Ready for a mini photo album? In this and the next post, I am going to be sharing a smattering of the thousand pictures we (and other family members) took during our various epic escapades last month. Today, I’m going to give you the bookends — shots from the first week of July and shots from the last Week in July — and next time I’ll show you the middle weeks. This makes sense thematically, if not chronologically, as you’ll soon see…
And now, without further ado (adieu, adieu…) — the month in photos!
Perfectly situated right between Grandpop Michael’s departure and our next grand-parental adventure, Bella took the opportunity to jump into another theatre camp. It’s becoming a little Summer tradition for her to spend a mad, 8-day week in preparation, production, and performance at the Missoula Community Theatre. This year she took on multiple parts in MCT’s Little Mermaid. She’s just left of center in the back row, incase you’re having trouble spotting her… Right after that, Grammy arrived. Grammy can’t get enough of us! Even though we were down in Santa Cruz last Winter to Spring, and even though we were scheduled to come down for a week at the end of the month, Grammy still jumped at the seasonal direct flight option, and shot up to visit us for a week in Missoula.We did the whole week up in splendid style. Grammy and Natalie did some major exercise routine everyday; we went to to the River; we went to the local water park, Splash Montana; we went to see the Beatles’ movie Hard Days Night at our community theater, the Roxy; we ate ice cream; we watched the entire Pirates of the Caribbean series (again); got sparklers for the Fourth of July; and enjoyed every minute. We also, went camping for a night at Holland Lake — one of the prettiest little lakes in the area.
Here’s Echo and Henry in some traditional camping positions… We brought both of our vehicles (Sylvia and Cherry respectively) because we brought so much gear (including both camping and rafting equipment…), and to allow Bella to go to her writing group in the afternoon before she and I headed up. The other ladies went ahead in the morning to get us a spot and get set-up, but even in the days leading up to the Fourth, camping spots were so hard to come by that the ladies spent most of the day driving back and forth to various lakes trying to secure something for us for the 2-3 nights we’d planned. They found us a truly lovely spot on Holland Lake — we’d never camped there before — but we could only get a site for the night because of impending reservations. And the mosquitos were so vigilant that we had to stay pretty much completely covered and/or stand directly in the path of the fire smoke in order to thwart their constant attacks. Nevertheless, we got the most out of it that we could and had a beautiful time!
This trail led right out the back of our camp…and took us to this gorgeous and pristine, pebbly shoreline. Here, Grammy and Echo were hanging out, playing with cards and eating. And me? I’m just photo bombing…No — really, I was getting my Andy Goldsworthy on… Echo and I, encouraged and facilitated by Grammy, have gotten into making things like this whenever we’re out in Nature for any substantial length of time. This was the first of two fairly advanced ones I made this year, and this one was directly inspired by Echo’s latest creation about 20 feet away (unfortunately, not pictured here…). I love the look of it in the context of the lake view… A smashing game of cards in progress… Most of the smashing, of course, was aimed at the mosquitoes. We took the raft out on the lake. But rafts are not ideal for windy, currentless lakes. We spent so much time and energy paddling out to the middle, that we abandoned all hope of making it to the magnificent waterfall on the opposite shore, and turned back toward the swimming area at the campground… where we got out and waded around and counted mosquito bites… On the way back to Missoula, we stopped in the town of Seeley Lake and got ice cream at our traditional post-camping ice cream spot. We also got sparklers for our Fourth celebrations. Bella has all the video from that on the phone she uses or I would have included a brief clip here of the flamboyant and magical sparkler-dances that ensued — it was far more enjoyable than any fireworks display I’ve ever seen.
While here, Grammy also took this beautiful shot of Bella, which reminded us all of the groovy filters available on the iPhone camera — which explains the similarly filtered ones above and the others that follow in the same vein… I just love this sweet, perfectly Bella picture, though.One of the prettier filter-inspired selfies that ensued… Below is a shot from our shady spot on the outskirts of Splash Montana. You can’t tell from this photo, but to the left is an olympic-sized pool, kept partly for play and partly for laps; in the distance, surrounding the three water slides, is a “lazy (more like ‘crazy’) river” with various deluge points along its circuit; and further to the right (out of frame) is a “play pond” with very gradual depth increase, a dozen or so different sprinklers and sprayers, a kiddy slide, and a few things on which to try and climb and/or balance in the water. We played chase combined with some spy games in the lazy river; we split into various twosomes for waterslide rides; and even did some treading and leaping in the big pool. And even though it’s not Shipwreck Island or some such more grandiose water adventure park — because it’s in town (we can even ride our bikes there), and because it’s community oriented (extremely low cost and family-friendly) — I find it so much more enjoyable than those other, bigger, louder, pricier parks that people travel hours to wait in line for. Of course it’s just another star in Missoula’s rich constellation of family-oriented offerings… Another major event this Summer was the massive berry harvest(s) we had. We picked the most strawberries we’ve had since moving back into Gus after the remodel a few years ago. We’ve had (and are still having) the most raspberries ever in the decade we’ve been growing them. And below, Bella is cleaning out the rest of the Bing cherry tree, which also produced more this year than ever before. I couldn’t believe how thoroughly she picked this tree — she literally got every single cherry it had! What an orchard pro, eh? And the Raspberry Princess title goes to… Echo! She’s almost picked her body-weight in berries this year.At the opposite end of the month — remember I’ll come back to the middle part in the next post — we headed down for a week in Santa Cruz. Some of you — keeping up with our various meanderings — will no doubt be wondering why, after spending three months there this year already, did we decide to go back now? Well, when we were there in the first part of the year, Natalie had a visit from some old friends, and one of them was planning her wedding for this Summer in San Francisco and asked if Natalie and the others would be interested in helping with the flowers in exchange for flight tickets to and from the wedding. Natalie and Emily (remember, Natalie’s sister) signed up for the job and Echo got included as a helper. So originally we were planning on just sending them to the wedding for the weekend, but got to thinking and talking about the fact that Bella had not gotten to go to Santa Cruz yet this year (since she didn’t get to come with us in the Winter), and we ended up working it out with Juju and Gramma Bonnie to bring the whole family down for a week. So the whole crew convened in Santa Cruz a couple days before the wedding. The day before, Emily went to Blue Heron Farms and got the buckets of flowers while Natalie and I turned the living room at Garden Pearl into a floral design workshop. Grammy came over and we all helped the ladies process the flowers and prepare them for bouquets, they built them, and then I helped pair displays with vases. They made something like 50 arrangements, including the bride’s bouquet, and Xi even made a “toss bouquet”.
