Monday, March 31, 2008

back at it

Well, it's Monday morning, spring break is over, and we're back at our 'real life' routine. And what makes it even more real is that it's still SNOWING, even though tomorrow is April 1st. Right now a little bungalow in Ventura by the ocean sounds swell! I have these end of winter freak outs every year in Missoula when I just can't take the sight of white any longer. Yesterday I finished up my annual ski career on a moderately triumphant note (just had a small nervous breakdown and a brief bout of tears...). I think Snowbowl somehow metaphorically represents all my deepest anxieties about living so far from what I think/thought of as home. It's like a fun club that I'll never really be a part of and never completely get. But I have to say, I've come far on the slopes, and when Jeff is teaching Eliana how to rip it up a few years from now, I'll be able to tag along and hold my own on the mountain.

Speaking of Eliana, she is just a bundle of fun these days. She loves to move fast, laugh hard, charm the pants off people, eat new and exotic foods, and generally live life to the fullest. I think part of my "breakdown" on the slopes yesterday wasn't because I was scared of speed or vertical drop, but rather, afraid of how quickly this all is moving. Eliana will be NINE MONTHS in two weeks. How did this happen? She is so big and confident and brave and loving. That little blobby bundle of summer and fall has been replaced by this hopelessly beautiful, endearing, inquisitive little girl. I just want to hold on to every fleeting moment, revel in every detail - her round, pink cheeks, the way her eyelashes look when they're wet, the way she holds her hands together and shakes them and laughs, the way she curls into my chest when I pick her up first thing in the morning, or smiles when I give her kisses, or yawns and rubs her eyes when she's had too much fun, or pats my cheeks and grabs my neck with her scratchy little nails. The way she so completely and thoroughly smiles with her whole self when she sees me. The way I reciprocate, the love lines in my face growing deeper in the day because, I swear, I've never loved anything so deeply before.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

spring break 2008

Eliana and her parents enjoy the thermal waters at Chico Hot Springs.

Eliana and Jiah enjoy some quality time together...

One of the perks of being a teacher is the vacation time. Jeff and I met when we were both teachers at the same school, almost ten years ago. Since then we have enjoyed many spring and summer break adventures. I remember one year when I met him for a week in Chile. I traveled sola, stopped in almost every Central and South American city on my way to Santiago. Once there, I spent the night on a metal bench, body nestled into my backpack, alone, because I had to catch a commuter plane to Southern Chile the next morning. I was brave, fearless, and loved the spirit of my independence, speaking to local folks, practicing my Spanish, eating exotic foods, and soaking up new cultures.

While I look back on that time with wonder and nostalgia, I can't say I'd love to be doing that now. I am on the tail end of my spring break and haven't been on a plane or walked on an empty, white sand beach. We did manage to drive about four hours away and take in the beauty and wonder of the Paradise Valley, here in our very own exotic state of Montana. We spent a few days in a condo with some friends in Big Sky, skiing and cooking and laughing. Jeff, Eliana and I then ventured to Chico Hot Springs where we had our first, teeny tiny vacation as a family of three.

Pleasure becomes much simpler after you have a baby. There isn't a whole lot that you need. The baby needs to sleep well. You need to sleep well. Good food helps. Good friends. A doting and attentive husband/father is a big plus. Long soaks in hot water is a perk. But really it's the time together, the time in the moment, the loving and giggling and changes that are taking place all the time. Probably the best thing about my spring break was hearing Eliana say, "Ma, Ma, Ma," her new best thing. It breaks my heart in two. And that even trumps the happiness of sipping a pisco sour on some remote island on the thin tip of a far flung continent.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

From Bedroom to Living Room

Another chapter in the travels of Eliana!

food source

I think breast feeding has made me think about food in a completely different way. Sure, I have always tried to buy as much organic as I can. We eat deer meat that Jeff brought out of the woods less than ten miles from our house. We do a decent job "grub-shedding" and try to minimize our ecological footprint. But when you think about breast milk as the very best food for your baby, and you realize how darn close the food source is to the recipient, that point about eating locally really gets driven home. No carbon emissions. No hormones. No feed lots. Not even plastic wrap. Just pure goodness.

Now that Eliana is eating from sources other than my breast, I'm realizing how up-tight about the whole food thing I really am. It's one thing to eat a burger from the Old Post and know that that you're eating mass produced beef -- you have a sip of your gin and tonic, take in the view from the deck, and feel happy that you don't have to do the dishes. The hormone fed beef, the fries that were never actually real potatoes, it all tastes fine and it's just in the fun of having a night out with some friends.

