Thursday, October 1, 2015

Exploring California, Yes They're All Mine, and Other Things

Having visitors is the very best excuse to get out and see new places!  The big girls have had the week off of school, and that paired with Omi and Granddad visiting has meant lots of trips to parks, museums, brunch places, and natural wonders (just the regular tourist stuff, right?!).  There was a big neighborhood parade (so cute!), some new-to-us local parks.  We live ridiculously close to some redwood groves, and visiting has been on our "to do" list ever since we moved here.  I think if I knew how overwhelmingly magnificent, how at once ethereal and majestic and wholly earthy they were, I would have gone the second we got here!  Seriously, I loved being among those redwoods, and there is something mind blowing about standing in the midst of these towering beings that are thousands of years old.  Wow.

I have been thinking lately about this fruitful family of ours, partly because I'm going to be needing another baby chick for my favorite necklace, which Ben got me when the twins were born.  We're marching right along here, you guys!  But honestly, there are very few days when I'm not reminded in some way of the fact that this family of ours is quite unusual.  Just yesterday we were riding our bikes (Ben, Zosia and Lily on a bike, Hugo on a balance bike-- that kid can go full speed, or as he would say "double speed!!", and me on my bike with one twin in a baby seat and one twin in a trailer) in downtown San Jose.  We had gone on a late afternoon trip to the Discovery Museum, met Ben up, and gone for a leisurely ride through the downtown, by the art museum, park with fountains, and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph.  At one moment Ben and I looked back at the kids and saw that the hipster on the sidewalk was smiling and taking photos of our family.  Ha!  We spent the rest of the ride debating whether we are instagram gold or simply a freak show.  Maybe somewhere in between?  :-)  

Now that I'm wearing this pregnancy on my sleeve, or on my belly, as you would have it, it's fun to respond to the question of "Is this your first?" with a relaxed, "No, it's my sixth."  You can literally see the incomprehension and confusion take hold of the poor stranger's face as they try to digest the information they have just received because hey, we're young!  We have a lot of kids!  I am happy to report that every single person I can think of has responded, after their incredulity has worn off, with either encouragement or an anecdote of some great big family they have known.  It's nice to know that when you enter the world with kindness and open arms, it sometimes (often?) responds in kind.

And speaking of welcoming the world with kindness and open arms, for those of you who, like us, don't actually have cable TV and didn't get the chance to follow the papal visit as closely as you might have liked to, set aside 20 minutes and watch this homily from the World Meeting of Families.  My dad passed it along, saying he found it "absolutely fantastic."  I watched every word, and I agree!  Let's create a space for beauty, truth, and goodness in our families where we can open our arms to the incredible creative power of God.  Love it!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

This and That

::Our oven has been broken for going on three weeks, which means I have gotten very creative with dinner offerings!  I have realized just how much I rely on being able to throw something in the oven mid-day, cook it through the afternoon, and then serve it for dinner (allowing me to do the other many things I seem to need to do directly before dinner, such as homework, washing babies' hands and feet, or getting everyone out of the house for a walk or bike ride to keep people peppy).  Some non-oven favorites these past few weeks have included anything in the crockpot, cold dinners (like salads, cheese plates and vegetables, or boiled eggs), and then a few really fast dinners like gnocci, warmed up meatballs, and broccoli.  To tell you the truth, I've sort of found my oven free groove, I think!
::Clara has some very strong feelings about fashion choices.  Primarily, left to her own devices, her fall wardrobe would consist entirely of one of her older sibling's pajamas (preferably Hugo's), a bathing suit, or her own birthday suit.  She is actually sort of a genius when it comes to finding these things in the house, and once dressed in an actual baby outfit will immediately disappear upstairs, triumphantly returning with a bathing suit top, a set of pajamas, and a big smile on her face (clearly, it was simply a mistake she wasn't dressed in these things from the get go, right?!).  Dorothy shares these preferences but seems a little less stubborn about it all.  If you ever see one of the twins wearing something *other* than the above mentioned choices, know that it involved a great deal of cajoling, convincing, distraction, and possibly bribery.

::Hugo has started preschool at a lovely Montessori school, which means that the house is very quiet for a couple of hours every morning, he is exceptionally interested in helping around the house (thank you, Montessori method!), and he is officially growing up!  It's always so fun to see each of our children "go out into the world" in their own little ways, seeing how they interact with adults and kids, which activities they enjoy, and how they start to cultivate friendships and interests.  

It feels like the weather really wants to start cooling down around here.  We will have a couple of brisk mornings followed by a few really hot days.  When the mornings are cool, the big kids come down in the morning and immediately build a little nest for themselves, and it feels best to be in a sweater-- last weekend, we even had the outdoor fireplace going in the morning, and it was perfect. Needless to say, I am ready for fall to come!  

Ben's parents are visiting for a couple of weeks, and we've been loving their company.  They've had a pretty tough couple of years, and it amazes me how much love and patience they always have to share with all of us.  It is always a gift to find inspiration from those who have lived through more of life, seen more joys and sorrows, and have yet emerged with a strong sense of faith and purpose.  I always want to sit and take notes, because these things should be goals for all of us, right?  

Are you guys as excited as I am about the Pope's visit?!  I love this guy, not only because he is the spiritual leader of our church, but just because he is so authentically Catholic, lovingly and eloquently upholding the core orthodox teachings of our church (am I the only one who's puzzled by all these people on every possible side of the political spectrum who are outraged by things he's said?  Catholic teaching, you guys.  It's pretty constant, no surprises).  I'm sort of bummed I'm not on the East coast to soak in the atmosphere and energy, but I'm watching closely and praying for this visit!  

