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, THANK YOU. For reaching out and telling me how you are. I wanted to know, and I read your words in solidarity.

With love,
Nici

:: :: ::

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.

(2) Little!
We finish The Long Winter. In addition to the death of Jack and the excitement over candy at Christmas, this episode of the Ingalls’s lives has a great impact on my kids. No warmth, no food, no play. Just gutsy survival and love and hope. When the wheat is low and they run out of firewood, things seem grim. Margot is pensive and then softens with a realization: Laura definitely lives because she wrote these books!!! And there is no way she could live alone as a little kid so I bet her family survives too!

(3) eggs! pante!

(4-6) Quinn’s! picnic! nail polish!
These things don’t happen. Instead I get some work done while the kids watch How to Train Your Dragon on my studio floor. Instead we clean their room and take walks up the hill. Quinn’s is a local hot springs. Here’s a snap from our last visit – the Old Perma Store, a stop we love along the way.

(7) sewing!
We do several small projects but the favorite for all three of us is Margot’s hoodie. She turns her drawings into clothes.

(8) jump rope!
All day, every day.

(9) friaend dinner!
We do breakfast instead.

(10) new chicks!
Doesn’t happen but will tomorrow.

(11) ski!
This last month we gardened in the mornings until the sun warmed the south facing mountain slopes and skied in the afternoons. We kept thinking it would snow again. We skied those faces until the last bits of snow gave into the spring earth. Our last few runs are sunny and slushy and required us to take our skis off to hike down over patches of mud, tiny creeks racing to the valley floor. Margot snowboards for the first time.

They say our snow pack is 80-90% of what it was but that it is only above 7000 feet. They say we are the lucky ones with snow compared to our neighboring states. They say our winters will be a full month shorter and our summers a full month longer in 50 years. My daughters will be 55 and 57 and I wonder how the forests will stand? I wonder where bears will wander and what our favorite swimming hole will look like?

Read this piece by my friend Rachel Turiel.

(11a) In an effort to save cash money, we tried to avoid the post-ski beer/shirley temple stop and instead have those things at home. Also I try really hard to be groovy with occasional bits of food dye and corn syrup but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I have been told that my shirley temples are way better than any Shirley Temple anywhere ever. Ahem.

My secret? Soda water + sweetened pomegranate cranberry juice + lime. Boom. Healthish Shirley. To sweeten the juice, pour the entire jar into a pot with 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and stir until sugar dissolves. To make: 2/3 soda water, 1/3 juice, lime with a cherry on top.

(12) goodwill shopping!
The kids want to spend their money on new wallets at goodwill. We spend 45 minutes right here, choosing and counting money.

Ruby makes coffee. Two mud splashes on her face from the bike ride. Dirty dishes in the sink from dinner, from breakfast. That leaky faucet is like fingernails on a chalkboard. It needs to replaced after the broken deck boards are replaced, before the trim around doors. The kids argue first about the orange bouncy ball and then about the white chair, the purple pony, the pencil sharpener.

I start in on the dishes. I’m tired and I feel a bit lost, like these neverending dishes are a metaphor for the neverending pile of things I want to accomplish. I scrub melted cheese from the knife that cut the quesadilla. I push hard on the cloth, not realizing the knife has shifted in my grip. I slice the tip of my finger right off. Just the very tip. It doesn’t hurt so bad but the mental replaying of doing what I did sends shivers to my brain. It bleeds and bleeds.

At the end of the day on Easter Margot tells me that her favorite part of the day is that I am her mom. She says it’s hard to explain but she just feels it. She then pushes her face to my chest and infuses my body with her words. It’s one of the top compliments I’ve ever been graced with and I hold my breath to remember the way it is said, the place it is said. That is my favorite part of the day too.

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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 our family business. 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! Sometimes it’s nice to have a comment assignment so here is one for you (only if you’d like!): Sincerely, how are you? How is your day going?

