Ok. I won’t deny it. I’ve been mostly incommunicado (to say the least) for the last several weeks. Those of you who frequent or happen upon this blog for parenting ideas may not have noticed, what with the recent parade of re-blogs of old posts I’ve been continuing to toss out weekly. But those of you who also like to hear what our family is up to on a regular basis will no doubt have had pause to ponder why both Natalie and I have been so reticent over the last month and half about our (no doubt fantastic) Summer.
Well the bottom line is simply that we’ve been too busy living every minute of it to take the time to write much about it! That being said, I did often look to the laptop I use, thinking, “I could just send a note, a line or two, a message in the virtual bottle to let them know we are alive and well and living the proverbial dream”. But our Summer vacation has now come crashing-landing in for another year. And I have come bearing pictures!
Those of you looking for parenting theory, scroll down, or look to the “Currents” heading to the right. I ‘ve got to share some stuff with my peoples right now…
So without further ado:
Many lemonades stands were had. This year, the new club, formed in Alabama, took over the lemonade franchise, scheduling a grueling week-long endeavor that taxed even the most stalwart among them. Still, “donations” generally bring a hefty take, so they all felt like their work was well worth it — even Echo, who is no longer a private contractor at the lemonade stand, but a full-fledged partner in the club.
Bella worked on one describing the female reproductive system, which out of respect for her, is not pictured here.
But within a couple weeks, it was back to the Grandparent Parade!
Grandpop Michael came for what I am pretty sure was his longest visit ever. He stayed for a full week and hung out with us from his first waking moments ’til the kids crashed every single day. It was great. We took him to our favorite river spot. We took him to Butterfly (our favorite café). We took him to the Mongolian grill he loves so much. We ate more ice cream than we normally would in a month — Grandpop Michael alone ate more ice cream than the rest of us would in a month!
And then one day, Grandpop had a plan. He decided it was time for the Montana McTagues to have an aquatic vessel. And after scouting the available options over the course of a couple of days, he settled on one and went with the family in the family van — you know, Syliva — and got a raft that fits all six of us, two inner-tubes, six life vests, two sets of oars, two dual-action pumps, several straps with clasps, and about 50 feet of climbing rope.
She had a wild, lawless bunch for a crew, and many a wild turn at the whim of wild waters — but she’s a good ship and true. After sailing on her blue back, we wanted nothing more than to sail on. Sooo we went rafting nearly as often as we went to our in-town dipping spot for the rest of the Summer. And pretty much every time, the girls had me do my Captain Jack impression. And a couple of nods from Natalie here and there told me that I did fairly well at it, I’ll admit.
While Grandpop was here, he got to join the rest of us in seeing Izabella perform with the Summer theatre camp she joined. That’s her on the far right… She was in the chorus of beggars in the Missoula Children’s Theater production of Cinderella. What — you don’t know about the “chorus of beggars”? Well let me tell you, in a cast of over 100, they out-shined the mice, the lords and ladies, the wicked step-mother, and the pumpkins in the pumpkin patch (though the pumpkins were darling…) with two songs and multiple bits throughout. And what’s more, Bella had so much fun she could barely stand it.
She was also here to help us with Xi’s 10th Birthday Party Extravaganza Planning Extravaganza. That’s not a typo. With Xi, the planning is almost as much a part of the fun as the party itself — maybe more so for the birthday girl. Grammy brought props, and ideas, and her usual push-up-your-sleeves enthusiasm, and got right in there making the “Pin the Banana on the Monkey Face” game Xi wanted, along with everything else.
All the kids agreed to do a “loot-share” after the initial scramble, so they all huddled up in the grass and parceled out things that others didn’t get. I think they all really loved that arrangement.
And of course Natalie made an amazing birthday cake — in the perfect shape of a monkey face… it had half-donuts for ears that she frosted to match the rest of the cake… it was vanilla and chocolate cake, with salted caramel icing on top… we all died and were reborn anew after eating it.
We took roughly 4600 extra cards we had (from some mishaps with our first shipment of games) and plotted out a composition that would fill the length of the art wall at Butterfly, spent some nights figuring out how we wanted to orient them, then set off as a team one afternoon to begin our installation.
We decided to start in the middle. Each card got a small ball of poster sticky tack on the back (as pictured above), and then was smooshed onto the wall butted up next to others as each was placed. We made some loose rules regarding which direction to hang each one (in relationship to its neighbors) and then started spreading out from the center.
