Friday, March 07, 2008

We Are Snowing

Maria was sitting by the front door, her arms full of gear; boots, mittens, her hat, my scarf. Next to her was Max, pulling on his boots. I knew Max was heading out to the sled and slope, but I had to ask Maria what she thought she was up to. "Maria what are you doing?" She answered with the confidence of a seasoned skier, a rugged outdoors woman, "Going snowing." She is unfazed by windchill, by slips on her bottom, by trekking and stomping. She's even back to singing "Frosty the Snowman." She's taken sola rides in the long, black toboggan, and she knows how to crunch the crusty edges of icy snow when walking down the sidewalk, just like her daddy did, when he was a boy.

It's so much fun to see her embrace winter, outdoor play and all of these new elements, without any reservations. She loves the snow and the trees, she loves the "crunch." Yesterday when we took her to Cam-Rock 3 to check out the sledding hill, she looked up at the clear, late afternoon sky and asked "Where did all the fluffies go? Where is the snowing?" Her last venture out the snow was blowing down, some individual crystals and some fluffy clusters of snow, and she had marveled at the sight. Now she was a little sad to see that it had stopped.

Alex and Max are no less enthusiastic, and they have spent a lot of time outside, dedicated to the pursuit of fun in the snow. Alex needs snow pants and gloves, so today we are heading to St. Vincent's in Madison. Hopefully enough people have given-up on Winter and we can find some decent second-hand deals. With real, water-proof gloves, I think Alex will be able to comfortably finish construction on the snow fort. Snow pants will keep him even more comfortable for the long hours he has been out and working diligently at making snowy blocks.

Max has been helping with the fort too, he is well prepared for the elements. He has boots and snow pants and his favorite jacket of all time. I hope he remembered not to leave any of these on the porch, where they freeze. He could not get his feet into his stiff, cold boots yesterday and had to wait for them to defrost before he could get back to making snow blocks.

These two were born to this stuff. they do not get cold. OKay, well, everyone gets cold when temperatures are in the teens, but long pants and light jackets are not the insulation I require for sledding and making snow balls, for walking into town. William's only issue was keeping his eyes open, while facing the glare of the sun on the bright snow, otherwise he has been fine, even without a hat. We even persuaded him to ride down the hill.

Maria, Geoff, Alex and Max took this ride together!

After taking this hill for a few days, I believe we are ready to graduate to the hill at the park.

Without any prompting, it occurred to Maria to make snow angels. She has made a heavenly host of snow angels all over the backyard.

Here is Max, taking a snow nap. Blissed out and loving the last days of his first real Winter.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wordless Wednesday... not this time!
Until I can upload pictures, this will be a wordy post.

Our flight over, we enjoy some car rental office hilarity with SpongeBob.

Well, for starters, we flew, we landed and we have all of our luggage, and the pleasure of this success is not lost on me. Maria has picked up some kind of flying phobia or anxiety. Hey, it's not my fault. I keep my white knuckle, prayerful flying challenges to myself. So, when we were buckling ourselves, preparing for take-off, Maria started breathing heavily, sighing and looking agitated, and then she started crying. "I don't like it here," was all she would say and she would not sit or be buckled. She would not be consoled, or bribed, and she would not stop crying and repeating, "I don't like it here." Oh dear. Seriously, I thought they would ask us to get off the plane. It got so bad, I started hoping they would ask us to get off the plane. She really got herself into a state. The cure? Exhaustion and repeated singing of a song she likes, softly repeated over her head. She spent most of the flight on my lap. Not sure how we are going to manage next week.

And now? Snow! Yes, we are the only family in Wisconsin vigorously, joyfully celebrating great big heaps of icy cold snow in March. And new snow has been steadily falling since this afternoon. It's so beautiful. Flakes, the tiniest crystals drifted onto my black glove and I was amazed by their delicacy and beauty. It is wonder-full.

We stomped out a toboggan run from the top of the yard toward the creek... not directed to the creek... no worries, we are being very careful. The snow is pretty hard, but down the slope it's been drifting, so there it is deeper, softer. Oh man, riding down that little hill is so much fun. We played for hours, maybe four, and we went back again when the snow started falling. Maria was out there, and Max and Alex, and William joined us after a while.

Tonight Carol treated us to a delicious tamale pie dinner, and Gabe and Betsy came with Jordan and Griffy. Sophie is still here. Phil left after dinner. Laura and Gary came for a few minutes before the Badger game in Madison. Jane called. I look around, hearing these voices, seeing these faces and I am home. This place is familiar and kind, welcoming, and it always has been. The first time I came here was December 1987, and of course now there are differences. We have aged, and there are new loved ones, and loved ones we miss. We have moved and changed and grown, and yet there is a timelessness to this home and the love that is shared here. I am so grateful and happy that our children can enjoy this place, and the memories that live here. I am happy that they are a part of the stories and traditions of this family. They play in the basement, like their dad did, and walk into town like their aunts and uncles have. They sit in the kitchen and eat Grandma Nancy's pie... it is so sweet to feel connected, to be in the embrace of family.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Top of the World

We've been sleeping with the drapes drawn open, so when we wake, the city is there, winking back at us, even at 4 in the morning. A block away, I can see a star of lights turning slowly on a rooftop, and the William Sonoma and Tiffany stores. And it's strange to remember that we are so high up, so far from the street, the taxis, cable cars and sparkling sidewalks. A faint, distant hum is building, like hearing the surf from far away, and I know that the city is waking too.

