Tuesday, May 26, 2009

our hood

I become mildly obsessed with where I live this time of year. The shock of green that becomes the hills. The stain of blue sky. Though I'm pretty certain the balsam root is the real deal sealer. All ballsy and bright. So fleeting. A tease. Or the delicate lupine. The cheery arnica. Perhaps I never really understood the whole concept of wildflowers. That one day they decide to emerge from the earth like a blanket of sunshine, a merry band of diverse and friendly folk. They have taken up residence on my mountain and I just can't get enough.

The weekend was homey, just as it should be. The tail end of a school year is an exhausting time. Report cards to write and wild kids to placate and encourage to stay kind and humble. If only every weekend could have an extra day I'd have time to do school work, house work, marriage work, mama work, family work and, even, me work. And I need to find another word for work because work has negative connotations, but this was all necessary, all important and good in it's own, necessary way.

But all the work came back to appreciating our yard and valley. One afternoon when I was up on the mountain alone with Lucy, I was so overwhelmed, my body so tuckered, my brain so fried, I just sat on down on the trail. The same trail that feels easy and accessible felt arduous and overwhelming. Undo-able. So we sat. I rocked it to my ipod and sang and smiled and took deep breaths. Watched the clouds move. Laughed at my goofy dog. Looked for my friends houses down in town, using the river as my compass. Decided it was absolutely okay to just sit because sometimes a body can only do so much.

The next day I had the energy I needed. I woke up early and hit another side of Mt. Jumbo with a friend. We took a huge loop, counted lots of wildflower species, lost direction, got back on track. The color and light and perfect heat. So many mysteries. New truths. I can't get enough.

Later that afternoon Jeffy and I decided to take Els out to appreciate the Rattlesnake. She's not into the backpack, and don't even mention a stroller, so we didn't exactly cover much ground. She would walk and stop and pick up rocks and amble up the side of sandy cliffs and head for the rushing water and say hello and sing songs. Jeff and I stayed mellow, realized that there wasn't much more than that moment.

And that's when the fairy came by. All white blond wispy hair, huge, glittery blue wings, a billowy yellow dress and red sandals. Hauling ass fairy like down the trail, her mama and papa jogging after her in their beat up running shoes. Eliana stopped and stared. Amazed.

"My fairy! My fairy!" (Ms. Moves freezes, shocked).

Little fairy kept running.

"My fairrrry??? My fairy!!!" (a mild Verouca Salt like quality enters her tone)

"Els, go and get her," say her encouraging, smiling parents. "Follow the fairy!"

So down the trail she ran, after her fairy. The green, shrouded path taking on a surreal quality, the river the soundtrack for our own little fantasy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

just one

Homegirl's working it. She's a wild lil actriz who knows exactly what she wants. In these pics she's kinda reminding me of Sarah Jessica Parker on, "Sex and the City." The tutu skirt and ultra-hip E tank (have I mentioned lately my talented friends?) certainly help fit the bill, but there's something in her personality this weekend too. If it weren't for the snot rockets, I think she could totally pull it off.

As I mentioned, she's working it. She is all over the place, all the time, doing things her way. Our latest source of manipulation involves reading at bedtime. I seem to be reading Eliana, no joke, close to twenty books. When I say, "Last one, Eliana" she looks at me coyly and says, "Last one!" Of course, upon book completion when I attempt to lift her into her crib she says, "Just one? Just one. Last one," like she totally gets it and is reasonable and understands the deal. With nothing but decorum she says, "Hop on Pop." A statement. A statement that says, yes, we'll read 'just one' more, and it will be hop on pop, and I swear, that's it.

And, like the total ninny I am, I fall for it.

And I know I'm falling for it. I know she's full of tacos and blowing smoke all over our rocker. I just can't help but smile at how cool she is about the whole thing. So smart and in charge.

But then I have to deal with the aftermath.

"Eliana, that's the LAST one. Last one."
"Just one??? Last one (big smile, super cute shrug of shoulders)."
"Eliana, it's time for bed."
"Just one?"

With my last deep breath of the day, I pick her up and put her in her crib. Screams.
"Just one! Animal ABC! Just one! Goodnight moon!" More screams. Thrashing of perfect body.

She's still thrashing as I close the door. "Just one!" rining through our little house.

She's been in there now for half an hour, chatting away. I feel sorta like a lameass for not being in there with her and, instead, writing about her on the computer. But boundaries have never been my thing.

