Feathered Aspen


Happy Birthday Lu!

Dear Lu,

At this precise moment a year ago, I was laboring with you in our living room at the house on Osceola Street.  The air smelled of jasmine, and I had lit every candle in the house.  It was a romance.  It was the last night of you and I sharing the same body.

In the morning, you were born, and you were perfect.  I cradled you in my arms, kissing the top of your head and whispering how much I loved you into your ear.

In those first few months, we were two bodies but one unit.  You slept in the curve of my arm, I wrapped you to my belly, and you nursed when you could summon the energy to wake.  And you slowly grew stronger.

By five months you were sitting and chubbier than ever.  Your smile melted me.  Soon you were scooting and reaching for me or for little objects that you then focused mighty attention upon.

We all fell in love with you.  Your daddy, your sister, and I.  Your serious focus and generous smiles are irresistible.

When I think about the year that has passed I’m both breathless from the speed at which it has gone by and a little teary.  You are my baby and that time is so fleeting.  Soon you’ll be walking and what a toddler you’ll be.  I’m so thankful to watch it all, to watch you grow, but I’ll always cherish this year that I had with you, where what you wanted most was me, when I held you for hours, and when I was all you needed in the world.

I love you baby girl, more than you’ll ever know.  Thank you for choosing us, for your little spirit and all of your cuddles.  Happy Birthday my girl.  May the next year be as blessed as the last.





A year ago, I was in a strange place.  I wrote a post that I think about often, called A Change.  In it, I described my particular state of inertia: a frustration with teaching and a disjunction between my lived and planned lives.

For me, turning 27 gave me pause.  All of a sudden, I felt myself toeing the existential border between a life of endless possibilities and the life I am living.  It occurred to me that I may not live the life that my younger self had dreamt of, but instead the life that by circumstance and choice I am now living.

It’s a good life.  I have so very much for which to be thankful.  But crossing that existential border felt a lot like growing up in a way that wasn’t about more fun or freedom.  College? Marriage? Travelling?  More fun and freedom.  Having a baby?  Definitely fun, maybe not so much freedom.  This particular border crossing felt like a wake up call.  It said, “Good Morning Ellie.  Lead the life you wish to live, for there is no other.  If not now, then when?”

Maybe a wake up call like that is about fun and freedom, but I felt a little affronted.  I liked feeling like I had all the time in the world.

Yesterday, I turned 28.  In just one short year, a lot has happened.  Joshua built an apartment in our home.  We went to California and dreamed big.  We came back and began a fifth year of teaching.  Joshua started studying for the GRE, and in the fall, I got pregnant.  Our closest friends, the Ps, moved to Boston, and I flew out there in November to be with them when their baby, Margot, was born.  By Christmas, our California big dreams had morphed 180 degrees, and we decided to stay in Colorado.  Joshua was offered and accepted an administration position in his school, and we started talking about buying another house.

In March, we bought our new home, and just like last year, now Joshua is in the thick of renovations.  We plan to move mid-May, and the baby is due at the end of June.  The Ps are returning for the summer, and next year, I’m looking forward to raising Lily and Lu by day and attending classes by night.

I could hardly be accused of inertia, unless it were of the perpetual forward motion variety.  And while I don’t spend nearly as much time barefoot and wild-haired as my bohemian dreams might wish, I’m happy.

In honor of that existential border, I’ll share with you a bucket list.

  1. Write a book.  *About 2/3 of the way through.
  2. See the Dalai Lama.
  3. Have a baby.
  4. Run a marathon.
  5. Take the family on a river trip.  *Saw families paddle boarding down the Colorado River in Moab and thought, I’d like to do that when the kids are old enough.
  6. Drink hot chocolate in Paris.
  7. Speak Spanish fluently.  *Give me six months in a Spanish speaking country, and I think I’d be there.
  8. Live abroad.  *With the family.
  9. Be vegan for a while.  *Not forever, but maybe for a year.
  10. Live in a tiny home.  *Smaller than this one.
  11. Do yoga in India.
  12. Run an ultramarathon.  *Anything over 26.2 mi will do for me.
  13. Live in a commune.  *In some ways we have, but I’d like more of an intentional community than a convenient-for-now one.
  14. Eat a meal in Tuscany.
  15. Finish a half triathalon.  *So close, but no cigar.  All of the training; none of the glory.
  16. Go on a long walk.  *As in, 300+ miles.  I guess Nepal might count.
  17. Swim in Nicaragua.
  18. Have a mountain getaway.  *Maybe the popup counts, but I’d kind of like a cabin 🙂
  19. Get a masters.
  20. Hike in the Andes.
  21. Take the family backpacking.  *I saw a family backpacking when we were in the Weminuche, and I thought it was pretty much the coolest thing ever.
  22. Bike in Bali.
  23. See Santorini.
  24. Marry my best friend.
  25. Read 50 books in one year.  *I’ve probably already done this, but I’d like to do it again and keep track.
  26. Drink red wine in Spain.
  27. Grow flowers in my garden.
  28. Take an art class just for fun.


