Saturday, April 8, 2017

Some Delights and Some Disasters

The stars seemed to be aligning for an opportunity to get the Mothers of Eyrealm together for a few days in Northern California without too much hassle and with mostly short distances to travel which is important when you have a far flung family like ours. In March, Charity was coming to the US for Ian's sister's wedding, Aja was coming to the mainland in Seattle for a swim meet for Ana, Saren, Shawni and I were just a short flight away and Kristi could actually drive there. The only ones that were far away were Julie in NYC, who had just been called as their ward Relief Society President  and Anita in Switzerland who didn't think a three day turn around from Switzerland and back was wise. So Julie and Anita decided to wait for the next gathering to join us.

As it turned out, Julie decided to come at the last minute and we Face Timed with Anita so we could feel that she was almost there!

Saren and I flew out of SLC, picked up Shawni in Phoenix and then headed for the San Francisco airport. We were pretty excited!

We gathered everyone on March 26 at Saydi's Farm and had a beautiful farm breakfast before we departed for our adventure.

Noah and Kristi who had driven down in the sprinter with their six kids, were kind enough to offer that great vehicle for our adventure so we loaded into the Sprinter, followed by three of the girls in a truck loaded with 5 bikes so we could ride along the beach for a bit before we headed for our airB&B.

We left Noah with all ten kids (we took the two babies with us) supervise them on the farm until Jeff arrived to help after work but he was up to the task! I'll have to fill you in on the taco eating contest that happened while we were gone later.

Don't worry, they all had boots to deal with the mud and other stuff on the farm:

We spent a lovely hour taking turns riding the bikes on the beach 

And then the adventure began. We returned to the car to find this breathtaking scene: This is the large window on the passenger side that we saw as we rounded the front of the Sprinter....

And the smaller front window.....

And this is what it looked like on the inside! It took a few seconds after being horrified that someone would do that to a beautiful Sprinter to realize that all our computers, purses with driver's licenses, keys, credit cards, a passport, make-up, recommends and lots of nice carrying bags were GONE!  Can you believe that? Who would steal all that stuff from a van with two baby car seats right there in front of them. At least they weren't interested in them! 

By the time the police came, an hour later, two of our group were getting notified on their husband's phones that $500 gift cards at Macy's in a nearby city were being charged to their credit cards.They got away with $1500 worth of gift cards before somebody suspected fraud. They tried for two $1000 gifts cards but their accounts had been shut down. Bummer!

The very best part was how well everyone accepted the disaster. There was no weeping and wailing, just wonder at what would cause someone or probably someones to do that and the realization that it was just things. Pretty important things in most cases but still....things! Kristi even thought of being sorry for them...if they were that desperate!

We were determined not to let it spoil our trip even though it put a damper on Julie's Birthday since all her ID, passport, keys and SS card were in her purse.

We spent another hour filling out police reports and going to the car wash for a very long session with a million glass shards and the big vacuums there. Luckily Saydi's car was in the shop in town and the work on it had just been completed so we picked it up, drove the Sprinter back to the farm and used Saydi's car and our rental for the rest of our time together.

By Monday someone came out to the farm to replace the windows and Noah and Kristi's insurance covered all the electronics and the banks paid for the fraudulent charges. So then it was just a matter of getting along without our "stuff" and getting some on their flights home without ID. It all worked out in the end with only the pain of replacing everything and watching bank accounts to be sure that nothing else was charged along with a number of annoyances for a very long time ahead. Luckily, I had my purse with me and had only left my computer and all my chargers in the car. Charity had all her things in her diaper bag so she had a passport to get home with and a couple had left their stuff in the truck that we had used to transport the bikes, so all was not lost!

Finally we had a ver late lunch at the beach, celebrated Julie's birthday as best we could and went for a long hike along the coast...

Cuddled our babies....

And then retired to our lovely little airB&B, owned by such a lovely couple who made us feel so comfortable and felt sorry for our loses.

We shared our "happy" and "sad" since last summer when we were together which is a conversation always full of joy and sorrow. As always, there was some of each but all in all, these optimistic, wise women declared again and again that they had learned as much from the hard times as from the good ones. We love this bunch!

The next morning we headed for the San Francisco MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and were delighted to find the original art that Eli and Julie had replicated (in a much smaller form) in their living room in NYC. Julie and Eli have a lot of pizzaz!

The cobweb room was amazing! There was even an amazing real cobweb in one of the glass cases!

Those little spiders worked a long time to create this thing!
Charlotte perhaps? 

We love the creativity of Modern Art!  

That night we had some great conversations about essays we had exchanged online and shared thoughts and books that we have loved. 

Charity's little Moses had not been feeling well and neither of them slept well for days. Kristi's little Faith had been restless too but those two Moms bucked up and offered not one complaint during our next adventure which was to the fabulous Filoli estate. It is a 640 acre luscious estate first owned by the owner of a "Hard Rock Gold Mine." The name came from their family motto which was 
Fight, Love, Live. It was a fitting name for this amazing place which has since changed hands and was in full bloom with the most gorgeous flowers and blossoms we had ever seen! The home rivaled the gardens in interest and history with no expense spared to keep it in pristine condition! 

