When I look at photos like these, my heart swells a bit:
There's nothing like a true laughing shot for spreading around a little joy.
My sisters are two of the very most beautiful women I know. Have a gander:
I'm the lucky girl who got to spend ten consecutive days with these vibrant beauties. My goodness did we laugh. We laughed till we felt a bit sick. And then we laughed some more. I'd forgotten how alive they are. I haven't seen them on a regular basis since I moved out to go to university when I was 17, but they, on the other hand, have very literally grown up together. They are similar to one another in most ways.
I share most (if not all) of their food tastes. Having married a very meat-and-potatoes kind of man, it's very exciting to me to be able to meander up and down grocery aisles with them, picking out favorites and then coming home to prepare it to find that they love it all too! We glutted ourselves on poke, something I'd never heard of before, but what is now indisputably one of my all-time favorite foods. It's a raw fish - most often ahi tuna. It's cut into cubes and marinated in various concoctions. I salivate as I type this description. My favorite is a spicy one sprinkled with fresh roe, but let's face it, I've yet to meet a poke I didn't love, and love passionately.
We carefully pored through cookbooks and chose exotic salads to prepare. We ate a phenomenal wheat-berry one that nearly found me swooning. We ate grilled eggplant stacks with goat cheese and a balsamic/red wine reduction. We inhaled some amazing tabouleh. We ate a miso/edamame/soba noodle salad. And then there was the melon and prosciutto one that was all the more beautiful because we ate it on the beach while watching Jody twirl with the setting sun behind her (Despite the whimsical image this description evokes, it was really just downright hilarious and I nearly peed myself watching it all unfold. Let's just say that there was some falling involved!). We feasted on exotic cheeses and the girls introduced me to truffle for the first time (I'm sad to report that despite my very desperate wanting to love it, alas! I didn't.). We found a favorite new white wine called Cupcake that we originally bought solely for the beauty of it's label.
We ziplined, which was a first for me and most definitively a trip highlight. It wasn't as adrenalin-y as I'd hoped, but it was still so, so fun. It was, in fact, my Christmas present from JoyBoy this year and it's a gift that I suspect will always rank high as an all-time fave.
We glutted ourselves on sunshine, golf-cart joyrides through places we weren't supposed to be and shopping. We ran along the beach boardwalk and we did a new exercise class - zumba - which was also a trip highlight. I felt like a groovin' latina for a second there. For the girl who can rarely make her body do what she wants it to do in the realm of The Dance, this was a novel sensation. For one brief moment, I actually had my torso and my shoulders doing two separate things!
It was wonderful and I don't think I'll ever forget it.
Surely you remember my grandiose bragging from a mere day or two ago regarding our unusually spectacular weather? In the interest of full disclosure, it's only fair that I let you know that it's rained almost every day since. The running around in a tank top is a thing of the past. This morning when I went out to attempt a run, I almost immediately chickened out when I discovered that it was raining sideways. It was that directly-into-your-eyes sort of rain.
Fortunately for me, in a few days, I'll be heading off to the land of perpetual Sun and Dancing. Nope, not the Northwest Territories (I think there's a fair bit of dancing that goes on up there, correct me if I'm wrong?). I'm going to spend some time in Maui with my beloved sisters. There will be not a husband in sight and there will be no children. In so many ways, the very idea of it delights my heart. But there is also the part of me that is dreading it just a little. I've never left my kids for any real length of time and though I don't doubt that it'll be healthy for both they and I, I can't help but default to thinking that I'm the only person in the Universe who is able to take proper care of them. Ridiculous? Most certainly. Reasonable? Not even remotely. My high-strung, but heartfelt reality? I'm afraid so.
I remind myself that it doesn't spell out disaster if the planners aren't signed every single day. Surely the world will not stop spinning on its axis if the gym strip isn't washed one weekend. My friend, also a mother of four AND daycare provider extraordinaire is, if anything, more capable than I of ushering the Littles to and from school each day. My husband knows perfectly well how to drive to and from the swimming pool. Surely it's a form of high narcissism to think that only I can do it all competently. Who do I think I am, anyway?
