Friday, July 22, 2011


thank you, nici, for that gorgeous pic of my girl...

It's 6:07 on Friday evening and I'm ready to go. My two best friends are playing a gig that started seven minutes ago at the Top Hat Family Friendly Friday. This event is one of our best family outings. Even better when my girls croon their sweet harmonies. I'm working on my percussion skills so I can join the act. For now, I've gotta stay a fan.

The kids have been asleep for a couple of hours. It was a busy, unbusy summer Friday. Groceries and park and a random stop over at a friend's, turned spontaneous playdate. I felt relaxed and one with them, never hurried nor harried, just in it to win it, the perfect place to be for me as a mama.

Eliana has taken to her new age with such grace. Her ease in her own skin, in her place in it all, seems to be rubbing off on me. She's been saying these sweet, astute things lately. Things like, Mom, I'd really like to get a salad for lunch at the Good Food Store. Because that's healthy food for a healthy body. Where does she come from? So instead of the cheesy bagel I'd contemplated, we go through the salad bar, getting healthy food for our healthy bodies. We actually ate lunch calmly. She ate her food without having to be prodded. She shared edamame with her brother. She tickled him and told him how much she loved him. I just sat there with my beets and spinach marveling at it all. Who are these incredible humans and how was I blessed with their care? Could her hair be any more beautiful? His smile any more wild? Her words more articulate, his moves more sturdy? How can I capture this feeling within myself every single day that I get to be their mother. Wholly present. No concern for time. No concern for what's next or all that has to get done. My best self all caught up in their best self instead of a totally different equation, one that has to be found in time I carve away from them. If I could nail this mama thing the way I did today? Even now, as the clock pushes 6:15 and all I want to do is watch my girls, but how the heck can I wake those dreamy babies?

Their door is open and I keep lurking around them. Eliana found her Night Night and she cradles it beneath her chin, orange dress wrapped around her bruised knees. Sol is like a little log on his belly. His pink sleepy sack a perfect bag for his sturdy limbs. They are everything to me. They are peace. Help my breath settle, help me slow down, take in, surrender to this very now.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

and then there's sol

Ah, sweet, sweet Solomon. He's something for me to focus on right now. He had a rough morning. Dragged a step stool into a new room for himself. Experimented with getting on and off. Landed himself with the stool on top of him. Frustrated, scared, hurt. As often happens, I didn't see where he was hit, so I spend lots of time examining, holding, holding, holding. Lately he's really into being held. Being held or taking himself on adventures. It's like he's at the baby/toddler crossroads, trying to decide if he wants to be big and strong, or little and weak. Generally he cruises. Races. Flips and uncovers. It's a fascinating journey, keeping up with my Sol. Exhausting. Sweet.

But then he has moments like this morning, where all the kisses and jostles won't stop his tears, where his sultry lips inflate with sadness, quiver in front of his funny little teeth. He didn't want me to leave me in his crib. I felt that helplessness that is being the mama of a baby. What do you want? How can I make it better? Just rest and sleep. Please, baby. Please.

That was almost three hours ago. I just peeked in on him. And had another mama moment. Checked that his little back was moving up and down, that air was moving through him, that he was fine. Because that's how heavy this is. I'm trying to keep little people alive. Thriving. Healthy. Strong. No wonder I feel a little off-kilter lately. This is a big gig to do well day after day after day.

So sweet Sol sleeps. I have one more hour before I need to pick up Elie from camp, one hour in which I planned to do all I needed to do with just the babe in tow. But he needs to sleep. Recover. Grow. So instead of wandering the house thinking about all the housework that needs to be done that I have no desire to do, will put my energy towards holding this moment. This moment where my baby is doing the tremendous work of growing. My baby.

Eliana extended her birthday celebration with a swell party yesterday. Her school friends and "old" friends were there in full force. The day wasn't too hot, the park a perfect place for their comings and goings, Michael Jackson busting from the stereo, beer and wine and juice boxes, cupcakes and Pirate's booty. She and Soraya shared the role of birthday queen with grace. Thank goodness. They tend to get a bit dramatic with each other. Thankfully they brought their best selves to the party.

