That Lovely Last Week in Santa Cruz…

Hey Folks! It’s been a couple weeks too long since I’ve updated you on the family goings-on with us. This has largely been due to the fact that I’ve been up to my eyeballs in the preparation and execution of the biggest visual and performance art show of my life. There’s a link to more information about that at the end of this post.

Now for the pics! Below, you’ll find a slew of images from, our eldest daughter, Izabella’s weeklong visit with us in Santa Cruz, and my last week there before returning to Missoula to do my show.

Bella and I hit the Boardwalk the first day she was with us for a surgical mission to all her favorite rides.IMG_1869 The Undertow, which is pretty new on the boardwalk, may be the funnest roller coaster I’ve ever been on… I just wish it was twice as long! We rode that right away and multiple times during our several hours there.IMG_4654 Bella’s favorite ride remains the Giant Dipper. I went on it with her once, and then she went again — and got a double ride that time as the workers just let the cars go on through without stopping. I shot this picture of the screen that captures everyone’s reactions going passed a particular spot on the ride.IMG_4746 This year, Bella took on the challenge (solo!) of doing the run-away-elevator-styled, “Double Shot”, which not only drops you like a freefall, but starts by shooting you up to over a hundred feet in the air like a rocket first! You can see the concentration…IMG_1861 Speaking of concentration… Bella got handed a copy of Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris and devoured the thing in about 24 hours. The math homework she brought took all week… No doubt whose kid she is!LW1Echo had a Girl Scout performance that required the use of this Sari as a costume, which provided a lovely opportunity for her to enjoy trying it out several times in the week leading up. I love how well she matches the print in the background…LW2Another fun trip that last week was back to the San Francisco Zoo! Rrrraaawrr!IMG_4712 We nosed around with the anteater…IMG_4715 Bear-hugged on the bear…IMG_4729Who then gave Bella a ride…IMG_1883

To another hugfest!IMG_4997 Echo and Bella played (and snuggled) at the zoo playground…IMG_4748Here, she was needing a break, so Bella was just lion around…IMG_4749We were inspired by The Thinker…
IMG_1875 Impressed by the peacock…IMG_1880Saw this Alice in Wonderland butterfly with shades on her head…
IMG_1882Practiced our tourist looks…IMG_4974 It seems like we color-match our children, but I promise, they just accidentally fit in a fashion spread together.IMG_4983 See what I mean?IMG_4990 This bird almost brushed my brow with his wing. Then stood less than a foot from me while I snapped several shots of his impressive derrière…LW4Almost as impressive and certainly just as willing to let me get close-up were these lovely Pincushion flowers — one of my new favorites in Santa Cruz.LW3We went to the Cove and got to beach it up in a major way! Including Henry!IMG_1904The girls challenged the waves…
IMG_1909And played in the sand to their hearts’ content.IMG_1914And, we have the photo proof now, it’s official, Bella is taller than Grammy! No offense Grammy…
IMG_4663On Bella’s and my last day in Santa Cruz, I gave this girl the first real haircut she’s ever had — not just a trim but 6 inches. This was before; for some reason I can’t find any “after” shots! The real reason I included this shot is because I’m missing this girl something fierce. I came back a few weeks earlier than Natalie and Echo so that I could engage my art show and this will be the longest that Echo and I have ever been apart, making for the absolute most difficult portion of my current endeavor.
IMG_1916For those of you that are interested, here’s a link to the blog for my project: https://dreamcatchingshow.wordpress.com; be sure to check out the About page for a complete description.

I’ll be here a little more in the coming weeks, and back to normal next month! Hope you all are enjoying your Spring!

*

Be well.

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Out with a Roar

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!”.3.4.15a2. 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.3.4.15b3. 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… ;)3.4.15q4. 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…
3.4.15
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!3.4.15r6. 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.3.4.15ra7. 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.3.4.15s8. Our crew on the move. Walking back from the creek. 3.4.15c9. Olive shining her radiant light.3.4.15t9. The neighbors got a little nosey one day…
3.4.15dNo, 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!!3.4.15e There were strange but beautiful birds…3.4.15fSalome led a band of marauders riding giant geese!
3.4.15gThe girls almost got lost in an enormous underground burrow!
3.4.15pAnd we all got to scratch around in the dirt for snacks!3.4.15hThere was an informative talk with three knowledgable zoo workers. 3.4.15iNatalie (and the rest of us, too, but mostly Natalie) got to pet some animals…3.4.15jWe had a sit-down with the grizzly bear.3.4.15kXi grew wings!
3.4.15lSalome and Echo spent some time as giraffes.3.4.15mThe girls all rode this hippo, while taking turns looking at the other hippo (in the background)…3.4.15nwho 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.3.4.15o

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.
3.4.15w11. 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!
3.4.15vWhy 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!
3.4.15u12. 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.3.4.15x

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…

3.4.15y14. 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!3.4.15z15. 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.3.4.15za16. 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!3.4.15zb17. 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!3.4.15zc18. 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!3.4.15ze13.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…
3.4.15zdHold 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!

