Braid of Change

We’ve been living well this summer. Lots of camping, swimming, playing. Being, breathing outside. I often say that I am at my best when in nature and it’s true. I believe it for my kids too. And I believe it for us, together as a family. I say we don’t subscribe to any particular faith but do: The Church of Outside.

In the tent, Margot still pinches Ruby in protest of her wearing her hair just like her big sister. On the river, Ruby still turns inside out when she feels a thing is taking too long. It’s not like the journey into the wild alleviates all our suffering. But it all feels so much more darling and manageable out there. We escape to a microcosm where we can’t get away from anything (and yet we are away from everything!); where building a castle out of river rocks with the sibling that just hucked a Go Fish! deck at your head is the meditative answer.

I am always completely honest here and this next subject will not be an exception: I feel dread over the start this year’s school start. Yes, I feel excitement and joy with and for my kids, but me in my selfish little brain and heart? I ache with this change. The truth is, even though my daughters are perfectly happy growing taller and getting older, I’d push the rewind button if it were available to me. Without even checking in with them or my husband.

August 26 marks the end of 7 1/2 years where I’ve been with one or two kids most nearly all day, every day. During these first years of motherhood, I have discovered a deep well of fulfillment, peace and mission. The entire trajectory of my career and lifestyle bent with their births in the most surprising and satisfying way.

Well-intentioned friends are quick to remind me that I write and make things and the expansive time of a school day will feel like mimosas on a mountaintop to my creativity. My autonomous siren will be all “Heyaaaay you sexy six hour chunk of time! Wanna have a threesome with the laptop? I’ll bring my attentive self and so much coffee. Let’s go for a run first. We will get shit done.” They remind me that it’s good for my kids to have enriching experiences without me. My imaginings of their unfiltered thoughts are cut the cord; don’t lose yourself; chill on your sentimentality sister. 

I’m not afraid of being alone in our home, or – more to the point – I am not nervous about “what I’ll do with myself” when I’m not with my girls. I look forward to throwing my guts at some projects that have been brewing in my brain for years, waiting for the time…holy shit. This time.

photo by my friend, Sarah

Margot can suddenly swim many laps in the pool and is trying out for the Sound of Music. She’s reading and wants a bikini. She reminds me of an elk. Ruby can climb any tree on this planet. She can make any human laugh, any animal want to cuddle. She reminds me of a caterpillar.

Maybe angst is one strand in the Braid of Change. Nervousness, twisted together with fervor and courage makes a strong rope of Most Things Worth Doing.

I said up there that I’d rewind time if I could but I’d never trade tomorrow for yesterday or vice versa. It’s not wholly true and a silly exercise anyway because – thankfully – we have as much control over the order of time as we do the number of freckles on our daughter’s cheeks (53) and at what age our hair goes gray (32).

Sometimes being in my brain is just plain uncomfortable. Right now I am feeling all the feelings over this impending adjustment. My Braid of Change is more akin to a messy fishtail that’s been camping for a week. And because I plan to camp for the rest of the summer, I am embracing the practicality of the dreadlocked ponytail and focusing on this here: my kids are confident, smart and adventurous. My job is to support them in themselves. They are ready for everything. They are thrilled for school. I am thrilled to watch them shine light on everything in their paths. Go.

Let’s stop thinking about it so much. Let’s just live it up.

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We are all just covered in worm poop anyways.

I mean to get up at 5:30 this morning. To go for a run and get some work done before the kids woke. But I keep re-closing my eyelids until 6:40 and then I have 23 minutes – just enough time to make a coffee and sit to think about how I best fill this time –  before Ruby stammers down the hallway, river-water-bedhead ablaze and ready.

So, instead we dive into bagels with cream cheese and then again when big sister wakes. I hammer out some work that needs to get done while mothering — this duality either leaves me feeling super-heroic or completely lame. Usually a combination of the two.

Mama can we design and make this dress today? I think it will be really easy!

Hold on, babe. I have to finish this and then I really want to see your design.

Mama I am STARVING. I have never been this hungry in my life. I know I had two breakfasts but I think I have two stomachs and this one is empty.

Ok, love. I’m on it. One sec.

Mom! Look! We made a list of all the things we want to do with you today and tomorrow. But if we get to them in three days, that’d be alright too.

I love this list and I love you. I hope we get to so much of this.

Mama my sister jumped right on my heart! I seriously feel like my actual heart is bruised! Or maybe even broken! And it hurt my feelings!

Come here and snuggle and then we’ll go talk with your sister.

Mama, I need your help finding that pink sock with the kind of white stripey things. I saw it last winter and I really need it right now.

I don’t know that sock. I will keep a look out. Can I help you find another for now?

Moooooooooom! You said you’d make more food! Aaaaaaahhhhhhh…

On it. Coming.

Hey mom! Look! We pulled all the packing boxes and fabric scraps from your studio out onto the grass! We built a boat. We will put on a play tonight.

The morning is demanding of me from all fronts. I feel stretched and inept. This is the meat and potatoes of work-from-home challenge for me. My kids know I have to get things done but my work is so nebulous to them. Their dad leaves and comes home; his work is a romanticized mystery. I am “always working” as Margot recently noticed out loud. After I pulled the dagger out of my heart, I over-explained to her that my work is at home and allows flexibility and freedom and I choose this to be with my kids more.

She got it. So did I.

The reality is: my work is in front of my kids. So it naturally seems like 1000% more to their noticing, growing brains. I need to get up earlier. Or work less. Or get better at not feeling like an asshole when I am emailing during the *moment* my daughter perfects a one-handed roundoff. Probs, I need to do all of those things. Or none of them. Or somewhere in the middle.

