Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye Christmas, Hello 2016

We are one week post Christmas Eve.  Things are settling down.  Tomorrow all the decorations will go back in the crawl space (not gonna lie I would have taken the tree down days ago but am making myself wait until New Years Day for the kids).  Our Christmas was happy.  Our Christmas was sad.  A beautiful blend of magic and traditions along with loss and a funeral.  On Christmas Eve my lovely grandma passed away.  She was my favorite grandma.  The one whose house we loved going to when we were little because it was full of toys and trinkets.  She was a die hard thrift store shopper so there were always treasures to be found at her house.  She was the one who was at all the birthday parties of my childhood,  at the hospital to welcome my babies and could always make you smile. She was an amazing woman and I am so proud to be her granddaughter.  As we gathered with cousins, aunts, uncles and friends to say goodbye and share memories you could see how many lives she touched.  She was the one who always brought us all together and this Christmas she finally got us in the same place again.  She would have been so happy to see this and I know in a way, she did.  After all the tears we sat around in a cheesy pizza joint laughing and sharing in the common love of family.  A beautiful celebration of her wonderful life.  

Even with loss, life goes on as usual.  Christmas was my grandma's favorite time of year so she wouldn't have wanted us to be sad throughout it.  She would want us to live it up so we made sure to do that.  In our house things begin on Christmas Eve with Matt's parents. A full Lebanese dinner and then gifts...

Feeling extra sentimental about grandparents this year and happy that the girls are fortunate to have four wonderful ones.  

Later that evening before going to bed, we spread reindeer food in the driveway and put cookies out in anticipation of Santa's arrival...

Oh, how I remember the excitement of going to bed on Christmas Eve...knowing something magical was about to happen.  Waking the next morning unable to even contain my excitement to see what Santa brought.  We are right on the edge of the girls still believing and each year I am grateful for their innocence.  Their energy is contagious and makes Christmas morning such fun.
Santa brought the girls an avocado plant from Mexico.  They were pretty excited since they have been trying unsuccessfully to grow one.  Silly guy even put big avocados in the bottom of their stockings.  

My favorite part of the day was how the girls were just as excited, if not more, to give us our gifts.  I love that we have instilled the importance of giving in them.  To see the thoughtfulness and time they put into making these gifts.  

Ava made me prayer flags for my mediation area.  Seriously.  Best gift I got.  She is the coolest chick.

The celebrating continued as we made our way over the river and through the woods to my parents house.  To gather with all the cousins and my sisters.  To sit under the tree where I have spent every Christmas and watch my dad play Santa Claus and hand out gifts to everyone there.

Not a Christmas has gone by that my sisters and I haven't all been at my parents house exchanging gifts.  It has changed and the family has grown over the years, but we are always there.  This year with one sister traveling from out of town and the other getting ready to leave town it was a quick hour we were all there.  What a wonderful hour it was.  

We went home Christmas evening exhausted from the days festivities.  I crawled into bed feeling happy and content from a beautiful holiday.

Now it is New Year's Eve.  The last day of 2015.  I love a new year, a fresh start.  I don't think about it as making resolutions that will only last a couple weeks.  I like to think of it as an opportunity to reflect on the past year and to set intentions for the new one.  I like the idea of intentions rather than resolutions.  I will write all of mine down in my journal because I don't think they need to be shared here.  By writing them down I feel like I will be more committed to them.  They will help start 2016 to be the best year.  I love the feelings a new year brings.  As the Christmas decorations come down tomorrow, life will calm and settle into a slow winter routine.  A time to reflect on the intentions made.  I love January for this.  

And, because it means a brand new day planner needs to be bought.  Matt reminded me I could just use the planner on my phone, but I'm old school.  I get all nerdy about day planners and can't wait to pick out the perfect one for 2016.

Happy New Year friends.  I hope it's the best yet.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tis the Season.

We are settling quite nicely into one of my favorite times of the year.  The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, the halls have been decked with boughs and holly and Jack Frost has been nipping at my nose.  Well, not really that last one, it's actually been quite mild for December.  But, the rest?  The rest is all true...we are in the middle of the most wonderful time of the year.

There are so many things I love about the holidays.  I'm a traditions girl and this time of year is all about that.  Traditions we've created over the years for our family that we look forward to each year.  Making memories I hold close to my heart.  For me it is about these special moments we have together.  Some people get frantic this time of year.  It certainly is easy to get caught up in the chaos...you can feel it in the stores, you can sense it from those around you trying to cram it all in, buy all the gifts, get to all the parties.  When I feel myself getting lost in it, I take a breath and focus on my holiday mantra...keep it simple and remember what it really means to us.  The memory making, the traditions....

Getting our Christmas Tree

Except for a few years here and there we've always headed to the mountains to chop down our tree.  There were the years we didn't live in Montana so it simply wasn't possible, the years when the babies were too little to trek out to the mountains and the one year we decided it would be easier to go to a local farm and pay to cut one of their trees.  After that $75 mistake we vowed we  would only go to the mountains and pay the five dollar permit to get our trees.  Hyalite Canyon is generally our choice and this year the day was perfect.  Bright blue skies, warm sun, fresh snow and numerous perfect-for-a-mountain-tree trees.  Throw in some sledding and hot cocoa and what we have here is a perfect tradition for the memory bank.
Once we have our tree we put it up in the garage for a week and let it thaw out a bit.  This is because I like to spread the traditions out throughout the season.  We can't get the tree and decorate it on the same day.  No, no, no.  We add to the anticipation by waiting until the next weekend.  Then it's time to deck the halls.

