Well it’s that time again, folks! Another week of super-fun has come and gone and I barely have time to pause here now to share with you a Spanish alphabet’s worth of highlights from all the great (and some bitter-sweet) things we’ve had going on! So — right to the goods:
Just to recap — we’re in Santa Cruz for the back half of Winter, living and working and visiting with Natalie’s extended family on both sides. For the last two weeks we had our dear friends from Missoula, the Daniels, visiting and staying on the compound with us.
Ok, so — now right to the goods:
1. Selah is a great example of why we humans reproduce. She’s a diplomat for babies and parenting advocates everywhere. The only fear is that sometime or other, one of her grown-ups just might eat her. We had one more week to all get our fixes, so pretty much my whole family was fighting to get our last shot(s) at basking in her attention. Here, she and I were right in the middle of an excellent game of “don’t tuck that in my shoe!”.2. Santa Cruz is one of those towns (like Missoula, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco) that is just so, well — itself. Everywhere we go, we’re reminded that there’s no town like this one. And that fact seems cherished by all. I’ve never seen so many “This Town” bumperstickers in all my travels as in “Santa Cruz”. So while I know there’s probably other towns that have a rule like the one below, there’s still something about this sign that is absolutely, iconically, so Santa Cruz.3. Juju gets to be the Daniel kids’ grandpa while they’re here. They always just fold right in for stories or pancakes or movies. And, I don’t know for sure, but he doesn’t seem too bothered… ;)4. We celebrated, Aunt Emily’s partner, David’s birthday right alongside a celebration for the Daniel girls (since we’re in Santa Cruz and they are in Missoula during all of their birthdays). This is, I know, a hilarious shot for that particular occasion since none of those people are actually in this shot… But! I wanted you to get to see the cakes that Romy and Natalie made. And these ladies singing the birthday song with 4 names to add to the crescendo line…
5. Romy is a braidsmith among many other things, so our girls often like to avail themselves of her talents when she’s near. Just another of the many benefits of village living!6. Speaking of village living… One of the things Natalie and I enjoyed most this year was that while our own kids were away on grandparent dates (spending the night with Grammy, or as you’ll see in a minute…), we got to be Aunt Natalie and Uncle Nathan! Just two, energetic adults available to wrestle kids and hugs out hurts and read stories and play in the creek. I preferred to call us both “Aunt and Uncle Nath-alie”, but it didn’t really catch on.7. There’s this funny little oasis down behind the compound where the natural Branciforte Creek gets channelled into a storm drainage chute to be carried to the nearby Santa Cruz River on it’s way to the ocean. It was converted at this point to help manage the huge swells that occur nearly every time there is a heavy rain, and thereby avoid (more) flooding. We like to take the kids there sometimes on warm days when we aren’t going to the beach. The girls make forays up the creek, and run up the high slanted sides of the channel-opening, and throw sticks and leaves into the quick slip of water speeding down the chute.8. Our crew on the move. Walking back from the creek. 9. Olive shining her radiant light.9. The neighbors got a little nosey one day…
No, not really… We all went together to the San Francisco Zoo! The giraffes were a favorite to be sure. But the whole thing was absolutely amazing!! There were strange but beautiful birds…Salome led a band of marauders riding giant geese!
The girls almost got lost in an enormous underground burrow!
And we all got to scratch around in the dirt for snacks!There was an informative talk with three knowledgable zoo workers. Natalie (and the rest of us, too, but mostly Natalie) got to pet some animals…We had a sit-down with the grizzly bear.Xi grew wings!
Salome and Echo spent some time as giraffes.The girls all rode this hippo, while taking turns looking at the other hippo (in the background)…who was playing a very dedicated game of aqua-ball! This game of dunking, stalling, holding the ball under, pinning it to the side, biting it like you would bite the outside of an uncut watermelon went on — without stop for a long time! We were all pretty mesmerized by the hippo — a very fast, very deft, superlatively athletic aqua-ball player. When we gave up and went on to the next area, the hippo was still playing.
We made a day of the zoo trip, standing long and gazing deeply into the faces, feathers, and fur of all the many beautiful animals, passing around the mono- and binoculars we borrowed from Juju, guffawing loudly in turn, and then racing on to the next attraction. I personally could have spent the entire day watching the gorillas! But for some reason, I did not get any good pictures of them… Too busy gaping, I guess.
10. Since Xi was leaving with the Daniels to go back to Missoula (and reunite with her Mom), she spent the last week checking things off her “must do before leaving” list. The girls went to Grammy’s for the last overnight (though, they didn’t actually stay all night this time…); Xi hung out with her pal(s) across the street one last time, soaked up plenty of Selah snuggles, got a personal date with Bonnie and some Papa-Xi time, too; and then on the last day, this — Echo, Xi, and Bonnie finally got to run away together and get their nails done! The ladies at the salon sent us this picture, which I absolutely love… The girls were so appreciative and pleased with their candied digits, each showing off the jewel-centered flowers painted on their thumbs and big toes.
11. While they were away, we got to send Suresh and Romy off on a lunch date together, and took their kids back to the creek to play one last time.
