setting the pace

I have like, ten minutes to myself. Ten minutes since Ralph and the kids went off somewhere, before I have to hop in my own car and head to a meeting.

Second day in a row swimming a mile (or near-mile) and the swimming doesn’t make me tired, at least not while I’m doing it, which is kind of thrilling. I just keep going. And going and going. An endurance feat for me – not a sprint. My breathing is now intuitive and I do not gasp for breath. This is fast improvement since about ten days ago when I (re-)started swimming.

Hot shower; body oil, clean clothes. Feeling wonderful.

Back in the car; hot coffee in the thermos. It’s sunny out and I’m cheerful. My son and I head to my volunteer shift, music loud. Coming up on three years of this volunteer work. A good day today, like it usually is. Leaving a week bit early to take the kids to the dentist. Flowers for a very dear friend, today. Home to bake banh mi for dinner, wash dishes, put away laundry. Back in the car. Taking a homemade cake along to a meeting.

I like giving gifts on my birthday.

Body tired, mind at ease. Works well.

But something is on my mind. Some little thing… anxiety. But regarding what? Financial problems? I don’t think so. My children? Possibly. Just: how much work Life is, in general? Yeah, probably.

The anxiety… I wait for it to pass. Sometimes I find the root of these things – often, I don’t. I merely keep breathing, and keep my mind focussed. Today: on the nose of a blue kickboard. This evening: on the next bit of housework, or cooking, or bill-paying, or correspondence.

Whatever is next.

with Tabasco

Ralph and I sit on the bleachers and watch our children in the pool. My son is so tall and so thin but still has that baby face. To me, anyway. Despite the fact he wears his pants at near-waist, his swim trunks are always hanging exactly low enough that it is precisely just-barely decent enough for public attire. He doesn’t seem to mind a bit. He runs up and holds me close and gives me “a hug for safety”, his warm wet little otter-body a welcome grasp.

Our daughter is growing too. Tonight a friend asks, “Does Phoenix need new clothes?” Good god the answer is Yes, and I think I’ll be answering thusly a while. Watching her now her bathing suit looks fit to burst; I sewed it only a few months ago. She shakes the wet hair out of her eyes and smiles at me. She is a tender little sprig and I’m so fortunate to have her in my home.

My mom flies in from the Seattle airport and then drives home; she’s back from laying my Grandfather to rest and celebrating a mourning Thanksgiving with the extended family. Only a little over a week ago I heard news he was ill and now he is gone. My close friends are giving me the support and the consideration I need during this time. I am still considering the loss. I have so much to say about it now, but I do not know if now is the time.

I find myself with few elders, an estranged family, and painful memories.

Oysters on the half-shell in a restaurant. Reminders. My grandfather liked the oddest foods – amongst them I remember hardtack and hangtown fry. Hangtown fry! I am trying to think of something more odious but it is hard. Maybe I will make up a mess of it and do an offering, then feed my dog, who would surely be interested in the fragrant meal.

Tonight is a time for reflection. Trying not to think of the bank account for this evening. A few slim bills for groceries over the next ten days but I was able to pay all our other bills and for that I am grateful.

Black beans soaking on the counter and tomorrow will be another day.

cha-cha-cha like no one’s business

Today on a walk the three kids and I spied a family of otters out in the depths of the Hoquiam river. Fiesty, playful otters – three from what we could tell. As we walked on a quarter mile Phoenix gasped: there they are, on the piling! Sure enough, all three were just a few feet away, gazing up at us with curious, bead-black eyes. A mother and two juveniles. We watched for a while and when I glanced down at my phone, and back up, only a couple modest ripples remained on the river’s surface. We remained for a while longer to see if they’d re-emerge, but they eluded us.

I spent much of today on foot, on my bike, or in a pool, and it felt great. This afternoon I stayed too long at an appointment, and got home in time to furiously pedal-arse to the YMCA for

AQUATIC ZUMBA

which I thankfully made in time.

Some of you probably can figure out what that is, others are like, “What?” Basically: dorky-looking water aerobics (I am still looking for low-impact exercise options because ye olde knees are not healed up). I laughed the entire time, because it was so awesome and silly. I could feel my buttcheeks waving in the water as I furiously twisted my hips to Pearl Jam, nameless techno, MGMT, other pop music. Lots of breast-bobbling as well (involuntary), since mere mortal swimsuits cannot restrain my DDDs. I kept up pretty good though. But only because my body gives me one “freebie” at a new routine. My arms like, “Oh this is nice, boy we sure are staying up in the air a lot, kind of tough. Ho ho.” Next time I try the same exercise they will be screaming in agony: “Go take a long walk off a short pier you twisted-up harridan!”

