Sunday, August 31, 2008

homegirl's upright!

Just a few steps at a time followed by the most spectacular hoot and laugh of pride from both mama and baby. Dimples are flying, feet are stepping, and one little pea is growing up way too fast.
video

Thursday, August 28, 2008

fall for teachers

Fall for teachers is a uniquely spectacular, mildly terrifying, and certainly jolting time. We go from basking in the simple pleasures of a work free life to hustling through meetings, using our brains to dissect theories and schedules and reading programs, and bustling about to get ready for the roller coaster of a new school year. This week has been a bit of a blur for the Kessler household. It seems that the chaos comes upon us like a sudden blast and lets lose over our whole lil universe. Suddenly the place is a disaster, there are piles of laundry, no groceries in the fridge and no diapers in the basket. I can barely keep my eyes open past eight o'clock and find myself passing out in an achy stupor.

Eliana's done her first week of legitimate, paid, childcare. I realize, once again, how extremely lucky we were to not have to pay for childcare last year. When you leave your child with family, the whole exchange is so relaxed and informal. This morning I found myself writing "the note" for Elie's new babysitter. The note with what she likes to eat and how to put her head on her yellow blankie and not her pink when she's in her crib. I remembered being on the other side of this equation. Remembered a college career of nanny jobs, of shuffling other people's kids off to soccer practices and reading them their favorite stories before bed. Of doing other people's breakfast dishes and making batches of cookies for other families to enjoy.

And now here I am. Leaving a list of "light housework" for my college helper to do if she gets a chance. Here I am, the mama who comes home and wants every detail about her girls day. Exactly how much she ate. Did she poop. Did she get weepy?

Comes home to find them together in the yard, playing with Lucy, the sunscreen perfectly applied to her barely there hair head by someone else. It feels a bit surreal. Don't I look exactly like I did when I was young enough to watch other people's kids? There are lots more gray hairs to be sure, but otherwise, I'm still the same ol' chick. With a whole lot more responsibility. And a whole lot more joy.

Tomorrow is a new day. I'll go and leave Els with her new BFF. We're both growing and needing and remembering when things were a bit more simple.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

slider

Jeff and I are quite certain that the highlight of Eliana's vacation, perhaps even the highlight of Eliana's life thus far, was the children's play area at the Seattle airport. For most of our three hour layover, Eliana went nuts in this padded room. Our belief that she is a truly tremendous climber was affirmed as she scaled up and down this super shiny (and quite steep) yellow slide. Here's the video footage to prove it!
video

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the jers






Eliana had a blast in the suburbs. While her mama flitted around the big city, Eliana made her way up and down her Nana and Grandpa's staircase, crawled up and slid down the slide in the yard and even enjoyed a giant bubble bath with her auntie and Nana. She met her boyfriend Wyatt and kissed his toes. She met cousins and uncles, aunties and neighbors. She finally met ol' JC (aka, G.C.) who greeted her with a brand new drum. The week was simply perfect. There was tons of love flowing and plenty of people ready to give us a break and watch Els (even at six in the morning!) Here are some photographic highlights.

nyc or bust



So I did it and I'm proud. I had not just one but two, count 'em two, nights in New York City without Eliana. And it was damn fun. I felt a bit like Peggy Sawyer from 42nd Street as I rode the commuter train into the city from Jersey. My heart was racing and I was filled with excitement, anxiety and this sort of stomach achy ambivalence. I stepped off the train at Penn Station and within minutes had found my sister amidst the hustle and bustle of a city workday (gracias a dios por telefonos celular!). We did it up. We did it perfectly. We went straight to an old friend's very hip and popular dim sum shop. A high school theatre buddy who has not only been voted one of the up and coming entrepreneurs in the city, but the exploding hot chocolate mochi dessert was voted in the top ten desserts in NYC. What a great start that was for my adventure. And Kenny gave me lots of free dumplings to try. What a sucker I am for all things delicious and special and free! Loved to see an old friend doing so well in such a big pond.

The pond thing was a theme for my adventure. I realized that I love being a big fish in my small Montana pond. I realized that first and foremost when I took my, "Urban Lyrical" dance class. Wow. It was tough. The long, Argentinian and very gay teacher taught his uber dramatic, heart felt and extremely technical moves at lightening speed. I felt big and goofy and dorky. I couldn't even attempt to reach and rub and leap and turn like the rest of the class. I tried to give myself the advice I give my dance students. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one is watching you but you. Ignore the image in the mirror. And even though I kinda wanted to cry at the very end because I never was able to perform more than a fraction of the piece, it was good for my ego and was oddly affirming in this sorta backwards kinda way.

