missoula update

Well. We made it. Whew! Here we are in our new life—a new city and state, a new job, a new school, a new place to live, new friends (hopefully forthcoming), a new beginning. Missoula, nestled on all sides by white-tipped mountains, seems like a very cool little city. It doesn’t take long to reach the outskirts of town, to wilderness, and there is a family-friendly communal feeling here. I adore the charming historic homes and overprotective mature trees, but I’m adjusting to the crazy maze of slanted and one-way streets that make an adventure of driving. We are antsy to get out to that wilderness and explore—so far we’ve been hindered by winter’s sea of ice and lack of daylight. Still, on balmy 40-degree days when we do venture out on the city bike trail, just a few blocks from our home, I have been surprised by how many runners, dog-walkers, and bikers are out. We’ve also been delighted to see how every motorist, seemingly, stops for us when we attempt to cross a street. What might that reveal about the mindset of residents?—perhaps that they revere a slower lifestyle and value the efforts of those on foot.

Jed started his new job at HRA and so far (he thinks) he likes it. They put him right to work on an extensive project. He is happy to be freed from a confining cubicle and doesn’t mind sharing the space with a fellow historian. And he digs the view from his 4th floor window—a sweeping panorama of the ample Clark Fork River (that slices Missoula in two) and the historic Wilma Theater just across Higgins Avenue. The window is west facing so he gets to see some spectacular displays of color and light in the late afternoon sunsets. He can take a stroll through the historic and hip downtown streets on his lunch hour or go on a run with a colleague who might be slightly faster than him (perfect for training purposes). In just a few minutes’ time from their office they can be pounding a mountain trail in Rattlesnake Recreation area. As for the commute, Jed can hop on a bus or even walk the 1.75 distance from work and be home by five, easily. It’s lovely.

Isaac, meanwhile, is jubilantly beginning his new adventure called full-day Kindergarten. Here’s how the transition from half-day went: after the first day he lamented, “I wish school got out at 6 o’clock, not 3!” His school is Paxson Elementary and teacher Mrs. LaRance, a top-notch educator from the looks of it. When I observed the class for an hour I was impressed with her teaching style and the attentiveness of the kids. Her classroom includes a science corner with all kinds of fun items for small hands to explore, and even two guinea pigs, a snake, and a 60-year-old turtle (or so Isaac claims). I’m glad that he can have a mid-day snack and even a rest time with his world-map blanket. Isaac is a fan of riding the bus to and from school (as is Mom :) and is already buddies with his 19 fellow classmates.

As for me, one of my first items of business is to make new friends. I’ve dragged the family to a school game night and service project in hopes of mingling with other parents, and we’ve met some tentative friends at church (there are a lot of families our age). One new friend, Jennifer, drove me around some nearby recreation areas for two hours and very generously watched the boys for us on our anniversary. We were pleased to discover relatives—my Dad’s cousin and his wife—in town, and they have welcomed us with open arms and act as surrogate grandparents to the kids. I am stoked about an electric piano from Kristen and Ed, and daily I’ve been tinkering out Broadway tunes and compelling Jed to be Jean Valjean, Marius, The Phantom, Raoul. Isaac even sings “Castle on a Cloud” along with me. Jed and I do yoga together as a new morning ritual along with running and exercising. I’m also reading, writing, and preparing myself to get back on the work scene part time, and I am toying with the idea of a master’s degree. Hm.

In Colorado one of our favorite stomping grounds was Green Mountain: here it will be replaced, I hope, with the nearby Blue Mountain. This weekend we got a dusty cover of new snow so we bundled the kids to scope it out. Jed pulled the boys along in a sled as we hiked, then we joined some sledders on a superb sloping hill.

Lincoln is the happy little clam that he usually is (unless occupied in a belligerent pout. Is it the age?). His day is spent in bliss working puzzles, exploring our new fort/swing/slide, drawing and coloring animals with their light sabers, and playing with his animal toys. He is often singing a little childish tune or ready with a "chish" (kiss) or snuggle. Sometimes we venture out together on walks and I relish holding his tiny mittened hand while he points out airplanes, chickens, doggies, light sabers (well, sticks in the shape of light sabers. We have Isaac to thank for the Star Wars/light saber obsession around here). We push our toes on the edges of ice and wonder at the sound as it crackles and breaks.


a brother's love

I came inside one night from an errand and after starting to make a light-hearted comment I stopped—so struck was I by Jed’s unusually grim demeanor. He somberly informed me that Isaac was in big trouble—a rarity around here. Why? Because during play sparring with light sabers, Isaac had smacked his little brother on the head with his—hard enough to make Lincoln cry—though Jed wasn’t there to see firsthand just how hard or intentional it was. The light sabers had been shelved for a week and the offender was sequestered in time-out.

Lincoln was gently whimpering and had retreated under his “Bee Tee”—his beloved hand-sewn-by-Great-Grandma blanket—on the living room floor.

I went to the door and murmured, “We’re disappointed in you, Isaac,” before closing it shut. But judging from his ashen expression, Isaac seemed pretty penitent about his crime. He even appeared to me to be in a self-punishing position—head squished into the crevice of the seat of the glider, feet awkwardly splayed over the arm rest.

I proceeded with dinner preparations. After about ten minutes I had all but forgotten the severity of the incident and called out, “Dinner time! Isaac, you can come out of time out! Come eat, Boys!”

Typically they quickly scurry in at meal times, but after several minutes neither had emerged. And it struck me that the house was curiously quiet.

“Dinner!” I again hollered. “Isaac, you can come out! The food is ready!”

After several more moments of boys MIA, I began to be perplexed. These are hungry little critters. So I went to find them. Lincoln had abandoned his cocoon in the living room, so I proceeded to their bedroom. But when I pushed open the door I stopped in my tracks—totally unprepared for the site.

Lincoln had snuck into the room and had squeezed his little body onto the glider beside the perpetrator; they were coiled up, one practically on top of the other, little towheads pressed together. In silence. Lincoln’s Bee Tee was wrapped protectively around them, his tiny arm squeezed snug, comfortingly, lovingly, around his big brother’s shoulders.