Sunday, March 27, 2011


as a kid we didn't often have sweets in our house.  i think this was either because we didn't have a lot of money for that stuff or because no doubt it caused a fight to erupt- maybe both.  i do remember that if someone showed up with a sweet thing sharing was required- and one kid cut the thing into "equal" shares and the non-cutter got to pick first.  ingenious plan my mother came up with.

which meant that being sneaky with sweets was really important.

it also meant that my brother and i got acquainted with all sorts of ways to get a sweet fix with what was on hand.  peanut butter and honey was a common concoction because baker's chocolate is not that sweet and we did not yet know how to melt it in a double-boiler, sweeten it up and pour into candy molds.  actually- i just did that the first time about a year ago.

peanut butter and honey is rich and thick like nougat.  this was adam's peanut butter- jiff was something that lived at my dad's house.  peter pan peanut butter was something only seen on the commercials.  and the smucker's jelly and peanut butter combo jar was just too far out of reality to even consider.

for many years i could not taste peanut butter and honey- or even smell it- without feeling smaller and slightly ill.  because when you are deprived you tend to take it too far.

recently i found a ceramic honey pot, complete with the strange wooden utensil, for $1 at the thrift store.  It is hand-thrown, glazed indigo blue and makes me feel cozy.  i imagined it perched next to me as i drizzled fireweed honey into my oatmeal or tea.  so i bought it to complete this fantasy. 

we live in a small home so it's easy to sneak up on folks without really meaning to.  i walked into the kitchen to find my older son leaning over the honey pot with a surprised look on his face.

he said he was eating the honey.  duh.

he said he was using a spoon.  liar.

the strange wooden utensil was licked clean.  it being so much like a lollipop, i guess it was fated to be sucked on by a candy-deprived child in need of a sugar fix.

i heard a faint "pop" sound as memory and fantasy collided right above my head leaving me with a tainted honey jar and buzzing child.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

a little bit more

some things i have too much of.  others not enough.  still others none at all.  but for the day-to-dayness i usually have just enough.  i have pulled together meals when the cupboards were as bare as old mother hubbard's.  i have managed to pay bills with found change.  i have marveled at the timeliness of a friend handing down clothes just as i started to worry about buying new ones.  i have laughed at the brilliance of unexpected gifts of shoes showing up for my own feet.

as i attempt to build this chicken coop, an european ark style, with the help of my boys from the pile of lumber in our yard i am enjoying this "just enough" experience.  we measure out the old bones of lumber, trimming off the ends rotting with rusty nails.  i remember when ben deconstructed this shed and brought all of this wood here, i wasn't entirely sold on the concept at times. 

now i am thankful i don't have to go to the store to by two by fours or screws.  i am thankful that i have enough math skills to piece together a sketch to work from.  i am thankful for the eagle perched on the telephone pole in front of the house, swiveling her keen eyes to watch me move across the lawn.

all i need now is a little bit more patience.

because the drill is missing.  the one i did find doesn't work.  the restless chickens may soon turn reckless and the spring can be picking with how much sun she gives.  april- she likes showers- and without a garage we are destined to build in the elements.  i'd like pleasant elements, please.

the elements are pleasant NOW but the drill is not here.  the drill is in the back of the truck, no doubt.  i have no idea why a drill needs to be there other than it seems cool to be able to say to someone, anyone- "hey, i've got a drill right here!"

it is so much more cooler to actually have a drill when you need it to build something at home.

i have been forced back inside, thwarted by my lack of patience and lack of drill.  my stubbornness wants to hold onto this because my determination wants to go forward on the project.  so i've come here to do one of the things i know could help me calm-the-hell-down: write about it.

it seems so silly too.  like with all of what i could be ranting about- it's about a power tool.  i am tempted to go buy a pink drill so it will be left alone (this is how i have solved the problem of my missing atlas gloves- buy 'em pink).  but buying a pink power tool is silly and out of the financial reality i am living in right now.

plan B. find someone to borrow a drill from....howdy neighbor.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


the chicks are here.  four of them.  if i have seen you in the last 48 hours i have told you this in person.  no doubt, you were polite.  maybe excited if you have had good chicken experiences.  they are peeping right now in an organic apple box duplex we put together with aid of a box cutter and packing tape.  i can hear two other noises besides the peeping: scratch and peck.

