Christina Rosalie

Posts from the “Motherhood + Mindfulness” Category

Where good things happen

Posted on August 30, 2014


All things happen here, where the world ends and the sky begins. Where the sea licks the land, where the gulls lilt and lift into the sky. All things, new, forever, ancient, always originate from this wild state; and there is nothing quite like rock hopping with wild-haired boys. Together we tilted over salt-slick pools. Leaning in. Looking. Cupped our hands full with tiny agates. Watching the surf. Drumming with sea-pummeld sticks against the rocks. Leaping with sure feet. Following, running ahead, stumbling, grinning.

We went to the shore two weekends ago and I brought my big camera and tried to capture what boyhood looks like now. What they are like, strong-muscled, loud, tender, forever tousle-headed, curious.

Nothing, says freedom to me the way the Pacific does as it comes to find the edge of the land, raw, rugged, crashing against cliffs made of lava and granite. Nothing makes my heart lift like a kite, makes me want to turn cartwheels on the beach, makes me run, arms akimbo, laughing.

Here’s a glimpse from that weekend. One I want to remember.

What summer looks like around here

Posted on July 20, 2014

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Lots of shirtless boys. Reading fiction. Sipping tea in the morning, still in bed and writing notes for my new book, still a shamble in my head. The arrival of the nanny who’s made our summer mornings so much easier. Paper-mache on remnants on the back porch. Picnics on the front steps in the breeze. Time bookended between the beginning and the ending of each work day. Compression + expansion. Deep focus and then a slow unwind as the golden evening light finds us.

How has your summer been, friends? What are some highlights? Some things you’re doing to revel in these golden days?

A sense of place

Posted on June 9, 2014

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It’s the small things this morning that have begun to feel familiar the way things do when a place becomes home. A certain sense of place comes with repetition, and this morning’s five minutes of noticing are stitched together in the leaving and arriving of the morning routine we’ve made here.

The boys eat cereal in the breakfast nook as we whirl about, T preparing to commute by bike, me in strappy sandals. They sit at the butcher block island we’ve had forever (since we lived in the house at the end of the dirt road in VT) and they swing their legs sleepily, alternately giggling and whining about this or that, dragging their spoons around their bowls. Sipping milk, or forgetting to eat as a book distracts them. I check lunch boxes, make tea, fry an egg, blow-dry my still-wet bangs, and kiss T at the door. The boys straggle out ahead carrying the things they do: a lunch basket for Sprout, a backpack for Bean, sandals, a rain jacket, whatever the day demands.

In the car I cut along side streets through the same five blocks every day; past bungalows with yards crowded with roses, and under dogwoods just starting to bloom. How I love their four-petaled geometry and fragrance, each blossom waxy white and scrawled with rosy capillaries, each leaf fluttering beneath in green contrast, caught in the soft wind of the new day.

We go past coffee shops and the place we bike to for donuts; past the haberdashery where everyone tried on dozens of hats, and then across the drawbridge where every time we look up to the little windowed room above us on the bridge. There operator sit. We’ve only seen him once, in a neon vest. White haired, looking down at us looking up. And when I ask my friend, he tells me that the drawbridges in this city were built before people understood that the river was tugged by the ocean’s changing tides. Newer bridges are built in smooth arches, suspended by cables, and boats pass beneath when the tide is low. But there is something about the older ones, rugged with metalwork and rigged with sections that gape wide for passing ships that I admire. An older utility, flawed though it may be.

three little girls all perched behind on a saddle board over her back wheel zip as if it is a daily occurrence.

Then we’ve arrived. Bean’s class starts in the park, jump-roping, and Sprout and I wander about under big trees or I talk with other parents as a handful of dogs run circles about us.

Today it is field day. That inevitable end of year event of water balloon tosses and gunny sack races, and as I’m walking back to my car, the children are gathering in a long line in the park. The sun filters through the leaves of the ancient cedars and tulip maples to find their faces, and eager upturned cheeks.

I watch for a moment, then carry my tea back to my car and find my way back across a different bridge. Leaving leaving and arriving; the different parts of me collide. Theirs and mine. The day as was for a fleeting instant before it becomes what it will be.