Decorations
The Christmas station on Pandora gets worn out the day we decorate the tree.  There really are only a handful of songs that are played over and over by various artists in various versions.  Some find that annoying, I find it part of the charm.  And the best because then you totally know all the words for singing.  Anyways...the tubs of decorations come out and the girls and I get busy while Matt observes and throws on the occasional ornament.  The girls start putting things in crazy places and I try to stay calm and remember having it look like Christmas threw up all over my living room is part of the fun. Years from now I can have all the decorations be in what I consider the right place and I can cut out half of the snowmen that need to be put on the mantle.  For now I want to see it from their carefree eyes.

Festivities
From the Christmas Stroll to the Nutcracker to school holiday programs to office parties.  December is full, but it is the good kind.  The kind that is perfectly balanced with lazy weekends.  It means one night we get dressed up, leave the girls with grandma and drink wine late into the night with friends and the next we stay in pajamas and all snuggle on the couch watching Miracle on 34th Street.  It means rather than going to every event that goes on this month, we pick the ones we love the most and say no thanks to the rest.  The ones we never miss are watching Santa light the downtown decorations and hot cocoa at the Stroll. 

Cookies
Baking and decorating cookies has been a tradition I've done with my mom and sisters long before we had kids.  It is one I treasure even more now that I get to have them be a part of it.  Cousins, sprinkles, frosting, sugar, laughter, more sprinkles pretty much sums it up.
This year the kids made gingerbread houses.  They worked on them for hours.  Each kid had dreamed up such a different idea and I was  impressed with how they turned out.  This crew is something else.  

There is more to come.  A couple more weeks to squeeze in more memories.  Driving around to check out Christmas lights, making reindeer food, wrapping presents and more holiday movies to be watched.  There is family to be with and old friends coming to town.  There are cookies and notes to be left for Santa and as Ava says "the magic feeling of waking up on Christmas morning".  These are the things I want them to take from the holidays...the magical feeling of the season.  The family time, the love, the traditions.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Yoga and Running...a Yin and Yang Relationship.

I haven't been running lately.  It used to be three days a week, no excuses.  Well, maybe an occasional one because of frigid cold mornings or snowstorms, I'm not that die hard.  Montana winters aside, for the most part I have been a very dedicated runner.  Several months ago I tweaked something in my hip.  I didn't think much of it, as a runner I've had various injuries that go away after a bit of rest.  This time I tried everything...rest, icing, ibuprofen, physical therapy and recently a full on running hiatus (going on week three-insert saddy face emojoi).  Nothing seems to be helping.  I am still hopeful.  Because of the running hiatus I have been doing a lot more yoga and meditation which used to just be a beautiful balance to my running.  The yin and yang of my overall health and mental sanity.  I've noticed a struggle with meditating and yoga that previously was going so smoothly...no longer able to focus on the present and quiet my mind.  Today I thought about grabbing my mat and heading to the yoga studio and then realized my heart wasn't in it.  Instead I grabbed my hiking shoes and headed to the nearest mountain.  As I started up the trail, my heart began to pump harder, moving heat throughout my body.  It didn't take long to realize what had been missing.  With all the yoga and meditation I had plenty of yin.  But, I needed my yang.

Hiking is not the same as running but today it was close enough.  Today I found that although so very different, I need the balance of yoga/meditation with running/hiking for so many reasons. 

Breathing.  When running or hiking I am outside.  I push myself and begin breathing hard but I don't have to focus on it.  In yoga it is all about the breath...concentrating on each inhale and exhale.  Feeling it fully go through you and releasing all the stale air.  Hiking the breath is just as important but there is no need to focus on it, your body knows what to do.  Just breath.  Taking in a deep breath means filling up with crisp fresh air and feeling it invigorate you.  Rather than the big yoga inhales and the shared air of those next to you.  This breath is still good...the collective energy of a room of yogi's.  Just different.  I want both.   

Thoughts.  In yoga and meditation the focus is on the present moment.  If thoughts come into your mind, as they always do, you are to gently push them away and bring yourself back to your mat.  I was having so many successful meditations and then in the last month I simply could not quiet my mind.  On the trail today I knew why.  When running or hiking I allow all my thoughts to go wild.  Nothing is off limits...from deep thoughts that have been weighing on my mind to silly little things like what I should wear to work the next day.  I let them go crazy...one thought leading right into the next without any rhyme or reason.  By spending so much time meditating and concentrating on staying present I haven't allowed my thoughts to be free like they need to be sometimes so when it comes to quieting things down they can chill out.  It was so freeing to let my mind release on the trail, as it always does on a run.  This has been missing on my running hiatus.  Two totally different ways of finding calm and peace but like the yin and yang...they need each other.

Strength.  Found in both yoga and running.  One as you push yourself to put one foot in front of the other.  The other feeling solid as you go through your tenth chaturanga of the class...arms strong, core tight, everything working head to two.  I want to be strong, physically and mentally, for myself, for my family.  I need the strength I pull from both...I simply can't get it from one.

