Tuesday, September 30, 2008



Eliana has always been an exceptional communicator. But lately her ability to express herself just seems to be bursting forth. She has no trouble telling us what she wants or needs. For example, last night she woke up around midnight feeling pretty hungry. I tried to nurse her and she bit me. She wasn't interested. And it wasn't an angry, bratty bite, it was just a firm, "no" sort of bite. She then lay her head on my chest, sorta half awake and kinda whimpered. I asked her if she was hungry and she said, "chiz?" I asked Jeff to get her bag of beloved organic cheddar curds out of the fridge. She proceeded to eat, I swear, half of the bag, the whole time her little head just nestled on my chest like she's eating bon bons and snuggling into some fluffy pink pillow like some sort of fancy lady. She kept saying, "uummmm, ummm!" and then gently chewing. It was insanely sweet. I felt her independence in her choice to eat cheese over nurse, but I also felt her need to be close to me, to share her nurturing moment with me in some way.

It was one of those moments I just didn't want to forget. I couldn't get to sleep after that. I just wanted her to stay glued to my chest for the rest of the night, wished we were still co-sleeping, wished she liked to snuggle more than wriggle, wished that time could just stand still. With all that's happening in the world, all the changes, all that's at stake, that moment of cheese curds in bed was one of total solidity, total reassurance in the brilliance of the moment.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

happy birthday, nana and grandpa!




September is a birthday month for the Kesslers. Jeff keeps it real in his Virgodom at the beginning of the month, while Mort and Roseann challenge balance in the latter part of the month. We celebrated by heading to Lolo Hot Springs to take in the gorgeous mountain views and the first peek of fall colors. As always, Eliana enjoyed the hot water immensely and had a fabulous time being totally adored.

Today Morty rang in his 84th year on this earth, a pretty tremendous feat. I thought about Eliana, so teeny, every experience new and tremendous in her young life. So many stories yet to unfold, so many journeys and adventures ahead of her. Then I thought about my father-in-law who flew planes in World War II, who over six decades later, youthfully floated around in that warm water at the hot springs, a giant grin on his face as he oogled at his granddaughter. I thought about my mother-in-law, who was the head nurse in a hectic New York City emergency room before she had her children, the way she still can laugh with beautiful, childlike wonder and make conversation with just about anyone. Thought about all of the hard, dedicated work they've endured in their lifes. All the generosity. All the lives we lead that make this one, insanely beautiful journey. Our journeys as children, before we have children, when we have children and, eventually, after our children have their own. The whole thing is almost too awesome and huge to articulate.

And to think that they chose this. Chose us. To spend this precious time in their lives here, far from their home, with our little family. What a gift.

Happy Birthdays,
Nana Roseann and Grandpa Morty.
Thank you for the gifts of your love.

Monday, September 22, 2008

she says, "woof"

Jeffy took this sweet sauce video the other day when they were hangin' tough. It not only shows of Eliana's cruising ability, it shows off her budding vocabulary as well.

teeter toddling

Ah the many faces of my girl -- the cruiser, the wildcat, the thinker...

Eliana is really embracing the ambiguity of toddler-hood lately. It's always been weird to me that there's only one word for all the years between one and, say, four. How can these vast developments even be categorized together? But Eliana, while not quite ready for pre-school, certainly seems to be walking the spectrum these days. She is an explorer, an independent operator, a huge flirt, a total ham, and on a constant voyage of discovery. She loves to go around in the car now that she has a big girl carseat and faces forward. I love it because I can watch all the crazy faces she makes while I'm driving (while, of course, watching the road ever so carefully because I'm driving with my peach in the car). She also zips around the house and finds herself in every nook and cranny. Sometimes I have these momentary traumas when I can't immediate locate her. Of course she's always lurking, happily, in some random corner getting into some equally random thing.

Today she discovered mommy's purse. She had already discovered mommy's silver bangles. So she's wearing my bangles and pulling lipsticks and faded receipts and other goodies out of my disaster of a bag. She was so happy, so content, just to go through all the contents, make her little discoveries, and move on. Her favorite thing was this lip gloss wand that she just sort of wove around in the air with one hand, while the other hand kept busy pulling out the goods. She's such a little buddy now, such a BFF.

And then she still has her baby moments. Like last night when Jeff had to call me back from my girl's night because she had woken up screaming. She was totally out of sorts and we couldn't figure it out. I was rocking her and walking around the house like I used to. I finally nursed her to comfort, all the while she heaved and hyperventilated and blew snot and, eventually, came back down. Holding her in my arms, rocking her like that, with such determination and commitment, with this force of following a deeply rooted instinct, filled me with this sense of nostalgia for when this sort of meltdown was a daily thing. She felt so heavy in my arms, so long and different to the teeny thing that used to need to be shushed and swayed. But oh what satisfaction. To know what to do, to succeed and allow her to surrender and just be tiny and helpless. To help her just be a baby again.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

the new perfect

It seems that the older I get, the simpler I become. Or, at least, the simpler the things are that keep me happy. I was the kinda girl who used to do a million things in a day. I've always been a bit of a go getter. And I know it's cliche, but having a baby really does make you settle and appreciate. Like my day...

