Home Again, Jiggity Jig

So, home again.

I didn’t fall off the end of the earth.  Though you wouldn’t be far off if you had presumed so.  We took the annual trek across to the end of our earth, by which I mean California.  Yup, we had our annual beach vacation/family visit and out there it is pretty much off the grid.  Cell service and wi-fi is pretty much out for the count, so we go mostly low to no tech.  Even if I could find a signal, I was still doing intensive parenting and ‘working’ the vacation. Don’t get me wrong, we had some afternoons of sheer sunny sandy relaxing bliss.  But, a small family place is small with many kids with many issues…or even one or two (or four!) teens.  Thankfully, the beach is big.

At any rate.  Blogging was on hiatus.  Everything was on hiatus except living in the moment.  A gift, even that, the good the bad the ugly….but especially the sandy sunny of it.

Now I face a couple of rigorous thrashing days of time change and reentry as we jump back into real life again.  So, my connected status is still spotty.

But I wanted to check in, for me mostly.  I haven’t fallen off the ends of the earth. Just dipped my toes in the tide waters.

My favorite place on earth

And now I’m back again.  Soon to be musing and sorting my thoughts through my keyboard again.

It’s good to go on vacation. It’s good to see family from afar!  But oh….It’s good to be home!

Pure gift



It’s pure gift. All of it.
I don’t always have the eyes and clarity to see it as such. But sometimes, in this rare sparkling days in the sun, I do.

We are at the beach,still. Visiting family this weekend, intensively. My oldest dear friend, a sister, really, has come down to visit and hang out with us. My sister and her three big boys plus one of their lifelong buddies has come, her husband arrives today. My folks even came up and we had a loud big old crazy beach supper. The big boys are so physically large, just big ol’ men, that they take up enormous space in this tiny old simple condo. Six of them sprawling around. Plus of course, the rest of my not small at all clan. And then my sister and I, handing out plates of salad and slices of pizza, reaching over heads and across sunburned backs as bbig guys forage for more. My dear friend tells stories of us as girls, making my boys laugh at me, my folks embellishing to hoots. I worry about how Marta will handle the commotion but she does fine; she withdraws to the balcony for a few minutes here and there for a breather, then comes back in and sits near, then goes and laughs at the big boys antics. Big guys head out to surf and ride waves, again, its dusk, we all watch, footballs are thrown, we stay on the beach until the tourists (I know, that is us, but this feels like home too, so we don’t count ourselves as such) go home and the cold chases us in. Finally, my folks make their goodbyes for the night, my sis and sis head down to stay at my folks house…big boys go to call girlfriends and walk into town for ice cream. I tuck small sandy boys into eternally sandy beds.

I wake first; pad around the house picking up stray shirts, flip flops, legos, sunglasses. I make another pot of strong coffee. I go out and gaze at the empty beach, tide low. And I breath deep and whisper a prayer of thanksgiving, my entire self twinges with gratitude for this time.

It is time out of time. It is gift. I’m taking pics, but more, I’m searing it into my heart and soul and memory as best as I am able.

Thank you tom for making this happen. We are all missing you and Hannah. But it is oure gift. Every moment. I feel a touch guilty for not seeing my other friends who live near (sorry Clyde) but this is what this time is. It is time to imprint all of this, it’s a special weekend. My nose keeps twitching here and there, feeling the tears press in suddenly….I’m outing them back and instead choosing the grinning sparkly skittly joy of it (yes, Courtney, skittley). Gabey just woke, he pads iver and snuggles next to me, then he’s up and checking out the ocean. He turns to me and says, “Can you believe Nancy is coming back today?” Yup. She is, they all are. It’s gift. Every sandy salty funny loud messy moment of it.
It glitters.




>Old Friends


You know, old friends are some of the best friends.
And no, I’m not only talking about actual chronological age….ahem.

This is a pic of one of my oldest friends, Leslie, who is like a sister in many ways. Her mom was like a second mom to me and her sisters were family as well. We’ve been sort of extended family for oh, somewhere around 35 years now.

