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Sunset 6.21.12

Canyon and I went to the lake for sunset. He was crabby. This is why you will see no pictures of him. Because he was crying. It was not fun.

But at least it was pretty!

Near the end of the trip he was a bit happier as long as I stayed on the path he thought went back to the van. Any attempts at a turn or a side trip sent him into tears again. Oh well. I tried. We went to the playground and he was happy to be there but not into really playing. So we walked back to the car.

There was a low hanging crescent moon that had been hiding behind the trees and when we found it, it made us both happy.


Oh Yeah. I Lied. I Wanted To Go To Wilmette-Summer Solstice Part 3

So I had said I just wanted to ride up the shore a little bit but my real plan was to go to Gilson Beach in Wilmette. I love this beach and we usually don’t go in the summer because it is fancy rich people beach and you need to be a resident to park, play, etc.

By the time John figured out my evil plan it was too late. “you’re trying to take us to Wilmette, aren’t you??!!”, he growled. “Yes.” I said in my naughty baby voice. He tried to turn back home but then realized we were about 2 blocks away and gave in. Yippee! We found the last parking space in the non resident stretch, right under this perfect tree…

We headed for the beach at sunset…

We arrived at the playground just as the life guard was making the announcement that the beach was now swim at your own risk and that meant no one was checking for passes at the gate! Except for River and Raven…

But she was more interested in eating her hand than checking badges and he was kind of lenient, a smile could get you through!

And a kind soul offered to take a picture of all of us!

The Viets-Strel’s, Summer Solstice 2012!

Canyon had an excellent view of a red helicopter that looked just like one of his favorite toys…

The Babes had some swinging with the added bonus that I got to watch their smiling faces AND the lake all at the same time!

It was the perfect night and we left as it was getting dark. We drove home listening to Caroline Smith and The Good Night Sleeps.

Blessed be!


River Luna, Eater of Sand, Lover of Swings-Summer Solstice Part 2


Welcome Summer! Solstice Fun In Three Parts

I have been looking forward to celebrating the Summer Solstice all week. John was able to take the day off and his mother came over a few hours to watch the kids so we could have time for coffee, hair appointments and lunch. It felt good to be out alone together and to talk about things other than our wonderful, beautiful, adorable children!

We were home by 2pm and kicked around the house until suddenly it was 4:45pm and I wanted us all to be at the beach to ring in the exact moment of the solstice at 6:09pm. We scrambled to get everybody out the door but were totally slammed with rush hour traffic and people who obviously had no where important to be and felt just fine about driving 10mph in the city.

So we kind of made it on time. There was no parking near the beach so Canyon and I got out while John and The Babes went to find parking. Canyon did not like this act of separation and made me carry him all the way to the beach where we met up with our friend Karin, her daughter Millie and doggie Zelda. And when we went to sit on the beach that upset Canyon even more. Not sure what that’s about. He liked this beach two years ago but last year and this year it makes him very frantic. So the exact moment of solstice was a bit chaotic but we celebrated anyway when John and The Babes rolled up in the mega stroller a few minutes later.

Canyon wanted back in the stroller and off the beach immediately.

So John took him for a walk…

while The Babes got their first taste of a summertime beach!

And I do mean taste because River really does like to eat sand!

Raven was like a baby turtle and kept wanting to crawl straight for the water…

Canyon was like that as a baby too.

River and I enjoyed snuggling in between grabbing Raven from the waves…

And this is me with my fresh hair and blissful solstice face…

John and Canyon were oh so ready to leave so I packed up the bags and The Babes and agreed to head back to the car. But once we were in I somehow persuaded John to drive up the shore a bit further to enjoy the sunset. “Just a little ways”, I said. I lied.


“I have a “carpe diem” mug and, truthfully, at six in the morning the words do not make me want to seize the day. They make me want to slap a dead poet.” ~Joanne Sherman

I wonder if the people rushing off to start their day even notice the pajama clad boy on the porch each morning.

