Our summer in the sun

I know that it's only a matter of time before the memories of our Hawaiian adventure start to fade, and since our minds are already turning toward next summer's plans, I thought I'd better get on it!

We spent the last month of the summer on the North Shore of Oahu.  Early on we had the company of our wonderful Santa Cruz friends, the Bartons, as well as our dear, dear Atlanta neighbors, Kaitlyn, Savannah, Mackenzie and Donna.  Eric, Brigham, Kaitlyn and Savannah fell seamlessly back into their easy friendship, which was one of the most magical parts of our time in Atlanta, and something I've missed fiercely since we left.

The girls had learned to surf in California the week before we left, so a lot of their time was spent in the ocean together.  Kaitlyn and Savannah are the best kind of fun, fearless girls.  If I could keep them forever, I would.

This was our first trip to Hawaii, so we relied on the Bartons, who are veterans, to show us how it's done, which they did- with a vengeance.  I don't think I could have kept up with them for much longer than a week!  They introduced us to the joys of Waimeia Bay, Matsumoto's shave ice, surfing at Chun's Reef, snorkling, poi balls, and that was just the beginning.  They also fed us what I've come to refer to as 'crack rice'.  I've tried and failed to replicate it, which is probably a good thing for my thighs.

That first week was a whirlwind, and then all at once, everyone left, and it was just our little family.  I'd be lying if said that didn't throw me into a mini-depression.  Which is why the next time we do this, we want lots of visitors!  I dealt with it by convincing my brother to fly out and spend a few days with us toward the end of the trip.  And also by having a fit about the state of our second rental house, which Eric heroically remedied by booking a new place, back closer to where we had been at the start of our trip.  He says I imprinted on the North Shore because that's where we were with all our friends, and I think he's probably right.  I'm not good with change, even on vacation, apparently:).  

About two weeks in, the kids were feeling a little 'over-beached', and fortunately for us, we had a local hiking expert at our disposal.  Our friend Christian grew up in Hawaii, and we had met his mom, Pam, on several of her visits to Santa Cruz last year.  She was kind enough to take us on some truly incredible hikes.  We swung on rope swings, jumped from waterfalls, ate wild lilikoi and squeezed awapui onto our heads.  Pam has an aura of calmness that envelopes everyone around her, and it was one of the highlights of our trip to get to know her and her family.

Would it be a true Aldrich vacation if some of us didn't go barefoot?

On Hawaiian statehood day, we joined Pam, Christian's brother Adam, and their friends for a bonfire on the beach.  

Eric spent a half-day riding along with a cacao consultant, in furtherance of his dream to one day make and sell his own chocolate.  He saw real cacao growing on trees, which was a thrill for him.  The man loves chocolate.

My brother arrived and we set about dragging him around to all the fun things we'd discovered during our trip so far.  It was his first time in Hawaii too, and there was a lot to show him in three days!

The kids could not get enough of him.  Eleanor, whose verbal skills exploded on this trip, dubbed him 'Adocado'.  The boys took him snorkling and surfing, and generally monopolized every moment they could with him.

I took him to my favorite food place in Haleiwa for an acai bowl.  I'm still dreaming about those things.  I think I could eat one every day.  I know I could.

My days fell into a pattern of long, sweaty runs, splashing around at the beach, and afternoon trips into town with the kids while Eleanor napped and Eric worked.

The warm, humid air felt so good on my skin after a year in cool coastal California.

I thought a lot about mothers and daughters in Hawaii, after our wonderful week with Donna and her three girls, plus the Bartons and their five (!).  One day I'll wake Marley and Eleanor up to go for an early-morning run with me.  We'll swap clothes the way I used to do with my mom.  They'll braid each other's hair and make cookies together after dinner- and clean up!  I can't wait for that.

In the meantime, the boys do their best to fill in.... :)

I also thought a lot about families, and the many relationships within them.  I've never made a secret of the fact that I'm not much for travelling, but I think it's a good thing to get away together every now and again.  All kinds of things come to the surface when there's no-one to look at but each other, and not all of it's good, but in the end, it brings you closer together.  Being in Hawaii seemed to magnify the intensities of life with four children- the highs were high and the lows low.  Oh my goodness, the screaming in the car- and not all of it coming from the children!  But in the end, I think it was worth it.  We'll hold onto to the good parts and the bad parts will become faded memories.

Eric and I both noticed that after we got home, the kids seemed to get along together much better.  That only lasted for a few weeks, but it's something.

Maybe enough to get us through winter, all the way to next summer.


The hello year...

I was talking to a dear friend recently about her upcoming move.  After we hung up, I started thinking about all the moves, all the goodbye's we've said in the past three years.  I think that's part of why this move has been a difficult one for me, because I'm still missing two places.  Just as soon as I had gotten my feet under me in Atlanta, it was time to go again.

But- there are no goodbyes on the horizon anymore, at least as far as we can see.

My sense of who I am as a person is so deeply connected to place.  Leaving the South, where I'd lived most of my life, where so many important things happened to me, felt like losing a part of myself.

But slowly, slowly, I'm making new connections in this new place.  I realized this as I dropped the kids off for their various camps this morning (moment of reverence for the wonderfulness of your car gradually emptying from five children to one).

First stop was Marley's new school, where she gets to go to kindercamp for the next two weeks and have a little taste of what she'll be doing in the fall.  We saw old friends from preschool.  We know people now.  That exhausting feeling of introducing and explaining yourself every minute of every day is gone.

Then it was down Bay street to the beach, where the boys and their neighborhood friends have beach baseball camp this week.  The ocean was so blue, and the streets were so quiet.  I'm learning that when you live in a tourist town, quiet is special, and you soak it in.  I smiled to think that we get to live in a place where people come on vacation.

