Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

You are here. Deal.

Well, we moved.

I had thought I'd be able to write about it along the way, starting with the light switch covers and ending here, today.  But it was a tornado inside a tsunami inside a hurricane (kind of like a Turduken; that turkey-duck-chicken monstrosity), and it's hard to type in a Tor-nami-cane.

Fast forward a few months.

We are sort of unpacked.  As in, "I found the Christmas ornaments and briquettes, but I have no idea where my bra is".  The kids are pretty well settled.  Guy loves it here.  I... um... I am adjusting.  This change has been huge, and, well...


I could pretend I am doing super great, for the sake if this post.  But that would be silly and unrealistic.  I'm doing better.  Better than I was the first week, when I cried most mornings asking "what have we done?", and the second, when my stomach was one giant knot.  Sometime in the third week (after I came home from the church in tears from listening to wild local tales of bears, mountain lions and forest fires), my hubby firmly counseled, "We live here now.  You need to deal with it."

So I'm trying to "deal".  But this has been a very different move for me.  It's hard to explain this place, but I'll try.

First, understand that we moved from a series of 5 apartments to our little house in Rancho Cordova, where we could hear our neighbors cough and flush their toilets (and they, ours... Hi Betty and Denise!).  The sky was wide and usually blue, the land flat and cluttered with the residue of humanity.  The streets were busy; the people, too.  It was the only house most of our kiddos could remember, three of them having been born since we lived there, and two of them born right in it.

It was a habit.  It was our routine.  It was... familiar.

The drive to our new house winds through rolling, golden hills dappled with oak trees and dairy cows, traced here and there by unhurried streams. Soon the terrain becomes steeper, the road windier, the trees closer together.  Our little town of 2,310... make that 2,319, has a post office, a burger joint, two vet clinics, two yarn shops, and an actual video rental store (yes, 1987 called.  It wants me to rent Sixteen Candles).  Our little town does NOT, however, have a stop light.

As the highway bends through town, it climbs uphill, and just on the outer edge of town, there is a street that leads to a road that leads to a lane that turns down a gravel drive.  That drive plunges down through the trees that arch over it in a shadowy tunnel, and spills you out into a small clearing.  And there it is, a towering chalet-like house framed by what I call "the big, green cage"- sky-scraping pines, broad-armed oaks and shimmery, broad-leafed trees that I can't identify.

 The house, a split level complete with 3 stories, an attic and mysterious storage areas that have already been named "The Dungeon", "The Chokey" and "Chokey Junior", sits in a cleft; a shady ravine along side a chattering creek.

A stone's throw from the house there on the 1.3 acre property is a cabin warmed by a wood stove, and a trail behind the house marked by a handmade wooden sign that points the way to Mt. Zion State Park.  The woods.

We bought a house in the woods.

My brain vibrates again with the refrain, what were we thinking?

This house, this place, has a certain magic about it.  It is a place that makes you catch your breath and whisper "wow" in a sort of reverent, if not slightly overcome way.  It's big and green and beautiful.  It's also a place that plunges into darkness as the sun disappears behind the ridge, and that comes alive in the dark with the calls of unseen critters. 

It's a place that wakes well before dawn, every bird in the forest gathering almost on my windowsill in a bellowing clamor to see if they can out-chirp each other before the first light of day.  The mosquitoes are plentiful and ravenous, the neighbors quiet and hidden away in the trees.  The sky, most mornings, is a little angry and grey.  Though technically "up", the sun doesn't peek over the eastern hillside until about 9:30 in the morning.  And that brooding sky isn't kidding either.  Since moving here a month ago there have been several rainy days, and just this past Saturday, in early June, it rained, thundered, lightning-ed, hailed and then... snowed.  Briefly.  But still!!!

We left our home of 14 years.
Our charter school, our friends, our church family.
Our yard.
Our sky.
Our trees.

Change is hard.

And I'm a bit of a wimp.