Jeff asks why it's so hard for me to tell her no. It's not that telling her no is the problem. If she's trying to walk across the kitchen table, no is easy. Throwing rice on to the floor right after I've swept rice up the floor? No. No problem. Firm and sincere and just a hair pissy, as it should be.

But when she wants to be read to. And held. And sung to? It's that savored moments thing. It's being right there with me, loving every second of it, not wanting it to end. And I'm feeling the same way because I'm just as sappy and lovestruck as she is. She's got me all twisted up inside with those flouncy curls and ridiculously deep dimples. I'm smitten. And a bit worked. And know that my "just six" plan tonight totally failed and I ended up reading just eight, letting her work me over. Perhaps the battle just doesn't feel worth it to me. Of course it's, "just the beginning."

But I'm still too lovestruck to dwell on her flaws.

everybody's favorite helper

Sunday, May 17, 2009

a perfect day

Mother's Day was just a week ago, yet when I look back on my Sunday today, I feel like it could be Mother's Day all over again. It was perfect. And without any expectation. So here it is. The new perfect day.

I woke up to Eliana singing. She has this lovely habit of waking up and singing her whole rep of songs to her babies. This morning the concert lasted about forty-five minutes. Forty five minutes of smiling at her heavenly melodies but also getting to snuggle with my man. When I heard the springs in her crib start to pop and pictured her little froggy legs jumping around with early morning glee, I had to peel myself out of my bed to catch a peek. She was laughing and throwing herself on to her bottom with nothing but pure, blissed out, in-the-moment, abandon. I made her eggies and put on her cd (Moanie's Dance Party 2009). She rocked it to her songs, doing an especially bouncy rendition of, "Wild, Wild Moanie" accompanied by Baby. During all this, I somehow managed to tackle the sink full of dishes and nasty countertops with a Snow White, whistle-while-you-work demeanor. Love that! I managed to fold and put away the eighteen hundred tons of laundry that have been waiting, in annoying little piles all over out house since Friday. And all of this before 8:30.

At which point I packed up my water and treats, leashed my doggie, and hopped on my bike with the confidence of someone who does this sort of thing all the time. Which is a total lie. Riding my bike with Lucy totally scares me. Yet, for whatever reason, I just went for it today and she managed to stay by my side, trotting like the perfect little pup, all the way along the river trail to Casey's pad. There I rendezvoued with Casey and Nici, and ambled up the street to Le Petit for a most perfect latte and spinach/feta crossaint. It was still not even 10:00 and I felt like I had already had this fabulous day.

We then met up with Leslie and piled into the car for a hike in the delicious Bitteroot Valley. The Bitteroot is one of those places that I sometimes forget about. Like the twenty minutes in the car to get there is just too long a drive. I guess it's good that I love all the nature in my 'hood, but this place is just outta hand. One magical canyon after the next lines the side of the road, rock walls and dancing waterfalls, wildflowers and ridiculous craggy cliffs around every bend. We hiked and talked, talked and hiked, hiked and talked, and so on. We ended our journey snacking on huge boulders at the top of a wild series of waterfalls, the roar of the waterfall making it hard to hear each other, giving the moment the cressendo of intensity and perfection that it so deserved.

Our conversation was rich as always. We don't mess around, these ladies and I. It seems we always hit the mark with real talks about being mamas, being wives, being workers and artists and explorers. Being creative and insecure, brilliant and needy. Being complex. And honest. And raw. And open. And beautiful. And strong.

God I love them.

When I came home, Jeff and Elie were all blissed out, all into each other. They were playing in the yard, her in her little pink Patagucci dress, he in his sweet hat and aviator shades. The fridge was stocked because they had gone to Costco, everything put away and organized in the kitchen. The floor had been mopped. The lawn mowed. Our house had that glow about it. That glow that comes when something is really loved and valued. Our yard shone like it came from some fairy tale, the grass extra green, the johnny jump ups smiling with their goofy, colorful faces, the cherry trees boasting perfect white flowers. We played ball with Els. She and Baby climbed and slid down her funny little slide. We hugged and lay in the grass.

Eliana, in her hyper acute sense of the brilliance of the moment, began singing the Barney song and motioned to take each of our hands so we could all three link up and sway like they do on her video. On the great big hug and kiss part, she walked back and forth between us, giving us the warmest, sloppiest displays of affection.

