Thursday, March 26, 2009

the pink happiness

My kids had a poetry reading tonight at a local bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. I was such a tuckered out chica before the big event. Eliana and I were lying chest to chest on the sofa, reading books, spacing out on Baby VanGogh, loving, and I couldn't imagine why I ever thought that planning a poetry reading (for fun, mind you) for a bunch of seven and eight year olds the day before spring break was a remotely reasonable idea. When I finally peeled myself and my sweetheart off of the sofa, I realized I had lingered way too long. Inevitably, this is when I realized Els had soaked through her pants, was hungry, needed her whole outfit changed, etc., etc. I, in turn, put on real lipstick instead of colored chapstick, brushed my hair into a smoother ponytail, and forgot about my earlier notions of wearing something more festive and poet like to the event. I hustled out in my down coat and clogs, the kids books and microphone and art projects and music stand shoved into my little car.

It seemed I had barely placed the last chair on the floor when the kids and their parents started piling into the shop. Again, I wondered why I had this ridiculous idea in the first place. I watched the kids, all gussied up and a mess of nervous energy and excitement, spill around me. When it was time for me to take the mic and begin the show, Eliana started crying. My voice amplified, talking to a small room full of big people, totally ignoring her, was not her scene. I felt that flustered pull, tried to give Jeff the, get-her-the-heck-outta-here-evil eye, and continued speaking. While trying to retrieve the keys in my jacket that was, of course, in the back of this crammed, skinny room, Jeff passed me Elie.

She immediately stopped crying. She put her little arms around my neck while we watched my first little shining star read her insanely raw, gorgeous poetry. I stood there, my daughter's arms around my neck, my kids pouring their hearts out into the mic, and felt one of those moments of total wholeness. She wanted to be a part of my scene. I love that.

We wear lots of hats, us busy working mamas. I just read my friend Nici's kickin' post about all we do in our wild, often harried, never dull, lives. Her words are so in sync with my life right now. The sweetness of each moment, the depth and variety and honesty and integrity behind each act that somehow equals a day.

I was so proud of my students tonight. They are such brave and courageous souls. When one little girl read her line about, "the pink happiness" of her life, I thought about all the pink happiness that surrounds this time in my life. It's like one enormous, packed, shimmering pink happiness.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I am blessed to live in a world where one can love a grapefruit so much that she would want to hug and kiss it, squeeze her eyes together with delight at the mere sight of it, snuggle her little face in it -- it was a day full of grapefruit love, simple delights, perfect moments.

As my mama always says, there's no better, more essential feeling than gratitude. And I'm feeling a heap of it tonight. I'm thankful for my sister and brother-in-law's visit all the way from Portland for just a few days of family together time. Thankful for the perfect pancakes that Kelli whipped up from scratch today. Thankful for the way my in-laws make me laugh with their openness and wacky ways. I'm thankful for the ridiculously gorgeous hike I took over the mountain behind my house today, going home pioneer woman style through snow, moss, beauteous vistas and forging my own, wild very un-paved trails. Thankful for the long chats I had with old girlfriends, one who is in the 26th delicious week of pregnancy, the other who is enjoying her boys first steps. It's so much all of this new life, remarkable development. I'm thankful for my home and space and the hard work we put into attempting to convert our basement into a playroom for Elie. The way my husband and I can laugh together. My mama's voice on the phone, the thought of her and Hilary actually being here with us soon. The organic strawberries I bought from the store, the first strawberry of the season being nothing short of total marvelousness to this spring ready mama and her berry lovin' girl.

And then there was dinner at the Massey's tonight. Homemade hollendaise on perfectly cooked asparagus. Pinot. Baked ham. Eliana and Moana acting as heads of either end of the table with their perfect little plates of mac and cheese, raisins, grapes and cottage cheese. Even cream cheese tacos for baby appetizers and homemade hummus and jicama for grown ups.

But none of those nuggets from a perfect day even come close to the greatest thankful of the whole day. Casey gave me a birthday present today and it's the first present I've received in a really long time that has made me cry. She bound my blog. Like really bound it in a real book with glossy pages and a fat binding and even a title on the spine. All the ramblings and goofy details and unedited, uncapitalized exclamations from Eliana's first six months of life. In hard copy.

It is positively gorgeous. The layout on each page is perfect. Looking at those funny little pictures of my girl a mere 20 months ago and reading about the way I savored every detail just breaks my heart. And, more importantly, totally validates the whole creative process of blogging for me. This blog has changed since Elie's birth. I am much more self-conscious about how it looks, I crop and edit photos, I capitalize and spell-check. I want the posts to have a purpose. I want it to look smooth and sleek and I envy both my real friends and cyber-friends alike who are able to take better pictures than I am, who are more computer savvy and all that jazz.

