Greetings virtual villagers and family, new and old. We’ve been up to our eyeballs in home living and working (and playing!) for the last few months; having long, flash-past days, and short, did-I-even-sleep nights; squeezing the most out of every 24-hour cycle of the clock. I came out of a month-long art project (living and working in a gallery) at the end of April. My partner, Natalie, and our youngest, Echo, returned from Santa Cruz at the same time. We moved back into our home, Gus, over the following couple weeks. Then our middle and elder girls returned at the beginning of June and we were all sun-up-to-sun-down familially transfixed for 7 weeks straight. We went to visit my folks in Alabama and went to the beach together; we went camping; and we’ve gone to the river every possible day. We’ve celebrated birthdays, feasted on garden fruits, and watched a billion superhero movies (Bella and I conquered most of the Marvel universe together…). And though the summer is far from over (even here in winter-won Montana), with our eldest back off to her other home to prepare for her entry into high school, there is a certain amount of parenthetical closure to the seasonal celebration for us. And finally, the downshift in our summer has also afforded me an opportunity to sit down and share a couple handfuls of photos with you.
For those of you who didn’t get to see them yet, here’s a couple of shots from Echo’s 8th birthday. We went all out on a Harry Potter theme — creating the Gryffindor common room, the 3 Broomsticks Pub, the Great Hall, and the potions lab. We made exploding lemonade, butter beer, and pumpkin juice, as well as, cauldron corn, pumpkin pasties, and a golden snitch cake.
I dressed up as Hagrid (and that’s the longest I’ve ever been on stilts in one go…), Natalie was a ministry official named Mafalda Hopkirk (from book 7), Echo was Ginny Weasley, and Xi was Hermione Granger. The kids made potions, played Pin the Scar on Harry, and enjoyed all the magical treats. We’ve always put special emphasis on birthdays in our home, but I think (mostly because we all loved the theme so much) that this was the most “all out” we’ve ever gone… I even got an Oscar for my Hagrid performance… 😉
This view, right from our side porch, has really been speaking to me this summer. I’ve taken at least a dozen photos from here at different times through the season, but this is probably the best one so far.
Henry’s Birthday always warrants a good hike. This year we went to Pattee Canyon, one of Missoula’s best kept not-so-secret local spots.
Just a few days later, Bella and Xi arrived and we set about celebrating Natalie’s birthday. This year, she requested and we were happy to oblige her with a cake mountain made of doughnuts. Yes, you read that right — a doughnut-pile cake. I got 2 dozen trashy-delicious specimens from the local bakery, Natalie made some buttercream frosting, and we all set about stone-and-mortaring a foot-high peak of sheer amazingness, almost too fantastic to eat… almost.The rest of Natalie’s birthday consisted of a long afternoon by a special stretch of our favorite river, and a glorious feast at one of our favorite downtown dinner spots.Echo and I built a a huge hogan from drift wood along the river…
And after dinner, the girls treated us to some live entertainment in the park…Speaking of our favorite river… This year, we all have been getting extra joy from our little local aquatic feature. Bella called it her “meditation”, and she was sure to get effervescent doses of ecstatic joy as often as we went.And I finally got it together to start using what I am now calling my river super-suit. I feel a little like a special needs swimmer, but I can also stay and play in the river for however long I want, completely impervious to the river’s bone-numbing temperatures. And I smell like a surfer!We haven’t gone enough yet, for my tastes, but at least we got out early this year for camping; and to one of our most favorite spots — Lindbergh Lake! Here’s the view from up above the campground.And here’s the view from across our campsite.We took our little boat, Sparrow’s Revenge, out on the lake, and even set the girls off on their own solo voyage one morning.Montana’s annual Pride Parade was in Missoula this year, and Bella was excited to join in the march with a friend. Try as I might, I did not succeed in getting a picture of Bella, but I got several dozen of everybody else!
Here is Bella in her parade get-up afterward…Here’s a shot from our huge, all-hands-on-deck cherry picking fest this year. Roller Girls speeding around the block…
We decided on a down-scaled travel and visitor version of Summer this year, so we spent most of the time doing our own fun family stuff in and around Missoula; but we did take a trip down to see my folks in Alabama and went together from there to the beach as well. Bella and Echo took the opportunity to play a little in the rain outside Nana and Grandpa George’s house…
My cousins, Horace and McCormick, joined us at the beach, and in celebration of McCormick’s birthday, a few of his friends came along too. Bella got marker-tattooed by the ladies…We played on the beach, and at the pool all day, even taking the opportunity for some evening dips. I saw my first shark in the Gulf, and we all also got to see a huge skate flying along under the surf. As has become the tradition, we also took a break each afternoon to watch a movie together — this year the theme was generally, “Favorite Movies” or “Movies we want to share…”. So we ranged from The Big Chill to Into the Woods, with The Avengers and Napoleon Dynamite tossed into the middle…
The girls, of course, also enjoy all their favorite Nana and Grandpa George’s house activities, like playing video games with Grandpa, playing Ingenious with Nana, and just plain playing with the dogs.
As soon as we got back from our trip, Bella jumped into theatre camp for her third year running. This year, however, instead of taking the stage, she worked stage crew and ended up being the lights manager for the weekend’s worth of productions. I got to sneak into the booth with her during one of the performances to cheer her on and snap a dozen photos… She was so professional and on task — it was cool to see. Here’s what our bike gang looked like this year… And our performance troupe… This was some of the fun we got into during Missoula’s newest, coolest Summer thing — “Sunday Streets”, wherein several blocks of the downtown area are closed off to cars and opened up to foot, bike, skate, and loitering traffic, with booths lining the street offering various attractions, displays, and activities. We got an excellent raft trip in as well while Bella was here. We were in the water, playing, and paddling (remember I have a river super-suit…) too much to get any shots on the actual boat; but here’s what the girls looked like while we were waiting for Natalie to bike back to the van and shuttle us home… Echo got a new installment of Star Wars ships and action figures from my old collection for her birthday, and we ended up throwing episodes 4,5, and 6 into the video line-up while visiting the grandparents — so she has been inspired in her Star Wars play of late, and decided to create this epic stand-off at a hitherto unknown rebel base. She later thanked me for having been a kid and getting so many cool toys…Xi’s birthday was just this past week. Before Bella left, we had a birthday dinner at one of our (other) favorite restaurants in town. The girls got all gussied up, Bella in some fresh threads she got shopping with Natalie, and we all went to town on some delicious sushi.
While we were waiting for dessert (it was a birthday dinner after all…), the girls went to play in the mirror window outside. Here’s Bella 2.0, the finished product of the Summer’s worth of awesomeness. Fresh hair, fresh threads, fresh footwear, and fresh attitude — feeling powerful!The last great pose of the McTague Sisters’ Summer 2015!After delivering Bella to Bozeman, we’ve done our best to carry on in our Summer celebrations and projects. Echo is working on her first play.
A couple days after Bella’s departure, we celebrated the second half of Xi’s birthday, complete with three-tiered cake…new iPod (and other great gifts!)… and an overnight stay at the local waterpark hotel! Xi loves hotels, and picked this staycation extravaganza for her actual birthday party. So we all loaded up in the car, drove down the highway a few minutes and piled out at the Wingate. Then for the next 20 hours, we played on the slides, ate pizza in our room, watched trashy kids’ cable shows, had continental breakfast, and hit the slides again! It was so much fun, I’m thinking of asking for the same thing for my birthday!And now, you are officially caught up on the McTagues’ Summer splendor 2015.
I hope you’re all having a super-fun, favorite-places-filled, Summer season too!