In the last week

Ruby announced she is a vegetarian. Except she maybe plans to eat hotdogs once a year when camping with her cousins.

I remembered all those years I was a vegetarian as I made a huge loaf of buffalo liver, pork shoulder, squash, rice, egg, egg shells and carrots for Alice’s food for the week.

Margot lost two teeth in one day.

The sun shone so steady and bright and warm that it felt like summer.

We turned on the furnace to take the edge off those 35 degree mornings and it felt like fall.

We turned over garden beds to make room for garlic.

I found boots I loved. And there was one pair left, in my size and half off.

Andy made me coffee every morning when I forced my eyelids open for another day of squeezing computer work into every available nook of my day and night.

WE COMPLETED OUR NEW SHOP WEBSITE! I am so happy to share with you www.shopgeo.net.

USE COUPON CODE HECKYEAH FOR 20% OFF 

>> We hand-cut and stitch every single state, country, province, island, continent, lake, etc. to your unique specifications. For the love of place. >> We use designer knit fabrics. Our appliqués do not fray; they hold shape wash after wash, wear after wear. >> Our wares and wears are made for roughhousing. We make things to be used and loved and passed along to little sister. Monkey bar approved. >> Our materials are sustainably sourced. We pay our employees a living wage. From packing materials to baby blankets to the businesses we buy supplies from, we choose recycled and organic and companies that share our values. >> The majority of our goods are sewn with my grandma’s Singer Featherweight sewing machine. >> It’s all made with love in a small Montana studio (usually with a variety of kids and animals underfoot). Click here to meet our team. We are gearing up for a big holiday season over here and would appreciate your help sharing our new shop website! Coupon code HECKYEAH will be valid until October 18. with love, dig

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bang bang

Margot had a nightmare a few days ago. That she was playing with a friend and an aggressive dog came at her, tried to bite her. She explained.

It was Alice. But I didn’t know her. I mean, she wasn’t our pet. I had never seen her before. But it was her. And she tried to bite me.

I wasn’t asleep when Margot pressed her body in between Andy and me in the middle of the night, telling us about her dream. I have had trouble sleeping since we got the news about Alice one week ago. She has chronic kidney disease.

My heart actually aches and tears come at really inconvenient times. I do not talk myself out of feeling sad but I sometimes wish I could pull it together. I’ve had long nights where, no matter how hard I try, I cannot turn off the painful and detailed imagining of life without Alice. I am very aware of the privilege we have in a diagnosis. And the privilege we have in not knowing much beyond right now, where she is happy and able. Oh and the privilege of so much information and easy access to it.

Andy went fishing with friends last weekend and I cancelled all plans. We stayed home, my daughters and me.

We:

:: Watched the leaves change color and fall, the sky tumble from bluebird to graphite and back again. Changed from tank tops to puffy coats and back again.

:: Listened to the wind and rain, read books, watched Girls Just Want to Have Fun (twice), sold our couch on Criagslist and made a fort of the living room.

:: Argued. The girls either played together like the river’s current or like sparring elk. I either parented with a swan’s grace or that of a badger. We lacked middle ground and sat right in the real, messy feelings. We hiked many times, twice at Margot’s suggestion when things felt tight and hot, like we needed space. It worked. We spread out, took turns running, came back together.

:: Gardened. Piled weeds in the field and food on the kitchen floor. Canned roasted corn salsa, salsa verde and plum jam. Still so much to do.

^photo by Ruby^

Thinking about the seasons. In life, in a year. The bounty and generosity; the disappointment and unpredictability. I know it is popular to speak of ‘living in the moment’ and I know some roll eyeballs at the impracticality, inconvenience. But we must do it. We must pick tomatoes when they are ripe, walk up hills when our kids want to and kiss our dog’s fuzzy gray cheeks. And we must be gentle with ourselves and trust in the importance of when we have to ‘live in the moment’ of dishwasher unloading and bill paying and saying just one minute to our kids. Being present doesn’t equate joy or ease. Being present equates whatever it is we are.

I took the kids to the university homecoming parade last weekend. We stood a block from my dad’s childhood home and I remembered being my daughters’ ages, there. I noticed Ruby was holding her breath. I asked her about it.

Oh mama, when I hear drums and horns BANG BANG in real life I feel like it happens in my heart. And I can’t breathe. It’s so awesome.

 

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one in 20,000

Well that didn’t take long, he says at my doorstep. His royal blue, short-sleeved button down reads APPLIANCE GUYS. He wears super short hair, really low jeans and a stern face. James was here just four months ago for a broken top rack.

