making space

We camp every fall in a valley southeast of where we live.

Cold, goldenrod trees against bruised sky.

No cell service, continually stoked campfire.

Everywhere to explore.

Brown trout dancing up river, fat bodies leaping up high to help shake eggs into the frigid water. All day, all night: plop, thunk, splash as their bodies reenter the current.

Our arrival, just as the sun set. A baby moose walking along the bank. Careful, be slow the mamas say to the excited kids who sit on knees across the river from the moose. The mamas know the moose mama was one of the tree shadows. The mamas watch and wait as one of those shadows stirs and slunks into the crimson dogwood branches, baby by her side.

Shared meals made on camp stoves. Mama, where are my mittens?  Easy, early campfire conversations about Halloween costumes, dogs and canning recipes. Spirited, late campfire conversations about ebola, gun control and taxes. Dada, can I please have one more s’more?

Morning air that shows breath, thick and cold. Hard to get out of sleeping bags so we stay a little bit longer and hope someone else is up making a fire. The men rise and leave for the fishing hole, before the moonlight gives into the sunlight. Nobody else is making a fire. So we do it. We can’t wait for the glory of that heat.

The kids play hard. The van is a ship, the snag is a castle, the cubby between the willows is a fairy classroom, the camper a space ship.

We love coffee.

A storm tumbles up the river. The sky is cement and then navy and then graphite. Kids and dogs wait in tents, giggling at the cozy drama. Aspen leaves rain as the grown ups grab and throw everything in the cars, stake down tents. We drive to a restaurant for dinner. It passes quickly into liquid onyx.

^ from our tent, slow shutter speed in the middle of the night ^

The second night is a few degrees warmer. I fall asleep with the kids after reading two chapters of Little House on Silver Lake. Hours later I wake to a loud rumble. A gallop, I decide. A big animal, I am certain. It rushes past the tent and I make sure I am really awake. I listen. I hear my heart in my ears. I peek out the tiny side window and in perfect foggy silhouette against our neighbor’s camper is a bull moose. He stands as tall as the camper. He stands still to make sure I can really see him. I wake Andy. We watch as he silently slips into the night. It makes a good story the next morning, many times. Tell us again mama!

I tell it again. Again. We squeeze a last few things out of this place and pack up. Say goodbye to friends. I wish we could stay for a few more days. We head toward the highway and our phones ding with missed texts and voicemails. I again have access to shop sales, emails, instagram. I resist it for a while, treasuring the simplicity of not having that access, allowing myself to ease back into those responsibilities. I remember I felt anxious, wound-tight when we left. I remember to feel thankful for this reset, for my softened headspace.

Getting out, looking up and breathing in. A river’s wake, an owl’s song. Campfire warmed faces, pajamaed bike rides. Fish stories, deeper laugh lines each October. New puppies, kids and old dogs. The adults are in the middle somewhere, on this life span, tending to it all, making space for the tending. Making space for space.

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In the last week

Ruby announced she is a vegetarian. Except she maybe plans to eat hotdogs once a year when camping with her cousins.

I remembered all those years I was a vegetarian as I made a huge loaf of buffalo liver, pork shoulder, squash, rice, egg, egg shells and carrots for Alice’s food for the week.

Margot lost two teeth in one day.

The sun shone so steady and bright and warm that it felt like summer.

We turned on the furnace to take the edge off those 35 degree mornings and it felt like fall.

We turned over garden beds to make room for garlic.

I found boots I loved. And there was one pair left, in my size and half off.

Andy made me coffee every morning when I forced my eyelids open for another day of squeezing computer work into every available nook of my day and night.

WE COMPLETED OUR NEW SHOP WEBSITE! I am so happy to share with you A few things about our business.

Use coupon code HECKYEAH to get 20% off your entire purchase. 

>> We hand-cut and stitch every single state, country, province, island, continent, lake, etc. to your unique specifications. For the love of place.

>> We use designer knit fabrics. Our appliqués do not fray; they hold shape wash after wash, wear after wear.

>> Our wares and wears are made for roughhousing. We make things to be used and loved and passed along to little sister. Monkey bar approved.

>> Our materials are sustainably sourced. We pay our employees a living wage. From packing materials to baby blankets to the businesses we buy supplies from, we choose recycled and organic and companies that share our values.

>> The majority of our goods are sewn with my grandma’s Singer Featherweight sewing machine.