From there we stretched further and further…
and further and further…
Aaaannnd further……until we covered all 42 feet of the art wall in a 4 foot tall rainbow band of feelings. The show was incredibly well received, with different people honing in on different elements that they enjoyed. I personally really loved the way it looked in the morning or evening (with no lights on inside the café) — all you could discern was the glossy surface of all the cards which transformed them into something like subway tiles…
The owner and curator of the art gallery a couple doors down from Butterfly said that this was the second best installation he’s ever seen in the café. And not to brag — his number one favorite was a show that Natalie and I did a couple years ago where we covered the entire wall in used guest checks collected from the café itself. We’re in negotiations now to do a different installation in his gallery at some point as well…!
The day after we hung our show — and even before the First Friday Art Walk opening reception for the show — we all took off (Grammy included) and flew down to Santa Cruz. We got to see Juju and Gramma Bonnie — and even stayed in their new bungalow (they bought the neighbor’s cute little house and are keeping it for visiting friends and family).
We got to visit Great Gramma Alice.
And we hung out with Natalie’s sister, Emily, everyday — she stayed with us in the bungalow, but was also unprecedentedly available for chillaxing together.
Juju’s Satsuma Plum tree was heavy with these delicious jewels during our week there, so we all picked and ate more plums than a family of bears. Bella alone picked more than a hundred and ate more than half of them!
Speaking of eating… We also went to this place pretty much every other day. It’s a favorite spot of Natalie’s family and in close proximity to Juju and Bonnie’s — but I swear, no one’s ever been more excited about it than our three girls. You can get a bucket of yogurt, there, covered with as much of as many different toppings as you can stand. It’s probably not even legal in some states…
Another wonderful thing about Santa Cruz for us is the kids. Whether it’s the friends across the street from Juju and Bonnie’s, or the cousins via both sides of Natalie’s family, or the children of Natalie and Emily’s best friend, Jeff, (pictured below) — these girls have a rich social life there.
The awesome thing about Jeff’s (and his partner, Holly’s) family is that they have three kids who just happen to be perfectly suited for matching up with our three. And while all three were easily able to mix and match, certain alliances developed naturally. For instance, Xi and Emmy, above, were inseparable unless Emmy was sleeping or nursing.
While we were there for the week, we made the opportunity for these guys to have multiple hangouts together, including two nights of what Holly called “Mellow Fest”, which was utterly thrilling for all six of the kids, but was a nice chance for the adults to be mostly “off duty” and relax together since the kids were all so well matched.
We also took the chance to go to the beach while we were there — though it wasn’t what I would normally think of a beach day since it wasn’t 100˚ in the shade or as humid as a wet sponge… Bella, Echo, and Natalie were bold enough to go down to the water, and later the whole gang (except me) went for a stroll to the jetty pictured below. But I spent the entire time scrumptiously cozied up on a blanket in the sand, laying low to keep the wind off me, and gazing out on a little Zen scene of swirling sand grains against the distant blue horizon.
We also — finally — went for “the big time” and did the family trip to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk — along with, and compliments of, Grammy. In all the years we’ve been going to see Natalie’s family, we had yet to go for this particular attraction (in part because we’ve so rarely been in Santa Cruz during the Summer…). And since we were going for it — we really went for it. We got there as soon as the rides opened and hit everything that we were interested in, and even some things more than once, and didn’t leave until dark. Here’s how it looked…On the way in, we met this guy…
One of the truly excellent parts of our version of doing the Boardwalk was that we kept alternating our groupings and couplings, but mostly still stayed together. We’d decide who wanted to do a ride and who didn’t, then we’d split into the going group and the waiting group (sometimes the waiting group went to another ride while waiting), and in that way we were all pretty much able to ride everything we wanted ride with whomever we wanted while still sharing the joy of it all with our whole group.For instance, there was no way in hell I was going on this ride that Bella, Echo, and Grammy all loved… But I was happy to wave at them from below with Xi and Natalie.
By the time we left, the girls felt like we’d really done an excellent job of taking in all the sights, sounds, and rides we wanted. And although we immediately began planing how we’ll do it “next time”, every one of us (including Grammy) seemed to agree that we couldn’t have done it any better this time.
Throw in all of our river trips, hundreds of pages of books, Bella’s weekly writing class at the library, some fun clothes shopping, some hair-dying, the wonderful way the girls all lavished me with love for my birthday, and the hours and hours of playing, pretending, planning, and exploring together, and you begin to get a pretty good sense of how excellently we spent our vacation time together this year.
And that, my friends, is a how to have a Stellar Summer!
Hope you had even half as much fun as we did this year.