Saturday, December 10, 2011


I just opened up a piece of mail from the university I attended. They were asking for money. The approach was to reminisce about how great it all was. Included in the mailing were pictures from our recent fifteen year reunion (of which I did not attend). And all I could think as I looked at those goofy pictures of people laughing and dancing and carrying on was:

When did we all get so old?

The irony is that right now, in my old bones, I hold the muscle memory of a night well spent. Of racing laps around a dance floor. Of wholly becoming Madonna when Material Girl was played. My body holds the soreness in the neck, in the shoulders, that can only come after one dances hard. Real hard. I recall jumping off the stage and doing a bell kick. I heart bell kicks.

So when I think about being old, I think about how young I feel inside. About dancing hard and dressing like a fool. I think about the rest of the fools in my town, the rest of the fools who are my friends. I think about how nights like last night keep us all really young. How thankful I am to be around old people who really like to have fun, to use their bodies, to be goofballs and eat hamburgers in costume. I love them.

It was a good night. It was followed by a good day. My children are so fun to be around. We spent a solid part of the day at the Children's Museum. Sol's never been. It was the first birthday party he'd been invited to. And Eliana rode on the coattails of his invite all the way through. Even after his party was long over, I found her at the craft table making some wild ocean, glittery crafty thing in a jar thing with a group of kids who were part of another party. Yup. That's my girl. She had no idea who they were, but she just sat right down and started crafting. Love her.

She's crafting like crazy right now. And almost better than the craft is the re-telling, step by step, of how the creation came to be:
Well, let me tell you what I did first. First, I found a little bit of clay and I rolled it into a tight, little ball. Then I just poked an orange colored pencil in this hole, a yellow crayon here, then I wrapped VERY TIGHTLY a pipe cleaner around and around and around the whole thing, then I poked this little bead into the clay and then I made this beautiful tree! But it's not like a tree that lives in the ground. It's a tree that you carry in your pocket. And it's for you, Mama! Here!

Dang. The energy that it must take to be little CelieBop. She's intense. And she keeps me young.

Here's to the fun of now.

Monday, December 5, 2011


When all is said and done, I think this is my favorite time of day. Generally one of us joins these two freaks in the tub. But tonight, it was just the two of them. The two of them and their crazy faces. Loud songs. Splishy splashes. Games with anything that's plastic and floats. It means we're almost to the end of another day, but not so close that I'm overly exhausted or sorta sentimental. It's one of those pleasures that we all agree on.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I just responded to a request by some friends that I help them choreograph a flash mob for an upcoming dance party. I responded by saying something about life having me by the balls right now. And it does. I can't squeeze out another freakin' shimmy.

I have to remember that this is always a tough time of year for a teacher. The kids have had their first of two long-ish breaks. The novelty of a new school year has worn thin. They are ready to get their holiday freak on. And there we are telling them, once again, to listen.

So there's that. The general insanity of the job I'm paid to do.

And, the finality of knowing that we are done making babies.

That's a big one. And I guess it doesn't feel right to go into too much more detail over the internet. Suffice to say, I mourned today. I thought about this journey that has been the past five years. All the growth and wisdom and intensity and love. How far we've come. My husband is brave. We are brave. Our journey will only continue. The story of the four of us.

I cried happy tears, thinking about how blessed I am to be the mama of two such perfect creatures. All I wanted to do was get home to be with them. And then a few hours later, all I wanted to do was to kiss their perfect heads, tuck in their wriggly bodies, and let stillness enter my home. Quiet. Some semblance of order. Good jeepers can those two find every single last thing in every last drawer. Sol's new trick is to literally leap from the end table onto the sofa with a huge grin. I wait and catch him, tugging the table closer to the sofa each time. He then hops down and moves the table a bit further away. Gotta be on it around here.