Which is what I'm asking from myself lately. To bring my best self to the party. There's a bit of darkness that's bubbling up, a bit of oh my babies are growing up and where will I put all this energy I've poured into them for so long, the commitment to my best self, mama style. Mama's coming out. Mama's coming undone. Sort of. With the containment that only Mama can have. As she wipes down the counters, folds the onesie, drives the car, bakes the cake. Watches her baby's back to make sure his breaths are heavy, deep. There's a lot to this. And it's all still pretty damn new. Navigating. Breathing.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

waka waka

birthday week

I've always been a believer in making celebrations last as long as they can. That concept has sparked the notion of a birthday week. And Els embraced hers like a champ. Birthday week found us back in the swing of all things summer in Montana. A spontaneous day up at Snowbowl for pizza and meandering and, gulp, the super scary chairlift ride (scary for me, not for the kids).

A daddy-daughter date to the Osprey game, where Eliana learned her first lesson about birthday experiences versus birthday gifts.

Eliana's first summer camp. She biked herself there...

And spent the afternoons in the yard with her two best friends, the hose and her bro. Oh, and ice-cream. Sol's new best friend is ice-cream.

Eliana finally found herself on the big day. A morning spent unwrapping presents sent from her far-away loved ones.

A mama-daughter birthday date at the Farmer's market where she got to have her face painted and pick out whatever treats she wanted (all those delicious handmade goods and she chose a Sponge Bob popsicle from Captain Hooks truck...). And finally, a trip to the carousel with her daddy and brother where she aced everyone in line and found herself on Paint. We kinda pretended not to know her....but she certainly knows how to get what she wants. The second time she tried to race to the front, she was busted and sent to the back of the line. Watch out, world. Here she is.

And this morning, over breakfast...

Do you need help cutting your french toast, Els?
No, that's okay, I can do it myself because I'm four.

Well, what are you going to cut it with?
A knife.

Can I get you a knife.

No, thanks, I can do it myself. I'm four now.

While sawing away...

Mama, I had the best dream last night! I was at Biga Pizza with my family and I had on my birthday hat and I was blowing out my candle, because I'm four!

Happy birthday to my beautiful, strong, spirited, bright, incredible four year old. Thank you for bringing out the best in us all. Thank you for teaching me more than I ever could have imagined.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

there and back

After nearly a month away, it's hard to know where to begin. I got a bit fired up the other night and wrote about the transition from where I was raised to the home I chose. I hadn't fully settled back in. Now I have. Now I can appreciate every ounce that is Missoula. Now I can move on, look back, and try to gather some thoughts for posterity. While I didn't bring a camera, it's seemed so large, so extranneous on such a big journey, I do have my words. And a few shots my mom took. Cuz that's what mom's do.

We had a tremendous trip. Spent the first action packed week in New Jersey. Top five memories include Eliana rocking the Jersey shore, eyes like tremendous, excited orbs as she ran from one carnival ride to the next, a rocket ship to a crazy school bus to flying alligators. We then found ourselves playing in the Atlantic, Sol would race wildly towards the waves with his usual unabashed style, me waiting at the water's edge to catch him. Jack tossed Elie above the waves. Anabel and Kelli cruised the shore a bit more gently. Gini and Roseann laughed and waved and cheered.

A lunch in NYC with my two best friends from elementary school. It's been 25 years. Facebook finds us face to face at a new, swanky restaurant in the village. As if a minute hadn't gone by. They looked exactly the same. We could have stayed all day. All night. I didn't want it to end. Too many details to fill in, expand on, recreate. Thank you, ladies. Thank you, thank you for being part of my full circle.

Another Eliana's face moment as we came up the stairs from Penn Station, landing smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. Perhaps that wild naivete is in part where the aforementioned rant came from. My girl's born and bred in Montana. Bright lights, honking cabs, hustle and bustle, it's all new. Thank goodness for our belief in travel, our bi-coastal family, our connection to our roots to keep her world a bit more open.

Chillin' in Jeff's folks house. Looking at old pictures. Remembering the first time I visited his family in New Jersey. How simple things were. How obvious it was to me that I was in love with a man who was very loved. Adored. Soli and Anabel on the staircase, hands wrapped around the bars like little jailbirds, singing their, "AHHHHHH's!" Morty in his chair telling Eliana to Watch the Baby! The bittersweetness that is age and change and the unknown.