Turning Two

Lily turned two yesterday.  She’s a great fan of the feline species, so we decided to throw her a kitty-themed birthday party.  Pulling this off in less than 24 hours was a bit stressful, but with some help, we were able to pull it off.  Joshua picked up Lily and me at the airport at 3:30 PM on April 4.  Once we arrived home, we sat down to write a grocery and to-do list, and then we headed for Kinkos, Whole Foods, and Target.



At Kinkos, we printed off some google images of kitties on cardstock to turn into “Kitty Sticks.”  It was an idea I stole from Pinterest, and I must say they were just as cute in replication 🙂


At Target, we bought some party supplies and Lily’s birthday outfit, of course.  Both Lily and I were devastated that the pants that we really loved only came in 3T.  They had black and white vertical stripes.  Oh well.  This outfit was pretty cute, too.


Between Kinkos, Whole Foods (and an unplanned but delicious dinner at Whole Foods), and Target, we didn’t get home until nearly 10 PM.  Needless to say, the three of us were absolutely exhausted, and after carrying Lily for a good portion of the trip, I felt enormously pregnant and my back was screaming.


The next morning, we made pancakes, Lily’s favorite breakfast, complete with whip cream and strawberries.  Stacy and Margot came over, and it was nice to start the day a little more slowly with company.  But when 9 o’clock rolled around, we leapt into action.  I began cooking, Joshua began cleaning, and so did my mom.  Lily got a bath and then she followed us about, making sure the process went at a speed more befitting a family with a toddler.


Besides giving the house a thorough cleaning, Joshua took it upon himself to tidy up the yard and lay down some fresh mulch.  That, in addition to half a dozen helium balloons, a couple new balls from Target, and a birthday banner, announced the whole block that it was party time.


I’m felt pretty proud of our spread, so forgive me if I share too many details.  For dips, I settled on three kinds: artichoke spinach, white bean and tarragon, and hummus.  I found the recipe for the artichoke spinach dip here.  It’s vegan, which kind of blows my mind.  I was telling people at the party that I’m pretty sure that it’s understood that “artichoke spinach” is really code for “my main ingredient is full fat cream and cheese.”  Nevertheless, it was super delicious.  The white bean and tarragon was also super yummy, and the tarragon part was a bit of an improvisation, because Whole Foods didn’t have the rosemary that the recipe called for.

My mom did her magic with the hummus, and I finished out the spread with a kale salad, crackers, cheese, and veggies for dipping.  I didn’t follow a recipe for the salad, but I did try soaking the leaves in salt water and then massaging them for the first time.  The process left the leaves softer and much less bitter than usual.  To finish, I added chick peas, parmesean, and a salad dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, honey, mustard, garlic, and pepper.

Finally, for drinks we had beer, champagne, and juice.  I watched enviously as people drank their champagne out of my pretty stemware.


Just to prove that great minds think alike, when Stacy showed up later in the day to borrow our mixer and cupcake pan, she brought yellow flowers from Whole Foods.  I laughed and showed her the white ones I had bought the night before.  All in all, if you’re going to have double of something, flowers are the item of choice.


Thankfully, Stacy willingly agreed to bake Lily’s cupcakes, so that was one more task I didn’t have to worry about.  Plus, no matter how much thought or time I put into the food portion of a get-together, Stacy’s baking always steals the show.  She’s just that good.

We finally got Lily down for a nap with less than two hours to go, and I sat down to crank out some decorations, including the “Kitty Sticks” and a few bunting garlands.  There were some extra kitty prints, so I made a garland of them, too.


Lily’s room was ready for some toddler action.


Joshua says that the ride home with the helium balloons was pretty thrilling.


At ten to three, I jumped in the shower, my heart racing just a bit.  Ten minutes is enough time to shower, dress, do my hair, wake up Lily, dress her, and wash the windows, right?!

At five after three, I walked into the living room, thankful that no one had arrived.  When I expressed that relief, Joshua said, “well, yeah.  The party doesn’t start until 3:30.”