Today, I work and mother as best I can. And at noon I say,

What do you want to do? Let’s go.

We decide on a picnic of almonds, apples, graham crackers, goldfish and jolly ranchers. And picking huckleberries.

We unravel as we drive north. Cake plays on the radio and I know all the words. My kids are awestruck.

Windows down, from the valley floor brown to high alpine green.

I need your arms around me,
I need to feel your touch,
I need your understanding, I need your love,
So much

I should get the oil changed, I think. And rotate the tires.

So mom we turn left and then right? And up? Right again? This looks so different without snow. It makes me kind of sad. I miss winter.

We turn corners, more corners over washboard, a dust cloud behind our aging car. My kids squeal with joy. I smile big. Ten and two.

I need to remember to order envelopes when I get home. I need to pick peas, prep that order and haul recycling.

Mama do you know what I don’t like about fire and death?

What’s that?

They can both happen at any moment. I mean I could die right now.

Well, yes.

But that’s be, like, super rare.

Yes. (long pause)

Anyway, I wonder what the rarest pokemon card is?

You tell me that you love me so,
You tell me that you care,
But when I need you,
You’re never there Continue reading

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hump day nuggets: full-on(ly)

When driving up to Flathead Lake last weekend, Margot said,

I am totally, full-only so excited for this weekend.

(pronounced like full on lee)

And, just like that, full-only is my new favorite descriptor of commitment. The Full On! of the 90s needed to turn into an adverb.

Our good friends just got a boat and for two weekends in a row we’ve been the lucky tag-alongs. Perhaps it is their increasing strength and confidence in the water, perhaps it’s my increasing awareness of the preciousness of our cool, clean water, perhaps it’s because my life for the last seven years is about to change with my youngest starting kindergarten in two months. Whatever the case, I’m noticing it all. The strength, confidence, water, the time leading up to our daily rhythm changing.

I am so happy to have had Ruby at home this last year, schooling by my side. It went even better than I could have imagined: she thrived and learned, I thrived and learned. And, we have decided to enroll in public school this fall. I haven’t responded to many of your questions about our educational choices because it is a subject that belongs to my daughters and because we are figuring it out as we go — fully (full on-ly) aware (and expecting) that what feels right for our family can change. For now, our local school is right. We do plan to homeschool intermittently over the next years. And, of course – as my husband always reminds me when I am spinning out over what is best for us (oh I do think about and read about this all so very much) – we always school at home through our own love of learning and desire to be and grow with our children.


:: Mermaids.

:: Always the first one awake.

:: Over dinner a few weeks ago, we developed a family summer mission statement. Continue reading

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It’s hot. Make coconut rice with peas + sage.

It’s summer. I don’t recall a time when temperatures were 104 degrees in June, when fishing was halted for the season, campfires so cautionary, when the creek’s water feels like August.

Tomatoes reaching to hold garlic’s twisted hand, kale leaning on cabbage’s shoulder. Flea beetles feasting on potatoes and beans. I plan to blast them with some chrysanthemum love this week.

I shared a photo on instagram a few days ago with this caption

Summer dinners must be ready in 7 minutes or less: fresh baguette oven-toasted with hummus, pesto, sharp cheddar. Piled with lettuce and arugula. Barely blanched peas, Cherries.

This season – with it’s sunset frisbee, playing at the creek until 9, falling into bed smelling of the sun and the earth – well, I don’t take much time to cook. Thankfully, this season – with it’s bounty of fresh food at the ready – allows for easy, delicious dinner in a few minutes. Maybe more than 7, but that’s a good thing to shoot for.

I am inclined to start a new series of Simple Summer Dinners but I think I have proven I am not much the serial type. There was Hump Day Nuggets, In My Grandma’s Kitchen, Heirloom Kitchen

I miss those series a little bit. I think I like the structure until I don’t. Or maybe I get distracted by other, more pressing things in my brain. The truth is I have piles of stories I’d like to tell, recipes I’d like to share, etc. Maybe someday everything here will be tidy and contain my thoughts as they unfold. But I don’t think so; really, that’s not honest for me. Life seems to tug me deeper into the woods, further down stream, higher up the mountain. For now, the woods, the river, the mountain — they keep my ideas safe.

Anyway! I made a simple rice number that got the thumbs up from both kids and grown ups, several times over. In fact, Ruby asked if we could have it every day for the rest of the summer. I told her it is a deal if she promises to pick up the 317 tiny pieces of paper she cuts and tosses all about the house every day. She’s thinking on it. Continue reading

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what do you believe in?

Mama, what do you believe in?

The question fires from the backseat as I steer our car down the hill to town.

I believe in love and kindness and honesty. I believe my perspective and approach creates the powerful current I get to swim with.

Over the railroad tracks. Right hand turn. A woman biking with tattooed legs. Friends sitting with coffee. I stop for a family to cross the street.

I believe in nurturing a strong connection to nature. I believe in good communication, trusting your gut and dinner together every day. I believe is all kinds of things.

We stop at a red light. A woman in heels hurries across the street while laughing into her phone. Cars drive. North, south, east, west. People are heading places.

In the rearview mirror Ruby sits, tucked into her pink carseat. Her fuzzy blond halo catches the morning sun, her hands crossed in her lap. She wears her current favorite uniform of capri leggings and a tight-fitting shirt. We are on our way to gymnastics.

What do you believe in? I ask.

Oh I don’t know. I’m just trying to figure it out is all.

Last week I came across a photo of Ruby. It is one of the only photos I took of her in the hospital. I was afraid to document anything that might be too painful to look at in the future should she die. It also felt wrong to take pictures of her so fucking helpless. Instead I sat and stared at her, willing my dark thoughts and increasing detachment to brighten, reattach. Continue reading

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