Moving along, we took our sweaty ass selves to the fabulously cheap imports at Conway. Neither of us ended up with any finds, but lucky for me, I had my trusty little red, "producer" dress and some flip flops stuffed in my backpack. We then found Adam and Tina, our old childhood dancing buddies at some lovely little outdoor patio. After big hugs, lots of laughs and a caiphirina, we moved on to our next spot, some fabulous Mexican joint, for margaritas and mole. Oh how I love how seriously New Yorkers take their food. It's so different to here. In Missoula we take food seriously but we generally grow/hunt/cook the food. It's not at all about the restaurants (save the occasional treat at Scotty's or Red Bird). But in New York it's this huge deal. I mean, I totally get it. I would be so on that train if I lived there. There's this vast universe of fabulous cuisine from all over the world. Why wouldn't you take it seriously?

After dins we hit the theatre. "In the Heights" was as Tony worthy, earnest and as fabulous as ever. God I love watching really talented people do their thing. This was another theme. Appreciating real talent. And then it was post show drinks and dissecting and critiquing. Talking about shows/movies/music that I'm passionate about is another thing I don't do enough in Missoula. I ate it up.

And it wasn't until about two in the morning, after I had showered and washed the grime and sweat of my busy day off of my sleep bones, that I realized how big my breasts were. They were full. I had no pump. I almost considered "hand expressing" though this seemed like an awful lot of squeezing for not a lot of payoff. So I took a deep breath, turned out the light, and snuggled in next to my sister on Tina and Adam's fold out. . I would be okay.

To be quite honest, I had hardly had time to think a whole lot about Eliana. I had checked in via cellular with Jeff a few times and she seemed to be doing swell. I knew that the next morning I would be finding her in Central Park. So I managed to go to sleep with the anticipation of seeing her little elfin face the next day.

Elie and I had a splendid reunion outside Tavern on the Green. She nursed excitedly and I was relieved to finally empty my breasts. We played on the swings (Eliana being the only child who was the same color as the adult woman with her), watched the boats, cruised on the grass. Tina, Adam and Carol all made it all the way to the park to get just a few minutes with the little vixen. Seeing how loved she is by her 'aunties and uncles' all over the country always fills me with such pride and amazement. I am one blessed mama.

Then it was on to a very fancy lunch in the garden of Tavern with aunties Kelli and Hilary, Nana Roseann, and daddy Jeff. Eliana was hours past due for her nap, but persevered like the stellar traveler she is. Soon it was time to say goodbye. Mom had a samba class to catch and a tank top to buy in order to have something clean. It was from samba to sushi, sushi to show. I topped off the trip with watching some of the best African dance I've seen, some of the most tremendous bodies moving in a way that I can only spend a lifetime striving to emulate.

I had thought I'd go home after the show, but couldn't find a train that late at night. I've certainly lost my city edge after six years in Montana and the idea of switching trains late at night sorta freaked me out. Eliana was already asleep in Jersey. So I stayed out!

Hil and I hit the pavement again, met up with some old friends at a tapas bar, enjoyed Spanish wines and sangria, laughed hard and reminisced. The night was electric and pulsing. I was full of wonder, basking in all the energies and eccentricities and decibels that make up such a unique and absolutely wondrous city. I couldn't have conjured up a better situation to try my sola mama wings away from my girl. It was totally perfect.

As hard as it always is to say goodbye to my sister, I was ready to hit Penn Station the next morning. After buying a fat and fabulous NY bagel and a big cup of coffee, I sat on that train replete and satiated and full. I took in the urban views from the train and thought about how far from this world I've wandered. I thought about how much I absolutely love, and have always loved, the pulse and diversity of the city. I thought about the life I've chosen. I vowed to show Eliana as much of the world as I possibly can, appreciate every moment I've been given, and not take a thing for granted. Then I watched the skyline change to suburb and felt my heartbeat quicken as I anticipated seeing my girl.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

amigas


There's a huge blessing in girlfriends. It's real and raw and beautiful and unique and universal. It's women loving women, chatting and gabbing and trusting - girls loving girls, eying and kissing and babbling. It's a gift that is so present and shining and tremendous in my life. It's something I am thankful for daily. It's making random calls, helping a friend in her kitchen, encouraging someone to try something new. It's watching our beauty girls grow and thrive, knowing that we're so in this together.

