Saturday, October 09, 2010

Our Favorite Dude and His Awesome Family

Before Bird House, Garage Mahal, before Tree House, before El Rancho... way, way, way a long time ago there was Neptune, the little cottage by the sea. And I do mean little. Grandma and Grandpa lived with us, and when we needed to destruct and reconstruct seventy-five percent of the little house, we called my cousin Gabriel, and his buddy Bryan, and they came to live with us and help with the work. They got around town on skateboards, subsisted on Juanita's burritos, and earned the absolute adoration of William and Alex, who dubbed them The Dudes.

The Dudes were epic, cool, awe inspiring heroes of my young sons' lives. In the time they spent with us, first in a tent, then sharing the room with Alex and William, our kitchen was gutted, the outside walls were torn out, the carport was demolished, the fence replaced, the sewer main updated, windows ripped out and replaced... every project made way for a new project, and the 1200 sf abode was transformed over about a year. In the same year, Max was born. Did I mention we were in two bedrooms, with one bathroom, and no kitchen? But no matter how tight the quarters, no matter the chaos, William and Alex were never dismayed or distraught so long as they had The Dudes around.

And. I can honestly say I miss those days. The Dudes were family, dear family.

And. Time passed. People moved. Gabe married. And then...

Ashlie and Gabe had Katalina.

And. Time passed. People moved. And then...

Ashlie and Gabe had Austin.

And now our favorite Dude was a family man, and we were living far apart, and more time passed.

And our WAM grew to a WAMMO when Maria joined our family.

This week Gabe and Ashlie and their little dudes came to California for sunny days at the beach, and meeting family, and vacation revelry. For goodness sake, why did this take so long?!! How could we have let so many years pass without getting together sooner? No matter... the easy fun and happy time we spent together, it was as though no time had passed, and we were long friends since for always.

My surfin', skatin' cousin's dream come true: His beautiful family in wetsuits and loving long days in the Pacific Ocean. I adore this picture, and the wonderful way it reflects who they are, and the good time we were having.

We had so much fun. The children were instantly the best of friends, sharing plans and toys, and laughter. Katalina and Austin, being eight and seven respectively, were inspiring, caring companions to their younger cousin Maria. They played together so sweetly, there was nothing left for us to do, but join the fun, or at least sit back and enjoy.

This is a darling boy. He can do cartwheels. He drew amazing pictures of his family at the beach, snorkeling, in the tide pools. He showed us his walking handstands, and this grin, which is so much like his daddy's that I am transported back to 1980-something when Gabe was a little dude.

If I wrote this post yesterday I would have gone in to great detail about the amazing change of tide, when the weather turned from a cold and wet autumn, to crystal clear and sun drenched summer weather. The waves were boogie board perfect, and then the tide went down and there was marvelous beach combing! If it were yesterday... but now I can only think how sad I am that they have already left. I am sad. Maria is devastated.

Sweet Austin. We love you.

Dear Katalina. We love you.

Serene and graceful, so like her mommy, Katalina was a patient, willing friend. She and Maria, and Austin were never far apart... whether drawing, or surfing they happily played together. She dances, and draws. Easy going, like Austin. It was simply a pleasure to be in her company, and hearing her stories. I am going to wait and see if a book comes of Pepper's Big Adventure! *wink*

My cousin Gabe is smart and so nice, funny too. In nineteen years of parenting, it never once occurred to me get my babes in wetsuits. Gee whiz... keep them warm in the surf? I thought blue lips, goosebumps, and trembling were just the price you paid for a day at the beach! Lucky kids, Gabe was on the job. He rented them wetsuits, and I doubt any of my children has ever had a more comfortable California beach day. Plus: Little dudes in Wetsuits = Super Adorable.

See? Little dudes in Wetsuits = Super Adorable.

They said "pass" to amusement parks and only ever wanted the beach. Beach. Beach. Beach! We were so relieved the sun shined.

They soaked up as much of the Pacific as they could, teaching Maria how to catch a wave, sharing their boards. Thumbs up.

Katalina and Austin took turns sharing the two boards with Maria. Ashlie and Gabe took turns watching all three children when (three times) I left the beach to do school/camp pick-ups! Gabe made the food run, the sand-toy run, the wetsuit run... the in and out of the surf runs, and I think he even surfed! Ashlie looked like a totally natural dudette! easily jumping waves and wrestling wetsuits and sticky sand off the kids.

Well. They are headed back to Colorado. Sigh. Can you guess where we are eager to get to? Maria wants to be in the company of her bestest friends as soon as possible. Oh dear. Even now she has teared up again. I hear her telling Alex, in her saddest small voice, of her heartache. My heart aches too. I already miss our favorite dude and his awesome family.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Dear Max...

I miss you. Your cat misses you. Maria misses you. Alex smiled broadly this morning when he heard that you come home in one more day. Your dad misses you. William misses you. Did I mention your cat misses you?

Ferris was visiting me and Geoff this morning. Early this morning. Around four AM he was climbing all over my face and covering me with his special nose kisses. His purring was making the bed shake. I picked him up and put him on Geoff, and two seconds later, in the dark, I heard your dad laughing. Those special nose kisses tickle. A lot. Then the epicenter of the bed shaking would move back to my side, and I would have Ferris diving his head in to my hand, pawing away at the covers, then looking for my nose again.

Ferris is a funny kitty. I think he is good kitty, because of you. You take good care of him, and he has learned to be a trusting and affectionate little guy, under your tender and playful care. I wonder if he will look much bigger to you since you have been at camp. I wonder what other differences you might notice when you get home.