We entered holiday excitement a bit prematurely. Met Santa while it was still November. I have to say, I'm pretty glad we got that one out of the way, as it was pretty painless. Els was a bit shell shocked, but still managed to explain her need for a Princess Jasmine costume. Solomon couldn't get enough of the big guy. Mrs. Claus had to play bouncer for all the other kids, as Sol kept finding his way back on to the big guy's lap. Only in Missoula is Mrs. Claus kinda badass with a nose ring to boot. Gotta love it.

In two weeks we go to California. I am already thinking about it. Eliana asks me every day how many more sleeps til California. We're hitting Disneyland. It's gonna be big. I'm kinda petrified, but ready to take on the challenge. It's part of my history. My people do Disneyland. We're gonna lay it on thick.

So, as always, at the end of a little writing session, I no longer care (too much) about the random sock I see shoved into a corner of the room, fridge magnents that litter the floor, the mail that spills everywhere (Eliana checks every day for letters from her, "sister in California, Queenie" Queenie sends some mean credit card offers...always explaining, of course, how much she misses her beautiful sister).

I am at peace with our choice to move forward into the world of big(ger) children. I am at peace with this being my last round of diapers. I can handle not nursing again (I think). I can take a deep breath and think about the two incredible packages that sleep in the room beside mine. The way they hug first thing in the morning. The way they are learning exactly how to piss each other off.

The way we ebb and flow up and down and up again day after day after day.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

thanksgiving morning

This morning I need poetry. It's Thanksgiving. Last night was really, really rough. Between Sol's molars and Elie's hacking cough, Jeff and I had maybe three straight hours at best. I want to be my best self today. I want to be my best self always. I'm trying so hard to be mindful, to be true, to model the kind of appreciation and kindness that I want to see in the rest of the world. This sounds kind of high and mighty. It isn't. It's a struggle. It's a challenge. It's the kind of challenge I'm excited to accept.

When I think about who I want my models to be, I go to my girlfriends. I go to my sisters. I go to my mother. I think about all the strong women who help me through every single day. Who did it before me. The different styles we choose to embrace all the needs that we have to satisfy. I remember that it's always been my friends who have brought out my best self.

I found out last night via Facebook that a high-school classmate of mine died. I'm not sure if I'd call her my friend, as I haven't seen her in over twenty years. We were in the small ensemble play, Steel Magnolias together when I was a junior and she was a senior. We played Annelle and Trudy, respectively. We shared every scene. We became friends. She was sophisticated and cool, had older boyfriends, wore meticulous make-up and had an amazingly womanly body. I was goofy, twitchy, cheerful cheer-leading me at seventeen. The rest of the cast was as motley as the two of us. But this lovely relationship developed between all of us. Women, when put together, have an amazing capacity to bond. To find their shared truths.

So I sit here this morning thinking about all I have to be grateful for. I think about the community of friends that I've developed over the past decade in this mountain town. How we've shared weddings. Births and more births. Adventures with tents and skis and hot springs and trails. All sorts of things I never imaged at seventeen.

I think about my sisters. How different we all are. How deep the love flows. How much I've emulated and admired every single one of them my whole life. Five sisters. How's that for a blessing.

I think about my mom. How hard she worked to give us everything all the time. Her intelligence. Her uniqueness. Her wit. The way she paved a path so staunchly her own. In a new country. With two young girls. Then two more. Amidst a cacophony of adolescents she'd just met, with a man she perhaps never intended to marry. Tremendous.

The way I watch my mother-in-law greet her husband with love every single morning. Kiss his bald head. Love him wholly. Even after he's just peed in the sink. Buttoned and unbuttoned his coat incessantly. Folded and unfolded the throw rug. Asked the same question again and again. I'm sure she never imaged their fifteen year age difference would come to this.

I think about my husband. How hard he works. How intense and sharp his mind is. How he wants to fix everything. How much he's taught me about the world. Opened me up in ways I never imagined.

And my own babies. Eliana and her words. Her intensity. Her huge brain and articulate self. I'm so proud of the way she speaks to other people. How she addresses people by their name. Her astute observations. Her eyes. Her hair.

Solomon and his monkey body. The way he moves with such confidence. His monkey arms around me in the middle of the night. He's hard head against my chest. His words. Alright! Toast? RoRo? Mommeee.

