (all three of us eating for $11; can’t beat that) where I saw then introduced myself to one of the excitable soccer parents from last weekend.

The kids were a delight to have lunch with. They were very hungry (well, for them – the kids and I are all three kind of light eaters), splitting a ham sandwich on flatbread and judiciously divvying up a milk between them, followed by a cookie apiece. I can’t always know when they are hungry and I’m glad I took them out first because we ended up playing quite vigorously in the pool.

It felt wonderful to be back in the water again. Now that it’s school season we often have the pool to ourselves which is incredibly peaceful.

Phoenix and I played many games together. This was a welcome improvement from the last few months we’ve visited the pool. Phoenix loves to swim with me but often we have to stay close to Nels or risk being admonished by the capricious lifeguards and this limitation has frustrated us both in the past. Today she figured out a few new games we could engage in together: we performed a syncrho-swimming waterdance using hoops formed from those styrofoam noodles in the pool (she challenged herself to see how long she could stay under and quickly swim in back and forth in the hoops; she got up to three). Then she had me hold her straight out from my waist, her legs around my body, while I spun her like a fan blade through the water (now that was a workout for both of us!). I get dizzy easily now (ever since I had kids, and I’m not making that up) so I had to rest between goofy games like this. She helped Nels improve his kick. She tickled me and swam in and out around my legs with a grace and a lack of kicking-me-in-the-face which was delightfully new and appreciated.

My son has been a bit fragile today. It is truly a wonderful experience for me to be able to be available to them for their needs. Today from across the pool my son swam out from the little winding river and I saw the set in his shoulders and the sadness in his eyes. And I swam over to him and asked, “What is it baby?” He told me he had hiccups and they were hurting his body. He said, “But I feel better now you’re here,” and wrapped his arms and legs around me. And there’s probably nothing that smells and feels better to me than my children.  And sure enough a hiccup jerked through his little body, his frog-like limbs and tender little ribcage and his little belly. And I showed him how to hold his breath and tighten his eyes up and plug his nose and ears and he tried this many times, his little body convulsing now and then. The hiccups seemed too big for him!

Later at home he lay on top of me and we played “I Spy.” He made me laugh about eighteen times. For instance when he said, “I spy something BLUE… It’s outside.” I laughed and told him the whole point of the game is that you could SEE the thing from where you were. But I got it anyway (answer: the sky). A minute later it was my turn and I told him it was something that looked like a breast… he looked and looked and finally I had to tell him it was up high, at which point he saw the hemisphereical-with-nipple-fitting center light in our room and pointed triumphantly and then looked down at me and shook the hair out of his eyes and said knowingly, “Eas-y,” as if he hadn’t been guessing for minutes! I laughed and wrestled him and grabbed him up and we kissed and hugged times One Hundred.

I played a game with him, one he hadn’t remembered but I had. First I took my hand on his bare big toe (the right one) then pretended The Toe was sojourning on his body on its way to see The Head (I perform the role of The Toe by dancing my fingers along his body). So The Toe would stop and introduce herself to The Ankle, or whomever (as played by Nels) and they’d have a little talk, with The Ankle directing The Toe on further to her destination. Et cetera. We played this when the kids were little – I mean littler. It’s one of those simple but amazing games because it involves a lot of touch but a total respect by the grownup, since the child is in control of directions. We play similar games where the children will tell me where to kiss them, or stroke them or squeeze them, or (if they want to scare themselves) bite them or pinch them.

It really is an honor to be trusted and loved so much by my little ones.