*

Be well.

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The More the Merrier!

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Greetings all, from the catbird seat! For the last week, we’ve been having even more fun than we were already — more than I thought possible in some senses… And why, how, what on earth is responsible for this astounding … Continue reading

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More of the Same… Wonderfulness!

Hey All! Our week was chocked so full of goodness that I’m only getting to the Friday Family Update on Sunday! And frankly, our day today is jammed packed enough with more fun that I haven’t got long now! So without further delay…

1. Meet our friend Arnold. He’s the Leopard Moth caterpillar that’s been living in the mud room for the last several days. He’s mowed through a number of pieces of Romaine and is setting up camp under the wicker table he’s pictured on below. We think he’s going to caccoon-up any day now!
2.13.15b2. We we went to the beach on the day after some pretty good storms came through. The bay had been choppy for a few days at least (both leading up to and including the stormy weekend), and the tide was still swollen and turbid when we went. And all along the shore, where the waves had run pellmell with their wakes full of treasures dredged and forged by their own tumbling vigor, they left, well — seafoam. Miles and miles of seafoam stranded at the tide’s furthest reach wiggling oddly in the wind, or swirling and churning like steaming milk against the rocks, or sailing speedily across the shallows. We called it “beach snow” and played games avoiding it and kicking sand at it and watching it float about. I’ve never seen anything like it!2.13.15aYou can click the link there –> for a 20 second video of The Foam that Came from the Sea.

3. Great Grandma Alice was over for her biweekly visit. Natalie made lunch, and we all hung out together. Alice’s birthday was this week — her birthdate is my lucky number actually: 212 — February 12th. Natalie also ended up learning how to make lemon meringue pie and crafted a beauteous one for the birthday girl’s party, which consisted of only a half-dozen 90-something lady friends having a private lunch at Natalie’s aunt’s. It turns out, 4 out of 6 great-grammas prefer Nat’s pie to the leading brand. ;)2.13.15c 4. Finally, we made it to the Roller Palladium! We had our inaugural trip this week and immediately made plans for the next one. I even got to use my new skates!2.13.15d 5. Aunts are great.2.13.15e 6. During Grammy-time this week Xi, Echo, and Grammy had a fashion shoot. The girls picked outfits from Grammy’s clothes. 2.13.15f2.13.15g 7. And then this happened…2.13.15h We took several hours and did some Boardwalking! Though we’d agreed to go in order to join some others, it turned out to be just Xi, Echo, Natalie, and I, and we hit all the major spots for the under-twelve set. A couple ferris wheel rides, a couple cave train rides, a couple bumper-car sets, and a few others peppered in made for a perfect amount of mellow sense-overloading and pleasant laugh-rioting…

2.13.15jI think the shot above is perhaps a perfect Santa Cruz Boardwalk encapsulization (lacking only a good view of the sky glider): to the far left you can just see the beach and edge of the tide; then all the rides in between; the mountains in the distance, and the river runs along the middle right side, just under the bright green log flume. You can see it all! And that’s Natalie and Xi in front of us, too.

And the shot below is a classic one for our family. We’re missing our Bella (of course) but the girls said we couldn’t leave without taking this shot.2.13.15i

8. And last but not least, here’s the latest episode of Today Today which happened this week too!

Today we’re jumping in to hang out with some Missoula friends who arrived last night! More on that later… :)

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Be well.

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Fun in the Sun (and on Mars!)

Another week has rolled by in a speedy succession of delightful (emphasis on full) days! We’ve been busy to the max, both with work and with play. Here’s a sample of the view from here:

