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

stuck in the moment

Ralph might have started the game of Blanket Monster, but Phoenix Fire ended it. By clocking her father in the face with the rather rugged and heavy phony-Christmas-tree cardboard box. The way Ralph tells it Phoenix rather reluctantly gave up her hopes and dreams of a normal life, but with a practicality and thoroughness that is so trademark to her sensible nature. “Well, I used to have a daddy, but now he’s a relentless Blanket Monster, so I’d better kill the sonovabitch.” Ralph describes “blinding white light” and staggering to the bathroom where he staunched the flow of bloody nose while our daughter apologized with sincere but pragmatic gravitas. Fucker was pulling them under the blankets by their legs, afterall. “Tickle torture isn’t funny,” she tells me later standing with a towel wrapped around her reedlike body, her freckles standing at attention under a seal-wet post-bath noggin.

Later as we left for a date our daughter calls, “Take care of your nose, daddy!” She means it in a cheerful and loving way but it kinda sounds like a veiled threat.

We got home and later discovered a bunch of items on my Mac. Some intentional video – (I think Flickr cut out some of the artistic differences our children discuss at the end of the film)…

and some unintentional (Ding Dong!):

Pools of sorrow waves of joy / Are drifting thorough my open mind / Possessing and caressing me

I’m re-reading a favorite book of mine: The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (thank you Abi for giving it to me years ago!). A more perfect book for Kelly God-damned Hogaboom can simply not be found. I liked it so much I immediately went out to find her previous work, The Secret History, which was also excellent, but since two awesome things have to have a favored choice (kind of like would I rather make out with Mads Mikkelsen in his viking-beard-and-skirt or as the tortured expatriate relief worker with a tragic secret?), I’ve gotta say The Little Friend wins out.

I’m sorry, I have to take a minute to recover from those Mikkelsen image searches.

So anyhow, I love finding a book I can read over and over and over because it’s kind of rare. I felt this way about A Prayer For Owen Meany before Irving’s sexism became simultaneously too annoying and snore-inducing to weather.  I can still read the Lord of the Rings books over and over, yes with the snooty British professorial bit and the weird imperialism and omission of lady-agency and, well, dorkiness I suppose. We only own a handful of books on a tiny corner shelf my father built for me the year before he died. Books are one of the many, many things I don’t own in a long line of things I refuse to own because “stuff” terrifies me and besides, we’ve moved three times in a year and don’t own our home and I’m still (mentally and emotionally) semi-nomadic AND please, we have so many mouths to feed and maybe keeping a home-order is one way I cope with this. My children have more books than I do; mostly we rely on librarying up like no one’s business.

Today I took the kids to see Circus Gatti – the first time we’ve been to a circus in a handful of years. Held at our huge wooden stadium here in HQX it was one of those dissociative moments of thinking how fucked-up our world is but also being stunned at the beauty of it, twisted and all. The finale act two elephants performed and stood on their hind feet to booming Latin/urban hip hop and I felt conflicting and equally strong emotions: sick with myself I was supporting likely unethical animal-husbandry, impressed with the athleticism of the hardworking circus employees, unaccountably embarrassed by the socioeconomic markers of working class we continue to evidence (by being at the circus in the first place and being unable to afford all the trappings my kids wanted), blessed and amazed by my stunned and vivid children who shouted and ran about and bought what confectionary they could afford ($4 bought cotton candy) and performing somersaults on the bright green. Pheonix also knew way more about elephants and the training therein than I’d realized.  I sat comfortably on the wooden bleacher and held my son in my arms and felt dizzy from both the height and expanse of the stadium (I am slightly agoraphobic) and the mixture of my emotions and let’s face it, only a small handful of snap peas and a slice of cheese for breakfast.

Afterwards the circus emptied out more quickly than one could have predicted; the children took me to the nearby school playground and frolicked some more. I went back for the car (I only had use of it one half day this week) and when I got back sat patiently as the kids made their way to me (not at all promptly after I called). As a finale the Boy first did an impressive monkey-bar feat and then hopped down; when I clapped he beamed at me and pulled his shoes off the hood then opened the car door and buckled in. The children asked, “Where are we going now?” To the grocery store (where I let them pick out fruit, whatever they wanted). Then home, in the sunshine, together.

things are looking grim in “the most widely viewed children’s television show in the world”

I submit for your perusal three videos to compare.

