Monday, December 13, 2010


Eliana and I made up this little song last year around this time. It goes something like this:
Mexico! We're going to Mex-ih-coah!
(repeat again and again with incredible exuberance)

We just dug that one up and started singing again. Cuz we're going back. After one nap. Eliana measures her life in naps. I seem to measure my life in breaks. I think after fifteen years of teaching and a lifetime of an academic calendar schedule, it's hard not to think of things in little chunks, all surrounded by splendid weeks of respite. I am at the end of my fall chunk! My first fall chunk of being a working mama with two kids. It's been a hell of a chunk. Busy and wild and full and ridiculous. I'm ready for a bookend.

It's funny the things you don't articulate or plan but just somehow happen. Jeff and I met as teachers. We saved money to travel somewhere fun over our breaks. When we became parents, we never consciously planned to travel with our kids. But this is Eliana's third trip to Mexico. Pretty good for a three year old. Sol's passport is all ready to be stamped. He's so sweet in his little photo. So official, that Sol. I guess he was with us last year, just in a different capacity...

The bags are packed, sunscreen and tums purchased and we're ready to roll. Last year we came home for Christmas. I felt really strongly about Eliana having holiday memories in her home. This year I don't have any of that sentiment. I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps I don't have time for it! I love that they'll have memories of a Christmas in the sunshine. The posada. Tamales. Lots of friends and family in an exotic and warm locale. An adventure.

Most importantly, though, I'm ready for some down time with my people. Our foursome. Ready to snuggle up and read books and meander and cook together. To break out of my routine of tasks that move us from one day to the next. Ready for the spontenaity that travel brings. The break from procedures or expectations. The surrender to the moment (especially in a country like Mexico where the very notion of time is different to the way it is here). Ready to carry Sol on my chest and hold Elie's hand. To be together. Look, it's our whole family! While this is one of her favorite exclamations, Eliana doesn't seem to get to say this enough because we always seem to be moving too fast. I'm ready to shout it from the rooftops. Our whole family. Together. For two whole weeks. On our own, sunny path.

My favorite mommy/daughter pic ever was taken in Sayulita two years ago. So much happiness...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

going there

I try, try, try not to go there. Embrace love and logic. Empathy. Deep breaths. Smooth and steady.

But this afternoon I went there.

I decided to pick Eliana up from school early so she could nap at home. I get off a bit earlier on Wednesdays and after she hung in the classroom with me for my last fifteen minutes of teaching, I loaded her up and we headed up the hill. I explained what was going to happen. She was reasonable and understood. We'd go in, wash up, and get snuggled into bed to read books. She would then take her much needed nap.

And that's about where the cool stopped. The minute she came home she wanted to play. There was no logic to her staying in bed. Even as I read while she danced around the room, ignoring her pleas to just play. It was still fun and games.

And then I began to insist. And she began to disintegrate. And I began to bargain. And she began to kick. And I began to show my frustration. And she began to hit. And I picked her up and dropped her on the bed hard and demanded quiet time and she said it:

Mommy. I don't love you!

That's when the sadness hit. The exhaustion. The how did we get here? My sweet dream of gently laying my girl to sleep while her brother napped all gone to hell.

We were both sad. I apologized for being rough. She apologized for her mean words. We sat next to each other on the steps wondering what to do. And as quickly as it happened, she moved on, a bevy of random questions, requests and statements.

But I still feel the incident in my shoulders. The back of my neck. There is always enough love. We will be okay. But how to I sustain myself, hold myself to the highest of standards, stay neutral as her little feet attempt to reach my face.

I'm not kicking, mama. I'm stretching.
Eliana, it's not okay to kick. You're NOT my friend anymore, Mommy. And you can't come to my birthday.

I know I'm her safe place. She would never dream of acting this way at school. But, like her mama, she's a complex little being, full of contradictions and frustrations, passions and misunderstanding. My heavy little hitter.