It's been a hell of a week. Work was intense and I was battling a nasty bug while Eliana not only picked up my goobers, but a case of pink eye to boot. I've felt worn down with an old lady's hacking cough, hair in desperate need of a cut (and what to do with them pesky grays?) and too much on my plate. But this morning I woke up with a bit of a spring in my step. I knew that Jeff would be leaving around noon for an overnight in the wilds of Montana, his first attempt to bring home an elk this season. I had a few hours before Pea and I had some true hunkering down time, so I made the most of it. I took Lucy up to the "L" and felt thrilled that I had some of my old stamina back (I've felt like a walking zombie with this illness and exercise has sounded awful). I then hopped on my bike and headed to the market to buy myself something special for dinner. A perfect leg of lamb later (raised on that same hill I climbed earlier that morning), and I was all set for my day.

made lots of, "With Eliana down, I decided to take up some pending business with the exuberant apple tree in my front yard. I've never made applesauce, but I figured the price is right, and god knows I buy a ton of the stuff with the Pea. I was kinda nervous about making the sauce and read up a bit on line. I'm kinda like a mad scientist in the cocina. Always have been (ask my mom about when I made paella after my summer abroad when I was 17 -- let's just say, I insisted on using a whole chicken with the "insides" like they did in Madrid....). I didn't exactly grow up in a "domestic" sort of environment. I didn't even know what "canning" was when I moved to Montana. I was 28. It's been a fast and furious learning curve for this city girl.

Anyway, the applesauce turned out just great and I didn't even have to peel the apples or use any of the fancy canning stuff that I don't have. Eliana made lots of "uummm!" sounds and ate two bowls full. So there. First accomplishment.

Feeling kinda cool about myself after the success of the applesauce, I decided to deal with the crabapple tree on the other side of my property. I've heard that crabapple jelly is swell, and I hate to see all those pretty little red babies fall to the ground. I did more research and found some wild recipe which requires letting the apple juice (after they've cooked a while) seep into a pot overnight. And guess what those lil babies are doing now???

And then the crowning glory of my day. The mint jelly. I'm kinda a lamb nut, and knowing that I was going to make myself a special dinner, I wanted the perfect condiment (I'm a condiment fool too). I've tried making mint jelly before. In fact, I tried making mint jelly in Cali with my mom and my sisters. I tried showing them how 'down home-country kitchen-I-live-in-Montana' I was a few summers back. I'm pretty decent at making jam. I make it every summer with the cherries and peppers from my garden. I can do it. But of course, when I tried to make jam in L.A. with the mint from my sister's yard, I basically ended up making mint syrup. After I'd run around to like a million places because they don't sell canning stuff at the markets there and you have to go to Michael's (I can't believe I'm mentioning that damn place again...I must secretly love it) and I was so psyched to show those girls that you can, indeed, make your own jam, and I totally failed. So I was apprehensive about the mint jelly. It's a bit different because you're dealing with an "infusion" not actual pieces of fruit. Anyhoo...

I made the infusion. I added the sugar. I did all the boiling, all the while working very quickly and efficiently because Pea was napping. I poured it in the jars. And it totally looked like mint syrup. As sissy would say, "double dog dang!" I got a little bit more down on myself than normal. I still had the crazy mess of crabapples seeping into the pot. There were cherrios on the floor. There were sticky applesauce spoons that I hadn't cleaned. I felt sorta like a grubshedding poser. I was so excited to have a successful country kitchen kinda day, and I had failed at the jelly again.

Sweetness woke up in a bit of a foul way, which isn't like her. She was probably bummed about the jelly. Or her goopy eyes. Or her god awful diarrhea and crusty nose. I nursed her to happiness (how am I ever going to wean this child?) and realized she was quite hungry. So we reentered the lab. She downed this lovely chicken/broccoli/rice puree that I'd made the other day. I got ready to grill my chop. We feasted and I poured mint syrup on my lamb, sad that it wasn't the jelly I so love, but happy because it was sweet and minty and delicious anyway.

Then it was a long love bath together. Eliana's new favorite thing is tickling my belly button. I'm actually quite ticklish and she really does make me giggle and jump. We played with her bath toys and she tried to throw the soap into the water while I tried to save it. We then read, nursed, and I put her down.