So here I am, full of love. The snow has melted and the brown leaves are back, covering the grass in the yard. The red berries on the ash mix with the toasted leaves. They are still and lazy. They are totally content with their place in it all.

I started this post with a need for poetry. For words. Here's a gift:

Morning Poem

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches ---
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead ---
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging ---

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted ---

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

from Dream Work (1986) by Mary Oliver

Thank you friends, sisters, mamas, husbands, children for daring us to be happy. Thank you for these thirty seven blessed years.

There were times when I wasn't sure it was all going to go as well as it did. Never dreamed it would go so well.

Let's go with grace. Savor each moment. Stop trying so hard. Be here now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

the three of us

Our foursome is missing a vital member. Jeff's away for work until Wednesday and I'm trying hard to get good good at going it alone. This weekend was way better than last, when he was away also. I made the brilliant choice to listen to my children's requests and not leave the house yesterday, except to explore the newly fallen snow in our backyard.

My kids. They are so very content these days in the simple company of one another. Sol points to the radio and calls out his favorite tune to start the day with dancing. Eliana fashions capes and costumes for them while they hold hands and make wonky circles around the tiny dance floor. They pull cushions from the sofa and make obstacle courses and crash landing pads. They fashion drums from lunch boxes and kitchen ware and then play their favorite jams. I think about yesterday and imagine what we did to fill a whole entire day in our little home? I keep seeing the same images. The dancing, the pillows. What else? The books! Yes, the books. Lots and lots of time is spent with books. And now Els has most of Soli's memorized, so she does the reading. It's pretty awesome.

So after a full and busy work day, I returned home with my chickens and they started the routine. The music. The cushions. The inability to sit for any amount of time to actually consume a meal (Sol actually poured a bowl of juicy, tomoato-y spaghetti on his head like something out of a bad comedy...).

Even if they won't eat enough, they always leave me with plenty to clean. But I tried to keep my cool and just be. I ate while they jumped off the coffee table onto Lucy's disgusting dog bed, head first. I tried not to get too uptight. I took it easy, took care of my needs, rolled with their requests. Played Sol's favorite Michael Franti song again and again and again. Engaged Eliana and her endless games, the imagination run wild and amok. Races and hide and go seek and dress-up and Jasmine and Queenie McBear. Tried to watch enough to keep them safe without totally squelching their agenda.

We got through bath (my second attempt at dinner, Sol's bowl of yogurt and cottage cheese with rainbow sprinkles was promptly poured all over me to which Eliana frankly stated, Mina! What are we going to do with you? I never did that, did I Mama?) and then tried to get everyone dressed for bed. Eliana's taken a liking to choosing her own bed outfits, fashioned out of things she can wear to school the next day. Uber-efficient if you ask me, albeit a bit clashy. Tonight it was purple leopard print fleece pants and a long sleeved rainbow print tee. Whatevs.

So I'm alternating my reading between one of Sol's books and one of El's books. They were pretty hyped up on goofballs and I had to keep reminding them to Simmer Down (when did this signature phrase of my mother's begin to infiltrage my vernacular?) While on a longer book for Elie, Sol would hop off the bed in his sleepy sack and shimmy his way over to his book basket to pull out another book. Except one time he decided to dump his book basket on the floor. And then, before I had time to fully get it, hurl himself head first into the basket. Except, of course, he missed and came flying with an atrocious THUD on to the hardwood floor. Good Jesus.

So there goes the Zen. Sol screams. I begin to pace around frantically, holding him and kissing him while a giant goose egg forms on his head. I raise my voice at Eliana and tell her to pick up all the books from the floor, even though she really has nothing to do with this. I put a frozen piece of ahi on Sol's head which he promptly throws on the floor. Eliana picks it up and tries to bite it, reminding me that I have yet to finish The Cat and the Hat. I jiggle Sol and try to finish the book. I omit some vital couplets. She calls me out and tells me to read the whole page. Ugh.

