volunteer efforts

I’ve been busy; tonight and the night before I logged in time volunteering at The 7th Street Theatre here in Hoquiam; last night I was up late (verrry late) baking up a storm for today’s Birth Fair at the HQX Library (Ralph and I both attended the discussion and were all loudmouthy and birthy while our kids read and entertained themselves upstairs in the library for 2.5 hours).

Most exciting to me personally, I finished my very first pattern test for my friend’s fledgling pattern company, Patterns by Figgy’s (you can look at way too many Flickr photos in my tagset).

Hace Viento

I can say without reserve this pattern is drafted in a most excellent fashion; in particular I love the lines of the sleeve and the topstitched raw-edge details. It also sewed up very quickly, in about a half hour. I stabilized my pattern seam allowances first using a technique my mother-in-law told me about – dissolving some sheet stabilizer in water and “painting” it along the edges (I also used some of my spray stabilizer, with is almost the same thing). After letting the pieces dry it was much easier to sew on the stretchy knit than it would have been otherwise.

Whenever I plug my camera in to retrieve photos I find pictures by my kids. Wacky pictures.
Goofball Sister
Modern Dentistry
Ralph, Kitchen
They suffer small and delightful insanities.

one small step for a housewife, one large step for *I feel awesome!*

So, yesterday while I cooked up some homemade garden tomato sauce, made bagels from scratch (one of my favorite things to cook!), and brewed nuoc cham for our dinner with company, my friend and housemate Jasmine first bleached all the color out of my hair (something she’s good at, having lots of experience on her own tresses) and then applied a series of bright, neon-, yellow-, and blue-greens.  Now I have, well-ahead of Halloween schedule, bonafide Halloween hair.  My family loves it – especially the boys.  But I do admit this is one of the very, very few times in my life I wish for a moment I lived in the city; gawks from locals are many and frequent, and can get a bit tiresome.

The act of putting stupid stuff in one’s hair at home is one of my favorite rituals.  Doing it with a girlfriend while cooking – and having a few minutes without the kids, who were off gardening with my mom – simply heaven.  I can’t actually fix my hair up in any way but I love messing with it: I have put egg, honey, mayo, aloe, henna in my hair – sometimes on the same day.  I often had my hair bright, unnatural colors as a twentysomething but since moving here I’d refrained long enough for my hair to have its natural color all along the length (upper-back).  Being green my hair feels more “me” now and serves as a safety device when riding my bike on the road.

I now sit in our library while a few feet away a very, very old man flirts with one of the librarians – the slender, fox-faced one who dresses a bit schoolmarmish and wears dark lipsticks.  He asks her if he can call her “Laura” (not her name), and goes into a very long story about why he’d be prone to do this, a tale that involves back when he lived on Think-of-me-Hill and had some neighbor with a sister and…  “You can call me whatever you want,” the librarian responds in her low, musical voice.  Most – but not all – librarians are the nicest people, and Hoquiam’s seem particularly so-designed.  I think how wonderful it is for an older gentleman to have a pretty red-headed librarian be so sweet to him for a few moments out of her day. 

And I think I like living in Hoquiam, even if the yokels sometimes stare.

hurry up and stay present

Today my son awoke with a croupy-sounding cough and flushed cheeks – the sickness, presumably, that’s been going around his preschool. I decided to keep him close and subject him to my crazy “wisdom” in treating the common virus: fresh air, a wee bit of exercise, hot food, lots of fluids, and lots of rest. Having a sick child – especially my youngest – means I must put aside, as much as I can, my vast list of things I’d like to do in the day and be there for the Boy instead. Indeed as we go about our day I wonder that I’ve let myself be as busy with outside interests as I have.

Homeschooling is hard for me in one or two respects. When I had my daughter in public school last year I could wait to be told how she was performing or behaving – or I could ask the teacher myself (this happened often enough since I volunteered twice a week). Now on my own I have to figure it out with only occasional outside commentary. I’m well aware my children are ahead of the curve in their reading, writing, and math acumen (Yesterday in the library I was interrupted at my computer by the head librarian cackling and signaling my son. She’d tried to help him at the self-checkout terminal – unnecessary, as he knows how to operate it – and had said, “OK, click the blue button!” to which Nels responded, “You mean the one that says, ‘Continue’?” This tickled her. “I was just schooled by a four year old!” she crowed). If your children are doing well academically, for the moment anyway, what then do you do for “schooling”?

There’s a lot of newness in all this for me. As a youngster I did well in school and thought that was the be-all end-all “job” as a child – to perform well, to get A’s. This simply isn’t how I see it any more. For instance, I see Sophie’s self-directed interest and pursuit in embroidery as a pursuit as valid as any school curriculum: perhaps more so, since she herself sets the goals and decides how to execute them. I have discovered I am not an academic-success-at-all-cost kind of mommy, yet I still don’t know what kind of mommy I am vis-a-vis school. Sometimes I can’t decide how much work I should put in to finding them things to occupy their minds and bodies, and how much should be self-directed. Most days, like today, there is a happy medium: to know my children and know what they’re ready for, then to suggest it (or bike them to the event or set them up with paints) and get out of the way.