The night of the Long Island wedding. A ten-piece cover band with all my favorite jams. A set of babysitters with our children in the hotel room. Full bar. Dance floor. An unabashed commitment to their Michael Jackson medley. That feeling in my being that screamed, I love to move with my whole self! No one here needs me! I am free in my body to move and thrash and swing and sing and hopefully they'll be asleep when we return.

Then we crossed the country on a coupla planes, Mama and her two babes. We all rose to the occasion. The hours and snacks and waltz up and down the aisles. The crayons and etch-a-sketch and DVD player that never seems to last a fraction of the time I need. I looked at the rest of the passengers with envy, their nifty gadgets all compact and high-tech. Next time, I swear.

Then it was back to my home land. The sunshine and freeways. The colors and textures of home. Our time in L.A. was a bit less razz-ma-tazz, a bit more down home. Logged some good play time in my mama's condo. Watched her fall in love with big Sol and his toothy grin, his bonked head, his lover's lips. Took an African dance class and went out for drinks. Laughed hard and loud. Checked my phone ten thousand times to see if the kids were up. They slept and we stayed out. Freedom, baby. I'm a sucker.

Spent the weekend at my sister's beach home. Logged a rockin' beach day with a plethora of sand toys, sunscreen bottles, savory snacks. Took a much needed swim in the sweet Pacific. Again, just my body and the rhythm of the waves. A lifetime of memory and comfort, the hops and dives and tune of the sea. The first dip of my head beneath the water. The satisfied saunter back up the beach upon completion. Such a strong part of who I am those ocean waves.

And mainly just enjoying the vibe of where I'm from and the people I love. South Pasadena on the Fourth? Nothing like it. The pancake breakfast at the fire house, the goofy poster contest and parade down Mission? Love it. The way Eliana got right in the mix all naked and wild in the slip and slide bouncer at the park? The best.

Light night talks with my mom. Early afternoon cocktails with my mom. Random errands around town with my mom. How she knows me so, so well. How I think she's the coolest. And Hil and her incredible studio and commitment to art and community and potential. I come from some tremendous stock. I am so proud of my people.

My friend Melissa reminded me the other day that for as much as I love Missoula, I gave up a whole hell of a lot to be here. I come back to that comment a lot. Thanks, sister. I already owe you like a grand for Verizon therapy. It's nice that most of my people seem to have advanced degrees in some form of psychology. I seem to need a bit more professional help these days. It's a lot. The kids and the jobs and the husband and the reintegration of selves. The passions and creativity and choices and chaos. The exhaustion. The work. The love. A whole heck of a lot.

This time.

Monday, July 11, 2011


I needed to process some feelings last night about the world I hail from and the world I chose. My girlfriend suggested I write about it. I did. It was fiery and feisty and negative and conflicted. It wasn't my most glorious hour. But it certainly helped me process.

Today an Anonymous commenter told me something along the lines of I either get over it or move back to LA. That was just the perspective I needed. Because what I was feeling had nothing to do with moving back to LA. It had to do with an appreciation of that place for certain. But it was more about the paths we don't take. And how there is beauty and grace in all of it. While my tone might have been negative to the homogeneity of Missoula, it was only as a means of processing. But some processing is probably better left in my head.

So thanks, Anonymous. And you say you know me. I guess I am putting all this on the internet. What a crazy world.

Be back soon with what I do best. Shiny memories and heavy appreciation.

lately 2

Thanks, sweet friends, for the emails and calls saying to put this back up. It's pretty pathetic that I let one person's comment derail me so, but I'm a pleaser and I certainly never want to hurt anyone. I took out a few of the f-bombs and added a few more disclaimers. I love being home. I love where I came from. Where I choose to be is a struggle I've dealt with since I moved away. And, of course, far beyond color versus nature, the crux of the family is my choice to raise my children far from their flesh and blood. I love my parents and my sisters more than anything in the world. I want them to know my children as well as they know me. That's why I spend most of my cash on plane tickets. It's what we do.

It's been a month since I've written on this here blog. Most of that time has seen me and my crew on the road. And after all that time, all those experiences, memories, moments, feelings, frustrations, exhilaration, it feels pretty damn overwhelming to attempt to document. Overwhelming and unnecessary. Because if this is for me, I've been too caught up in it all to stop and write anything down. It makes me a bit edgy and twitchy. A bit like I take myself too seriously. Why do I write it all down at all?