Back on the bike; home to a warm house and kids, just my own two for a change. Ralph’s three-nights-a-week RHPS practice means a messier home and a wee bit less man-cooking as well. Currently: 11 PM and he’s making me sesame noodles, which is working out well for me. Late night cuddles and probably a really bad b-movie.

It’s kind of a routine. [ casual shrug ]

UNSCHOOLING PRODUCES UNNATURAL CHILDREN

one plus one. really?

Thanksgiving, we had our four family members and one lovely dinner guest. Ralph and I made – all from scratch:

A Michigander-style 16 pound turkey
Mashed potatoes & gravy
Sauteed green beans
Roasted lemon asparagus
Crescent rolls
Celery & butter stuffing
Fresh cranberry-orange sauce
Waldorf salad (with pears, apples, sour cherries and spiced pecans)
A pumpkin pie (from fresh-roasted pumpkin)
A dark chocolate / coconut custard cream pie w/organic whipped cream

The grocery bill for all of this, including the dinner and foodstuffs from the day before, came to a little over ninety bucks. That is PRETTY GOOD shopping considering I am not much of a Financial Panther. I was pretty relaxed and had a great time doing the shopping – and yes, it was during one of those intense shopping-mart rushes, and I had both kids, and had to park a full block away. And I was just, enjoying myself. In fact it was one of those wonderful, so-glad-to-be-alive and in-the-moment experiences. And I was also thinking of all the women I saw in their hustling-ass for their families. We need to give women more credit.

(I wrote it in the comments for a previous post, but I gotta write more about it here):

Yesterday, after swim team practice, my daughter is approached by a girl about thirteen. The girl asks,

“Do you go to school?”

“No,” Phoenix answers.

“What is one plus one?” the kid challenges.

“Stop bothering me with silly questions,” Phoenix retorts.*

I DIE A THOUSAND DEATHS AT HOW AWESOME MY DAUGHTER IS. I just… I can’t tell you. When I was my daughter’s age I was guarded about everything. I vacillated between being authentic and badass and brash – then shrinking up out of fear. I had no method of coping for condescension – let alone something as elegant as Phoenix’s straight-forward call-out. I wanted to be good at everything and I wanted to be liked, and I was easily shamed, especially by someone bigger than me or with more authority. If it were me I would have probably answered, “Two,” and felt humiliated, and that humiliation would have turned to anger, and I wouldn’t have known what to do different next time. Phoenix is the calmest and most centered girl. I take virtually no credit except I continue to learn to get out of the way, and listen deeply and give her the nurture she needs.

What is it with unschooling coming up more lately? I trust it will die down again. It goes in spurts. You know, spurts where we get to live our life without being commented upon or outright harassed. I am not complaining. No really! It is just odd it’s been coming up. Like while this thing was happening to my daughter, someone was telling her father how good it is Phee is on the swim team: “Oh that’s good, get her out of the house. Get her some socialization!”

No, really.

UNSCHOOLING PRODUCES UNNATURAL CHILDREN

 

Anyway so last night my daughter and I watch one of our favorite shows, “River Monsters” from Animal Planet (we are both HUGE Jeremy Wade fans). My kids are expert movie riffers.

“In order to catch this monster sting ray, I was going to have to do something I’d never done before -”

” – dress as a Sexy Lady Ray!”

then

“The residents were finding enormous bullsharks in the place they least expected -”

“a HOT DOG CART!”

… and so on. Many giggles into the night until we got too sleepy to watch and fell asleep all cuddled-up like.

***

* my daughter tells me she and this girl are now friends.

bodhi / bakery

Today, Phoenix walks into my arms after swimming.

“I reached Enlightenment. Like the Buddha.”

Then a second later she says:

“You’d better watch out.”

!!!

In celebration of Phee’s spiritual milestone I bought her a dozen cupcakes from Bonjour Cupcake in Olympia. Pretty special stuff.