the sweetest time

Eliana is changing so much all the time. Yet some things still remain the same. Like our sweetest time. The time that always makes my heart stop just for a teeny tiny second. The time when I want to close my eyes, breathe deeply and try to take it all in. She is all ready for a nap or bed. She nurses happily in the rocker. Then she pulls off of my breast and looks at me with so much devotion and contentment. I lift her up, place her little arms around my neck, let her head rest on my shoulder. I carefully stand with her in my arms. I kiss her neck. I kiss it again. I tell her how much I love her. I tell her to have a sweet sleep. I lay her on her green, fuzzy blanket. Her yellow softie and baby wait on either side of her blankie. She smiles at me with those trusting eyes. And I tear myself away because I know I could just stand there and look at her forever.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

weighing in

Eliana had her one year well visit this morning with the pediatrician. Of course she dazzled the pants off of the doctor with her endless chatter, big smiles and jovial, social self. The doctor remarked at how very engaged and involved she is. And then she looked at her weight. Eliana weighed in at a hefty 17 pounds, putting her in the bottom 3rd percentile for weight. She's 28 inches long, putting her in the bottom 10th percentile for height. No one ever said that we have a large baby. There's a reason she's referred to as Peanut. But the bottom third? That makes a mama feel kinda funky.

The doctor was lovely and kind and asked all sorts of questions about her diet. I boasted about how she likes organic yogurt and beans, cucumbers and zucchini from our CSA share. But for whatever reason, she just burns up those calories so darn fast checking out the world every day. She gave us some tips on how to fatten her up (peanut butter by the teaspoon anyone?) and recommended that we come back and weigh her in six weeks. So there ya have it. Peanut is, alas, a peanut.

Monday, August 11, 2008

bikes ahoy!










Jeff and I finally got our family bike trailer all set up. Well, I went to REI and bought the part and Jeff did the set up! We're good with gender roles over here...Anyway, I have to say that biking with Eliana is one of the funnest things I've done in a long time. It just sort of tops off the bike revolution I've already been having this summer. For those of you who live in Missoula, I know, it's no big deal, everyone bikes here, whatever. But I'm an L.A. girl. Biking is still incredibly novel for me. Just in the six weeks or so, my confidence on my bike has soared. I keep setting up more intricate biking errand systems for myself, little challenges, if you will. I've realized that doing errands on a bike makes doing errands infinitely more fun. Plus you get exercise, but it doesn't even feel like exercise!

Yesterday Jeff, Eliana, Lucy and myself packed up for a family bike and picnic up the Rattlesnake. It was a perfect August day, breezy and cool. Eliana did spectacularly in her bike trailer, even when we flew over bumpy downhill bits. I felt like a super badass because I've never ridden my bike on anything but cement (city girl that I am...). While we didn't make it all the way to our eight mile goal, we did make it half way, enjoyed a splendid picnic in the wilderness, and all returned feeling that fabulous high of exhausted exuberance that only great physical activity can bring. Bikes ahoy!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

keeping up


We have a legitimate toddler on our hands. I didn't really get when that whole baby to toddler transition hit before this week. I thought it was a bit premature to call Elie a toddler when she has barely any hair, can't walk, and a measly four teeth. She's still just a baby, already, I naively told myself.

But things are changing around here. You know that image of the mom who can never sit down because she's always chasing after her kid who is always up to some wild thing. And the kid always has this crazed look in her eyes and is making all sorts of primal sorts of sounds, but making no sense? That's my girl. Yesterday she managed to crawl right out of the house, across the deck, down the steps and then into her little stroller that was out on the grass. I got to her just as the stroller, which is really flimsy, was about to tip over backwards with her in it. She goes to her dresser, opens up the bottom drawer, and hurls all of her clothes all over the room. She does the vietnam belly crawl under her crib and finds the most fascinating things, including huge dust bunnies and wayward legos. She pulls books off of the shelves and flips through them really quickly like she's super fascinated, and then tosses them to the side. She crawls at a million miles an hour over to Lucy's doggie bed, stands up, and then hurls herself into the nasty big cushion. She then rolls around on the bed with this huge grin like she's just arrived in her own private suite at the Waldorf.