Every year or so when we head back to California, Leslie drives down with her kids to spend the day with us, and we finish it off with a celebration traditional dinner at a local mexican food place. Great fun, a day to relax and talk and catch up in person! God is so good to give us such long term pals, through thick and thin. And each year we take this goofy pic, where we look progressively older and doofy, but we don’t care because we are so darn happy!

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.” Sirach 6:14-15

>Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

>Things I like about coming home:

Not having to fly anymore.
Sleeping in our own beds.
Cooking in my own kitchen.
Being able to make homemade bread and yogurt.
Using cloth diapers again!
Pounding hot shower.
Happy dog.
Being able to talk to girlfriends.
Listening to my son play piano and guitar and sing.
Visiting the Dominican Sisters.
Mass with our Bishop, special treat!
A car with space for all my kids.
Fresh vine grown tomatoes and flourishing basil plant, made into cecca.
No more airport lines.
Gas almost, almost, a dollar cheaper!
Cloth diapers.
Laundry, despite the mountains of it.
Children happy to sleep in their own beds.
Watching the small boys race cars in the kitchen.
Watching the big boys wrestle.
All of us, watching the most amazing men’s finals in Wimbledon, ever – cool inside.
The soft summer air here.
The slower pace.
The open space (relatively typing).
The quiet.
New homeschool curriculum waiting to be perused.
Cooking more Real food, eating less junk food.
Family rosaries around our bed.
Our big long old wood table, able to seat us all, together, for dinner again.

Yes, it’s all about the food, I see that.
And yes, it’s so nice to go on vacation!
But it’s OH so nice to come home again!



Gabriel Tariku and I, taking a short snooze, or trying.
Yes, he’s laying on myhead. Yes, it’s odd, but hey, that’s how we roll/here, we do it OUR way!
Well, our vacation is almost over. Tomorrow we return home. It’s been a fabulous trip, full of family and friends and downtime. It’s been such a treat to introduce Gabriel to our family and old friends back here, somehow it just makes it all more final if they all know him too. My dear friend Leslie asked me yesterday, don’t you just feel like you’ve had him forever? Well, yes. And, no.

He is so much a part of us that it does feel like he’s been with us for, well, ever. And really, we consider that in a way, he has been a part of us forever in that God himself knew that Gabe would be here with us, as part of our family, our child…now. But then again, I find myself having blank chapters when I think about him and his baby-ness or his growing out of that babyness into the toddler that he is.

And so much, he doesn’t feel like he’s been with us forever in that in a way our trip to Ethiopia seems so fresh. It’s still a bit of obsession. Will it ever not be? Will the mundane daily stuff get in the way and sweep that reference point off our radar? I sure hope not. I don’t want to have the laundry, market, school, stacks of paper bury that awareness. It can’t stay so raw and fresh forever, I know. But I was telling my husband that even now, it is still so big, so…much…that whole “been to Ethiopia” thing He knew exactly what I was talking about. It gets under your skin. It changes you. And now, especially because of and for this small boy, I don’t ever want to change back.

We have been asked so many times on this visit: “Would you ever go back?” But with the tone of “surely not” – it’s too far, too hard, too much, you’ve done your bit, you’re done, right? Well. I don’t know if we are done or not or how. Maybe we are. We have a pretty big family, a smallish large family. We are not spring chickens and I know my husband would like to retire someday…..But I even said to him the other night, we need to relish every minute of this, he’s our last baby/new kid. And doc said, “you think?” And I laughed and said, ‘retirement, ever?” So, who knows. God knows and He’ll let us know either way on that one. But will we ever go back? Oh. Yeah. Absolutely.

But for now, today we do a whole lot of cleaning, spend some time in the sand and surf, eat too much with my brother and sister-in-law, and then pack like mad for our predawn start tomorrow. Oh, one more trouncing by Buddybug on the tennis court (20 years since I played. I am SO sore but it’s SO much fun!). Oh, with that last bit of sitting on the deck, with the traditional rootbeer floats, oohing and aahing over the fireworks. Happy Independence Day to all.