Really it was the only way that I could engineer for me to get Selah away from her parents and Xi who are always monopolizing her attention! She spent the majority of the time in my arms. We looked up-close at Wisteria pods and collected a fistful of seeds (that I spread around later…) before heading down to throw leaves into the creek. I’d toss in a leaf and walk a few steps along with it pointing it out to Selah who watched it carefully before the current swept it away and we would both say together, “Byyyyyye Leeeeaaaf!” and wave it out of sight. “Again,” she’d mumble into my heart, and I’d turn on the spot and fetch us another leaf. Then repeat the whole process. We did that at least 10 times on this day, and a similar game at least 20 times on the previous creek visit. Now that’s solid almost-2 entertainment!
Why are Aunts and Uncles so much cooler than parents? The kids think we’re cooler… We feel somehow cooler — more like hip adult playmates than guardians or dare I say parents… What the heck is that about?
One more shout-out for village living!
12. Also on everyone’s “must do before leaving” list was one more trip to Top-A-Lot! Xi and I were basically joined at the hip by this point and remained so until she left.
13. But leave she did, as did all of our friends, in one fell swoop. At 6:30am on Saturday, they were peeled from us amid many thanks and tears and promises and hugs and I love yous in the misty, bird-crowded morning.
Fortunately for all involved (including all you unsuspecting co-passengers on the planes they all took) Xi went with the Daniels all the way to Missoula and right to her mother’s waiting arms. It was a little bit of a bumpy ride for them, but I’m so glad they all had each other. Selah and Xi in particular share a special bond and had a good time throughout the two weeks we were all together and on their way back. They all love Xi, though, and she loves them, so it works out nicely (though, she did try to puke on a few of them… and did get them all sick afterward…). People that saw them kept commenting on Romy’s 4 lovely daughters…
14. After milling about for a long time Saturday morning trying to figure out how to manage going on with so few of us, we went to the farmer’s market and then to Great Gramma Alice’s. Juju gave her an amazing pedicure — I mean the guy could work in any salon in the world — he swept out her entire bungalow, and made the bed; while we all scuttled around him making way and/or getting a better view. This Saturday ritual (with or without the monthly pedicure) is one of my favorite Santa Cruz weeklies. We felt a little hollow this week, if only because we were such a skeleton crew, but also because we were already missing our villagers and our Xi — nevertheless, we carried on in good spirits and enjoyed a good show!15. I rounded out the weekend by spending a fair amount of time in the various gardens of the compound, pruning, digging, transplanting, and fine-tuning. Here’s a shot of the sunset from the “secret garden”, off the back of the property, where I’ve done a good bit of work this season. From this spot, one can look out over the creek where we take the kids, and the undulating hills to the west. It’s a lovely private spot hidden by bay trees who stand just far enough apart for you to peek out over the valley between them.16. Juju asked me to dig a water meter out of the gopher mine-tailings and flood run-off that had filled it’s protective cover-box. I shoveled for a while unearthing the apparatus which had a latex lid over it’s face. Then I got down on my knees and with the deluxe rubber-finger garden gloves at the compound, I continued to pull out handfuls of dirt, sweeping off ledges and digging out crannies with my armored fingertips, and generally getting the inside of that meter box as clean as it can reasonably get. I was listening to a conversation in my head in which one of my internal voices was explaining how I was the type of person to really take on a task like this, to make it an opportunity, and to use it to honour my own integrity — and, I had to laugh a little, those voices in our heads can get so carried away sometimes, can’t they? But I could still hear the truth in it. I was taking the task at hand very seriously. I was doing my best. And even though it is a plastic cover-box laying in the actual dirt over a section of pipe that would otherwise be buried, I was going to make sure that, right then, it was as clean as it was ever going to get. I swept at the flap covering the face of the meter. I opened it and flicked away the dirt from its heavy plastic window. It was pretty… So I flicked on, getting as much as I could off the readable surface of the meter. And then in the last few swipes, I uncovered those numbers at the top and stopped, shaking my head. “Not really. Surely it doesn’t really, only have my lucky number 212 on it?” I said outloud. I mean… right…? I mean, there’s no way that actually happens — at least not without the universe winking. Is there?!
I love it!17. Another thing I love is this hair. Bella and her hair are coming hair, no, here in another week and a half!! Hair below, you can see the latest cut and color. I never went so boldly with the color, myself, we just didn’t have that level of technology at my friends’, but I’m pretty sure I had that ‘doo at about the same age! Can’t wait to see her and feel so glad that she’s getting to join us for a quick visit during the school session. Woohoo!18. Arnold is still kicking it in our mudroom. He comes out just about every night and eats several times his body weight in Romaine, leaving a trail of green BB’s in his wake. Any day now, we expect the biggest Giant Leopard Moth cocoon in history to be hanging from the wicker table. I hope I get to see him at his coming out party!13.b. It took 24 hours before I could turn off the globe lamp that I had turned on the morning Xi was getting up and ready and leaving, and a few days after that before I could strip the bed and finally prepare the room to be without her. No matter how much time we get with her up front, the end always comes too soon and the distance until next time we see her feels like eons. This being only the second year that we’ve been doing this whole “first quarter in Santa Cruz” thing, we still aren’t used to going so long without seeing her — she’s gone back and forth every few days or every other week most of her life, and still does when we’re in Missoula. So it’s just doubly tough to see her go, even though we just had two months straight with her. All of this goes double-double for Bella who usually only gets to come over to have time with us in between sessions of school. I know some parents have no trouble with it, but I never get used to what it feels like when they go…
Hold your babies close, my friends. And make sure they know how much they mean to you.
Even though we’re a teeny group now, we’re going to go on having big fun. I hope you and yours do too!