Bonjour Cupcakes

***

So, I’m expanding my horizons a bit. Typically un-shy about unschooling here at this site, and on a Twitter account or two, in real life I keep it mellow. Actually, docile and resigned. But, but, but before you call me a milquetoast, I have my reasons. I swear! The thing is, around here most people hear “unschooling” and it’s their first exposure. And they have opinions and assumptions immediately. I am talking from the SECOND they hear the word. And even those who’ve heard the term or have seen a segment on TV or read an article (ahem), well, they have already made up their mind and diagnosed quite a bit about anything unschooling-related. And usually, when it comes to my family, incorrect or just plain bizarre diagnoses. The point is, I say “unschooling”, the other person starts talking. Blah blah opinion opinion. I’ve responded by shutting down because A. I’ve considered myself un-asked and B. it has been a bit exhausting to hear the same stuff from so many. I have been responding with conversational null and voids like, “Yeah, a lot of people have that concern.”

I thought I was being gentle and kind and open – but I realize, despite positive intentions, I’ve been a bit passive.

Over the last few days I’ve been mulling a few things over (unusual for me, as I usually jump to my own KrazyBrain conclusions pretty quick!). At the Life is Good Unschooling Conference Ralph and I had the pleasure – amongst many pleasures – of listening into to Jeff Sabo’s talk, “In Defense of Unschooling”. The presentation was, essentially, one hour discussing common responses we get from people when we say the “U” word (and yeah, every response?  I was familiar with it), and suggestions for how to deal with these responses, depending on our mood and the situation. I’ve been thinking over Jeff’s suggestions quite a bit.

So, long story short, I’ve decided to be more assertive. More active in the conversation and more “out” as an unschooling family. If someone asks why my kids aren’t in school, I now say “we unschool” (instead of ” we homeschool”). If someone asks what unschooling is, I’ve stopped saying, “Oh, it’s a type of homeschooling.” The reasons I said these things were, mostly, it framed things nicely for the other party. Then I got to listen, or not, to the ‘splaining headed my way.

These days, when asked, I tell them a bit more.

“Unschooling means different things to different people. For us, it’s a parenting practice based on the indisputable truth kids are learning all the time, and the belief they shouldn’t be segregated from normal life. Our kids have better opportunities than sitting most of the day, memorizing and then regurgitating facts for tests. We’re also not interested in forcing them into the many social problems in institutional school environments.”

Or some such.

So based on the kinds of things I do say now, I had a lovely interaction with a homeschooling mom today at the YMCA, while our kids swam. Nothing went tits up and I felt more a part of, and less a lady that sits on the bench and texts and smiles at people and is “polite”. And in case you’re wondering, after I got my little “pitch” up there out of the way, we spent most the conversation talking about her experience and her concerns. She told me she receives a lot of criticism for homeschooling. And I listened to some of that criticism and offered up – what I hope was – supportive feedback.

Tangentially, much later in the evening a friend told me, “I was surprised when I heard that you ‘unschooled’ your kids… because when I got in the car the first time I met them they were using words I hadn’t learned until I was seventeen”. I love hearing stuff like that. And tonight I was thinking, Why? Why do I love hearing that kind of thing?

Yes, part of it is: it’s nice to know your children are thriving in some way. But I no longer need my kids to sound smart for my own vicarious virtue (since first-off “smart” is overrated, and second what other people think of my kids is none of my business). I also no longer need to be constantly self-soothing I’m doing the Best Right Perfect Thing at all times – because today I know I’m flexible and can change strategy if I need to. No, when it comes down to it, I guess hearing my friend’s mind being blown (or at least opening a bit) is pretty cool. Maybe one of the cooler interactions that happen between people, on whatever end of the conversation you find yourself.

And I guess I feel a lot of gratitude and a lot of gladness that my family and I have had such a full and rich life. My kids haven’t had to go through the kind of drudgery I had to. They aren’t learning to be praise-addicted as I did. They are more active participants and authors in their own lives. My children aren’t alien to me, or problems to be managed, or irritations to be herded, or products for me to inject my own hopes and dreams into. They don’t have to waste their time doing what other people want. They can waste their time or spend it wisely as they see fit, unencumbered. They are free to learn. I am truly grateful.

And like, when a friend sees this going down for our family, and sees that it works? He’s all the more free to make that choice for his own children, should the opportunity arise.

