“come downstairs & bring popsackles”

A cardboard box filled with kraft paper; I remove gifts, setting them on the counter. Wrapped in tissue: findings from another sea. Teas, candied ginger. A paper-wrapped parcel of fine chocolate. Two bolts of sumptuous flannel fabric – a pea green plaid, a yellow plaid. Set aside and I run my hands over them each; fine robes for Christmas.

A wooden box, masterfully if plainly constructed, with a fire-branded logo. A note. And opening the box: a plastic shark. I recognize it as nearly identical to the one my children used to play with in the bath.

Then when I call my brother – to thank him and his wife, for the package – he laughs about the shark. “Do you recognize it?” I am confused for a moment. He can’t mean my children’s toy, as he never gave them baths and wasn’t there when they were small.

He says, “It’s just like the one I gave you a black eye with!” He is gleeful.

I am thinking, Oh that’s right. A childhood fight – we were still living in the bus, so I was seven years old or younger. I am set back for a moment. I am blinking at the road ahead, the phone on speaker in my lap.

What I say is: “That’s the only black eye I’ve ever had.” But now I’m thinking of a man who beat me. He never gave me a black eye. I think when you’ve been terrorized it can come to you, visit at any time. On a sunny day, in a lighthearted laugh with your brother.

The shark is now installed in my bathroom, hovering above the glass bar lighting fixture. I cooked and cleaned today, instead of leaving it for my children and spouse. I am coming out of a state of living where I was caring for the children, the home. We are moving and growing; I am working more, and the children are learning how to run a home. They are willing participants, and they are strong.

Yesterday they waited at a bus stop and went to the dentist. The children were gloomy; I woke them up and scolded them when they did not do housework quickly enough. We sat in the living room and we talked about the challenges in the household now that I work. The children listened, and ate the simple breakfast I made – creamed wheat, coconut oil, brown sugar. They put the dishes in the sink and I cleaned the kitchen after they left, then moved to the studio to finish my work.

After their appointments, my mother returned them home – food in hand, of course. They quite circumspectly did not eat hot foods for a couple hours, as the hygienist warned them off. Once they were home we piled in the car and off to the beach; meeting with a new friend who was visiting from inland. I realized well into the meeting that I hadn’t taken a break for quite some time.

After a coffee date, we two women and our four children climbed the jetty down to a little partitioned beach. We showed the visiting girls the tidepools: anemone, barnacles, limpets, chitons, starfish – and the little crabs under any rock you overturn. Every size – from a pinhead to a few inches across, and every manner of color: white, blues, greens, deep purples. The anenomes we instructed – you could touch them. Be gentle! They are gentle to you.

I know I live in a beautiful place. I never forget it. But I don’t often see it as it can be seen to visitors. That itself, was quite a blessing.

14th Anniversary

“no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company – than a good marriage”

14th Anniversary

Today marked our fourteenth wedding anniversary. And it was a beautiful, lush day, as September often is here.  It’s also a busy time of year – and busier than typical, for us.

I had wondered – as it became obvious our house-buy and move would be right on top of both “the first day of school” (irrelevant, as homeschoolers) and our anniversary – if our day would get swallowed up. Would we be too tired, or angry with one another, or embroiled in detail, to spend a few hours in appreciation? (No.) Would we make time to gift one another (Yes!) Would we have a lovely evening together (Yes!).

Dinner was lovely – but the drive, and the beach view, were sublime. I am fortunate to live in an absolutely beautiful, remote, idyllic corner of the world. I don’t regret it, not for a moment.

And here’s hoping for many, many more years together as a couple.

14th Anniversary

these precious days I spend with you

The weather at the lake was kind of glorious. It was warm, but rainy. There was a kind of glow in the air and a stormy closeness. Hardly anyone else was at their cabins, which is nice. We’ll be back in September where once again the crowds tend to be missing.

@ The Lake

@ The Lake

@ The Lake

Father’s Day 2013. This year I missed my father acutely, so it did me good to see many of my friends loving up on the daddies in their lives. Ralph got a few lovely gifts from the kids and I, then spent the day on the road with his oldest off to see a MLP movie.

Fathers' Day 2013

As soon as we got back from our Mason Lake trip, I mean only a few minutes after we unpacked, the kids and I ran out to Ocean City to see the beached fin whale. I figure you might not want to be surprised here by corpsey pictures, but I have a few on Flickr. We ended up walking a few miles to get to and from the whale, and I also ended up hijacking a fellow in his big truck – so the kids, dog and I could pile in and get a ride. It was quite a sojourn but it was a massive, amazing specimen. Oh BY THE WAY my dog ate lots of that whale. And this whale was not fresh. The blubber pieces were reddish black. This is why we can’t have nice things.