I’ve been out in the garden! One of my favorite parts of being in Santa Cruz this time of year is that I get a break from the Montana Winter gardening-doldrums. You can’t do a heck of a lot of playing in the dirt when the dirt is under a heap of snow… So getting a break from the break, so to speak, is always welcome. One of my current projects at the Paradise Compound is cleaning up the Clivias. The shot below is from the clutch of Clivia berries I collected during the project. Each one has 1-5 little bulbs inside ready for planting — which is just what the next phase is all about!2.6.15a We hiked a new trail in De Laveaga this week. The redwoods there are always cause for marveling, but lately we’ve been appreciating the geology more as well. On the hike captured below, we talked a lot about limestone (which is featured in this ≈5′ rock wall).2.6.15b Speaking of features, you can’t go anywhere in Santa Cruz without being followed by the ubiquitous citrus. This lovely lemon tree lives right outside our front door but never fails to visually sneak up on me. I just can’t get used to fruit in the Winter, let alone these radiant easter eggs littering the landscape.2.6.15c And when it comes to landscapes of the Santa Cruz area, none so dominates the aesthetic grandeur as where the land meets the ocean. I grew up going to the Alabama and Florida sections of the Gulf of Mexico, with its sugary, flat, Saharan coastline, water temps normally in the 70s–80s, and the sun a steady year-round blaze. In Monterey Bay, the shoreline is a jagged infinity of undulating cliffs, rocks, and tawny, coarse sand; the water is often below 60˚; and the sun regularly plays hide and seek in the fog (especially in Summer).
On this day, below, we went to New Brighton State Beach to meet up with our friends from Eco Womb — The Malsons — for some sun-setting, full-moon-rising, hangout time on the shore. Here’s a view from the tidepools of the sun going down.2.6.15f And here’s the whole crew! Meeting up with the Malsons is becoming one of my favorite parts of our seasonal Santa Cruzian time.2.6.15g One of my least favorite parts has reared its gruesome head early this year. It looks unassuming enough in the shot below, but, aaaalllllllllllll of those grey vines are just waiting for some poor hapless fool to come along and get ensnared in itches! I “found” some this week in my gardening exploits and have been ruing the proverbial day ever since. Nevertheless, I laughed outloud when I saw this sign on our hike, being in the only spot along the trail where we didn’t see any obvious sign of the oily devil weed.2.6.15hThis week, one of the funnest projects has been creating our own little show called, Today Today. Here, you can see our make-up artist, Natalie, getting Xi ready for the show.
2.6.15d Finishing touches on the make-up…2.6.15eTo check out this week’s episode when host, Fred Sharply, interviews three people who accidentally went to Mars, you can go here: http://youtu.be/vBhw7lnBLiE . We hope you enjoy the show!

And I hope you and yours are enjoying your days as much as we are!

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Be well.

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Up Around the Bend…

Aaaaaahhh… Back to the woods! We’ve been revisiting our old haunt De Laveaga Park!1.27.15 One of my favorite things about the trail we often take (and it’s indicative of other trails there too) is the numerous horseshoe bends. Walking along, we cut far into a drainage ravine and then double back out of the ravine, offering these wonderful views of our own comings and goings. It feels labyrinthine and magical and metaphorical, adding to the overall reverence we feel walking through these wise, old trees.

Another fun thing about it is that we can bring family! On this hike we had our little group, but we also brought Grammy and Aunt Em (and little Levy) with us as well.1.27.15a 1.27.15b 1.27.15cFor me, there’s nothing better than a mystical stroll through an enchanted (and enchanting) forest with family. That’ll be my Heaven. And this ^ is my Heaven on Earth!

I hope you’re finding your sweet spot(s), too, dear ones!

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Be well.

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*Made* It!!

Greetings friends, family, and followers from sunny Santa Cruz, California!

1.23.15 Ok, really, these are some of our last images from Missoula before we left. Echo got to make her last two snow people of the year, and Xi got to make her first ever solo snow person! This is how they looked in the evening glow…1.23.15a As we emptied the house of our personal items (in preparation for our departure and the arrival of our renters), Echo found new and inventive ways to enjoy the extra space; including this fort she made for herself in the coat closet.1.23.15c Once we were all packed up, we were finally ready to head out!1.23.15d First stop: Voodoo Donuts in Portland Oregon! Ok, we honestly, spent the night at, Natalie’s sister, Em’s house (even though she’d already gone ahead of us to Santa Cruz), we had a lovely fire and crashed in her cozy attic guest beds, and then woke up the next morning and hit the donut shop on our way out of town…1.23.15e By the next day, we’d arrived in Santa Cruz and were headed to the beach!1.23.15f And aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh… we made it. Back to the ocean at last!1.23.15i And, oddly enough, even after a decade of coming to the very same dog beach time after time, this was the very first that we’d noticed the amazing cliff carvings along the narrow strip of sand and surf.1.23.15g Gigantic, deep-cut sculptures of sea animals, mer-people, ancient and modern symbols and geometry, and proclamations of love and partnership decorate a few hundred yards of these soft, undulating sand-cliffs.1.23.15h Em and Levy met and came with us to the beach, where these characters played a hilarious improv game called, “The 3 Idiots”, challenging, and trying to stand up to the tide in numerous ways, but invariably running cowardly away at the last second. 1.23.15j Then, of course, we had to have our inaugural trip to Top-a-Lot!1.23.15kSo, we’re officially in Santa Cruz now. The long trip, the long packing job, and the long wait for ideal renters is over. We made it.

We’ll be here if you need us!

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Be well.

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