I like this picture because I think Canyon and I have the same eyes.

Raven’s wearing a pair of Canyon’s old pajamas that I just loved…

Peaceful mornings. Someday, probably this fall, we will have school to rush off to and then I will look back on these simple summer mornings with deep longing. For now it’s just the right start to our day.


Dear Cloud Cult,

I first heard Cloud Cult the spring of 2008, when some mix I downloaded had “When Water Comes To Life” on it. I loved it obsessively and put it on all of my mixes for the year. I bought the entire album on May 4, 2008 but never really deeply listened to it or really “heard” it until December of 2008 when I was laid off from my job. “Feel Good Ghosts (Tea Partying Through Tornadoes), was on my iPod and I decided to listen to it while Lilo and I went for a walk in the snow. I was sad. I was unemployed. I was 4 months pregnant. I was scared. And all of a sudden “No One Said It Would Be Easy” was in my ears.

you came up from the ground
from a million little pieces
you’re a pretty human being
yeah you’re a pretty human being,

when it all comes crashing down
try to understand your meaning
no one said it would be easy
this living it ain’t easy

and you were sewn together
with a tapestry of molecules
a billion baby galaxies
and wide open spaces
and every thing you need is here
everything you fear is here
and it’s holding you up
it just keeps holding you up

you came up from the ground
from a million little pieces
you’re a pretty human being
yeah you’re pretty human being

when it all comes crashing down
try to understand your meaning
no one said it would be easy
this living it ain’t easy

And I stood on the corner of Monticello and Berteau with my loyal dog at my side and a baby in my belly and I started to laugh. And I started to cry. And I was happy. It was such a moment of clarity and exactly what I needed.

I played that album for the next two months and it kept me sane during my two and half weeks of bed rest in the hospital after my water broke way way too early.

When infection set in and I went into hard, fast and painful labor we were caught off guard. I did not have my iPod with me at the hospital, only my MacBook, so I had to play the album through the computer in my room while I waited for John to arrive. When they took me down for my emergency c-section John had to carry the computer with him and every time the album ended I would scream, “Start it again! At “No One Said It Would Be Easy! “ Start it again!”

When Canyon was so small and so tragic I would sing,

“you have precious little mind
you paint a perfect little rainbow
you will make this right
you have the will of a volcano”

For those 48 days and nights in the hospital I would chant it like a mantra.

I would make little videos of him and use it as the soundtrack. This video still makes my stomach cramp and my eyes fill with tears. By 1:28 seconds I want to make it stop when I see his labored breathing, his fragile little arms, those dark alien eyes…

I saw Cloud Cult live for the first time and second time all on the same day, December 10, 2010. I won tickets to a private taping of JBTV and was blessed to see them with only 40 or so others. I was near the front and when the first notes were played the tears came gushing out. I could barely breathe. I was afraid one of the cameras would focus on me and my blubbering sobs. It was so cathartic to see and hear them. That night I went to see them at The Metro and there were still tears but there was more giddy happiness and pure joy.

Two weeks after that show I would get pregnant and the following March I learned that I was having twins and the doctor’s were worried that after all that happened with Canyon and went as far as suggesting that we selectively reduce the pregnancy to just one baby. I said no. And back to Cloud Cult I went.

By July my embriotic fluid was low and I was hospitalized. I would sing from “When Water Comes To Life”,

All you need to know
Is you are born of water
You are made of water
You are merely water, water, water

All you need to know
Is you are born of water
You are made of water
You are merely water, water, water

When it was time for the c-section I was ready and had the Cloud Cult “Light Chasers” album cued up and ready to go. I laid in the prep room, terrified yet calmed by Craig’s voice. When I had to leave my music behind and enter surgery I was softly singing more of “When Water Comes To Life” and as they sliced me open I kept singing. “and when the angels come
they’ll cut you down the middle, to see if you’re still there, to see if you’re still there.” Later, when I was wheeled down to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to be with River and Raven for the first time I played “You Were Born” on my iPhone for each of them in their isolation cribs. It is the first song they heard.