In other news I have the perfect Halloween costume idea (finally!). I do not have money to garner my supplies!  Very upsetting. I am hoping (against all hopes) to set up a little display and sell a few of my wares. This would be a miracle (by “miracle” I mean something kind of nice that no one could possibly give a shit about, and thusly deserves a less auspicious descriptor) as I do not have my items ready or a display ready and also, by the way, I’m being a total coward about the whole business. Halloween approaches and I have three semi-elaborate getups to assemble and I’ve made no headway and can’t even sell our last running car without a few repairs that I’m not even going to type about as one of them makes the vehicle un-street legal.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

ThistlesOur day today included much bike riding and a marathon swim date at the HQX YMCA. To my surprise the same lifeguards have been totally transformed from their demeanors during the school year. Rather than a handful of rigorous, goofy, and flighty pseudo-rules a more relaxed atmosphere of sensible regulations prevailed. It was wonderful. At first I was confused; then I realized that with summer and more children in the pool (I counted two dozen) there was not the petty energy to piss-about with “don’t touch the ladder” or “don’t lean on that”. Groups of children played freely, teenage boys doing improbably lopsy flips from the diving board and helping one another out (young men who show tenderness and comradery make my eyes sting with tears*), small tots being cared for by older kids, children exercising the fastest-possible technical “walk” on the pool deck (“WALK!”) – their legs stiff and elbows flying, and Nels and Phoenix delighting in having more child-company.

For a brief moment I considered a world where children were not institutionalized most of the year; where more children were more places I went during the day. It was a lovely vision.

I’ve written a bit about watching my son’s inspiring (to me) journey in swimming self-teaching. Today he is determined to learn to dive in the deep end. He first crouches low and hops into the water; then he bends his knees less before the jump, and so on. Over and over he tries different approaches until finally he jumps from a standing position. I’m thinking how much he will love our time at Mason Lake later this month. I tread water close by as Phoenix dives over and over and the two swim around one another like twin seals, all laughter and slippery camaraderie.

My son is such that it is entirely obvious how any amount of pressure or “teaching” agenda usually backfires and impedes his process. Yet helping when he asks and being there to facilitate safety (because truly he is enough of a swim risk-taker I’m glad he’s learning with me close by, here in the 8′ end) I have the honor of watching a flower bloom. His body is a delight, wiggling happily, not one second is he unsmiling. After watching his exertions for a time I am glad he will be sitting on the back of my bike rather than riding his own; he’s still little enough the round-trip and swim efforts would likely tax his little Self more than he’d be comfortable.

My daughter is an amazing mentor to her brother. I notice she offers advice to Nels on his backstroke: “Keep your back straight – put your tummy up,” she tells him firmly. He gladly complies and laughs in delight at the immediate improvement in his stroke. He then flips over and goes under water, emerging with his long hair across his eyes, just his perfect little nose and his big smile visible. Phoenix says, from a distance of a foot, “Do you need help?” Not at all bossy, entirely considerate. He energetically wiggles in his idiosyncratic dog-paddle to the edge under her friendly eye; she watches to make sure he is fine alone.

Typically after physical exertions the kids come home and want more sedate fare.  Nels plays with an electronics kit with the neighbor boy. Phoenix reads. Thanks to our Tweep Justin our daughter has a rather impressive small library of various sci-fi and fantasy novels she’s reading (now as I type she has her nose in The War of the Lance**). Later, the kids are excitedly talking about the creatures they want to pretend to be for the evening: a female centaur (Phoenix), a river-nymph (Nels).

Then Ralph asks them, “Should mama be a harpy or a sea serpent?”

(Asshole!)

Staircase wit: I should have shot back with, “Should daddy be a tiny-dicked orc, or a tiny-dicked ent?”

But I don’t always have a quick reply.

Nels Walks To The Store(Nels walks to the corner store.)

NERD!

** NERD!

roadies and recovery

It’s technically only a Saturday but our weekend has been a busy one already: first, we hosted a family of three for two days and two nights (with the help of my mother). Our guests were the Canfields: family travellers, potential roadschoolers, musicians (Ralph and Joel met through FAWM; Joel penned “Camel Lash/Not Just Believe” that Ralph used in a recent home vid), entrepreneurs, purposeful nomads, Jehovah’s Witnesses who wear (seemingly intentionally, although I didn’t get around to asking) mismatched socks. Their family was a delight to talk to and get to know; their six year old daughter and our two children played seamlessly as if they’d known one another for years (Really. It was almost uncanny.). Joel was a real talker and was full of better ideas than most people. I’m still thinking over our conversations and trying to wrap my mind around them.