Yeah. That’s worth speaking up a bit.

burn it as fuel for our journey

This summer while waiting for a friend I sat in a sunny living room and talked with a young man and his mother. The young man was a little more interested in my conversation than his mother seemed. He was watching a documentary I’d seen not two weeks before and had really enjoyed. He and I had a brief but interesting discussion and I thought how pleasant it was to talk with someone who had such a spark and such an intelligent mind.

Today that young man committed suicide in that same home I sat in a few months ago.

I know the family. They are friends. If I sit here and feel stunned and think maybe there could have been something, some clue, something I could have done, I can only imagine what his close friends and family must feel. As a mother it is painful to consider the implications of today.

We are all, each of us, such crystal-clear and breathtakingly beautiful phenomenon. The idea that someone can suffer so much as to end such a living breathing unique manifestation is quite sobering to comprehend.

Today, the 27th, is the monthly date anniversary for sobriety. I had forgotten until I saw the date in a book. My friend gave me a little gift. Afterwards I took my children to the Y to go swimming and, while they cavorted, attended a Board meeting for the local Buddhist group where I was indoctrinated into service. I picked up lunch for the children and met another friend back at the Y and we ate and talked and enjoyed each other’s company.

Today is a day for holding tight that which we value.

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

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.

the dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun!

Oh my goodness!  Do you remember last year’s huge, huge drama when I forgot about the Homeschool Sports Valentine’s Day Party, and I was feeling all pissy and tired, and the kids found out about the party after they had their sports session and they begged – begged with tears in their eyes and sad clowns in their voices – to go back and get like ONE COOKIE PLEASE MAMA, so we went back to the party room and there was every single homemade treat you can imagine and a couple dozen amazingly original artsy-fartsy handmade Valentine’s Day card boxes, and everyone was having so much fun, and my kids got a cookie but at the sight of the festivities went all crazy wanting to stay, and I marched them out of there to the tune of much, much protestation?

Because Oh, I remember it.  Sadly, I do not seem to have blogged about it at the time.  I wish I would have because the only thing better than being the mom of the only kids who don’t get to do an activity they really want to do – merely because I assed out on knowing about it – is having them flip their shit in public, yelling, screaming, probably sharpening a complimentary YMCA pen into a shiv and going for my neck while we struggled out to the car.  I don’t remember all what.  I just remember feeling like I really showed my ass on that one.  Oh and sometimes I wish I could just be the mom that lets my kids eat a bunch of cookies and get a bunch of Valentines even when we didn’t come prepared to reciprocate, because honestly in situations like this most of the other parents don’t mind, everyone is happy and just wants to share and What was up with that grim harridan so cruelly herding her sad, sad children away from our fun party?

So anyway.  You can bet, motherfucker, that this year I did not forget about the Homeschool Sports Valentine’s Day Party.  In fact my husband came home last night and was asked (nicely) to march through a series of party-related endeavors (while I frittered my time away on some crafts, see my last blog post) and this morning even after severely scalding my own hand I went through the remaining motions to make sure we got to that damned thing armed and ready (thank God it was my left mitt that had to be immersed in ice water for an hour).  In short, at 1:30 PM we sashayed into the Y loaded up with homemade refreshments, handmade Valentine’s Day mailboxes, and Ralph-and-Sophie-crafted cards. vvv

Har-D-Har-Har

Oh, and I’ve been silently laughing all day at Sophie’s dinosaur/Valentine’s Day pun: “can i claw you up to say hello?” next to the fossilized deinosuchus (the flipped-over Valentine in the picture above says, “let’s meat again”).  She is so smart! And a bit grim.

So, the YMCA’s Homeschool Sports crowd is very…  Christian-y.  I haven’t talked to a single parent in attendance who didn’t reveal early on they were Christian and church-going.  Christians do this, you know, sort of to let you know RIGHT OFF THE BAT that’s how they roll.  So in the gym if you’re listening you’ll hear lots of Lord this and Lord that and God provides this, pray that, etc.  I’m probably one of the last social agnostics on the planet who is not offended by Christianity.  I mean I can see by the behavior of some of my so-called “progressive” friends it’s fun and right to hate on Christians, because they’re so wrong and silly!  And I know non-believers who avoid Christians and their activities like the plague.  Weird because last I heard you can stand next to or talk to someone religious and not be overtaken by their beliefs against your own will.  Or maybe you can’t, and it scares you.  I don’t know.