But with a little one, I seem to have no gray area. She only eats organic veggies, and better yet, food I've made myself. Her few tastes of meat have been from her daddy's deer (though last night I gave her a bite of moose given to us by a friend...ah my Montana raised girl!)

Since I've been breast feeding, I'm even more obsessed with organic dairy. I have become an expert at all the high end, organic brands of yogurt -- in fact, I have a delightful bowl of Wallaby's Vanilla Bean sitting right next to my computer. I do not want my little girl developing breasts when she's four because she's been unknowingly been ingesting too many growth hormones. I sit here wondering how safe I'll be able to keep my girl. How much protection is too much protection. When did I become so uptight?

I blame it on all those good, milk producing hormones. Those hormones that pushed this baby so bravely into the world, that fed her and made her big and strong, that took my body, completely altered it, and then somehow put it back together, so that I could have this most awesome and incredible responsibility.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

So she's finally doing it. She's a crawler. It's kind of funny because we've now taken tons of video footage thinking that she was about to crawl. Ready and waiting with the camera, we made movie after movie of Eliana grunting and sort of scooting, but never actually crawling. Then the other night we were at Bobby and Jo's for dinner. We were sitting in the living room drinking wine, talking, not paying a whole lot of attention to the little ones when I realized that Eliana, who had been stationed on all fours next to me, was now across the rug going after one of Jiah's brightly colored toys. She had moved herself forward, like a real, crawling baby, and I had missed it because I was busy catching up with my friends. But that's okay. It made me feel a little bit less like the dorky, obsessive mom that I am to just be so cool and casual, you know, sipping my wine, chatting, and just sort of noticing that my baby was making her first, independent movements. So mellow. So chill. So natural.

But really, that's not who I am at all. I've been on her for a week, following her little limbs with my dorky camera. So here it is. The footage. This isn't the best, but it's certainly superior to the reels of her sort of moving, with Jeff and I shouting encouragements in the background. Here she is in her play room. With her play music. Just doing her thing. Being her big girl self.

Happy eight months, little one. I love you more than I ever thought I could love anything in the entire world.

Where has the time gone?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Grunting Gertie

Grunting Gertie is the name of my girl these days. She eats, she grunts, she eats, she grunts. She really has terrible table manners. Luckily her proper British Gran will be here in April to teach her some manners...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

eater and independence

I'm pretty certain Mrs. Big Stuff is an eater, just like her mama. She definitely cares about food, and knows the difference between good food and just something bland and lame like rice cereal. She has this particular grunt and stare when she's eating something really good. The stare comes at me as she awaits her next bite, the grunt comes when she feels she has waited long enough! Last night we were amazed as she chomped a whole baked sweet potato, then moved on to avocado and topped it off with organic apricot applesauce. When she was still grunting, Jeff just handed her a wasa cracker so she could feed herself and we could get busy on the dishes. She then makes these magnificent poops (like three or four stinkers a day!) and seems ready for more food. One thing that I love about her food fascination is that I no longer feel too worried when I leave her. Since she never took a bottle, my breast was pretty much her only key to nutritional growth. Yesterday, for example, I left her with Jeff, raced out of the house and up the mountain. After getting used to hiking that hill with an extra 50 lbs (the height of pregnancy) or with the 15 plus pounder strapped to my chest, walking solo feels flying. I am fast and furious, my chicks rockin' it in my ears, my dog happily racing alongside me. Yesterday was that wild spring Montana afternoon, sun and wind and clouds and finally some teeny, little hail balls and I tried to keep up, taking off my hat and vest, putting them back on, all the while looking down at my little house, the river, this valley I so love. At one point Nina Simone's "Wild is the Wind" came on my shuffle. I listened to Nina's powerful, soulful self wail about the wind, about her lover, about the 'sound of mandolins' and I felt how wonderfully full and intense life is. These moments of flying sola are helping me find that old strength in myself, the self that is only concerned with the now, of the path in front of me, of keeping the weight off of my calves and the wind at my back, even if it's just for the forty five minutes up and down the mountain, until I can come home to my sweet, grunting girl.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Lucy and Eliana have, at long last, begun their little love affair. After six months of ignoring Eliana completely (except to get hideously ill upon her arrival), Lucy now gives Elie kisses and likes to hang out in the same room as us. Eliana is absolutely fascinated with Luz and loves to reach for her and pat her (we're trying to keep her from grabbing too much of Lucy's fur, though that seems to be what's in store). It's nice to feel like the whole family is finally coming together.