Jeff and I stare at each other in disbelief constantly repeating our new household mantra, "Do you have her?"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

sissy



So much is happening so fast. A quick update from last post is that I'm feeling infinitely better. I think part of my issue was the fact that I basically didn't exercise for a week while we were away. I need to let those endorphins out or I go a little bit batty. I tend to work out a lot of my issues when I move. Being back in the dance studio teaching this week has been such a gift. I am so blessed to be teaching in the most gorgeous, new studio this summer. My classes are filled with splendid, strong women who bring so much light and fun into my life.

One of the greatest treats of my summer came mid way through my "World Rythm Yoga" class a week or so ago. I was going about my teaching, busting our way through sun salutations while the multi-ethnic tunes of all my lady friends boomed through the kickin' sound system when, lo and behold, the most beauteous sight calmly walked in the room. She smiled, as humbly as ever, found a yoga mat and joined in. It was sissy, as gorgeous as always, coming straight to my class after driving the seven hours from Seattle to pay us a little visit. How special is this?

To have sissy with me in a dance studio, well, that's just the best. Not only has she had a hell of a year due to a knee injury and subsequent surgery, we don't ever have the chance to dance together anymore. And that's after a childhood of playing, "Fame" and making our families sit through endless hours of choreography and performances, a high school filled with musicals and rehearsals, college years filled with the same and then, even, my brief stint in the early years of Lineage, sissy's modern company. Dance has been this consistent thread that has run, or dare I say leaped and chassed, through our sisterhood. Having her here in Missoula on that beautiful dance floor brought it all back together.

The next evening she was able to come for my whole Afro-Brazilian class. I was almost a little bit embarassed dancing in front of sissy now. She's such a real artist, so insanely talented with tremendous endurance and real technique. I'm all passion, energy and enthusiasm with some smooth moves on the side. Hil is the real deal.

This visit marks Hilary's fourth visit to Missoula since Eliana's been born. How cool is that? And in a week and a half I get to see her again when we rendezvous in NYC for a little love. I've decided to stay the night, see "In the Heights" and the new Bill T. Jones show about Fela Kuti. I'm dying to see this - it's so very up my alley. Thanks to you girls who gave me the thumbs up. I have somehow managed to make lots of time for myself since Jeff came back. I've got dinner dates and dancing dates, tubing dates and sailing dates. Jeffy's telling me to take my time. He doesn't get what the hold up has been. I told him I just had to work out a few kinks in my system, a few of my new mama hormones that seem to keep me totally bound to that little girl.

Monday, August 4, 2008

how we do it



Tonight I'm feeling exhausted, alone and grumpy and I can't help thinking about how in the world we do it. I know it's cliche. A mom's work is never done, yadda yadda. And I also know that I have it pretty darn awesome. My husband is generally home with me all the time to help out with Peanut. I only work part-time (though this will soon change...) and I don't have to pay for child care (again, this is a bit in flux). But, for now, I have it awesome. I'm on summer vacation. I get to hang out with my girl all day. We've taken trips, eaten well, played with a ton of friends, had tremendous house guests, yet I feel all itchy and angsty and can't figure it out.

I feel like a total loser for complaining. I think about my one friend who has been at home with her little love, alone, for a year. She's barely made it out to a sewing class and never asks for a break, never complains, never claims she's going totally batty being in the house tending to the needs of a little dynamo all the live long day. And then there's my other friend who works full time and brings her sweetie to the office with her, juggling, essentially, two full-time jobs every day. I mean, how insanely badass is that? Of course let's not forget my friend who leaves her lil hottie with a nanny so she can go help people deal with the fact their kid needs a liver transplant. Or is dying of some god awful disease. She's like dealing with the doctors and the hospital and the aunties and uncles and doing most of it in Spanish. Good God. That's easy. That's light. So I should really shut up and stop writing. I have an excellent life. Big old whiner am I.

But I know I'll feel better once I finish this post and drink this little cocktail I've put together. So I'll continue.

Part of my beef tonight is that my man has been off on yet another three day recreational extravaganza, this time on the Salmon River. This makes about three weeks since Eliana's been born of Jeff being away while I'm with her. The majority of this time has been to ski, hunt, climb or raft. And I'm glad my man is so passionate about the great outdoors. He lives life well and I love him for it.

