Monday, April 30, 2012

The bad news is good

Blue's new bike!
Bad news is good news.  And the good news is that the news is always bad.  That bad things make the news, are considered newsworthy, is actually a wonderful testament to how well our world spins.  This sounds kind of topsy turvy, I know. In small towns, the police report is reported in the newspaper.  In cities, the police report would be longer than the newspaper.  Property crimes, theft, beatings, drunken driving, small time drug rings don't make the paper in a big city, because they aren't news.  They are regular old life and no one is shocked by a stolen bicycle except the person who got robbed.  If humans had only ever known war, then war would not be a news worthy item.  It would be like: AIR BREATHED TODAY BY 7 BILLION!!!!  Not news.  But we don't all live inside war all the time (unless you had the great misfortune of being born into Afghanistan) and there are fewer now than ever and we imagine peace like we know what it is.  That neighbors occasionally help neighbors, that friends take you out for lunch, that children are loved, that puppies are cute, that chickens lay eggs and live with heads attached, those are all as it should be, life as expected.  But when the puppy is terrifyingly ugly and when that chicken lives a long and productive life of fame and fortune without having a head, well, that is news. 

A 2005 Coyote
So when I hear bad news, (Dear readers, this is an emergency message, this is a Digression AND soapbox alert!!  Expect golf-ball sized pronouncements, torrential self-righteousness and 170 mph hot winds) ...earthquakes and nuclear meltdowns and children who got into their daddy's guns and accidentally killed themselves, I cry. This is standard here in the mornings, after I read the comics, to read the paper and to cry almost every day.  Perhaps, you might suggest, "You should stop reading the paper, Sarajoy.  Duh"  Maybe I should, but I don't mind crying. No matter how much bad news I read, I am determined to maintain my humanity, my compassion, my open heart - it's crucial to my survival. May no callous ever grow over that soft spot.  (You may now leave your bunkers).

So, anyway, when these terrible things become so common place that they are no longer considered newsworthy, THAT is when we've got a big fat problem.

Keeping this in mind, Coyote got in big trouble last week and I am so glad about it.  He's learned a great lesson.  Here's what he did: the school library has a computer catalog where kids can write reviews of the books they read.  Coyote got on that and wrote, "Hey F***er" (spelled correctly!! YEA!) on about five review spots.  His teacher called, incredibly upset, probably in part because she really likes him and also probably because she takes swearing very seriously.

It must be difficult for our children to have to straddle two worlds.  At home, we consider swearing to be a social linguistic construct that is scientifically proven to make owies feel better and, according to my home grown theory, can give us a sense of power when we are feeling the least powerful.  We here admit to being human and humans are creatures of culture; culture is what we do, so we will play along with these false structures somewhat.  We teach our children that 1) swearing is not inherently bad and 2) don't do it for two reasons 1) it shocks old ladies and teachers and gives a bad impression and 2) you want to preserve the power of those words and they tend to loose their juice if used too much.

Coyote in bath and hand-me-down pj's
When Blue was four, we got a note from Montessori school that she needed to stop swearing at school.  We talked to her about it, but my un-official response was that she would stop swearing if the kid who kept telling her she was going to hell and that god died in a tree would stop proselytizing.  Telling a four year old she's going to hell for eternity, especially one who understands the mathematical implications of eternity, is actually more offensive than saying sh**. 

I was teased, as the pastor's daughter with comments like, "You shouldn't swear.  It just doesn't sound right coming out of your mouth.  You're dad's a Pastor, for Pete's sake!"  And so, I worked long and hard to earn the ability to swear like a sailor, naturally and fluently.  I'm not about to give that hard-earned talent up just because I have kids.

So Coyote lost computer privileges at school and at home.  We don't need to get all upset about it, just make the punishment hurt enough to learn the lesson, and let us rejoice that the boy learned at the age of seven that there is no such thing as computer anonymity and that he's learning this long before he's 50, and mayor of Spokane offering city "positions" in exchange for sex with teen boys.  Not that he would do that, but at least now he knows about the myth of internet anonymity. And the cost for that lesson was so cheap: he did not loose his job, his family, his home, nothing but a few weeks of computer time.  Great.  No need to get our panties in a wad - this is actually awesome.  (Wait, is this blog-story going in his permanent record?)

