As you may remember from the last couple posts, beginning right before Thanksgiving we spent four weeks enjoying a nearly continuous train of our menagerie of grandparents. In fact, we enjoyed visits from (at least a representative from) every one of our grandparent factions this fall before the winter holidays even began.
Natalie’s beloved sister, Emily. This was quite a coup for a number of reasons, but mostly because everyone in her family always tells Natalie everything (usually before, or instead of, anyone else in the family), so undertaking to keep something from her for any period of time was quite a feat. But they pulled it off, and Emily arrived an hour before Grammy and hid out at the gate until Grammy came and they surprised us by walking out together to meet us.
Having the prized (and only actual) Aunt here at the same time as beloved Grammy was almost more delight than the kids could stand. The girls got to enjoy the day to day play, the art projects, the trips to our favorite café, a “dressed-up dinner”, and countless other little encounters with one, or the other, or both of these authentic, loving ladies. Sometimes the girls were huddling up with Emmy, sometimes with Grammy, sometimes trading them back and forth from one sister to the other. And sometimes they played together on their own while the adults watched and chatted, or walked dogs, or ran to the store, or just ran. There were more of us than them, and I found myself tracking all the ways in which that was absolutely ideal for our girls.
I know not everyone has family that they can get along with long enough to really know what I mean, but to those of you who do — isn’t it so fantastic to have other people important to them love your kids?! In our family, and with literally all of our relatives, I think of the interactions our kids get to have with their elders as pure developmental gold. Each of their elders interacts with the girls in each’s own way(s), and tends to play to his or her own strengths — thank goodness! So for an abridged example, Nana might read 40 billion stories, Grandpa George winds up answering all sorts of questions about the nature of things, Juju likes to gives spa treatments, Gramma Bonnie has been known to play chase, Grammy regularly brings art activities, Grandpop Michael likes to shop and make jokes, etc., etc.. And in a general sense, family time with extended family is another ideal opportunity for the girls to receive validation and unconditional acceptance and love from adults (other than us) whom they value — adults who are delighting in the girls just for being who they are. In terms of developing self-acceptance and self-assurance, I think of us parents as basic, necessary nutrition — the kind kids shouldn’t do without — but I think of healthy extended family interactions as the mega-supplements, wheat-grass shots, and fermented fish oil caplets — the kind of additional nutrition that enhances normal functioning and development, the kind that makes for the happiest, healthiest humans. And I am so thankful for the family these three girls get to have — what a blessing for all three of them!
After the slew of relatives paraded through, we had just enough time to finish off our gift boxes and mail them out to our loved ones (even though some of them had just been with us…). And then we started Yule!
As no doubt some of you will remember, we celebrate winter holidays beginning on the Solstice (or Hanukah, whichever comes first), and continue through the New Year.
This year we had the older girls for the second half of the winter break, so it was just a skeleton crew on our hike Christmas Day: Mary, the dog Santa brought to Echo, riding piggy back with a little monkey friend as her pillow (you can just see a monkey arm and leg sticking out under Mary’s head), Echo, Natalie, Henry (our dog) and his girlfriend Isis (whom we are currently dog-sitting), and me. The holiday hike a tradition Natalie and I would like to make permanent, though we’ve only done it two or three times in our 8 years together.
This year we hiked through the set of the upcoming American film version of Waiting for Godot…
There’s the tree…
We got to the top of the hill, which normal comes with a lovely overlook of our snug little burg nestled in the heart of several converging mountain valleys, but on this day there was nothing to see. In fact the entire town, which would normally be visible in the background behind Echo above, was washed completely out, at least visibly. The more eerie thing was that we could hear everything just the same: the strip of highway between us and town, the sound of car tires swishing on wet street, squeaking brakes, even a siren, and a couple of random voices.
The next day I went to get Bella, and the day after that Xi returned. Since then, we’ve spent every day huddled together in whatever room any of us is in. We’ve only ventured out once in the last 4 days, and that was to have a belated ice cream celebration of Bella’s birthday. Inside, we’ve been slowly opening and enjoying daily influxes of new things from under the Yule tree, reading together (right now Bella and Xi are taking turns reading a book aloud to Echo), cooking, eating, making thank you cards, playing games, and hanging out. Bella opened the remainder of her birthday presents the other day as well…
All in all, we’re having a totally blissful time here at Gus. We hope you have had and are having a delicious holiday season as well. Felicitous Yule Tidings to you and yours from us and ours.