Sunday, September 25, 2011


This weekend we finally bit the bullet and took the kiddos camping. While we camped a ton last summer when Sol was more or less immobile, we didn't make it out this past summer. There's so much to weigh. Weather conditions. Car time. Sleep saga. Life with two little children is a ton of work when you have running water and nightlights. Why would we add to that stress?

Because of this.

Just a few hours from our casita. It was the first weekend of fall. The aspens and larch were spinning their golden threads. The mornings were down jacket chilly. But the days were pretty much awesome.

We're all getting into this paddle boarding thing. It's the first time I've actually "recreated" as much as my husband on a weekend away. The kids love it too.

It's so peaceful. Standing strong on that board. Watching the fish jump, peering deep into the blue depths, staring into the craggy peaks like they're a second home.

We also had a few new items to try out. Like the van. She hasn't taken a three hour road trip yet. And she's a rockstar. It's amazing how much easier it is to travel with kids when I can get to them easily, whenever they need me (which, I'll add, is kinda a lot...).

After years and years of hurling my body into the backseat of my tiny, ancient Honda, bum wedged between massive carseats, the van feels like absolute luxury. We also secured a new tent at an end of season sale a while back. Again, after years in the two man, this happy orange number had us all sound and secure.

Of course, it's all fun and games until it's time to go to sleep. Sol was way over tired and hurling his little body around the tent while I tried and tried to calm him, tried to sing his songs, tried to get him to settle.

He's been officially off-the-boob for a week, so books and songs are my only tickets to ride. Jeff sent me on a water mission so I could cool out, my frustration and anxiety mounting. When I came back it was silent. Go dad. We actually managed to hang around the fire for a few hours before we did the Kessler sandwich sleep, me blissfully nuzzled between a downy boy and a dreadlocked girl.

While there was plenty of sadness wrapped up in easing Solomon off the boob, the cuddling that has replaced nursing is out of this world. He's one sweet little monkey. And he's actually managing to sleep some solid stretches. It was time. And as always seems to be the case with children, the next best thing replaces the last best thing and then some.

At the end of the day, the kids were awesome. So up for adventure. So into building rock castles (Els) and exploring every last inch of foliage, picking up every last pebble (Sol). Don't get me wrong, there were moments, to be sure. It's funny, not so much with Sol who at home is the one who wears me down a bit more. In the great outdoors, there's less havoc for him to cause. The lake was shallow and low, so I didn't worry about him going out too far. We were far from cars. He slept through the campfire. And he spent plenty of the weekend strapped into a carseat.

Els was the one prone to a bit more moodiness, a bit more drama. She "missed her little house" and was dying to get back to the Halloween costumes her Gran had sent the day we left.

That said, they burst in the doors when we returned and within minutes they had destroyed the house. Solomon was climbing the window ('s insane), after he'd already sat in Lucy's water dish, ate dogfood, unfurled the toilet paper roll, thrown a few toy baskets around the room, blown out of his get the idea. Eliana sits in the middle of this chaos dressed as Buzz Lightyear pouring over a haggard Halloween costume catalogue, talking about Princess Leia versus Princess Jasmine, pondering aloud the merits of being Buzz Lightyear or maybe Belle while she wistfully flips through the pages. She's so heady, so lost in thought, so ready to bust out with the most random, but thoroughly eloquent comment at any point. Out of nowhere from the backseat we heard her say something like this: Hey guys. If I still have some treat and none of the chocolate is melted, I'll be sure to share some with my friends...

And then to Jeff when they were on the paddle board together, while looking out at the insane mountains of Glacier National Park, Dadda? Did God make this?

Ah how I would love to get lost in her thoughts...

It's so good to remember that it's always better just to do it. Just to take the risk. Just to bite the bullet. I sit here looking at these pictures filled with gratitude. For those two days together. For being so in the moment with my three most beloved people.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


The best days are the unexpected ones. Days that begin with no plan. A day that could have been a total wash because of too many night wakings, a mama up from twelve to four, a boy who needs to learn to self-soothe, a girl who wants to be snuggled. But instead of succumbing to exhaustion, Jeff suggested yoga. After landing myself on my mat, I found two of my best girls had decided to take class that morning too. So yoga was followed by a spontaneous latte. The latte turned into chilaquiles and huevos rancheros and a blueberry bran muffin.

Then I was home and my husband had the kids all packed and ready to head to a little beach along the Clark Fork. He was scouting out an area where he'll bring his middle schoolers for an overnight next week. I was excited because I have vague but lovely memories of being in this spot years ago, pre-kids, with our good friends when Solan was Elie's age. I remember him getting all harnessed up and heading up the rock while his daddy belayed and Jeff coached. I remember having one of those you-live-in-Montana moments. One of those, maybe one day this will be your kid on belay, on this rock, along this river. It still is surreal to me sometimes. The beauty of this place. The choices we've made. And how fast that person at the base of the climb was me, watching her girl fearlessly head up the granite.

Eliana was so excited to climb. Excited and strong and focused.

She had such grace and strength and flexibility. She had a couple moments where I had to avert my eyes because her body was doing such wild things so close to very solid rock.

She made it about halfway up the climb before she realized how far off the ground she was and asked to come down. I had the exact same moment when I did the same climb after her. Of course I tried not to say anything but felt my heart pound, felt my brain begin it's chitter chatter of what the heck are you doing, and you could fall and the rope could come undone or, if anything, you could bang up your knee or twist your ankle and is it even worth it....all the reasons why I've never seemed to be able to wholly embrace the gnarly sports that interest my loved ones. But I stuck with it and made it down with a bit of grace. Elie was all ready for round two. But we had to let the boys have a go, had to teach her the law of waiting which seems to be as big of a part of rock climbing as all that darn gear.