And then there's her brother. So sweet and so simple. My little mellow cruiser. The way I catch him standing in the funniest places, grasping on to whatever's there, trying to hang tough. His little voice, the way he says my name. Rubs my face when he nurses. Beams at the three of us with such grace. The way my heart seems to stay so pure for him. We are still so innocent. We are still pure love. The complexities, the layers, the testing...well, I guess that's something I have to look forward to. Ah this heavy, rich, wild time. The beautiful weight of it all.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I just read my friend's weekly column and realized that I didn't do my thankfuls this year. Usually I do some sort of writing project based on appreciation with my kiddos at school. Due to a snow day, that didn't happen this year. Because of a blue mood on Sunday, I didn't exactly get too reflective on all I have to celebrate and cherish. I was funked out by the cold, by my sister so far away, by another day inside. But now it's Monday, Els is back at school, Sol's asleep in his closet and I'm ready to be thankful.

First of all, I am thankful for space. I adore my little home. I bought my half of it with my hard earned teacher's salary. I chose every paint color, every piece of art on the walls, every random chotsky a piece of our history, our travels, our journeys. But a month or so ago our walls seemed to be caving. Night after night Sol struggled, we all struggled, through sleep at the foot of our bed. Each of our movements seemed to wake him. But then, how can we not move?

When Jeff's parents went back to New Jersey, they offered their house for an extended stay. Solomon's in a crib in the walk in closet. Eliana in a beautiful, new big girl bed. Jeff on the sofa with way more sports on TV than he can handle. Me bustling in the kitchen, reading in the hot tub. While I miss my house, my vibe, this opportunity has done us a world of good. Namely, I've joined the world of the sleepers again. I was running on empty for so long. So I am thankful. Thankful for sleep, for space, for the generosity of family.

I'm thankful for my husband. For his passion and drive, the energy and focus that moves through him. His opinions. His adoration and devotion to what he loves. The outdoors. Recreation. The school. His children. His buddies. His wife. Not in that order. We have these moments now. Now that Sol and Eliana are really beginning to interact. These moments of, look what we did! Look how brilliant.

Then there's my Happy. We logged some good play time this past week. She is such a hoot. She's one big orchestrator of creativity. Everything is alive and bursting with personality in Eliana's world. She expresses herself beautifully and keeps our life loud and full and zany. She is growing up and moving from cute to pretty. I can see glimpses now of what she will look like as a school girl, an adolescent. I love that she still doesn't want me to touch her wild hair, that orange is her favorite color, that out of the blue she says things like, Mama you look so pretty when I see you at school! when we're playing on the rug again, me in my yoga clothes for a third day in a row. She makes me want to be my best, most enthusiastic, encouraging, creative, playful self. Mildly exhausting. Thoroughly rewarding.

And then there's big Sol. Biggie Sols. My main, main squeeze. He's started to say Mama. He says it like he's doing an improv exercise in acting class. He can say it with exhaustion, passion, frustration, enthusiasm, adoration, sadness. He can invoke sympathy. A huge smile. He can tug at my heart strings like nothing else. He's also crawling. Just a few real crawls met with insane rolls and belly pushes that can move him from one place to the next in lightening speed. He loves to eat with his hands and is nuts for crackers. He's gonna be into everything real, real soon. He absolutely adores his sister and loves the one armed flappy pat, wave. He could flap and pat and grab her curls all day long. This morning I found them both in his crib in the closet. Eliana had this look on her face like, Surprise, Mama! Look at what I found! Sol looked positively smitten with his sister all up in his personal space like that. He always looks pretty darn smitten when he's looking at his family.

Perhaps the reason I didn't do thankfuls is they take so long! So much to be thankful for. For my sisters. My parents. For my history and roots and family back in the big city. The warm, big city.

