12.29.2011

Minnesota Magic

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We flew into Minneapolis on Christmas Eve and I imagined Garrison Keillor narrating our approach.

The endless horizon imperceptibly, yet regularly, broken by water everywhere, frozen so solid people are comfortable hauling their most fragile belongings over the deep, cold oblivion. In the air, a family of four awaits the embrace of their loved ones. The plane descends slowly at first and then nearly tumbles into the earth as the youngest passenger protests in an otherwise silent aircraft. Her older sister comforts her, "Ruby! Don't listen to the lady who says to stay seated! You have to get you WHOLE BODY in the window to see the tiny lights. Just pull your WHOLE BODY out of the buckle thing and you'll see what I see. It's beautiful." The passengers chuckle at the glorious excitement of a child on Christmas Eve. Later that night, the same child would hear sleigh bells and ho ho ho in the living room of her grandparents' home. She'd tuck her cherub cheeks deep under the down comforter, between her mom, dad and little sister, and fall into the sugar plum sleep of a girl who believes in the power, the awe, the magic of Santa Claus.

We had a really, supremely stressful last few weeks. It's funny how it worked itself out a bit and immediately felt small as we moved into the next phase. But, it is still close enough for me to really remember being in it. There was bank drama, crooked contractor drama and for this drama-allergic gal, it was really hard. I am really proud of how we handled it, doing what was honest and right, even at the risk of losing our sale. We did what felt good. It wasn't convenient or expedient or standard. And then it all fell perfectly into place with things all signed and happy and solid with everyone involved just before we were to take off for Minnesota.

I'd like to further explain perfectly: I adore the family buying our house. The fabulous people we bought our new home from gave us the keys and permission to start moving in before closing, even left us gifts (including their adult son's childhood train set). We told the kids Santa was visiting our new home early and on Christmas Eve morning I drove up in slow, soft falling snow with a rug, two chairs, a strand of lights and a giant sled. I set up the train set, tied a bow around the sled, strung lights and watched out the window as our new neighbors collected on the epic sledding hill behind our house. Our new backyard "ends" at vast open space.

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Alice smiled the whole time.

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Regarding the new sled that fits our family or four and goes just a little bit too fast in that ver fun way, Margot said, "That was so thoughtful of Santa. I think we should text him and tell him thank you."

It was a very mellow year for gift giving, meaning time and cash were tight. In Minnesota Santa brought the girls wands and leotards. And, I couldn't possibly be happier with their reception. The wands have joined us everywhere and turns out I didn't need to pack anything else for Margot because the elves did a fantastic job on her long sparkly silver gymnastics skirt. Any photo you see here, if she isn't wearing the skirt, she is ten minutes later.

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On a date with gram to see a play, Cinderella. 

The wands, oh I love these wands.

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So far, since in this land of lakes, I have slept a lot. And, by "a lot" I mean I have slept past 6:30 every morning. And then heard my kids' running stampede around 7:30 and rolled over to my husband where we tucked ourselves even deeper in under flannel sheets in the king sized bed and talked. Eventually, we hiked up the stairs to find our kids bathed, breakfasted and happy, my mom humming off-key as she finished up the day's meals. We have gathered with more family, played folf, pinochle and memory. We have sat, strolled, talked and laughed.

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I haven't been online or, really, anywhere other than within a few feet of my family. I have loved unplugging and unwinding. And it was oh so necessary. Several times Andy and I talked about how we could feel tension unraveling in this magical place of mom and dad's house, where the girls are held, hugged and kissed, given matching gram-made nightgowns and matching baby dolls.

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The magical place where Christmas decorations of my childhood are tucked into every corner, where I realize I forgot to pack Margot's undies and my mom just happens to have some, you know, just in case. Where my dad has endless energy for romping and wrestling and fun in the way only dads do. Where the woods out back contain wonder and mystery and, upon closer inspection, a real fairy house with a sparkly bed and twig roof. We leave her gifts in the afternoon and she returns the favor the next morning.

