arizona! i am glad i don't easily fall off a train once i get on, because that dogged determination got us a sweet week in tucson with old friends, after all. after the failed attempt to attend the wycliffe mexico MK reunion right after christmas, i couldn't shake the disappointment, and the feeling that we were supposed to go, despite being thwarted. so i didn't unpack the suitcase, in hopes that there would be another opportunity! of course it all came together and i even got to go with a best best friend! sadly, though, holly's radio station got scrapped, which was harsh! but was nonetheless the time off i had been waiting for to hang out with her! when she came to see me the weekend of the 10th, i was basking in the fun like a naked englishman on the lawn when the sun peeks out... then the idea hit me like a brilliant light from heaven: she needed to come with me to AZ! it was sooooooo the perfect opportunity, since it was going to be her birthday soon, and the week of the 18th thru 24th was the week thomas would be in san francisco anyways. gas was cheap, and actually already paid for...by her, to tell the truth, since she had sent me the SWEETEST christmas card ever, with a check for gas money to tucson (the 1st time). that money had obviously not all been used yet! it was a no-brainer, and i am fortunate that she thought so too. always up for an adventure!
so the following weekend i loaded up the girls, said goodbye to my dancing husband, and headed down to LA to pick up holly. roadtrippig after children/ with children is a bit more of a sober experience because the responsibility is for more lives than just your own sorry bum. should i do it? what if something happens? etc. but it is good to have a friend to talk these things over with. and be reminded that worry is fruitless. and when you are laughing in a green volvo with 2 sweet babies and a former mexi DJ from LA, heading past windmills, through desert brush, and leaving behind brilliantly layered views of mesas in fiery sunsets, it's pretty much impossible to keep living in forlorn fear mode.
the hours flew by; holly drove most of the way, freeing me up for entertaining sparrow/ pumping breastmilk as we cruised the freeways. thank God for my double electric breastpump! every mother should have one. and whenever sparrow had to go to the bathroom, i would bust out her potty and the toilet paper and do the whole routine like it was 2nd nature. i wish i had a picture of her pooping in the antechamber of the gas station bathroom in indio. the most brilliant travel idea i had was lining sparrow's potty with a plastic bag so she could poop in her familiar place, and so i could dispose of it in comfort and ease! and goodness, it was needed--she had to poop twice. twice! who does that when they're traveling!? so... this was also the end of sparrow's innocence of mcdonald's. yes, she had never been to one, and i would have kept it that way, except we had to stop SOMEWHERE, after all, and honestly the play area was a relief at that point. i just bought a coffee and it was really not half bad! probably about 5 notches up from gas station coffee. i should run a gas station someday that serves peets. then i will always pleasantly surprise road-weary travelers who are resorting to the gas station coffee as a last ditch... but that is not part of my story at the moment. point is, the trip went fabulously. golden, i would dare to say, might even prefer the bottle to the breast. she is one who easily gets distracted when she is nursing. she frequently will take only a "snack" feeding and then get too engaged in whatever is going on around her to eat any more. but when i am feeding her a bottle, she can drink milk and "play" at the same time! she looks at me and gurgles and chews away. just her cup of tea. it worked out just great.
we drove away from blythe into arizona leaving behind a stunning sunset of deep reds. hours later, we finally rolled into tucson--literally. rolling over the bumps and dips that is tangerine road. the feeling of tucson at night is extremely unique. there is a quietness about it and a sense of security. the clouds in tucson are always interesting, usually thick and piled over themselves, leaving you with a sense of blanketed weight. i always come back to the thought that God gives inland places those clouds in lieu of ocean--as a sounding board for spiritual reprieves and voiceless communication with God through the expanse. and there is history here. for holly and me. a good, solid trail of wholesome memories. if it weren't for the new wal-mart on the side of the road, we might as well be driving into the past.
omi and monty were still up waiting for us at graham central. they have trained their kids to be able to fall asleep anywhere, and the two were both sleeping on the couch as content as little bugs while their parents watched tv. it must have been about 11 or 11:30, and both of the little ones woke up when we made our entrance. sparrow and danielle quickly warmed up to each other and started running around like dear friends. when we brought out the presents we'd brought for them, sparrow thought the present was hers to open and tore right into it--again! she had already demolished the wrapping of one of them this morning right before we were to start driving, and i was left to re-wrap it at the last minute... anyhow, it was beautiful to walk into the peacefulness of this long-established and familiar home with old friends waiting like no time had passed, and i fell asleep in annie's old room with my daughters to the comforting sounds of omi, monty, and holly talking and laughing into the wee hours.