For my girlfriends. How I love them. Yesterday when I was telling Joellen how I was homesick, how I felt lonely, I realized that we have had this conversation so many times over the past eight years. We miss our families. We wonder why we live so far away. And ultimately we realize that we have each other and go for a cross country ski. Or hike. Or drink.

Or on a date with Casey the other night. Two hours of talking and talking and talking, of so much to say, so much shared, so much understood. Why is it so hard for us to find time to do this? Some friendships make so much sense. We are seen in each other's eyes. Beautiful.

Melissa on the other end of the phone line. Far off in the wonderland of San Francisco. So close in our experience of working with two little children, of balancing our needs with those of our families and careers.

All my other girlfriends who I don't have enough time to see. Enough time to get to know better. Who don't expect anything but are always there. My colleagues and our shared history and understanding. How happy I am to see them on a Monday. It's a good gig to be a part of.

And the extended gig of this little town. The light shining on Lolo Peak this morning. The blue streaks in the sky and the white glitter on the treetops. My strong body as it slides through the snow on skis, silence all around, smiling strangers on the trail, peace settling in.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The snow is wild this morning. I'm sitting here in this beautiful, quiet kitchen. Sol is asleep and Eliana is playing quietly in her room. The snow continues to fall. A squirrel in the big ash shakes the branches, a powdery, sprinkly clump falls. Jeff is at Snowbowl and wants us to meet him there later so Eliana can try out her new skis. The thought of driving my two children up that winding road in the snow freaks me out. But the thought of another day inside the house with the two kids freaks me out a bit too.

I miss my sister. I miss my family. It was so beautiful having her and Jonah here. Having Hilary here makes everything feel complete. And now she's gone again.

I tried to embrace the snow yesterday. It really does a number on my emotions. It's like having an exotic foreign visitor who makes me feel really small. So I took myself for a little ski up the Rattlesnake. It was quiet and beautiful and I felt strong as I moved up the trail. I love being on my cross country skis. I felt total peace. The embrace worked.

But now it's a new day and the thought of getting all geared up to go outside is daunting. My time in California feels a million years away. I don't know when I'll see my family again. I hate that. I miss the sun and the ease of having family around all the time. Life in winter is work. Life is work. I feel like I'm still adjusting to this reality.

On the flip side of work, though, is fun. There has been some significant fun happening around these parts. Watching Eliana tear it up on the hill on her sled is fun.

Going in the hot tub is fun.

Snuggling up with my beautiful boy is fun. Playing games and watching funny old movies and cooking is fun. Ordering in a pizza on a snowy night is fun. Drinking lots of coffee and writing on this blog is fun. Talking myself out of the darkness is fun.

Monday, November 22, 2010


We woke up late this morning. I gasped as I read the numbers on the clock and raced to draw Elie from her bed. Sol was still in his dark cave, happily snoring. I wondered what had kept us all so cozy when normally everyone wakes way too early on their own. Then I caught a glimpse out the window. Snow white everywhere. And wild, wild winds mixing it up. I wanted to crawl back beneath the covers. Keep everyone safe and warm and inside forever.

See...I'm kinda scared of snow.

I didn't come from snow. I came from about 75 and sunny everyday. One of my favorite movie occupations is Steve Martin in L.A. Story. He's a weather man who basically reports the same thing every day. There's enough other drama to grapple with in those parts. Weather needs to be a non-factor so people can focus instead on important things like, say, finding a parking space.

Perhaps the reason this morning was particularly jolting is that I just returned from the homeland last week. I brought the kids down to spend some time with our family. My days found me lounging in my mom's pad, eating breakfast on the balcony, power walking in a tank top while Sol and Elie napped contentedly at Gran's. I spent a ton of time with my sisters and parents and enjoyed every minute of every interaction. I love where I'm from and the clan I'm a part of. It all makes sense when I'm there.

Yet it's so very different from where I am now.

