Sunday, September 30, 2012

glacier fall

National Public Lands day was yesterday.  Not exactly a holiday I grew up with, but one I hope to be giving to my babies.  We went up to Glacier at this same time last fall.  It was a profound trip.  We're into repeats when things go that well.

Saturday morning, it did feel like a bit much to pull off.  We were tired from a big work week, the kids had nasty runny noses and it seemed a bit silly to buy camp food when we have a fully stocked fridge, haul bags and pads when our beds are already cozy.  But, I'm pretty sure I've yet to have a travel adventure I regret.  This was no exception.

I have so many favorite parts, but a few bits stand out in my mind.  One came last night.  Sol didn't nap, so he was extra sleepy.  We got in the tent really early for books, all of us excited to sleep all together in our special orange home.  Sol passed out quickly, but Els was still up.  She's developing new anxieties as she gets older (...I'm thrilled about this, by the way...) and one has to do with new fears in the dark.  After a bit of drama, I just asked her to come out and hang with us by the fire.  She was thrilled at the invite.  We told her that all we like to do is just hang out and chat, watch the fire, and just have mellow, reflective time.  Els went with it.  Our conversation went kinda like this.

Jeff: So, E.  How's kindergarten?
Eliana:  Oh, great, dad.  But it's kinda funny because Oliver wants to marry me.
Jeff:  Really.  How do you feel about that.
Eliana:  Well, it just really cracks me up but at the same time, it makes me feel kinda confused.  Especially because Edwin wanted to marry me last year and I just don't really know if I want to marry either one of them at all!

She was so candid and honest and sweet.  I so badly wished I had a pen and paper right then and there because everything that came out of her mouth was priceless.  She and her brother spend so much time talking to each other, that we don't always get this grown-up, articulate side of Eliana at home.  She gives a lot of herself at school and sometimes if feels like she's just riding the whine-train-express at home.  But last night by the fire, she was all toot, toot, ready to roll.

I had a similar moment of brilliance with Sol this afternoon.  Elie and Jeff were on the paddleboard and Sol and I were just hanging on the beach.  He was just so absolutely thrilled to be in that gorgeous spot.  There are a few things that are really clear already about Solomon:  he loves music, he's super strong and in his body, and he loves to be out in nature.  This little guy who is always moving and shaking was standing, still as stone, looking out at the water.  He would pick up a stone and examine it, name it, ("This is my skateboard, mama.  And this is my other skateboard too!") then fly his skateboards on a magical ramp in the sky, but slowly, with intent, with focus.  I just sat there staring, luckily with my camera.  I think every picture I took during those ten minutes wins a prize for best picture ever of

There is something so grounding about these adventures we have in nature as a family.  The way we all love the paddle board, all want to take turns riding.  The simplicity of our means, of our values, of our plan.  The way Jeff and I can just be with one another, listen and watch our children, share in their moments.  And, when they've been in the car too long, or are hungry and whiny, deal with the challenges together.  I know that none of this is particularly profound, but it feels so solid and affirming, especially when our week days are often tag-in, tag-out roller coaster rides.  This kind of weekend helps us re-root.

We could have stayed out there forever, the four of us.  Eliana was in a serious state of mourning when she realized that we'd only be staying one night.  As we turned left away from Flathead Lake, I felt a bit of darkness seep in, found my brain turn back to lesson plans and refrigerator assessments.  Jeff and I talked about re-registering the cars and how we needed to visit his dad.  Five minutes prior we'd be planning summer extravaganzas,  all Dreamtime Barbie about all the adventures we wanted to have with the kids.  But as the landscape grew browner, drier, we grew quiet, remembered that it's officially fall, that our days are turning cooler, darker and most adventures, at least for a while, probably will not involve the tent and board.

And that's okay too.  For now, thank you Glacier National Park.  Thank you for being our family friend, our fall shout out, our bucket filler, our go to.  Thank you.