But I guess my issue is this. Why can't I get my shit together and go have my own good time the way he does? He's given me the green light, tells me to make a plan with my girlfriends and just get out. And I talk a big game, get excited, start making little plans imagining the ease with which I'll go about life without Eliana all up in my stuff all the time...and then I realize I don't want to be without her. I don't want to leave her overnight. I don't want to be on vacation without her. I quite frankly can't really imagine a day in which I don't see her, hold her, laugh with her, snuggle her, feed her and so on and so forth. It sounds vacuous and weird and foreign to just leave her and think only of me. And it makes me scared because I really, really want to be able to separate enough from her to take care of myself to the full extent that I deserve to be taken care of.

I have this opportunity in a few weeks to do a full 36 hours or so in New York City with my sister and without Eliana. Hil and I have a history of summer forays in the city. We've spent many a hot afternoon walking for miles, yammering away, hoofing it through neighborhoods and eating wild foods, and always ending the day at a show that we've both waited years to see. We then hold hands, cry through all the harmony, and rush to our feet hoot hollering during the final curtain. As I write about our times together, I can just so picture us laughing, making funny inside jokes, stopping for dim sum, wandering into a Body Shop to spray some good smells before we drag our citified selves into the theatre. Sometimes we even shop right before the show in random, cheap stores. We then toss our shorts and tanks in a bag, dawn our twenty dollars worth of new duds, and wow all our friends with our crafty thriftiness. Oh I want to go! And I just read in the New Yorker today about all the shows I want to see. If I stay overnight, we can go to two!

So, friends, if anyone has any insight or thoughts, please feel free to encourage or discourage my little adventure. I think my milk supply will stay ample, though Eliana has been going a little bit nuts for the boob lately. Her new thing is dive bombing for it in the tub like a horny thirteen year old. But that's a whole other story.

So, in true Carrie Bradshaw fashion I ask, do we mama's take trips alone and sacrifice the pain of leaving the babes for the excitement of going solo?

Insights always welcome...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

on journeys and returns












Our little family took their first, official family vacation last week. While we've traveled together plenty, this was the first time that the trip was about us and doing exactly what we wanted to do without having to visit any particular place. We journeyed to the Washington coast where we camped on Neah Bay, the northwest tip of the country. I was hesitant about the beach camping before we left. The number of people who said things like, "You guys are crazy!" or, "Twelve hours in the car with a baby? Sounds like fun..." didn't exactly help either. And Eliana basically failed her test camping trip. She was up most of the night wanting to play with us, the novelty of her parents trying to sleep so close by was absolutely thrilling and she subsequently spent most of the night awake and trying to get us to be as excited about the whole thing as she was.

So, needless to say, Eliana got her own tent on the beach. Her own big yellow tent with her pack n' play inside and all her blankets and dollies and softies. And Jeffy and I got to stay up and hang with our friends and go to bed late without worrying about waking up la princesa. She would usually come to around six in the morning and one of us would stumble over to her tent. She'd then have herself a nice long nurse and pass out somewhere between us (usually managing to get herself perfectly situated on both of our sleeping pads, leaving us happily on the hard ground while she splayed out like a little monkey).

The days were spent exploring the beach, surfing (Jeff did great, I didn't exactly get up, but appreciated the beauty of it all), cooking good food, reading, resting, and watching Eliana make her way in the playground that is the playa. She's on fire these days, that little girl. She moves fast and is totally fascinated with everything. Her dear Drunkel and Auntie enjoyed her immensely which made the trip all the more enjoyable for her parents, as they allowed for many breaks in Eliana patrol. There's nothing better than your friends loving your child as much as you do.

And alas, there's always the sweet return. After Elie surpassed all expectations in the car on the return, with nary a whimper (except while she waited for me to toss myself into the backseat for hours of mommy entertainment), we find ourselves back in our sweet little life. While I always get my city bug on or ocean bug on during these sorts of travels, and play these little games of, what if we lived here?, at the end of the day, Missoula is a splendid home to return to. It only makes the friendships sweeter, the mountains more stunning, the piney scent more acute, with a bit of time away. And like her parents, Eliana is a traveler who loves the journey and revels in the details, but is equally thrilled to throw herself back in her basket of toys, turn up her tunes on the radio, and get her home groove on.