Sunday, January 29, 2012

my babies

My babies are getting so big. The things that they say. The way they relate. To each other. To me. To their world. The other day Eliana was lamenting the fact that she didn't get to spend the day with Solomon. But mama! He's my one and only true love! Wow. There's a little princess-ease getting into the mix. But dang if it isn't sweet. And Soli. I asked him yesterday if the bath was too hot. No, warm, he replied. What? Warm? Where the heck did he get that vocabulary. And then an hour or so later I was singing Baby Beluga, like I do every night. "Is the water warm, is your mama home..." and there it was. Warm! They are just little sponges these kids. Sweet, squishy, adorable little sponges.

The weekend flew by. We are crazy right now with work and school and my upcoming performance. The school is getting accredited this week. Years of work coming down to one lengthy written report and three days in the physical space. Lots of pressure and intensity. Anxiety. We feel so passionately about our little school so to have a team from all over come with their microscope is intense, to say the least. But intensity can be fun. Always enlightening.

I love them all so much, the members of my little household. There wasn't enough down time together this weekend. Soli and I had a mama/son day yesterday which involved Target and Best Buy. Homeboy is not exactly the funnest dude to shop with (are dudes ever fun to shop with?) I thought he'd be all content to chill in the cart but...alas...he hurled himself in and out, ran down the aisles, laid himself out on counters, hurled random crap into the basket. He never stops moving, my Sol. I upgraded our ipod dock with money I don't have. Because I'm pretty sure the most beloved toy around these parts is music. And Lord knows I like to bust it loud. And so do my kids. So I bought a system that sounds good (thanks for the coaching, Mama!) and we did some really, really good jamming. Eliana's latest hit is, "Someone Like You" by Adele. You should see the way she shakes her head with vehemence on the line, "I want NOTHING but the best for you....". She's got an ear. And Sol's got the beat. My goal is to add a new song to their reportoire every weekend. Right now we're pretty stuck on Glee and Michael Franti (a total of three way overplayed songs...). But I'll take it. I'll take them.

They've only been in bed for eight minutes and I miss them already. Next week will bring more intensity, more business, more wild days. I want NOTHING but the best from them.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


snow day

Winter finally arrived in Western Montana. And I'm psyched. Which is kinda funny. Because I don't really miss the snow when it's not here. I love a sunny, warm, winter hike on Waterworks. But there is that magic with snow. That novel, beautiful magic that I've grown to count on. And while all my friends and neighbors are whoop whooping about the adventures they'll get to have on the ski hill, I'm just happy to get to look at it. Actually. I'll qualify that. I am psyched to take out my xx skis and have little adventures. I have a secret passion for the cross country ski adventures. The quiet. The solitude. The way it works your body and your brain with such harmony. Heck yeah! I'm psyched to ski! (Though I feel super goofy even typing that sentence...)

My double day highlight was skiing Lucy around the park and bumping into an old friend and her new baby. She too was on skis (except she was a little more badass than I, seeing as how she had a two month old baby strapped to her front and I just had a goofy mutt). Then after school, Eliana was invited to sled down the hill on the playground with her classmate. I realized she's never been on a sled. Her face as she swooshed down the hill was, perhaps, the best thing I've seen in a long time. God I wish I had had my phone in my pocket. Big dimples, wet curls flying, as she reared back, holding the yellow rope like it was the reigns on a wildly galloping horse.

School is cancelled tomorrow. That means I have the challenge, the privilege, of taking my children out into the snow. We won't stray too far, as this mama despises driving in the snow. But we could manage the sledding hill at school. Or, even simpler, the yard to make a snowman. Can you believe I've never made a snowman? It's time to step up to the snow plate!

I also imagine much of our day will be spent indoors, in our fiery imaginations. Eliana's new trick is to sing Disney songs on the coffee table and then jump on to the dog's bed whenever dramatically appropriate. The coffee table can be Aladdin and Jasmine's magic carpet or the depths of the blue sea where Ariel laments her lack of legs. This girl kills me. And, of course, Sol manages to jump off the table with the best of them, even though he's really short. Eliana also manages to spin him around, again, whenever dramatically appropriate. It's kinda scary. Thank goodness for the dog bed.

A typical fifteen minute foray into creative fun ends in all the pots and pans on the living room floor, a fight or two over who gets to hang in the laundry basket versus who gets to hang in the waste basket, pillows off all the sofas and weird, random objects in the strangest of places.

Eliana's is really into leaving artsy post-it notes up on the walls. And flying on door knobs while the doors swing. It's mayhem. Gorgeous, goofy, winter fun.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


It's been a lazy weekend. Lots of dress up and fort building. Long baths and lots of time with my novel. A perfect balance of time to myself and time with my crew. I adore that crew.

Don't have much to say, but I realized it had been a while since I've been here. My brain was so full post, "Sunshine Holiday." So much to process about where I'm from and who I am and where I am now. So many moments to re-live and savor.

