I was in the kitchen, mindlessly putting things away as the boys and a neighborhood friend chattered away in the background, when my phone rang.  It was a number I always pick up, without even thinking (and I am a shameless call-screener).  Seconds later I was in my bedroom with the door locked, straining to hear Lindsay's voice through her tears, trying to comprehend the fact that Brian- 32 years old, brilliant, kind, hilarious and invincible- had had a heart attack.

Later, Eric and I fell asleep with our phones in our hands and tears in our eyes, waiting for news about how he was doing.  The news has come- some good, some scary, mostly partial answers for now.  This afternoon, I stood in the kitchen again, watching the kids draw pictures to send in the mail.  Marley had the glitter glue out and was squeezing it with abandon, all over her card and the table.  My protests died in my throat and I said a small prayer:

Please, please.  Let all of our love and prayers go with that glitter.  Let them span the country to that hospital room holding some of the dearest people in the world to us.  Let all the babies and graduations, the Christmases and beach trips, the weekends in the mountains, the talks late at night, the dinners and the everyday moments we have shared for all of these years- let them all be there in that room, in that heart.


Surf City Halloween

We started things off with a pre-Halloween visit from our dear friends the Alders.  We spent several days subtly, but desperately trying to convince them to move to California.  I mean- where else do you find pumpkin-head surfers?

Eleanor and I were lucky enough to tag along on both Brigham and Marley's class field trips to the local pumpkin patch.  I couldn't get over the fact that these pumpkins were grown right next to the Pacific ocean (see it in the background?).  Crazy, crazy, crazy.

Brigham and his classmates helped their "little buddies" from the first grade to find a pumpkin.  Apparently there aren't enough little buddies to go around, so Brigham and his friend Trevor have to share one- pretty adorable to watch:).

On Halloween day Eric and I had to tag-team, so I could go to the elementary school parade and help preside over both boys' class Halloween parties (hi my name is Katie and I'm addicted to being a room parent), and he could attend Marley's preschool party.  That worked out okay, except for when one of the teachers yelled at me for not having removed the plastic wrap from the vegetable platter.  Really???

By the afternoon I was feeling a little crummy- being spread so thin, it felt like I was scrambling to make everyone's Halloween dreams come true, and not doing a very good job of it.  Then Marley brought me a cookie she had decorated at school and saved for me to eat.  She explained that she had accidentally stepped on it, but she bit that part off.  I closed my eyes and thought of all the disgusting germs, hair, drool, snot and who-knows-what-else lurking in the purplish-gray frosting.  I decided that whatever else happened that day, I was going to eat that cookie with a smile on my face- I could do that much right.  It actually tasted pretty good:).

Eric took the boys down to the beach to see their fist surf competition, the O'Neill Coldwater Classic.  They had a great time and were ready to hit the streets for some trick-or-treating when they got back.

Have you ever?

My favorite part of Halloween every year is following my kids around the neighborhood, peeking into people's houses, meeting new neighbors and hearing their sweet thank-you's.  Marley was cute and took two pieces of candy at every house so she could give one to Eleanor, who mostly stayed in the stroller.  Of course I felt the need to loudly proclaim, "OH, YOU'RE TAKING ONE FOR YOUR SISTER TOO?   THAT'S SO NICE!" at every house, so that people wouldn't think she was being greedy:).

After exhausting out neighborhood, we headed to over to some ward friends' home in Scott's Valley where the kids sorted through their candy and watched The Nightmare Before Christmas.  By the time we made it home, everyone was spent, sticky and a little sick on sugar, but happy.  

There's something about celebrating Halloween in a place that makes it feel a little more like home.


Marley, age four

We had a little party at our neighborhood playground.

A few friends...

The family, of course...

Birthday cake...

And presents.  Equals four-year-old bliss.  She tells me that she feels older, and that there are lots of things she can do now that she's four years old- and she believes it too.  I love that.  Even though the one thing involving not wearing a pull-up to bed anymore didn't turn out so well.

That girl.  She drives me completely crazy with her insistence that she be seen and heard every moment of every day.  But when I stop to think about it...that is such an important thing for a woman in this world:  

To be seen.  And heard.