But I'm "adjusting".

And I have to because

We Are Here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Moment the Light Switched On

I walked down the hall 
and stopped like I'd hit the wall. 
 I have been boxing things and painting things and fixing things, but the sight of a new switch plate cover stopped me in my paint-spattered, barefooted tracks.  

When Guy and I bought this house, we had a new-home-buyer's nightmare on our hands.  The previous owner had actively and deceptively hidden severe "pet damage" (meaning she would leave her dog and cat in the house all weekend while she went away for days, turning it into a 1600 square-foot litter box, and then covered every obvious trace of the damage with paint, carpet-fresh and air-freshener plug-ins).  Once we were moved into the house, and the intense cinnamon smell aired out, the vile and musky reality of our new situation began wafting out of the carpet and drywall.  We were the proud owners of a kennel.

A real estate lawyer reviewed or claim and told us that the risk of losing our case was 50-50, and recommended that we invest our money, time and energy into fixing our house, and not fighting a very-possibly losing battle.  He said he would go to bat for us on principal, but that principals could get expensive, and that ultimately a person who would do this to a family would not learn any sort of lesson, even if she lost.  "Don't worry though," he assured us, "She'll eventually get what she deserves, because people like her always do.  It doesn't have to be at the cost of your peace."  

He refused the $250 consultation fee.  
"You kids go home and use that money to fix up your house.  It's going to be okay."

We spent months, years really, repairing the damage, in some places removing drywall and even treating saturated studs.  We ripped out every thread of carpet, and scrubbed and sanitized and painted.  Every dime we had went to making the place livable.  We certainly wanted to put our own touches on things, and did here and there when we could afford to, but the two things I remember actually indulging in were a good wool rug for the living room 
and light switch covers.

Copper light switch covers.

I love copper.  It reminds me of my sweetie's hair, back when it was more red than grey.  It has warmth and light and depth, and a certain dignity to it.  
Again, like my sweetie.
And let's face it, it's not plastic.  
Indulgent, unnecessary. 
 It was our own little stamp on the house that made it ours.

So when I walked down the hall last week and saw Guy placing the last screw in a plain off-white plastic switch cover, my heart dropped.  Up until that moment everything I was doing was really just following through with repairs and updates I had always planned on making.  We were already planing to repaint the kid's rooms new colors.  We knew the bathroom floor needed repairs.  A new front door has been long overdue.

But this was the first change to our little house that was not something we would have done for ourselves.  Of course, I could have left copper plates here, but they are coming with me to my new house, 
a house that I've never seen before,
 on walls that I cannot picture.

"We're really moving, aren't we?"  I asked Guy, tears pooling.
Yes we are.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Don't Box Me In...

New Year's Resolution,
Curve Ball.

I did say I would write here more, and then Life said,
 "Silly girl, wait till you see what I have in store for you!"  

We've known for a long time we needed to move.  
There are eight people using one bathroom in this house.  That means DMV-quality lines on a regular basis, with attitudes to match.  There have been times when I have had BOTH of The Littles "using" the backyard trees because a Big was parked it the bathroom, and their little bladders, simultaneously, couldn't wait.  That would be fine in an emergency, but it's become a way of life.  
That ain't right.

Build a bathroom, you say?  Yes, everyone who loves us and wants us to stay keeps suggesting that. And what do I do about the tiny kitchen that won't fit my whole family around the table? or the boys sleeping in the enclosed patio?  

No, it was already time to move a looong time ago.  
But a new motivation has set things in motion.  
Dad is coming to live with us! 
 Um, oh yah, one bathroom, 9 people...

Time to move.

Like, now.

While we embark on this new adventure (that's what I'm calling it.  "Adventure".  It's not original, I know, but it's better than "Panic Attack" or "Massive Eye Twitch"), I'll jot notes here... rough and probably not well edited, to keep my commitment to myself to write our family history here.  It will be brief, but the ten people who actually read this will be glad for that.