So that's what it's all about. Not being afraid to say what you feel and show what you mean. Taking extra steps to enjoy every single moment, actualize every last piece of beauty.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Woah. I'm having one of those weeks. Not just with me or feeling busy or overextended or totally wiped from working hard. But woah like holy shit, my kid (cuz she is) is doing all sorts of wild things and making incredible connections and it's all happening so fast and I can't even attempt to capture it all. And woah, can I even try to keep up? Woah, what will it be like in a month when I get to be with her all day, everyday, and I get to see all those synapses firing so fast, so fast, all those jokes and new moves and new loves and new obsessions.

She has changed so much, just in the week since we've been back from Cali.

She was on a huge hunger strike there. Like a disturbing one. My mama was so polite about it all, but it was sort of ridiculous and a bit embarassing. Even a big, perfect bowl of vanilla ice cream and she would say, "No!" and run out of the room. I had one lucky afternoon with edamame and hoped that those little green pellets would get her through the rest of the trip because I was sure as heck she wouldn't eat again. Perhaps it was the heat. Or her huge new mouth of teeth. Or the wild energy of the big city. But it doesn't matter because now we're back and eating eggs and chicken, broccoli and rice, happy as a clam. Who the heck knows?

And the potty. We had the whole shit in the tub thang. Followed by a super sicked out, stressed out mama, Eliana and her big eyes stating, "Shower? Shower?" as if it were totally normal to poop in the tub and then get to get your bum all washed and clean in the shower. And who, I ask you, is left with the ladle and the 409? Okay...I'll spare you.

So, needless to say, I've been a bit nerviosa bathing with my babe. So there she is, about to get in the tub, and she says, "Shower? Potty?" before we get in. And she sits, all cozy in her big towel, and we encourage her to push and make all these ridiculous grunting noises, all the while laughing and laughing at the whole scene. She mimics the grunts, one upping us with hysterical facial expressions. And then she says, "All done." And, of course, there isn't anything in the potty, but we wipe her any way and tell her she did a great job, let her flush the toilet.

Soon she's in the bath saying, "Noodlies?" as if she's just any old kid who actually eats.

When she's all snuggly and happy in her bed later, she asks for a cracker, just to drive her point home.

It's such a rich and wild time. Green seems to be bursting from the sky. Sky that is thunderheads, then blinding blue, sweaters, then tanks. It's a perfect time to have an ever-changing girl. And a mama with many, many busy, busy lives.

We'll ride this wild spring wave til the sun becomes secure, the heat and brown hills, long, lazy summer days.

Though I have a hunch someone will continue to keep things new.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

second mama's day

It will be fun to watch how my Mother's Day experiences (and, I guess, all my holiday experiences) will change from year to year as my chicken ages. One of my favorite pictures ever of Eliana was taken on Mother's Day last year. She was wearing this ridiculous flower hat and sat beautifully in her stroller and was so easy and content.
Eliana then...and now...
This year that little dimply grin is full of mischief and toddlerhoood. Jeff had to work hard, work actively, just in the first two hours after she awoke to keep her from waking me up. If I'm around, she's not really into me keeping my distance. Thankfully I got some much needed extra sleep after staying up late and whooping it up at the Mother's Day eve bash and grand unveiling partay of Mamalode. It's a kickin' party at a big fitness place on the edge of town. Free yoga and pilates, use of hottub and pool, and then vino and lots and lots of chatty cathy mamas. I was extra excited because a piece I wrote was published in the magazine, making it feel even more personal and lovely. The party kind of helps take care of all mama's day expectations early. You've already gone for it. Whatever your man has planned is extra icing on an already rockin' time.

So when I was ready to commit to getting out of bed, Jeff, Els and I headed to the Finn and Porter for a lovely brunch. While it felt kinda spendy and a bit jumpy because one of us was always chasing Els around the place, it helped soak up my vino belly and provided me with some excellent morsels of morning goodness. We returned and put Elie to sleep. Jeff and I promptly found ourselves lying down and soon snoozing as well, so sweet, so sweet.. After the power nap if was sola time for me on my mountain. Oh how I love that mountain. It was an extra special hike because everything is so green and my favorite wildflowers are in full effect. I was so socially wiped out that I just zoned out to my tunes and took pictures of my favorite views -- the sacred tree, the balsam rootm the new blooms and angle of valley meeting valley. It was a much needed me moment. Love those. Love that the clarity and strength accomplished by two hours on the mountain seems to be one of the very best ways for me to find perspective.