Do you want a coffee? I ask brightly.

No, thank you ma’am. Now. Just how many people are using this machine?

Um, my husband and me. Our kids sometimes help with the unloading…

He stands with his hand on our dishwasher. He is serious. He speaks slowly, carefully. I lean my left hip against my kitchen sink and meet his seriousness head on.

OK. And do you put items in the appliance with large chunks of food all over them?

No, we don’t. Although I am sure we could be more careful, more thorough.

I do not advise you rinse your dishes. But chunks need to be scraped off. All chunks. And no seeds. Never seeds.

No chunks, never seeds. Check.

What kind of detergent are you using?

I fetch our hippie dishwasher detergent. He stares at it from a distance. I wonder what he is thinking. He draws in a breath.

Just how much do you place in the machine for each washing?

A few squirts. Like half full, I guess?

And you and your husband are on the same page with this? You have talked about how much to use? You have a plan and you stick to that plan?

We don’t really talk about our dishwasher use much. I mean we don’t do anything crazy with our dishwasher and I think we are gentle with it. A plan? No, we don’t have a dishwasher plan.

He stares at the dishwasher. It is still closed. It feels like he is speaking to the appliance, asking if there is something else he needs to know. He opens the door just a few inches.

Well I’ve worked on a lot of appliances and you are one in 10,000 or so. You need to use more detergent than you are using. Maybe even one in 20,000. I mean.

Even though this is a criticism I feel proud to be part of such an elite few. My kitchen floor is covered with baskets of tomatoes, plums and elderberries. I scoot a silver cape and unicorn horn headband out of his way with my foot. The flotsam continues into the living room where Alice sleeps on yesterday’s quilt fort. 

I tell him I will use more detergent and I will talk with my husband to ensure we are on the same page with the detergent use. I nod again when he says NO SEEDS. He cleans out the trap and shows me the slimy funk in there. He runs his fingertips along the top edge of the dishwasher and talks to me while looking at it. The motor needs to be replaced. 

I need to get to work but feel like I can’t leave. Ruby is at a friend’s house and I have three hours to myself. I don’t want to talk to James anymore. I want him to fix the dishwasher. But he really wants to share information with me. He wants to talk about one in 20,000 and seeds in the grinder and the incongruous fragility of the plastic coupler on the motor versus the coupler on the grinder.

I sip my coffee and listen. He softens. He even laughs a few times. I wonder what his passions and interests are. He is really dedicated to his work. He moves and speaks with great authority on the subject. It is such a fascinating and respectable quality in a human – to know your craft and care to educate others about it. Sure, sometimes you gotta pick up what the listener is putting down, let it go and let the dish-handed mama out of the conversation. But sometimes you can push into it a bit more and find commonality and interest over appliance structure and functionality.

There are so many things Andy and I want to talk about, so many little things to discuss and plan for. Gymnastics schedules, fall travel details, selling some stuff on craigslist, vet appointments, consistent dishwasher detergent use. It is hard for us to make time for that kind of talk – the homestead details. We do our best to connect but it usually happens with two small girls inserting their things to discuss and plan for. When we have uninterrupted time we don’t want to talk about maintenance. We want to dream. The maintenance chat will happen.

We celebrated our anniversary last week. We woke early and had a coffee date in our dark living room, under a wool blanket. We thought about finding care for our kids that night but decided we’d rather all be together. We splurged on takeout Thai, pulled out some wedding photos and read Little House on Plum Creek. It was mostly like every other night but with the fantastic memory and shared stories of this time nine years ago. We laughed a lot. We look younger in those photos. We were younger. I liked us then; I like us even more now. I put on my wedding dress, mud still on the hem, and the girls dressed up to. We danced outside. We fell asleep early.

That little plastic coupler is too weak in James’s opinion. He held the small, smooth white piece between his thumb and pointer finger. He shook his head, a grin spread wide. This is how things move forward, I thought. This is how things are invented and reconsidered, bettered. It’s the little things that make the big things work.

The dishwasher is a luxury. It is fragile and needs attention. It works efficiently and happily. Sometimes the pump doesn’t get enough water and, no matter how many times we run the cycle, things need a little love. The dishes require hand-washing. It takes more time but we learn that the process is enjoyable so that taking-up-of-time is perfectly perfect. The worn plastic coupler is replaced and the motor hums again. We have renewed appreciation for the appliance, made even richer by the understanding of how it all works. More detergent, less seeds, thankful for extended warranties.

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driveway picnic

My kids had this big idea. We would picnic in the truck bed in our driveway.

Despite their charm and conviction, it didn’t sound appealing. We said you guys can eat out there, we will eat on the deck.