Peace.  Calm.  Happiness.  The things everyone is seeking.  These create a good life.  A healthy life.  Whether I'm saying namaste at the end of a class or slowing my heart down at the end of an awesome run these things fill my body and soul.  I carry them with me throughout the day and come back to them when things get hectic or I feel down.  

After my hike today I know how badly I need the combination.  I need the running to blend with the yoga...I cannot do one without the other.  I am hopeful I will have it again.  

I need to stand in mountain pose while atop a mountain.  

Namaste.  


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Happies.

I haven't been writing lately.  Not sure why.  I could easily blame it on being busy with the kids back in school and working a lot and on and on.  However, when I really need/want to write I always make the time.  At night after the kids go to bed, a spare hour in the afternoon before I pick them up.  I'm trying to figure out if it's because I don't want to or I'm just at a loss as to what to say.  I may never know why, but I do know today I have the whole day free.  With that I decided I need to make myself sit down and write.  See what comes out.  Usually when I do this I don't do it in this space.  But, if I don't do it here then what's the point of still having the blog?  If I just want to journal I can do that.  This is a space for memories and a creative outlet.  I need to see if I still want it to be that for me.  So, here we go.  

Sometimes when I have no place to begin I like to make a list.  It organizes my thoughts and then suddenly things flow.  Today it will be things I'm feeling happy about.  In this moment.

Yoga.  
Last night Matt and I got the opportunity to go to a yoga class together.  It's something we both enjoy separately and once in a while we get to enjoy it together.  It's funny, during a class it's not like we get to hang out or talk.  However, there is something about having his energy there that makes me very happy.  After we both had the chill, zen feeling you get after a class so we continued our date night to a wine bar for some dessert.  It wasn't this big fancy evening out, but it was perfect just the way it was.  For a bonus, I went to a class this morning.  Yoga makes me very happy.  

Cousin time. 
Last week my sister was here for a few days.  That meant we got the gang back together. As a big family we don't get together very often.  Everyone busy in their own lives with thier little families so when the opportunity arose to hang out we all took advantage.  Spending the warm afternoons watching the kiddos play and the evenings having family dinners.  It was so very nice to see how happy this makes the girls and reminds me that it's all about quality of time together as a family, not quantity.

Fall.
Oh my goodness has it been lovely this October.  Warm, sunny days and glorious colors all over.  Never one to be crazy about this season, this year I seem to have gotten a bit of a crush on fall.  Perhaps because there have been a couple 80-degree day tossed in...it feels like summer getting stretched out.  I totally dig that.  We've been trying to take advantage by going to our favorite park where mature trees can be found making piles of leaves easy to make and jump in...

We brought a picnic, a blanket and a couple books.  All afternoon was spent watching the girls make piles, jump in and repeat.  Lazily reading books and watching everyone else strolling through the park looking equally thrilled to be outside on such a beautiful Saturday.  Feeling lucky to be a part of it.  

Other days seeking out the best hikes and trails for fall colors.  Maple trees are a favorite of mine with their bright red and orange but it's the golden leaves of the Aspen tree groves that make my heart sing...

Oh my.

Do-overs.
Parenting is hard.  Wife-ing is hard (totally made that word up, but go with it).  These two things are so important to me.  They are things I feel like I can be really good at and feel proud about.  However, some days I totally fail.  I get easily irritated and push away my sweet husband for no good reason.  I lose my temper and yell at the girls or let my frustration show.  It never used to be a big deal for my frustration to come out, but now my tender hearted, sensitive girls can sense it and then they end up feeling bad.  Last night while struggling through some 5th grade math I didn't have my best mom moment.  I was trying to rush her through because we were on a time crunch.  We had dinner plans and then Matt and I were supposed to go out after.  Knowing the date would have to be put on hold if homework wasn't done and desperately craving that one on one time with him.  Looking at the problems and knowing how easy it was to solve 146 x 7 but the way they wanted her to do it made zero sense.  Googling it and still feeling like I was reading another language so not knowing how to help her.  Her frustrated to the point of tears and my impatience showing adding to her anguish.  Matt coming home and taking my frustration straight out on him.  Struggling to find our happy family rhythm so we could make it out the door.  Finally listening to the words he was saying and letting that voice of reason calm us all.  Allowing the time to ease the struggle away and finally seeing her smile and giggle and all of us relax.  Letting go and leaving the girls with grandparents so we could take the ever important time to ourselves, but coming home earlier enough to give her extra hugs and kisses before she drifted off to sleep.  Telling her tomorrow was a new day, a fresh start and a chance to handle things better.  Telling her this but knowing it was really for me.  I needed to remind myself that I didn't do my best but I can't go back and change it.  What I can do is admit I didn't handle things well, but tomorrow would be another chance.  A do-over.  The beauty of a new day.

Halloween.
This is a holiday that is so fun as a child, okay throughout the teen and twenties and then becomes awesome again when you have your own kids.  School age kids in particular.  They love, love, love the make believe-candy-creepy world of Halloween.  And, it is contagious.  We've been busy visiting the pumpkin patch, crafting costumes and planning our annual party with the family.  

It is the kick-off of the holiday trifecta.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.  Let the fun begin.  