getting up in the morning and finding mrs. graham sitting by her fireplace sipping her homemade latte and reading a huge bible was just the perfect start to the week. she was the same as ever, a chipper, matter-of-fact, chatty mrs. graham who would do anything for you despite her sharp tongue. we got along quite well.
it was our day to hang out with na. NA! the elusive cyprian! i am sooooooo glad that i was able to make my visit to tucson coincide with even the very tail end of hers. i think God knew this is why i was supposed to miss the reunion. so i could spend a little time with na. and she was so gracious, she spent all day long with us, from breakfast at the grahams, to going shopping at trader joe's to making sandwiches to starbucks with mama moe's and beyond. driving in the car with her, talking about labor and hospitals, showing ashraf how to do the double hip squeeze ("it kinda hurts!" -na)...that's na and no one else is like her. thoughtful, curious, original, encouraging, easy-going... it was gorgeous just being with her and her "gollum" belly in that bright yellow shirt and the quiet glow about her. i miss her a lot.
sparrow and danielle were hilarious together, pushing tiny shopping carts, staring at the tv while eating their dinner side by side, grabbing milks at starbucks and ramming straws into them before anyone had said they could have any. they were also running around starbucks and shrieking and hiding to the point where the staff was i am sure mightily relieved when we finally left their establishment! we were there for at least 2 hours with mama moe, and golden had her crying moments too. too bad she already has separation anxiety (started around 4 months--super early, as dr. vic confirmed) because it is ineffective most of the time to have someone else hold her! that storchenwiege wrap is a mother's best friend.
that evening, after bidding farewell to the abdous, omi, monty, holly and i stayed up and watched a couple episodes of "psych" and talking and being good old friends in a good old neighborhood.
do i remember what happened? not really... we hung out at grahams all day long and chilled. always a good time. we popped over to pam tuggy's for a visit in the AM. i had thought about staying there with holly, but graham central made more sense in my head. and it worked out just great. pam is such a sweet lady, though. she keeps tabls on what's going on with people, so it's lots of fun. we played outside with the kids in the afternoon, and made pizza for dinner. i love this family stuff. emi and jonathan came over! she is so beautiful. i still can't believe she is a married woman now, something in me just still thinks of her as little emily, my friend's baby sister... sparrow and danielle stopped liking each other so well when they realized they had to share toys all the time. sparrow began hovering over her food when she would get something and say "danielle can't have this." i was a bit at a loss on how to properly deal with such an attitude. i'd like to let them hash it out for themselves. but are they too young for that? after dinner holly and i took off to go to blockbuster and get "SNL best of will ferrell vol. 1"--one of my favorite dvds ever! and ice cream. can't forget the ice cream when you're on vacation. unkie even came over to hang out with us. mr. and mrs. graham are so chill to let us stay in their house and be all loud til the cows come home.
omi and i took the girls to gymnastics in the morning, which was really fun. danielle pranced around like an expert in her pale blue gymnastics leotard with the tiny skirt, and sparrow learned how to do a "roll" (somersault)...and to follow directions. she still exhibits her donkey-kick skills rather frequently now, several weeks later. the gymnastics school was awesome. it is called "trinity" and is obviously christian. they pray with the kids at the end of every class! without fear or shame. i love that. they also have a ballet studio and teach dance as well as art. so cool! david and golden, by the way, were super cute sitting side by side in their car seats watching as omi and i participated in the moms-and-kids gymnastics. golden hadn't even nursed that morning, but you wouldn't know it. for her, if there's anything interesting going on around, it trumps the need to feed. she is happy if she gets to see new and exciting things like children doing donkey kicks. emi is one of the gymnastics teachers, by the way. i am totally stumped by tucson. on the one hand, the class was about a 40-minute drive away, something we in santa barbara would never have to deal with. but on the other hand, it somehow seems like making a living in tucson is so...easy. lots of space+ cheap real estate+ sprawling metro area= thriving christian gymnastics studio. so here is emi making $15/hour, almost full-time, for directing little children in gymnastics. she has a christian boss and co-workers. hello! this is a no-brainer! we have GOT to move there! ...then i remember that my brain is wired completely differently than my husband's and he is actually the one supposed to be leading the family. hm. i was inspired nonetheless and left him a message on his phone!
coming back from gymnastics, we met julia and her brood who were visiting grandma. wow, 4 big children, elizabeth is 10! and i remember before julia was engaged! that is crazy stuff right there.
i was bushed out of my mind that afternoon. we were supposed to go to a birthday party for david that evening, who was turning one, and we went over to omi's house for a bit to try to help prepare. but i was so out of it and tired that i took the girls and left, cause all the kids together were making me super crazy. i didn't know where i was going, but i had to get out. it was raining. i didn't feel better til i went to starbucks and got a double espresso. there we go. then we drove back and i functioned normally for the rest of the night. mr. and mrs. graham came too.