Weather aside, down there it's season tickets and movie openings, modern art lined walls, dance classes and performance spaces. There is a humongous family ripe with the love and drama that a humongous family provides. There is really good sushi. And color all year round. Colors in the hibiscus and bougainvillea way, the green, green grass and fat lemony limes that drip from trees.

Here I get to embrace the white, the way shadows and light play to create hues of silver and gray, pine and gold. Here I'm forced to slow down, lest I slip and slide. Here it's time to hunker and bundle and hold.

We were graced with a snow day yesterday. This was a tremendous gift after Sol's atrocious, post vaccine night. Scary stuff those toxins that keep us well. Tuesday was a big day for my students and I had to go in a few hours early. As I nursed Biggie Sols again and again, watching the clock edge towards morning, I wondered how far caffeine would get me, how much I really could rally.

And then daddy gave us the big report. Snow day. No school. No work.

Elie was brave enough to do some playing outside with her papa. Thankfully she doesn't have her mama's prejudices against snow. Doesn't fear super craggy snow-capped peaks. This is what she knows.
My brave little explorer. She tears it up, this kid. She rolls with it. I knew she wondered how long we'd stay in Cali, how long we'd be away from dad and school and our routine. But she created a new routine on the road. Early morning tea and biscuit dates with her Gran. Late night gab sessions in bed with Aunties. Cousin playdates with Piper. Blooms where she's planted, that girl. I'm trying to take a cue from her as I am thrown into this world of white. Don't even tell me the temp when it drops below zero. Let me stay safe and warm, inside. Bake some pies, some cookies. Fold some laundry. Read my book. Snuggle my snuggler. Chase my squirmer. Enjoy this luxurious house that we are blessed enough to enjoy over this Thanksgiving holiday. Thank you Nana and PopPop. Sol's a whole new boy in his crib. Thank you, thank you. I didn't know how desperately in need of space we were until we had some.

For now. My love to my people out west. My love to my people out east. My gratitude to my sister and her man, traveling to be with us. To beauty, beauty everywhere.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

full fall

It's a full fall. A full, beautiful, fleeting, yellow, glorious, busy, splendid, exhausting fall. Thursdays are full. They start with a 7:30 am staff meeting and today went straight through to swim lessons this evening. In between was as diverse as bribing someone out of her jammies to explaining the difference between hear and here, to reading the brilliant BFG to a rapt and exceedingly appreciative audience to the creation of an impromptu lamb loaf with tzatziki sauce. And red cabbage salad with miso ginger dressing. I was on it.

Also in all that goodness was a psychedelic walk through the park of many yellow leaves. And a little brother bear who could have sat and marveled all day. He's funny right now. Moving from his passivity into a very active little explorer. He was sorta annoyed to be strapped into Big Red, the massive limousine of a stroller I rock these days. But put that boy in a sea of yellow leaves, and he could stay all day. Leaves to look at. Leaves to eat. Leaves to finger. Love him.

And sister is too much in her swim lesson. Fearless, that one. Teeth chattering, skinny legs and dreading curls.

Like everything these days, she'd stay all day. Transitions are not her thing.

Just ten more times on the slide, Mommy. Just ten rides.
Just one more, Elie.
Just six.

Just one.

Just four.

Our little dictator. And her sweet bro. Who's up again for the gazillionth time since being put down at seven. It's not yet ten. Bro's rockin' a six month birthday cold and is a little less happy-go-lucky bro like this evening. A little pink rimmed and puffy eyed.

So I hit publish.

This activity that I can do in the quiet dark. A way to bookend these precious days.

Get ready to bust the boob. Break the rules. Cuz I can't let this little guy cry. And I could stare at those lips and lashes all night long.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

six months of sol

My sweet little boy is six months old today. Holy Moses. Holy Solomon. Sorta the same difference. See, even my tone on his birthday post is so light! The second time around is such a trip. I just dug back in these here archives to read about what Eliana was up to at six months. Holy detail! I wrote it all down. It was all so serious and huge. She was so entirely the center of our universe.