One day when she's older, I hope I can talk with her about her gift for being seen and heard and help her understand how she can use it for good.  I know that she is who she is for a reason.  And I'm pretty sure the reason is not to drive me insane.  Even though it seems like it sometimes.  

Happy birthday to my bella girl.  I never knew it was possible to be frustrated, exhausted and profoundly happy and grateful all at the same time until you came into my life.  I hope you keep me crying and laughing for a very long time.


For your bedtime reading pleasure...

...a quote from Brigham, just before dinner last night:

I got an email from Mitt Romney.  Apparently Obama failed to stand up against China.

Also, I believe we've been officially welcomed to Santa Cruz- while about to get out of our car on a downtown street earlier tonight, a bearded man walked by and spit right on my window!  The only think I can think is that he was a crazy, anti-SUV environmentalist.  Eric just thinks he was mentally ill.  All I could do was laugh, and think- Buddy, we drove that car across the country with four children and a golden retriever.  It has seen FAR worse than a little spit from you!


Settling in

I'm feeling lucky today. The students are arriving on campus for move-in weekend and the girls are playing quietly behind the closed door of their bedroom.  I think I'll take the risk that they're painting the walls with nail polish and spend a few minutes documenting our first weeks in Santa Cruz...

School started almost as soon as we got here.  Getting the boys registered was a harrowing experience, to say the least.  Did you know that in CA they can turn you away from your neighborhood school because of overcrowding, even if you just spent every penny to your name- and quite a few pennies to your mother's name- to buy a house for the specific purpose of sending your kids to that school?  Fortunately I have a strong volunteer record and the boys have stellar grades/ discipline records, so that, combined with a few neighborhood connections, scored us seats.  Phew.

Hearts sank on our first official dip in the pacific ocean (I use the word "our" loosely), when those of us brave enough to go in (again, using "us" loosely) realized just how cold the water is, even with a wet suit on.  But as night fell, the stars came out and we huddled with new friends around a warm fire.  That, plus the presence of smores, helped us see that maybe this new way of beaching it wasn't so bad.

Eric took off to Utah for a few days for a "conference".  I'm sure there was lots of deeply intellectual discussion of economics during the activities we observed in the photostream:).  Fortunately for me, Laura and her new boyfriend Tom came up from L.A. to keep the kids and me company.  We took a train ride through the redwoods and spent lots of time talking and playing with all the presents she brought along.

We live in faculty housing on the UCSC campus.  There's a cute little playground for the kids, and we can see the ocean, the mountains and lots of trees and wildlife.  Every morning I run up to the university track, where I can see the sun rising over the mountains, the town and the beach.

 One of our first orders of business was to check out the boardwalk, Santa Cruz's old-fashioned beachside amusement park.  The boys went for "Texas donuts", while I had to try the friend artichoke hearts (did you know we're thirty minutes from artichoke country, where you can buy 12 for a dollar!?).

I was happy to hang out with Marley and Eleanor on the kiddie rides and the ferris wheel, while Eric and the boys tackled the serious stuff.  We stayed until I accidentally dumped a cup of chocolate sauce (for dipping the friend oreos in) on Ellie's head.  Ever since then, Marley has been asking, "when can we go back to that really fun party?"

Aside from that, we've been busy with soccer, swim lessons, scouts, preschool, mountain biking, running, and dreaming of all the things we can do to our house now that we're homeowners again.  And did I mention that we have a real, honest-to-goodness guest room now?  So keep your eye on flights to CA!


Missing you today

We're here.  And things are working out great so far.  The house (that we bought without ever seeing it in person), the neighborhood, the school, the University- I can already see how I'll one day come to love all those things, and never want to leave them.

But right now, today, the exhaustion of the last three weeks has hit me full force.  Marley was holding her picture of Graham and listening to her vacation bible school CD on repeat while I was drying my hair and I had to just stop and cry for a few minutes.  I sent a quick email to Tracy- nothing earth shattering- just to say I miss you a lot right now.  After I hit send, I saw her simultaneously sent email with the words "I'm really missing you today".  That's when the tears really started flowing, because despite how great and wonderful everything is, this hurts- a lot.

I miss my doorbell ringing 30 times a day with friends and neighborhood kids coming in and out.  I miss big leafy trees and properly green grass.  I miss the sound of the cars drowning out the music on my ipod as I run along Ponce.  I miss having a mailbox.