Overlapping this visit my mother requested our attendance in a breakfast et cetera with out-of-town relatives who’d stopped over: my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. I last saw this batch of my family almost five years ago on a brief ride back to Port Townsend after my ten-year high school reunion. In our last episode together my cousin K. was a near-silent girl of about fourteen; her brother A. a supremely sarcastic and know-it-all-sounding eleven year old who made me want to ice-pick my ears out. To be perfectly fair though, I have not parented an eleven year-old, especially a schooled one; also and likely most relevant I was extremely milk-sick, that is physically and emotionally and mentally waning from being away from my nursling for 24 hours (I’d love to describe how Eighteen Levels of Horrid this feels but it’s a bit off topic for now). I was also hungover (well – probably, knowing me), I was crowded into their car and feeling like a jerk for taking up every inch of extra space – and frankly, I can be away from my own children and function marvelously but I also miss them so incredibly fiercely and never has that 101 drive taken so long.

Anyway, I do love to see my So. Cal. family because we used to be a part of that scene; we lived in Huntington Beach, where my mother grew up, from about 1979 to 1984. It seemed like a betrayal of sorts to reclaim my great-grandfather’s then-unlivable homestead (where my maternal grandmother grew up) and break from the sunny shores to find these mysterious twin Nowheres of Hoquiam and Aberdeen (the latter where my maternal grandfather grew up). We set off as a foursome in the OOAK homemade bus to come up to the mossy, green, and frankly spooky Northwest (I still remember driving west on Route 12, further West, on and on, and the air was delicious, I almost would give up my native Washingtonian life just to feel and breathe that air again for the first time). At this point I, one of the handful of older cousins, departed from the influences of my larger family and their more tribal lifestyle.

It was nice to see my cousins again (and of course they’d grown into adults, holy cow): I am also especially fond of my marriage-Aunt R., a woman with lovely green eyes who has remained to my memory constant in appearance and demeanor and persona throughout my life. She has a very dry delivery and a wickedly understated sense of humor; my husband and I both like the way she talks, low and quiet, because even though she says perfectly normal things there is this slight threatening sound to the timbre of her voice like a growling cat.

So in this brief reunion I talked to my cousins a bit (not too much; they both seem rather shy), we sent off our guests, walked to the gallery where my children have some art pieces displayed, and then took my cousin K. and Ralph and my children swimming at the Y. Ralph accompanied the kids in the pool while my mother, aunt and I sat on the bleachers and caught up a bit talking about family, death, band camp. The relatives are heading south tomorrow and both my mother and I will have our homes all the way “back”. I am a very social person and my husband is the same in this regard; however I need nest-time to recuperate more than others might realize.

heartstrings and spoke lights

Today my son swam back and forth in the deep end of the recreational pool, over and over and with a smile on his face. He flipped over on his back and swam, and stuck his thumbs-up out of the water and winked at me.

Then he took me over to the lap pool and swam the length of that. Three times.

I’d love to write a little essay on the YMCA and their berjillion weird and contradictory pool rules, including and not limited to: children are the responsibility of the lifeguard, NO WAIT they’re the responsibility of the parents’/carers’; If the kids can swim they’re allowed in the deep end of the rec pool, NO THEY’RE TOTALLY NOT unless they’re at least eight!; you can swim in the lazy river if you’re taller than the water level, NO YOU CAN’T YOU MUST WEAR A LIFEJACKET, then No you’re NOT allowed to wear a lifejacket in the lazy river EVAR. And my personal favorite duo: small children must be within five feet of a grownup at all times; a grownup may supervise up to ten children at a time (the mental picture of the supreme unfunness in one adult with ten small children within arms’ reach, moving through the pool like so many cilia attached to a central grownup protista, is a hilarious and untenable one).

There’s also this whole “swim test” proposition posted everywhere which somehow involves testing and receiving a bracelet and getting more swim rights (I can’t even snark on the standards of this “testing” in any way because I don’t see any bracelets on kids, ever, so I have no idea if these systems are even in effect).

