Okay. So I admit I’m a terrible blogger; I can’t write regular posts, or even semi-regular ones. I get an itch to write something, and maybe I make a note of it on my phone, and then I never open my computer and actually write. It’s the reason why it took me ten years to finish my first novel, and why I’ve been working on my second for three years, and have a chapter or so to show for it. I usually get distracted until the words can no longer be contained. My phone, random pieces of paper, and a few dedicated notebooks get poetry, snippets of the novel, and occasionally paragraphs of other prose, but at this point I certainly cannot even claim to be trying to make any sort of living with my words (though that has been an aspiration of mine. Right now, I still can’t commit to any sort of publication of my book, despite people I trust telling me it is in fact publishable.).
Thus, I sit here rambling, at long last. I am perched on a patio chair, with the laptop on another, because the patio table is too far away from the outlet, and my battery was dying. My youngest child is wrapped in a beach towel and nestled on my lap. The string lights wending between our Tiny Home and the Fort illuminate my keyboard, as do the occasional random illegal fireworks–it’s a week after Independence Day, but if you’ve got it, flaunt it, I suppose. He is sleepy, my three-year-old son; I should summon his older siblings from the not-hot-tub (it was a nearly-free acquisition, but doesn’t heat or pump. It holds water, and that’s more than good enough on a hot summer day) and send them to bed. I have a tendency to lose track of bedtime when the sun doesn’t go down until eight o’ clock. But he is snuggly, and keeps commenting on the amount of “numbers” I’m putting on the screen. He doesn’t know the difference between numbers and letters. He did just tell me where “A” is on the keyboard, though, so that’s certainly something.
What has kept me busy lately, in my “Tiny” life? We’ve been out of town nearly every weekend since the middle of May, when we kicked off the crazy with a trip to Oregon. We put a shell on the back of the pickup, stuck a backpacking stove and coffee pot, a futon mattress, and some pillows and such in the bed, and began a journey up the less-quick route from here to there. Basically, we went from 300 square feet to 30 for several days. We traveled through some parts of California we hadn’t traversed before, and some we had (but hadn’t taken the time to enjoy recently), and showed the kids some places important to us (like the Benbow Inn in Garberville; we spent a few nights of our honeymoon there, and so stopped there for a few hours to look at the fancy old building and the lovely grounds. While there, we struck up a conversation with the head gardener, and offered to build her and her husband a Tiny Home for their retirement. (It was a far more involved conversation than my simple summary, but that was part of it.)). We also saw (in three different places) goslings, shamrocks, and lily pads–which were far more interesting to the kids than the Avenue of the Giants, the Benbow, the fact that their Daddy and Mama were taking them on a very special trip to show them what we had loved before, and the miles of beautiful scenery along Highway 101 in Northern California. In any case, we worked our way through the topmost part of the state and then up the Oregon coastline until we turned inland and spent a few days with my family, near Salem.
The kids each acquired a new squished penny on the trip, at the Albany Carousel. Squished pennies are my favorite souvenir ever. They are customised to help you remember a particular place, and the occasion that brought you there. They don’t break, wear out, or become outgrown. They cost fifty-one cents apiece (fifty cents for processing, plus the penny that gets squished and imprinted with the design), so if they get lost, we do miss out on that particular penny, but it’s really not a big deal or a big loss of investment. We have all of ours in a squished penny display wallet that is smaller than a paperback book. If we get to the point that we fill it, I’ll make sure each child gets their own display wallet. We’re not there yet. I think there should be more squished penny machines (especially the crank kind, which are much more fun than the automated ones).
Since then (in addition to regular life, which is gardening and school, and at-home stuff), we have been to our local mountains (the ones we call home) five times, down to Southern California to the house we were flipping twice (Forrest has gone more than that, for the escrow inspections–we are hoping it closes soon, and all looks well on that front so far),to visit cousins in the foothills for a sleepover (and alpaca shearing! With scissors!), had three kid birthdays, and gone to Morro Bay for a camping trip once. That was an adventure. It was an attempt to get a bunch of family together for a few days just to hang out, while it wasn’t a holiday. We wound up with 21 people–eleven of them were between the ages of three and fourteen–and two dogs. Another fifteen or so people would have meant all of our “close” family on that side had made it, but while they were missed, we had a grand time anyhow. There were sandcastles. There was body surfing. There were sunburns. Children were frequently heard in the bushes–on one side, there was the “jungle” and on the other side was the “stick fort”. There was a somewhat epic tie-dying session. There were protracted games of Battleship (side-note: I think that guessing “C-4” in Battleship should automatically be a bonus hit, even if it’s a miss.). There were campfires, s’mores, and glowsticks. There was a very brief game of frisbee–it was a cheap frisbee; it snapped in half. There was the requisite comedy of errors when one brand-new tent was being erected (this included me standing inside, holding it up, while my cousin used her phone flashlight to try to read the directions and direct traffic on the outside). There was even a long piece of seaweed that was used as a jump-rope. And–there was a lot of food (I’m not the only foodie in my family).
It is this: trips hither and yon, time with extended family, honorary family, and just our nuclear family, that we are trying to give our kids with this life we have chosen. It’s a heritage of memories, experiences, creativity, problem solving, and simple pleasures that transcend the economies of stuff and media. It helps that in our Tiny Home, we don’t have space for a lot. We’ve had to distill our belongings down to what is most important. Granted, we have the Fort, and there are a lot of toys and other things there. But it is not a bedroom for everyone, and a playroom, and a bunch of other spaces filled with things. I don’t wish to disparage traditional American living; I just choose to say it is not for me.
I still have lots of things, but as I addressed in previous post, they are much more carefully curated than they used to be. A few weekends ago, sitting on the deck of a friend’s cabin (and basking in the clean 7000′ air and peaceful sunshine), I had my ridiculous unicorn notebook (it was a carefully considered acquisition; since it highlights an inside joke between Forrest and I, it was necessary. Besides–I write.) out as I sat and watched the kids play. Those ten minutes (among many other instances) cemented my belief that we are doing the right thing. I wound up writing a poem about what the kids were playing, as I quietly observed. Yes, I am going to subject you to my poetry, but it’s not very hi-faulting, so I think you’ll survive.
becomes a train door—
“All aboard!” she calls.
“We can’t,” he cries,
holding the screen open
“There’s a huge pile of rocks.”
Several minutes pass.
but technical difficulties abound!
The train is abandoned for a
spaceship, to obliterate their enemies.
Suddenly they are parachuting—
from an escape pod
the next adventure.
I absolutely adore that my three children–who were using no toys in this instance–can have such wonderful games together. There are five years (almost exactly; my eldest turned five one week to the day after her youngest brother was born) between them, and they play happily and imaginatively together. Granted, there are always going to be moments of discord throughout the day, but more often it’s like the poem, or this instance: eleven children, playing in the sand dunes while camping. Two mama’s are nearby, nominally watching, but mostly just having adult sister conversation time. We note there are two distinct camps, there is howling, and there is crawling–even the 14-year-olds are crawling about. Suddenly, they meet in the middle space between their encampments. One crawls up to us. “We are sand dogs, which are kind of like wolves,” we are told. “And each group has an Alpha!” Okay then. It isn’t long before we observe that the two groups are in a friendly sort of war, with people switching sides (or being held hostage?), and invasions and such. More observation reveals that the youngest child among them (my three-year-old) is the Alpha of one side. The next youngest (a cousin, about age five), complains to his older brother that they need to have a re-election, because the Alpha can’t lead. The older brother (who is later identified as the Beta of the pack) replies, “No! He’s a natural-born-planner. He stays Alpha.” And the game continued.