So this isn't about memories. Or maybe it is. I don't know what I'm doing right now. Just moving. Moving, moving, moving. Loving. In it to win it.

Elie turns four on Saturday. The past four years have seen all things Eliana, all things Solomon, sorta all things Kessler fam, sorta all things me. But lately I feel like paying attention to a lot more me. And as tremendous as their milestones are (Elie does Manhattan! Solomon loves the beach! Planes, trains, subways and freeways! Family is fabulous!) it's all feeling pretty overwhelming. I've been so tightly wound by it all for so long. I hit this place lately where I just want to cruise again. Want to not care so much about every morsel of food that enters our collective systems. Want to stay out late and dance. Want to not care about the next morning. Want to be honest and real and raw and fabulous.

My friend Mooney rocks silver glitter eyeliner (top and bottom) every day. I love it. She gave me a glitter stick so that I'll remember to add some sparkle to my life when I saw her in L.A. It lingers in my medicine cabinet as a little reminder. I dotted a few flecks around my laugh lines before I taught my yoga class. It got the job done. I want to line my eyes with silver. I want to not care what other people think.

I came from a land of diversity. I only knew myself, my family, in relation to the other. The others. And we were all in it together. When Donna got to go to Japanese school every Saturday in elementary school, I pretended to be half so I could go to the annual carnival and eat azuki beans on shaved ice. When I spent the night at Alicia's house, we'd eat menudo for Sunday breakfast. When we went out with Emily for dim sum, I learned how a real woman fights with her friends to pay the bill, all those little Aunties shouting and grabbing. I like music with loud, strong bass lines, the way they shake the house windows, let you hear someone whose coming from far.

While we're at it, I kinda hate bluegrass. Please don't tell all my friends here. I love the music they make. But it just doesn't move me the same way. Lower my rims, baby. Pump my bass.

So I've been readjusting to life in the glorious valley. Did my heart skip a beat when we hovered over the green, the majesty of the Clark Fork winding her way through our town like something from a freakin' postcard? Indeed. Did I gasp just a bit when I smelled the clean air of early summer? Of course. But did it feel a bit looney when I pulled up to Bonner Park the next night to go to Elie's BFF's birthday and everyone was shiny, happy, outdoorsy, fit, white with exactly two perfect kids? Hell yes. It all felt a little, ahem, gag me with a Chaco. Where I'm from, no one, no one, knows what those mother's are. If they do, they hide it. If they do, they only wore them on a river trip because that's what they were told to get.

But please dismiss my high horse. I have Chacos. I wear Chacos! I need my damn Chacos in the summer. My friends don't really all wear them...(we all just have them!) Any one who really knows me knows that I don't mean to be so malevolent and judge-y. And of course all my friends are tremendous individuals with their own passions and idiosyncrasies . We can define diversity in myriad ways. Screw the mountains. It's my friends, it's the people, who keep me here. My best friends know that.

So what kind of flaming hypocrite am I? Not so sure.

So there. I've said it. I love Missoula. Adore it. But it feels a teeny tiny bit barfy after I've got three weeks of city on. Three weeks with my people. With anonymity. With that added ballsy edge. Where people look each other in the eye and don't smile. And my laid back coast, it really is a big part of who I am. That said, it also felt really exhausting. And foreign. And style-y. So maybe I'm just a big ass contradiction who wants it all. Probably. Or maybe I'm just trying to feel my feelings so I can move on and go back to writing about my kids and their phenomenal milestones. God knows I'm good at that. And I love them. More than anything.

But how can I give them everything? How can I show them all there is in this big, beautiful world? How can I have my ying with my yang? My Wong and my Fang? My Gutierrez, my Apiphany, Destiny and Denisia. It's all so clean and shiny and white and perfect. And easy. And beautiful. And spirited. And loving. Embracing. Nurturing. Cured me of my ailments. Rooted and ground me. Moved me in ways I never imagined. A bear crosses my path in the park a block from my house. I marvel at the cherries as they go from blossom to green knob to red burst. And my garden! Me! It's wild and unabashed and disorganized. But it blooms. The flowers return. They smile back up at me as if to say, see, you love it here! Remember us? We always find our way from out beneath the frozen, white earth. Embrace us. All of it.