Winners announced next to each item below! xoxo

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

WINNER: Tessa Gochtovtt-Stine
I’m a big fan of your blog, you, your family, and your chickens. Pick me because I just bought a little farm house and all of those things are calling me

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

WINNER: Jesse B
Happy Anniversary! I am so glad you chose to start the blog…love your attitude about life & kids & the outdoors!

3. Handmade beaded earrings.

WINNER: Nicole Booker Reynolds
Your blog is such a special place. I truly cherish it. Blog on, sistah!

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

WINNER: Ann
Hi! What a great time it has been! I’ve found your site when Ruby was just born. I was searching for something about gardening and just stumbled upon you. I have never looked back. What a great experience it’s been for me to learn from you (apricot-fig bars) and admire your fun loving attitude! I’ve bought your beautiful handmade wares for our little cousins, too. Even when you lost dear Alice, our dog, Daisy, was in the last month of her battle with cancer. I cried right along with you. Thank you for sharing with all of us all this time.

Much Love,
Ann

5. Vintage linen tablecloth and 6 matching napkins.

Jessica says:
Today I spoke to my brother for the first time in two years. I’m a perfect mix of heartbroken, sad and at peace that I heard from him. He had actually left a little grocery bag of punch, brownies, bbq chips and Swiss rolls at my doorstep yesterday. I had peeked out the window when I heard the door knock but i didn’t answer it because I didn’t recognize the old pickup truck. My brother has never been kind to me. And a lot of pieces in my family have been broken for a long time. Once I saw what the bag contained, I knew in my heart who it was from. As silly as it sounds, punch and Swiss rolls and bbq chips are so “him.” I can’t get it out of my head… Picturing him buying each item at the little convient store across the street. And the way he perfectly placed it at my door step so the wind couldn’t blow it over. It was just so “him” to do that. I can see the kindness in his hard heart. So much of me loves him and forgives him but so much of me is scared too. I’m not sure if I can have a relationship with him anymore. He’s hurt me deeply. Which makes the punch, bbq chips, brownies and Swiss rolls all the more heartbreaking. I never thought I could look at a brownie and cry. Anyway, I decided to speak with sincerity. Thank you for asking, friend.

6. Book: Steal Like an Artist.

WINNER: Liz
I didn’t know I was the type of person to lose myself in a blog, like I did with yours right after I gave birth. I absorbed years of your life during those hours of early breastfeeding. I developed a strange lip allergy (?). I was dog-tired (SO TIRED). I got sick. My excema came back. Your blog soothed me. Thank you. I don’t know how I stumbled upon it but man did it help me. How am I today? Studying for yoga teacher training, mostly rested, waiting for my just turned one year old to wake up. Pretty damn good I would say. I LOVE the art. Thanks again.

7. Heart hot pad, made by me.

WINNER: Mica
Happy Blog Anniversary! I used to read many blogs, but you should feel honored that yours is the ONLY one I still read. I adore your little writing space and feel motivated and empowered by your words at times. ;) As for my comment assignment, I am doing great today! Sitting on my boys’ floor as they fall asleep.

8. $50 gift certificate to my shop.

WINNER: Catherine
I’ve followed you for 5 years. I love your words and the impact they have on me – encouraging me to think deeper, feel more fully and be more aware of my world. I have appreciated having your voice to come to. (And the inspiration for my novice gardening attempts!) And now being a mother I love your words even more. Your writing is so honest and refreshing. You have created a wonderful space and I enjoy visiting so much. Thank you for that. I think there are a lot of voices out there and I am so glad yours is one. Congrats on 8 years!
Take care! And PS your tomato pie recipe is a FAVORITE in my house!

With gratitude,
Nici

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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 we’ve been informed that she is reading “below benchmark” and decided, again, not to think another thing of it.

Ruby rolls with the cats, the dog. She gathers her army of stuffed animals and dolls, each with their own bling. Every critter wears carefully curated bits of fabric from my scrap pile. Safety pinned to the cheek, tied around the wrist, wrapped around the belly, draped over the ear. Their names are Horsey, Bluey, Hooty Owl, Makeup, Oil, Frogy and Zara.

