nervously, wistfully, thankfully

Everyone says

Last year at this time we were skiing in the streets.

Either nervously, wistfully or thankfully. We might not have the adverb in common but we do have the noticing in common: it’s unusually warm for February in western Montana. My garlic is coming up, my fruit trees budding. People are jogging in shorts. There are rumors of early bear activity in the hills.

There is a new space to our days that we don’t dare fill up. Things feel smoother than they have since we had our first kid seven years ago. Our daughters pick out their clothes and dress themselves, unload the dishwasher, feed the animals, remind me to return library books, argue and work it out before I even know what it is about.

We revel in the gloriousness of existing in this state of funky symbiosis, a new place on our life map. Things feels easy in ways they weren’t for years: we aren’t needed like we were; our offspring play together for hours in imaginary worlds and help themselves to snacks. And things feel hard in ways they weren’t for years: navigating this world where my daughters are further away than on my hip or further away than I can shout, bounding up the hillside deep into their own, bright self-discovery.

Margot: OK honey, and what would you like to eat?

Ruby: Oregano Soup

Margot, whispering and out of character: No Ruby, it has to be something I can spell. Like Lucy Soup or Phoebe Soup or…

Ruby: Oh ok. I’d like Ellie Soup please. And a side of Daddy Ice Cream.

There are still plenty of MAMAAAAAs singing from their bedroom as they sort out who gets to wear the tall green socks or sob over Ruby drawing a kitty in Margot’s secret diary without asking. While I am not needed for seatbelt buckling or baby wearing, I am needed in problem solving how to Margot might react to the kid who makes fun of beets in her lunchbox. I am needed to smooth out the “puffy parts” of Ruby’s tights every morning. I take my position as short-order cook for the throngs of their friends who come over. I braid hair and remind them to chew with their lips together. I am now the person they will remember when they are grown and talking about their earliest childhood memories to their friends at a bar.

I remember 5 and 7. My mom in the kitchen humming, slicing pickles, making sandwiches. My next door neighbor drowned a litter of kittens in our creek. Biking circles in the cul de sac, pink streamers from my handlebars. Skipping, my hand entirely inside my dad’s grip as we cleared football fields with each hop. Uno with my little brother. Our tree fort. My canopy bed. Strawberry Shortcake dolls. My babysitter Pam and her teal sweater. Driving with the top down on our red VW rabbit. My kindergarten teacher was like a perfect cup of hot cocoa on a snowy day. My first grade teacher was like the video I recently saw where the mama Osprey pecked her young to death.

Some things don’t change and I like those things just as much as I like the changes. I still carry my kids from their bed (or my bed) to the living room where they wake up in my lap every morning. I still call them Bug and Sweet Potato and they still like it. I still wash their clothes, make their meals, kiss their freckles and wrap my arms more than once around their bodies for a hug. They still think I know everything.

Ruby: Mama, the earth has birthdays like me so is it growing taller and bigger too? Does it get growing pains?

My mom just visited for a week and I wish she lived next door. That will happen in a few years when my parents retire and return to Missoula. She still calls me Burb. She still hums while cutting pickles. She dipped a fine tooth comb into a glass of water and smoothed my daughters’ hair into high ponytails. Ouch! they yelled and then asked for it again and again. I remember that whole scene on my own head like it happened this morning.

Margot and Ruby move about like strong, confident children. I *know* they are strong, confident children but it’s the way they move about lately — engaging with people and their own opinions, that makes me get it. The thing older parents tell you

Don’t blink. She’ll be moving away from home before you know it.

The cliché is so damn right on, its sweetness squeaks in my teeth like those leftover conversation hearts.


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Essentially: on our sweet smelling medicine cabinet

One of my most frequently asked questions is about our use of essential oils. I am learning as I go here (and obviously not a medical professional) but thought I’d share a bit about our use of oils, particularly to treat the flu last week. There’s an epic giveawy down there too! Additional resource, a piece I wrote for eHow: 9 Ways to Use Essential Oils to Improve Family Health.

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Like most kids in the 8os I ate antibiotics with breakfast. Anytime I felt any way other than great I feel like I took antibiotics. Noticing that my kids have each had antibiotics one time and that medicine in general seems different than it was when I was a kid, I asked my mom about it. Because my mom knows everything.

Me: What was medicine like when you were a kid? Did you take prescription medicine preventatively like I did when I was a kid?

Mom: No. When we were sick, my mother started with humidifiers, mustard packs, Vick’s VapoRub. She pushed fluids. We rested and ate popsicles on the couch and she kissed our foreheads.

Me: What is a mustard pack?!

Mom: Oh they were wonderful! I don’t know why I never gave them to your brother and you. Your dad grew up with them too, to treat his allergies. Hold on. Let me google it. Here:

Mustard Plasters (also known as Mustard Packs) have been used for centuries throughout the world as a natural folk remedy. Although they have been used to treat maladies from gout to sciatica, today we will focus on its usefulness in treating chest & lung congestion. As we enter the cold and flu season, if you get sick and can feel or hear phlegm in your lungs when you cough and you are finding it hard to cough the phlegm up and out, the mustard plaster can help.