Monday, March 10, 2008

missoula in her springtime glory!

mommy's big day

Eliana's mama turned the big 3-4 yesterday and couldn't be feeling more lovely about the whole thing. Even though I had a few friends (...young, foolish friends) who sort of gasped when I told them how old I was, for the most part, it just feels right. If they say you only improve with age, then I do indeed feel wiser, smarter, kinder, more balanced, more of a badass, more consistent and more beautiful than ever before. Most of that swell self-esteem comes from being the mama of the best little sweet sauce in the entire universe. We shared such a lovely family day yesterday, starting at the University for the International Festival (where Eliana debuted her 'Miss Saigon' red suit that mama bought for her in Chinatown), and then followed by a three hour hike on Mt. Sentinel in the glorious, big sky, sunshine. I love my birthday because it means the first day of spring is so near and usually my bulbs poke their heads out of the ground to send me a birthday greeting. Well, the bulbs are poking, the sun is shining, my little girl is laughing and loving and so close to scooting forward, and all is well.

Other birthday highlights include, a splendid early dinner at Scotty's Table with my dear hubby (who rocked the gift this year by buying me a bunch of my favorite musicals on DVD to share with my little one - nothing like a sobbing mommy, smiling through her sentimental tears as she sings "I Feel Pretty" and "The Age of Aquarius" to start a girl's day off right!), a kickin' night on the town with the girls at the Red Bird Wine bar, replete with (2!) Malbec flights, a coconut, lemon cake, and lots of wonderful conversation with some of the best lady friend this mama could ask for, dinner last night with Mort and Roseann at the Finn and Porter, looking down at the river, enjoying a mojito, some loud laughs, and some really good pizza, bath with Eliana (the highlight of most any day), and the last disc of Lost on DVD. Simple is fabulous.

Friday, March 7, 2008

almost there!

the little miss is trying so valiantly to crawl. she works tirelessly every day on her play mat, trying, trying to push herself forward. she can now get up on all fours and then move into this downward dog sort of thing, but inevitably, she propels herself in backwards, circular motions, never really reaching the object in front of her. in this video, i'm luring her with her snazzy radio (thanks dad and mary!). at the end of the video i fold and push it forward - i've always been a bit of a pushover!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


I'm starting to realize that my little one is actually quite intense. She is learning to love life, and/or, explain to me exactly why her world is less than perfect at any given moment. She now laughs when I walk in and whines the minute I walk out. Instead of falling gently to sleep in her crib, she scoots herself around, bangs her head into the bars, and tries valiantly to stand herself up (with varying degrees of success, depending on how sleepy she is), before eventually passing out, exhausted and well exercised. I'm not surprised that she's active, nor am I surprised that she's so intense. Physical activity and general intensity are two things that my husband and I have in common. I guess soon enough I'll see what other character traits she gets from us, whether she'll have our curly hair, whether she'll be factual and logical like her dad or creative and emotional like her mama. It seems to be happening all so fast, she seems to be growing and changing daily. She's eating a ton of different things (even had her first bits of daddy's deer roast last night!) and subsequently making lots of "big girl" poops. Soon enough she'll be running around the house, showing us whose boss. For now, I'll continue to revel in her intensity, whether it's the way she opens her mouth huge to feed herself wasa crackers, or whether she's laughing at some crazy song I've made up. The key to keeping up is staying present in our love, our movements, our moments.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

a new luxury

it's saturday afternoon, almost 2:00, and i'm indulging. no, i haven't bought a new pair of jeans or taken myself out to a nice lunch. i haven't gone on some victorious hike or been rejuvenating at a yoga class. in fact, i haven't left my house. but i've found a new way to spoil myself - by indulging in eliana. for starters, my sweetheart of a husband got out of bed at seven with the little one and let me sleep until 10:30 (after a funky week of two and four a.m. wake-ups, the sleep was much needed). by the time i got up, elie was already down for her morning nap so i made myself breakfast, took time to drink my coffee, and checked my email. when she woke (with a huge smile at seeing my face looking down into her crib), we played in her room for a while. we sang songs, banged on her radio, sucked on miss spider (well, she did), and ate some snacks. after snacks i realized how disgusting elie was, covered in butternut squash mush and sucked bits on wasa crispbread. so at about 1:00, i drew a bath for the both of us. we played, splashed and soaked. i then nursed her in her chair, not concerned about the time or getting anything else done, and put her down for another nap. the luxury is this. i haven't worried about going grocery shopping or vacuuming our floors. I haven't done laundry or cleaned the bathroom. i've just been trying to be present with my little one, giving her the time and love and focus she so deserves. and in doing so, i find myself settling into the now, this timeless wonder of being in love.