They ran back and forth from bedroom to driveway with blankets and pillows and dolls. Their trail a wildfire of mess and excitement.

Of course their flames caught us. Of course we would all eat in the truck. In the sawdust, compost and puddles.

Our neighbor turned six today. His grandma gave him a remote controlled car. It’s held court in our hood all day, that car. It is the subject of negotiation and triumph, of compromise and defeat.

As we were dining in the truck in the driveway, the birthday boy and his sister neared and joined our party. We ate friend rice and talked about being six, cheered for successful car launches off of curbs.

Just before they left, the birthday boy grabbed my phone and snapped a few photos.

retreated away form the mess, the piles, the lists
retreated toward our daughters’ earnest inclination
into the bed of a small, old pickup truck
last bits of late summer light
gray hair at my temples,
laugh lines mostly from my husband’s humor
bandaid on one bloodied knee
she learned to ride a bike earlier today
she took off and fell hard
took off again, blood like a creek down her shin bone
wait for me!
she usually waits for her sister
sometimes because I yell for her to wait for her sister
her little sister, the one she leans into
to make goofy faces behind their parents’ backs
in the truck bed, in the driveway on this night
her little sister, the one that makes her the most furious
the one she wants to spoon when she sleeps

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road trip, part 2: even little things can make great big giant shadows

>> click here to read part 1 <<

I am ready to write about all the things I haven’t made time to write about this summer. Growth of tomatillos and children, renovations of home and mental space, plans for this month and in ten years.

I haven’t been here on dig as much because I’ve been there — in the other important places in my life. I do feel nostalgic about this space as it once was, where I holed up late at night to write whatever stories flew out my fingertips every few days. And I do so thoroughly believe in the practice of making time to create without need of it becoming something. I tell my kids all the time to let go of making art that needs to be hung up. JUST MAKE. For this big need to have more unstructured, undeadlined writing, I plan to get back in here more regularly. I lost my time to contribute here for a few reasons:

  1. At my 36 years, I need more sleep. Two hours more per night. This has been a hard adjustment for me! But, oh, it’s very necessary.
  2. The impermanence of it all fills my brain with things to write about and forbids me from leaving the story I’m living so that I can write a story about it. That sounds convoluted but I think you get it.
  3. GEO is growing and requiring more of my attention.
  4. See next paragraph.

School started last week. Margot at public school, Ruby at home. At home! We, me particularly, have long been interested in homeschooling and am so eager for this adventure. Everyone is comfortable and enthused. It all feels great, which is a relief. I was so torn up about school last year at this time, spinning out over school options, wondering which was best for us. It took me a long period of fretting before it felt right.

Ruby and I biked to get Margot at school a few days ago and she captured Life’s Big Idea with this simple question:

Mama, did you notice that even little things can make great big giant shadows?

I feel hopeful and excited. I feel nervous and invested. I feel as capable as a parent who has never done any of this before can feel.

Before I move into news on the home front, the Blogger in me must finish up our family road trip! In the spirit of brevity (ha!) and simplicity, I deleted all my text and will let photos tell the story of the last five days of our adventure.

trip details:

Day 8:
Radke’s Blueberry Farm, Corvallis, OR: sweet family, sweetest blueberries, screamin’ deal affordable, recommended by my friend Camille.
Alsea Falls Campground: we stayed in site #5. Vault toilets, potable water, private sites.
Hike to Alsea Falls: easy, gorgeous
Trails up mountain over Alsea river: one of the best runs I’ve had in a while

Day 9:
Driftwood Beach, Waldport, OR
Lost Creek Beach, Newport, OR
South Beach State Park Campground: Like most seaside campgrounds, it was huge and packed in. We managed to score one of the last campsites available and it was one of the best! Site H20.
Local Ocean Seafoods, Newport, OR: fantastic. The service, the food. The laughing sea lions on the dock. I ordered the Halibut over soba noodles and chard.

Day 10:
Take out from Cha’ba Thai in Portland. Holy smokes the Pad Thai, Pad Sa Ewe and Masseman Curry were amazing.
Stumptown Coffee, of course

Day 11:
Lunch at Pfriem Brewing, Hood River, OR: wonderful veggie burgers and the IPA is out of this world
The Incredibles: the last day of driving was hard. Kids watched a movie in the car and this is a favorite of ours!
GuestHouse Hotel in Kellogg, Idaho: Unable to find camping, we grabbed a hotel. It was your average place (clean, comfy, basic) made pretty great by the lovely Jayne at the front desk.

Day 12:
Home.

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