With Elie asleep, I headed back to the lab to make myself some tea. I picked up one of the golden glass jars of minty delight. And it had actually gelled! I did it. I made mint jelly. And I know it sounds ridiculous, but these small domestic accomplishments, these things that I do on my own that no one really cares about but me, are so damn satisfying. There's something about just hanging in the house all day with my sweetie, making good things with the bounty of now for later on, with my husband in the wilderness scouting elk no less, that seems to just feel so right to me. I don't really know how I ended up here. And I'll tell ya, I would have never in a million years predicted that my life would go this way and I wouldn't be living in London or New York, Madrid or L.A.. But here I am, in Missoula. In a little house with a couple of fruit trees, a baby sleeping happily in her hand me down crib, and a counter top lined with beautiful jars of food. And I really couldn't be happier.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

just say yes

Life in Montana is truly luxurious. Yes, the economy is bad, but the days are rich, and the opportunities for pleasure and recreo, ample. These pictures were taken barely forty eight hours ago, and it already feels like a lifetime. My weeks are busy and hectic. I've been battling an ugly back-to-school cold and feel extra run down. But I had an opportunity to go out with my dear friends, Bri and Joellen, on Bri's sailboat on Flathead Lake on Sunday.

The joke is...I almost said no.

I knew already that I had a bit of a bug. I was so glad to have an uninterrupted weekend with Eliana. She was sleeping way better with her mama putting her down and I knew how glad she was to have some q.t. with me. On Saturday night I told Jeff that I was going to call my girls and decline. I was too tired. I needed a day to catch up and vacuum and hang my clothes up in my closet and make applesauce with the gazillion apples on my tree.

But Jeffy, being the knowledgeable and fair husband who knows me only too well, said to not decline until the morning.

Sunday I woke up feeling fabulous. I busted out some cherry-jalapeno jam and cleaned the kitchen. Check. Two items done in a fraction of the time. I think I almost felt like I had to earn my right to a day of leisure on the boat. This is such a ridiculous notion. Ask my husband or any of his boyfriends if they feel they have to "earn" a day skiing or climbing or biking with random (and fairly unnecessary) household duties. I guarantee that they'd all laugh. They work hard. They play hard. Simple as that.

But it wasn't just the chores. It really wasn't the chores at all. I actually despise chores. It was the Peanut. It was just hanging with her. It was nursing whenever she wanted. It was getting on the floor and snuggling her guys and reading The Belly Button Book. I wasn't sure if a day on the lake was worth more to me than a day with my girl.

Reflection: when in doubt, just say yes. These opportunities to be with girlfriends, to be adventurous, to have a whole day without anyone needing you, are few and far between. The luxury of drinking champagne and feasting on cheeses and fresh focaccia, homemade salsas and bruchettas, of gabbing with girlfriends and watching the light play on that insane and immense lake, was an absolute gift. Besides, Eliana took one of the longest naps she had in weeks and Jeff adored spending the whole day with her. Win, win.

So here I am - it's only Wednesday. I went food shopping during my lunch break because we were so out of provisions. I've done two loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, made pesto and put the recycling where it belongs since picking up Eliana after work this afternoon. In an hour, I return to MIS for Back-to-School Night. I'll attempt to sound eloquent, relaxed yet capable, while I present my literacy program to a room full of parents. I'll answer their inquiries and share books and materials. I'll return to K (the god given babysitter), my sleeping child, and the utter exhaustion which seems to be my companion after nine o'clock these days.

Then...I'll remember the sunshine on the water, the feel of the wind, the laughter of my girlfriends. That another weekend is only two days away. That fall is warm and gorgeous and the leaves still haven't turned.

And the last thought I'll have is of my little girl, her dimples, her sweet little walk, the way she rubs my cheek and holds her head close to my chest after a long day away. I'll remember the balance that seems to make this all work out.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

keeping up

Eliana and her parents have made it through the first two weeks of school. The time has been so full. My exhaustion level today is extreme, but extreme in that way that I know I've kept my days meaningful and replete. My mama came for the week to help with Eliana as we adjusted to teacher mode. It is always so wonderful to have her here. She loves being with her girl and they have such a sweet relationship. Eliana can say, "Ga, Ga!" for Gran, which, of course, makes her grandmother beam. One of my favorite multi-generational adventures occurred in Michael's craft shop. Eliana (who is a totally legitimate walker now, by the way--that's a whole other post...) was cruising around this ridiculously full-of-god-knows-what store at lightening speed. I had no idea that Michael's sold pink, plushie stuffed poodles or long strands of fabulous beads. Eliana had no trouble finding all of these sensational items. She would wander through the aisles one way, while my mama was wandering the other way looking for whatever crafty thing she needed. The store was huge and I didn't want us to get lost or totally separated. Plus my mama is not exactly a power walker these days and, of course, she didn't have her cane. I was so focused on Elie, that I lost my mama. So we started to walk down the aisles looking together. I said, "Gran? Where are you?" and Elie said, "Ga? Ga? Ga?" until she got distracted by the yarn that she had to snuggle.