>> It’s all made with love in a small Montana studio (usually with a variety of kids and animals underfoot). Click here to meet our team.

We are gearing up for a big holiday season over here and would appreciate your help sharing our new website! Coupon code HECKYEAH will be valid until October 18.

with love,
dig Continue reading

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bang bang

Margot had a nightmare a few days ago. That she was playing with a friend and an aggressive dog came at her, tried to bite her. She explained.

It was Alice. But I didn’t know her. I mean, she wasn’t our pet. I had never seen her before. But it was her. And she tried to bite me.

I wasn’t asleep when Margot pressed her body in between Andy and me in the middle of the night, telling us about her dream. I have had trouble sleeping since we got the news that Alice has chronic kidney disease.


My heart actually aches and tears come at really inconvenient times. I do not talk myself out of feeling sad but I sometimes wish I could pull it together. I’ve had long nights where, no matter how hard I try, I cannot turn off the painful and detailed imagining of life without Alice. I am very aware of the privilege we have in a diagnosis. And the privilege we have in not knowing much beyond right now, where she is happy and able. Oh and the privilege of so much information and easy access to it.

Andy went fishing with friends last weekend and I cancelled all plans. We stayed home, the girls and me. Continue reading

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one in 20,000

Well that didn’t take long, he says at my doorstep. His royal blue, short-sleeved button down reads APPLIANCE GUYS. He wears super short hair, really low jeans and a stern face. James was here just four months ago for a broken top rack.

Do you want a coffee? I ask brightly.

No, thank you ma’am. Now. Just how many people are using this machine?

Um, my husband and me. Our kids sometimes help with the unloading…

He stands with his hand on our dishwasher. He is serious. He speaks slowly, carefully. I lean my left hip against my kitchen sink and meet his seriousness head on.

OK. And do you put items in the appliance with large chunks of food all over them?

No, we don’t. Although I am sure we could be more careful, more thorough.

I do not advise you rinse your dishes. But chunks need to be scraped off. All chunks. And no seeds. Never seeds.

No chunks, never seeds. Check.

What kind of detergent are you using?

I fetch our hippie dishwasher detergent. He stares at it from a distance. I wonder what he is thinking. He draws in a breath.

Just how much do you place in the machine for each washing?

A few squirts. Like half full, I guess?

And you and your husband are on the same page with this? You have talked about how much to use? You have a plan and you stick to that plan?

We don’t really talk about our dishwasher use much. I mean we don’t do anything crazy with our dishwasher and I think we are gentle with it. A plan? No, we don’t have a dishwasher plan.

He stares at the dishwasher. It is still closed. It feels like he is speaking to the appliance, asking if there is something else he needs to know. He opens the door just a few inches.

Well I’ve worked on a lot of appliances and you are one in 10,000 or so. You need to use more detergent than you are using. Maybe even one in 20,000. I mean. Continue reading

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driveway picnic

My kids had this big idea. We would picnic in the truck bed in our driveway.

Despite their charm and conviction, it didn’t sound appealing. We said you guys can eat out there, we will eat on the deck.

They ran back and forth from bedroom to driveway with blankets and pillows and dolls. Their trail a wildfire of mess and excitement.

Of course their flames caught us. Of course we would all eat in the truck. In the sawdust, compost and puddles.

Our neighbor turned six today. His grandma gave him a remote controlled car. It’s held court in our hood all day, that car. It is the subject of negotiation and triumph, of compromise and defeat.

As we were dining in the truck in the driveway, the birthday boy and his sister neared and joined our party. We ate friend rice and talked about being six, cheered for successful car launches off of curbs.

Just before they left, the birthday boy grabbed my phone and snapped a few photos.

retreated away form the mess, the piles, the lists
retreated toward our daughters’ earnest inclination
into the bed of a small, old pickup truck
last bits of late summer light
gray hair at my temples,
laugh lines mostly from my husband’s humor
bandaid on one bloodied knee
she learned to ride a bike earlier today
she took off and fell hard
took off again, blood like a creek down her shin bone
wait for me!
she usually waits for her sister
sometimes because I yell for her to wait for her sister
her little sister, the one she leans into
to make goofy faces behind their parents’ backs
in the truck bed, in the driveway on this night
her little sister, the one that makes her the most furious
the one she wants to spoon when she sleeps

Continue reading

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