we had a delicious taco dinner and yellow ducky cake, and then had a dance party in the living room. which was really fun! we bounced around with the youngsters while holly deejayed for us. david is soooooooooo cute, by the way. i had never met him before this trip, and he is this precious, cuddly lovey. he takes strongly after his grandpa tim, too, which is so fun for me to see. i have always liked mr. graham.
then monty and omi convinced me to put my little ones to bed at their house while we stayed over and watched notting hill, one of holly's and my classic favorites. that's one thing that is so cool about monty. well it counts as two, i guess: 1) he likes omi's friends and makes it clear. 2) he is always up for hanging out even though he has to work like any normal man. he is really easy-going and super helpful. i was coming up with excuses about why to go back to grahams, and monty dashed them all. "i have to put her to bed." "so? put her in danielle's bed." "well where will danielle sleep?" "we can put them in our bed for now." (golden was already in davey's crib.) "i have to brush sparrow's teeth." "so? we have toothbrushes!" i dashed back to grahams to get some bedtime stuff for sparrow, but i am so glad i stayed over and stayed up with my friends. vacation doesn't happen that often! snuggled up with holly in the rocky couch laughing our heads off about the deleted scenes' most awkward lady ever! "oh right! SO-RY! like somoeone scooped my brains out with a great big spoon!" what could be cozier?
it rained again and we stayed in all day. it was emi's day off, so she came over and hung out with us. she sang some songs for us. the kids had plenty to do. i knew they would feel comfortable at graham central when i envisioned this trip. "grandma" susie has a bunch of grandchildren who live close by, so she has a huge toy trunk right in the main room. sparrow never even got to the bottom of it.
we took a little jaunt down to grandma mumma's house. she lives super close by now and is 99 years old! i remember her from when i was in middle school, when she lived in a little trailer on the graham's property with her amazingly sweet husband. she is omi's great-grandma, on her dad's side. this means she is danielle's great-great-grandma! truly amazing, and she is still sharp! it took her a bit to recognize me, but once i told her my name, she knew exactly who i was and was such sweet company. she wears a super thin gold band on her finger which is her wedding ring that she has never taken off in EIGHTY years! that is 3 of my lifetimes! and the ring used to be about the size of mine, but it is gold, and it has just been worn and worn to this little thread, by grace mumma the loving wife. wow.
in the afternoon we drove down to my old house! to visit mrs. fodey, who had one of my old dolls. i had gotten a little depressed at the thought of the house earlier when the graham's were talking about it and how beautiful the fodeys had made it. but the visit was good, mrs. fodey is a sweet lady. i got to take pictures of sparrow in front of the cupboards my mom painted back in the day. i was amazed that any of these cupboards were still in place. they had knocked out the counter between the kitchen and dining area, but i was still super amazed at how SMALL the whole place seemed to me! especially since i DID live in the house when i was fully grown, why is it that i remember it as larger!?? even the lawn seemed tiny, it was so odd! plus sparrow kept accidentally calling marilyn frodo. when sparrow picked off pieces of the old doll's head and i reprimanded her a bit, she said, "frodo will fix it," which was just a hilarious linguistic accident, of course, because she has no idea about frodo baggins or any of that. but danielle and sparrow were running about in their pretty naartjie skirts eating marilyn's kumquats and playing her piano. truly a surreal experience.
that evening holly's aunt pam had invited us to dinner at her house. she had told us to invite everyone we wanted. so it was an awesome reunion at fred tuggy's with tortilla soup, jicama, avocado, and good company. i have always loved their octagonal house with the large play-loft. all 3 newbergs showed up! jonathan came too! and aunt pam's sister was there for a visit. the food was good, the flan was amazing, there was coffee and later we opened a bottle of wine. we played pool in the loft, and danielle and sparrow were getting along really well again. they were running around together all night, and playing bedtime together and reading stories with russ. meg is lovely. when she sat down next to me at dinner, she said, "so guess what i do for a living now? i teach fimo! and i always tell them about the german lady who would have us over and taught us how to do fimo." what?! that is so touching, inspiring, and shocking! it is amazing that she can make a living off of it, for one thing. she teaches art, too, and has several different venues around town where she teaches on different days. a lot of her clients are homeschoolers. so there you have it! there she is, doing what she loves, and experiencing a fulfilled existence, another success story chalked up to tucson's "ease." later i beat omi at pool, and the kids were all happy and independent... jonathan entertained golden as she chewed pieces of puzzle. i looked around at omi, emi, chris, holly, core people to my existence, and yet i barely talk to them at all in santa barbara! and how many times have i hung out with these people on sweltering tucson nights when it was just their creativity and laughter that preserved my sanity? when i see them, it is as if no time has passed. that is the bond of missionary kids. a past that is so unique and strong that it makes up for separate years, even decades.