But I understand his teacher; I do.  Anger is not a logical emotion and does not respond to reason. For all the experience I have with anger, I still don't know much about it (now this makes me sound like I need anger management. Whereas, I would like better anger management, I'm no where near being court ordered to do so, rest assured.) Coyote himself had some great insight recently.  He said, "Anger is the most difficult feeling because it just comes up and forces itself out.  You can't stop it, because that is what it is, too strong to stop.  It's a red square that pushes itself out of you and hurts you." He went on to describe the fascinating colors, shapes and manageability of many other emotions too.  But anger was what got him started on this compassionate analysis because I'd just apologized for responding angrily to something he was doing, instead of just calmly, ideally, doling out the consequences.  So I get being angry.  And in some way, because she was so angry, I felt I was off the hook for shock and anger and just had a talk with him.. 

So, what everyone wants to know is: WHY did he do it?  Anger?  Frustration?  Nope.  "To be funny." My theory: he was counting coup.  He was committing a non-lethal act of bravery in front of his tribe (kids) against the opposing team (teachers) in order to gain rank in his society (kids). Punishment makes his bravery all that more apparent. 
He loves the Perplexus he bought Blue for her birthday
 
The universe conspired to name him Coyote for a reason, people.  I know, I was just on my high horse this morning about taking responsibility for our lives and how that allows gets us into the flow of the universe, however I will bow out of responsibility for naming him.  The name came so clearly and so overpoweringly in the library (a la Wings of Desire or City of Angels or the New Testament) while I was reading about the Nez Perce at eight months pregnant that it was unquestionable. Boy, girl, monkey or squirrel, the name was Coyote.  And yet the week after he was born, anticipating your response, I stayed up until 3 am every day, searching the internet for a name, any name, that would be better, more namey, because I could not name my son after a wild dog that eats chickens and house cats.  But then there was Huck, who's sense of entitlement to naming his children bizarre names should be obvious. And he was unmoved.  He could not have been convinced of another name had I even found one.

I suppose I'm talking about his naming right now because I imagine you thinking, "What kind of parent/family/idiot names their child Coyote, a boy who knows the f-word?!?!?!" Well, it's a mystery, ain't it. If you want to know, you'll have to ask the "angel" that told me. But that's what it is. He's ninja sneaky, tricky, funny, compassionate, and he sees the world inside out. He's got some lessons to learn, and like any good boy of adventure and curiosity, he'll be learning some of them the "hard" way.  And that's the all the "bad" news that's "fit" to "print"!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sink Holes

Blue's nostalgic request for a cake
About a month ago I was feeling like the worst farmer in the world.  My cows were sloshing around up to their knees and occasionally their thighs in a thick stew of cow crap too sloppy to shovel or fork into the wheelbarrow and WAY to gooshy to push that full wheelbarrow around in.  So with their every footstep came a schlurpping sound and guilt oozed into my heart.  What was I doing wrong?  Where had my barn and barnyard maintenance taken such a wrong turn?  Were these pneumonia conditions, tuberculosis?  Was this as bad as any factory farm? And to hell with the cows anyway, what about me?  My boots always sinking in to their rims and nearly getting lost in the muck.

the 10th annual birthday pinata
And then I read that we'd just had the wettest March on record and all my sins were washed away in the deluge.  It was the weather's fault, not mine.  AKA: all God's fault.  I was as good an animal husband as anyone, but I too am subject to the wiles of weather and clouds and La Nina.  As April has been warm, less showery (think: spring dry-heaves), everything has dried out, except a rim around the barn where the sun doesn't shine much.  So one can step with one foot on solid ground and the other... well watch out! 

On Saturday, we were planting our new trees.  They'd arrived on Friday, just before Blue's slumber party in the typical bad-timing fashion of this world.  And I'd had to stow them away until we could find some time to dig them into the field where some day they will provide shade for our cattle.  We also got in blueberries.  Blue's guests helped plant those.  They wanted to do farm chores in the morning so I set them to egg hunting and weeding and grooming the cows.  Cows don't normally get groomed around here, but it was something to do with cows, so I said it was a chore.  And so Blue's "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy slumber party," in which dinner conversation revolved around black holes and m-theory, ended up with a pact for all the girls to become farmers some day.  Said one, "I used to just want to work at NASA and live in SF, but now I want to be a farmer when I grow up!"

