I'm up at Tahoe with three twins and one more. Each of my twins brought a friend, one of whom is also a twin.
We drove up last night in a rental car, a Chevy Tahoe that we call The Island. It is the largest thing I have ever driven. One of our cars is in the shop because Eldest Daughter was rear-ended in front of the high school two weeks ago. This stuff happens. I could have driven the Volvo but it has 98K miles on it and our tendency is to replace our cars right before they reach 100K miles. There's no sense in rushing that.
Today has been very peaceful. The kids have been in and out of the hot tubs, (In case you wondered how many pool chairs could fit in one, the answer is eight.) in and out of Starbucks and Soupa, and in and out of our condo playing board and card games. I love this age.
It's raining here in the valley and snowing up top. The temperature is dropping and it will be snowing down here any minute. The fall colors are stunning adjacent to the tall green trees up the mountain and the falling snow line. This picture doesn't do it justice.
Dave and Eldest Daughter got a tour of Evanston, Illinois today courtesy of my aunt and uncle. Tomorrow is shopping the Magnificent Mile and Monday is the official Northwestern campus tour. From there they head to Ann Arbor. I find this all horribly unsettling since I basically birthed her yesterday.
My father recently put together a blurb book on the summer of 1987, when our immediate family moved from Alaska to California. The book covers our trip south on the Alaskan Marine Highway and ALCAN. I journaled during this 6-week voyage and went back to my journal to fill in some details for him. Looking back through those entries was a scary thing in so many ways. In retrospect, the trip itself was really dangerous. Second, I was a selfish terror at age 20. The comfort in journaling is the writing, not the re-reading. Funny, though, that I don't feel the same way about this blog. At least yet.
While lunching with a male friend a few months ago I became uncomfortable with part of our conversation. It wasn't my friend himself. He is the nicest guy, a family man a few years younger than me who coaches soccer, goes to church, the whole nine yards.
This friend and I formerly worked together and the topic of discussion was a woman we both knew. He works closely with her now and mentioned that she is quite forward-thinking with her creative ideas in the workplace. He attributed this to the fact that she doesn't have to work, meaning that she doesn't have to worry about taking risks.
Would someone ever say this about a man? I doubt it.
People work for so many reasons and not all of them are financial. Both men and women. Eldest Daughter works and her reasons for doing so are not financial. People work because they like the challenge and the recognition. They work because they like the power. People work because they feel guilty about not utilizing their educations or talent. They work because they want to travel on someone else's dime. People work because they don't want to be full-time stay-at-home-parents. They work because they are afraid something will happen to their spouse and they want to be able to provide for their families. People work because of court-orders.
One of my cousins died last week. He had a long struggle with demons and it breaks my heart that his young sons will not have the opportunity to know him during better times.
A family with similar demons used to live across the street from my parents. The husband died from his demons, the wife died after a long battle with cancer and the now-young-adult children had a miserable childhood, in my opinion.
I like to think that all three of these people are in a better place now, one where they no longer live in pain.
My children are unsettled by the cousin's death. I am unsettled, too. I am just sad, sad for what could have been. It's a miserable ending to what we all hoped would be a temporary problem, however long as temporary was.
Dave's 30th high school class reunion was this summer. He had a tight-knit group of friends in high school and not long ago we had them all for dinner. I was super happy for that when the class reunion came around. The wives and I caught up and had fun people watching, too. There's no pressure for the Plus One.
One of the couples is just moving across the bay to our suburb. They also have the most adorable young daughters, which I'm looking forward to watching them wrestle.
I've blogged extensively on the theme I am Twelve. It was interesting to see that grown men have those moments, too, even accomplished men who have made significant contributions to their communities, have aged well and are living the American Dream.
On Friday afternoon The Three Pinks and I fled the suburbs as soon as school was out and headed to Palo Alto. On the way down we stopped at Coffee Bean and Pizza My Heart, two of the kids' favorite eateries. Our next stop was a Halloween party at one of the large Silicon Valley tech companies. The entertainment was Ariana Grande, a 21-year-old singer / songwriter / actress who is moving her way up the charts right now after feature roles on two Nickelodeon TV shows.