Thursday, September 27, 2012



  Poppy turned 88 today.  My husband, whose office is just down the hall from mine, texted me (from down the hall) around midday today.  "It's PopPop's birthday!!!"  It was sweet.  It was clear that it had suddenly dawned on him, in the middle of dealing with approximately 88,000 random tasks/phone calls/lesson plans/strategic plans/finance committee minutes, that he had somehow forgotten his dad's birthday.  The sweet folks over at Rosetta called to tell him that they had a cake all ready to go for him.  So a quick plan was hatched.

I am still, like a bleary eyed insane person, teaching one yoga class in the evenings.  I'm pretty sure that this is soon to be a thing of the past.  As much as I love teaching, it's really too much with my new work schedule.  And that's okay.  That's what summer is for and I'm too into school teaching and kiddo afternoons and evenings to spend too much brain power on that whole piece of the puzzle.  But, tonight I had to teach a class, so I couldn't celebrate with Jeffy, the kids and the Big Guy.  He decided to take them all to the Perkins out in Poppy's 'hood (which in and of itself is mildly hilarious).  It doesn't sound like it went all too well.  Jeff said that Sol and Poppy essentially act the same age in the restaurant and while Sol is chanting, "Mac and cheese!  Mac and cheese!" and banging his fork on the table, Poppy is telling him to shut up while simultaneously picking his teeth with his laminated diner menu. Apparently there were plenty of other old folk in the restaurant who didn't hesitate to shoot Jeffy the stink eye or remind him quickly when Sol or Elie dropped a crayon on the carpet.

As I mentioned recently, there is nothing remotely relaxing about eating out with my children.  PopPop just punctuates that sentence with italics, bold, and a giant, bubbly font.  When I asked Elie about the evening, she said that Poppy was, "unsensitive" and treated her, "disrespectfully" though they were able to have birthday pie.  She was extra hyped up on goofballs, her volume extra loud, her legs extra flaily. There is so much going on in this kids world right now.  Kindergarten certainly seems to be helping her identify her intense emotions, even if they do talk about feelings in a second language (perhaps that helps explain the whole, "unsensitive" thing).

After another chaotic re-entry after a scathingly chaotic work day, Jeff announced as I tried to shimmy the kids into their jammies that he was going on a night hike.  "It's a full moon."  I figured he'd be take the neglected doggy for a little spin and we'd meet back and watch Breaking Bad, our latest and most disturbing to date Netflix addition.

That was over two hours ago.  I have since bathed, poured over and imagined myself in every winter dress in the Athleta catalog,  read the Week, caught up on all my friends blogs, and then somehow decided to open up my own post.  Jeffy is not picking up his phone.  My mind suddenly goes to bears and mountain lions.  I think about how poorly marked bits of the trail on this side of Jumbo are.  I think about how much he has to process with his dad, his job, his role as husband and father.  I imagine him walking fast through the chapparel, arms crossed over his hoodie, baggy jeans slipping off his flat backside.  That goofy image reminds me again of Poppy.  The way his pants became loser and loser as he got older.  I remember how big and strong he used to be, how frail he now seems, how strange and sad this whole thing is.  His pressed blazer jackets and tweed pants hang lifeless and large in the closet, homeless.

At which point, my phone finally rings and my husband says he's hiked to the other side of the mountain, to the sacred tree, that all is fine and dandy.  I can't hide the fear in my voice and hang up too quickly once we establish that he's okay and will be home in under an hour.  Now that there is nothing to be anxious about (though I know I won't be able to sleep until he's home), I can feel gratitude for Jeffy's hike.  Gratitude for the cooling temperatures, for the thick smoke that is finally, ever so slowly, blowing out of the valley.  It's been a long few weeks.  There's plenty to process up there on the soft mountain.  I type on these keys, my husband's shoes traverse the mountain.  I think of Soli at bedtime, how I held him close and told him how much I missed him today.  "I miss you too, Mama!" he said, wrapping his monkey arms around me more tightly.  "A kiss on the lips?" I asked.  He stuck those giant lovers out my way, with just a little trickle of snot to keep things extra real.  "Love you too, Mama!"  Oh, love you too, Soli.  Love you too, Els and Jeff and Pop.  Happy birthday.  We miss you too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

embrace the chaos

There's an old Ozomatli album called, "Embrace the Chaos."  I'm thinking that needs to be my mantra right now.  Because everywhere I look, there's chaos.  Chaos at different levels and varying decibels, but until those babies go to bed, it's mildly wild.  This is not novel to my life.  I think having children equals a healthy dose of the big, "C".  But teaching children all day -- teaching children when the wild fires burn like spite through the rest of the state, when the air is too smokey for sweet children to play outside so, the chaos rages through lunch, through recess, all of us trapped indoors, books and pattern blocks strewn about, we bounce from one activity to the next, a bustle of engagement and volume -- well, my days seem wild incarnate.