The savoring d'jour this evening involves imagination. The power of the two insanely creative minds that I live with. My daughter's mainly. The fact that she moved from princess to ballerina to baker of a mother's day cake (the icing was made of her NightNight and Sol's softie, their beloved blankets folded neatly on top of the "cake" for me to enjoy) to impromptu pots and pans drummer to water color artist to bed jumper. The way she somehow manages to incorporate Soli into all of her games. The fact that he totally gets them, even if he can't articulate with the same eloquence.

She has the wildest little catch phrases...
Ah, mom, this is totally awesome, like, I am doing the most amazing dance ever right now! (Who's mama was a Valley Girl...)

And there seems to be an appropriate song to accompany every occasion...
Like singing R.Kelly's, "I Believe I Can Fly" while balancing on one leg on top of the dishwasher, touching the ceiling, her other arm out to the side, flapping like a wing. Nothing like that for a pre-coffee wake up greeting. When did she get so big and bright and...weird...

All Sol wants is to be a part of things, all the time. If she bonks her knee and moans and rubs, Sol is instantaneously whining and rubbing his knee. If she dresses in the Pooh suit, he dresses in the Pooh suit (ah, Jody, the good love those costumes receive).

Anything she eats, he wants. You should have seen him at sushi last night. Sucked the raw salmon right off the rice, just like his sister. Ah, sticky sushi poops.

And the underlying shadow to all this beauty of the little milestones, the little steps my little people take every day that distinguish them further from the teeny creatures that emerged from my belly, as their sentences grow longer, their independence more astute, while they grow brighter and more capable, their PopPop grows younger and younger, less articulate, less certain, less able to make his way. The circles of life seem to be spinning in all directions. That sassy, bright, vibrant superstar of a man who told me to, "Shit or get off the pot," the first time I met him when I took too long to play a Scrabble tile is fading out. It seems like just in the few weeks since we celebrated Christmas together, there's been a shift. Christmas a few weeks early with the Kesslers, Christmas when Sol kept ripping open gifts that weren't his, Eliana with her red sparkly new Mary Jane's and lots of, "Oooh this is soooo beautiful!" as she opened up her gifts from her Nana and PopPop. Pop had a smile on his face. Kept saying, "Oh, this is some guy!" about Solomon. Seemed to enjoy receiving and being.

Aging. I can't imagine what it's like in PopPop's brain right now. It must be so confusing. It's all so, so sad.

I remember my BFF in sixth grade doing a report on Alzheimer's. She would tell me facts about the memory going, about old people having to wear diapers. I remember how it made no sense to me. I was so young. I couldn't imagine any grown-ups not being smarter, wiser, more together than I.

And here I am. The grown-up.

We take care of our babies, pray for their health and safety. We take care of our parents, love them more than they know, would go to the end of the earth for them too. But it's ever-changing, never-static, never predictable.

Jeff's driving down the mountain from the ski hill, nothing but endorphins from having a much needed day with his buddies. The phone rings. PopPop is in the ER. And while he's fine, he's 86, he has Alzheimer's, he has a fever, he has a bad foot, and his body has seen an awful, awful lot.

It seems that the key to it all, the key with both the old and the young, is to take in every moment. Every now. Because sometimes the how's and why's just don't add up. It's too sad. I don't know when they say brain power peaks, but I'm pretty certain I'm already past my prime. I sometimes have to think long and hard about the simplest things. I certainly can't wrap my brain around all these big thoughts right now.

I'm not much of a pray-er. But tomorrow is the one day a year we ever go to church. To the MLK service with the kids and their poetry. The local folk singers and the academics at the pulpit. So in honor of my favorite church day, I'll send a shout out.

I send a shout out to PopPop. May his brain hold on to the goodness of the world. May he feel the love of the people around him.

I shout out to Nana. May Roseann be able to find a way to hold on to her beautiful, bright, life-loving self while her rock sways. May she hold on to her radiant, open smile in the midst of this huge, huge sea change.

I shout out to Jeff. Jeff who tries to keep it together for everyone. Jeff and his honesty and intelligence and loyalty. Shout out to his time on the mountain. It's preventative medicine.

I shout out to my own Mama. To all her body has been through over the years. To the way she's a total trooper about it all. So composed and gorgeous and resilient. So dedicated to us all.

I shout out to my Dad. His body too has seen it's share of ridiculousness. And he's getting ready to travel the world. Hiked around J.Tree with us. Reads poetry out loud.

I shout out to my babies. I shout out to my girlfriends. I shout out to my sisters. I shout out to them all. To the here and the now and the lovely weight of it all.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

sunshine holiday

It's a good problem to have. Too many excellent photos. Too many excellent memories. Too much to attempt to record. But I know myself and I know that I'm better now than later, better in this moment than waiting to organize. So let's begin.

Christmas in California. Christmas with my beautiful family.

Time in the city. Time to eat delicious food and explore shops on sunny walks.