this is what chicks do.  why? because this is what chickens do.  chicks are little chickens but already completely aware of what they are supposed to do.  they don't even have role models- and yet, they are scratching at the pine shavings looking for bugs they have never, ever seen before.

this is called instinct.

human babies have this too.  there's the rooting instinct- the one that screams "suck on it!" anytime something soft comes near they fuzzy heads.  they also have the "grab the fur" instinct that tells them to cling on to mama even if mama has sluffed off fur many, many years back.  i think our children have many more instincts.  i think they actually know what they need to learn and when they need to learn it. case in point: reading.

i love to read.  i remember wanting to read so badly and when i finally got it i felt like i had unlocked a magical door to worlds i knew existed, but up until that point had no real proof.  yes, toys came alive.  yes, girls survived on islands.  yes, being smart was a good thing.  yes, yes, yes.

my oldest son- who is like a sponge soaking up all information available- is totally luke warm about learning to read.  he spends hours with his nose in books- maybe reading some words- if he knows them.  and skipping the ones he doesn't.  decoding does not interest him.  life interests him.

this bothers me a little.  it sends off my special-education-red-flag-alert which then triggers my bad mama switch and the spiral begins.  i start to see elrs and checklists.  i berate myself about being too this and not enough that.  i hear my parents saying things like "can't he read YET?"  true confession- i have sat him down and forced him to read- making him miserable- just so i could feel better about my mom-ness.  that's like double bad mama.

no, he is not in school. we home school our boys with an approach that is something like "life will teach you want you need to know."  a lesson ponyboy taught me my first day working at the lummi tribal school years ago.

thirteen year olds can be wise- listen to them.

so, this morning seren wanders in with a book i picked up for twelve cents at a thrift store.  it's a "phonic comic" book and he is on the last page laughing.  i say, hopeful, "wow- you read that whole book already?!"

"no.  i just skipped ahead when i came to a word i didn't know."


"don't you want to know what is happening in the story?  you can read the words- it just takes a bit."



"do you want to learn to read better?"

he perches on the couch next to me, slides the book onto the shelf and says, "i've got until i'm 18 years old to learn to read.  right now i just want to be a kid."

scratch.  peck.  peep.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

just ok

the newest game i play with cyrus: i ask him for a smooch- with my lips puckered like a cartoon character.

he says no. firmly.

i drop my head in defeat, stick out my bottom lip in an exaggerated pout.  eyes shut. soft sniffle.

he asks "are you sad?"  i nod with the slightest movement of my sad, sad head- so heavy with rejection it can barely move.

"smooch?"  he asks, teases really.  his voice has hope in it and you can already hear the smile.

i perk up- pop open my eyes wide and pucker up again as i made a hum sound that is hard to describe with words.  it's not really a "yum" sound but has some of the same flavor to it.  he laughs at this.  this is the reaction he wants.

he puckers his small mouth then smooches me.  his lips are so tiny and cool.  they are like bird kisses.  his eyelashes are never-ending like the rays you used to draw in math class.  his plump cheeks fit in my hands like eggs in a nest.

and then we begin the song:

                                     I LOVE IT!        
                                                                                I LOVE IT!                            I LOVE IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!

the last "it" is drawn out until it becomes deep and growly like a monk's chant.  as we sing this we are laughing, bumping heads, tickling, and/or rolling around on the wide sheets of the bed after a warm bath.

then cyrus says "the end" as he throws up his hands in a french-inspired way.

and it stops. until it starts again. 

he never gets tired of this it seems.  ten times in a row is not unusual.  this game has morphed but it always resolves around the smooch.  the essential meeting of the lips in a moment of affection.  a strange ritual, some might say.  however, when i think about all the things that could come out of my mouth i don't think any of them do justice to the love a mama has for her child.  there's whole religions built upon that emotion.  so a kiss- well, it's the closest thing i've got to explain this love that's got me.

our ritual of smooching also reminds me something about our human spirit.  yes, we crave affection and laughter.  and all of us have that goofy, teasing, laughing, loving toddler inside of us that is delighted by the love of another.  hopefully, we each had at least one moment of gleeful dancing and giggles that still bubble and sparkle inside of our eyes, our hearts, our souls.  from a grandparent or sibling or papa or auntie.  a moment when another person forgot everything in their world except for you in that moment of life-celebration.