She played a 40-minute set and was super sweet with the fans. The Pinks managed to get pretty close to the stage while I hung back, seated on the lawn. I downloaded her most recent music the week prior and while I liked her vibe to begin with, seeing her on stage made me really like her. The Pinks had a blast. The party was well done with a carnival theme. We also oohed and aahed over the little kids dressed up for Halloween.
This was The Pinks first time on a large Silly Valley tech campus and Eldest Daughter noted that with all of its open space, modern buildings, bike parking, walkways, gym and restaurants, it looked like a college campus. Valid point.
After the performance Ariana and her entourage high tailed it to the airport as they also played the Hollywood Bowl that night. We headed for Sprinkles at the Stanford Shopping Center and then to a late dinner at Max's.
On Saturday morning the big bags under my eyes and I went to Marin to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of a childhood friend's son. What struck me most, aside from all the generations of love in the room, was how comfortable he was up on the bimah. I wish I could have stayed for the evening celebration but with Thing 1's first dance performance of the year in the afternoon, it wasn't to be.The cantor at their temple is spectacular, too, and I caught up with a few people I hadn't seen in many years. My parents and I went together and it was a treat to hear about their recent trip through the Southwest during the car ride, just the three of us.
Thing 1's dance performance went well, in spite of a last minute venue change caused by not-expected-but-much-welcomed rain. This is my favorite performance of the year because the team routines are unveiled. Being the data nerd that I am, I love watching them and then guessing which ones will place high during the year's competitions, which kick off in January.
Over the summer I drove to Tahoe via the Eastern Sierras. I hadn't planned to drive this route but having children means you sometimes take a detour. I spent the first part of the drive, the ugly freeway part, on a conference call. And then it was four lane roads narrowing to two lane roads into the mountains. As the trees got bigger I started to relax. I rolled down my windows and took deep breaths of the pine and earth smell.
After an hour-long stop at a lake where I spent part of my childhood and where I retrieved a child who was in the midst of hers, the two of us continued the adventure. There were no gas stations for the next 100 miles. She was chatty. We drove up and up and up until we hit the pass, and then drove down and down and down into the increasingly arid Nevada desert and where the landscape looks like paintings. We stopped for a late lunch at a dive pancake house. Finally we made a sharp left and after ten more miles of narrow, windy roads, saw Lake Tahoe. It was a relief to see water after so many landlocked miles.
It's not often I travel off the -- off my -- beaten path. This single-day journey was fun because it was unanticipated and because I got to experience it with one of my children. It made me want to take a road trip.
The Safeway in King's Beach had parking spots but inside there was barely any room to maneuver. This was expected at 6pm the night before a holiday. My daughter spotted a classmate's father, one who lives less than a mile from us in our suburb, We shopped and then drove on to Squaw Valley, where I stopped trying to keep my eyes open at 10pm and awoke 11 hours later.
There were three hours between the end of the Kiddush and the party set up. The most significant thing that happened during that time was that Thing 2 chopped 12 inches off of her hair. She went back to her signature bob and harmony was restored to our home! Long hair is beautiful if you have the patience to take care of it. She did not. She looks like herself again and she is so happy to not have all that maintenance! As are we.
Now on to the luau. Although the fabulous Jenna was running the show, it still took a small army to pull it all together. Thank you Singers, Dave Harap, Bentleys, Willmarths, Wycoffs and The G/dfather. It takes time to pin grass skirts on table cloths, string lights and lanterns in trees and on poles, arrange rental lounge furniture, instruct the caterer, DJ, photo booth people, balloon lady, and set up tables for gifts and sign in boards plus two bars. (About that adult bar: I conveniently forgot that our little town only lets you serve beer and wine in its venues. We may have forfeited our security deposit over my interpretation of this rule when we served mai tai's but I won't know for another few weeks.)
