Friday, August 31, 2012

The Cast: Part I

Yesterday I waxed poetic and nostalgic about beautiful Lake George, demonstrating remarkable restraint when it comes to photos. Today I am throwing all caution to the wind. Be warned.

First of all, the cast. When we left off yesterday, I'd introduced Jay, Janet, and one of their daughters, Katelyn. While Katelyn can occasionally be found perched on Mom's lap (yesterday's photo), it's much more likely to find her hanging out with her phone.
Of course, Katie certainly knows how to put aside the texts and have some real fun. What a leap!
Then, of course, there's the baby of the family, Jeanette.
Isn't she adorable? Nettie is such a fun tween to be around.
Ever since she was born, Talia's reminded us of Jeanette, both in appearance and personality.
It seems quite fitting that the two hung out like peas in a pod.
The oldest Wells daughter is Alesia, a recent grad from Geneseo State who will start student teaching this fall. Isn't she beautiful?
Alesia was fantastic with Eli, helping him warm up both figuratively and literally to new experiences like boating.
Splashing in the water for hours on end.
Brooklyn snuggles in for some Alesia love.
Last but not least, there's Gregory, the favorite (albeit only) son. Greg just finished his first year at Syracuse University.
Not surprisingly, Eli latched right onto Greg as well. I think they both enjoyed the male companionship. :)
Like his father, Greg can often be found out on the boat, manning the sails.
Or else he's behind the boat, helping Brooklyn and Talia learn how to waterski, just like Jay taught Callie and I. Thank you!
Moving on, Jay's sister, my Aunt Alison, also came up from Long Island with her daughter Kathryn. Here are Jay and Alison, chatting at the water front.
Growing up, I often remember my Aunt Alison happily sunning herself on an inflatable raft in the water. (We liked to taunt her with threats of obnoxious!) A decade later, Alison can still be found floating on her raft, although now with her fourteen year-old daughter beside her.
Alison catches a few more rays of sun...
...while Kathryn takes Brooklyn for a tube ride. Stuck together in a piece of round rubber--now that's bonding time. :)
And thus concludes our introduction of the cast, part I. I'd originally planned on plunging through all the characters, but hey, it's late, I'm tired, and this fantastic crew is already plenty big.

But stay tuned... Rumor has it that a couple of kiwis were sighted winging their way past the Big Apple.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Our Big Trip to Lake George

Have you ever had something you wanted to write about or share or blog, but you couldn't because it was just too big? No matter how carefully you choose your words or how beautiful your photos, you simply can't recapture the moment because it was so...much.

For me, our week in Lake George was that big. Big, certainly, because upstate New York is a very long way from Southwestern Utah, especially when traveling in a minivan. According to googlemaps, the roundtrip journey is 4911 miles and 79 hours of drive time. Add in three munchkins and up to four adults, and I assure you the trip is even longer. But that's not what I mean by big.

Perhaps "big" is filling a lake home with our family of five, my parents, my sister and her husband, my aunt and her daughter, my grandpa, his wife, my sister-in-law, her husband, her brother-in-law, not to mention my aunt and uncle who own the house, their four children, and two golden retrievers. That's certainly big and somewhat closer, although still not quite what I mean.

Squeezing everyone around the dining room table--quite a feat!
For me, "big" is expansive, significant, that which completes or makes whole. Instead of being quantifiable by large numbers, "big" is felt and measured in the heart. While the individual moments may have all been small and relatively inconsequential, the sum total of spending this week with family on beautiful Lake George was enormous.

Judging by the numbers, you'd imagine our week in Lake George was crazy and chaotic, bubbling over with noise and excitement. In reality, quite the opposite was true. Standing beside the deep blue calm of the lake and its green mountains, I found peace, stillness, and rejuventation. A snippet from my journal explains it best:

August 6, 2012

It’s been a long time since I’ve journaled at a computer instead of composing a blogpost. In a way, it’s nice to be free from the pressure of a “Publish” button. So much has happened, and yet at the moment it feels like nothing has changed. I’m sitting on the porch at Lake George on a perfectly still morning with the sun shining in, the lake as smooth as glass. Ducks are swimming past, and the house is completely quiet. Inside the lake house, little has changed. Same dark wood paneling, same wicker chairs, same giant dining room table, same friendly faces.

And yet all the same, everything has changed. It’s been seventeen years since the last time Callie and I were here together. We’ve both graduated from high school, graduated from college, traveled internationally, and married wonderful spouses. Instead of she and I being the teenagers tending the Wells munchkins, the wheel has turned completely. Our baby cousins are now the teenage angels watching my own children all day long. Brooklyn and Talia have morphed into water bugs who jump in the lake first thing in the morning and soak all day long, hopping out only long enough to eat or go for a boat ride. Eli is Alesia’s personal leech, gleefully feasting on her attention until someone manages to pry him off for moment. It’s a good thing I’m Mom, or else I’d never get a hug.