We got back from our trip and I was balls-tired for many reasons, including a few miles’ walk on sand after a long day cleaning and driving. Ralph had cooked up this vegetarian feast of grilled vegetables – asparagus, red cabbage, and brussel sprouts – on a bed of basmati rice and drizzled with chile dressing. The kids were unimpressed, but it was very dear to me.

Grilled Vegetables Ala Ralph Hogaboom

a little sunburn by the glare of life

“In a child’s eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.”

A little after four AM I hear my son’s voice like a pebble tossed in a still pool. “Mama. Would you be willing to comfort me in some way?” His voice is calm but sad. I realize, surfacing from sleep, he’s been under the covers, shifting silently, his body giving off heat like fresh-baked bread, frightened and trying to cope on his own for several hours. I hold him close and as I wake up more I collect myself to care for him. First I bring him to the bathroom to pee, then wash his hands and have a drink of cool water and then I feed him a little cereal. His body in his little underpants reminds me of my childhood books, Mowgli the “little brown frog”, legs and arms and a little fragile neck. His hair is long and tangled and every color of blonde, the smell of a dusty sunshine, a special heaven made just for me.

We return to bed and like a stone sinking in a pond he sinks into sleep, gradually over minutes but the minutes feel like much longer, laying beside him and in a state of half-sleep as I’m ready and willing to rise with him again should he need it; should his sleeplessness be the beginnings of a flu or fever. I stroke his back; smooth as velvet, living ribs rise and fall beneath my hand. It is quiet and the earth is spinning and soon I spin down to join him.

In the morning I hear my son telling Ralph about his restless night. He tells his father I’d held him, and got up with him. “And I got a glass of lemonade and I didn’t even have to rush because she was waiting for me. She was very kind.” I am tired, but I am content with being tired. I am learning how to rest, sometimes. And now I hold his hair gently off his neck and kiss him at the nape of his neck; his body folds up against me and his dusky little voice tells us both about his plans for the day, which include swimming and showing off his “fort” (at the bay side) to his father.

Later in the day my daughter arrives home from a beach trip and does not go in the house, but instead finds Ralph and I in the garage where we are doing the dusty work of cleaning. “Mom, a little assistance?” she asks now, unwilling to track sand through the house. Good, my four hundred thousand exasperated remonstrations over the years have made some effect. I gently whack the sand off her as best I can and with her cooperation tug off one of her t-shirts; we travel into the shower where she stands while I bag up her sand-laden clothes. I leave her there, treading to the laundry room to wash her things, and she turns on the tap. I remember how good a shower feels after a beach date.

My children show the evidence of the season’s change; they are outside immediately when the weather improves and they stay out for months. It is a cheerful ritual I have almost nothing to do with, but that helps me immensely. Even cooking hot meals in the kitchen while the family is out, even pouring scalding water and suds into the sink, there is a privacy I experience in keeping the home while they are out, that is much-appreciated after the winter months being cooped-up. I cook beans with chiles and pour strawberry lemonade for my husband; before I go out in the evening I change into a thin white shirt and step out into the sunshine, a bit cooled from earlier in the day.

Little Bird Of Fiercest Flight

She's Irritable

Phee

Happy Smiles

I bend to Phoenix’s ear at the fabric cutting counter and say, sotto voce: “Your hair looks greasy.”

“Who cares,” she airily replies, leaning forward on her elbows. “Certainly not me.”

My daughter is incredible. She’s like that friend you loved dearly, that girl you wanted to be. She’s smart and kind and beautiful and has a distinctive style of her own. Her toes are dirty at the end of the day but she is circumspect and loving. She makes her brother chocolate milk and she fetches me coffee if she sees my cup is empty.

She draws ferocious monsters, pages and pages and notebooks full of them, not a one alike, but then she gives me a backrub while we’re driving. She stays up late with me and looks into domestic foxes so we can have one who sleeps on her bed. She pulls her brother and the neighborhood boy D. in a giant wagon but when they horse around too much for her taste she says, “Sit. Down.” in this sharp voice mama-familiar that causes Ralph and I to look at one another, side-eye.

She takes the last bit of cash on her today and buys me fancy cookies.

Home and she takes her pumpkin up on the table and gets modelling clay and makes an “evilly-smiling” face, with a huge wound exposing his brain and a knife sticking out the other side. She makes this up in about five minutes. I’ll post a picture tomorrow. It’s awesome.

She puts on a horrible documentary about vicious parasites that wreak havoc on human beings. She says, “I’ll bet the next stage in the parasite’s life cycle is a snail.” To my minor astonishment this is true. I say, “How did you know that?” And she says, flatly, almost – almost – rudely, “Research.”

Clipped tone.

Like, how the fuck you think I know that.

These are all just like, a few things I remember over the last few days.