This afternoon we finish swimming (a blissful, calm 1.5 hours in the pool sans throngs of post-school kiddos) and sit down to eat a bit before heading home. My son eats. And eats and eats. “You going to finish that, Sophie?” he asks his sister (who is silently weeping, distraught the sandwich I brought along includes lettuce). After devouring the sandwich he has juice and string cheese, then a short car ride home and I tuck him upstairs in bed. Sophie is enthralled in her new book so I tuck Nels next to me and queue up On The Waterfront on Netflix. I am nearly instantly misty-eyed at what is one of my alltime favorite movies. My son asks questions and maintains his interest until we are interrupted by Ralph’s arrival home. I feel only a tiny bit claustrophobic – wishing to be out, itching to fold my tons of laundry, longing for an hour in the sewing room. I’ll get to those things again, and soon enough.

And as if on cue, my son slides off the bed and next to me here on the floor. He says, “I’m crying.” I ask, “Why?” And he tells me, “Because I love you. It’s happy crying.” His forehead is hot, his eyes are bright, he’s full of love, and I’m just hoping I don’t catch whatever it is he has.

the daring adventures of

The HQX bike shop isn’t somewhere you’d want to be in the case of an earthquake. Or maybe even someone closing the door ungently. I can see pieces of lath and rafter through many holes in the ceiling. Funnily enough even though the business in the rest of the building – one that’s been here for 96 years – is closing shop, the bike shop owner is hoping to not move. I guess he’s more confident in century-old, rain-soaked and barely-maintained Harbor structural integrity than I am.

After an hour and a half slot – about what I budget for this bike shop for even the most simple repair – I leave with my new bike hooked up to my old trailer, a setup I had heretofore not managed due to the old hitch on the trailer and the new disc brakes being incompatible. I’ve also learned a bit about bike pieces and a bit more about T., the shop owner. Putting my kids in the trailer I see they are almost bursting the seams – leggy Sophie looks like she’s in a frank breech. I am also dismayed to discover just how much drag the little pot-lickers put on the bike, even on a flat thoroughfare in sunny, clear riding conditions. Also: I’ve spent a total of $59 (gift money) on two new hitches (my bike and Ralph’s) and a cable lock (when the bike costs money I tell myself: one car family, one car family…). The ride is nice, despite the new drag factor.

Our internet was not-so-mysteriously connected and the library remains my spot to scavenge time on gmail. I say adieu!

this AM on HO-INET3

OK first, I’m so in love with our library. Don’t ask me why, but in seven years I never did more than set a toe inside the PT version a few times. Part of the reason might be the PT library had an assy kid setup; kids didn’t stay where they were supposed to and it was kind of a “hush”ing library; furthermore there was no way to do grownup stuff or even look for a book without abandoning your children one floor down – not a possibility for those with younguns. The HQX library has an upstairs that is much louder (at times, depending on number of children) than any library I’ve been in – which is to say it sounds like a normal building but quieter. Lately I’ve taken to going daily and letting my kids read / play while I do – this, blogging. Or reserve holds, write an article for the zine, whatever. It’s good times. Before we leave Sophie and I check out five books from Timberland’s list of 100 to read before school.

There are technical aspects of the library that are just precious. For instance, they have a mid-nineties-esque computer use registry (which is actually quite handy to use; last night I registered station 3 for 11 today, each station funnily enough called HO-INET) and the browser (some version of IE) will not let you find a webpage unless you painstakingly type the “http://”, technical pickinesses that further inspire episodes like the one this morning:

At 11 I’m sitting next to this dude who is probably under 60 but has the fretting, soft voice of a much older man as he struggles to do something on the computer. I hear him saying stuff like, “Oh no, not that…” and “I don’t understand!”, “Oh dear,” then, inexplicably, “They always make it look easier on TV.” I start feeling like either he talks to himself (which I suppose one should ignore?) or he is hoping I will horn in and assist him with whatever (modest, I’m guessing) computer task he’s undertaking. One thing about HQX, you learn to roll with the crazies and more or less mind your own business until they try to talk to you, ask for help, fondle you, or all three.

Sure enough, a few moments after I’ve noticed his self-talk he says, “Excuse me miss… Do you know how to do things with the internet?” (I am not joking and think he even said something weirder but in my spontaneous glee I was not taking careful mental notes). I get up and look over his shoulder and see he is trying to submit some recepits to Rite-Aid for a refund. He’s been doing this for however long without successfully having signed into their website. I take him to the page to do so and give him instruction, then sit back down as he hen-pecks agonizingly and talks to himself some more (“My title? … What’s my title?”) and finally clicks something that sends him back to fill in required fields he’d omitted. He asks for my help again and I get up again and look and he says, “Do I click on the star?” (the asterisk denoting required fields). I tell him no, click into the empty text box and ask for his email address. He freezes. “No, I don’t have one. Can’t you tell? I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” (he said, “I’m sorry” no fewer than ten times in our brief transaction, indeed the only thing that even slightly annoyed me).

Apparently he was willing to spend a half hour on these pennies from Rite Aid but getting an email address is the most terrifying thing he’s heard of. His self-effacing smile freezes on his face and although I tell him it would only take a few minutes to set up an email account, he shakes his head and says, “No, no…” He puts his hand on the mouse and sighs and says, “I’ll just … kill myself. OK?” (I’m hoping he means close his browser window). Then thanks me, repeatedly and (I think) logs off the workstation. I hear him a few minutes later talking to the librarians: “I found out you have to have an email.” Their gentle, flyaway grey spirits are also unsuccessful in convincing him to get an email account and he eventually floats away, after once again passing by, thanking me, and yes, finally putting his arm around me briefly (I have been groped in this library an average of every other visit).

Meanwhilw I log into my account and look at how much longer I have my current audiobook; I’m thinking my parents would like to take it along when they set out next week to drive to southern California. Shhh! Don’t tell!