Saturday, March 27, 2010

what's in a name: a year ago this month

Our friend Callie's beautiful watercolor rendition of a desert juniper tree:

Back in college I learned that Aborigine children are given place-based names according to where the mother was when she felt the first kick.  So, for example, if she happend to be at Turtle Springs when she felt that kick, her baby would be named Turtle.  I loved this idea--having your child's existence tied to a particular place on this earth.  For a tree-hugging dirt-worshipper like me, this was fantastically romantic.

And then, I got pregnant.  And it became clear to me that the "first kick" is not always so clear.  It could be a kick.  Or, it could be gas.  Or, you weren't paying attention and missed that tiny movement altogether.  And who would want to tie their kid to the wrong place on this earth?   

J bug's first, unquestionable, definitely-not-gas, kick happened while I was sitting on the couch, my feet propped up on the coffee table (they were sore and swollen from working in the garden) and wondering how I could get my hands on a big pile of fresh horse manure.  I had a hard time finding a baby's name in all this: Couch, Coffee, Garden, Horse, Table, Manure?

As it turns out, Juniper had some ideas of her own.  In March of last year, months before her "first kick", when she was barely larger than a kidney bean, Juniper was named.

I was 2 months pregnant on a backpacking trip with my man along the Escalante River in southern Utah.  I had had the inaptly named Morning Sickness (a.k.a All Day Sickness) pretty bad, so we were mostly day-hiking from our base camp.  Towards evening on one of those hikes, my hubby was going wild taking photos of the storm clouds and the junipers and all the red rocks.

And I was on my hands and knees under a large juniper tree, collecting the dried berry seeds, thinking, I'll make a necklace out of these for our baby from it's first in-utero backpacking trip.  And then, it hit me.  Plain, straight, square and simple like divine intervention.  Juniper.  What a great name.

"Hey honey!" I yelled, "What do you think about Juniper?  For a girl's name?"  The more we said it, the more we liked it and by the end of the trip my husband was saying, "It's settled.  If we have a girl, we're naming her Juniper.  If we have a boy, we're adopting a girl, and naming her Juniper."

The specific tree I was under is just to the right of the above photograph.  Our Juniper was named for a beautiful, yet tough and rugged tree on a bench overlooking the Escalante river canyon.  One day, we'll take her there.  She has her place after all.

:: There was one other funny thing that happened on that trip.  Our last night camping, my eye was slashed by a juniper branch.  Inside the tent, I joked that it was a sign: we must be having a girl.  

:: One more thing.  When we arrived home, sitting on my dresser was a box of juniper incense sticks.  My sis-in-law had given them to me for hosting her baby shower when I was about 9 days pregnant and not yet knowing.  I love how these things happen.  No wonder we never could settle on a boy's name!


Thursday, March 25, 2010


Everyone is asking me, How was your trip?  And then tentatively, almost in a whisper, How was the drive?  Now I know I spared you from the gory details of the trip to Oregon.  Turns out, the return trip was almost exactly the same.

First day: A 6-hour drive took 10 and the last hour was pure misery.  I can handle listening to other people's babies cry, but my own?  It is absolutely agonizing torture, probably on par with waterboarding.  I believe the stress and raised blood pressure of having to hear your own baby cry takes several years off your life.  I kept telling her, I am so sorry Juniper!  We're almost there!  Just a little farther.  But I don't think she even heard me for all of her wailing.  If I pulled over, stopped the car and climbed in the backseat with her, she was all smiles and laughs.  Unfortunately, despite what my mother might tell you, I cannot drive from the backseat.  That part sucked.

Second day: A 6-hour drive took 8 and that's including stops.  So much better.  It was like apples and oranges, those two days on the road.  The second day was so good, in fact, it was easy to forget the first day.  Juniper slept, slept, slept and when she did awake, she was all, Aaaah, laaaaa, la and happily chewing on her Kenya doll.  And Osa was so comfy in the back that she didn't even want to get out at stops.

When I planned this trip, it didn't even cross my mind for a second that taking a 5 month old baby and a geriatric dog on a two day drive might not be such a blessed idea.  And that makes me proud.  That I didn't think twice about it.  That I don't consider having a baby a type of handicap.  [Full disclosure: I did tell my mom that next time, I will look into the price of plane tickets.]