This week we have gone to see 3 properties.  Well, two.  One would have required a sherpa and three alpacas to get to, and a tow truck and a winch to get us out.  We made it down the brambly, pothole-laden dirt road that Google Maps assured us should take 10 minutes (ha! try 25) to within a half-mile of the house, then sat in the van, perched on the precipice of a slope that certainly was the inspiration for every roller-coaster drop every made, and turned to look at each other.  

"Nope." Guy said.
"We may make it down, but I don't think we'll get back out."

"If you don't feel right about it, let's turn around."  I agreed.

I was sad after an hour of driving to have gotten that far and not even have seen the cute house we had admired in the MLS listing, but we had decided a few miles back that this was not a drive we could make every day.  No wonder the house has been listed so long. That driveway was like the bridge troll in a Monty Python film.  "None shall pass!"

Another house taunted me with it's cute, moss-covered retaining walls and acre lot with a creek running through it, but the interior was, um, somewhat dismal.  At one point I think I may have uttered the words,"I see dead people."

The last house we saw is a Maybe.  It meets many criteria that we have to fill, though we haven't been in it yet.  Our agent had a dental emergency, so we decided to just see if it was even reachable without a biplane before we dragged her out there.  This particular Maybe would be a lot of work, and it's a little funky, as most houses on the outskirts of towns are, but it's on a couple of acres and is in a beautiful area. And you get to drive through a hilarious little ram-shackle gold mining town that looks like a movie set to get there, so bonus points for quirky charm.


Back here on the home-front we are packing, painting, and trying to get this old girl gussied up.  She is somewhat reluctant to put on the girdle I'm trying to squeeze her into.  We won't have time to do a lot of what I would wish to do to get it ready, and I am having to dial down the perfectionism in my repairs.  It's probably not necessary for me to get a porcelain smooth finish on window frames for 60 year old aluminum windows that someone will likely yank a week after they sign on the dotted line. 

 Yah, probably not.

Now, on to that pile of empty boxes.

(to be continued...) 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Go, Snail, Go!

The months of October through December have collectively become what we here in the Holman house call, "THE SALE".  All energy goes to THE SALE.  Our calendar, clock, menu and bowel movements are set by THE SALE.  Each year has brought growth, and we have gone from packing up just the studio/school room, to now packing two more rooms as well.  It's like moving 1/3 of our house once a year.  Somewhere between Vomiting Kids and Flooded Kitchen on the Annoying Scale.

This year I wanted to really begin to focus my art more on things I enjoyed making and less on "something for your granny"; to ditch scarves or generic earrings - gifts that would appeal to the masses- in favor of bigger pottery pieces and jewelry items I really like (and will wear if they don't sell).  The risk paid off, and my own personal sales shot up by about 50% over last year.  It felt good.  No, wait,

But to make that happen, I had to spend 4 hours a night, usually 6 nights a week, for about 8 months, in the studio.  In the final weeks before THE SALE, I was in the studio up to 15 hours a day.  I got three things out of this schedule:

* A studio-load of pottery and jewelry, of which I am very proud.

* A repetitive stress injury to my neck from having my head hanging over my lap for 40+ hours a week.

* A sadly neglected blog.

Which wouldn't bother me so much... if it didn't BOTHER me so much!!!  This is (sadly) my journal.  It is our family history.  It is where I catalog the memories that my rusty lobes refuse to record! Without my blog, I seriously can only remember general events, like "went to Southern California", and no details.  It's like looking at a blurry photo.  It makes me sad.

So, my fellow Resolution Makers, this is mine:
 I'm back.

 (and now that I've said it I actually have to do it... some call it accountability, I call it how embarrassing if I don't!!!)