Yesterday was a clear blue sky day, a walk and explore day, a House of Nanking day. We started with a driving loop around the north side of the Bay, roughly from the Financial District to the Golden Gate Bridge, across and around to Point Richmond and then back over the GGB and to The Exploratorium, where we found the best parking space. Do you know why we found the best parking space ever? Yes, The Exploratorium, most awesome science museum in the world, is closed on Mondays. That was probably the only disappointment of the day.

After the driving tour, we parked at the hotel and set forth on foot. Those hills! We covered a lot of ground, many blocks, up and down. Chinatown was our main destination and we made a very thorough tour. It took a while for Max to warm-up to the newness of all the hustle, bustle, sounds, and sights, which is not unexpected with Max. By evening time we were all really enjoying ourselves. We stepped in to lots of shops and discovered strange, cheap, expensive, and rare treasures, and also plenty of junk. It was awesome. Our late lunch was timed perfectly, because we did not have to wait an hour to squeeze into House of Nanking, where the chef came out and decided to order our food for us. The best, and that's all I am going to say about that... no need to draw more crowds to our favorite spot for tasty eats.

Lots more to say about our walking day, like the fun we had at the park and the place selling live chickens, but Geoff's alarm is reminding me that we need to pack, sort, pack, roll sleeping bags, shower and pack some more. It's time to get to the airport. It's time for the Midwest leg of our journey. Did I mention it has been warm and clear-skied here? Such a contrast awaits us! OKay. Time to go. No time to waste. Must get busy. I'm not full awake, actually, so I am stalling.

One thought: My traveling email box fills quickly and Geoff emptied it last night to make room for new messages, so if anyone emailed me on Sunday, I may not have got your message... sorry. Plenty of room in the box now!

Can you tell I am not a big fan of air travel...?... stalling... humming... Well, it won't do to skip my shower, so I am signing-off. Thank you for your comments... it sure is fun sharing our adventure with friends!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Make-Over, Please!

First: Family
Then: The City

March 7th Update, With Photos Added

We made it to Bill and Alison's, and the Taqueria, and we oohed and ahhed over Dominic, because he is such a honey of a boy. We ate Olallieberry pie in honor of William's birthday, and we even visited some open houses, just to get our feelings hurt. The weather was ideal, the views lovely and the company funny and fun, relaxed.

And there was cool timing. Cool timing, because my Mom is making her way south from Oregon to Pasadena and our paths intersected yesterday. It was a quickie visit, that began auspiciously enough at the Teddy Bear Laundromat where my Mom and brother met me with a spicy chai latte. Folding laundry is much easier with company and sips of hot tea. Mom and I got caught-up a bit and it reminded me of how much I miss doing little, normal things with family. When we met Alison, Bill and Dominic for breakfast burritos, it was another sweet, if brief, opportunity to share the company of some of my favorite people.

We exchanged news, like Bill being really close to having his pilot's license. We delighted in impending joy, because Alison and Bill are expecting. Dominic will be a big brother in September. We admired the beautiful jewelry Delia has been making, including a piece that has been hanging in exhibition in an art gallery. I stole accepted two pieces, a necklace and a ring. Lucky! We snapped some pictures, hugged and parted. Mom going south, us going north and the Family G going in their front door. Sigh.

I know. I pine for Hawaii, then the Central Coast, and in a few days I'll be waxing poetic about Wisconsin. It's a blessing, and a problem. I really wish there was a way to live within our means, in close proximity to family and surrounded by natural beauty. What? I can dream.

Now, The City. The one on the Bay, with the bridge and fog and hills. This city is amazing and exhilarating, confounding too. Geoff got us checked into a very nice hotel, where there is silk on the walls and a flat screen TV hanging on our wall. We are way up on the 19Th floor. The lobby is elegant, modern and makes me feel compulsively inclined to beg for a complete make-over. Pull out my pony tail, exchange my men's wrangler's and boho blouse. Manicure please, and someone corral my eyebrows. Do I own a razor? Can we say exfoliate? How about moisturize?

Did I mention this city is confounding? After my initial assumption that I am ill prepared to be seen here, we cruised Geoff's old neighborhood on Belvedere and Haight. Suddenly, I wasn't funky enough. Suddenly, my eclectic, mascara-free, throw caution and fashion to the wind, style looked way too Suburban Mom plays tourist with the groovy crowd. Driving around here, among the dreadlocks, love beads, yoga posing, granola crowd, I felt sadly conventional, and really, I am not. Really. I think unconventional is one of the few things I have going for me. I could never keep up with Geeky-Glitzy-SOMA-Super-Models of the Urban Jungle, and apparently I am not hip and radical either.

Enough. I am what I am, and if some funky sophistication, some polish or some grit, rub off on me, that might be good too.

Last night we had dinner at Fisherman's Wharf. The cab driver dropped us off at Scoma's, which is either a locals' favorite, or an overpriced drop-off for gullible visitors, but we were satisfied. After dinner, walking. We walked all over the place and we took in street music that was lively and good, and we watched a spray paint artist and a guy cracking wise while laying on a bed of glass. The cab ride home was an E ticket for sure... thought we were in an episode of "The Streets of San Francisco," flying down hills and bottoming-out at every stop light.

Now we need some breakfast, fuel for a full day of sightseeing, touring and absorbing the crazy mix that makes this city great. Pictures soon, I promise.