Then Eleanor and I drove home to our cows and our view of the bay.  We just had a quiet morning around the house, and I thought back over the past year and all the new things we've done and seen.  I had the sense that we made it through the hardest part- the goodbye's and the hello's.

Now we can just be.


Inside every turning leaf is the pattern of an older tree

Eleanor turned two last week.  There are so many things about her that I don't want to forget even as I wish these toddler days away.  I know I shouldn't do that, but I do.  I may have actually uttered the words "I wish the Goblin king would come and take you away, right now!" once or twice.  Don't worry El- I would totally brave the labrynth and face down David Bowie in lycra to get you back.

It's all about vocalizing right now.  Loud, piercing screams are usually her communication method of choice.  You haven't lived until you've experienced a trip to the grocery store with Ellie and her vocal chords.  I tune it out.  She's my fourth kid, and I'm tired.  Half the time people compliment me on my amazing patience and the other half, they glare at me for my negligence.  The eye doctor couldn't take it, and suggested I come back when she was in a better mood.  I tried to explain that there would be no better mood.  This is just how she is all the time.  But I don't think it registered.

She talks now too, thank goodness.  No one understands much of what she's saying, but it's very clear to her.

Goldfish are "foofies".  Food falls into one of three categories: fruits and vegetables are "apples".  Treats are "cokies" and everything else is "pizza".

Animals are referred to under the blanket term "ooshang", a derivative of Mustang (our dog). At first I thought "ooshang" meant ocean, but no.  Ocean is "potty".  All bodies of water, from small puddles on up are potties.

I noticed her repeating the "F-word" in the car a few weeks ago.... that F-word.  It turns out that's her new word for foot.  Which was awesome at Marley's class field trip to the beach the other day- the sand was hot, and she kept repeating, in her extremely loud voice "hot f@%&#, hot f#$%&!"  We are very popular at preschool.

Happy second birthday to my little troll.  You have turned my world upside down, but you've also changed it for the better, and I can't wait to watch you grow into yourself.  Your confidence and sense of adventure will steer you true.  I hope you never lose the openness and assertiveness with which you greet the world.

I'm excited for our days together next year, just you and me.  Got my earplugs ready:).

Love you, little one.


Waiting on summer

Eric Jr. lost his reading notebook.  In it are pages and pages of summaries he's written for the novel his class is reading right now.  I watched him all last week as he read the chapters and carefully wrote his notes, and now it's gone.  His teacher is mad at him.  We talked before bed about personal organization, and also about dealing with difficult people.  And I reminded him that there are only three weeks left in the school year!

We're planning on making up to our kids all the craziness of our lives this past year- the moving, the screaming-toddler-sister, the late nights working...all of it- with a month in Hawaii.  It dawned on us a few weeks ago, as we noticed all our neighbors making plans to leave town, that one of the perks of being a professor is that you can go anywhere your hearts desire for the summer*.  And our hearts desire to go to Hawaii, not wear shoes, and hang out with sea turtles for a month, so that's what we're doing.

Also- I hear that church starts twenty minutes late in Hawaii...

I may never come home :).

*Just to clarify- Eric has to work in the summer (and work hard, believe me), it's just he doesn't have to teach, and he was clever enough to pick a field in which his research is portable, so he can do it just as easily in a Starbuck's in Hawaii as he can in his office.


Spring by the sea

I miss the blossoms.  Last spring I looked around and noticed that I lived in one of the most beautiful places in the universe.  Every tree and bush in our neighborhood had exploded in blooms and the air was filled with their sweet smell.  I started waking up early to run before the kids were awake.  I would silently put on my running clothes and slip out the back door into the darkness, with the purple shadows of blossoms and warm air all around me.

I think maybe that's why the spring has been such a hard time for me here.  I was one with those blossoms and that place and that time.  And though it's getting better every day, it still feels like I don't fit here.  One night Eric and I went to dinner downtown and we were seated next to a table of southerners. I miss hearing that accent.  I almost cried when I looked up and realized that they had left before I'd gotten the chance to ask them where they were from.

Nevertheless, I trudged on, through Easter and spring break.

My mom and grandmother came to town for a very quick visit, and we walked, talked, ate and shopped.  That cheered me up a little bit.

For Easter my cousin Laura and her sweet boyfriend Tom made the trip from L.A., and my brother came down from Oakland.  He's going to make us side tables for our living room.  That cheered me up some more.  My brother is freakishly talented in a wide array of things, including making gorgeous furniture.

The sister missionaries came to Easter dinner.  One of them is from Brazil, and Eric knew her as a little girl on his mission.  The other one is from Newnan, GA, which, of course, made me want to cry.  Then Marley tried on her name tag, and I felt a little better.  That girl is going to make an incredible missionary some day.

The kids and I lived at the Boardwalk over spring break.  Eleanor rode her first roller coaster and took it like a pro (of course).  I rode the scariest ride- the Fireball, and was just so happy to make it off alive that I temporarily didn't care where I lived.

We ate a lot of fried things.

I look at these pictures now and realized that we really had fun.  There aren't a lot of things in life that are fun for a 2-, 4-, 9-, 11- and 32-year-old all at the same time.  

I bought some beach chairs at Costco since, you know, we live at the beach.  We should probably have our own beach chairs. 

And then a strange thing happened last weekend.  I fell in love with a house, and we made an offer on it.  We were driving along, and saw a sign and decided to stop in just for fun.  It was the first time I've ever walked into a house and been able to easily envision spending the rest of my life it.  Poor Eric went after that house like water in the dessert, knowing how happy it would make me, and wanting so badly for me to be happy here.  Unfortunately, half the town fell in love with it too and we didn't get it in the end.  But something about that house snapped me out of my fog.

For a brief moment, I could see my future here.  Not my past, never my past....but my future.  That's something.