A note about the piece of pottery above: I made eight items in this style; my take on Sgraffito, a process where black liquid-clay is painted over white clay, and then carved into to reveal the white clay beneath.  It's a very sexy process.  I sold most of them before they were even completed, and had a few folks jockeying for the same pieces.  It was so exciting!  Well, exciting like really polite snail races, if you're really into snail races, and if your snail is going to be bringing in a shell full of cash at the end (I'm picturing a little smiling snail with a wreath of flowers around his neck, like at the Kentucky Derby).

This particular little pretty (the pot, not the snail) went to live with my hubby's co-worker, who, upon seeing a photo, declared it to be hers!  I LOVE letting my pottery babies go to live with people who love them that much!

And on a second note, one of the pieces took me 32 hours to carve, so GO, SNAIL, GO!!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Strike! (ahahahaha! Not even close!)

Yes, she's laying on the filthy floor of the bowling alley.  I am pretty sure that they slaughter pigs in there after hours.  But:

 1. She still has her shoes on

2. While she may be lying on the floor, she's not kicking 
and screaming "I hate you!" at anyone


 3. She didn't actually eat off of the floor.
 So, bonus points there.

We get "Kids Bowl Free" tickets every summer.  

This summer we went ....


My Fabulous Excuses:

1. It's far.

2.  I don't like wearing shoes a serial killer may have worn.

3.  There's a lot of down time, and no place to nap.

Oh, and... 4.  My LEAST preferred view to show of myself is my REAR.

Yah, not my favorite pretend sport.  But I go, because, ya' know... kids.
 I got a horrible score, and we were even using bumpers.

But we went. 
 It was actually kind'a fun (if you don't mind sliding around on fiberglass benches and being shown up by a 7 year old in the lane next to you).
And it was one more trip than it would have been had the tickets not been free
(because in addition to being that mom who lets her kid lay on a dirty floor,
I'm super cheap).

I always wonder which memories my kids will keep.  It's a crap shoot, really.  I have memories of such a strange range of things from childhood.  Weeding the strawberries.  My sister cleaning the bathroom while listening to the B52's.  Honeybees.  Raking avocado leaves.  Not really the birthdays and things you think, while they are happening,
 "This will be a great memory!"

When Ellie was born, we had Ethan and Adam come out of their room to be there (don't be all grossed out... it was a waterbirth.  You don't see much...).  A few years later I asked "Do you remember seeing Ellie being born?" 

  Neither of them did.  
They did, however, remember there was a garden hose
 in the living room, and duct tape on the faucet.  

I'm not sure what my kids will remember of their growing up years.
I'm very sure of the moments I hope they DON'T remember.

Just in case one of those memories ends up being "that time we went bowling", 
at least there is a memory to have.

And I'm sure they won't even remember I wore the shoes of a serial killer.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Pseudacris regilla

Here we see the common tree frog in his native habitat.  Where frogs are encountered, scientists unanimously agree, little boys will also be found.  In the event that those little boys have younger sisters, one of two possible outcomes will  generally occur:

Outcome #1: Little boys will use said amphibians to intimidate, frighten or “gross-out” (a technical term denoting extreme visceral repulsion) the younger female sibling, engendering in her a lifelong disdain for all things reptilian, and instilling a general lack of trust for her cognate.  Studies from well-known social anthropologists at hoity-toity universities show this as, by far, the most likely scenario.

Outcome #2: Little boys will teach their collateral kinsfolk the proper care, feeding, and treatment of all reptillia, producing prolific feelings of familial fidelity marked by heightened positive emotional response in the area of the brain associated with...


See also: "awwwww!"

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Last Cradle

A friend gave us this cradle when her last babe was done with it, so it wasn't even one that I used for all of my babies.

First, for Ethan, there was a bassinet; a garage sale find.

Next was a crib; a hand-me-down from folks at church.

By the time Adam was a few months old I'd gotten rid of it because we had taken to co-sleeping, and the crib was just a place to pile blankets.

But when Ellie was on her way I found a little swinging Jenny Lind cradle at a second hand store and brought it home.  After losing the baby before her, it was my way of affirming that it would be okay to plan for the happy arrival of this little one.