After they were all gone, Huck and I (in my slip-on Keens) were slowly moving with our girls-slumber-party "hang over".  I was headed out to the field to bring him some mint and lemon balm to "intercrop" with the trees and I opened the gate and stepped my right foot on solid ground and my left foot... well... not so much.  My left foot fell into a deep, cold crevasse of watery cow crap.  Down, down, down.  The chilly slushy filled my shoes, seeped in to my socks and up my leg.  The bottom of my overalls stayed on the crust of crap, while my bare leg sank and sank nearly up to my knee.  I had met my "Ramona the Pest" moment.  And there was no Henry Huggins to save me.  Huck, maybe.  And as I screamed and screamed, he looked up and saw me listing to one side and came to help.  But he could not be quick enough.

My foot pulled up just fine.  It was the shoe that was stuck.  If I slipped my foot out, it would fill with crap and then I would have to go down with both hands to fish it out, my face would me millimeters from the slurry and my knees would sink in... No, this foot would not return to the surface without this shoe.  And so I wiggled and pried and wiggled and pried and cranked up my non-prehensile toes to cling as best they could to that shoe.  Huck arrived just in time to catch me as my shoe popped up out of the earth, tossing me off balance.  Imagine if Huck hadn't been there; it would have been Sarajoy vs. the Cow Crap Tar Baby for hours on end. I stripped down at the spigot and hosed off that little adventure.

this head is made out of cake, I promise
Also: the cat and I were doing some gardening the other day and we heard a big bang come from the chicken coop. We looked at each other, bewildered.  And mosied over to check it out.  We couldn't see the chickens, but we could hear one, clucking like she was at the end of a tunnel or hole or something, this tinny sound. I hunted around and found her in the metal garbage can that holds their food - with the lid on top. I wish I would have looked up before it happened so I could figure out the mechanics of that feat. 

And the final Farm Missive O'the Day:  We have this resident bunny, the Widow D'lete, who turns out not to be much of a widow. We met her newest addition the other day.  Too bad is was dangling from our cats mouth.  Well, for the garden and the farm, that was a good thing.  But for Coyote, it wasn't: "It's so cute!  It was just too young, mama.  Too young to die.  It'd barely had any time to enjoy life.  It's so sad it's making my eyes wet."  And then there was Huck giving us reports: the cat has removed the heart from the bunny and the heart is still beating!  I wonder how that's possible.  You guys, the heart is still beating, even though the head got chewed off!  Wow!  

Wow, indeed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TGIF!

Coyote and his Great Teacher
Fridays are nice.  I know today is Tuesday, but still the memory lingers. Fridays: No homework.  I go easy on chores (and then spring back like Chore-Lioness on Saturday morning: ROAR!) and we usually watch a movie and have nachos or some other lazy, marginally nutritious food for dinner.  Last Friday was the laziest.  It was sunny and slow.  Coyote was doodling and snacking and he says, "Mom, I'm writing you a note.  And I'm going to put it in the mailbox by your bed.  Are you going to read it?"  "Sure!"  His notes are so sweet. 

Then we all went outside and I roamed the garden, wondering if anything will ever come up other than quack grass.  And I checked out the new leaves on my new willow archways over the entrances to the garden.  And the kids were playing cooperatively..  And Coyote asked if he could play a video game and I said, as usual, "If it's past 5:30, then yes."  And he ran in to see what time it was and did not return.  And that is when I realized it was 5:30 and we were late for soccer.  In about five minutes, people had shin guards and shorts on, had put on cleats, cried because they fit wrong, threw them off, and had burritos to eat in the car.  I'd forgotten about this new soccer coach's Friday thing, ruining our lackadaisical weekend kick-off.

When I fell in to bed that night, I finally saw Coyote's note and it said, "Dear Mom, don't I have soker pratis tobay?"  Translation, "You dipstick! You totally forgot about soccer practice, but I remembered and I didn't tell you! na-na-na!"

But that is the way with kids,  they like to keep their parents clueless.

I just found out that one of Blue's art projects was selected for a display at the airport and has been there several months already.  She said it's not a big deal and she's not a very good artist.  But I disagreed. I love her art.  She's right that she's not a great drawer (but any skill improves with practice), but her 3D and abstract stuff always stuns. She says that's just cuz I'm her mom.  And I'm like, "Girl, I did not pick your piece for the airport.  Some one else also thinks your great."

She also says she's not that good at math.  But her Math is Cool team is headed to state, or "masters".  And she is one of four members, the only girl.  Still thinks she's not that good. 