>Old Fogey Alert

> Well, it’s happened. I am officially an Old Fogey it seems.

Rather, I would like to think I am a mindful Catholic woman….but I can betcha that most will just peg me as an old fogey. I look the part: middle aged, mom, gray hair, sun spots, haggard and harried…yup, old fogey. I have been known to yell, “Hey you kids, turn that down!” and “Put that down, you could poke your eye out!” and the classic, “Because I said so.”

But now I have become an Old Beach Fogey. It’s the beach bathing suit, skin bare, modesty thing. I have a barely controllable urge to chase after these girls (and women, and young men) and offer them a nice big t-shirt or light cotton tunic. I want to sit them down and say, “Honey, what are you thinking?”

I mean, c’mon. First off, and I know, I am totally dating myself….back in the day (yes, there it is, it’s in stone now: Old Fogey-ism 101), when WE wore bikinis {and yes, I’ll get to that whole shameful episode in my life in a minute, but you can take it from this that I know of what I rant}, well they had style. Yep, they had a french cut, cute prints, nice fabrics. They flattered the figure. Not like now, where, frankly, I have yet to see a body that is made to look BETTER by the suits this year. I mean, a boy cut leg on most gals cuts RIGHT across our widest part, and for those of us with short legs, oh dear….it looks like our growth has been stunted by too much caffiene or something. No, I’m NOT talking about me, whatever do you mean??? And the bareness, well, it’s just not a good look. Back in the day (I know, again, just work with me here), well, bodies were less…um, full of super-size me portions…I don’t know how to say that tactfully and certainly back in the day, MY portions and proportions were QUITE a bit different from their currently lumpy downward slide, literally….but well, there seemed to be a different overall level of um, fitness. But maybe I was just young then, and I only saw my peers at that time. It could happen.

So, aside from my minor fashion fogey ranting on the sheer design of these suits, I have a few other issues.

The first goes to my mom issue with these suits: I have children, people!

I have TEENS and PRETEENS! The littles and the toddler types, heck they can run around half naked, nobody cares. But, really, I do NOT want my preteen girls looking to these almost naked older girls and women bopping around and thinking, “Oh, that’s what I need to do to be liked/popular/noticed.” They do not need to see quite so much of bare boy bodies.

And I do NOT want my teen boys having to have that amount of sheer naked female bodies thrown in their line of sight and have to struggle with trying to NOT ogle them. We have had many, MANY discussions about not objectifying girls/women/body parts and this just throws all those talks right out the window and onto the beach towel, slathers it with tanning oil and offers it up for all takers. Gee whiz! Jumpin’ Jiminy, if you will, if you want me to sound like a fogey…but as a mom, this is an issue that riles me up. You probably couldn’t tell.

Now my other issue is a Catholic one. You knew I had to bring it up. But still. I have a past of being on the beach. A lot. And I have a past of spending WAY too much time in a bikini. An itsy bitsy teeny weeny, but not yellow polka dot, bikini. My father would say, ‘you’re wearing that??” and I would laugh and wave as I walked by and say “Oh, Dad, it’s no big deal.” What can I say?? I was young. And stupid. I was a mere skinny girl. A teen, a young adult. But a stupid girl. Little did I know. Truly.

Now I am older, not skinny, but hopefully a little tiny bit wiser and I have learned a few more things. I am no longer young, I am arguably still stupid, but I know better now, on this issue. My daughter can’t believe I ever wore a teeny bikini, due to our many discussions on living a more modest life. Not a frumpy, dress-in-sacking life. But a life that is more chaste and modest in the sense of don’t call attention just to your looks, don’t make them less, present your self nicely (shower please) but not flashy. Your value is INTRINSIC. You are valuable because you are YOU. Not because your hair is a certain color or your shape is a certain shape or your skin is a certain shade. Your value is from God. And other’s value of you should be for your character and not your physical-ness or your fashion or your money or cars or whatever surface thing you want to point to.