As the journal suggests, during my growing-up years our family spent some precious summer days on Lake George with my Uncle Jay, Aunt Janet, and their sweet family. It was on Lake George that I first learned to water ski, snorkel, and thanks to an extremely patient uncle, fish. The weathered yellow lake house has always held a special place in my memory--I'm so grateful for the chance to pass a piece of this memory onto the next generation.


Any conversation about Lake George rightly begins with my Uncle Jay and Aunt Janet. After all, without their generosity, we wouldn't have a house to crash. If I have my stories right, when Jay took Janet to Lake George for the very first time, they camped on one of the islands, traveling there on his old boat, the Alley Cat. There are countless stories about the Alley Cat and its multitude of breakdowns; on this journey, the boat actually worked, but only in reverse. What a sight to see them navigating the whole way--backwards!

While Jay and Janet now prefer their lake house to camping, the sight of Uncle Jay working on the boat always remains the same.

Success! Here's Jay at his rightful spot behind the helm.
Power washing the sailboat.
The jet ski almost started working. No matter--we had plenty of other toys.
Pictures of Janet are more elusive, partly because she's often behind the camera. However, you can still see Janet everywhere in the faces of her beautiful children. Here's Janet with Katelyn, her six, I mean sixteen year-old. When did that happen? When Jason and I first came to Long Island to work with Jay and Janet, this little girl hadn't even started first grade. I'm glad to know that even teenagers can still appreciate a little snuggle from Mom.
(Blurbs from Eli while watching over my shoulder: I wanna go to Janet's house. I see more pictures of Nettie. More pictures!)

While there is so much more to say and many more photos to show, I'll take a pause because anything else would just be, well, too big.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hola, Kindergarten!

So much to write as usual, but let's start with the most important:

Talia started kindergarten! (Brooklyn began second grade as well, but I don't have any pics yet so we'll talk about that cutie later.) Like Brooklyn, Talia is enrolled in a dual immersion Spanish/English program at Dixie Sun Elementary. Even though it's an all-day program, she's transitioning marvelously. She and Brooklyn walk hand-in-hand to the bus stop in the morning, and Talia is all smiles when I pick her up in the early afternoon. (The first couple weeks involve lots of kindergarten testing, so the wee ones get released early.)

Here's a photo of Talia after arriving home on her first day. I'm only accountable for what her hair looks like before school. I think today we may be headed to JCPenney for a free haircut.
Feeling kinda funky. Notice the gap in her smile? Talia lost her first tooth a few days before school started.
A close up of the lost tooth, in case you really care.
And just so you know, when I say this tooth is lost, I mean it in the most literal sense. It's hanging out somewhere in Omaha, Nebraska, most likely in the home of NomiAnn and Papa Kay. Talia decided to hold onto it to play with instead of cashing it in with the tooth fairy. The next day it disappeared in the midst of the kids' imaginary adventures. Fortunately, the missing tooth doesn't seem to have disturbed their fantasies. At this moment both of the girls are dressed in leotards and tutus playing "tooth fairy." Despite the fact that a few tears were shed when Brooklyn tried to convince Talia to portray the evil tooth fairy, life is happy now that we've clarified that all tooth fairies are kind.
Back to the back-to-school point, Talia's learned to always keep her eyes on the teacher.
Simply sweet.
In truth, sending Talia off to kindergarten has been easy--almost embarrassingly so. I feel a little guilty for not feeling more concerned or anxious or emotional. After all, my stomach was all knots when we let Brooklyn go: shouldn't I care about Talia just as much?

Yet when I think back, our current situation is quite different from our first kindergarten experience. When we sent Brooklyn off to kindergarten, I knew practically nothing about the school or the area. We'd lived in St. George for a grand total of 2.5 days, and knew no one. I remember feeling panicked when asked to fill out a Student Information card because there wasn't a single person I could list as an emergency contact. I remember gazing around at all the other parents waiting to pick up their children, praying that someone would smile and say hello, because more than anything, I needed a guide, a friend. It was an anxious, lonely time for us all.

This time around, I know the school. Talia knows the school. She's tagged along with me for so long that its halls hardly seem unfamiliar. She recognizes her teachers. She knows some of her classmates. And standing by her side, guiding her through the whole process, is her sister.

This time around, I don't need to stand around with all the other parents waiting for kindergarten pick-up. With Brooklyn there to pave the way, Talia can ride the bus, and she needn't ride alone. And if I did pick Talia up, I would be greeted by a few smiles and many familiar faces. While it's taken a long time, we are gradually building a small network of friends that we trust and can rely upon. When I wasn't there the very first morning, another Mom noticed and took a photo of Brooklyn and Talia together. Because that's what friends do.

Looking back, even though I don't need to pick up Talia today, perhaps I will go anyway. Because I remember how lonely it can be. And perhaps, just perhaps, somebody else needs a smile.