Here’s Em in mid-process. Here’s the lovely bride posing for a few photos outside her hilly San Fran home, with the fantastic bouquet the ladies made her. Here’s two of the flower-conquering heroines at the swanky reception location — an exclusive old gentlemen’s society hangout, called the University Club. A few days after that, it was time for part 1 of some serious birthday celebrations. Xi turned 11 on the 28th of July. We had a modest but moving present-opening that morning. Juju and Bonnie came over and joined in. (And, just so you know, the flower arrangement in these shots is not one of the famous Christensen Sisters’ Wedding Bouquets, but a cheap knock-off put together from some of their scraps…)Of the several fun things Xi received, she also got an induction letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry(!), which she promptly read out to all of us. It included her acceptance into the school, her supply list, and a separate note from the Ministry of Magic apologizing and explaining that due to recent increases in Muggle interception of owl-posts, the Ministry was having to rely on Muggle postal services instead. Xi decided that instead of a big party, what she really wanted to do in celebration of her birthday this year was have another epic day at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. So we teamed up with Grammy once again, and since we’re now pros at the Boardwalk, we really did it up! We knew the rides we really wanted to take so focused exclusively on them; we brought some snacks, but also relied on Em to bring us burritos for dinner; and we flexed and worked together to make sure everyone got to do as much of all the things they wanted to do as was humanly possible. In other words, we didn’t just do the Boardwalk — we did the BoardROCK — and for something like 1o hours we laughed and played our brains and hearts out! Bella finally got me on the Giant Dipper with her. And we couldn’t stop hooting and hawking in glee. We did the “Space Race” bumper cars about 75 times, in large part because Echo was so stoked to be allowed to drive her own car. Again, there was much giggling and whooping involved. Here, Grammy, Xi, and Echo are all locked in mortal ((bumping)) combat!Here’s Echo and Grammy cruising on the dragon roller coaster. Nallie is right behind them, hidden by a palm frond… Here’s Grammy, Xi, and Bella shooting down the log flume. Bella apparently asked the attendant at the top as they neared the edge of the drop-off, “Hey, is there any way we could fall out of this thing?”.
To which, the attendant replied, “YES.”.
And Xi exclaimed at the precipice, “Well that’s reassurrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!”, and down they went!
The Boardwalk has this cool feature wherein you can buy prints from shots automatically taken as you whiz by certain parts of certain rides. Here’s what the screen showed of the available shot of Natalie and Echo splashing down the log flume. Pretty great, right?! And here’s the latest in the series of band photos for the girls’ next experimental rock album. This is also proof-positive of how well we did the day — all three ladies are still smiling 10 hours later! One of the other special features of this Santa Cruz trip was the friendships. Our girls have friends there now, a gracious group of comrades, ready and willing to join up with our crew in whatever way(s) make the most sense at the time. Jeff, Natalie and Em’s longtime friend, and his family (stepson Elijah, son Seiji and daughter Emmy) came over for one of our fire-side evenings. Then Bella got to go with Elijah and his siblings and their mom, Holly to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the day. Below, one evening after their dinner, the neighbor kids got to come back over for some play with Juju, Xi, and Echo in the front yard of Paradise Gardens (remember, that’s what we call Juju and Bonnie’s house). Having that ready peer group to offer them really makes it more fun for the girls to be there. After a whirlwind, nonstop week in Santa Cruz, which along with the above, included a perfect beach trip, time with cousins and grandparents and Great Gramma Alice, farmer’s market trips, play-working in the yard, and copious amounts of Top-a-lot Yogurt; we headed back home and to a few of the things we know and love best here before we had to send Bella back over to her other house. One important stop on the list was the Missoula Carousel, without which, no Summer would be complete.Another big last thing we did was make a Minecraft Cake Cake for Xi — part of birthday celebration part 2. All the ladies teamed up to create a cake that looks like the cakes you can make in the video game. Here, Xi is separating the pieces of fondant Natalie just cut (above) and is placing them on top of the frosting layer. Xi contemplates her wish while we sing a rousing version of Happy Birthday to Youuuuuu.A moment of shared birthday glee… And here’s the last round of Piña Coladas for the season. We had tons of them while Nana and Grandpa George were here in the middle of the month (which you’ll read and see more about in my next post!) but this was part of our closing ceremonies, without which our time together this Sumer would not have been properly concluded. And yes, Echo is wearing her Witch Princess outfit. And here’s our rocking 13er headed back on the road, full of Summer love and laughter.And here’s the up and coming teeny bopper — carrying the torch of homestyle-cool until the McTague Sisters reconvene.
Hope you guys (above the equator… 😉 ) are having a super yummy Summer too.