I am so sorry we did not send you away with two pair of shoes, or least one pair of waterproof shoes. It has rained all week here, so I can only imagine how much wetter and colder it has been in the mountains.

Maria wants us to save everything for your return. We had pizza for dinner, and she insisted we save you a slice. She got some cookies yesterday, and she is saving those too. She got three cookies and she did not eat a single one. And she chose not to watch a movie last night, because she wants to wait until you can watch with her. She has been counting the days until your return. She wants you to have a special dinner when you are home.

I hope the camp food has been as good as they promised. I hope you have been warm and comfortable, yet still reveling in discoveries and interesting challenges. I hope your camera is working. I cannot wait to hear camp stories, to see how your fez held up, to learn if they still tell ghost stories around the campfire. I hope you have had a good time.

I missed you the moment you stepped on the bus. I learned I am the kind of mom that wants to be with you all the time, so I can enjoy your adventures and see your happiness, and maybe too so I can look out for you, when you need it. But your week away is almost up, and hey! you must be doing great. Must be that my smart and responsible, diligent, and humorous Max is more than capable of looking out for himself, and having his very own adventures.

I always will want to be around you Max, but I see how your adventures and the paths you take will not always be with me, and this is good, exciting, wonderful. My children continue to teach me. I am a fortunate woman. I still miss you though. So does Ferris.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Quietly Reflecting

Max and Ferris.

Petting corral.

Feeding the little goats.

Maria riding Pal, her favorite pony.

The hay ride.

Max, William, Alex and Tutu-Ruth.

Nick and Izzy, aunt Holly and Maria.

Fun in the country.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Live Strong

With conviction and confidence, Alex faces the ride ahead.

This summer Alex and I got new bicycles. The distance to his school is just slightly too long for walking in a hectic AM, and my mornings are just slightly too hectic getting Max and Maria too their place of higher learning, for giving rides. So we decided to get Alex his own ride, and I offered to join him in a couple of cycling practice runs, to get the route down, and warm up before the new school year.

Our family cycling experience over the years has varied from sporadic to non-existent. In a family of six, with a five-year old in the mix, the skills are varied. And more significantly: I do not like traffic, hills, (down or up), and mild agoraphobia may also factor in.

Offering to ride with Alex, in my mind, was a flipping big deal. Brave. Daring. Humbling. Sweaty Glistening. Breathless. And you know, really darn brave of me.

It involves:

1. Traffic: Why are drivers so reckless, distracted, and self-absorbed?
2. Hills-down: Why are hills-down so down, and fast, and woooosh?
3. Hills-up: Why are hills-up, so very much longer than the down ones, and why must they humble me, my thighs, my heart, my sweat glands?
4. The Flat-World: Some people think the world is flat. They may be right. This concerns me.

Fortunately Alex has been wiser, braver, and more committed to his new-found transportation. And after getting him set-up and rolling, and feeling really (too) proud of riding around with him a few times, I assumed my job was done: What a good mother I am. Now I can quietly retire from my glorious cycling career.


I am not retired.
Not according to Alex.
He got me back out there.
Oh Lord. Did he ever get me out there.

I am not brave and daring, or happily-voluntarily willing to face descending and ascending grades. In traffic I cling to the curb, and prayerfully remind God about my life-worthy qualities. I keep a sharp look out for the edge, for the place where my own two treads have not tread, because if I have not explored that part of the map, I cannot be certain that it is stable, or contiguous.

In being the kind of mom that wants to teach by example, there comes a time when the example I set is to surrender, and let the child lead. Alex wanted to ride beyond our street, passed the school, and to the coast, the shops, and beach, the interesting places. And I wanted to avoid this excursion with all of my forty-three years of experience at avoidance, but Alex is good and deserving, fun, and inspiring, and I agreed. I agreed to suppress the voice in my head, the tremble in my knees, and dare to ride beyond my comfort level.

Alex has gotten stronger. He is confident. I screamed down one hill, at first out of fear, but then I sort of felt the exhilaration. We only planned as far as the Coast Highway, to a thrift shop we like, but then my confidence increased, and we went a bit further. And further. And when one truck honked at me, and believe me I was no where near his lane, I seriously wanted to re-retire... okay maybe he was honking for some other reason, but why are drivers so reckless, distracted, and self-absorbed?! Gah!

In 1983 I rode to school with my mom. Her school, UCSD, when we were living in family housing. I was scared to be in traffic, and I resumed my sidewalk-neighborhood rides, never missing the opportunity to be a sponsored road cyclist.

In 1988 I rode with Geoff and his dad, and Marie, in Wisconsin. The traffic was less intimidating, but the bicycle seat and distance we covered felt like they might possibly be fatal. It was a doubly painful pain in my posterior, and I estimated we rode twenty or thirty miles, at least. I was spiritually, emotionally, and physically broken when I learned it was an easy ten mile ride. This marked my second retirement from a glorious cycling career.

In 2010, led and encouraged by my son, Alex, I rode ten miles, figuring it was probably only five. I was scared, and delighted. I got sweaty, and happy. Alex chose the route, and I followed him down back roads, and to the highway. We road down and up hills, and stopped only once, to browse at a yard sale.

We got much further than we had discussed, and jokingly I said "Should we just keep riding until we get to the burger place?" Joking! But you cannot kid a teenager about burgers, and he fixed on this still distant destination like Lance in L'Alpe-D'Huez. Unstoppable!

Over burgers, we talked about other routes, other destinations, and how much fun our ride was. We want to go out again. We want to plan a family ride. Alex got me out of retirement. Maybe I showed him it's never too late to try again. I know for sure he's taught me a lot.