You were born into a strange world.
Like a candle, you were meant to share the fire.
I don’t know where we come from, and I don’t know where we go.
But my arms were made to hold you, so I will never let you go.
Cuz you were born to change this life.
You were born to chase the light.
You were born…

Love your mother, yeah she’s s good one.
She’ll build you armor; keep you warm as a hen.
The stars may fall and the rains may pour,
But I will love you evermore.
You were born to make this right.
You were born to chase the light.
You were born…

Oh my precious, oh my love, when they come to take me,
I will hold you from above.
I don’t know why we’re here, and I don’t know how,
But I’m here with you now, I am here with you now.
Cuz you were born to change this life.
Cuz you were born to make this right.
Cuz you were born to chase the light.

While they were in the NICU I would hold them for hours, their warm naked bodies on my naked chest and the soft sounds of Cloud Cult in our ears. For 30 and 37 days, until both were home and the music could be played at a louder volume and in a happier environment.

Cloud Cult did not play in Chicago in 2011 but now they were back. They returned to Chicago and I had the chance to see them two nights in a row. The first was at Lincoln Hall and the next at Millennium Park-two completely opposite venues.

When they performed “Love You All” at Lincoln Hall the tears were steaming down my face and the, hmmm, the phrase I want to use to describe the woman behind me is not very nice so I will not say much about her but you get the point, said very loudly to her date, “Oh my god is she crying?” Yes. Yes I was. “She’s really crying? What’s that about?!” She is saying this extremely loud about a foot away from me. Yes. I was really crying. I was crying because I was happy. I was crying because I was sad. I was crying because it was beautiful. I was crying for the family history that I knew about the two people singing it-they suddenly lost their beloved two year old boy a few years ago. I cried and I cried. And because it is 2012 and everything is on the internet here is the exact performance that was so powerful and emotional for me.

At the Milennium Park show I was in bliss for most of the show.

It is a stunning venue and the night was gorgeous. I watched part of the show from above the seating so that I could take in the whole view of the crowd and the city, plus I was enjoying free 312 beer courtesy of an old friend.

Then I moved to the front of the stage with the hard core fans and we sang and danced and celebrated the music together.

I don’t know how to end this post, this love letter really. I was searching for the perfect song, the perfect quote to express how much this music has meant to me. I am 40 years old and music has been a huge part of my life, has shaped my memories and experiences and brought me to new experiences. And of all the music I have loved this is the band that moves me the most. The songs that have been there for me like the closest of friends in some of the darkest moments of my life. The songs that welcomed my children to this world.

So I will just say thank you.




V.I.P. Bouncy House!

Our friend Joy had rented a bouncy house for her son’s party and had it around for the weekend and invited Canyon over to jump. So after all of our other Father’s Day fun we headed over to her house for a private bounce session!

Unfortunately Canyon watched it being inflated and it freaked him out so he didn’t have as much fun as we thought he would.

I got in with him but he still seemed kind of concerned about the whole thing.

Then he started to jump…

But it was kind of like he was just going through the motions…

Then he wanted out!

Then he wanted to keep an eye on it…

It was super nice of Joy to set it up just for us! It was also nice to know that we shouldn’t bother renting one for the next birthday party and if we do, don’t let Canyon see it being inflated!


The Babes At The Playground

Tie dye butt!

Raven is a really great climber! Right now I can hear him chattering away in frustration because we have the safety gate up at the bottom of the staircase and he wants to scamper up the stairs!

This is a great new playground but the only problem is the entrances are not gated and Canyon tends to make a break for it. I was with the twins and John had Canyon at one point I heard John yelling and saw Canyon hauling ass for Central Avenue-a very busy street. I don’t think I would have caught him if it had been me. I don’t know why people think it is a good idea to have a playground with no safety net in place for little ones!