Loud music, lots of helping hands in the kitchen, spilled water, dog poop on the rug.

I take Mabel outside, in my bathrobe, coffee in hand. I can see my breath but the sun whispers SPRING.

We will go skiing, as we do every weekend. Andy and I load the crusty old green bin with dry mittens, helmets, goggles as the kids protest, saying they want to hula hoop instead. We fill a backpack with quesadillas, carrots, apples and chocolate blueberries. We make a thermos of tea. Get ready buddies, Andy says to the kids every two minutes in response to whines. They get ready.

Ruby, I am pretty sure those leggings are cotton. You might want to change.

Margot, how many layers are you wearing today? I think I will just wear one slippery shirt because the sun will feel so warm.

We leave the house a mess and drive our filthy car up to the ski hill. Our church. A cloud of dust rises behind us as we climb closer to the snow line. Her socks are bunchy and hot and weird and so uncomfortable! Tears over the socks. I unbuckle and contort my torso around the beige seat that is marked up from Alice’s once-muddy paws. Our car dings incessantly to remind me I’m unbuckled, Ruby holds her breath in sock anger. We bounce through muddy potholes up the mountainside. I fix the socks.

Giant crack straight up the middle of the windshield, puppy on my lap, NPR humming on the radio, windows down.

The kids still ask for a boost onto the chair but their growing limbs don’t need it anymore. This is the first year I don’t keep a firm grip the back of their ski coats as we ride up.

The old chair creeps higher and higher, thoughts spill out.

Mama what if this whole mountain was made of food and you could just take a bite of snow and it was suddenly peanut butter?

That crow is flying right by my face. She is staring at me.

Mama I wonder what it feels like to be a cat or dog. Do you think it feels a lot different? Probly hard to not talk. Probly weird to have four legs. Probly awesome to run so fast.

They love the trees, jumps, going fast. Ruby sings the whole time. Sometimes she makes pirate AARGHs. Margot laughs. Andy and I stand at the top of a steep slope and watch our offspring fly away. He says wow look at them go. I will never forget dreaming of this exact day when I nursed a newborn in cool, sleepy January light.

We hit the grocery store on the way home, for coffee and spinach. Margot brings her book inside. She doesn’t look up once. Ruby is hungry for the fifth time that hour.

We make pizza for dinner. The kids pick out their clothes for tomorrow. They are tired and quiet. They hear our neighbors playing outside and are suddenly infused with adrenaline. They squeal and run down the hallway, still in ski clothes. They slam into the front door and fling it open, grabbing hula hoops, shouting as they run away, Tell us when dinner is ready!

A glass of wine, punching dough, muffled girl giggles, hungry pets.

My friend’s mom died this morning. I call my mom. I can’t stop thinking about my mom. Ruby was with me when we visited two days ago. She watched me lift my friend’s mom onto her bed with hospice staff while my friend administered a syringe of morphine saying, It’s ok mom. Open up little bird.

I burn the pizza. We eat it anyway. At the dinner table Ruby asks if we can do thankfuls but she doesn’t want to go first.

Margot: I am thankful for the things we don’t have to worry about like they have to worry about in Little House. Like kerosene, warmth, food, school, coal, my home, family and wood. Those are the most important things.

Ruby: I am having a hard time thinking of a thankful because my brain is thinking about Olive, Alice and our friend’s mom and how they all died.

Andy: Take your time buddy. I’ll go. I am thankful for the sun.

Margot: Oh and I am thankful for skiing, playing with my friends and also the suuuuuuuuun!

Ruby: I am ready. I am thankful for our cats, chickens and puppy. Mama, how about you?

Me: I am thankful to be sitting at this table with you chickens right now.

Margot: Mooooom. You almost always say you are thankful for us. Pick something that happened earlier today.

Me: Fair enough. I am thankful for the conversations with you two on the chairlift.