Given all this and the many times some lifeguard would tell my son “You can’t do that until you can ‘swim’ [meaning their version of swimming] across the pool” (I hasten to add most lifeguards recognize his swim-competence and let him do what he knows he can) Nels did what was logical: he taught himself to swim and today he took on their test. Given their inconsistent rules and spotty enforcements I don’t think the issue of Nels’ swim freedoms is as settled as he thinks it is.  I really do mean to talk to the director of the pool scene (a rather grumpy person who is clearly managing a very large program) and try to figure this crap out.  But in the meantime we are having about 99.9% fun on our swim dates and Nels’ and Phoenix’s pleasure in the over two hours of swim time we had today was pure joy.

Another first: in the course of the day we took the bikes out all around town and to East Side HQX which meant riding up then down a bridge that is very steep and has an icky re-entry to road traffic at the bottom. Naturally I was worried because Nels is not only a Speed Demon he’s a (calculated) Risk Taker in general, and the bridge path was made perfectly slick by today’s on-and-off rain. Riding behind Nels on the steep grade I held in my mind two truths that formed my amazing reality: A. the worst that could happen to him would be a broken wrist or busted-out teeth and B. I was actually okay with this because I know Nels is doing exactly what he should be doing: stretching his abilities (within his supreme self-knowledge of them) to accomplish something he wants to master.* Don’t get me wrong, crash injuries are terrible to imagine like any injury to one’s child (Phoenix’s horror-crash happened exactly a year ago!).  This is why as I was behind  him my chest fluttered and I felt supremely alive.  As we sped down the thoroughway I talked him through trying out his brakes on the slick surface and he tested these with an expert handling of the resultant slight fishtail.  At the bottom of the bridge he firmly stopped in the exact correct spot.

It’s funny because a very short time ago I was helping my little duckling daughter travel on the same bridge and now she’s so bike competent I can focus entirely on talking Nels through our ride, knowing she is behind me as well-furnished a rider as I (given much of our ride is on a highway with log trucks and a small but unpleasant selection of asshole drivers I really do appreciate being able to focus on my son). Halfway through our ride Nels began hand signals before turns, cautiously lifting his arm and shoulder-checking and discussing strategies for stop signs (which can be treated as yield signs by cyclists). He was so engaged and having such a wonderful time it was almost possible for me to not have my mind blown at how effortlessly, joyously, and willingly kids learn a whole passel of fucking awesome skills if you merely help in the ways they request help.

When we got home Ralph was already here and he got started on the meal I’d planned – fried chicken, peas, and German potato salad. He also brought me home a bottle of Jack which verily I shall be making into ye olde toddies anon. And just now I get a phone call: Phoenix has spent the afternoon and evening with a friend who now wants to stay the night, so: Sleepover! (which you simply must imagine me saying in the tone of Orange Mocha Frappucino!”)

It’s been a good day times one hundred.

* He’s also gotta lose those teeth soon anyway.

you really would totally love to live here

So my kids got to sleep in and then eat a hot homemade breakfast and then play in the sunshine and then take a huge nap on the couch (Nels) then go swimming then get burgers and a shake and then home again and their friend came over and they spent HOURS outside digging a huge mud hole in my back yard (an executive decision I made today: yes, you can have this section of the yard to dig in, what the hell, we can always repair it later) then came back in for Legos before heading outside for bike riding. And for dinner I made Indian Butter Chicken (with substitutions, and it was still fabulous) on top of basmati rice and sprinkled with ground cashews, served next to petite peas and fried zucchini. Oh and I asked Nels how he liked the food (because it was new cuisine and all spicey and cumin-y and stuff) and he said, “It’s delightful!”, except he said “deerightful”. And right now I’m sewing on a couple lovely dresses for my daughter and Nels is teaching himself chess and Sophie is drawing a new kind of mermaid-creature and Ralph is out putting away the chicks, who are now “hardened” i.e. they spend their days outside in a tractor (to keep them safe from neighborhood cats, as the birds are just a wee bit small to defend for themselves) and we met yet another awesome neighbor and Ralph took her a half dozen of our eggs. And it was sunny today and I think it’ll be sunny tomorrow too.

I like my life.