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Everything here has been breezy and comfortable. I regularly find myself sitting back about to burst with gratitude. I feel wonderfully peaceful and excited for 2012. Big new adventures await! Beginning with us moving out of our home by January 10 (!!) and into a tiny studio apartment (the apartment is in our new house, the house is being rented until June). Andy flew back a bit early to get a jump start. He just texted me a photo of a U Haul truck in our backyard. Wow. We'll join him tomorrow. And there will be lots to write about. For now, I still have one day of nothing but Margot practicing her wink, Ruby playing peek-a-boo in a laundry basket, slow dish-washing and drying, walks to frozen lakes and fairy sightings.

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all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from Vanns.com

12.22.2011

* wink *

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I just had lunch with Margot and it felt like the first time we had dined together in over a week, even though we share meals every day. I have been distracted. I told Margot that I didn't like how busy we've been, how often I have told her to hold on or not now lately. I told her I was so excited that was behind us and I looked forward to hanging out with our family.

She stared at me, studied me with her wise brown eyes. I stared back, smiling, loving my kid so much.

She said nothing. She winked at me.

And I thought, right on kid. Here we go.

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A local family creates a magical, musical paradise of their home and opens it to the public every night.

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Locals: open 6-10 every night; located just west of Russell, a dead end street across from Bayern Brewing

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We joined friends for sledding and Santa emerged from the snowy woods to say hello. So generous of him during this busy time of year. The kids were amazed. It was awesome.

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Margot and Ruby had unlimited access to hot cocoa which eclipsed Santa

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Evenings are full of visits and visitors. At this particular exchange Margot left with a life-sized bust of a girl with pink hair for styling. Right now sister has a rockin' haircut and tats on her face.

I am running into these next few weeks of holiday celebration with open arms and enthusiasm. We have so much to celebrate, so much to love, so much to share (and so much packing to do!). We are off to my parent's house in Minnesota and then home to make home elsewhere. It will be wild and awesome.

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Margot composed and performed a song this morning. I caught it on video so I am able to leave you with the lyrics:

Alice went swimming in the water
She went and dug up a twig and a tooth
She went and dug up a Ruby
And then she dug up Margot
Then Nici, then Andy
And then at last
And the at last she said
You wish you were a Merry Christmas

xo,
dig

12.21.2011

noticing

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I am so tired of having the same answer to how are you? Truth is we are nuts right now. So, that is what I say and then find my brain and mouth taking off in all the details of the craziness. This buying and selling homes business in the midst of birthdays, holidays, company, travel, work has us running, making phone calls, signing documents, waiting for emails, rearranging schedules while gifts languish half-made and party punch bowls patiently wait to get washed...

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Andy and I keep reminding ourselves how right this feels for our family, how it is all working out beautifully when one looks at the general productivity graph. A big, simple, sweeping arch is what we see. However, if we grab a magnifying glass and we can see at all the volatile, chaotic points that form that tidy arch. Some moments I am frying under the magnification, others I am happily observing the big, thankful picture.

Our friends watched the girls last weekend so Andy and I could go on a date and talk. As in have more than a two sentence exchange before Excuse me mama? Look! I can do a cartwheel off the couch! or any variety of very important things a two and four year old must interrupt to show/tell us. We brought a blank book and a pen and made a list of what we want with this change. It was so GOOD to get it down on paper, to see the list of dreams that are becoming reality.

We were curled over a dimly lit table in the corner of a restaurant talking in dreamy, seamless conversation when 12 of our friends dressed in all white came skipping and hooting to a large table next to us. There was a party that night, one that we decided to not attend at the last minute in favor of this date. Turns out a pre-party was at the same restaurant. We talked with the group and explained why we were in pedestrian clothes and taking notes. "Maybe we picked the wrong place?" Andy laughed at one point, gesturing to our partying pals. I told him I thought it was perfect. We achieved some good stuff and got a little contact high from our tribe. At one point a friend tossed me a gauzy white skirt and shirt and said, "Have Andy drop you off on the way home. You can be a hippie." I considered it for a hot second. But I didn't go. We fetched our kids and were in bed by 10pm. We are so going to the Snow Ball next year.

