On one bright sunshiney day last January, our family skied with our good friends. We aimed our skis into Snowbowl’s East Bowl without talking about it first. A few turns in I whispered that it was my kids’ first time in the bowls. It was their kids’ first time too. All four tiny humans held the tips of their skis together, their little quads straining against gravity as they talked and sang their way through the deep snow exactly like kids who grow up skiing together every weekend.

And then it all went south in the East. One child had to poop. One was suddenly unable to turn. One went too fast and out of ear shot. One crashed into another and tears rolled down the mountain with rogue skis.

All four parents sweated through it, taking deep breathes, taking turns with each others’ kids. Straining our backs, swallowing our swears. Using encouraging, empathetic words. And the inevitable statement of fact: there is only one way to the Shirley Temple down there.

It took damn near forever to get off that slope. And then we hit a narrow trail through the woods that I swear was uphill. I am pretty sure it was my idea to make the cut over to Longhorn, thinking it would be a better run out for the tired offspring. My optimism was an empty hope. The adults lined up, each with a child holding on to a pole as we trudged through deep, sticky snow, literally dragging our moaning kids to Longhorn. They moaned all the way down.

We made it, laughing into the flats and unclipping from our bindings. Ever since that day “East Bowl” is a thing we say to each other. You know, if something feels like quick sand, like a shit show, like too much to handle at one time: we hold hands and EASTBOWL our way through it.

This last week included a broken appliance and floor, a conflict, an allergic reaction, a sleepless night, a death. This last week included a fixed appliance and floor, a resolution, a recovery, a restful day and plans for a whole lot of family to gather in eastern Montana this weekend to celebrate a life.

The thing is, there is probably at least one moment every day when we find ourselves skiing a pitch, wishing we weren’t there. We might fall hard or have to poop or make poor choices by not listening when our brilliant, usually-right mother yells STOP! We might feel angry about it, we might sit down and cry about it. But eventually we square our shoulders up with the fall line and link one turn into another turn. We know there are other skiers on that hill too. And they care about us. They want to give us a hug, help us get to the valley floor and buy us an age-appropriate beverage. We needn’t look beyond the ten feet in front of us because after we slide those ten feet, we can focus on the next ten. All the way to the end of the run and into the beginning of the next run, supported by the earth and each other. #eastbowl

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*disclaimer* Just in case somebody who knows Snowbowl sees that photo and thinks “that’s not the east bowl!”, you are correct. It is the outhouse trees. I couldn’t find a snap of the east bowl! ;)

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rock paper scissors shoot!

I seem to remember (I say “seem to” because my memory is sometimes quite imaginative from when my kids were babies) people telling me – as I nursed one daughter, made peanut butter toast for the other and dreamed of a shower – that time would unfold with abundance for me in a few years. And I remember feeling like my baby orbit was already slow and breezy, as if I had cracked into a simpler pace. I know not everyone feels that way. I did.

It was the first time, since I lost my first tooth, that I wasn’t scrambling out the door with the sunrise to school or work. I was largely unflapped by mess and sleep schedules. I was so blissfully keyed into every gorgeous detail. Yes, there were HARD times but they were remedied by slow walks around the block while Ruby sucked on my collar bone and Margot counted sidewalk cracks.

Now, at 5 and 7, my kids play rock paper scissors to make their very own choices about who gets to sit on my right side when reading, who gets the flower bowl for oatmeal and who first gets alone time on the trampoline. Several times a day we hear it: rock paper scissors shoot! This system works well for them. They trust the process. It feels fair and they both win often enough to feel validated.

Life today is different than it was back then. It feels busier and I am constantly resisting the plethora of wonderful, alluring offerings to fill our time. I really dislike feeling spread thin and my kids dislike rushing from one activity to the next. It seems that in order to maintain the unstructured space we value, we have to be more and more intentional about it all. I cherish our slow walks to and from school. I like that we don’t have a tv. We gather around the table every night for dinner and try to take our time there. I have a strong desire to hold tight to these rituals and choices. Sometimes it is hard. I am human and motivated to be and do things and I can get sucked into the dizzying world of crammed hours.

I’ve been thinking about these words that I hear a lot lately: efficiency and productivity. And how it’s up to be to define these words for myself. Continue reading

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Spring Vacation Ideas!!!

Dear readers of my words,

I didn’t know I needed it. Did you know I needed it? That I needed to hear from YOU? You must have known. I sometimes find myself gulping nostalgic memories of when things felt gentler on the internet. And I also appreciate the challenge to hold steady and true in the midst of so much noise. You gave me and this space a wholesome boost and I am so appreciative. So, thanks. For reaching out and telling me how you are. I wanted to know, and I read your words in solidarity.

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Mama! Come here!

I’m making coffee. She hollers from her bed, under her polka dot comforter, quilt made by Gram. I step over bright, decomposing piles of leggings and leotards. She says

Do you know what I love most in the morning? I like it when I wake up and you are already in the kitchen with the radio on and making breakfast. I like that the best.