She heals up every way I wasn’t raised right.

Apple

Phee

Hutch Likes The Dog Park

Phoneix, At The Bay

Love the one you’re with

Pristine

I’m a bit disturbed that in my once-yearly visits to Port Townsend I continue to be beset by ugly thoughts and feelings – each time I visit. Yesterday and today, in fact, I experienced the strongest negative feelings and thoughts so far. All my baggage, sure and whatever, and maybe I’ll write some of it out sooner or later, but that’s not my point. The oppressiveness of it all threw me for a loop. It was like my brain had all this static noise.

And I didn’t have much time to process. Within about five minutes of driving into town I was at a party and spent almost every waking second after this around other grownups. I didn’t have time to defrag. I did my best to be present for my friends, who along with their children are deeply precious to me.

The friends, the kids? AWESOME. I felt high as a kite to be around them. That might have been the Stumptown coffee, too.

Darts At The Undertown

After hot chocolates and hot coffee we walked down to the beach. The children played and played and played, showing no boredom and only a total interest in the beach and one another.

A Place of Interest, #3

And they agreed to assemble so I could take a group picture. This is because guess what, tomorrow they will all be about six inches taller and with more or less teeth and telling different stories and doing different things so we wanted to get them, just grab them RIGHT NOW.

Preparing...

Assembling...

Almost There!

El Grupo

El Grupo[grimacing]

At some point some of us had to move onto a warm place with hot food. At this separation, Phoenix cried mightily. But in the way of small kiddos she was very happy only moments later on our way to lunch, stopping for a comically incorrect-sized kiddie ride – one she used to ride on as a tot that is, I suspect, not much longer for this world.

Triumph

The kids sat at their own table and Cynthia, Jodi and I got to catch up. I ate this huge-ass chile relleno. I’d hoped for the Noodle House but that was not in the cards. Maybe next time.

Like The Punchline:

As we ate it got darker, and colder, and darker…

So my daughter and I said goodbye to our friends and to PT and warmed up the car to hit the road.

On the way home, the little girl fell asleep (“Mom, may I take a snooze without interruption?”). We’d sung the entire drive up (Jazmine Sullivan and Justin Bieber, volume at 11) but it was nice to have time to myself on the drive back and I was glad she got some rest. In fact, both drives were very pleasant for me and I usually hate having my ass in a car.

Andrew Bird, and the twisty-dark of Highway 101:

Ode/Speed

On The Way Home, Phoenix

24 hours and there-and-back.

I’m ready to take a hot bath at home and cuddle up to the warm and beloved bodies in my life.

Port Townsend Gloom

Beach
(Small Stone #21*)

Beneath my feet, deathly chill, the shock traveling up through my legs.
Today I don’t mind.
I’m one with the elements.
Cold and fierce.

24 Hours
(Small Stone #22*)

My son puts his arms around my neck and buries his face in my breast.
“You were gone such a long time!”, he sighs.

Small stone project

snap snap snap

A day of sunshine after a drought of grey. I went running. The sun felt black-hot on my body after a while. It was glorious.

Post-Run

A few minutes after I got home my mother showed up and took the kids out to the beach. Both kids. Time in my own home, by myself! Holy shit! A bath. Alone, in quietude. Making coffee. Playing the new Decemberist’s album while sewing. I know it doesn’t sound like much. But still.

The children showed up hours later after Ralph got home and as I was still stitching away. They each had one of those shark grabber toys in one hand while brandishing a giant ice cream cone in the other. My mom had taken them out to lunch, the beach, and some touristy shop full of fun kiddo toys before getting the ice cream.

Now that’s how it’s done. Nicely played, Grandma!

Getting out and about? Swimming, running, walking, soaking up some light and fresh air?

Yeah. This week’s turning out okay.

Post-Diving

Without artifice
(Small Stone #19*)

My children’s laughter
Is a constant in my life, these days.
Like glass and sunshine
Bathing the walls inside my home

Small stone project

man of mystery

Man Of MysteryYou can tell he has much wisdom behind the cold, austere visage. You can see it in the keen gaze, the manful handling of the steering wheel, whatever weirdness he has shoved in that plastic bag behind the driver’s seat. Stopping for a bit of bracing sea air before tearing off on the next adventure, the next mastery, conquering the mountain, a man we mayhap not see again but will always live on in our memory.

So what really happened is Steve helped me dig my car out of the beach. This took about an hour and eventually included shovels. We missed almost all of Phoenix’s soccer practice.

Digging

Question: A callous parent?

On May 30th a reader writes:
So, I was thinking about your post yesterday after a little accident on the beach yesterday. [My friend] G. and I make a great team with her kids. I know her kids and I know how she parents, and since we’re together all the time she gives me the right to draw boundaries and set consequences if need be for her girls. It works for us. Her kids are tough and if one hits the other and the other punches back, she just sits back and waits for them to work it out. I’ve learned to be comfortable with that.

