Thursday, July 23, 2015

West Coast!

 

You guys, we made it!  The left coast, the West Coast, or as our West Coast friends used to snarkily tell these tried and true East Coasters, "The Best Coast" (don't worry, East Coasters, I won't be calling it that, although I must admit it *is* pretty great).  It has been a whirlwind of a few weeks here.  There was packing, too many goodbyes, emptying out that sweet little house that we called home for so many years, and then our big trip (along with six stitches and a broken arm thrown in there for good measure).

When we first shared with friends that we were moving to California, some of our very dearest friends sent us a note and suggested that maybe, while our stuff was traveling across the country, we could come and visit their little corner of the world-- a beautiful island on the Puget Sound only accessible by ferry where they have set up home with their now three little ones.  We had dreamed of going to visit them for years, and always filed it away with the other "Things To Do Later."  But, you guys, this is the year of travel!  This is the year of adventure!  This is the year of crazy things!  Besides, it sort of made sense.  We would pack up our house, fly to Seattle, hang out with them for a week, and then take a (much shorter) flight down to California to hopefully meet our stuff.  

Can I just say that Washington state is beautiful?  Like, beyond-my-wildest-dreams-I-thought-things-only-looked-like-this-in-fairy-tales-beautiful.  The rocky beaches, the moss, the harbor, the quaint little coffee shops (with the best coffee I have ever tasted.  There is a bit of a debate about Seattle Coffee verses San Francisco coffee, and I'm sorry, San Fran, but Seattle wins big time).  It was so wonderful to just rest and eat delicious food (which is literally just growing on trees, or vines, everywhere!) and be in the company of some really incredible people and their children.  Isn't it the best when your kids love the kids of people you love?  It was nurturing and restful and I think we all forgot that we were in the midst of a major cross country move.

And now, we are here!  California!  Our stuff has arrived (albeit still largely in boxes), we have started to settle in, and the kids have made fast friends in the neighborhood.  This place has a beauty and a magic of its own.  I have yet to pull out my camera and take any pictures, but our windows are wide open, and there is a cool breeze, and there are no bugs, and in the evenings we sit under our orange tree and muse, "How did we get here??"  and we are oh so thankful.  My parents are here for a couple of weeks helping us get settled in, and I know that after the denial that they are ever leaving wears away, I will be very homesick.  But for now there are boxes to unpack, and laundry to flip, and a third cup of coffee to drink, because it's still before noon over here.  Cheers!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Books, Summer Food, Fireflies, and Remembering Things

::Summer reading is in full swing, and it seems like a lot of our books are ones we've already read!  I'm reading The End of the Affair, which I last read what feels a lifetime ago, when I was pregnant with Zosia.  It's beautiful, well written, and insightful, and luckily my memory is so bad that I feel as though I were reading it for the first time!  Ben is reading The Hobbit, which seems perfectly fitting given that we're about to embark upon our own adventure (and for the record, Ben remembers books perfectly, but will often choose to reread a book simply because he knows he likes it).  We're reading The Penderwicks at Point Mouette with the girls, which really, truly is the *perfect* book for summer (although if you're new to this series, start at the beginning!).  And the babies love anything with animals: I Am A bunny is a favorite along with Oh What a Busy Day!  I seriously could read these really good children's books again every single day and never grow tired of them.
 ::No clue where Clara found these, but she insists upon wearing them often.  Given the fact that she is usually our style maven, I am going to have to find her something a little more chic, or she will never forgive me!
::There is something about losing someone close to you which forces you to re-examine a lot of things about your life.  Am I doing things right?  Are there things I would look back upon my life and regret?  Am I spending my time and energy on the things that matter the most in life?  Ben and I have had so many wonderful, fruitful, and soul searching conversations over the past few weeks, which I will always hold in a special place in my heart.  One random thing that we both agreed upon is that we would like to be more intentional about remembering special days (birthdays, anniversaries) of loved ones.  Truth be told, we are usually so scatter brained, we're lucky to remember our own childrens' birthdays!  A few days after we had the conversation, a birthday calendar arrived in the mail, which Ben has hung up in our kitchen.  I am feeling so good about this resolution, and am hoping we will do a better job of remembering and celebrating the people we love most!