The entire point is this

Posted on June 6, 2014

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“CAN SOMEONE RUN MY BATH?” He yells from the open bathroom window.
I’m outside, under the walnut tree, reluctant.
When I come in, he’s already naked, surrounded by a small army of his favorite Lego trucks and matchbox cars. A rescue boat, a semi truck, an “old-fashioned car.”

“HELP!” he yells, even though I’m sitting right next to him, watching now as he squats down on the bathmat. Something seems to be wrong with the semi truck. Clearly, he isn’t calling to me.

“HELP, BEAN” He yells again, then mutters, “I really, really need it.”
Behind him, the old Standard tub fills. It’s one of properly deep tubs that you can stretch out in and submerge.

His voice rises above the water, “I wish I could play with that. But it’s broken.”
In another second, the semi truck has been cast off to the side. His brother hasn’t come to the rescue, off somewhere instead playing the ukelele (a new obsession) or trying to kiss his elbow as he did at dinner when he announced, “I read in a book that 99% of people cannot kiss their elbow, but that 99% will try.”

Sprout climbs into the tub, easing into the hot water slowly, then begins to splash and make the strange car motor noises all boys seem to know how to make. I can’t recall a single instance as a kid when I made such sounds, though I was every bit a tom boy and could climb a tree or ride my bike faster and more recklessly than any of the boys. What is it about vrrrrooom, vrrooom?

I sit for longer than five minutes, watching, though I only remember to scribble notes into my moleskin every so often, so my collective time still adds up to 5. Sort of. I so rarely sit with him while he takes a bath now, so rarely just sit and watch his antics. This is, of course, the entire point of this exercise.

I tell him that soon it will be time to get out.

“I’M GONNA DO SEVEN, TEN, NO FIRTEEN MINUTES MORE” he says defiantly, his voice at full volume. “NO! I’M GONNA DO SEVENTEEN MINUTES,” he adds, as if that is an enormously long time. Then immediately he sing-song whines, “I hate this car. It’s broken. I want a different car.”

There’s been a lot of this thin-skinned, fragile whining lately, and when I’m at my wisest, I know that that is exactly what it is. Last night, after royally falling apart and whining all through dinner, after cajoling and firmness and tears, when he finally was tucked into bed and I lay next to him in the soft nearly dark of his room he told me about the things he was afraid of: how people die, poison, prison, bad guys, robbers. His eyes growing wide.

So small still, this little one of mine, and yet so big. Wiggly toothed. Loud voiced. Bright eyed.


I’m glad I spent a handful of moments noticing so that I’ll remember the ordinary sweetness of these moments long after they’re gone.
 
 
The 5/5 Challenge: Day 2

To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing

Posted on June 3, 2014

“It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing…. A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It’s the best possible time of being alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.”
— Tom Stoppard (from Arcadia)

It’s taken me a while to write because every street, every ritual, every instance of who I am, and who we are as a family has been made new with this move. We arrived one month ago, chasing the sun across this wide country, and settled gradually into a wee bungalow with an arched doorway that’s just up the street from the original Stumptown .

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First impressions:

There are flowers everywhere. Bamboo grows like a weed, but I like it so. Whenever I go running, I find new paths and neighborhoods past enormous, ancient trees, bigger than any I’ve ever seen except for the Sequoias growing up. I run uphill, up an old volcano cone until I have a view of the city from above. On one side, Mount Hood lifts above the blue like a dream. On the other, bridges, so many of them, and a skyline I’m falling in love with.

It’s taken days, many of them, for my internal sense of direction to kick in strongly. I’ve oriented now, and there are more days than not (finally) that I can find my way around without help from my iPhone. Thankfully, someone thought to plan most of the city in a grid, with numbered streets running one way and named streets the other.

Our little home is the littlest yet, but I love it harder every day. The angled archway going into the breakfast nook. The gorgeous morning light in the bedroom, and the evening light that floods the living room when we come home. Upstairs, the boys have the “master bedroom”: a long rectangular room that was once the attic, refinished with lovely cabinets for all their things, and plenty of space to play. It’s made so much sense for them to be up there, where they can sprawl out and leave legos and shells and dress-up things about. And in turn, our bedroom downstairs is dreamy. I’ve always wanted a room just like this–with windows across two walls, and white floaty curtains that lift and flutter in the breeze.