When the actual work day is finally done, it seems somehow easier to go out to pizza for dinner.  I cook like a mad woman every night, why not take a break?  It's simple logic.

Then we get there, and I remember.  As fine as a family establishment as Biga is, it's still a public space.  It's still loud and take the four of us, plus Nana, and the volume rises exponentially.  The children suck the pizza off their plates, my glass of wine vanishes before I can really take it in, Jeff's damn cell dings like an angry bandit, Sol plays trucks under the table, I feel the glances of the folks around us fill my oily pores, they think, what loud, annoying people.  Why can't they manage their children.  My back is turned to most of the restaurant.  I feel thankful.

We disband.  Jeff and his mama head to a fundraiser at a local brewery.  It's a fundraiser, so it's all cool.  Besides, that means just the chaos of two beyond myself to manage.  But then we take Ruby.  We're not sure if she'll be able to sit between the kids without biting them.  Plus she has weird little blue bows behind her ears because she was just groomed.  Every time I check on them from the front seat I feel a bit freaked out by her girlish presence.  I'm quite certain I'm starring in the latest, strangest, Indy flick.

So we drive on.  Eliana is way into an Idina Menzel power ballad played really, really loud right now. She yells at me if it's not loud enough.  If you know me, you'll know I love my loud music.  You'll also know I'm deaf as a doorknob.  What you may not know is that I have newish hearing aids that we're recently zapped of all funkadelic, noise clogging wax and everything's really freaking loud right now.  So even for me, Idina's grating.  And Elie's singing at the top of her raspy lungs.  Mama!  What does it mean when she says, 'I hope for a hero to save me!'  Mama!  So I turn it down to try and explain.  Then she yells at me for turning it down.  From the ear splitting front seat I contemplate the feminist ramifications of the hero lyrics.  I think the song has a strong message on the whole.  But how the hell do I explain the hero.  I don't want her waiting on any hero.  I turn it up again and accelerate.

When we get home, Lucy is waiting for us outside.  Her piercing barks greet me from inside the car, even over the pounding high notes.  Homegirl is extra needy these days.  We're gone all the time, she's getting old and neurotic, and she prides herself on her exceedingly loud bark.  So she barks the heck out of our re-entry into the home.  I am carrying enough luggage to get us to Shanghai.  Lunch boxes and sweatshirts, backpacks and water bottles, a bag of new hand-me-downs, a bag of mail from our, "little house."  When we get inside, the children ask to watch a short show.  They recently picked up some sweet new titles from the public library.  One of them is a, "Wiggle Christmas."  I think I've mentioned that Sol is thoroughly obsessed with the Wiggles.  Els tries to act all cool, like she doesn't really like them, but girlfriend's in pretty deep too.  So I explain that this is "it" before bed (whatever that means), and put on this ultra annoying piece of musical fare from down under.  I finally find my way to the bathroom for, embracing the chaos often negates embracing your bladder.  It's there, while I'm blissfully enjoying my first quiet, still moments of the day, that I hear the scream from the other room:

Jesus!  Jesus, mama!  I wanna hear about Baby Jesus!

Good god.  I forgot that the Wiggles might be pulling the God card with their show.  That's all fine and dandy, but I haven't prepared to go there.  Not just yet.  Not tonight.