The big takeaway from this luau was that the kids had a blast. Their smiling faces and moving bodies dancing will stay with me. Most of the kids had never been to a celebration such as this and the DJ and crew did their job of keeping the kids busy and happy. A few of Thing 1's dance friends are Jewish and they showed the new-to-this-scene-kids how it was done.
One of the dance team friends, a few years younger than Thing 1, came up to both me and Dave individually as she left and told us that it was the best party she'd ever been to. It was the sweetest thing.
Dave and I have a fairly diverse group of friends and the kids and adults just mixed and mingled. Melissa, the super-sweet new wife of one of Dave's childhood friends, came in from Dallas and explained her daughter's easy entry by saying, "This one has never met a stranger." How fabulous is that?!
In addition to dancing, the DJ did:
Some sort of game involving stuffing children in large t-shirts with balloons
Hula hoop contest
Dances involving hats, sunglasses, glo-sticks, flashing rings, floral leis and blow up microphones, guitars and saxophones
Who knows what else. I didn't see it all.
Denon and Doyle provided the entertainment, which is four people: the DJ, the emcee and two party motivators. The party motivators make sure everyone is up and participating, and they also hand out those sunglasses, glo-sticks and air guitars. These people deliver a high-quality product. As Dave likes to say, as soon as you pick your Mitzvah date you call Denon and Doyle to see if they're available. If they're not, you change your date.
We did a candle lighting where The Pinks thanked special groups of friends and family by reading a poem. Pictured here are Thing 2's lacrosse friends after they lit their candles.
There was the slide show, previously mentioned. At the end of the slide show I said a few words about The Pinks and told them how proud we were of their accomplishments. I reminded them of their continued responsibility to Judaism and to tikkun olam, making the world a better place.
We are a family of strong women. My mother and mother-in-law have long devoted themselves to volunteer causes. One of my grandmothers was a journalist, the other a force to be reckoned with in Memphis' Jewish community. Dave's grandmother owned and ran a women's dress shop in Napa for 52 years, back during the years that women just didn't do that. After Dave's grandmother passed away my mother-in-law had a few of her mink coats turned into teddy bears by a New York furrier. Each of her great grand-daughters received one at their Bat Mitzvah.
Dave spoke to the legacy of women in our family and The Pinks received theirs that night. (Sidebar: Thirteen years ago, when Dave and I found out we were having twins, he called his mother and said, "Mom, we are one teddy bear short." She didn't miss a beat and said, "You're having twins?! That's wonderful, David." And so another fur coat was shipped to New York and a fifth teddy bear was born.)
It was hard not to think about Dave's grandma Ruth that night because The Pinks spent a lot of time with her prior to her passing. She lived in an assisted care community near our first house in Danville and we visited her 3-4 times a week. We'd go over there and The Pinks would ride their scooters around the unit, play their toy musical instruments, and sing and dance. Not only did Ruth love it, the other residents did, too. The more chaos the better. It was a great diversion for everyone. (Confession: Visiting Ruth kept ME sane. It is HARD parenting twin toddlers and I loved every moment we spent with Ruth because I could relax.) I still think that Dave's father moving his mother near us was the greatest gift ever.
The picture above at right is Thing 2 with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I love how Sara Singer, who always is wearing the exact right thing, was captured in it, too. Sara -- you must take me shopping.
The caterer was a risk. I let go, though, and truly trusted Jenna. She'd heard they were good although she'd never seen them in action. (Like the Jewish community, the Mormon community is tight. They might be in the same ward.) I put it out of my mind and figured I'd just double the alcohol if the food turned out to be bad. It wasn't. It got raves. We also had Hawaiian Shave Ice for dessert and the kids sang its praises although I didn't see it apart from the set up. Thanks Bentley cousins for the idea! They did it 18 months earlier in Santa Clarita. Heck, the little people share everything in our family. Jen -- have you figured out what we lifted from your suitcase yet?! Better install some locks on your closet door before we visit in March.
The last picture here is of my brother, his wife and my niecelets, and his in-laws. We spend a lot of time with Cathy and Steve at Tahoe, where they live full-time, and were glad they joined in the full weekend of festivities with us. They truly are family.