In the backyard the boys spend a great deal of time in the hammock strung between a plum tree and apple tree. They tilt each other out and scream; they have tickle fights; they drag up quilts and snacks; the read books; they argue. They’ve both adjusted to their new school and routine with grace and resilience, but there are still there moments when so much change adds up. When things feel scary and big to them. When they fall apart. When they ball their fists. When they cry.

Bean, especially is growing into himself in new ways, and new moods and wonderments overtake him. Sometimes he is the sweetest, and other times morose. His long legs, coltish as ever, his eyes flashing with a new defiant light. Sprout, full of eagerness, tender-hearted, hot-headed. Last night, when things didn’t go his way, he stomped his feet and wailed, “I wish the world hadn’t been made this way at all.” Oh, to be small.

We live near the ocean now. Near food trucks and book stores and swanky restaurants and cafes. My creative mind is drinking it up, like someone thirsty after a long drought. How I love to be at the edges of things watching; or at the center, unnoticed, curious, smitten with beauty. I love the thousand faces I pass every day. The bikes, the blooming roses, the bumble bees, the baristas. I love the jumping rope that happens every morning, rain or shine outdoors at the boy’s school. I love the tiny studio T built for me, with just enough space for creating, floors made for spilling paint, and walls for thumb tacks.


And… I am still finding the tempo of life here. When writing happens; when work does; and also running, and painting, and kissing and friends and dinner too. One of the things I’ve missed the most, that this blog has always been for me, is a daily record. A few moments pause. A handful of moments of intentional observation. Sometimes the most effective way of reclaiming creative habits is to start with exactly where you are, and with the smallest actions, which build to their own momentum and greatness in time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what that might look like, and I’ve settled on this simple routine for June: 5 photos + 5 minutes.
5 photos documenting moments throughout the day, and a 5 minute writing exercise: simply recording the immediate, the present, the now.

I’d love for you to join, if you’d like! (I’ll be posting more about this little challenge. Keep an eye out.)

Leaving + Lucky

Posted on April 18, 2014

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I feel so unbelievably lucky. Thank you to everyone who snatched up artwork. It was the fastest pay-what-you-can studio sale I’ve ever had. So fast in fact, that I had no chance to open it up to everyone. The good news: I’ll be offering another sale this summer with lots more bird paintings (so much love for those, and so many requests!) and, just as soon as I get settled I’ll be making a sweet postcard pack with gorgeous glossy prints of all the birds. That should be available at the end of May. I put some work up here, just for you to take a peak if you’d like.

It’s been a week.

Wrapping projects, saying goodbye, and planning for things to come. I’ve been listening to this playlist on repeat, and periodically bursting into tears. The moments collide. Everything possible. Everything lost. Everything new.

Saying goodbye sucks. There are people here who are a part of my heart. People who make me smile every single time I think of them. I want them all to come West with us. (Maybe they will. A girl can hope.)

Because of the way spring break happens for the kids, yesterday was their last day of school. We’ve been the luckiest with their teachers. So good. So intuitive and skilled and heartfelt. The boys came home with goodbye cards and treasures from the year. They’ll land in a new school, find new friends, chart new paths of course. They’ll find their stride in summer camp. All of it. Still.

Their last day at this school felt precious and abrupt. Like it wasn’t real. Like it didn’t happen. Except there it is: a book from Sprout’s class and teacher, “To the boy with the sunlight in his eyes.” They know him well. Whenever he talks about moving he refers to our new geography in it’s entirety. “To Portland, Oregon.” It isn’t a real place yet. The only place that’s real is here, amidst boxes. He’s found the packing paper and has turned it into a wide drawing surface: tall castles and taller trees.

Bean is off with his friends, saying goodbye in his own boyish ways. Playdates one after the next: biking and tree forts and inventions. Exchanging addresses. Mailing pre-emptive letters. It’s only pretend-real to both of them.

“Mommy,” Bean says with a playful gleam in his eyes. “I know that you and Daddy are the Easter Bunny.”