Now it's lights out. The occasional whimper behind the closed door. I can't bear to face the obliterated kitchen. I just tried to find my slippers on our tiny bathroom floor. They are covered with cottage cheese and rainbow sprinkles. Dora panties, stinky overalls and little legwarmers are strewn about on the damp, dairy-fied floor. My dog continues to lurk right at my heels. When I open up the door for her, she just stares outside. It's freezing. My slippers are sticky. I have belly cramps. I really hope no one reads this because it's going from bittersweet and purposeful to complainy and random.

But I guess my point is, even when all I want is a break from it all, I promptly sit down to write it all down. Because it's all so beautiful. The way they snuggle together in bed. The way Sol tries to sing Baby Beluga along with us. His huge smile when he first put the book basket on his head and wandered around like a little blind bat. The delightful detail I omitted from the initial telling of the story. Because I knew he'd try and hurl his body in. But it was so cute and funny the way he was wandering around with the basket on his head, the way he fashioned his tiny self bum down into the basket. I love his creativity and curiosity. He is so amazingly busy and interested in everything, all the time. So even though I knew somewhere in my heart that all his mania would end up in a goose egg, I didn't want to stop it because I knew how happy he was.

I could leave all the dishes and crawl right in bed. It's eight sixteen. My house is a barrage of board books and tupperware, jackets and pillows.

But they sleep. Those two, wild little creatures. They sleep now. Most likely before morning, one or both of them will awake, once or multiple times. We'll muddle our way through another night. Lucy will whine at my bedside and whack me in the face with her tail. I'll curse under my breath and open the back door. She'll stare for a while before stepping out. And that's just how we roll.

Daddy will be home on Wednesday. I'll have my partner back. My look exchanger. The number of times in an evening we look at each other and shake our heads. Is this for real? Are they really ours? Did we know we could love anything this much? Are you as tired as I am? Do we really have to bend down again to pick more crap up off the floor? Is that Lucy scratching again? Is Sol awake? Are we out of cream? Did you check the mail? Set the alarm? Did you hear him say, Elie? Look at how she kisses his head. And again and again and again. This blessed time. All the details to remember.

And for the record...this picture was taken last week. Now a white dust of snow covers those fallen leaves. We've landed in Winter.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I just uploaded pictures from last weekend. The pictures are full of fall colors and sunshine. Cozy hats but not yet winter boots. Our busy, busy, full and fleeting days.

I woke to snow this morning. Should have known when Lucy was going nuts in the middle of the night. Didn't even put it together, just muttered at her, dragged my body from bed, opened the back door and felt the rush of cold air that screams, It's here.

Drove out to some hot springs with my lady colleague posse to celebrate the up-coming birth of a new MIS baby. Snow dusted the mountain tops and roadsides. The larch shouted their yellow breaths our way. The trees towered and the Clark Fork looked sleepy.

Seasons move fast around these parts. Children grow. Mama's settle. Snow drifts.

I'm feeling so happy right now. Happy in a grounded way. Happy in a calm way. Happy in a lots of dance party mornings way. Happy in a go to bed at 9:00 way. Happy in a peppermint tea kinda way.

Jeff's gone for the weekend. He'll be gone again next weekend and into the week. I miss him but I also know, I've got this. I just have to keep it simple. Long jammy days. Let all the toys litter the floor. Move from thing to thing and back. Just groove to their little rhythm.

They are so perfect. They love each other so much. They love me so much. It's really, really lovely.

Sol says, "Eleee, Eleee!" He points to the radio and says, "Woah, woah, woah!" to signal his favorite Michael Franti tune. He's got rhythm that boy. He talks about his friends all the time. His favorite phrase is, "Thank you!"

And Eliana has entered a phase of all things princess, all things Disney. She has yet to see a princess movie, but acts like she's the total authority. She sang a mean Ariel in the tub tonight. She's creative and determined and really weird.

I think she's pretty awesome.
Halloween was almost too much for all of us to bear. There was such build up. So many changes in costume. She finally settle on Angelina Ballerina and was pretty damn sweet in her big ears and twirly dress.