This.
I wasn't sure what would come when I opened up a blank page on my computer today.  I had no intention of what I felt like writing about I just knew I needed to try.  I thought nothing would come out and I'm so happy it did.  It simply flowed and I am filled with the peace that comes when I get this outlet.  Sometimes you just have to start and let it go where it goes.  

Happy day to you.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Final Summer Hike.

Today is the last day of summer.  Officially.  I'm not sure why I think each new season should be treated like a holiday.  I love the changes they bring.  Each one, even winter, my least favorite.  They signify a change for me.  A fresh start four times a year.  The last few days have continued to feel very summer like.  A few trees have leaves turning brilliant colors, but for the most part summer is still in the air.  Before the weather begins to turn crisp, I had one last thing on my summer bucket list.  Last weekend we took care of it.  It looked something like this...

Sitting atop a mountain peak after a kid-less hike with my guy.  

(It may have been summer in the valley, but it felt very much like winter at 8,914 ft)

Our relationship began in a dorm room but it flourished in the mountains.  As young college students we didn't have much money and what we did have most often was spent on cheap food and beer.  For entertainment we'd head to nearest trail and hike for hours.  Learning all about one another in the way being out in nature allows you to.  Sometimes it was a hike up to a peak, pushing ourselves to the top.  Sometimes with packs on our backs  with tents and dehydrated food for dinner so we could carry our adventures through the night.  I can't think of a better foundation to a relationship than hours spent in the mountains and on the trails.  Now, years later our world is full of distraction.  Kids, work, family, life, not to mention the constant distraction of technology...cell phones always beeping with text messages, social media notifications and phone calls.  Our opportunity to get away from all of this is simple...head back to where it began.  Once a summer we've tried to make sure we get in a hike, just the two of us.  Not only because we want a bigger challenge than our girls are ready for, but because it is us.  

Over the years we've slowly been making our way to each peak in the Bridger range.  They are the most prominent mountains in our valley...in view from anywhere in town.  There's something that I love about looking up at the top of a mountain and knowing I have stood there.  There's something about the perspective of seeing how small our town is when looking at it from above.  We've gone on a lot of gorgeous hikes that don't end at the top of a mountain, but I love the goal of seeing a peak and reaching the top of it.  For this hike we had our sights set on Baldy Mountain, the second lowest peak in the Bridger range, but one of the harder ones to get to.  Last summer we made our first attempt, but didn't allow ourselves enough daylight and didn't make it.  This year we headed out early.  The morning air still had a chill to it as we made our way to the popular M trail head which is the beginning.  Quickly after passing that popular destination the trail quieted down and we settled into our groove.  A mix of mindless chatter, deeper conversations and silence.  It's a nice balance.  The quiet giving each of us the opportunity to take in the peace you get from a solo hike balanced with the chance to talk without kid/phone/life interruptions.  Lunch was right before we made the final ascent to the peak, knowing the wind would be crazy at the top.  We found a place behind some rocks sheltered from the cold, re-fueled and then headed up, up, up.    

The final bit is my favorite.  You are so close.  Legs so tired, yet feeling strong from the  previous 5+ miles.  And then finally the top comes in sight, you drop your pack, catch your breath and take it in.  Not even bothered by anyone else up there because you know they feel the same high you do by reaching the top.  Taking in the views that surround you.  A whole new perspective of the world you live in day to day.  Adding all the layers you took off during the hike up because the fifty per mile wind is a bit much.  Breathing in deep.  Soaking it up.  Man, if I could just bottle the feeling of peace and calm I get sitting there.  

Staying up there for as long as we could take the wind and cold before retracing our steps back down where we had been moments before.  Warming up as we got out of the wind.  Turning around every so often to look at the peak once more and thinking, dang...cannot believe we were just up there...look how high it is!  Walking slowly down the steep and rocky trail, knowing it was going to be harder than going up...knees aching, toes crunched to the top of your boots.  The talk turns light on the way down, proud and pumped up from what was just done.  Deciding which brewery we should hit up on the way home for a celebratory beer.  Starting to get tired about halfway...knees really aching from all the down and knowing there was still a ways to go but there was no other choice.  That's the joy of hiking...sometimes it's hard...but always so good.  

Days later my legs are still sore.  All the hiking we do throughout the summer doesn't prepare you for a longer steep one like this.  The aches are beautiful reminders of the adventure we had.  I don't mind it one bit, it's a reminder that they are strong.  Strong enough to push you up to the top of a mountain and back down again.  This was a very good way to wrap up the last weekend of summer.  Now it's time for things to turn cozy.  Things like pumpkin bread, nature walks to check out the fall colors and preserving vegetables from the garden.  Things like quiet weekends at home after full weeks of school.  Fresh starts for a new season.  Welcome Fall.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Farewell Summer Vacation.