::One thing I love about living in a place which such distinct seasons is that I notice that the way we eat shifts so drastically from season to season.  We're definitely not strict "seasonal eaters" "local eaters" "organic eaters" or anything else that fancy (whew, looking at our run of the mill grocery bill, I'm having a hard time imagining how people swing that sort of thing!), but we do buy food that is ripe and cheap, and as close to whole as possible. We also avoid using the oven on hot days (or use it extra on cold days!) which means that desserts in particular are either chilled or unbaked in the summer.  This morning I threw together some chilled granola bars loosely based on this recipe (reeaaaally loosely, but they turned out fine!), and they were a big hit with the kids.  And don't worry, I made sure to even out that half of a granola bar up there-- that's what moms are for, right? (Oh, and Clara prefers to feed herself these days.  I think you'll agree she seems pretty capable!).


::When Ben and I were newly married, we started gathering up National Geographic field guides.  If we saw one in a thrift store, we would buy it.  We would buy one for one another for Christmas.  By the time the kids came around, we had a bona fide collection, and it's one of the best purchases we've ever made.  I love that as our kids become interested in nature, they have easy access to beautiful pictures and facts to help their exploration.  One Father's Day or birthday or something I bought Ben a bird feeder, and I would say that is one of my other best long term purchases.  He's actually really diligent about keeping it filled, and we are graced with the loveliest variety of birds, and the kids really enjoy trying to identify each one!  

:: The season of fireflies is upon us!  I have distinct childhood memories of catching fireflies in the summer, and love watching my own little ones participating in the seasonal ritual.

I still can't quite believe in only two weeks we'll be on another coast entirely.  Are there fireflies in California?  I sure hope so.  I imagine we'll be discovering a new set of wonders out there, but in the meantime, I am savoring every last moment right where we are.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Four


This darling little thing just turned four.  Not only is four quite possibly my favorite age, but Hugo is among my very favorite people.  He's loving and sweet and kind and creative, and has the engineering mind of his father to boot.  He will walk up to good friends and say, "I love you!" and give them a big hug and if you're lucky, a kiss, and he really means it.  He will walk around in full character, be it a superhero, or adventurer, or builder for days to the point that there have been whole weeks that we have called him by some other name, he is that into the character.  If someone compliments his shoes he might say, "Oh, these are my skis.  They help me get away from bad guys," because that is just what his world looks like.  He has sort of been my permanent sidekick for these past four years, and I have loved every bit of it.  

We had a couple of families over to celebrate his birthday (Ben made a little "pin the head on superman" game, which could not have been a bigger hit!), and his big gift was a camelback backpack, which he now wears whenever he leaves the house.  It is blue, because for Hugo, everything is better if it is blue.  He is just so dear to us, I don't think there's a single member of the family who doesn't enjoy Hugo's company (except for the occasionally the babies, who sometimes decide they've had enough of his affection, thankyouverymuch.  One can only receive so many kisses, right?).  I am so excited to see what this year might bring!  Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Grief and God's Bounty


I knew something was wrong when I heard the basement door creek open in the middle of the day, and saw Ben, still in his cycling clothes, drenched in sweat, walk in.  He didn't give me a hug, but took my hand and led me to the couch, told me to sit down.  He held both of my hands and looked at me for a moment before he had to look away.  "My parents called.  My brother John has been in an accident." Before he could finish, before his voice broke into sobs, I knew.  Before he uttered those impossible, cruel words, "He's dead."  We held each other and prayed: for strength, for wisdom, for comfort.  For John's family, his wife, his children.

I wish I could show you everything I have seen and felt over the past week.  My heart has broken a thousand times: from the sorrow and the beauty.  The way our family pulled together, showed up in full force, held one another through tears.  The hundreds of people who came to John's memorial service, the stage filled with other members of the Air Force, the service filled with testimony after testimony of this great man: his sweetness, his loveability, his inner strength.  I wish I could tell you the way my heart dropped when I saw the flag draped coffin, the sudden physical realization of the reality of this whole thing, that no, John was not going to walk in the door with his wide contagious smile and assure us that this had all been a mistake.  The poignant beauty of his widow sitting beside his coffin, eyes closed, luminous face raised, mouthing the words to a hymn with the hint of a smile.  A smile.  It is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I will see in my life.  A love song to the man she loved, and to the God who created us even in her grief.

We stayed in North Carolina for our niece's graduation from high school on Saturday.  John's eldest daughter, who is beautiful and kind and reminds us all a great deal of her father.  As she crossed the stage and our section of the bleachers cheered, I felt an incredible pride and joy.  God has brought us together, and God is faithful to us through these trials.  We are strengthened by John's presence in the Communion of Saints and can truly feel him here with us even as we long to be with him in person.  These are difficult days, for John's wife and children, for John's parents, his siblings, and everyone who loved him.  But I pray as we look back upon them we will see not only our sadness, but God's bounty.  I know John would have it no other way.