We found each other and carried on. But that moment of worrying about my mom and running after my baby (in Michael's, of all places) and realizing that we all take care of each other in unique and wonderful and exhausting ways, will stick with me.

What else. Jeffy had a birthday. We had a lovely dinner date, though by the end of it, we were both basically passed out on the table we were so tired. We had another anniversary of 9/11. I read the book about Phillipe Petit the performance artist artist who walked between the towers to my class and almost cried. I had one of those moments where I really, really love what I do. I thought about these twin girls in my class who celebrated their second birthdays on 9/11. What must have that been like for their families? How do we raise children with hope when something that astonishing and destructive happening? Which could get me on to the whole "got hope" topic, but I'd like to try and stay on track. All I will say is that my hope is currently high.

Also been a dancing fool. Felt like a bat was taken to my body this week as I recovered from an intense and utterly awe-inspiring weekend with Mouminatou Camara, a master west-African dance teacher from Guinea. I studied with her for a week a few months before I conceived Eliana, and haven't really danced strictly West African since then. Her grace and strength and talent rocked my Saturday last week. By the end of the fifth hour, tears joined the sweat on my cheeks as I took in the drums and took in this phenomenal woman, so unlike any that live here in my little, bubble of a community. I cried for talent and art, but cried that we can't have it all. That Eliana will grow up in a safe, beautiful place, with good, kind neighbors and lots of love, but not a whole lot of opportunities to explore diversity. I thought about how badly I miss having a teacher. While I love teaching dance each week (like absolutely love, love love it) I miss having a source to learn from. I try my best when I'm in the big city, but it's hard when you can't develop a relationship with a mentor. So in my big bad future, I have some personal goals and dancing adventures planned for myself. We'll see....

So I've managed to go from Michael's to New Guinea, all in one blog post. My life is full and wild and I can't exactly strive for cohesion right now. The sun is perfect, the sky is blue, and I have a leek soup on the stove. Eliana's napping, my mama's in the air headed back for Cali, and all I can do is feel so full of gratitude. Thanks for my family, for the warmth, the ache in my legs, the cozy hood of my sweatshirt. For my girlfriends, for my job, for the hammock that I can still enjoy for a few more weeks before the cold settles in. For the experiences and details that make me overjoyed to be here right now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

school girl

try again
Today was a much better day at work. I had my teacher energy back (it helps to drink a lot of coffee) and was able to zip around the way that seems to keep all of us happily engaged and enthusiastic. While mommy made the grade, Eliana came up with about a C average. She didn't take much of a morning nap and then proceeded to babble/cry/play her way through what should have been her afternoon nap. This is the second day of nap revolt - this coming from a kid who napped for over five hours just this Monday.

Now it's after five in the evening and she's finally down, so I guess I can move her up into the B range. She's a trooper. She's just trying to get used to the changes that come with a new year. Kinda like when the kindergartners finally move up to first grade. The day seems endless to them and the teachers always talk about how hard it is to acclimate them at first. But, as children, they are blessed with the resilience and flexibility to rise to the occasion. Hopefully my little girl is on her way as well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

school's in

We're officially back at it over here at 1120 Van Buren. School started today and I'm still reeling. After three months of holiday, going back and putting forth the effort and enthusiasm and on-itness and consistency that teaching lil guys requires is quite a shock to the system. Leaving your tyke doesn't seem to get much easier with time (at least as far as going to work is concerned). It sorta felt like stepping back in time. Me sitting at my desk this morning, feeling sick to my stomach because something felt like it was missing. Wanting to call babysitter K every ten minutes and realizing that, in my haste to get out the door, there were a ton of things (including Elie's nap time) that I had forgotten to tell her. Knowing that Eliana would be sharing her time with K with little Soraya and knowing that she might have a rougher run because of it.

I know it will get better. I know we will get into a groove. But the toddlerly girl who has replaced my super chill baby cries and whines and wants to be held by me all the time and it's hard. It breaks my heart and drives me nuts and pulls at my heartstrings and hormones.

Tomorrow is a new day. Thank god it's a short week.

Monday, September 1, 2008

nuestra familia

So much sweetness in this little family of three...

summer memories

We went from a beautiful, sparkly summer Saturday to pouring rain and snow in the mountains. While the leaves are still green, the changes of fall are certainly upon us. Which makes me want to immortalize the lovely summer we've had all the more.