It lasted through Tessa, and then was decommissioned.  A little too rickety.

But then Jonah made his way into the world, and this cradle, this last cradle, made it's way into our house, well loved and used by my friend Nicole for her littles turned bigs.

And at our home, the cradle was again well used.  Jumbo Jonah insisted on catching his zzz's in it till he had to bend his knees to fit. And then tiny Natalie, who I tended to place into it more often for the sake of all of our sleep (because of her ability to place her left foot in my spleen while her right occupied Guy's armpit), used it until not so long ago.

A few months ago the big girls got a bunk bed with a twin on top and a full sized mattress on the bottom, and Ellie began stealing Natalie away at bedtime to share her lower bunk, apparently undaunted by Natalie's nighttime calisthenics.


I don't know when the last night slipped by that my last baby had her last dream in the little wooden cradle.  It just happened one day.  One morning I simply realized that the cradle hadn't been used in... days? weeks? I wasn't sure.

I sat on the floor by my bed, folding the jumble of baby blankets it held into a tidy, still pile. The kind of pile that is waiting for a cupboard or a box, and not a chubby little person.  I cried a little, and pressed the cloth into my face trying to catch a hint, a whiff, of my babies there.

But I couldn't.

I left the cradle, with it's pile of carefully folded blankets, there for a few weeks, a month, or maybe two, telling myself there was no place in the garage for it.  And then one day Guy suggested we move it out.

"Don't rush me." I said.

I'm not ready to say goodbye to this last little cradle. I thought.

Then one day a few weeks ago I finally moved it out of our room.  Natalie is 3 after all.  But I firmly informed Guy not to get any fancy notions of sending it off to Goodwill, that my grandbabies WOULD be sleeping in it, and that until that time, it would be waiting.

Waiting to hold babies again.

There is something so impossibly hard about saying goodbye to baby days.  I have been rocking babies for nearly 20 years.  It's who I am now.  It's my identity.  I'm a mommy.  Not just a mom, but a mommy.  A nose wiping, back stroking, booty patting, weep comforting, sleep coaxing mommy.

And cradle or not, I always will be.

Natalie on her new toddler bed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Follow That Mouse!!! ~ A Dinsey Photo Album

From the moment we told the kids we were going to go to Disneyland, Natalie was talking about seeing Minnie.  On the morning of our adventure, she chattered away in the van about all of the things she would tell Minnie.  "I tell her I like her show, Bowtique!", "I show Minnie my dress!", "I tell Minnie 'I love you'!".

We hit the front gate a little later than planned due to a whoops in leaving our tickets in the van 2 miles away by tram, but we finally got in.  And it was a good thing!  Minnie and friends were all gathered around the entrance with long lines to wait in to see them.  There were half a dozen characters around, but just to be on the safe side, we waited in line of the most important one... Minnie, of course.  Just after we joined the queue, a Disney worker stepped in behind us and closed the line!  Whew!  Close call!

Natalie's long awaited turn arrived!  She stood frozen and dazed.  I was worried that it was all too overwhelming for her, but wide-eyed and faintly smiling, she took it all in.  

Minnie spoke her language, which is basically pantomime, and she compared their bows, dresses and flowing skirts.  Natalie forgot everything she had wanted to tell Minnie, but her eyes were sparkling with the moment.

Those folks that are able to be so sweet in their 4,000 degree costumes on a million degree day all for the sake of one little child are right up there with preschool teachers and pediatric dentists in my book. 

That little face!  Oh my goodness!

I'm not kidding when I say she could have gone home right then
 and been the happiest little girl in the world.

Somewhere in this firetrap of a house I have a photo of Ethan, Adam and Ellie in this same tree when they were very small.

Adam hung out with me from time to time as Guy and I took 
turns holding Natalie while the others went on a wilder ride.