JoyBoy and I spent the weekend - all the gray, rainy dampness of it - in Seattle. It was a drink of water to the non-maternal bits of my soul. Sometimes I forget those bits exist, and it was so nice to languish in bed watching the Food Network (I LOVE the Food Network! It - single-handedly - is almost enough to make me reintroduce TV into our lives after an almost 18 year hiatus!) as I waited for JoyBoy to return with my morning Americano with cream. I spent a small fortune on clothes, which being myself, I felt quite sick about. I comfort myself in the knowledge that I only do this go-hard-or-go-home shopping thing about once a year. We walked the action-filled city streets endlessly and just thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We read and we ate and then we read again. It was a balm to our chapped old souls.
He doesn't travel all that much for work anymore which, compared to the days of old, I like very much. But every now and then, he finds he needs to zip off somewhere or other. This time it's Orlando, Florida for six days. Amazingly, he's staying ON the Sea World property, but only without the traditionally accompanying children. He says the breakfast buffet each morning is peopled almost exclusively with vacationing families. We make do with the daily phone calls and texts and emails and just pretend we, too, are schmoozing with Shamu (does Shamu still hang there at Sea World?).
I find that my life without him is extremely orderly. Everything is clean and no one leaves their belongings in a happy trail, indicating tangibly where the Leave-ee currently is. He and his aftermath are like a giant connect-the-dots puzzle. If you ever need to find the JoyBoy, just follow the myriad gear he's left behind. Start with the shoes and move along to the keys, the wallet and the IPod. Then cast your eye about for his pants and his balled-up work socks. They punctuate where he's been most recently.
But you know, my recent life is also kind of colorless. He is the Spice and the Flavor. He is the italics function on our keyboard. He is the neon light flashing in the window, beaconing us all to come in here right now! It's fun and loud and action-filled here! There has been very little dancing around these parts. We're not all groaning in exaggerated (but secretly delighted) disgust as he thunders out his Frank Sinatra albums with accompanying JoyBoy song and dance. Only he can pull it off. It'll be officially good to have him home again.
I don't get to see my sweet girl all that often. When I do, it's cause for non-lady-like yelps of pleasure and general celebration. It's never quiet. After the initial joy-filled greetings, the subsequent visit almost always features (and prominently) a spectacular selection of desserts, presents and kind words. I've mentioned to you how much I like this woman. I love her and I like her - if you catch the distinction.
While she and her family blessed us with their easy company, we went to Fort Langley and shopped for antiques, went for an absolutely fabulous tapas dinner where we must have sampled close to 15 different dishes (my favorite of which was, I think, the Ahi Tuna), drove into Steveston where we were trapped - parked - on the freeway due to a multi-vehicle accident in the tunnel and finally arrived to hear from local vendors that "they'd never in their lives seen it as busy as it was this day." Though we had to keep close tabs on our respective children, we had a windy, wonderful time. We watched hundreds of people line up for fresh seafood and feasted our eyes on some really unique sights, captured in very small part by the photos you see here today. I wish so much that I felt comfortable posting some pictures of the six kids, as the joy they clearly derived from one another's companionship was both obvious and touching. I love their love for one another. And I love my sister.
You remember how I fancy myself a Victorian and all? There's really no 'all' component to it. Just mainly the Victorian. And the closed closet door is long since blasted wide open. For a part of our Salt Spring Island experience, we meandered our way over to Victoria, BC so as to assuage the fervent inactivity-induced desperation that my JoyBoy felt overtaking him, bit by bit, day by desperate day. The ferry ride took only 35 minutes.
We spent a long time shopping along Government street, which was a home-run for me and my girls, if only for the fact that we recognize the name from Monopoly. I love history. I love documentation. I love ancient streets tracking their long-familiarness via their age-old appearance on the Monopoly board. Of course, it goes without saying that we insist upon the Canadian version.
Each of the six of us really and thoroughly enjoys shopping (so long as it's not clothes shopping, I hasten to add. Trying on clothes makes me feel exhausted and grouchy almost immediately.). The all-important catch is that we separate into gender teams. The boys' shopping pace makes the girls feel disoriented and cranky. The girls' shopping speed - or lack thereof - makes the boys impatient, frustrated and longing for Hot Wheels. When we meet up to compare notes, the girls will have slowly picked their way through one store to every three that the boys have dashed in and out of.
