much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread


One of my favorite things about my life these days is time with my kids as well as other children. Recently when I had a few extra in tow a friend I ran into in town said I must have a lot of patience. I thought about it and it is true, I’ve learned to relate well with children, not just “good kids” or kids from “good families” (wtf people mean by that, it’s a careless thing to say at best), but with the kids that have problems or bully or are deceitful or angry or passive aggressive or plain ol’ aggressive or whatever. I genuinely like kids, probably a teensy bit more than I like grownups, but I’m learning to like adults a lot too. I only wish I had a bigger car and more money and I’d have a lot of them, the kids, around as much as possible.

When I contemplate this it’s actually kind of incredible. I still believe children are kinda routinely squashed in home and schools and institutions, squashed in just about every way you can squash someone, and they usually have to move out from authoritarian paradigms when they come to our place. And it works out really really well actually because I can just address stuff head-on and kids are fucking smart. So even “bad kids” (whatever, I could write more on this but won’t for now), I haven’t so far often been at a loss.

But what’s more incredible still is to contemplate my own nature. I grew up first of all, not being classified as a Patient person. At all. I would never call myself Patient even today. I also grew up believing/being told that kids were kind of a drag, they were messy and annoying and uncouth and unsophisticated and stressful to be around and not perceptive nor moral et cetera (so of course, my job growing up was to shed these traits or at least hide them). Today I realize I believe none of these things about children at all, and I like nothing more than having kids and young people around.

I have this fantasy that’s grown within me recently that a friend or someone local would take their kids out of school and entrust the kids to my care while the parents worked. Of course the parents involved would have to be totally on board with the way we do things around here, I mean really a model of trust and non-coercion. And it’s late because we’ve been up working and playing hard, so I’ll just put it plainly: it’s not even like I think of this as a vocation or “labor” I should be paid for, it’s like many parent/carers wouldn’t be willing (or able) to put forth the money for the groceries and just goofing-off money or whatever for their kids to have the life we live daily – and perhaps more relevantly, really many parents aren’t able to trust the process of kids growing outside institutionalization. I know this is silly but I wish I could afford to feed and care for more of them. Then I think my kids are going to grow up and we won’t get the opportunity to share this kind of living on a regular basis. Phoenix and Nels don’t complain for a lack of friends or activities, it’s really just something I am starting to long for but feel I have no ability to enact – and am not really sure of my motives in any case.

But – tonight we had a bonfire and roasting marshmallows and music and goofing off and ringtone downloads and wrestling and a lot of joking around and teenagers over until way past curfew. It was fucking great.

In bits and pieces I get to have this tribe, and it’s always lovely when I do.

Coffee Shop, 3 Out Of 4


I forgot to mention, yesterday Phoenix became angry with me and slammed the door – unfortunately, catching her own finger and hurting it horribly. Even though we immediately iced the injury for quite some time, by morning her nailbed was black and the end of the finger was painfully swollen. She told me yesterday she didn’t need the Emergency Room (contemplating both the trouble of going at that particular time, and the cost to our family), but today we went to the doctors’ where I came to realize she had made a good choice in electing to do so. The injury was bad enough to require treatment – specifically, trephination with an electric cauterizing lance, and that is as bad as one might think it is. At her request I held and kissed her forehead as her tender finger’s-end was cleaned with iodine (which hurt badly enough, I could see), then her nail was lanced three times as the doctor tried to relieve the pressure and finally blood spurted out then was squeezed out for a few minutes by the physician. Phoenix cried hot tears and wailed softly but did not scream nor move or waver; it was quite horrid and beautiful at the same time to watch her cope. She elected not to take pain medicine after, but over the next hour I saw her relief and I saw her come back to her old self.

So now in the car heading home in the sunshine (Nels spent the visit in the waiting room, talking with younger babies and children and their carers) I tell my daughter, “Phoenix, at one point you said you couldn’t take the pain but you did take it. You elected that treatment and you coped all by yourself.” She tells me, “I didn’t cope by myself, I had you with me.” I say Yes but, it wasn’t me that had to go through the pain. She replies: But you had to watch your child in pain. That must be so hard. And she cries again, silent tears, but for me this time. Empathy.