So, another woman comes down to the beach with her two boys. They live there, so I’m sure they are much more familiar with the terrain. She seemed largely unconcerned that her one year old was tottering around near the quarry sans life jacket. Okay. Then her oldest sits down on the swing and the littlest toddles over and gets a little too close and bam! The bar on the bottom of the swing beans him on the head and he goes tumbling several feet. I jump up because the mom is nowhere to be seen and then the whole swing collapses and falls backward, most notably knocking the wind out of the oldest. I run over and no one’s crying, everyone seems fine and the mom saunters over and asks if everyone’s okay. I tell her that the youngest got hit on the head and went tumbling and she asks if everyone is okay and then walks away, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. I do likewise. Because – it’s not my deal. I feel like it was okay for me to run to the rescue, should someone have been bleeding or unconscious, but since she seems unconcerned, I have to do the same. But I felt weird about it.

Anyway, just wondered what you thought about it in light of what you wrote.

A story like this is rather hard to get a read on because I wasn’t there. First off, of course it was okay for you to run to the little one’s rescue. Had they been hysterical and hurt, you could have helped (although most young children usually want their mommies/daddies/carers when they are hurt and frightened). When I was a child I liked knowing grownups noticed when one of us had trouble, and I was comforted when they stepped in to assist whether I took them up on it or not.

As for the mother and your thoughts on her, I will say many parents I observe run the gamut of heavily managing injuries/crying to barely reacting. If I were being judged from outside by someone who did not know me I would likely often look like more of the “barely reacting” type. Not so much my kids don’t seek me out, though: they come to me for a hug and wipe their tears on my clothes and move on, and I always give them exactly how much love they need (How do I know? While I am still there, present, holding them, they release me and move on.)

Funnily enough when the kids have a huge throwdown (like what people call “a tantrum”) I am also usually pretty calm through that too. Last night we had a dinner guest (childfree) and I could tell she was watching me like a hawk to see how I’d handle my daughter’s “drama”. But the thing is, it is the very part of me that “allows” drama that also enables my children to move through it quickly and for the most part remain quite even-keeled through many stressors (as far as I can tell). My daughter had a few upsets at the beginning of the dinner and then she was calm and happy throughout the evening beyond 11 o’clock when our guest left. Not that I think anyone has the right to judge my parenting and my child based on her “convenience” for guests; my point is that I did not need to lecture my daughter about her “bad behavior” (or whatever) for her to move on to “better behavior” – but I often feel a social pressure to do so.

Back to the beach: those kids sounded pretty young and when I had young babies I tended to react more than I do now. It isn’t just because I love(d) them, it’s because I felt expected to (or else be judged a “bad mother”). I now believe I did not need to react and rescue and moderate as much as I did. But then, I was new to the whole bit too. Now instead of social mores I have my intense knowledge of my own children. A parent in tune with their kids recognizes relatively quickly when they really do need cuddling, a bandaid, some attention, etc. and when they don’t.

Was that mother in tune with her kids? I can’t tell because I wasn’t there, but you might be able to make a reasonable guess if you think back on what happened. I do see people here where I live who seem almost callous to their children. But often these people have a look like things are rough, their lives are rough, or at least they’re having some sort of terrible clusterfuck of a day. A sort of drawn look not to mention their clothing and their cars (or lack thereof) or their tone of voice or what they’re talking about or the look in their eyes – it reminds me I have things more fortunate than many others. I am not saying everyone who’s an ass-hat to their kids has some tragic story as to why. But I’m far less likely to jump to any conclusions than I used to be.

Another possibility is the mother felt shamed for not being there or shamed/angry for having another person “infringe” on her territory (I hasten to add again, you did nothing wrong) and she might have responded from a hardened place. I just don’t know but you might have a sense.

And finally, the life jacket thing. Well this is not only cultural but varies within families and if we needed to keep our kids safe 24/7 we, well, we wouldn’t HAVE kids. Anecdotally I am very, VERY paranoid with my children around water – and they both can swim. Since they were babies I’ve worried about drowning; even when I had them strapped to my body and was crossing a safe bridge I’d have terrible fantasies about them plunging in. At a quarry I’d probably have crazy-eye with worry over my baby.

And finally, off-topic a bit, anytime I hear adults judging one another about parenting I think of this video:

http://www.break.com/index/two-year-old-toddler-smokes-cigarettes.html

The truth is parenting is a hard job and most people are doing the best we can. It is wonderful you help your friend out and you are one of those valued friends who shares family life with us. I have several of those childfree (or childless, depending on your preference) friends and they are very treasured by myself, my husband, and my children. G. is lucky to have you.