After a very full school day, we found ourselves preparing for the big event, the big, trick or treat. Eliana and Sol moved slowly and carefully from house to house.

Eliana was so overwhelmed by the giant bowls of candy she could hardly speak. This is quite unusual for her. Sol on the other hand would grab a few tiny fistfuls and then insist on carrying them the whole way to the next house. He would then try to return them to the next bowl. This was the game until he ate through a Snicker's wrapper and realized what was inside. He stopped giving them back after that.

I see these pictures and he looks so small but in the moment, ah, in the moment, he is so very big. I can't believe that was just this week. So much action packed into every single day. So many moments to hold on to.

Friday, October 28, 2011

my favorite season

I'm claiming Fall as my favorite season. In the Spring I claim Spring. All of my students claim Winter. Maybe one day. For today, I'll take Fall.

The way I can't seem to take enough pictures. Cold mornings and sunny afternoons. Leaves and more leaves. The aniticipation of Halloween and Day of the Dead. The last hurrah before the colors fade to white, before the inevitable freeze.

I'll take Fall.

Monday, October 17, 2011

eagle coast

So much to report since last I was here. An amazing evening on the Clark Fork with six gorgeous women. A raft packed with gourmet goodness, down bags, cozy clothes, really good coffee and pretty good wine. I didn't commit to the trip til a few hours before, ever caught up in the working mama's guilt, the weekend downtime that I so want to spend with my family. But the girls, ah the girls. How they feed my wacked out old soul. How I could talk to them forever and ever and ever. How the adventure of the rapids, of the outdoors, of being the kid sister to a band of bad ass river mama's, me on my knees at the foot of the raft while they paddle and steer my goofy self out of harm's way. The way they set up camp and build a fire like total pros. The way I marvel still at how strong and beautiful and worldly so many of my friends are.

So, as it always seems to go, the trip away was awesome. I returned to a Costco stocked fridge, salmon in a marinade, happy children and a confident husband. Sometimes I need to get out of the way. It seems to empower us all.

The next weekend my sister, Wendy, and her sweet girl, Piper came. Cousins in all their bouncy, vibrant, loud glory! While rain detained us a bit, we ended up hiking the "L", getting lost in an insane corn maze and visiting a pumpkin patch. Wendy's fancy camera captured lots of the moments absolutely beautifully. I am so thankful for our special cousin dates in Montana. I love having my people on my turf.

Jeff's folks have landed back in Missoula. They are getting settled and we are enjoying family adventures. Fled the rainy city and ended up at a hot springs on Sunday. We were quite a sight: chatty, wild haired girl, long lashed infant, old, old Poppy, excited Nana....I like the multi-generational travel. Makes the true meaning of family shine.

Of course, all these highlights coexist with the daily backdrop of work and shuttle and more work at night and dinner and messy houses and splashy baths and board book bedtimes. With deep breaths. With endless floor pick ups. With dog walks that sometimes feel like they are part of the to-do list.

I had less than an hour to hammer out some dog time before I grabbed Els from school. And I was hammering. I moved quickly up the mountain my brain full with the 90 reading tests I have to administer, the choreography I'm trying to get finished for Wednesdays class, what the heck I'd throw together for dinner, my upcoming business trip to L.A. when I'll leave my children for...gulp...three whole nights, four long days. Before I knew it I had made it to the giant cement "L" on the mountain and I sat.

And there they were. Floating on air. The crisp air holding their wings, cradling them while they coasted ever so gently above my head. Oh how I love the bald eagles. We see lots of wildlife around these parts, but these guys always grab me, hold me. Their grace. Their confidence. The way they seem to just let the wind carry them. Hold the moment.

So I picked a new song on my ipod, tipped my head back, and surrendered to their glory. Tried to coast along with them. On their tireless ride. Their strong cruise. Breathed them in. Tried to carry them with me as I entered back into the chaos. The way they just float with grace from one moment to the next.