Margot: Knock knock!
(who’s there)
Orange!
(orange who)
Knock knock!
(who’s there)
Orange!
(orange who)
Knock knock!
(who’s there)
Orange!
(orange who)
Knock knock!
Orange you glad I didn’t say…oh wait. Oops.
Knock knock!
(who’s there)
Banana!

We never want to clean up after dinner. We often don’t do it. I dislike waking to dinner dishes more than I dislike cleaning up but it still happens often. Tonight we clean up while the kids take a bath. He scrubs a pan, I wipe the table clean. We talk about the week ahead. He turns 37 on Friday. I like him so much.

We hear a scream and another. One sister pinched the other. She hit back. We hollar for them to try to sort it out without pinching or hitting. They do. It was about a bouncy ball wrapped in a scarf and how to best secure the tiny rubber flamingo to the scarf’s end.

I climb into my bed with my daughters to read Little House, as we have done nearly every single night for a year. They play rock-paper-scissors to determine who gets to be on the “light side” – the side of the bed by the light. Some time ago they decided the light side was the best side. We are almost finished with The Long Winter. We are all gripped by the story. We read and pause often to imagine the darkness and hunger and boredom. We read and pause often to readjust covers, scratch backs, locate the bouncy ball-flamingo-scarf and talk about our plans to visit the Little House sites on a road trip this fall.

Wiggly legs, the soft way they say mama, clean sheets, trying to shelve tomorrow’s to-do list that keeps running through my brain.

Ruby falls asleep just a few pages in. She always does. Margot doesn’t want me to stop reading when it’s time. She never does. I lay there with two, heavy-breathing girls, their bodies the exact shapes of my contours and think about getting up but fall asleep instead. I always do.

:: :: ::

Tell me, what is your thankful?

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LE BAM: 20-minute knit skirt

Yesterday, after many days with plans I put my foot down. I felt like my words enunciated and firm as my children bounced and asked if friends could come over for the fifth day in a row.

No playdates today. We are going home and hanging out. I pushed through the protests. Truth is, I am an introvert in that I recharge alone or with my immediate family and sometimes I short circuit over the number of children and continually hopping about in my kitchen. I love it and then I need quiet time.

It’s hard for me to admit that. Because I definitely, deeply appreciate that my kids and their pals love it here. And I love kids and loud-living-loving life and…I don’t need to justify this anymore. Every so often, I need a savasana in the middle of the asking and answering and dance parties and the snack making (holy shit I am pretty sure first grade girls are as hungry as 13 year old boys). What if I just busted out my yoga mat and corpse pose in the middle of a Katy Perry jump rope performance?

So, yesterday. Margot has been carrying around fabric, dreaming up a skirt in her head and we decided to go ahead and make it. One for Ruby too, of course. After snacks, of course.

I am all about simple lines, functional wear, no-fuss patterns and bonus if it is a quick make. My girls both prefer soft, stretchy knit fabrics. Margot likes capri leggings with tall socks, layers, tucking in and interesting accessories. Ruby likes very fitted leggings or tights, long sleeved shirts that end exactly at her wrist bone, a line skirts and changing her clothes every six minutes. They also prefer “slippery” skirts that don’t stick to cotton leggings.

This skirt meets every single one of the points in that paragraph up there!

*LE BAM*

Le Bam is our new phrase of choice, invented by Andy’s uncle because it is Mabel’s name backwards and it totally fits because she moves like a slinky, leaps like popcorn and does crazy things like jump off our second story deck (that really happened. she is fine.). 

The skirt. A simple knit skirt using a straight stitch on the sewing machine; any machine can sew this skirt. It’s only four pieces and only requires four straight stitchings. A raw edge at the bottom eliminates the need to finish with a turned hem.

MATERIALS:

* skirt to use as pattern.

Find a skirt in your closet that you like. The skirt is just the starting point. Do you wish it was longer or straighter cut? Do you wish the waist was larger? You can make these changes when you grab your scissors. If you want to recreate an exact shape, try it!