Time to take my girl to Disneyland for the first time. To watch her see more human beings than she ever had in her entire life in one place at one time. Even with all the stories and descriptions I provided the months prior to the trip, I don't think she had any clue what she was in for. When I applied sunscreen to her cheeks in the car she said, "Why are you putting sunscreen on me? Is Disneyland outside?"

Little did she know that Disneyland is it's own, grand universe. She was a little freaked out by the dark on the kiddie rides, so we took it pretty easy.

Around two o'clock she said, "I think I'm ready to go home now." Huh. Sounded swell to me as I was feeling a bit freaked out by the crowds. So we booked it on out. Disneyland. Check.

But that was so a teeny, tiny piece of our adventure. Daddy met us at the beach after our five days apart. Were we thrilled to see him! He brought the laid-back, travel, come-what-may vibe that I needed to infiltrate my holiday. We enjoyed the sun and sand. The children, of course, managed to get themselves naked.

That seems to be a theme with them. Naked in nature. Naked in sunshine. We ate fish in Malibu and drove through Topanga Canyon and I marveled at how big and blue and beautiful it all is.

There was a sunny Christmas eve hike, followed by Christmas eve sushi and, of course, lots of Christmas love. After a decade of living with Montana seasons, the 75 degree holiday seemed otherworldly. Otherworldy and easy and just as it should have been.

Post Christmas found us adventuring back to our roots as a couple. Jeff and I spent lots and lots of time together in Joshua Tree during our first years together.

There is something really magical about taking your children to a place that was significant to the family before they arrived.

My dad joined us for a day, which added to the whole, "full circle" quality of the experience.

They loved the rocks and caves and colors. Eliana, ever the explorer, ended up with a hand full of cactus quills.

But she was tough, and we got our hands on some good tweezers, and, I guess, it was all part of the adventure.

Leaving Joshua Tree was tough. But Zion was a welcome hello. I hadn't been to Zion in forever and forgot how mesmerizing the red rock cliffs were.

After two days of camping, the lodge was a welcome refuge, complete with a warm bath and a delicious restaurant. The hardest part about Zion was having to leave. We had a good fifteen or so hours left of the drive and school and work and real life to return to.

We kissed the sunshine goodbye, wiped the red earth from our hands, and pulled away.

The rest of the adventure was firsts in a way that is not as blog worthy. First family fast food. First family Walmart trip. These are firsts that I'm not too proud of but, unfortunately, firsts that are sometimes the only option when traveling on the American open road. Eliana's eyes were almost as big when entering Walmart as they were when she first spotted Cinderella's castle at Disneyland. Ah, America.

But so much more than supersize box stores, the supersize grandeur of our country really hit home. The ocean and desert and mountains. Driving back into Missoula always makes me catch my breath. That last stretch on the 90 between Deer Lodge and Rock Creek, right along the Clark Fork. The bend in the road and tan of the earth. My memory of seeing that stretch of road for the very first time. It was hot sun July, the blue sky beginning of our Montana adventure. Joni Mitchell crooned on my car stereo, all honesty and heartfelt. I looked out my window and felt my heart swell. My breath catch, then slow. The wonder of adventure. Of seeing something new. Of travel and opportunity. Of trusting the spirit of the unknown.

I felt that way seeing the world with my children these past two weeks. Felt that same heart swell when we drove into Joshua Tree. When we saw the red cliffs. As we passed hour after hour together on the open road, ready to face anything, as long as we were together.

before I forget

Last night I uploaded a ton of photos to blog about. Our adventures in California were full and beautiful and between two new phones and our camera, we have more documentation than we know what to do with. But instead of going there just yet, I need to capture this moment that is Solomon.

All of a sudden, my baby is a boy. He talks and responds and interacts. I can ask him questions and he answers clearly. And he really knows. Just now as I was laying him to sleep he asked, "Night? Night?" meaning his blankie. I said, "We left your Night Night at Nana's. Will you sleep with Elie's instead? We can get yours later." "Okay," he replied. He took her blankie, snuggled it up to his face, and feel into a deep slumber.

That's how our whole two weeks of vacation was with him. We drove home from California. Over twenty hours of car time. And as long as I was in the backseat making chit-chat with Soli, he was fine. He can talk about anything through his responses. And lord knows his sister can talk with him until the cows come home. They have this song thing that they do. I feel like I'll forever associate the song with our trip and especially our time in the car. They like to do it in enclosed spaces. Cars. Elevators. Anywhere where their voices can resonate. It sounds sort of like, "Ah, lalalala, ahhhh" and they sing it and laugh and get louder and louder. It's their sibling call of celebration. I love it.

Another sibling first they had on the trip was sleeping together. First it was just all four of us, snuggled up in a line in our tent during our two nights of camping in Joshua Tree. Then it was Sol and Elie in their own bed in our two hotel nights on the way home. I was all ready to call in the port-a-crib. And then there they were. Head to head. Fast asleep. My little blessings.