Mustard is a rubefacient, which means it stimulates blood circulation through dilation of the capillaries, which, when applied over the lungs will help open them up and encourage expectoration of mucous that may be trapped. One of the reasons you want to stimulate coughing and moving the phlegm is that it can help prevent infection in the lungs and conditions such as bacterial pneumonia & bronchitis.

You mix dry mustard and flour and warm water and apply to cheesecloth and wrap the torso.

Me: How did your experiences with treating illness when you were a kid translate into your mothering of Travis and me?

Mom: I think when I was little I was taught by my mother (who was an RN) and my dad (pharmaceutical rep) that doctors where to be revered, almost God-like. Not to be questioned, we just accepted one person’s knowledge as the only solution. When you were sick I took you to the doctor to fix it, to make you feel better. I took my childhood reverence of doctors into motherhood. I didn’t really ask about other possible treatments when I was handed a prescription. It’s just what we did. My mom also worked her magic with some holistic healing – which I believe in all of us deep down – and I also took this into motherhood. I believe modern medicine definitely has it’s place, but Mother Nature’s medicine is also very powerful!

Me: Would you have done things differently if you knew what you know now?

Mom: Yes, some. There is power in learning, in understanding how bodies work, how medicine – eastern, western and everywhere in between. I have had many changes in my thinking as I have grown older: I now question information and seek different opinions. I am bold now. I am not timid in my questions. Today, your generation has the benefit of easier access to information and different opinions which I think gives you greater access to your confidence and greater trust in your intuition.

Me: So it is different but mostly the same: we do the best we can with the information we have. Thanks mom. You’re the best.

Mom: Love you Burb. See you on Sunday!

(my mama is coming to town for my birthday)

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Ruby had influenza last week. Continue reading

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enough space / kitchen reno

We have been living in a kitchen remodel since we moved into our home three years ago. Little by little, as we cam swing it (punny!), we have knocked out tile, a wall, another wall. We installed a dishwasher, a range, a sink. Currently, our counters and cabinets are cut up pieces of the original counter and cabinets screwed together. The counter we installed after taking out the south wall is our old bedroom closet door. We have several holes in the floor. It’s a mockup version of what we want. It functions great. Sure, I wish we could afford to just bang it all out in a month like all those homes my husband works on. But I’ve grown to really appreciate living with the mockup, living with the daydream of what it will someday be.

A few of the benefits of living with the mockup:

  1. We have changed our minds. We are testing it out and have found that things should move a bit from our original ideas.
  2. Waiting has allowed us to score some pretty awesome things. Like, last summer, we were given some leftover (gorgeous, designer, sea glass-looking) tile from a job my husband worked on. Enough to tile one entire wall and a backsplash. Like the range and sink (click links above).
  3. We are good daydreamers.
  4. We feel lucky now. When it is all done, we will value it more than ever.

I’ve not shared much of our progress here because I wanted to share it when there is the big, fancy before and after. Because who doesn’t love a good DIY before and after?! Truth is, our home renovations are aren’t seamless and quick; they are not wave-a-wand-voila! There are a lot of guts between before and after. So, our before and during: Continue reading

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hump day nuggets: 2015 will be awesome

Everyone says Last year at this time we were skiing in the streets. Either nervously, wistfully or thankfully. We might not have the adverb in common but we do have the noticing in common: it’s unusually warm for February in western … Continue reading

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white space

I didn’t really get into tree skiing until I was 20 and my fear was firmly in tact. All I saw was trees. Lots of begging my quad muscles to stop my body to avoid the giant trees that were committed to my eventual concussion. I was arhythmic and awkward. And I wanted it. I watched my husband and our friends glide through woods, one hundred percent aware of their body width, speed, ability; giving in to pitch, sailing with the precision and confidence and grace of a low-flying bird.

I’m still not a great tree skier but the trees are a favorite place to be. It’s always quiet, with the occasional bright blur to the left or right – a vibrant, alive low-flying bird doing its thing. I like the challenge. The immobility of the trees, the invitation of the inconsistent, alluring space between them. The altitude, the puzzle, the dare. The commitment, the euphoria when turns match breath, the frustration when nothing aligns. The fun of it alone, the fun of it with friends shrieking a few trees away. Laughter echoing among trunks and roots and canopies older than we are.

There’s this philosophy about tree skiing: that if one focuses on the space between the trees, the body will go there; if one focuses on the trees, the body will go there. So the SECRET to smooth, confident, fluid tree skiing is peripherally, barely noticing what you don’t want (tree collision) and focusing your entire self on what you DO want (floating through wintery portals).

I want my daughters to ski trees. I want my daughters to see the white space between the trees. Continue reading

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