In our Catholic faith (like many others) we strive to teach our children that they are to walk through this world making their mark through their faith and actions (love) and not through their surface gloss. We are made to know, love and serve God by living in this world and being the best person He calls us and made us to be. Not the glitziest, richest, sexiest, or best dressed, or undressed as the case may be. Not the “hottest” (and since when did THAT term become the standard bearer for all folks of all ages, children to adult – but not fogey’s……..don’t even start me on that word/term, that is for another post, another time). And it is only in doing that very large task of learning to be the best that God himself made us to be, to fulfill THAT…then we will find our true value and thus joy.

And that joy, contrary to what most magazines and movies will promote, doesn’t include a swimsuit that is made to reveal us before we are ready or supposed to. I know. Go ahead, point. Very hypocritical you could easily say. You’d probably be right. I wore suits that embarrass me now. Shame on me. But now, I know better. And now, I find the fun on the beach in cute comfy suits that I dont’ have to spend my beach time tugging and shifting to cover this bit or that.

Besides, when you’re in these sporty coverage suits it’s much easier to chase down the beach handing out coverups.

I woke up to this, this morning, after typing this last night. She says it all much better. Go see.

UPDATE: I hate it went people crab and moan with no offered help or solution (me especially!), so here are a few links other than the known big players (lands end, llbean, eddie bauer, etc etc): Aventura swimsuits (I got a few of these and they are well made and cute, ok you can still find some pretty skimpy ones on the site but there are also other sporty cute comfy ones too. I like ’em, even the swim dress though my 12 year old disagrees on this one, but hey, she’s 12!). Also you can check out Limeriki, cute fun suits, possibly more to the liking of you younger gals, thanks Sarah P!

>Beach Baby

> We are happily settled in to my favorite place on earth, well, at least one of my top two or three, for sure. This is always a sort of coming home. We get to see my family and spend long lazy days on the beach. MUCH better than the bustle of LA! A better fit all around.

The kids are being beach bums. All day, hunting for shells, digging holes, snoozing in the sun, surfing, boogie boarding, jumping waves. We are getting a world class collection of shells, and what we lack in quality we make up for in sheer quantity! Sbird is the shell hunter extraordinaire, such dedication. She is my little naturalist. The divine Miss M has to be puuulllledd in from the beach at night. She would sleep on it if I let her, no such thing as too much time on the beach or in the water for her! Booboo has already begun to teach his little brother to dig the deep holes (which yes, we fill in later, no hazards left). Two are already sunburned, our fairer members. And little Gabriel Tariku….LOVES the beach! Sand is fantastic fun, great to throw, stomp, squish, rub in hair, and best of all: EAT!!!! Yes, he wants to eat it by the handful. Oy. As for the water, he loves to be taken to its edge and point. But freaks out if any attempt to go IN the water is made. Not ready for that yet.

On another note for Gabriel: he has grown two pounds, two inches. He is big and strapping and strong. He is becoming interested in finger foods, you cannot feed him with a spoon except for a bite or two of rice or spagetti. But, he has found his voice. But not in a charming baby words way. No. He has found the POWER of screeching bloodcurdling screams. For glee, for fury, for frustration. It is his omni-comm tool. All purpose, all the time. He has found his very strong will as well. That, combined with this alarming yell….well, it’s pretty fun stuff. Watch people around you jump and heads around a restaurant swivel in your direction. Better belt out another round or two real fast…….

So, in addition to Gabriel learning that sand is not for eating, we are trying to swiftly teach him other sounds and hopefully words soon. He is a baby in a big toddler body. So we are in a weird but wonderful spot with him and are relishing it, he keeps the family laughing and reminds us how quick this time goes. And for those screams, that part, really quick we hope.

I’ll try to post more if I can get some pics up. It’s so beautiful here, and kids and the beach…..such great stuff. We are all inhaling that perfect smell of salt water and sand that you can only get here. It’s not fancy, it’s better. It’s simple. Life is so good. Even with the screeches on beaches.