I wipe fast, hustle back out and tell Eliana that I'll tell her all about baby Jesus real soon.  Just not now.  I open the computer and pour out this post.  The Wiggles shake their collective yuletide thang in the background.  Sol looks like a crack addict.  Eliana's still full of piss and vinegar and interjects all sorts of insightful comments such as, "You sang this one to me when I was a baby, mama!  Remember!" and, "Oh, Mama!   Look, there's baby Jesus again!  Remember God's house, mama?  I went there with Nana once.  And when we went to the wedding in New Jersey.  Do you remember God's house, mama, do you?  I do...."

After lots of strategic remote control work on my part, we are at the end of the video.  We'll now stumble upstairs to soap the stench from our feet, clean the crusties from beneath our little noses.  Then we'll yell about tooth brushing and argue about what to wear for bed.  We'll beg for one more book and call me out when I skip words.  I'll sing one more song and give one more kiss.

Embrace the chaos, baby.  Loud, full, real, and now.

Monday, September 17, 2012

settling in

The light is changing, the air is crisp and chill and fall is in full effect.  I've had too long of a day to bring forth anything exceptional, yet there is so much I want to hold on to.  Like how Solomon told me, rather, declared in an extremely loud voice about fifteen times tonight, "I've got a good idea, mom!"  Often that bold statement was followed by him racing off in some direction or another in nothing but mismatched socks of Eliana's (one pink and one blue), a saggy diaper, and a giant, confident grin on his elfin face.  He's becoming this incredibly cool, extremely wacky, heart-of-gold kinda dude.  Today I left him at JPS and he didn't tear up, didn't look back.  I gave a giant thumbs up to the teacher and high-tailed it outta there to teach my eighth graders about writing monologues.    Quick diversion:  I'm really, really digging teaching full-time.  I love my new gig with the middle school, I love my little guys and I love being able to focus all day on teaching.  Of course I miss my kids.  Of course all I want to do at the end of the day is hug them and kiss them and love on them all over the place.  But it's such a welcome change to be able to focus on my job for an extended period of time.  My brain was so used to juggling back and forth all day.  Now the switch is a bit more black and white and, so far, it seems to be a good thing.

Elie seems to be getting her kindergarten groove on.  She no longer looks at me with wild, I'm-not-exactly-sure-what's-going-on-mom eyes when I see her in the hallway.  In fact, she generally doesn't notice me anymore as she's too busy chatting with all her new little buddies (I really want to type boyfriends there, but perhaps it's not appropriate - but she does seem really into playing Princess Leia to many a new Luke Skywalker).

But Elie's biggest boyfriend is her main man at home, little freaky.  This is what their conversations are like:

S:  I've got an idea!
E:  What is it, Sol?
S:  Let's play Wiggles!  I'll be Murry and you be Jeff.
E:  Okay, Sol.
S:  I've got an idea!
E:  Wha, Soli?
S:  I'll be Thomas and you be Percy.
E:  Okay, Sol.
S:  I've got an idea!
E:  I know, Sol, you are Thomas and I am Percy.  Or we're playing the Wiggles but I really want to play Disney princesses, so I'm just going to go over here to my costumes...

S:  I've got an idea!
Me:  What is it, Sol?
E:  You be Peter Pan and I'll be Tinker Bell.  You can't get me, Peter Pan!

And he begins to run around the room wildly.  Elie at this point is naked and pulling costumes from the closet.  I can't remember who I am, but know that as long as I continue to chase, games on.

The cool thing is, as long as I stay in there and play with them, they are generally awesome.  They want to be together, they want to be with me and unless they need food, they are good to go.  I love this.  I so remember these sorts of long afternoons with my sister.  Just us and the stuffed animals, us and our make-believe (though instead of Percy and Thomas it was usually Coco and Miss Grant...which seems pretty weird considering I think we were pretty dang young to be so obsessed with a television show about a performing arts high school...).  I love being with them after the day apart, love that I am so much more present than I seem to be when we're together for days and weeks on end.

So here we are.  A busy day, in a full week in an even fuller month.  Rock and roll.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

red sun

The valley can't decide if she's smokin'.  The sun is a red ball in the sky, the sunset striped hot pink.  An 80's sunset.  Ash sprinkles the deck.  Yesterday all was clear.  It's a moment to moment thing around here.