We then made our way to an important historical landmark that JoyBoy and I have been to at least two other times - Craigdarroch Castle. It's the only time that the kids have seen it while being fully sentient and not stroller dependent for personal transport. I love it there so much. The local historical society is restoring the Dunsmuir family home to it's former glory, and is largely done, though there are still a few rooms left to go. It's utterly spectacular and I can't recommend highly enough that you make a point to go see it the next time you find yourself in Victoria, BC. To feast your eyes on the woodwork alone, you owe it to yourself.
When I surround myself with historica, I feel a reverenced sense of the rootedness of humanity. I imagine the previous lives that were lived on these spots. I appreciate the solomn, ancient beauty of the structures around me and note the differences of our building habits of today. I love that people of yesterday didn't hesitate to undertake building projects that they may well not see to completion in their lifetimes. We don't have much in this line in Canada and so for this and many other reasons I love Victoria.
Oh that I may remember these days forever.
We're on week two of our summer vacation this year. This second week finds us in granola-land, or Salt Spring Island as it's more commonly known. The natural beauty accosting us from all angles is striking. We've spent many hours beachcombing and displaying our ocean life newbiness each time one of us discovers some new creature or other. We hoot and we holler and we are dazzled with one another's creature spotting proficiency. There are sea stars almost to the point of the mundane here. There are enormous crabs which, if it weren't for my ignorance in the art of cooking them, I'd be feasting upon over and over again, so that my belly would be protruding well past the safe zone (Instead, I content myself with the frozen version, safely prepared and ready for my gluttenous seafood heart.). There are otters and moon jelly fish as far as the eye can see. And eagles.
It'll be great to get home again, though. I'm an introvert deep inside my extroverted heart and I love to cocoon in my warm, safe nest. Living out of suitcases, while delicious at first, comes to feel old to me after a short time. Living inside someone else's home feels foreign and wrong after the initial excitement of running through all the rooms, checking each nook and cranny for little finds. One cool side note there, though, is that the owner of this beach house is a Hollywood guy who's won awards for cinematography. I know this because he's got awards up on the walls here.
Yesterday, we climbed aboard a 40 foot sailboat and cruised all though the Gulf Islands, gaping all the while. Or at least we gaped while not smack dab in the middle of the moments when I was almost desperately stressed out, trying to spot all four of my kids at the same time, so as to ensure that they were indeed, still on the boat, much to my husband's other-than-enchantment. Low maintenance I've never professed to be. It'll be so good to be home, nestled safely within the bleached folds of my clean sheets.
Mexico was sheer loveliness. My cell phone’s battery was dead for days, nay weeks. Our family lived in an airy, bright and probably magical condo where the Four shared a single bedroom. Instead of invoking the spirit of sibling Christmas wrath the way I suspected it might, it bonded them powerfully. Amazingly, there was almost no bickering. There were almost no complaints, despite the fact that the Littles' schedule necessitated some changes in the Bigs'. Anabel and Jude wouldn't ordinarily choose to start their day at the crack of dawn. I wakened almost every day to the sound of muffled laughter. That or the crowing of roosters. We did have to institute a new policy - the fart tax. I'll only say that both boys are a little less wealthy after Mexico than before and leave it at that.
Our Christmas that felt like a non-Christmas was a delight and I can’t remember the last time I felt this relaxed and content. We drank what probably amounted to our own weight in pina coladas and thanks to JoyBoy, mastered the art of making them ourselves. Jude and I glutted ourselves on seafood, and in the end paid a heavy - but well worth it - price for our smorgasbord of octopus, lobster, prawns, butterflied jumbo shrimp, clams and mahi mahi. To think about it again makes me sigh. It was yummy for my sick tummy.
I could feel the Vitamin D soaking into my skin as I lay there on the chaise lounge by the pool. Little prickles of phantom sun pleasure meander their way down my forearms as I remember it. It was a mish mash of colorful sensations all competing with one another for preeminence. Laughing, splashing, delicious children. A sky so blue it seems a cliche to try to describe it. Faint snatches of diesel wafting through the air. The thunderous crashing of waves so loud and so rhythmic you wonder how anyone could discount the Existence of a Creator. The hot sun making its sultry way into the darkest, most chill-infested recesses of your soul so that at times you feel that you might just be able to fly. Hyperbole seems the only even reasonably sufficient way to describe the way I felt lying there, listening to all the sounds wafting around on the breeze. There were times where I couldn't even bring myself to read, so entertaining was the simple processing of the stimuli perceived by my five senses. It was a nice time.