Blue had a big crush on the game Risk! this winter
When she was about four, we were bored, on an airplane, and I decided to teach her addition.  Within five minutes she was easily adding long stacks of five and six digit numbers.  "Um..." her confused mother said, "Montessori isn't really supposed to be teaching you this kind of stuff right now."  "I didn't learn it at Montessori."  "Where did you learn it?"  "Right here. You just taught me."  And then she rolled her eyes in that precious way she developed at four months old.  And yet some how, this girl thinks that because she's a girl, she can't do math.  She thinks the boys are ALL way better than her, and yet she beat a lot of them to get on the masters team.  I keep telling her that boys just brag more about stuff, but that doesn't mean they can do it better.  This crap has not come from us or her teachers. This girl/math crap can only be something that is in the air.  I believe she got it from breathing.

2nd place team!
And what is with her insecurity?  On the one hand, I prefer that to the dangerous swagger of over confidence.  On the other hand, I am her mother and I am the number one culprit for the role of Creator of Insecurity.  Perhaps she has gotten it from watching me flail at life and hearing me denigrate myself, and rarely mention any accomplishments (I try sometimes and it seems to go bad.  Many women don't want to hear it.  They want you to "play small" and they aren't going to like you if you don't play along.) 


That shirt says 42 and refers to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Or maybe it comes from when she was two and threw her bowl of olives and chick peas on the floor five times when I was already having a bad day and so I locked myself in the bathroom and cried on the floor, rather than beat her. Or maybe it's because sometimes we didn't talk when she was a baby.  They say you should narrate every second of living for your baby.  "And now I am pinning the clothe diaper... oops! not to your skin, no, that's my bad.  No I'm pinning the diaper to itself."  But I would have her in the sling and hold her feet and feel peaceful as we walked along Alki Beach in silence for a few effing minutes of the day. 

When we visit Coyote's school, her old friends will ask her where she goes to school now and she WON'T TELL THEM!  She just shrugs and changes the subject.  I asked her why and she said they'd just think she was weird, she had enough experience with them to know that being smart is not okay.  So maybe that's where she got this all from, and not me.  After all, I am her mother. No matter what she does, I'll be proud of it: oh honey! a poop sculpture incorporating all the variety of farm feces, and in the oven too, you are so clever! 

So to set a good example. I will tell you that I won third place in the Write on the River essay contest.  I would rather have won first, of course.  I am not competitive in any sport other than ping pong (with or without alcohol) and so I am surprised to feel this competitive-like feeling about third place.  But a prize is a prize and money is money and at least I placed! And if I'm going to cheer on my daughter for taking second, then I've got to be proud of taking third! Also, I found this rather embarrassing but amazing review of my blog: Linkage Love (thanks Lysa!) I am not even going to try to live up to that. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Big Spring Break Hangover



I don't think I'm terribly fond of Spring Break anymore.  I don't think I even want to talk about it.  The reasons I don't want to talk about it are thus:

1) I went to a place in which I know lots of people but have strong obligations to the grand parents (I put a space in there because they are divorced) via Huck.

2) I'm worried about complaining about visiting these wonderful people and that if I complain they will think I don't love them.

3) People who I ALSO want to see and hang out with live nearby and I didn't see them or hang out with them and I don't want them to know I was in the region because I don't want them to think I don't love them, it's just that the limited time we had was already occupied.  And I was already harried before I thought about calling to hang out, and then the thought fried my brain entirely and no one wants to hang out with someone that smells like burning brains.  But I'm worried that will just sound like a lame excuse, and not a perfectly active one, or that they will think "Oh, I'm Sarajoy's one-too-many-things-to-do freak-out last-straw, Thanks!".

As you can see, my main problem with spring break is that I want people to love me and if they know I don't like spring break or they know I could have visited but did not, then they might not love me.  And so that is why I don't want to talk about it.