I look at him: tousled hair, black and white checkered Vans, his skinny shoulders in a soft grey sweatshirt, his hands full of electric circuit board equipment. How is any of this possible at all?

The inevitable flow of time.

The way we move on: grow, and outgrow ourselves over and over again.

Here we go.

To be 5 years old (with gusto)

Posted on March 1, 2014

 
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You turned 5 (last Thursday!) with gusto. For the week before your birthday you kept asking when you birthday would be and then counting down the days. At night you’d wrap your arms around my neck and hug me close, and whisper: “My birthday is in____days.” And I’d say, “It is” and rub your nose with my nose and stare down at him completely disbelieving.

Remember how the time between birthdays felt like an eternity? Remember that sweet feeling of anticipation that last nearly until you’d burst? Would that we could still feel that luxurious stretch of time, easy and slow with the salty sweet of anticipation like taffy being pulled. Now the days have a staccato feel: dominos tumbling one after the other in a rapid-action blur. They come they go in an instant. I keep thinking, wait, didn’t I just turn 34? How am I 36? How did two years possibly pass? Let alone 5. Let alone, my last, my baby is 5 and not a baby at all.

When the day finally arrived, you woke terribly early, and in turn woke Bean and you both came tumbling into our room. It was a school day, so there was less snuggling in our bed than might have been had it been the weekend, and when we all made our way out to the kitchen your cheeks were flushed and rosy.

On the table, crystals and shells around his plate, a fat rose in full bloom, a birthday card from Granny sent in the mail, and beneath the table, leaning against a table leg a present (the first of several) in rainbow striped paper.

“Oh my gosh!” you gasped grinning, your body practically vibrating with glee. Yet you sat down and slowly opened the letter, savoring every bit of the delight, the envelope, the card itself, the small packet of zinnia seeds she also sent like colored suns.

Even with all your gusto and volume, you have this remarkable capacity for delayed gratification, as though you really understand what the moment offers. How it’s here to delight you only for now, and then it’s gone for good.

When you unwrapped the stripes you found a a scooter, like Bean’s but smaller. You’d waited four whole days since Bean’s birthday, hoping. Next you were a whirl of speed; a streak of delight. Then waffles, then backpacks, then school, where your kindergarten teacher put on a puppet show in celebration of your arrival on this earth, and we sat there with you watching; watching you among your classmates, sort of reeling internally with wonder. Five feels old. It’s the last year of smallness.

Oh time, hold still, hold still.

In the evening you were beyond ecstatic to get the “pirate stuff” you’d asked for, and went around the house decked out in mardi gras beads and a Captain Hook arm, yelling at the top of your lungs. Fearsome with your eyepatch, and so darling I just wanted to keep hugging you even when you squirmed free, and when Nonna and Poppy gave you their gift, you literally pumped your fists in the air with delight: a long coveted lego set. Something about a museum break out. Good guys and gad guys of course. Escape vehicles. Fire hoses. You and Bean became so absorbed he had to be coaxed back to the table for the ice cream cake you’d begged for.

So many candles blown out to mark the start of a new year around the sun for you, sweet little one.

You are my teacher of gusto and joy.

At the cusp between wonder and fact

Posted on February 17, 2014

Bean is 9 - Christina Rosalie
Tonight you made a fort before dinner: a quilt over two white kitchen stools, set up just so.

In went a metal tool box (your inheritance from my father) In also went your metal lock box: one you saved for and paid for yourself from the Barge Canal vintage shop on Pine Street where we go every so often, and you poke around, curious fingers in everything, always loving the things that come with lock and key.

Now you and your brother lie on your bellies, or sit cross legged, your heads bobbing up in the quilt. You light the room you’ve made by flashlight, and haul in 8 ball, assorted legos, and Honey Honey, your faithful alligator who has become your steady companion since we moved.


Bean Turns 9 - Christina Rosalie
Honey Honey first arrived in a green box when you were four, in the upstairs hallway of our house at the end of the long dirt road. The box was on the old sewing machine table that we’ve since given away.

It said: Hello, I’m Honey Honey, and I’m here to go on adventures with you.