Then her smooth little bro came along. Just sorta hurled himself, ever so indiscreetly, into our world. One Monday I was busy at work, huge and pregnant and ready. Later that Monday, I was nursing my boy for the first time. There were certainly some pushes and poops in between A and B but overall, it felt so natural.

That's what Solomon is in our lives. Natural. He's so good natured, so easy-going, so calm and handsome and strong. He reaches for our faces. Scratches his little fingers along our arms. Snuggles into our bodies. Adores his sister. This morning I came into my room and they were both cuddled up on my bed, all bleary eyed and funky haired (well, okay, just one of them) in their jammies. Right as I walked in I saw Eliana lay a sweet, gentle kiss on his forehead. It was pure loveliness. Mama, I think you better get a picture of this. Even she is finally falling into his spell.

He's learning how to belly laugh. It's my new absolute most favorite thing in the whole world. It doesn't happen too often, but when it does he really goes for it. You should have seen him marvel at Thing One and Thing Two on Halloween. Those big blue feathery wigs had him in stitches. He's so appreciative. It's like he's always saying, Hey, thanks for letting me come along. I'm so glad to be here.

And we're so glad he's come.

I love you, little boy. I'm so proud of you. Your devoted and adoring mama.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween weekend

Oh how I do adore Halloween. This year came on fast and hard. Perhaps because the weather has been so gorgeous and sunny, it hasn't really felt ready to be Halloween. Or perhaps it's because at school we focused on Dia de los Muertos, so Eliana didn't come home with pumpkin crafts and spooky songs like she did when she went to daycare. But even without a lot of build up, today was fantastic.

We woke up to gray and rain. A perfect excuse to stay in our jammies all day, bake a funky Halloween cake and practice our face painting skills. After an early nap for both kiddos, we got ourselves together to join the North side posse for a potluck and trick-or-treating. Eliana was so content to be with her little buddies. They were quite a force when they hit the houses. Talk about a posse. The collective excitement as they made their mass descent upon another house. Such pure sweetness.

Saturday we took a much needed hike in the Rattlesnake to look at the larch. I have a crazy thing for the larch.

It's so wild to me. I didn't grow up with leaves that changed color. I didn't grow up with seasons. I knew about fall from picture books, but the images were always of maples and such. Big, flat red and orange leaves. No books talked about the golden larch. The magic golden larch. Eliana learned about the magic golden larch wizard and his famous yellow needles. She spotted tree after tree, asking again to hear about the wizard and his ways.

Whatever jazzes things up enough to keep her moving on the trail. I adore that child. Her imagination, her determination, her wonder. She wanted to, "paint her pumpkin all herself." After lots of paint, lots of glitter glue and meticulously cut pieces of notebook paper, she managed to create a, "super spooky pumpkin face." See for yourself.

It was so nice have two mellow days with her. No rushing out of bed, to bed, to breakfast, to school. Just taking it slow.

And Big Sol. You know he just kinda rolls wit things. If it hadn't been raining, I would have perhaps attempted to put a proper outfit together for him. Instead I settled for a sort of Kurt Cobain grunge thing; Sol in his black Blondie onesie, baggy jeans and retro looking cardigan. I didn't really get a good shot of the get up. And the lion hat sort of trumped the whole image, messing it up entirely. But Big Sol could give a hoot. He just wants to be close to his people.

So there it is. Another October, come and gone. My mama had her birthday yesterday. My Fall Maiden. After I finally remembered (that really shows how nutty things are right now...there are a few birthdays I never forget, her's is at the top of the list), we talked. All my sisters were gathering at her place for a little dinner fiesta. I felt my familiar pangs of homesickness, wished I could hop to Cali to be with my people. But then I look out my window. I think about this little community we have. So different to hot, palm tree Halloweens. Not better, just different. And mine. Ours, for now. The last golden days.