But I'm going to anyway because I am going to break this people-pleasing habit. I am writing this because I am challenging myself to work on my people-displeasing more.  IE:  I am going to BITCH like you've never heard before, at least from me.  And if you don't like it, if you feel left out, if you think I'm ungrateful and an unreciprocating crap-head, then I am so sorry.  I totally did not mean to hurt your feelings and now you've made me cry, are you happy now?

trombone mouth piece and ear plugs
The trip began, as most of our trips do, with at least a week of organizing the house and farm and laundry so that people could pack CLEAN things into their suitcases and the neighbors would have everything they need to manage our fairly complicated farm (one cat stays in, one goes out, two chickens in one coop, six chicks still inside, three cows, three water troughs to fill, five kinds of feed, with medals for neighborly sainthood to be awarded soon).  In the midst of which, I made a huge batch of pumpkin hummus from our own well-wintered pumpkins and garlic and which I planned to eat every day as part of my complete gluten free lunches because if I have learned anything from this life it is that no one gives a shit about what I am going to eat.

Once I was thoroughly exhausted, we began our butt-numbing, pants-pissing, journey over the mountains to arrive directly into Seattle's glorious screeching halt traffic at 1pm on a Saturday.  "And this," we told the kids, "Is Seattle!  Where hours logged in carseats are considered a major stage of childhood."

The next day, I discovered that my hummus was gone! It was kindly, mistakenly, slopped into the garbage and churned because someone thought it was their take-out curry gone bad from a few weeks ago.  I ran to my room and cried like a spoiled brat.  What the hell was I supposed to eat! For some dumb reason it threw the entire oblivacation into a tailspin from which I did not recover.

And I couldn't figure out if I was supposed to be playing with my kids a la "family time" or relaxing (totally different things, honestly).  So when I was relaxing (ie: napping for three hours a day) I felt guilty I wasn't playing with the kids.  And when I was hanging out with everyone I felt bitter that I wasn't getting in my requisite five-hours-per-day of alone time.  I was completely confused.  The whole trip, to me, in a word: confusion.

concerns about the gum wall
And another thing: there was no privacy.  I am a very private person, especially when it comes to sex.  That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it.  It simply means I don't like to talk about it, or do it within earshot, or behind uncloseable and unlockable doors.  So ... needs went unmet ... and tempers inevitably flared, in lieu of passions.

Also, and probably on a related note, I don't know how he does this, but Huck drives by an amazing form of triangulation.  I have deduced that he knows where to point the car because he figures that the road must be located in the ONLY place he is not looking and that is how he knows where to go.  I don't think he even knows what color asphalt is because he has never actually looked at it.

We opted for the "scenic" Highway 101 route to Lincoln City.  I wanted this route because when I was 10, we went to Astoria, OR and I fell in love with it and for the 26 years since, I have been collecting articles and ideas about great museums and the history of Astoria and parks and at least three gluten-free restaurants! and the Columbia Bar.  And now was my chance to return to my one true love of a town.  Only, once we got there is was pouring rain and no one else wanted to do anything and so we had tea and left.  Democracy SUCKS ASS!

Now I have traveled the world, and all parts in between.  And I have always been filled with a wander-lust of the next bend, the next corner.  I have travelled with a panicked urgency to explore the earth and this village and that corner.  And now! How quickly agoraphobia sets in!  My excuse is that 1) we were going to places I have been before ergo: no sense of exploration and 2) travel is totally different, and unrewarding, when it involves children with bathroom needs and familiar-food fetishes and group decision-making and places with tv's in every room so that kids sneak off at every possible moment to turn them on and then scream when you find them and turn it back off, and people who want to talk while you read newspapers.   It's not the same as hiking Chiapas or being blessed by sadu's of the lingams in India (no, that's NOT a metaphor!)..

But of course, it was sunny every where we went, every day, and can anyone remain grumpy under that big lover in the sky? (The answer is "yes").  Sunny Golden Gardens, sunny Pike Place, sunny Aquarium, sunny Taft Beach and Depoe Bay blow hole, sunny Pacific Beach, and then there was Dumping Rain Farms in Stanwood.  And the meals I was served, or supplemented for myself, were the grandest of West Coast fare, straight from the nerve-gratingly fabulous pages of Sunset Magazine: salmon and more salmon, prawn tacos, chiopino, gf pasta from Pike's Place, and more salmon.  I ate like an Amazon executive.

can you read the sign? Dismal Nitch
And we saw everyone that was important, despite not being able to see people who are equally as important.  We saw great grands, aunts, an uncle, a brother, a sister and all the grand-parents.  We saw it all, except for you, and I am so so sorry about that.  And OMG am I glad to be back, on Lucky Farm once more, master of my meals, loner in my basement office, locker of bedroom doors, planter of good things, and relaxed mother of un-TV-ed, well-rested, re-obedience-trained children.

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