:: My mom took us for a hike near the coast.  Love the dripping, oozing forests of western Oregon.
Juniper loved it too--she was mesmerized by the tumbling water, and squealed at the sight of Osa trotting down the trail.  And then (she is so predictable), she fell asleep in the front pack.  

:: We came home to Montana to celebrate a birthday in our household, and spend more time in the spring air.  

:: Osa is epileptic, has congestive heart failure and arthritis and her muscles are shrinking and her belly is distending and she is just plain old, but when she gets out in the woods, she turns into a sprightly puppy.  On this walk, she managed to find and eat: 

* 2 piles of coyote turds
* 1 pile of deer turds
* 1 deer leg  

You gotta hand it to her; that dog knows when to wake up and live.    

:: Check out that lower lip.  We love the lower lip.  A wild turkey could go to roost on that lip.  

Friday, March 19, 2010

this old town

Done laid around done stayed around 
this old town too long 
[winter's] almost gone 
[summer's] comin on
Done laid around done stayed around 
this old town too long 
and it seems like I've got to travel on.  

It's official.  We are outta here.  Leaving this town behind:

And we'll be moving to...this:

Okay, so that's a magnolia currently in bloom in my mom's part of the world, but that's how I feel about the whole thing: blooming with color, life and possibility.

We'll be moving back to our old stomping grounds in western Wyoming, but a new community.  That last part is not so clear-cut, and I'm sure more will be unfolding in these next few months.  I'll keep you posted, promise.

:: Alright, so I know it's been a while since my last blog post and here's why.  A week and a half ago I packed up the car and my two girls, (sadly, had to leave my man behind) and hit the road.  I will spare you from the gory details of my two-day drive with a baby and a geriatric dog but alas, we pulled up to my mom's driveway in western Oregon with all of our parts in the right places.
:: Juniper (oh, shit, she's 5 months old! did I mention that?) learned to sit just a few days before her five month birthday.  By "learned to sit" I mean she went from sitting for a couple of seconds to sitting for minutes before toppling over.
Everyday she sits longer and longer and now she's multi-tasking: sitting and playing with her feet, sitting and swapping the air, sitting and playing with toys...and, sitting on her potty sans mama's hands and pooping.  It's truly amazing how they just, all of a sudden, get it.

A side note on J bug's bathroom habits: she only poops about every 3 to 4 days; needless to say, when she does poop, it tends to be A LOT and it makes me sooooo happy when she goes in her potty!

:: I am so sorry, but I can't help myself.  Seeing so much in bloom in March is like eating a big, hunking piece of too-sweet wedding cake.  I know I grew up here and all, but 12 years in the rockies has me accustomed to crusty snow, mud and brown grass this time of year.

That star magnolia is exploding directly over my mom's backyard hot tub.  It makes for an absolutely glorious late night soak.

:: Osa has congestive heart failure and I am finally learning the stress of travel doesn't do her any favors.  She is such a good dog.  A damned good dog.

:: Juniper is getting spoiled and giving grandma an excuse to go shopping.  (But I am standing nearby, barking: Too expensive!  Buy used!  And probably ruining all of her fun.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

seeds of change

We had the first three official signs of spring this week: it rained after sundown, a housefly rose from the dead in our bathroom windowsill and the local track team is out running in mud and slush.  Why do we celebrate the new year (along with all the resolutions, promises and seeds of change that entails) in the middle of winter?  Duh.  Why don't we celebrate new beginnings in the spring, timed loosely with the Christian observance of Christ rising from the dead; or the more quiet, earthly emergence of bears from their dens--whichever is your preference.  This just seems a more natural time to plant seeds of hope for the next twelve months.  We can drag the sofa outside, air out our laundry, slim down, clean up, turn the garden over, start fresh.  

(I spy a red-winged black bird in our front yard; make that four signs of spring!)  Soon, green shoots will emerge from black soil and I can't wait to see what the next twelve months have in store for us.

:: Some of you are blanketed with a deluge of snow, some of you are planting peas & lettuce; we are simply waiting for the ground to thaw and the mud to dry so we can make our next move.

Didn't know baby strollers could go muddin', did ya?

 :: She's still enamored with her feet.

:: And she still, stubbornly, won't nap without movement (stroller, carseat or on me).

:: Goodnight.