I feed the children and bring them home and to their father and their friends. I am curiously drained by the past hours of my daughter’s pain and anxiety. She had also felt a fair bit of guilt over hurting herself and this troubles me as well – but I know this is her path, today, however much a part I have been instrumental in it. She holds my hand and I think to myself how glad I am for our closeness, how I wouldn’t want things any other way.

It’s like I awoke from a dream, parts of it quite desperate and lost, to realize that through all my mistakes and difficulties I held onto some shred of decency and did an okay job in mothering. So far. And I hope to still improve. I am amazed at these children I live with and what they are able to cope with, who they evidence themselves to be, and what they do and do not need from me. Today my daughter took the lead and she was wiser than I, but I also have cause to believe I helped her in the right way.

There’s not much more I’d want to report, really.


a daughter is a gift of love

My daughter is “only” nine, but she’s becoming a young lady before my eyes. It’s a subtle change, but not imperceptible: those closest to her – namely Ralph, Nels, and my mother – are also noticing. I am, in this time, her confidant, and this pleases me to no end. Yesterday after lunch out with my mom (Happy Teriyaki droooooool) we briefly stopped for a $6 bang-trim at a walk-in salon. Ralph told me later how calm and comfortable our daughter was in what she immediately inferred was a female-oriented space. The stylist asked Phoenix questions about her age and her interests and soon the young woman’s eyes flickered back and forth between my daughter and I. “You’re so cute… you’re just so sweet.” this woman told my daughter. “Thank you,” Phoenix replied levelly – and she thanked her for the hair service as I paid. The other stylists watched too: all eyes on my daughter during the relatively quiet transaction, an occurrence I have come to recognize as it is relatively frequent. Children often get ignored or talked over in public; yet Phoenix has a lot of presence.

Tonight at Ross (I found the most perfect. jeans. ever. for $16) Phoenix found the junior-size dresses and became interested. After asking her father if we had time for her to try them on, she pulled several off the racks. In the dressing room she invited me in and I helped her, holding her slightly tangled locks off the nape of her most-precious neck and tugging on straps and belts, after which she assessed herself. Still a little girl, some cuts of the junior’s size zero fit well enough and she commented on the color and cut and fabric of each. Finally, “I like the striped one and the bright blue one. If you say the striped one is best, that’s good enough for me!” She pulled on her little Dickie’s t-shirt and folded her hoodie across her arm and we checked back out, the $10 soft summer jersey dress in hand, to where her father sat waiting in the aisle.

Earlier today: in the kitchen she pulls her hair back and washes her hands thoroughly and sits up at the kitchen counter, cutting a couple quarts of peaches, carefully holding them in her hand and slicing directly into her own palm, for this week’s restaurant fare. Now while the home-restaurant was of my son’s inception and each week is driven by his insistance, he only helps with a bit of the cooking (today, however, he greeted and talked with customers quite well). Phoenix on the other hand is a genuine and consistent help, a bit to my surprise. She’s learning quite a bit about cooking too, although I maintain my children will know a great deal about food variety, preparation, and competence, just by growing up in our home – no direct instruction particularly required.

Speaking of that, the cake I made to wrap up and take to the hungry at the Mission, we instead sacrificed as a neighbor gift to the new move-ins across the street. For one, I like to do this sort of thing; secondly, the seven year old of the family heckled me mercilessly for a slice last night and I finally figured to give the family the whole dern thing. It was a beautiful and – dare I say it – professional-looking confectionary of chocolately awesomeness. And now I’m left to consider what to cook for the Mission this week. I’m thinking sweet and fragrant cornbread; an anonymous donor gave me a whole lotta canned corn and that’s the best thing I can think to use it in (relatively cheap, too, in cooking and donating to others). I’ll probably be pulling that out of the oven tomorrow when the kids get up; we’ll share breakfast as it cools and wrap it all up and take a bus over to deliver.

For now, for tonight – our resultant peach cobbler:

Southern Peach Cobbler