I miss Amy coming over with some treasure for Marley.  I miss Donna's updates on her (much more interesting than mine) personal life.  I miss Sara sitting on my living room floor feeding Austin and talking about our families.  I miss Tracy helping me and somehow managing to make me feel like I was doing her a favor.  And it cracks my heart in two when Marley tells me to save a cookie for Graham.

I miss Kaitlyn and Savannah and Mason and Carter and Zach and Eli and John and baby Austin and Paloma and Giri and Hank and Noah and Manfeild.

I miss Farm Burger and Flying Biscuit and Zyka.

I miss Fernbank and morning carpool traffic and walking to the school to eat lunch with my kids.  I miss the screams and laughs from the playground floating through my open windows in the afternoon.

It will be okay.

It really will.

I know that.

But still, I'm really missing you today.


Summer Memory Dump

The packers are almost done with their work.  Eleanor will have to make it across the country with one shoe since I didn't grab the other one fast enough.  I have that panicky feeling of too much to do when all I really want to do is spend time with friends and neighbors and soak up these last moments here.

Our summer was exactly what I'd hoped: full of fun, growth and preparation.  That didn't leave much time for blogging.  But something in me won't let me close the door on this time in our lives without noting some of the highlights....

We had a wonderful visit from my Grandmother, and my Aunt Rachel and Uncle Bob.  They brought Marley and Eleanor a beautiful hand-thrown tea set, made by my Uncle's brother (you'd better believe I told those packers to be VERY careful with that box!).  We had a tea party, complete with sugar cubes and clovers taped to our heads (Marley's idea).

My family are all artists and lovers of art, so it was fitting that we also made it to the High Museum to see Eric Jr.'s drawing of a "Coca-Cola shoe", which was chosen for a special student exhibit.  The boys' school has a contest each year where all the fourth graders draw an art-inspired shoe, and the favorites are chosen to go on the "shoe shirt", commemorating that year's school fun run.

I finally made good on my promise to Brigham that we could have a "patch party" to commemorate the end of his long years of wearing a patch over his eye everyday.  The idea was for everyone ELSE to wear a patch- as you can see, that got old pretty quickly.  It made me appreciate what a challenge that must have been for him, and admire his good attitude all the more.

We had a bar-b-que with friends Jeff and Leah, who've known Eric since his freshman year at Duke, back before even I did.  Their adorable little girl, Kendall, is one of Marley's good friends, and they are some of the most laid-back, calming people we know.  It's always so fun to visit their beautiful home.

The boy choir sang an end-of-year concert for parents, and we reflected on what an amazing opportunity this experience has been for Eric.  He especially loved working with Maestro Wolfe, who always called him "Puncey", because Eric reminded him of his brother of the same name.

Eric Sr. and Eric Jr. ran in the Peachtree Roadrace, an Atlanta tradition and the largest 10K road race in the world.  They hooked up with the missionaries from our church, who were running in their suits, proselyting along the way!  It's that kind of race...there's even a Catholic priest who sprinkles people with holy water.

We walked in the Druid Hills neighborhood 4th of July parade.  It wound through the beautiful, old streets where movies like Driving Miss Daisy have been filmed.  I really think this has to be the best neighborhood in the whole world.

Eric and Brigham rode in their first official cycling race at the Dick Lane Velodrome in East Point.  They've been riding there once a week, honing their track racing skills in the kids program.

Eric even won third place in his category.  The look of surprise and elation on his face was one of my favorite moments ever.

We took off to the beach for a week, welcoming back my mom from her adventure in Turkey...

We made good on a promise to take the boys to Six Flags amusement park.  Honesty alert: I do not ever want to go back there again.  I think I lost a few IQ points and my neck was sore for weeks.  Plus our budget is still recovering.  But the boys had a blast, and it was fun to be a kid again for a day.

We escaped to Asheville with our dear friends the Alders.  They showed us the many wonders they discovered while Brian did a 5 month stint at the VA hospital there.

And so here we are.  Our time in Atlanta is over.  The packers are gone now and the house is in boxes.  Tomorrow the truck will come and take it all away.  We'll have dinner with the friends who have been our family these last two years, and then we'll hit the road ourselves.  

Stay tuned for survival reports from our cross-country road trip with four kids and a dog...