spent a lot of time at "home" again, as it was rainy. holly came over and we made pancakes, for it was her birthday! 27--such a nice age, and she is a live wire, firecracker, deep thinker, courageous role model, fun lover, and bona fide trooper. a jack of all trades. a gem to have encountered in this life. we had a mellow time, chatted and enjoyed our last day. dropped off the volvo to uncle fred that afternoon so he could go over it before tomorrow's ride home. this means holly and i got to drive through saddlebrooke and *admire* the changes/ reflect on how this settlement has affected our lives. omi and i took mr. graham's car to trader joe's later to buy some items for holly's birthday dinner! mrs. graham was so amazing and broke out with some chicken, rice, etc. and made a fabulous dish, pretty impromptu. she really must love us, after all! haha, no, i knew that all along. i have really loved her company. in the evening, friends began to arrive. we had lauren drive in from phoenix--thanks lauren! i haven't seen the girl since na's wedding! and chris and russ andeven jeremy and ann! sitting around the table sharing dinner and laughter with friends--what more do you need? we presented holly with a pair of white boots that we had bought online. sadly they were too big! but it was the only size they'd had. i had a feeling they were not quite on the money anyways, in terms of what she wanted. they looked different in the picture online, in my defense! she was so flattered and sweet, however. she will find something good to replace them with in these lean times, i am sure!
i couldn't believe that we all got convinced to go OUT after the dinner! lauren and holly had dressed to party and we wanted to do something for sure, but this is not LA, let me tell you. all we really needed was each other, though. hannah came over too, and joined us, and we ended up at some new-ish pub in oro valley: holly, lauren, chris, monty, omi, hannah, and i having mimosas, beers, and lemonades and much to laugh about til late. it was a bit nerve-wracking, i'll admit, leaving my babies to go party, but mrs. graham had offered to be there and let us leave all the kids with her "they'll be sleeping anyways, we'll pull them out of the house if there's a fire," she reassured me. i HOPED both sparrow and golden would stay asleep for the whole time i was out. otherwise, mrs. graham would be dealing with more than she reckoned for. and she can't nurse the babe, unfortunately.
the place closed after a short hour, and we stood around in the cold outside prolonging the magical laughter and banter for quite some time, then we all decided to go home. long day tomorrow! but it was a fun conclusion to a magical week.
the plan was to leave "around 10 or 11," so of course it was after 11. but that was mostly my fault cause i had a bunch of stuff to pack! i had insisted on bringing golden's pack-n-play just because i thought she's be more "at home" in it, only to find out she could fall asleep just as well in the crib in the room. i'm blessed she's so easy. mrs. graham had also given me a big bag of doll house items, which was absolutely awesome that she had saved them for me. that dollhouse sat in our pink room in our house for at least a decade, and there were a LOT of handmade (by my sister) food items, tiny books, dolls, and mini flower pots. as well as little blankets and mattresses and things she crafted for the dollhouse inhabitants. SO amazing. tiny little hamburgers, grapes, vases, super intricate stuff. i think i made one thing too: the skillet with a pile of scrambled stuff to go in it! hahaha you can tell by the way the handle is crooked, and the food is just a bunch of scraps thrown together! anyways... i digress. the point is, we got it all in the car and said our final goodbyes to omi and monty as they were heading off to attend a funeral, of all things. bye to mr. and mrs. graham too, and we headed off into the gorgeous blue.
in the middle of the desert between tucson and phoenix, i found out that holly had hopes i would drop her off in phoenix! wot! yes, apparently a BUNCH of her cousins were gathered in phoenix this very day to celebrate a baby shower for one of them, and she was gonna be able to get a ride back with her cousin from orange county. obviously she HAD to take the opportunity, there was no question, but it didn't stop me from being a bit selfish and freaked out, unfortunately. what on earth was i going to do with two babies by myself all the way to santa barbara? if i was driving, there was obviously no way i could be giving sparrow art supplies or pumping milk for golden. i would have to make a lot more, and a lot longer, stops. but heck. i am a good roadtripper who can handle long hours. all those denver-tucson hauls by myself trained me well! so i decided to make the most of it. i got to hang out a bit and rinse my breastpump in phoenix at the cousin's, and sparrow ran about playing with the youngest girl maliya, who had a beautiful toy kitchen and was so sweet! she stood out on the lawn waiting until we drove off so she could wave goodbye! they were prepping a baby shower fit for a queen over there, and holly jumped right in to help out. amazingness. once we said our fond goodbyes, therefore, i was on my own! just me and the girls with the wide west before us.