Today while the kids run about in the gym, I slip into the party room to slice up the delicious rhubarb stir cake my husband made.  As I plate the wedges a tall, pre-teen girl with long, swinging hair bursts breathlessly into the room and starts fiddling around with some of the set-out goodies.  “Is your name L*?” I ask the young woman.  “How did you know?” she gapes at me, her head cocked like a bird.  “You hit my son in the face a couple weeks ago and gave him a bloodly lip.  He told me your name,” I respond.  Instantly the girl says, “Oh, I didn’t even know I did that!” her wide, beautiful eyes absolutely innocent.  But she’s not well-seasoned at deception because she follows this up with, “That happened when I was in Homeschool Sports, now I’m in Teen Fitness.” I ask her how old she is, but she barely has time to answer before her mother marches in the room, stabbing her finger and fuming, and begins to berate the girl for running ahead into the party room.  L. adopts her innocent tone at first, but upon being snarked at in such a focused and extensive manner I hear creeping into her voice a very smart, very guarded, and likely soon-to-be brilliantly-rebellious spine of steel.  I resume cutting the cake and listen to this mom douche out her kiddo for the next few moments.  BTDT, I no longer even feel the remotest bit smug, superior, or even uncomfortable when I hear some other parent lose it.

A few minutes later and the rest of the children begin arriving, excited. Now, some of y’all readership may think we are a crafty bunch of Hogabooms, always doing this or that cute thing out of paper or fabric or tongue-depressors and Band-Aids. But these other homeschool kids, well, I’ve never seen such elaborate and fabulous card mailboxes.  There were wedding-cake based boxes and baseball boxes and doilies and Legos and clay.  One child had created created the standoff between wizard Gandalf and the Balrog from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – a two-foot tall papier mâché sculpture complete with licking flames (made of paper, duh)! I kind of wanted to make fun of this little dweeb but my daughter immediately recognized the scene and loudly began praising the boy’s skills and taste to the room at large, and even as I watched this unbidden in my mind I heard the words, “the bridge of Khazad-Dûm”! And yes, I did give both children and myself a revenge-swirly for being such colossal nerds.

I stand back as the kids trade Valentines, then dig into the food.  My children are so deeply satisfied, and despite scar tissue from my earlier kitchen accident and the fact I’d left the house in a mess and whatever else, I am so glad I got them to this silly party.

L. hands me an extra Valentine: the only version – in addition to our set – handmade and not storebought (crafted mailboxes: tres hawt. Crafted valentines: Try-Hard).  It is simply a square of construction paper taped to a bag of M&Ms, carrying a photocopied message hand-cut and glued: “God is Love.”

***

After the party, we drive through the sunlight to the local mall. I order my late lunch in Spanish and eat a vegetarian burrito and drink a sugar-Coke (hecho en Mexico) while the kids win at Skee-ball; we spend almost an hour in Penney’s buying the kids jeans and one button-up shirt for my boy. Something about the pathetically-limited, yet adequate, childrens clothing choices in this old-school store – and our townships at large – comforts me. Things seem peaceful and easy, and in no small way does the sunshine help me feel good.

On our way home we encounter a column of black smoke and come upon the most intense fire I’ve ever seen in person; we park and exit and watch for a while, the crowd excited, the fireman efficient and almost relaxed in their efforts, the heat from the building (an empty one – no one was hurt) feeling creepily delicious.

Home and I’m worn out from it all, but in a good way.

* Not her real initial.

Little Fish

little fish, little fish

Sophie, my beautiful firstborn.
Sophie, my beautiful firstborn.

I don’t want to write too much because I think this photo speaks for itself.  It was taken yesterday at our YMCA by my friend and photographing maven; you can find more of her work at her website or Flickrstream.

Sophie is an enthusiastic and capable swimmer – especially her backstroke.  She has been a water-lover since she was very tiny (three months old) and has proceeded at her own pace.  She never misses a practice unless we miss it for her – that is, family events conspire to keep her away.  Tonight after practice she signed up for three events in Saturday’s swim meet: the 100 Individual Medley, 25 Backstroke, and 50 Breaststroke.  She will likely also participate in a relay or two.

I hope my children continue to grow in the things they love: feeling not pressure but unconditional support from their father and I; not relying on our praise or cajolement or bargaining or prizes or bribes to continue in the things they love doing.