Nano telling Adam all about Minnie.

My cute fam.  Jonah was being Anti-Camera at that moment.

I can always count on Adam to help with Nano.  He probably carried her half the day.

Later in the day we came across Pooh and friends.

Natalie's enthusiasm for them was as great as ever.

 Jonah, however, was not impressed.  
We were one year too late,
 as he had realized that they were just real people in costumes.  

But Tiger wouldn't give up on him.  He bounced and jiggled
 and shook his booty at Jonah until he got a laugh and a hug out of him.

Maybe there was a little magic left in it for him after all.  
Nano, of course, was in heaven!

If you look in the back, you will see Natalie covering her eyes...
The Winnie the Pooh ride is terrifying, after all!

We had our first Dole Whips ever.  I highly recommend them!

Is it hot, or what!?

No horsing around out of these two.  
Ha ha.  See what I did there?

I'm not sure why, but Jonah was quite serious as well. 
 Mid-day slump, or maybe he just got the wrong white horse?

Toon Town!
Smiles return!

The second highlight of Natalie's day... sitting on Minnie's bed in her house. 
 When asked later about the trip, Natalie would tell everyone, "I sit Minnie's bed!!!!"

Love Jonah's face.  He's either camera-phobe
 or clown, with very little in between.

Yay for big brother!  
When I look back on these pictures,
 I see over and over again how much Adam was helping. 
 Thanks, Adam!

Silly girl.  

We've never eaten at a restaurant at Disneyland before. 
 It's like Denny's, with a mortgage.

Small of my favorite rides.  I love to do this ride at the end of the day.  It's quiet and slow, and I can take in my family and really feel grateful for being able to have this time together.  These moments are frozen in my memory banks, and linked together with others like them.  Somehow that music is like a sweet soundtrack to childhood. 

 Until two hours later when it's still in your head. 
 Then you want to take an ice pick to the speakers.
That is generally frowned upon.

Photo op!

The last ride of the night.  The former submarine - now Nemo ride.  The line was delayed and we hadn't planned for this ride to be our last of the night, but it just worked out that way.  We were sleepy and the park was nearly empty.  We just chatted and snuggled in the line as we waited.  It was nice.

Adam has no idea how much of an influence he is in his sibling's lives.

Everyone getting along. 
 Maybe they pump some nitrus oxide into the air.

That's my house there in the background.  Actually, did you know you can go IN to the castle?  Like IN in.  Walk upstairs and such.  It was a childhood dream come true.  I had always felt jipped just walking through the gate and popping out on the other side.  Now you know!

This moment actually occurred earlier in the evening, but I placed this photo here because of something Guy told me.  He and Adam had gone to ride some fast ride while the other kids and I went to watch the parade.  After it was over, we tried to make our way back to Small World to meet up with them, but the route was blocked for the fireworks show.  I sat on the ground with the kids and watched their faces light up over and over with each burst in the sky above.  

Guy, on the other side of the park, leaned over at about that same time and said to Adam, "If I know your mother, she's crying right now."

And he knows me. 
 Because I was. 
 At a certain moment, the music and the lights and the message they played at the end all overwhelmed me, and I had begun to cry a little.  It was all in their design, I know.  It had all been carefully choreographed to illicit such a sentimental, nostalgic response.  And I'm okay with that.  It's not too often in daily life we are compelled to think with gratitude about all that we have been blessed with, so if someone sets the stage, lights it and orchestrates a score for it, who am I not to take advantage of it?

As they sing in Frozen... Let it Go~!
And I did!  *sniff*

By the end of the night, The Littles fell asleep all piled into one stroller.

And as is our tradition, we tried to be the last car to leave the parking lot.  There were a few others, but we were definitely in the running.  Well, walking.  Our feet were really tired.  We had run all the way to the last tram and made it with only 3 minutes to spare.

It wasn't the trip that was planned,
 but it was the one that was had.
And I loved it.