Out with a Splash!

Well, for those of you who are new here or have not been following along:

  • We’ve been in Santa Cruz for the last month and a half. Woohoo for “short Winter”, Missoula is getting hammered with some of the most thrilling temperature- and snow-depths in years.
  • Our eldest girl, Bella, who until the last few years came to our home every other weekend and half the holidays, is currently in 7th grade and living most of the school year at her Mom’s in Wyoming, and so was not able to join us; but since her Spring Break was whittled into nothing more than a long weekend this year, we wouldn’t have gotten to have her with us until Summer anyway, so no big change there (we have continued to have Skype dates with her and correspond regularly, though!).
  • Our middle girl, Xi, however, for six weeks (and a little less than half of our time here) has gotten to be in Santa Cruz, homeschooling her way through the assignments that her class was doing in Montana while she was away, but otherwise just living life here with us, uninterrupted for the duration; and in exchange, she’ll now be with her Mom until after our return to Montana.
  • We’ve been staying in a lovely home (“Garden Pearl”) that Natalie’s Dad (Juju) and his partner Bonnie own, right next door to where they live (“Paradise Gardens”), thus creating our own familial compound with an additional cottage in the back among other outbuildings.
  • And for two weeks we had one of our dearest friend-families from Missoula (the Daniels) staying in the cottage and hanging out with us, too. They got us out doing fun, more “touristy” activities, but blended right into our pre-existing routines here as well; and although we made sure that grandparent dates with our girls were still honoured, Juju and Bonnie got in the habit of bringing the Daniel girls right along with them, and the whole posse went out to Rupert (Rootbeer) and Grammie’s for Sunday dinner with us…
  • You can see part of all that fun in the most recent previous posts.

owas21Here’s how our last week with them turned out; and how we spent our last few days with Xi before she had to get back to her other home and school.

We started off the week with another great hike (still a “hike” post in our collective future, don’t fret…) and a fire-inspired gathering that night — including, of course, those incredible super-sized marshmallows we have come to prefer for such endeavors.

Monday, Uncle Don came over with Great-Gramma Alice and made pancakes for the whole compound. He was flipping flapjacks and taking names as soon as they arrived and then he vanished as soon as we were all groaning with fullness. Uncle Don earned himself quite a few popularity points with the four girls that morning.

On Tuesday, we went to Año Nuevo, a state park and beach preserve about a half-hour from Santa Cruz, to see the visiting Elephant Seals. Xi continued taking every opportunity that she could to help Romy (the Daniels’ Mom) with baby Selah…owas

I was continually so pleased and impressed with Xi’s interest and prowess in child-care throughout the two weeks. I kept saying to myself and Natalie, “Our girls are going to be so much better parents than we could ever be,” which is actually such a lovely thought to have. They already do/are on occasion, but in due time certainly will outshine us as patient, empathetic, skillful parents. I have never parented toward this, but realizing it underscores the magnitude of the work we are all doing to change the future history of parenting. By mindfully making the changes and “advances” that we are making in approaching parenting our children, we are empowering them and the generations of children to come after them to be better and better parents. We are changing the world one kid at a time!

But back to Año Nuevo…

The Illustrious (but no-nonsense) Ed was our docent in the park, and led us on the hike down, to, and along the protected stretch of beach where the Elephant Seals gather, give birth, nurse, and mate each year.owas1 I can easily say I had never previously seen a sign like this one. It’s a good one, too, because when you get down to the beach…owas2it’s easy to think gazing down on them as they lay beached on the shore that they are too big, slow, and sleepy to do anything that one might consider “wild” or worthy of a “warning”. But once you see them doing that old breakdancing move — the Centipede — furrumping their 5-ton bodies up the strand in great thunderous, flopping hiccups, and biting and banging their huge, calloused chests into one another, you start to have a good sense of why the males in particular are no joke!
owas4 Above, you can see a harem lazying with their established papa-bull. In the upper-frame you can see an old home that used to be part of the lighthouse there. The point on which it stands went from peninsula to island and was eventually abandoned by human tenants. The Elephant Seals are too inflexible to get up to and in it, but a happy band of nimble Sea Lions have turned the whole thing into an exclusive rookery and hotel resort — one old bessie even used an upstairs bathtub as her last resting place. Humans can visit the island hotspot, but few want to because of it’s highly pungent incense…

Back on the beach, a couple of fat weaners snuggle in the sand. Elephant Seal mamas give birth, nurse, and wean their pups in roughly the same locale each year, then go into estrous, abandon the pups, mate, and return to sea for months of endless eating. Once weaned, the pups lay around for weeks slimming down from their astounding, post-nursing “plumpitude”, and eventually lumber to the ocean’s edge to begin their “sink or swim” lessons without parents.owas3 After the tour, we went to Swanton Farm (just back down the road toward SC).owas5 There’s a little shop and “treatery” there where we got chocolate-covered Strawberries, Tayberry cobbler, and Strawberry shortcake for our hungry, trail-worn crew. Notice that Xi is back, again, or still with babe-on-hip…
owas6
Sweet Feast!owas7 Oh Selah… you and Olive are usurping all attention in this shot, but I really wanted people to see the “honor till” in the background, too… I love places where people still overtly trust one another.owas8 On Wednesday, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium — a favorite spot of ours to visit whenever we’re in the area. I always feel like we never have enough time to see it all, and then it changes! I could go a dozen more times before we leave this spring.