But, for god's sake, doing this is so not about that for me! That's the word to remember. I am feeling these wild, creative surges lately and all I want to do is savor them, write more, dance more, cook more, put wilder combinations of fabrics or accessories together more, read more poems to my kids, write more poems with my kids, read more songs to Eliana, sing more songs to Eliana. Give more. Love more. Play more. Talk more. Get deeper. Feel more. Admire more. Be more gracious.

So, my dear, dear friend, thank you for that beautiful gift. Your generosity, talent and beautifully overwhelming presence in my life is something I am thankful for daily. This book is the best present I could have ever imagined for myself. I had to tear it out of my hands to write this post. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for being so freakin' talented. Thank you for loving me and Eliana and Jeff for exactly who we are. Thank you for knowing how to give me something that would be so very just right.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

the queen

The Queen

I have named you queen.
There are taller ones than you, taller.
There are purer ones than you, purer.
There are lovelier than you, lovelier.

But you are the queen.

When you go through the streets
no one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks
at the carpet of red gold
that you tread as you pass,
the nonexistent carpet.

And when you appear
all the rivers sound
in my body, bells
shake the sky,
and a hymn fills the world.

Only you and I,
only you and I, my love,
listen to it.
-Pablo Neruda

I have been knee deep in poetry the past few weeks. I forgot how much I love poems. I read, wrote and analyzed them like a fiend in college. I passed up a couple opportunities to get my MFA in poetry writing years ago. And I haven't written a poem - a real poem that I would ever want to show a soul - in about seven years.

The blog is such a safe medium for writing. There is no critic, no one picking apart tone and word choice. But teaching poetry to young kids has really connected me with what a marvelous, freeing medium it is.

Last week under the superb guidance of Susanna Sonnenberg, we did an exercise with Pablo Neruda's "The Queen." The poem was up on the board and the kids read it. We then talked about what it would feel like to have something so marvelous written about you. The stanza about, "all the rivers sound in my body" really gets me. And it really is how I feel when I see my girl. I told the students how I want to run to the door when I go pick her up after a long day of work and while I run to greet her and think about seeing her sweet smile, "bells shake the sky."

The kids were then asked to write a response poem to someone they really love. I was too wimpy to do the exercise with them. I can't even imagine being able to write something that beautiful to Eliana. But the response of my students were brilliant. The poem posted here was written by one of my second graders. It just happened to be her mama's birthday the next day, so she gave the poem to her mom as a present. I can only hope to get something that beautiful from my little queen one day.

I Love You the Purplest

I have named you purple
from the deepest seas to the top of a
You may not be the one
whose hair glimmers in cool night sky
when the moon is up and glistening
NO! You may not be the
one whose voice is as soft as
the wind
blowing over the tree
but as harsh as a leopard's growl
but you are someone
you may not
be all these things
because you mean even more than
you may not be what beauty's worth
but to me you are 10,000 times that
you are
the sunshine, you are
the moonlight, you are more
than any other thing could be.

so sleepy

I am so sleepy. I turned 35 and I got sleepy. All the time.

I am the kind of person who has never been able to nap. I think it's a cool thing for other folks to do. It's just never been my thing. Ever. It's not in my vocabulary.

But for the past week or so, when I stop, the only thing I can imagine doing is going to sleep. Or at least getting horizontal in some way. Last night I went to sleep at 9:30. It was a Friday night. My sister and brother-in-law are visiting from Portland. They stayed up and drank beer and laughed loud. What in the world is the matter with me? I don't want to age like this.

And then I think of my average week day. And it's pretty damn busy. I had a mama and published writer lead some guest poetry workshops in my class last week. At the end of the second day she said something like, "I have no idea how you do this every single day." Her comment certainly resonated with me. Going home to a wild little toddler and then teaching dance/yoga a few nights a week certainly doesn't make it any easier. So perhaps I'm earning my exhaustion. But I don't like it. I feel lazy when I'm this sleepy. I put Eliana down for her nap early just so I could get in bed. In my guilty haste, I decided to write about it instead.

Maybe your body really, truly slows down the minute you turn 35. Maybe it's just that time of year when teachers are in desperate need of spring vacation. Maybe that's why we only work nine months out of the year and take lots of breaks. Whatever it is, I'm plum tuckered out.

So I am going to go pretend to read my book, but most likely I'll join Eliana in her slumber. I kinda wish I had footed jammies, a night night and sleepy sack too.