It feels as if the last few weeks of summer slipped right through our fingertips.  One moment we were in full vacation mode...bike picnics and swimming pools, and the next it's all back packs and school supplies.  In an instant our routines shifted.  No more late summer nights...they've been replaced with early bedtimes.  Part of this makes me sad.  I love the carefree nature of schedule free summers.  I love seeing the girls become each others best friends during these three months because they play together morning til night.  I like seeing them smile and laugh with no cares in the world.  After just the supply drop off at school, days before it actually began, I saw Ava withdraw.  It didn't last long, soon her happy smile came back, but for about an hour she closed up.  Guarding herself after being back at school.  These are the things that bum me out.  That and of course no longer having my girls to hang with.  Even if it's just running errands I like having them around.  I am not the mom who was high-fiving everyone on the first day of school cheering that they were back (Not that I'm judging...she's a single mom of four plus a student herself she deserves all the high-fives and cheers).  However, I know the change in routine is good.  The fresh start of the upcoming season is what we all need.  It can't all be freezer pop stands and lounging in the hammock.  In fact I know we need the change to catch our breath from trying to cram all things summer in.  There's no more concern of we need to go camp one more time, we need to take the paddleboard out on one last float, we need to squeeze in one more trip to the pool.  It's time to take a breath and enjoy September and the coming of fall.  To let the summer fun become memories and move on to the next.  I'm not quite ready to let it go.  I will miss...

Hikes to mountain lakes-

Of course we will hike throughout the winter.  Scramble up ice and snow covered trails in the cool fresh air.  But it is simply not the same as a summer hike with the sun beating on your shoulders and a hot puppy jumping in the cold lake at the end.  

Music in the Mountains and farmer's markets-



Our community comes alive in during the warm months.  There is no lack of things to do after work and since there are no such thing as bedtimes in the summer we can go without care.  Packing up dinner and heading to Big Sky to listen to live music became a Thursday night favorite.  Searching for ice cream and fresh veggies at the Farmer's Market another.  I love these things that only come around a few months of the year.  As the weather turns we will spend more time tucked inside our home.  I enjoy this coziness a ton, but will miss the long evenings spent outside as long as the sun was out. 

Ice cream, ice cream and more ice cream.

Summertime is a free pass when it comes to ice cream.  We made more trips than I can count to the new ice cream truck downtown.  Middle of the day, after dinner...anytime seemed like appropriate ice cream time.  And, because they have a flavor called Cup-o-Joe with Heath bits in it, I was all about it.  Yum.  

Wearing swimsuits all day-


If there's water involved, we are all in.  A good majority of our activities revolved around finding some way to get in the water.  One of my favorite weekends this summer was camping at our favorite lake...when swimsuits were worn for two full days.  The water is calming to me and makes our little fish so happy.  Throw in some mountains and we're golden. 

Now we shift.  We trade our flip flops for closed toed shoes.  We are here...

Third and fifth graders.  It will be Ava's last year at elementary school.  When did that happen?!  I swear I was just one of those crying kindergarten parents snapping photos while trying to conceal the tears under big sunglasses.  I always say it's bitter sweet...bitter because it goes all too fast and sweet because seeing them grow more independent each year is such a privilege.  I always feel a little lost the first couple days of this new routine.  I feel lonely on a run after a summer of having the girls with me on the trail.  I may be alone but I always have them with me...

Searching and adding heart rocks to the pile since they aren't there to do it with me.  

Farewell summer.  Thank you for another beautiful season.  I am filled with gratitude for the sunshine we got, the warm air, the time in the mountains.  

Welcome September...we're ready for ya.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My First Music Festival, Walla Walla Wine Country and a 15 Year Celebration.

This past weekend was a celebration.  In a few days it will be our 15 year wedding anniversary.  Three years of dating, fifteen years of marriage, two children,three different cities, one dog and the same cat through it all.  We were just kids when we met...18 year olds ready to take on the world.  What a journey it has been.  To celebrate we decided to have ourselves a little weekend journey.  As with most journeys, adventures were had.

Never ones to shy away from an excuse to get away and celebrate we started making anniversary plans months ago.  Both of us are the type of people who like to have something to look forward to.  We went from thinking of heading to a yoga retreat in northern California, to maybe a road trip to Seattle or a hiking and camping somewhere along the Pacific Crest Trail.  Talk about ideas from all extremes.  One thing we both kept searching for was some sort of music concert...something to give us a reason to choose a destination.  Searching our favorite bands only to find they were playing in places too far from home.  One day I stumbled across a music festival put on by Mumford and Sons.  The Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Event.  It was for two days, affordable, within driving distance and had things we both loved...wine country for me and Foo Fighters headlining one night for Matt.  The tickets were bought that very night and the planning began.  This was to be my first big music festival.  As the trip approached I got nervous.  The thought of camping with thousands of people and watching these big name bands with as many people as live in Bozeman made me anxious.  I'm all about live music but have always preferred small venues.  However...tickets had been bought, girls were with Grandma, tent was in the car...I pushed my worries aside and we were off.

The festival was in Walla Walla Washington, a small town neither of us had ever been too. Once we got off the main highway we found ourselves traveling through miles and miles of golden wheat fields with nothing but the occasional car, the smokey haze in the background, and the car telling us it was 106-degrees outside.  After a bit of unease with the lack of cell service and water we finally rolled into Walla Walla.  Our plan was to be in town a couple days before the festival.  Two days for my version of the trip...a hotel room, good meals and visits to the local vineyards.  I'm so glad we did it this way.  It was nice to be there before the influx of festival goers got to town.  This gave us an opportunity to get into the good restaurants everyone was telling us to go to.  Because as it turned out once the town doubled in population the wait for most places was at least 2 hours.  Instead we got to walk right in and enjoy the local cuisine.  Even better for us was our very first night we ran into the nicest locals.  This town is named the friendliest city and they did not disappoint.  After making instant new friends with this couple (who happen to visit Bozeman once a year...love that!) we learned all the best places to go and added them to our list of things to see.  Continuing with my part of the trip I took advantage the next two days of trying lots of wine...

and taking in the beautiful scenery.  Something about vineyards I find so peaceful.
The bonus was enjoying a soft bed and indoor plumbing knowing things were going to change once we checked out of the hotel.  