The first is the debut intro to the television show “Sesame Street” (which aired in in late 1969):

The second is the intro as seen in the seventies:

Here is today’s intro:

Watch them for yourselves. No, go on. I’ll wait.

No really, go ahead.

OK, done? Now here are my observations.

The first two intros looked like actual kids actually playing. The third is clearly a set of actors.

The first two intros show children playing “dangerously” (by today’s mainstream standards) while appearing relatively unsupervised/free range. The children’s play includes climbing farm equipment, swinging and hanging upside down from monkey bars, unhelmeted trike riding (no-hands even), roller skating and running as a group, running some more, chasing farm animals, feeding animals at the zoo, rock climbing and tree climbing, more running (lots of running), jumping from some agri-industrial platform, siblings helping small children go down slides or run across concrete, two children riding a horse bareback (and unhelmetted), hanging clothes in a backyard, and even a little girl crying (which is awesome because hey, little kids cry and it’s okay!). There’s even a toddler holding what looks like a green glass beer bottle, which gave me a giggle (although I’m sure it wasn’t beer).

In the first two intros the kids are a variety of ages, races, thin-to-chubby, and wear a variety of real-life dress – or undress. The two horse-riders are shirtless and the girl helped on the slide is wearing a little dress so short you can see her bloomers.

In the first two intros, the kids’ activities are shown in relatively long shots; that is the camera follows the children in their authentic play.

The third intro shows by comparison almost child non-activity overlayed by frenetic cartoon/puppet character action. These (monolithically well-dressed, well-groomed, spotless and slender) kids are seen: coloring decidedly-grownup-and-therefore-phony-versions-of-“childish” art while sitting/laying on the concrete, riding in cars, playing stationary “pattycake”, blowing bubbles while standing in place, a single child riding a bike (helmetted), a single child jogging slowly, and finally two children dancing in place on some steps (stop me before I pee my pants with excitement). In contrast the cartoon/puppet characters fly, play, and overwhelm the screen with laughter and whimsy and *lots* of quick cuts to keep our attention span. (The puppets get to mail letters in a public mail box but apparently actual children do not).

One thing to the credit of the third intro: at least it includes a child using a wheelchair (altho’ I know the original Sesame Street was relatively inclusive of people with disabilities).

Given we are at the crime rate of 1970 according to Department of Justice statistics (crime rates against children are in decline), the possible reasons today’s version is so sanitized with over-the-top cartoon vacuity and “safe” and inauthentic childplay seem quite troubling.

Sigh.

H/t to Daniel Bigler for tweeting these videos.

of swimming pools and young hellions

Last night, messaging with a friend who was recounting a babysitting “adventure” involving my then very-wee son drinking rubbing alcohol, I found myself relating:

The same child that stole the rubbing alcohol keeps his parents busy to this day: attempting to smoke cigarette butts off the ground, running down the block to enter a scary bar, going around the neighborhood asking for food and water and getting CPS called on me, and emerging from a bathroom at my restaurant workplace – pants down – to yell at my mom, “Grandma, GUESS what I found in my foreskin?”

Here’s the thing: these example of Nels’ behavior were just a few I could think of off the top of my head. This is Nels. Classic Nels. My father once looked at my son at twelve months old, just beginning walking, and said, “He’s going to be Hell On Wheels”. At the time I thought there’s no way my father could intuit this at such an early age; I also am relatively resistant to “labeling” a child – setting in stone some aspect of their nature can serve as a way to be lazy and not see who they really are.

Labeling is one thing. Beginning to know one’s child is another. And yes, Nels is Hell On Wheels to me sometimes.