I bristle at this chaos. It is uncomfortable and I can't wait to feel a steady life cadence again. I also find it an exceptional opportunity to notice. To pay attention to my last days in our home, stop the boat-rocking activity and make eye contact. I like the challenge.

Taking notice of:

:: Walks around the block. Our hood for only a bit longer.

Andy remembered Margot's head-over-heels devotion to this little purple pony from Ace Hardware a while back. He wrapped it up for her birthday, unsure if he'd bought the right horse. She held her breath, mouth open, she was over the moon. The nameless pony who is "definitely a boy" hasn't left her clutch since. Good job, papa.

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:: A totally awesome birthday party that ended in our friend juggling cupcakes.

Margot's party day was an exercise in flexibility, in letting go. I am the Limbo Queen. Read more in this week's mama digs: bendy.

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Also, remembering last year, when my bug turned three.

:: Toys that are played hard and left, quietly waiting for the next round.

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:: Winged kids collecting eggs.

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:: Lingering party decorations that feel continually encouraging and festive. I think I'll leave them up until we move.

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:: How simple and free gifts can be.

The kids painted cardboard, I cut circles and folded in half and glued together (held with clothes pins until dry) with sewing notion scraps in the middle. Once dry we painted with glue, sprinkled glitter. Lastly, we glued and glittered the corrugated edges.

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:: The awesomeness of grandma (who arrives with cooking ingredients and matching leotards for the girls. I am still waiting for mine.)

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:: My endlessly optimistic dog with a graying face.

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:: Exploring an icky old ditch as if it contained gold.

Really, discovery and wonder are a choice.

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12.17.2011

sticky sweet

I didn't have energy to do the dishes or put the kitchen floor hazards away so I instead shoved, scooted and piled. It was late and I was making room for more making. Specifically, making something for Margot to share with her class on her birthday circle day.

Easy and fun I chanted as I sifted through our pantry. I recalled a conversation I had with my friend earlier in the day. She said, "I have to drive to Lolo to pick up my meat because I didn't have time to butcher my own deer this year. I am giving myself permission to not be a total badass all the time."

I found a crispy half-bag of marshmallows and decided there is no way those things ever expire. I turned to google, readying to type something like marshmallow dessert that isn't hideous but then my eye caught the 13 pound bag of gourmet popcorn I had just received in the mail. My eyes twinkled and I squeaked, "Popcorn balls!" even though I'd never made them before.

The birthday circle at her school is a big deal. At least I anticipated it would be. Margot would lay on a giant piece of paper and the room would sing the sweetest song about growing while her teacher traced the outline of body, the one that used to inhabit mine. Then, each classmate would make eye-contact with my girl and tell her what they appreciate about her while her teacher recorded every word inside her outline. It feels big -- in the achy, awesome acknowledgement that Margot's excitement is her own: she has her relationships, her space, her celebration; and I have mine, as her mama, in the space she proudly loves and shares with me.

I thought about her first day of preschool.

It was 10pm and Margot was amazingly still awake, happily humming to her babies in our bed. Andy cruised between housey chores and commented on how he should really be in bed. I had made Very Important Notes on an envelope from recycling, informing him of some Very Important Information. My writing arched around and through Ruby's drawings, most of it illegible to my husband so he continually asked for interpretation as I hummed about the internet in search of Popcorn Balls That Incorporate Things In My Kitchen Like Stale Marshmallows.