and if you didn't have that or if you have forgotten that joyful sensation- i am truly sorry.  the good news is- you woke up this morning and so you have chance to do it now.  laugh, roll on the floor like a puppy, make strange faces in the mirror, dance to old cartoon theme songs in your pajamas and make no excuses to anyone who thinks you might be crazy for your bliss.  actually, grab their arm and drag them right into your toddler-flashback.

when you are winded with your effort- remember the essential ending:  singing "I LOVE IT!" loudly, off-key with a grin until you melt off into that place of "everything is better than just ok."

Friday, March 4, 2011


every other weekend, we- my older brother and i- would go to our dad's house in gardena.  this was just a few miles away from our mom's house- but in most other ways it was worlds away.  my folks divorced when i was a toddler so i have no memories of family life that didn't involve separate homes, rules, adventures.  while my mom did the week-in, week-out school life, time with my dad was more about doing chores outside and going on adventures. 

sometimes the chores were the adventures.

i mean, we had the typical chores like taking out trash and mowing the lawn, but since we weren't there very often there wasn't a lot of our mess to deal with.  my dad grew up on a farm in ohio and his work ethic is as strong as his back.  i half-jokingly told my oldest son "grandpa is part beaver- he never stops working."  which is mostly true.  in his recent years i have seen him sit down to watch the odd episode of "matlock" but that only lasts so long before he goes off to do something- even if it's to walk the dog.

so i know why dad wanted to find things for us to do.  it was, and it still is, important for him to pass along that skill.  growing up in a rural area your own skills are your best resources, and my dad has got some mad skills. he can speak to motors like some speak spanish- fluently.  he has fixed almost every type of motor we have around the house.   i know he tried to teach this to me and my brother with limited success.  my brain doesn't seem to understand motor-talk so well.  although i think i'm good on computers because he bought a texas-instrument computer and had me take summer classes on programming when i was about eleven in a stale classroom on the second floor of a church compound.

he also encouraged me to write.  in fact, he was the first one to pay me for my writing.  since we weren't there to do the daily dishes and sweeping- on weekends he'd have me write stories to earn allowance which i did blissfully.  i'd write about anything, but liked fiction best,  and then watch the machine run from left to right over and over- the dot matrix printer forming my words.  magic.

there's two chores though that stand out in my memory.  the first- picking up the dog shit.

that's just how he'd say it too.  "nancy, go pick up the dog shit."  i admit, my brother got this task more than i did because...well, maybe it's a boy thing.   i do remember rolling pooh onto the old rusty shovel and flinging it into the metal garbage can.  the thing is that you can't not look at the crap while you scrap it off the dried californian grass.  after a while you get over the shit-of-it and become almost scientific in your observations, making reports back to your dad about the contents- looks like duke has been eating tennis balls again- or the consistency of the turd.  dog shit can be fascinating when that's all you got in your afternoon plans on a sleepy sunday.  you see, boredom is a choice.

however, there was nothing boring about the other chore: fireman.   this was in the 70s before we became "firefighters."  it was a simple task: hold the hose and if the fire got too crazy squirt it out with the water.

it was the drama that made it fun.

my dad's lot was surrounded by chain link fence- still is- about eight feet tall in most sections.  while one length of it has thick ivy on it- oh, memory flash of weaving the young ivy in and out of the chain link!- the others lengths were concrete to concrete and in the cracks is where the weeds grew.  in theory, you could kneel there and pluck out the grass and such but it would be painstakingly slow.  my dad, being an engineer, had a quicker solution: fire.

of course, you usually used a little bit of gasoline first to give it some juice.  i remember the smell of it under the hot sun.  no doubt, being so fair, i was squinting at the yellow-orange flames shriveling the green blades into toothpicks of ash and watching how the heat rising up from the fire made the air wavy.  my tiny hand gripping the hose as a trickle of water dripped from the end.

pretty sure now and then my dad would feign concern and call over the fireman to put out the flames before they raged out of control and melted the whole fence down just to make sure i wasn't slacking on the job.

just to make sure i knew how important my work was to the whole operation.

now and then, i still need that reminder.