So I had time to run a curling iron through my hair and wash the windows, after all.

Lily was so excited the whole evening that I’m pretty sure this is one of the only photos we have of the two of us, and it’s definitely one of the only photos we have of her looking at the camera.


Although we had invited nearly 40 people, we had 17 in total, including five toddlers and two infants.  It was actually a wonderful number, considering our small space.  Maybe it’s a good idea waiting until less than a week before the birthday party to send out invites?


Stacy’s cupcakes were super delicious.  She decorated the kids’ ones with dried mango, chocolate chips, pretzels, pepitos, and Annie’s gummies to make cat faces!


The grown up version was the same, sans the cat faces.  The cake was honey and the frosting was marzipan, and I still have more than a dozen sitting in my kitchen, begging to be eaten.  Yummmmm…  (This coming from a woman who doesn’t even really like cupcakes.)  Lily, needless to say, thought that the cupcakes were the cat’s meow, the cat’s pajamas, the…  You get the picture 😉



Sadly, Pin the Tail on the Cat, a spin off game I invented wasn’t as winning in execution.  Lily thought the tail-less cat poster was cute, though.  Joshua’s game of hiding little easter eggs stuffed with kitty stickers all over the front yard was far more popular with the toddler subset.



When it was all said and done, people stayed until nearly 7 o’clock, which I took as a standing ovation for our efforts.  Who stays at kid’s birthday party for three and a half hours?!  It was fun chatting with the moms (and three dads), and the kids seemed like they had a great time.

Afterwards, we cleaned up while Lily played with some of her new gifts, and then, before all three of us collapsed into bed at 8 o’clock, I had Joshua take a couple of photos of the belly…  Seeing as I was all dressed up and on Friday, we hit the third trimester mark at 28 weeks.



It pretty much blows my mind to think that we’ll have another little girl in the house in 12 weeks!  Just before we went to bed last night, I told LIly two stories.  One was about her day and the party, and the other was about the day she was born.

The kid’s version goes something like this:

The day before you were born, I woke up really early.  I was excited because I knew that you wanted to meet your daddy and I was going to see your face for the first time.  We worked together all day, because it’s hard work trying to get a baby from inside a mommy’s belly out into the world.

We worked all day and all night.  Mommy got really tired, and Daddy stayed with Mommy the whole time.  The next day, we finally figured it out, and you were born!  The doctors handed you to me, and Daddy and I looked into your blue eyes for the first time.  There was a special song playing, and both Daddy and Mommy started crying, because we were so happy to see you.

For the past two years, we’ve looked at you every day, and we’ve thought about how lucky we are to be your Mommy and Daddy.  You’re such a special little girl, and we love you so much.

And Lily’s eyes grow heavy as I’m whispering to her.  She falls asleep, and I feel Lu moving.  In three short months, I get to do it again.

For the grown up version of Lily’s birthday, you can read this post here, and for a look at what we did for Lily’s first birthday, take a look here and here.


One Year of Lily

At 1 PM on April 6, the house was ready.  The champagne cooled in the refrigerator, and the cakes sat on the counter.  Colorful stem wear, platters of crackers, cheese, and veggies, hummus, lentil pate, and spicy peanut dip sat in a fanciful array on our kitchen table.  From the ceiling, garlands, saris, flowers, and pouffs swung festively.  I lit the essential oil burner and added eucalyptus, rosemary, and bergamot, smelled the tulips, straightened my flower crown, kissed Lily’s head a dozen times, and waited for the guests to arrive.

For the next few hours, we sat out in the sun on a blanket, sang and rattled a beat with cheap party favors.  Inside, we ate tons of good food and put away a couple bottles of champagne.  Lily was thrilled to have company her own size, and we had a great time, too.  The house was just how I had imagined it, and the weather was perfect for a little outside kumbayah.

While the party went as planned, little else for the past few weeks has.  If I had the time, this post might go on for pages, but I don’t.  Time, in fact, is in very short supply these days.

In a nutshell, the follow events have happened:

1) David discovered that he had a large mass in his chest in early March.  Within two weeks, he learned that he had Grey Zone Lymphoma, which is a combination of Hodgkin and B-cell lymphoma.  The cancer is extremely rare, and currently, there are only 100 people in the United States with the same condition.  In less than a week after his diagnosis, his health quickly deteriorated, and he was hospitalized on Monday because he was coughing up blood and struggling to breathe.  After a PET scan, he was told that he has stage 3B and a prognosis of 50%.  It is a very serious and aggressive cancer, but he is in a very good hospital (University of Colorado Anschutz), and they are giving him a very aggressive treatment.  He started chemo on Friday, and he will be receiving chemo for five days at a time through an IV, every three weeks, for six months.