The birthday circle was even better than I anticipated. I could hardly contain my heart under my ribs as a room of tiny souls who adore my girl proclaimed their love for her hugs, her playground skills, her smile. Margot's teacher chose different colored markers to document each child's words. I dutifully memorized the event, feeling suspended in blissful parenthood: Margot's long body leaned into mine, not a baby in the least. Ruby sank into Andy's hard-working Carhartt lap. I smelled Margot's hair, felt her react to her friends' words. I resisted hugging her so tight. I swear I could have stuffed her back into my body.

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prominent placement, in our home and otherwise

I found a few recipes and decided to just go for it. Butter, sugar, marshmallows, corn syrup melty goo. What could go wrong? I added ingredients with giddy abandon. Easy and fun. But once the goo hit the popcorn and it all just shimmered and sogged into a pile. Nothing sticky, nothing ballesque. Damnit. But holy hell was that failed ball tasty. A salty sweet molten pile of decadence and no children to want a bite. Andy and I finally had that elusive moment to talk about our days over the last sips of our wine as we spooned spooned sugary, wilty popcorn into our faces.

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We started over, opting for peanut butter popcorn balls and following a recipe. Pushing the gooey popcorn aside for the chickens (one more bite), "the chickens will go bananas over this," we said (one more bite).

Margot was very asleep then. Andy's and I laughed and sculpted treats for our oldest daughter and her classmates. We kissed, said we couldn't believe she was almost four. Piled the peanut butter popcorn balls in a bowl, walked away from the mess and fell into bed. Our home. Our growing kids. Our sticky sweet life.

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ps randomly selected $50 Lava Lake winner: Lexie said...I think I changed my mind: the wool bracelet is my new favorite Lava Lake item. And I liked them on Facebook. I am crossing my fingers!

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all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from Vanns.com

12.13.2011

giggling pile

Throughout my days I make notes of things I love: stuff my kids say, a way a person interacted with me, how I feel, things I learn, thoughts, what I aspire to. These items fuel my passions, my work and my life. Also, it is just a compulsion of mine.

Writing it down is part of me. I tumble through thoughts into words and hurl the mass into space. I don't expect anything from it. There is no end, no resolution. Just chapters. I need it. I've always been this way.

I've had times before when my list of notes of things I want to write about grows unruly like late summer  spotted knapweed, threatening to scatter seed with the wild wind. But I honestly don't ever remember feeling this "behind." I put behind in quotes because saying it sounds silly. Behind of what? Why, my own agenda of course.

Thing is, right now I am full of so many stories, patterns, ideas. I want to purge it all but feel bound up by the mass of information I contain. What do I let go of? What do I explore? When the hell do I do any of it?

I feel like a walking metaphor. 

I know this time in life is busy, for everyone. It just is. The thirties are when kids are young, careers are growing, interests crisp into focus. It is when we commit to the kind of friend we are and what kind of friends we want. It is when we decide, like thoughtfully decide, how we spend our time. We learn to own our choices, to mean what we say, to say no, to say yes. People we love get injured and sick more often; mortality feels less fuzzy, not at all abstract. We learn that we create our life, that we are wholly responsible for our perspective. 

So I was just pulled away for a good bit by Margot who shrieked, "Hey mom! Count to seven and see if you can find daddy, Ruby and me!" I stomped around, growling like a monster and found them, a giggling pile, under a fort made of every article of clothing and blanket in our home. Where was I? 

Oh yeah. 

A few things I like:

:: Margot and Ruby visited Santa.

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Margot hopped up all smiles.

Santa: Hello. And what would you like for Christmas?
Margot: First, what is your middle name please?
Santa: Er, um, well I don't, um, have a middle name.
Margot. Huh. Well, I would just really like a new puppy like Trixie. Here is a card I made for you. It says "Happy birthday Santa. I love you."

:: My new mug, a gift. Oh how I love a mug with a good feel, not too big and a light-colored interior.

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artist: Audrey Rosulek

:: Collecting eggs with Ruby.