it was hot. and sunny. sparrow had the sun on her face, and i had used the baby blanket to block the window where golden was sleeping. thank God she was sleeping. but sparrow was hot and tired and whiny, and it was quite the sweat-fest until she did at last doze off, since there was nothing i could do. but i was sweating from the anxiety, not just the heat. about 45 minutes out of phoenix, golden woke up in the middle of nowhere. i drove on for awhile to see if she would fall back asleep, before finally pulling off onto a desolate road where there was a dirt clearing to park the car. two semi-trucks were also stationed nearby; i hoped their drivers were asleep. there was trash strewn about, and old mattress... basically, the type of scene that was perfect for a horrible situation to happen. it made me quite nervous. sparrow got out but soon found this was not a fun place to play, and decided to climb around on the passenger seat. golden would not nurse! it was amazing to me, since she hadn't nursed since before we left tucson. she was in a "new" place and so had to check everything out and "play" instead. after wasting close to an hour in this godforsaken spot, we drove on. i threw my hands up with golden. "you let me know when you're hungry, then." when she was truly hungry, she would eat. by now the shadows were getting longer and the air began to cool off. golden fell asleep again and sparrow got in a good mood and was fine company for a few hours. she looked out the window at the flat, flat desert stretch and said, "is that an ocean?" the approach to the cluster of mesas toward the border was amazing. the sun was again setting (we were here at sunset on the way over!) and there were unbelievably picturesque layers emerging in the ancient hues of that quiet, undisturbed monument. i decided to call leanne before the CA border, cause you can still drive and talk on the cell phone in AZ! woohoo! reached brent and then got cut off cause i was in a hilly pass.
the border between AZ and CA has always astounded me. nothing but dry crackly desert on the arizona side, but as soon as you pass into CA it is lush, green fields and palm trees. still desert, of course, but california has cultivated it. the land on both sides is the same. the culture is not.
well, i was in it for the long haul. it got dark and i began to plan my gas stop. there was nothing i wanted more right then than a huge latte to get me comfort and energy in one! every time i passed a little town, the girls would still be asleep. i would assess the distance to the next town: 45 miles, 60 miles, etc. and think, "i can make it!" i just thought it would NOT be worth it to wake them up if i didn't have an emergency... eventually i made it to indio. indio, california. there was an ENORMOUS, new-looking shopping center off the side of the road, but no gas station. i wasted another 1/2 hour or so driving around indio finding NO gas station and NO starbucks. what IS this place?! eventually i decided to just backtrack and make a stop at the shopping center for the kids' sake. then i had to choose between super target (which usually has starbucks!) and mcdonald's. of course i picked mcdonald's, so that sparrow could jump around for a bit. hey. their coffee is not THAT bad. so we did the mcd's and even got fries, but golden, again, would not nurse! we were in the play room, and when i tried to nurse her she would shriek and rip the nursing cover off so she could see the kids play! what a crazy baby. back on the road, i found a gas station off the next exit and nursed golden in the car. two miles further down the road, i saw it. the HUGE. DRIVE THRU. STARBUCKS. right after i had already bought mcdonald's coffee. sheesh. you really have to know where these places are in advance. something that kept reaffirming itself as the trip went on. mcdonalds is fine, but doesn't have the best oomph, evidently. after LA, i began to get massively knackered to the point where i thought i could NOT stay awake another second. i called holly but couldn't stay chatting for too long because my battery was running low and i wanted to have my phone in case of emergency, of course. so. now WHERE is a starbucks (or better yet a peets) between LA and SB? i couldn't find one. i pulled off at some town in between and drove around (i know it's here somewhere!) but had to settle for gas station coffee in the end! gas station! truly an abomination. 99cents of brown water. which i doused in artificial creamers in an attempt to make it palatable. well. it got us through the trip alive, so i guess i better not be too ungrateful. finally, about 11:40 (12:40 tucson time) we pulled into evergreen apartments and were met by thomas, lovely thomas. we all stayed up enjoying our togetherness for awhile. the first thing sparrow did was put on her fairy dress, hahahaha! and so the portal closed. travel to another place is surreal, magical. i felt a bit forlorn for a few days following, like i was thrown back into a stark reality... things are up in the air here. and it was gray. now that we are back in the swing of things i am immensely grateful for my life. and this large, square apartment (i call it the wolery) with its blank walls. potential is what it is.