* knit fabric the amount depends on length, size and pattern.

Knit fabric is stretchy and doesn’t fray when cut. You can use a slippery knit like athletic knit or dance knit. You can use a soft knit like bamboo or rayon jersey. To determine how much you need: Fold your the skirt you are using as a patten in half. Measure widest part (the hem). Multiply by four. You need that much fabric but all going in the same direction (width-wise) from selvedge to selvedge. The stretch is important and knits stretch differently in different directions).

* 5″ x (waist measurement)” contrasting or coordinating knit fabric
* scissors
* rotary cutter + mat (optional)
* straight pins
* thread
* sewing machine

1.
Cut the waistband fabric. I prefer to just use the fabric as a measurement instead of a tape. Every fabric stretches differently so using the fabric ensures the right length. For Ruby, I cut a piece of 5 x 25″ fabric and wrapped it around her waist until it was a comfortable fit for her. We trimmed excess and ended up with a 5 x 18″ piece (her waist is 20″). Cut waistband in half the short way. Now we have (2) 5 x 9″ pieces.

2.
Fold your fabric right sides together and place folded skirt on fabric fold. Here is where you will adjust your pattern. Ruby wanted her skirt shorter and narrower than the one we had so I cut it shorter and narrower. The top of your folded skirt needs to be at least the width of one of your folded-in-half waistbands; best if it is an inch or so larger. In this case: the folded in half waistband is 4.5 x 5″ and I cut the top of the halved skirt to 5″. Be brave and cut! That is 1/2 your skirt.

Fold fabric again and place your folded, just-cut skirt half on the fabric fold. Cut. You are done cutting. Nice work!

3.
Unfold one skirt piece, right side up. Fold one waistband piece in half, long sides together. Place all raw edges together, along skirt top. The skirt top is a bit wider than the waistband. Pin one side in place and then the other. Place a pin in the middle. Evenly stretch the waistband along the skirt and pin in place. Repeat on other half.

4.
Open up your stitch length to about 6-8 stitches per inch. Sew waistband to skirt, backstitching at each end and firmly pulling the fabric as you sew. Place your left hand on the skirt and guide through machine like you usually do. With your right hand, pull away from machine, stretching the fabric. Don’t be shy. PULL. You must stretch the fabric as you sew so that the waistband and skirt match up and so that stitches retract a bit when released; this is the key to getting away without a stretch stitch (like a serger or zig zag). Repeat on other half of skirt.

5.
Place right sides of skirt halves together and pin the heck out of each side. Make sure waistbands match up. Don’t worry if hems are a bit off; that’s an easy fix. Beginning at waistband, sew each side down to hem, backstitching at each end.

LA BAM. You just made a skirt.

Because we freecut the skirt pieces, one side might have a slightly different hem than the other. Or there might be a wonky wobble. Just trim it up so it’s even.

In the middle of sewing together my kids saw their friend outside, hiking the hill to see our neighbors horses. Can we mama? Of course. Let’s go.

That was all I needed: an quiet hour of just us chit chat and handwork. That, and the promise that we’d finish up what we started tomorrow.

We did finish them the following morning. And then I followed their wiggly, excited bodies in an effort to glean a photo showing this skirt I want to share with you. All I could grab was the skirt in everyday motion, which is absolutely how it is and will be.

And, of course the endless possibilities for styling their new frocks.

When I had some time to myself I, of course, took the opportunity to set up a self-timer and jump off their furniture to share my LE BAM skirt in motion, too. A different kind of savasana.

Happy Monday, Happy March friends. xoxo

Details about the fabric we used: Margot’s is heather teal athletic knit from JoAnns; waistband is a dance knit. Ruby’s is vintage polyester; waistband is bamboo knit. Mine is a lightweight heather sweater knit. If using a sweater knit or jersey knit you will notice it curls to one side. Be sure to have the curl on the right side of the skirt so the finished skirt doesn’t curl under.

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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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