Here’s some highlights:

Tube Anemones…owas9 The wave tunnel, where every minute or so, you can stand under a tidal deluge…owas10The Jellies, of course…
owas11 MBA has armadas of jellies in all shapes, sizes, and colors…
owas13 The ever-weird and wonky Sunfish… (shown here slowly trolling over a spinning school of other anonymous fish).owas12 On Thursday, we hit the Santa Cruz Roller Palladium. I should have been a Rubberband Man, I love rollerskating so much!

owas20It was a perfect trip in part because we had such a great crew of brave kids and willing adults, but also because we ended up being joined by Grammie, Rupert, Natalie’s aunt Sally, and Natalie’s cousin Jenny and her family. We all tore up the floor (and some of us bruised a few knees and butt-cheeks, too), and had a stupendous time frolicking at various speeds together. Echo, Salome, and Olive were all just learning, and it was super-fun to be part of the team of adults checking in with them every couple of rounds, taking a turn to hold a hand or go slowly with them around the outer-most edge of the rink. I skated backward and towed Xi in a classic “couple’s skate” a bit as well — much to her delight.

owas15 I tried to take baby Selah for a ride on my back in the Ergo, but was quickly, and perhaps rightfully, shut-down by the authorities on hand. So Romy, also interested in hitting the floor for a few revolutions, quickly nursed and ended up putting Selah to sleep, then laid her on the bench next to Rupert. He kept that hand on her little belly the entire hour-and-a-half that she laid there peacefully snoozing to the disco beats and rolling murmur of skate wheels on the wooden floor. You can see Grammy and Echo in the background palling around together.owas14 After Skate-fest, we went with cousins, grandparents, and visiting friends alike to celebrate at Top-a-lot — perhaps the best do-it-yourself-yogurt shop in America. We ate our amazing creations all together, taking up two full booths, one half booth, and even overflowing into a few surrounding chairs in the tiny shop. Then our little clan broke off as the tribe dissembled, and went home for the most epic dance party in the history of at least the three 7-and-unders’ lives. Olive, Echo, Salome, Xi (not shown getting down, here), and I danced all our brains out to almost the entire INXS Greatest Hits album, shaking, gyrating, head-banging, and hair-whipping — even parading out onto the silent sidewalk out front at points — until we were all sore, sweaty, puddles of laughter.

(Thanks goes out to Romy for this image.)
owas19

Friday, Juju and Bonnie took all four older girls and another of our little local friends, Seiji, to see the Lego movie. What a hoot that must have been, even to watch from afar — a motley bevy of 4-10 year-olds hopping and bopping around the serene and jolly couple of elders, all cruising up to and into the movie theater together, and plunking down in a row to watch a cartoon! Ah, I wish I had pictures…

Instead, there’s this.owas17 This (above) is what it looked like after the kids got home from the movie, played like mad some more, tried to maybe have another dance party (for which none of us could really muster the gusto), wrestled a bit in exchange, and then settled into a game in which I had two broken legs, had to drink imaginary special smoothie for my health, and had to be fanned by Echo while resting my head on my brand new Xideka pillow!

The next morning we had to take the whole kit-n-kaboodle, including Xi, to the airport. Our friends escorted Xi, and she of course assisted Romy with Selah, throughout the trip back to Missoula. Xi’s Mom met them at the airport holding a sign with Xi’s name on it. And we were all so pleased with how well it all worked out…

owas16 But before they went, before we even got going that day, I went and climbed onto Xi’s bed and snuggled with her for about an hour. We’d had a really amazing six-uninterrupted-weeks with her, and it was a sincere (if “stolen”) pleasure to have her day-in and day-out, all-day for that much time. We didn’t have to drop her off at school, we didn’t have to do any transitions, we didn’t have to try and keep the playing field level between her and Echo (as we normally would with her coming and going from another house every week, missing certain things/events and getting to experience certain other extras…), and we didn’t have to give her back. For six beautiful, fantastic, deliriously fun, elucidating, lovely, “my-how-time-flies-when-you’re-having-fun” weeks we had Xi to ourselves. We felt so free that we even let her have multiple sleep-overs with Grammie — on “our” time! We parceled out dates with both her and Echo with both sets of grandparents here for hours at a stretch without blinking. For most of the last decade, I have been relentlessly stingy with every second I’ve gotten with both my older daughters, and I often get a little taste of this feeling in the Summer when Bella is with us for weeks at a time; but to feel like there’s plenty of hours and days with Xi, yawning out before us and behind us — so much so that I could still in good conscience share it — was a treat that I have only known a couple of times in her life.

I liked it a lot.

owas22

And at the airport it was hard to let her and that feeling go…

*

It’ll be several weeks before we get back to Montana and see her again. I’m not looking forward to carrying around this missing her until then. I’m so glad that we made such stupendous use of our time together since January; so glad for things like email, Skype, and the postal service; and so glad that, as Xi said to me on-screen yesterday, “At least we don’t have to wait to love each other!”.

She and all our Missoula friends left a week ago now. I cleaned out the room Xi’d used at Garden Pearl the day after she left, but I still keep expecting her to come out of it in the mornings. It’s funny how easily we can get used to even the most unordinary delights.

owas18

*

Be well; and present with your blisses, my friends.

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About Nathan M McTague, CPCC, CPDPE

I am a full-time Parent of three, Writer, Life Coach, Lecturer, and Natural Parenting Mentor. In all of the above, I am seeking to assist my fellow humans in their processes of claiming and unleashing their highest potentials.
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4 Responses to Out with a Splash!

  1. haridasgowra says:

    E N J O Y………………

  2. Lelia says:

    That was a beautiful read
    You are a truly wonderful parent and you have a beautiful family

    • Thanks, Lelia!

      I think we do make a lovely bunch. And I feel so much love for them that it surprises me all the time. Thanks for holding us so sweetly in your perspective!

      Love to you and your big beautiful little clan as well!

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