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:: Moving past that horribly uncomfortable, pukey, writhing overwhelmed feeling. I wrote about it in this week's mama digs: braless and running. Thankfully I have since showered. Oofta.

:: Morning tea and books.

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:: Our friends' annual cookie decorating party.

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:: New sponsors with knock-your-socks-off jewelry. I am blown away by the detail, craftsmanship and uniqueness of Lava Lake. I was excited by Betsy's interesting, edgy designs when we first started corresponding and was really impressed once I got my hands on a few pairs of her earrings. Every little bit is hand-formed (soldered and hammered) with exquisite detail. Really, red lipstick and big earrings are my only accessories. Behold, my new favorite ear bobs, the ones that get all sorts of whistles and remarks.

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These badass earrings are $20. DEAL. I additionally adore the pet tags, cuff links and rings. Oh those rings! (edited to add: a photo of me in the earrings -- to give you an idea of length)

For chance to win a $50 gift certificate to Lava Lake: 1. Visit Lave Lake. 2. Leave a comment on this post naming your favorite item. 3. For a bonus entry, like Lava Lake on facebook and leave another comment here stating you did. Randomly selected winner announced in the next post!

:: All the good people who came out to shop local last Sunday at the MADE fair. It was a great day. Also, thank you to those who brought Food Bank donations! I really loved collecting food and making that delivery.

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:: Spontaneous "camping." We strung lights, stayed up late reading books and then the girls slept together in a pile of sleeping bags, blankets and pillows on the floor. 

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We add a book to our winter/holiday collection every year. This year, we added The Story of the Snow Children

OK, chickens. Off to bed now or maybe I should work on Margot's birthday present? She turns four on Sunday, you know. Four.


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all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from Vanns.com

12.06.2011

hump day nuggets: bright spots

nuggets: little bit of the season in photos and words

Hard for me to start with anything other than:

The MADE fair is this weekend.

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I am so honored to be a part of this awesome, hip, fun event. There, one will surely find:

* Handmade objects that, when purchased, will directly impact Montana families.
* Cheer.
* Santa.
* Me and my stuff, other people and their stuff.

In other businessy news I will take etsy orders until this Friday and then will be closing shop until January! I feel like putting 17 exclamation points after that sentence!! I love my work and I am looking forward to a holiday. I am certain I will have leftover inventory after this weekend (where I will be finally, officially debuting women's skirts!) and will host a facebook sale next week. 

Also, you and people you know can get 20% off your purchase all day (at my booth).


I spent too much time unsuccessfully designing a cool coupon for you to print out and use. I called it quits and went to bed last night where I had a brilliant idea: your "coupon" is food. Bring two or more non-perishable donations for the Missoula Food Bank to fetch your 20% off deal. They are particularly in need of whole grains and cereal.

nuggets.

:: Ruby really likes tea. Gulps it like thirsty hiker at a stream, not taking appropriate caution for giardia. That metaphor might be a bit much but I have so been that hiker before.

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I made this cup when I was 16! 

:: We made gingerbread cookies and, with no men cookie cutters in our home, we cut eggs, pumpkins, cows, snowflakes, cats, trees and chickens.

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:: Little bits of crafting and gift making happening all over our home. I love those messes.

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bathing suit over dress is where it's at, don'tyouknow


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:: When Alice sweetly cradles sticks in her paws like this, my cheeks ache with love.

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:: The snow is slow to come around here this year but every little bright bit is encouraging.

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:: Ruby played on a blanket island while I worked yesterday. I sat on that same blanket last night while I wrote my mama digs. It is a whole, random mess of words that do not fit tidily into an essay and yet it all weaves one big, hairy afghan of this mama, today. Speaking of hairy things, that blanket is in the washing machine right this minute. Click to read mama digs: this mama, today.

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Happy hump day out there. Wishing you a day filled with pockets of light and love.

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all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from Vanns.com
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