Monday, September 14, 2015

The News

Alright, let me update you, cliffs notes style.  We are starting to settle into routines here on the West Coast.  The kids are in school, we gather for dinner every night whether around our dining table or picnic table.  We have found a parish, a grocery store (along with an incredible bakery, a juice place which I believe several members of my family have become addicted to, some awesome ethnic food, and a children's book store which I already know is going to be the end of any budgeting attempts, because I have no greater weakness than good children's literature), and a really amazing babysitter.  All those little things that start to make a place feel familiar.

The twins are at a pretty adorable age.  They are talking *a lot* and suddenly have realized that they communication unlocks an entirely new world.  They are sweet and cuddly one minute, and a little like feral kittens the next, wrestling and pouncing on one another, and just when I think that maybe this particular twin game is not going to end well, they both burst into laughter.  Oh my goodness, it is like reading a gripping, unpredictable, terrifying, and then hilarious novel, being with these two.  I really love it.

We spend a lot of time outside-- biking to school, walking to the park, hiking, scootering in the neighborhood, or hanging out in the back yard.  We have had just enough weeks of cool and lovely mornings followed by warm afternoons, and then breezy evenings, that even I have been scoffing at this 100 degree temperature we have seen the past few days.  California, what is this?  We demand nothing less than perfection from you.

There is fruit everywhere.  Literally hanging from trees (that no one picks! Like, a tree filled with apricots in the middle of the street, or a tree with ripe asian pears, or a fig tree).  On many occasions we have made a snack of it, reaching up and plucking a piece of fruit on our way.  And then the farmers markets are amazing and cheap and plentiful (much more so than the grocery store, actually).

One beautiful, incredible, unexpected thing about this big family of ours is the complete security and sense of place that the children feel simply in the context of being with one another.  There's a way that our family functions as a little community.  Our kids play with each other a lot.  There is always something going on, someone to talk to, someone who is willing to pay your imaginary game of choice.  Don't get me wrong, we really miss the friends we've left behind, our neighborhood, our school, our church, and most of all our family.  That part of things will be hard no matter what.  But I take such comfort in watching our family pick up the ropes in an entirely new place with a sense of purpose and resolution on the other coast of this large country of ours.  I'm proud of them for their resilience and flexibility, for their openness to new experiences and appreciation of unexpected beauty.  I couldn't imagine another group of people I would rather be doing this with.

And speaking of children, guess what.  I'm pregnant!  22 weeks (!), feeling amazing, and officially entering that stage of pregnancy where I sleep with something like nine pillows to try to help obscure the fact that side sleeping is the worst (stomach sleeping all the way guys!).  Tonight at bedtime I told Hugo he could talk to the baby and the baby would hear and understand.  He looked up earnestly.  "I want to tell the baby the secrets of nature."  And then, leaning in to my stomach, whispering at a barely audible volume, "A spider monkey has no thumbs."  Oh my goodness, you guys, this is one lucky baby, to be entrusted with that type of information.  We are totally smitten, excited, and Clara and Dorothy are ready to start smothering this baby with love immediately.  Six!  Can you believe it?!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Very Rough Sketch

I keep telling people that we've been here for to weeks.  As in, "When did you move to California."  "Two weeks ago."  Which doesn't seem at all strange to me, but my children have started pointing out that no, it's actually been a bit longer than that.  Maybe a lot longer than that.  Coming up on a month?  More than a month?  Is that possible?  There's something about these in between times that are so full of new things, so full of change, and adapting, and transitions that a sense of time is lost altogether. 

California is pretty beautiful.  I could tell you about the dry yellow mountains that we see to the east of us, or the lush green hills to the south of us, or the cool air on the coast, or the perfectly flat valley (really, truly flat, like nothing on the East coast other than Florida maybe) that we live in.  I was just reading with the girls outside before sending them to bed, and we were all snuggled under a blanket, and Zosia said, "I just don't know why it is so cold out!" and Lily said, "Well, this is California after all."  And so it is, cool in the morning and evening, and often quite hot in the middle of the day, but dry, and we have not once complained of the unseasonably hot weather, because you guys, let me tell you what it is like back East!  Humidity!  Mosquitoes!  I try to explain to these Californians how easy they have it, but I don't know they will ever understand until they experience it. 

I can tell you that the people here have been incredibly warm and kind and loving.  We have spent a good part of the past month making new friends and getting to know neighbors and seeing friends from the past, and that is the single thing that has probably started to make this place start to feel like home the most.  The kids scooter with neighborhood kids and we all walk to school together, and it's just lovely, all of it.

On the home front, my days have been busy.  First there were the days that I was just trying to unpack as many boxes as humanly possible, followed by a couple of weeks when my parents were here helping us get settled in, and then the next week the girls started school, and my goodness, my head is still spinning with all of it.  Through those crazy days, I kept remembering Ben's mantra before we moved.  "Adele, life is going to be easier out there."  He would say it, and all I could really see was a big cross country move and the many logistics involved in such a thing.  How could it be easier?  There were some busy, crazy days in there for sure.  But now that the dust has settled, all I can say is that I see how he was right.  This is a wonderful place to be spending this chapter of our family's life.  We are outside all of the time, and are eating some pretty amazing food, and have a lot of support, and my goodness, it is beautiful here.  I can't wait to try to show you all of it.