Monday, March 16, 2009

measure in love

I'm a pretty sappy chick - always have been. My profound love for musical theatre fits in perfectly with my sappiness. When I woke up on my birthday, all I wanted to do was watch my favorite numbers from "Rent." During pregnancy, scenes from the movie version of one of my favorite shows hit all the emotional buttons I needed to continuously press through the phases and changes of growing a little being. It gets me in the gut with the harmonies, the homage to wild bohemians in NYC and, most importantly, the message of "No Day But Today."

There really couldn't be a better motto to model your life around. And with a baby, especially a wild and wacky toddling fool changing every ten minutes or so, coming up with something more fantastic or hysterical or knowledgeable in each and every moment, the "Today" feels even more present. So I do declare to continue to, "Measure my life in love." Proudly.

After too much pizza on my birthday, my girl Casey watched "Rent" with me. The whole thing. Even stayed up til 12:30. She cried in all the right parts and was sappy right there with me. It's funny cuz sometimes I can feel sorta embarassed, especially in my badass, non-musical theatrey kinda Missoula scene, of my passion for musical theatre. But at 35, I'd say it's time to come out of the closet with all your goofy individuality and get down with your bad self. So that's what we did.
The birthday love was abrubtly halted when I woke up at five in the morning later in the week with debilitating belly cramps that jolted me out of bed and raced me towards the toilet. I'm just now beginning to feel a bit more "regular", and even managed to eat and keep down a solid meal this evening. I have a theory that your body tells you when you need to slow down. I've been moving hard and fast for the past few months and I'm pretty certain that my body was telling me to take a major break. The poops and blahs let me stay home with Eliana on Friday. We stayed in our cozies, read lots of books, snuggled and both took four hour naps. It was so the kind of down time with her that we've been needing. Fast and hard is fun, but it certainly limits the long, lingering 'precious present' moments that happen when you have nothing to do and nowhere to be.

So I enter 35 with a mellow start, a cleansed system and a reminder of my roots and priorities. I'm going to try and slow down, stay present and be sure not to let any of the me things get in the way of the us things. I'm still working out the balance. I imagine I'll be working out the balance for quite some time. But for now, I'll stick with Jonathan Larson's timeless words and continue to measure my years in love.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

the eve of another year

It's almost midnight on the eve of my thirty-fifth birthday. I wish I had something new to wear tomorrow. Or some fancy eye cream. Or a jazzy hair cut. Or an appointment for a massage.

But really, I have absolutely everything I need. I have a beautiful, bright, wacky little girl. I have a kind and smart and helpful husband. I have a tremendous,generous family. And my friends are the most talented, lovely, funny and honest people I've ever met. I love the work I do. I love the town I live in. I am one pretty lucky mama.

I was cross country skiing in the Rattlesnake today. The sky was gray and patchy and sunny and snowy. We made our way to this clearing where the thick trees open and there's this gorgeous view of the river, the rocks, the snowy patches, Hemlock and Fir. The snow fell like soft little white pom poms. The clouds opened and for a few moments the intensity of the sun was blinding. The rock walls were full of stories and height, lines and lives etched across their craggy faces. I remembered the first time I walked on that trail, a few days after we moved here. I had this funny feeling in my belly like, is it okay for people to actually live in the same neighborhood as places like this? How did I get here? It was absolutely dreamy and wild, so surreal and out of what I knew to be true.

And here I am, seven years later. Time is moving at a ridiculous pace. The flashdance tee I'm wearing to bed tonight is one of my oldest and softest. The Moscow Ballet. But tonight I actually read the date. I remember asking my sweet mama to buy me this shirt in...1988. The shirt is over twenty years old. I have been wearing the same tee shirt to bed for over twenty years. Life is so nuts like that. Snapshots and images, dreamy memories, growth spurts and random forks in the proverbial road.

Luckily it still feels like a really good dream most days. I have that moment, that, wow, this is where you live - moment all the time. This is your shining life. Your laughing daughter. Your proud husband. Your little house and valley and creek. This is it.

Not so bad for the ripe old age of thirty-five.

Friday, March 6, 2009

while my girl gently sleeps

I really would be curious to know, if such sort of calculation were ever possible, how much time I've spent in the last 19 months waiting for my girl to go to sleep. It doesn't get me as angsty and tense these days as it did when she was younger, but it's still an issue. Today she had Moanie and another new little buddy, Olin, over. Somehow badass babysitter managed to get Els, Moans, the new dude plus annoying but lovable dog Lucy to the park. They played on the trail in the sunshine, but came home kinda wound up. Alas, it's now 4:00 and I think my chicken has finally stopped squawking. And singing the ABC's. And jumping up and down in her crib. And having lengthy conversations with Baby, Night-Night, Baba and Baby Pea. I've fought the urge to go in multiple times and folded twice. After a banana, some agua, a bit of baguette, a lot of back rubs, and my rendition of my dad's famous, "Night night my Gillie" song, the house is finally quiet. And I can relax.