Onto part two.  A music festival like this is unlike anything I've ever experienced.  I will be forever grateful to have gotten the opportunity to do so.  Some of it was not great for me.  A lot of it took me out of my comfort zone.  I would do it again in a minute.

We headed to the camping area to set up our tents as soon as they opened it up.  In my planning personality going early for this was totally good for me.  As we pulled into a giant dirt field we saw people already lining up with all their camping things.  Now, I am a Montana girl through and through and have no problem roughing it and camping.  However I have never stood in line, had someone go through my camp things, taken a pedi-cab (cost was $15 plus a beer)...

and then waited in another line for someone to mark off our 12x12 square of camping area.  As I watched more and more (approximately 7,000 to be exact) people begin setting up tents as far as we could see I knew I was in for something different.

This is where I could have began freaking out about what we were doing.  However, we were too busy making new friends with our very close tent neighbors.  Traveling nurses who we'd met in line and who had previously been to a GOTR Stopover event like this, a couple from Seattle who were hilarious and a doctor and his wife, who like us had left kids with grandma to come kick back.  These people became our group over the next couple of days.  Not in the annoying we have to hang out the whole time and have meals with way but in the let's have some beers outside our tiny tent area while waiting for the nights bands to begin.  Finding out things about other peoples lives in the chill way you can when you know you will probably never see them again.  Bonding over your love of music and life and everyone being in the happiest of moods because how could you not.  It's weird meeting and connecting people with like that.  A brief passing.  As I was tyring to explain how much I loved this to Matt on the way home he described it best with a quote he heard..."We're all just supporting cast members in each others lives".  I love this.  These people were just a moment in our adventure but will permanently be a part of our story and memories of this time.  These were great people...kind, generous and always looking for you with a duck sign so we could find each other in the crowd.  

The first night of the festival was Foo Fighters and Matt was beside himself about this.  He's a longtime fan.  I will admit their music freaks me out.  What's with all the screaming?  Why are you all so angry?  I don't get it.  Because of these preconceived notions I really wasn't excited to find ourselves in the middle of the audience so close to the stage with 22,000 people around us.  Right before they took the stage, Matt could tell I wasn't going to be able to handle it.  I really wanted to be okay with it...wanting Matt to get the experience to see close up one of his favorites.  We moved to the side, still close and I tried really hard to be okay with the pushing, shoving, and a head banging Dave Grohl on stage.  I wish I could have, but again best husband ever knows me better and we moved back further.  Finally with air to breath, a fresh perspective and reassurance from Matt that he didn't care where we watched (he was probably totally lying about that but I will be forever grateful for his thoughtfulness to me), I was able to relax.  I was able to enjoy the passion that this band has for their music.  I took in the screaming, head banging (which I still don't understand), the lights and the fans enthusiasm.  It was contagious and that night, I became a Foo Fighters fan as well.  I mean the dude played on a throne with a broken leg and it didn't slow him down at all.  That is passion.  This first night was up and down for me.  The realizing once we got back to the tent that no one apparently sleeps at festivals  was tough for me.  I woke up the next morning after little sleep with mixed feelings.  Part of me wanting to say, this is not for me and head out of town.  Part of me knowing this new day could be amazing.  Not wanting to end the adventure I bought some ear plugs, sleeping pills and was ready to rock day two of the festival.  

Day two we got to see things more my speed.  The  smaller bands took the main stage during the day, a few I was really excited about.  Instead of worrying about getting trampled in the crowd we could sit in the sunshine close to the stage and really enjoy the shows.

I loved everything about this part.  (Two new favorites are Jenny Lewis and Dawes...both are so good).  Then it was back to the "campground" to have a few beers with our festival neighbors before the big show that night.  (Pre-funking was absolutely necessary with beers $10 a piece once inside the venue!)  For Mumford and Sons that evening the whole group decided to watch the show further back...away from the people who had been staking out their spot since the early morning in front of the stage.  Their performance was off the hook.  

Two hours of amazing music, the best vibe from the crowd and happiness all around.  At one point they had everyone take out their phones and turn on the flashlight...it lit up the venue...such a sight to behold.  Over twenty five thousand people with good energy and making memories that I'm sure will stick with all.  As I crashed out that night (and actually slept!) I felt so glad we had stuck it out and experienced the full festival...with all it's ups and downs.  