Thankfully, my mom flew out a week and a half ago, and she was able to help David move out of his current living situation and store the majority of his things in a storage locker until he has a better idea of his next steps.  For now, he will be living with Joshua and me.  This past Friday, my mom flew back home, and since then, we have been making daily trips to the hospital.  Your prayers and good wishes are much appreciated, and if you’d like more information, please send me an e-mail.

2)  On March 31, Stacy and K moved in.  It might sound like Deja Vu because it is.  They moved in on the same date last year, just days before Lily was born.  Last year, they moved in for the six weeks between their lease ending and their house closing.  Since then, they’ve been living in a beautiful home just a four block walk from us.  In early January, K got the news that he’s a genius via the LSAT, and after some deliberation, the two of them decided to apply to the best of the best law schools.  We’re incredibly sad to see them go, but for the next five months, we’ll be getting much closer before we have half a continent between us.  In an effort to stage the hassle of moving out and renting and to save some money, the P’s have rented their home and are living with us until they leave in late August.

While it’s a squeeze in a home of 650 sq ft to have four (and with David in the guest house, five) adults, one infant, two dogs, and three cats, we’re making things work, and I count myself lucky to have such wonderful friends.

3)  Spring Break, that bastion of hope, didn’t really turn out as planned, what with our full house (at one point, Stacy, K, Mom, David, Yvonne, Joshua, Lily, two dogs, three cats and me), but there was progress.  Joshua and Juan put in two egress windows in the basement, and in a fit of frustration, we evacuated all of our furniture and completely redid the living room, sun room, and kitchen.  I’ve posted some photos, and I’ll post more, but I’m most excited about the space we set up for Lily.  I finally feel like we have a magical spot for her to play.

4)  Lily turned one.  If it’s possible, I feel like the past two months of her life have been set on fast forward.  I’m in awe of her development, and it feels like every day she does something new.  Just a month and a half ago, she began crawling, and now she’s pulling her self up and cruising with confidence.  She’s even started standing up for a few seconds at a time.  It’s so fun to watch her little butt wiggle across the floor, but by far my favorite development is her mimicry.  She claps when we clap, bumps our heads when we lean in for a “head bump” (thanks Zada!), waves when we wave, pushes the buttons we push…  She’s also really nailed the function of lots of objects.  Whenever she finds a sock or shoe (little or big) she tries to put it on her feet.  She tries to put bibs around her neck and hats on her head.  Spoons go in the mouth, and lentils are perfect to chase around with that spoon.  Whenever I put the Ergo on, she stomps her feet, wiggles, shrieks, and reaches her hands for up.  Cups are for drinking, and so are straws.  She loves her booster seat and meals, her grown-up steel canteen.

As I’m sure you can tell, I’m smitten.  I had no idea that babies were so fun!  I’ve loved her from the start, but it just seems like this parenting thing gets better and better.

5)  I cut my hair off in a fit of self-loathing.  This is never a good idea and always ill-advised.  Short always seems like less fuss in theory, but in reality, it is always more.  Plus, I feel like I look a good 5-7 years younger, which at my age makes me look like a child-mother.

5)  I don’t think I need to tell you that life has been stressful.  Most days go by and I hit the pillow with a to do list still a page long.  In more trying moments, I feel pulled in a million directions, stretched thin, and not quite good enough at anything.  In others, I’m able to give thanks for all of my blessings.  Insurance, good health, loving husband, happy baby, generous friends, a beautiful home, and mountains, always mountains.

On Friday night, I told Joshua that I would never be able to get everything ready for Lily’s party.  But that night, the P’s went out shopping.  When they came back, Stacy made custard for the hummingbird cake.  The next morning, Yvonne made lentil pate and spicy peanut dip.  K made his world-famous hummus.  Joshua cleaned.  Stacy baked.  We decorated.  We even got in a run!  When the going got tough…  Well, you know the saying.  And when 1 PM rolled around, the place was showered in good smelling, good looking blessings.  We sat down with a glass of champagne in our hands and waited for the guests to arrive.

At some point in the afternoon, I held Lily and stood close to Joshua.  Our guests gathered round, and we sang to Lily.  Together, we blew out one candle.  A single candle.  One year.  Hard and good, sad and happy, long and short, but mostly, sublime.  One year of blessings.  One year of Lily.