I'm feeling like that's my big metaphor as we move into the fall.  Try my best to sleep well, eat well, and be prepared for anything.  Eliana's transition into kindergarten has been pretty smooth.  Sure she's tuckered at the end of the day, but this is a girl whose been going to school all day everyday for two years.  She's pretty down. 

Solomon begins week three of preschool next week.  Friday was the first day that I left him without his screams following me as I ran out the door, his teacher peeling him from me like the primate he is, me wiping my tears as I hightailed it outta there back to work.  I'm feeling better about it.  My little big man.  He's all tough at the end of the day - a cut above his eye and on his nose (his teachers say they don't know what happened as he never cried...), feet that smell like he's fourteen, all big words and trucks and balls.

Eliana's on to the bigger things in life.  She's all about the life and death questions lately.  She doesn't understand why God would make people if he was also going to make death.  This from the backseat after eight hours of teaching children.  Lots of deep thoughts out there.  I wish I could write down half the things she says.  Unfortunately my memory is such that if it doesn't happen right away, it's gone. I'm a moment girl too.

Our We continues to be mighty.  Kelli and Annabelle joined us for a week.  They helped with PopPop visits and were here to welcome Roseann with her return on Saturday.   All seven of us slept under the same roof here on this gorgeous little patch of mountainside.  How thankful I am for all of them, for this time, for this valley.  There is a whole lot of love happening here.  

This weekend I have the deep, satisfying exhaustion that accompanies a week of work and family.  It feels good.  It feels right.  I just wanted to be home.  Just wanted to watch my babies, not talk a whole lot.  Eliana and I watched the movie, "Because of Winn-Dixie" while Sol slept today.  She is suddenly at this age where we can watch movies together and I actually enjoy it.  I've read this book to my students for years and it opens all sorts of great dialogue up about race and death, bullying and what happens when you keep your feelings all locked up.  There I was snuggling with Els, processing all these big themes, answering her sweet questions.  I cried happy tears during the credits.  So happy to have her, to have this time.  

Tomorrow my handsome hubby crosses into the latter part of his third decade.  I am very much in love with him right now.  I so want to give him the world on his special day.  I found a beautiful silver hair in his thick browns tonight.  It made me happy.  I think we're all getting better with age.

Speaking of age, I have to take a moment to commend my beautiful mama-in-law.  Having a little respite from all the care she's been giving her man these past, say, forty years, shows.  She looks vibrant and clear and grounded.  It feels so right.  Morty likes his new home.  And Roseann is finding a way to bring her best self into this bright new world.  It's sad and sweet mixed together, like the Lithmus Lozenges in Winn-Dixie.  That was a sorta tough concept to explain to Elie.  That with the bad, comes the good.  The 'ol bittersweet.  

I love how sentimental and appreciative I'm feeling right now.  It's a good place to be.  My dad gave a memorial for Mary yesterday.  I spoke to him today and he sounded a bit lighter.  Closure is good.  I wish I could have been there.  But it sure is good to be here.  Here where Halloween costumes from Target bought by sweet Nana can provide days, months of pleasure, where Soli's little face in his Spiderman mask can just melt my heart in a zillion ways.  

Here's to fall.  To my man and his bday.  To life and death and Halloween costumes and movies rented from the library.  To kindergarten and preschool and grandmas and grandpas.  To Fiona Apple on my Pandora and Melissa who will read this at work in the morning.  Love you all.  

Monday, September 3, 2012


The sun is setting in the valley.  The sky has turned from red to pink to orange and, now, a deep blue, the clouds gray, the horizon gold.  My girl starts kindergarten tomorrow.  Her brother returns to his little school.  I teach my first full day in five years.  We're all growing up. 

Our weekend was quiet and homebound.    We did make an excursion out to a little lake.  Els took her first solo adventure on the paddle board.  Sorta feels like a solid metaphor for her flying away into kindergarten.  She's pretty tremdous.   She found a cigarette butt on the lake shore and said, "It just seems so sad to me that anyone would be into cigarettes.  We are NOT into cigarettes."  I like that she speaks about her family with the collective, "We."  We are a we right now.  Super solid, super beautiful We.  We journey into the new tomorrow.