Before she arrived, you talked her often. You told me who she was, and how she could grow in the bathtub. You told me how she was magical.

Then she was there.

You’ve never doubted her magic—in the sweet, fearless way that children are about their beliefs. You know, and you don’t know—and you want to stay that way, at the cusp between wonder and fact.

You’re wise enough to protect the magic that you love by not questioning too fiercely how the magic happens.
Once, you left cookie crumbs on a small plate beside your alligator, and came back moments later to find them completely gone. “Ah ha!” you said.

I thought you’d call one of us out for nibbling them up, or possibly say, “See! That proves it!” but instead you said, “She likes cookies!”

Proof was never the point. You were simply interested in her dietary preferences.

In actuality your Honey Honey might really be a crocodile. She has a crocodile smile, but, to be sure, I’ve never been an expert on either. All I know is that she fits in the palm of my hand, and that the word FLORIDA is printed on her belly along with a set of numbers you declare is her birthdate and birthplace.

Who am I to argue?


Bean Turns 9 - Christina Rosalie
Twice, she’s been eaten by the dog. Not eaten all the way—but had parts mangled. The first time it was her feet and tail. You cried and so I promised I’d bring her to the doctor, and she was gone for a week, and even more days after that you said, “Why is it taking so long? Is the doctor’s office busy?”

I said “Maybe there is a hippo in front of her in line to see the doctor. Hippos are big.” And I say something about how bandages take time to heal and you look terribly serious.

When she comes back, her feet and tail are, in fact, a different color: browner this time, than the green they were before.

You’re so glad to see her, you carry her on a string around your neck.

When we moved away from the only home you ever knew this summer, she rode with you like that, on a string around your neck, close to your heart. She was the only thing steady and for certain among the jumble of boxes and the bitter sweet confusion of grown-up conversations then.

There were tears, there was the ice cream truck, a new neighborhood, new bunk beds, and fields forever lost to you. Had we stayed to see you turn nine there, you would have claimed those fields this summer. Made them your escape, your wild home, your solace. But there it is: the edges of grown-up life and grown-up needs crowd in around you. You don’t have any control. You are probably only vaguely aware of the whys and hows. Commute time doesn’t mean much to you, nor does the word “work” which is one of the perpetual mysteries of childhood.

You and your brother talk about “daddy’s work” and “mommy’s work” but when I ask you to explain what that means you say things like: it means going to a place and being on the computer all day; and you go someplace where they pay you for something that you do. True enough. The ache of what those things mean, and the glory are both completely lost on you. For this I’m glad.

Yours work is that of growing tall. Of navigating the fine and fragile line between innocence and curiosity, between wonder and science.

What is true is wide and deep.

Fairies still inhabit the forests at the edges of the this truth, and the sky is filled with stars. “Up there,” you tell me, “in the stars, that’s where I came from before I came here.”

Yes, I nod. Yes. Nine years ago you came here from the stars and made me a mother.


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At bed you can’t find Honey Honey. You crawl back into your fort on your belly, looking everywhere, your urgency increasing.

Daddy and I wait. We’re ready for this part of the day to end. Ready to kiss you tonight and to find, in the quiet of lamplight, the company of our own thoughts without interruption.

Your voice betrays your worry. “Where did I put her?” you ask, shimmying out, and inadvertently shining your flashlight in my eyes, as you inquire. I crouch down and peer into your small world of quilt and semi-dark, feeling with my hands along the edges of things.

“Think back,” I say. “Where were you with her last?”

Soon enough you look on your dresser and find her just where you left her, there among your other treasures: microscope, spy binoculars, batteries, Lego ships, quarters.

Your gladness rings out, “Here she is!” You kiss her tenderly, then kiss me harder, wrapping your arms around my waist.

You come up to just under my chin now. An inconceivable fact. Almost every night as we lie on the couch, and I read out loud to you, I cannot help but marvel: you were a baby. My first baby.

“You fit just here on my chest. How is that possible?” I say out loud.

You say, “I still do.”

Then you curl yourself against me, folding your flexible limbs up small, smaller, until you are contained right there, beside my beating heart and I can wrap my arms around the all of you.

“Yes,” I say, kissing your hair. “You do. You always do.”