When I returned Jeff and Els were happily playing in the yard. I love it when they have sweet time together. She does so much better with him when I'm not around. She so silly and adventurous in a way that she isn't with me. We all hung for a while and then decided to go downtown and take Elie for her first ice-cream cone.
Big, big hit and almost worth the sugar crashing aftermath that followed a few hours later in the Good Food Store. A park stint followed the vanilla adventure and then home where Jeffy cooked me a lovely dinner after Els went down. We sat in the sun on our deck, the green mountain all aglow in the background, the steak perfect with the Spanish wine, and I was filled with nothing but gratitude and contentment. Even as Jeff cleared the plates I just kept zoning out on the view -- the already overgrown yard, the salvias and lupine that are making their grand reappearances from the earth, the rasberry patch that is finally taking over like I'd hoped, and Mount Jumbo, soft and cushiony, green and alive and working for me.

I find myself again looking for a solid synonym for "blessed" for "gratitude". This day was built of the simple, astondingly beautiful things that make up my life. My girl and husband. My home. My little town. My 'yard' of open space. The security and goodness of my friendships. I close the day in anticipaiton of a lifetime of simple beauty. Of grace. Of honesty and laughter, one season moving into the next. The apple blossoms shine their pink smiles year after year. The lavendar always comes back fuller and more fragrant.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Eliana truly is the best little buddy. We just returned from a four day adventure in Pasadena. The impetus was family, of course, but also the fact that for the first time ever -- after seven long years of longer layovers in Seattle and Salt Lake -- I can fly direct to L.A. from Missoula. Brilliant. And cheap to boot.

This afternoon I felt like we were commuters. We waltzed on to the plane after an easy, brief stint in LAX, found ourselves an extra seat for Eliana (and Baby and Night Night) and we were off. The flight attendants all remembered us from our Saturday trip and treated Els like a queen. She was lovely. Our friend was there in Missoula with our car. It was almost too easy. I brought nothing but a diaper bag and an oversized purse. Thank goodness for sisters and cousins and their hand-me-downs!

The trip was perfect. I really wanted to streamline it this time, not try to see too many peeps in too short of a time. Now that Eliana is unpredictable and not exactly relaxing in a restaurant, it took away the culinary pressure I usually put myself through in L.A. There is too much good sushi, dim sum, Indian, Mexican for a little Missoula wannabe to take in. But this time we took it easy. We reveled in Trader Joe's and cooked at home. We drank pomegranate martini's in my sister's stunning backyard, cooked stellar fish tacos with the rockin', fresh ingredients that are so available in sunny Los Angeles. I got to watch the beautiful relationship between Eliana and her cousin unfold, Eliana hanging on her every word, busting up at her jokes, Piper learning how to navigate the road of "older", learning how to help, but not push. My mom and I got to stay up late and talk deep. I got to take Hilary's kick boxing class (or let kickboxing kick my ass), was able to reflect briefly on the funny relationship that I have to gym culture. Did everyone who grew up in L.A. in the late 80's/early 90's spend an absurd amount of time in the gym? Is that normal?

Got to have a special lunch with one of my oldest girlfriends. Got to go deep and talk about her upcoming marriage, about all the changes and evolutions we are constantly examining. Was able to spend some time in the park watching my girl with my girlfriend's (and boyfriend's) girl. Watch the way Eliana looked up to Emelyn. Talk mama with someone who I've had so many crucial, wild, coming-of-age moments with. Watch the way our lives have settled and come back together in new ways.

And Eliana appreciated it all. She really was a little traveling companion. She slept like a champion, took languid, California-style long naps, loved her pack-n-play, and didn't mind staying up late with us. She loved her Gran's house, loved exploring every last detail, loved getting to know some more of her peeps.

And then we just hopped on the plane like normal people and made our way home. Flying over the green hills and snow-capped peaks, watching the windy Clark Fork, seeing the "L" from the plane, I felt myself settle, felt the comfort in being back at home. Because after seven years, that is what this place has become. I will always long for my family in L.A. I will always feel guilty for leaving. I will always romanticize the life I lead there. But this trip gave me some perspective. It is not my home anymore. I am a visitor. In being a visitor, I can almost appreciate it more. I don't have to justify the life we happened to choose anymore. It happened. And it's here. And now. I would have never in a gazillion years predicted it when I was 25. But somehow this place seeped into my skin, took hold of my heart.

As we stepped off the plane and I saw the sky wild with perfect clouds, smelled the clean mountain air, felt the familiar mellowness that makes me unclench my jaw, stop worrying incessantly about earthquakes and traffic, I knew that I was home. Eliana clung to me like a little monkey, her tight, Cali curls already relaxing in the dry air, saying, "We made it! Elie's home..." and I felt so thankful, thankful for all the love and experiences she just received, and for the quiet little place we will settle back into.