I lift her sleepy big sister from the top bunk and she wraps her legs around my waist like she has since her little ankles barely reached my hip bones. Now, she can easily cross her ankles at my tailbone, her elbows hinge over my shoulders, her arms drape halfway down my back. She is heavy. I think I will miss this more than anything as my kids grow. The day I can’t carry them.

Mama? I feel like I will cry. But I don’t think I am going to. I feel sad. I don’t know why. I just do. It’s uncomfortable.

I know that feeling my love. We don’t always know why we feel like we do. We just feel it. And try to help ourselves feel better.

Squishy grapple pours from plum clouds. Ruby says the mountains look like they are sleeping. She says they are tired and just leaned over to take a nap.

We spend spring break at home. Sure, we’d love to go somewhere warm. It seems like most everyone we know is somewhere warm. Maui, Mexico, Moab. All their friends are talking about it so it becomes a thing. We explain it to the kids 12 times and they still ask why we can’t just stop working and write a check for the plane tickets?! I might be overly Pollyanna-esque but my kids are used to it by now. I tell them we must imagine our best week here at home. We all must focus on gratitude and the big adventures that await – if we choose to see them.

There are groans and no fair!. Later that night, Margot disappears into her bedroom to write, as she does. And emerges with a piece of paper, a smile and these words

Mom. I decided we will have a wonderful week. Here you go. Look.

Spring Vacation Ideas!!!

(1) cabin!
We make the short drive to our friend’s cabin. It takes hours and hours to get out the door, on the road. It is our first trip of the year that requires camping stuff, so I go through all our bins and remember and restock what we need. Just us girls. It is hard work to hike into the cabin with all our gear and food and generator and 27 stuffies. I am impressed with my kids. They hike in and out four times carrying big loads with me. Mabel runs and bounces down the trail that was so familiar to Alice. It feels wonderful and painful at the same instant. Andy joins us the next day. We hike, make food, make fire, stay one more night. Continue reading

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8 years: 8 giveaways

Eight years ago I started this blog as a place where I would document my gardening. It was anonymous and private.

I wrote:

I have journaled about gardening and subsequent life endeavors ever since I managed an organic tomato and grape farm in the Rattlesnake Valley in Missoula, Montana. In journaling I recorded things I would likely forget like…start beets earlier next year or don’t ever plant anything in the southwest corner of the garden because my lame neighbor’s unruly, weedy, eyesoreish tree will completely block the sun by June…that kind of stuff.

A blog seems much more permanent and less likely to be left in the arugula row during an April deluge. Although those crinkled, barely readable pages offer nostalgia, really the whole point is for the information to be available the following year. And who doesn’t love to save paper?

Every year I can’t wait for this day. The first day I get to dig in the dirt, count worms and hope for a great tomato year. It is exciting and disappointing–I always wish I had done something differently the year before.

This space has grown and evolved in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I published that post. This space gave me the courage and purpose to leave my museum work to write and make and – mostly – be home with my kids.

This space doesn’t exist without you. Thank you for your thoughtful conversations, your wit, your wisdom, your humor, your support of my family in joyful times and sad times. I say we are all in this together a lot and you, dear ones, are a testament to that truth. I am happy to be in this life with you, where we make our own definitions of Rich and Success. Where we strive for the most authentic, brave-hearted versions of ourselves. Where we notice, give, receive and love what we love. Thank you.

In celebration of 8 years I am giving away 8 things to 8 of you chickens! Simply leave a comment below by Friday, March 28. I will announce winners here!

1. Jar of our plum jam, label by Margot.

2. Bag, handmade by my friend’s mom out of crocheted plastic sacks.

3. Handmade beaded earrings.

4. Set of two of my photographs (from my exhibit Sow, Mend), mounted on ironwood and ready to hang.

5. Vintage linen tablecloth and 6 matching napkins.

6. Book: Steal Like an Artist.

7. Heart hot pad, made by me.

8. $50 gift certificate to my shop.

With gratitude,
Nici Continue reading

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A day.

It is only an hour time difference but it feels like the moon is tugging against the sun, a force that keeps me in bed. I am tired but I am wide awake. I get up.

Andy is up next. We sit across the living room from each other with our coffee. Sunlight creates a sharp warmth across the billions of pet hairs on the floor. We talk in the quiet, about big and little stuff. About how to be there for a friend in crisis, about planting spinach, money, chicken run expansion, our disagreement last night, skiing. Our pets vie for our attention. The sun spills across the entire room now. The kids wake up and nudge our thoughts into present tense.

Mom, make your hippie pancakes!

Blond bed heads, nightgowns, bare feet, bruised shins.

Margot immediately, furiously pens the book she’s been working on. It is called The Poor but Happy Village. She takes a break from that story line to spend some time copying several books for practice. I think about how her teacher says she is reading “below benchmark” and decided, again, not to think another thing of it. Continue reading

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