The irony is, instead of grabbing my book and getting cozy on the sofa, I'm sitting here writing about my girl.

Actually, I began this post during the squawking. I can't really do much else when I'm waiting for her to sleep. I do dishes. I put laundry in. I pace around. But generally, the best bet is to park myself right outside her door at the table and play on the computer. I can't disconnect from her in moments like these, so instead it seems better to focus on her through writing and continue to resist the urge to say screw it and get her out of her criblet so we can be together. Our house is too small to use a monitor, though sometimes I would love to just watch her. Listening through the door is almost as good, especially because she is such a chatty cathy. I wonder where she got that....

So I've promised my mama a new and fabulous pic of Miss Moves. But it's not exactly easy. When she sees the camera these days she immediately says, "Moanie? Moanie?" and wants to watch the video of her and Moana dancing. In fact, when I put on a CD, she immediately says, "Moanie? Wile, wile tree? Moanie?" so I fold and play that damn Indigo Girls song for the hundredth time. Here is my recent photographic attempt at showing what living with a little nut is like (anyone want to give me photography lessons for my birth.

She loves to pretend to put on daddy's deodorant:

Feeds, carries, diapers and generally obsesses over Baby and Night Night:
Gets to watch (and talk to/sing with/point at) Baby Einstein when mommy gets dressed:

Needs to wear her "Moanie shoes" (even if we can only find one, even if she insists on putting them on on the wrong feet):

And generally destroys the house.
So that's life with Pea, in a nutshell. She is such a happy little thing, so full of life and energy, so ready for adventure and good times.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

35 and a new baby

That title is so deceiving! I'll be 35 on Monday, so that's got me in a bit of a head space. And I brought dinner to my friend and colleague who had her baby a week ago, so that has me all thoughtful and sentimental as well. And I haven't been able to take a decent shot of Elie in weeks, so I don't have a new pic and feel sort of like a loser even blogging because my feelings are muddled and sleepy and confused. Some pieces...

35 feels really old. I can't even stand the way it looks on the page. I hate it. It's the number of warning in all the pregnancy books. Everything seems to change after 35.

But things are just getting warmed up for me over here.

I've always gone big on birthdays. My mom asked me today what my favorite holiday was. I didn't know. I said Halloween by default. But giving it more thought, I'm pretty certain that my favorite holiday is my birthday. I love that it comes in March. It's such a random month for a birthday. I love that it happens in spring. I've always had fabulous parties and done really sweet, sentimental things for my birthday. I also try my darndest to be the best little birthday fairy I can be to those I love when it's their special day.

But my powers at birthday fairy-dom seem to be dwindling and for the first time in a while, I have zero excitement about planning how to celebrate my big day.

And then I went to visit baby Sebastian. And the whole notion of age seemed irrelevant - the notion to focus on, instead, is time. In an instant was brought back to the quiet intensity that is the first days with a new baby. I remembered that unknowing. That amazement. That focus. That fear. The helpless, relentless little wail of a newborn. The gentle passing of the baby back and forth between husband and wife as if someone might actually have some magic recipe, some secret that will make the baby quiet and content again.

I didn't stay long. I didn't ask to hold the baby. He had a pretty traumatic entry into the world and spent the first four days out in the world in the NICU. He's had more serious medical tests in his first week of life than I have in my 35 years. But my eyes were filled with tears the entire time I was there. I was so very glad to hug my friend. She has been in my thoughts so much, our children at work so affected by her absence, our curriculum and plans suddenly off course. I wanted to see him in her arms, wanted to only know for sure that he was beautiful and fine. I will be so happy to share with my little friends at school tomorrow the news that baby Sebastian is, indeed, perfect.

So, for whatever reason, when I drove home tonight I felt a bit better about aging. Maybe it's because I know that I am becoming a tougher, lovelier person in my old age. That even with the lines and the grays, my core is centered and blessed and present. That time never stops and birth and age and risk and potential are all just pieces of this hugeness we're all wrapped in.

The opening line of a poem a student of mine wrote today is, "I am a soft and cozy blanket." I'll take that line, but add, "I am a soft and cozy blanket, sturdy and worn, comfortable in my skin. I have an edge of silver fringe that shines in the right light. My thread is strong and delicate and uniquely beautiful."