Early Sunday we woke and afraid of getting trapped in the parking lot with everyone else taking down camp we decided to get out then.  Quietly packing our stuff and trekking across the golf course with our things while many still dozed and a few others had the same idea as us.  Gone was the jovial mood and energy of the previous couple of days and in it's place was looks of getting back into the real world.  No one looked ready to leave it.  For the first hour in the car, winding through beautiful wheat fields, watching the sun rise above the hills giving a golden glow, Matt and I didn't say much.  Not quite ready to let go of the feelings of vacation or to speak of all the experiences.  Letting it all soak into our own minds and processing what we wanted to take away from it.  Once the coffee kicked in the reminiscing began, the chatter of what fun had been had, the friends we had met, the music we had experienced.  Both of us knowing it had been a wonderful adventure.  Another one to add to the many memories we have had together.  Another one to be so grateful for.  

As a first time festival goer, I didn't know what to expect.  Now I know all you need to expect is to have a good time.  To go into it with your mind wide open.  To soak it up because all too quickly it is over.  And, to always bring ear plugs and sleeping pills.  It was my first...it will not be my last.  

I even told Matt that I'd see Foo Fighters again if given the chance.  However, I'll still be a little scared of all the screaming and head banging.  

Happy fifteen years to us.  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Catch-Up

This space has been quiet.  In between doing all things summer I've had some other writing commitments.  With the long days getting our girls to bed rarely happens before 9 so the energy to sit down and write after that just doesn't happen.  This is okay.  It's an ebb and flow and if I can't find time to document our memories right now it's because we are simply so busy making them.  Since we returned from Florida we have been in full-on, cram it all in, summer mode.  I love this.  In summers past I get a bit panicked...really filling up every second because I know around here summer is fleeting.  This year I didn't want to add stress to what is supposed to be the most carefree time so I made the conscious decision to really  take things one day at a time.  Stay focused on the present and do things that make us happy not things that we should be doing because it's summer.  I have found we do all the things we love just without me acting like a crazed event planner.  How we do summer around here...

Mid-Week Hikes with my Girls-

Last summer the girls and I got into the routine of taking a hike each week.  We never went far, just a nice mid-week hike when the trails were uncrowded, leaving big hikes for when Matt could join us.  I treasured these moments and am so grateful they are into it again.  The conversations on the trail are always easy.  There are no sister fights.  Seriously, none.  When we get to our destination their imaginations run wild and suddenly they are making fishing poles out of sticks and catching fish (rocks) and making shelters (bushes) because they are hikers who got stranded.  I don't fit into this play world, I get the luxury of being an observer of it.  If there is one thing they take from me as they grow into young women it's the importance of getting away from everything to find themselves.  Hiking and camping does this for me.  It may not be the same for them, but I hope they find what does.

Camping-


One of my all time favorite summer activities is camping.  It's the simplicity of it all.  Knowing all we need for the weekend can fit in our car.  Cooking everything we eat over a fire we built with the wood we gathered.  Having no distraction and nothing to do other than hang out with each other, read books, explore, listen to Matt play his guitar, catch butterflies, play cards and create fairy gardens for the camping fairies.  To watch the stars as they fill the dark sky. To listen to the sound of the creek as it lulls you to sleep.  To wake up and make coffee over the fire which tastes just a little better because it took a half hour to brew.  Camping mornings are my favorite as the mountains wake up around you.   

And I can't leave out S'mores...

Carefree Summer Nights-
We are definitely more social in the summer.  Maybe because there is more going on.  Maybe because the nights are longer.  Maybe because the warm weather makes everyone want to get out rather than bunker down.  Whatever the case we see more of our friends and family and no matter what it always feels as if there is a sense of vacation in the air.  






It means late nights and tired days.  It means usual routines (like writing!) and bedtimes don't always happen.  We'll catch up with these things come fall.  

All Things Water-
Whether it's splashing in a creek, kayaking in a lake or cooling off in the backyard pool, my fish will find water and settle themselves in for hours of play.  




Oh sweet, sweet summer.  Cherries, watermelons and fresh garden veggies.  Sleeping with windows open.  Outdoor music events and weekly trips to the ice cream truck. After dinner bike rides, pink skies from sunsets and cold beers on the patio.  Backyard fires and throwing the paddleboard on the car.  There's one more month of summer.  One more month to soak it up.  We'll have no problem taking care of that.  





Sunday, June 28, 2015

Florida. A Family Vacation.

Summer has officially began and with it a heat wave.  You will not hear me complain about this.  We spend all winter long patiently waiting for the sun to thaw us out.  Bitter and cold and laying in bed shivering waiting for your body temperature to warm you up.  I think of this as the temperatures surpass the nineties.  I stop myself as soon as I'm about to say, it's so hot out.  I make sure to throw out the good summer karma so we won't get a terrible winter because of our complaints.  To ward off any mocking "well, you didn't like the heat so how about a week or two of -20 degrees".  We embrace summer.  In fact this feels like a cool down after a week on the wonderfully hot and humid Florida beaches.  Oh, yes...the Jamison family vacation hit the beach this year.  Just the four of us.  For seven wonderfully, un-planned days in the sunshine state.  And might I say, it delivered.