So we hung and snacked and watched Sol find every single last stick, bough, bend, mud puddle, sand grain.

The boy loves to be outside. He could explore endlessly. Of course, he wanted to do what the big kids were doing. Had a pretty decent run at a few free solos. Jeff said we should wait until he's two. We're gonna be busy with these guys.

So that perfect day. All of a sudden it was dinnertime. We stopped on the way home for burritos, got everybody sand free in the tub (Sol's other favorite activity is the "sandstand" which gives his sun-screened head a perfect, beige halo), and found ourselves with books. I vowed to do the "last nurse" and had my own little ceremony in the quiet dark of their sage and lavender room. Sol's interest is now only habitual and seems to only consistantly come in the middle of the night. I'll be leaving in a few weeks for a work trip alone and want him to be ready to fly solo when he's here with Jeff for four days. He is so snuggly right now, so into books and songs and cuddling that I think we'll be okay.

It may be harder for me to give up. But we found ourselves in the middle of the night singing "Baby Beluga", rocking in the living room. I said those famous words, no nurse....all gone.... and choked a bit inside at the white lie. In a day or so I'll be squeezing my confused breasts out in the shower, milk getting washed away with my tears. It's a big deal for me. But something about the beauty of yesterday made it feel like the right time. The unexpected day of friends and family.

The unexpected strength in us all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The day started with a bang. Lying in bed, cuddling Sol. Jeff's up and in the shower. My contacts are stuck to my eyes. I hear Lucy make a strange, sudden move. Then see flashing yellowish-orange colors reflecting from my kitchen. Leave Sol unattended on the bed because I have a funny sense. Sure enough. The stove is on fire. Like, really on fire. Orange and yellow big flames.

"Fire!" I scream because I don't think I have the best instincts in this situation.

Jeff hustles out of the bathroom, grabs the fire extinguisher that I would have never remembered lives under the sink, and puts out the fire.

Solomon's brand new, super cute and very synthetic lunch bag is a mess of oozy black, chemical goo crusted in a mass on the burner. Gray smoke permeates.

I've been trying to train Jeff to use the back burner because Sol is way too interested in the stove. So Jeffy rocked it and put the kettle on the back burner. The only trouble was he still, out of habit, turned the front burner on. Where Sol's super sweet puppy lunch bag was waiting to be grabbed for daycare.

Thus began another day.

The smoke was bad and really toxic smelling, so I high tailed the kids to a nearby coffee shop for bagels and lattes. And, of course, within minutes of sitting, Sol managed to hurl himself off his chair, bringing the glass plate and the blueberry muffin with him. Everyone turns and looks at me. I smile, scoop up my boy who is totally fine, feed him the chunks of floor speckled muffin and pretend like it's so no big deal. We get to school and daycare and continue to deal.

And then there's that pivotal moment. I race back home and begin to clean up the insanely gross, stinky, scary kitchen. And realize I'll be a mess of a teacher/mama/wife/friend if I spend another second in that kitchen. Grab the leash and my headphones and head up the "L" with Lucy in the forty five minutes I have before I have to greet my class.

Put a lid on my bucket.

We're really into this bucket thing in our class right now. See, we all have these invisible buckets that we carry around with us. When we feel super, our buckets are full. Put sometimes an array of incidents can "dip" into our buckets and change how we feel inside. But, thank heavens, we have a lid! And our lid controls how much we let anyone else, any circumstance or, most importantly, ourselves, take from our bucket. Simple but profound. Super powerful to talk about, write about and teach every day.

So I put a lid on the day that could have been really, really rough in that frustrated, blame-y, exhausted kinda way. I hiked the mountain and watched the sun rise from behind Jumbo, watched the clouds shift and the light change. Listened to my girl Adele on the mic. Thought about our random and wild and lucky lives. Realized that even though we were so dang sad about the bag (Eliana, wide eyed with tears: But Mama! It was brand new and a gift from Gran! Sol never gets anything brand new! That is so sad for Sol, Mama! But he can have my old Ladybug lunch box. He can have it really for keeps! I'd give it to him Mama, for real!) it could have been ten thousand times worse.

So go slow and count your blessings.

Some of my blessings right now...

Sol loves music and has some amazing rhythm. We were at this block party the other night where an amazing spoken word rapper was jammin' into the mic, strutting up and down the catwalk. Sol was so down. Totally imitated his style. Even was invited on stage by the homie.

Solomon also loves his little daycare. He gets all jazzed to go and waves from afar while getting into some book or toy. I feel very, very thankful for Caroline, for the ease with which he's settled in, for the gentle transition. She always talks about how loving and kissable he is. How in his body he is. How he loves to be part of the team. She's right on the money.

Eliana also adores school. She wants to go to before-care and after-care and generally could stay there forever. She's super confident and so part of the scene. Jeff overheard her in the hallway, hands on her hips looking at her buddy starting a sentence with, "Entonces...." all exaggerated, the language such a part of her little being.

Jeffy had a birthday and reached what our friend Geoff Cornish calls middle age. It's about time considering I've been there for quite a while now. He had a perfect day: mountain adventures with his boyfriends during the day, dinner party with family and friends that night. So thankful are we for our people.

I'm back at teaching dance and can't believe I let it go for a whole year. That time in that studio moving my body that way, inspiring other women to get into theirs, brings me so much joy. My kiddos at school are lovely and spirited and bright. My group is much smaller than last year and that helps it all feel much more manageable. I'm really excited to try some new things with them this year, to push myself in some new directions.

Even with the unexpected bucket dippers, even with life in her full blown chaotic glory, we're managing to keep our buckets pretty darn full. Trying to take the moments when we have them and let things go when it's time to move on.