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."

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,
Yes we are.







Sunday, February 5, 2017

Don't Box Me In...


New Year's Resolution,
meet
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,
IT FELT GREAT!

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

 and

 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 ....
um

once.


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...

 love.


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 World...one 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.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Not the Grand Canyon


My blog, like my garage (and my closets, and my email, and, and...), is much neglected these days.  There are only so many hours, that is to say, not enough, so I get to this when I can.  Sadly, lately that is only when I'm sick.

Well, at least there's something good to come from being sick.

In June, because of the accident, we decided not to leave on our planned vacation to the Grand Canyon.  We just didn't feel right about leaving Ethan to cope with the loss of his friends alone.  It was good that we stayed.  We were able to go to the memorial services for both boys, and to participate in some lovely remembrances with their kind families and the tender family of the boy that survived.  The friendships that have developed from this tragedy are sweet tributes to those boys.

We did decide to take a few days amidst all of the heaviness to whisk the kids away to Southern California to visit Guy's family and go to (shhhh!) Disneyland, which we kept secret from the kids until just before leaving.  It was a last minute decision, but we used the money from the planned Grand Canyon trip, and frankly I think the kids enjoyed it more than they would have if we had gone to the Canyon, anyway.  I guess the Grand Canyon has been there a while, it will probably wait for us until next year.  Probably.

As we headed south through Pasadena, we stopped at the Chalk Festival, or the aftermath of it, really, as the festival itself had been the day before.  But we were still able to see the artwork, mostly undamaged.  There were a few pieces that had been intentionally damaged in the night (by culture-less cretins on bicycles!), which was sad.  I lose a little of my faith in humanity each time I see a footprint or tire tread on art!

We didn't stay too long, as it was 112 degrees at 6pm that day, and on the griddle-like sidewalk in the plaza where the chalk was, it was more like 120.  We roasted as we looked at the artwork.  The kids each found one or two images that they loved...



and so did I...




There were some images that were elaborate and large, and a few which were barely begun.  I wondered if the heat had gotten to a few of the artists, or if intimidation at the skill of a neighboring artists had chased a few away.


I was left to ponder about the people who had created these masterpieces that were only meant to last a day, and to have done so out of simple chalk.  I tried to picture them all over the plaza, on their knees, drawing away in the ravages of the midday heat, all for the sake of ART!  
(Faith in humanity restored!!!)

There are so many talented people in the world!


We were sweltering by the time we got back to the van, and the AC was such a bless-ed relief.  How the pioneers made it across the plains in summer I'll never know, and I didn't have 12 yards of fabric hanging from me!


We headed for Guy's folk's house, but intercepted the Fish Fire in Duarte on our way, which was raging.  The traffic slowed and we unfortunately had far too much time to watch the fire creep down the hillside toward the homes not far away.  At the time, the fire had grown from 2,000 acres to 3,000 in just 5 hours, and would consume close 6,000 acres before it was contained weeks later.

We watched the precision of the pilots who dropped water and flame retardant on the flames and in the fire's path.  We were rooting for them, and I felt the weight of their responsibility, and the worry of their loved ones as they battled the flames.  We talked about the firefighters on the ground that we could not see, and I quietly prayed for them, and for the folks whose homes lay in the path of the fast moving inferno.



(these photos show how close we came to the actual fire, just across the freeway)


Finally, we arrived to visit Guy's parents for a little while.  His mom doesn't do well with long visits and lots of little kids (and we have lots), so we kept it short and sweet, and then headed to Guy's sister, Kahri's house.  Kahri and Bob are always so good to us, and we have a ball joking and visiting with them.  Kahri plays doting auntie and The Littles soak it up.


Aunt Kahri has a room full of toys from her earlier mommy days, and even a cool teepee.


It was the perfect place for The Littles to snuggle and wait for sleep to come.  But it's very hard to sleep when you know you are going to Disneyland in the morning!!!


(To be continued...!)