Even a small thing like today – one incident of so many! – as the Boy and I exit the pool (preceding Sophie, who can stay in for a solid two hours at a stretch). As we approach the showers Nels walks with one foot in the grate of the large, cold lap pool. Nels can’t yet swim. He is also not supposed to enter this pool. By walking with ONE foot in the grate he is technically not doing anything “illegal” but he is causing me a minor headache. I am a tiny bit worried he’ll fall in (especially when, at the last possible step, he actually dips the foot and ankle into the water, unable to resist I suppose). I am also waiting for the lifeguard to bitch at me (always at me; not at him). I let him do it, though.

See, I would be okay allowing him to do this, even okay with him falling in the pool as well. And even though Nels would be frightened by a sudden submerging, he would also enjoy it (the look on his face of excitement, nervousness, and exhilaration at the tipping point of the balancing ankle experiment confirms this). His nature informs my interactions with him, often to my discomfort; he makes me see the world differently. I see many people expect kids to behave like “adults” – that is, observe rules that are boring and make little sense, do what authority tells you simply because they’re authority, and if you’re a child, trust other people’s arbitrary limits, not your own sense of capability.

This is why, when Nels runs away (which he managed to do before we left the Y) – or drinks my coffee or pisses in the playground at school or plants every seed he can get his hands on before we’re ready – there’s a right and a wrong way to handle it. Sometimes I screw up and get mad, yeah. Most times I patiently, patiently make the request: “Nels, would you please not use all of my spices to make a tea? They are expensive” (last week). He always listens to me when I make the request, and because he is not a sociopath (no, really – he’s not) I can see he considers my feelings. He won’t be a twelve year old pissing in a playground, I know that much.

Sometimes it’s like parenting a wee tornado. Like owning a monkey. Like attempting to order entropy. But I’ll tell you, I’m so glad I don’t hear myself speaking unkindly about him, the way I remember my parents doing so about me (selfish, asshole). “Oh, she was a brat at this age,” or, “You have one of each, boy and girl – which is worse?” (the latter examples I have heard in the last few days from parents I know). It’s not that I don’t think I have a right to being angry. It’s that I remember these slights, character attacks, and labels as a kid; they always felt indistinguishable from the removal of love.

two wives, three kids, and a bun in the oven

So starts the first morning of a new partnership. For a week it will be Jodi and I corralling our three little ones and she’s knocked up to boot. Things are going well so far. The two girls are ecstatic to have a playmate their own age and are still high off the fun of a new friendship. Sophie is alternately bossy and helpful to the littler girl, much more scattered than usual and less of a help to Mama. Cyan is a willing accomplice.

The Man leaves for work a few minutes late at quarter to eight, toothbrush poking out of his mouth. Then it’s on to Jodi and I to get ready for the day. Changing diapers. Helping with the potty. Putting hair up. Dressing three kids. I get my brood ready and Jodi and her girl are at the table for breakfast #2. Michelle arrives to help with housework while we’re out, so I let her have care of my children for my 15 minutes to myself. I step into the shower and experience a few wonderful minutes of washing my face, scrubbing my scalp. The hiss and splash of the water obfuscates whatever the hell is going on out in the living room. By the time I am dressed and my hair dry Paige is here too. It’s time to go. The ratio of four adults to three kids allows us to get carseats, kids, diaperbags, etc all loaded up in the car in a timely fashion.

Stop at the husband’s work to pick up some cash. Drive through for coffee. Head to playschool. Kids run around; parents steal an hour for “class” in the next room. Normal chit-chat: how to get our kids to eat, unfairness along gender lines of parenting, sex (or lack thereof). There are two husbands there and they valiantly stick up for “their side” of the whole mess. Three of the women at the table are pregnant. All of us are looking for a safe place and strength in numbers. We head back to the kids’ room and sing, pack everyone up, head home.

Groceries and then home for lunch: sandwiches, pickles, carrot sticks, tomato soup, milk. Kids are winding down; lunch is cleaned up; children are changed, nursed, soothed, read to.

I figure Jodi and I have twenty minutes to talk with no distractions before it’s time to get back to work – wash diapers, do laundry, figure out dinner, do dishes, and get our kids to the grocery store again before heading home to cook. Foreseeing this brief respite we have stocked up on good coffee and some bistro cookies (carefully hidden from the kids).

Time to enjoy a break.