Family vacations are something I hold onto tightly.  Right now, with the kids ages we are in the sweetest spot for family vacation.  No toddler meltdown tantrums and no teens stuck with their faces in a phone.  A time for us to all be together, away from all distraction.  A time to bond and reconnect.  A time to create memories that will forever be in our hearts.  I hold my own family vacations as a child as some of my greatest memories.  I want our girls to look back at their own childhood with similar fondness.  It doesn't matter where we go.  Whether it's showing them around downtown Portland, standing in endless lines at Disney World or spending all day on the beach, I hope the memories we are making will stick around.  All are good, but I'm not going to lie, beach vacations are above and beyond my favorite.  There's something about the simplicity of it.  No stress, no chaos.  The ocean was our playground, the beach our entertainment and the pool our sideshow.  This here is an opportunity for me to keep the memory alive so when the details fade I can read it to bring back the feelings.  

The travel day is always long and again I try hard to not complain.  We are so very fortunate to be able to tuck away money each year to put towards a family vacation.  I hate to throw any negativity at it right in the beginning because your sitting in an airport with grouchy travelers.  I try to keep in mind that we leave Montana and by the end of the day our toes will be dipping in the ocean.  All of the long day instantly fades away when this happens.  For all of us.  Even Ava who was sick the first couple of days perked up immediately upon running into to the ocean.

As for Layla, she choose to cartwheel her way through our vacation.  Most of our pictures are with her are mid-cartwheel.

The first night we called it early, eagerly anticipating what was to come.  A restless sleep settled over me with a combination of anxiety from being far from home and happiness at hearing the waves crash all night.  

Each day found a familiar routine.  I would wake early, along with Layla.  After settling her into some tv (our cable deprived kids were all about these morning cartoons!) I'd grab my coffee and head down to the beach for a walk and meditation.  There is nothing like a morning stroll on the beach.  It's much to early to be laying out on the beach or playing in the ocean so everyone there is either out for a jog or doing the same thing I am....soaking up the peace of the morning.  Breathing in the calm and filling yourself with happiness.  Many of the days Matt took advantage of this once I got back and I took our little fish to the pool.  These girls and water.  I often wonder if we never made them get out, would they ever get sick of it?

Each day we were in the pool at least twice and sometimes more.  We sought out the times when we had it all to ourselves.  First thing in the morning or last thing before bed under the stars.  I can't blame them, almost ever time they wanted to get in, I joined them.  Even if I didn't have intentions to I found myself drawn to the warm crystal blue water and ended up jumping in.

When not in the pool we set up camp on the beach.  The sand was soft, the water so warm and clear.  The hours slipping by as we body surfed, boogie boarded, searched for shells, built sand castles and took shelter from the sun under the umbrella for snacks.  
Taking breaks to run to the condo for lunch, snacks, afternoon Corona's and money for the over priced ice cream truck that came to the beach each day playing Christmas music.
We ventured out occasionally for dinner and couple times to explore around us.  Once to visit the tallest lighthouse in Florida, which Matt loved.  (I know it can't be written but please note the sarcasm in the last comment.)  The signs said to make sure you were in good physical health before attempting to climb the 203 steps to the top.  Please.  These girls can climb mountains...

I'm always eager to explore a new city.  This one was an interesting mixture of everything.  Huge beach mansions next to a boarded up, torn down buildings.  Restaurants where you would wait two hours for a table and then some where we were the only customers there.  People from all over making it feel like such a different world than we are used.  We found leaving our little beach condo didn't make much sense when it was all so perfect right there.  However, when we ventured to the Riverwalk we found yummy Italian restaurants, bright red crabs on the river shoreline and beautiful palm trees for miss Ava to hug on.  And for Layla to cartwheel around of course.

By the middle of the trip we found we didn't even like to leave for dinner.  Not when you could order pizza and have a picnic on the beach...
Or go to a local farmer's market and pick out the most beautiful produce and seafood and make the most delicious meal of the trip.  With the best view, I might add...

There really was no reason to leave. 

A few more vacation memories worth noting...

Flying kites on the beach-

Watching Matt learn to surf...

Lunch on the pier that we walked to on our last day...soaking the last bits up...

Our girls, happy for hours.  The laughter and giggles as the waves crashed over them.  The contagious excitement that comes from playing in the ocean.  If I could bottle up these feelings...

Morning sunrises.  Each day I woke up and watched, right from our bed, the bright pink sun rise up over the ocean.  Our final morning I woke earlier to sit on the beach and watch when I wasn't half asleep.  There really are no words to describe moments like these.

I felt such gratitude.  So lucky to be sitting there experiencing this while my family was safely sound asleep.  Grateful to be in this beautiful place and giving our kids these experiences.  Giving ourselves these experiences.  Knowing there was no one I would rather be sharing these moments with than the three people I was with.  Often when a vacation comes to an end I find myself so sad to be leaving.  Wanting it to continue....the carefree, laid back vacation vibe.  This time I felt sad to be leaving the ocean, but mostly I left feeling content and happy.  Knowing we had created memories to come back to when needed.  Happy to come back to our own lovely town in the middle of its best season.  No matter where we are, taking the time as a family together...getting away from real world life, even briefly is always available.  It may not be the same as a vacation and that's okay.  That's why we work hard to get to create opportunities to take family vacations.  However, until the next one we will soak up what we have right here in our own backyard.  It may not be warm ocean waves and sandy beaches, but it's pretty great all on its own.

Thank you Florida, for your wonderful sunshine and amazing beaches.  Thank you for the memories and not letting us get eaten by sharks.  Thank you warm ocean for embracing us in your waves...until next time.  There will always be a next time and one day I will not have to say goodbye.