Here are our two baby-moms entering the garden through the original family door. 

As we began our self-guided tour our wonderful Anita Face-time us. We had tried to reach her the night before without success so we were thrilled to have her walk along with us through the gardens. She was home in Switzerland with Tal in Brazil. Since we always laugh about that fact that she seems to always have her eyes closed for pictures, she was probably fine that you can't see her very well on the phone there in the middle!  :)  
It was a glorious spring day! 

Aja must be taking the picture! 

The Mansion! 

By the time we had lunch here, Moses was not doing well!  He was breathing really fast and was listless. While the rest of the girls went on to see the redwood forest, Kristi and Charity and I headed for the same Insta Care where Ian and Charity had taken Moses to get checked out before we got there. While Kristi waited in the car with Faith (bringing babies into rooms at Insta Care are not the place to take babies who aren't sick). They X-rayed Moses' lungs again and found pneumonia. The doctor was so sweet but decided that we should take him to the emergency room and admit him to the hospital for the night. I took Charity and Moses into the Emergency Room at the Stanford Hospital and then left them in the care of doctors while I took Kristi home. While we had waited for the results of the X-ray to come back, Kristi and I ran to Trader Joe's down the street to get some food for a dinner at home. Kristi ran into a drugstore next door to grab a little e make -up, as everything she brought was in her stolen purse. Crazy afternoon! 

I ran Kristi and Faith home (about a 45 minute drive) since I had the key to the house so the other girls could get in. Kristi wasn't feeling great (although she never said that, bless her heart) and I needed to get everything Charity needed for an overnight stay at the hospital. By the time I got back to the hospital the ER doctors had concluded that Moses' condition had already improved and they sent us home with a prescription and on a wild goose chase to get it filled. 

Without further details I'll just say that the other girls had gone to a beautiful redwood forest, stopped by the one and only Golden Gate Bridge....

...and had gotten home and prepared every variety of Indian and Thai food available at Trader Joes in the microwave and had kindly saved a nice dinner for Charity and I while we all debriefed on our adventures. 

The next morning (another sleepless night for Charity and restless night for Kristi) we packed up and dashed off to Saydi's ward meeting which was only about two minutes away from the house. There we found Jeff and Noah with 10 kids dressed for church on one of the front rows. Wish we had picture of that mob but we had to hurry back to get out of our cute house and head back to the farm.

Julie "thought" she had an earlier flight which eventually turned out to be an hour late so Aja took her to the airport where it took some extra time to get through security without any ID. Luckily I managed to get her to take a little money for food and the subway in NYC.

It was so fun to go back to the farm for a grand dinner for the whole mob! The kids were delighted to see Faith and Moses and it was great to see Lyla holding the baby goats like they were her babies and to see Saydi watering in their little green house with Lyla while Saren contemplated something important up on that grassy knoll.

Some were able to take a hike through the magnificent redwood trees on the property near Saydi's farm. It was positively magical! Sadly, I didn't take my camera!

There's nothing like having five of your grown up kids together in the same place for a few hours!

No, the stars were not quite aligned on this journey. Saren's flight was three hours late. She arrived home at 3 a.m. and Ana, Aja's 15 year old who had stayed at the farm and had not felt well the whole time was also diagnosed with pneumonia when they got back to Hawaii.... not related at all to Moses's pneumonia.

Still we were all so grateful for what we had learned from and about each other, when experiencing  the challenges as well as the beauties of nature and the multiplicity of joy that comes when a lot of people get together who love each other!  

Thursday, March 2, 2017


I'm so excited that one of our families who has gone back to my roots...the farm! Saydi and Jeff have moved from Boston to a 140 acre farm that was recently bought by one of their friends who needed a family of caretakers until they can move in next year!  Jeff had been looking for a way to get back to the earth and Saydi was looking adventure and a way to make some great memories for her darling children who are at perfect ages to "remember"!

Even though we had just returned from our trip to London and CH, Richard and I saw a break in the rain in California on the weather forecast, we took off to join in the adventure! What we found was pure delight. From the old days when I was a kid, I immediately remembered how much idyllic it was when life felt like an adventure every day and how great it was to roam free on a beautiful piece of land. And as a Mother I also remembered how hard it is!

Here are Hazel and Em at their new front gate!

And an overview of the houses and barns from the top of the rise above the farm:

Just to get a little reality in the mix before I show you anything else, the house (in the background) has no central heating!  It's eleven-year-old Charlie's job to get a fire going in the cast iron stove in the living room every morning before everyone gets up.

Jeff leaves for work (setting up an office for his company in Silicone Valley) at 6 a.m. and gets home about 5, so Saydi and the kids are on their own on weekdays. It had been raining almost every day since they arrived and a giant mudslide came down the hill and took down a couple of fences on it's way (part of which you can see on the left of the picture above).

Soon after they arrived, a mountain lion came and killed one of their two sheep! That was a little disconcerting! There is a caretaker on the property and he tied the dead sheep to a tree hoping that the mountain lion would come back for more meat the next night so he could shoot it and eliminate the danger. They tried to get the only other sheep into the barn for safety but, as you may know, sheep are not the smartest animals and try as they might that woolly guy wouldn't cooperate. SO here is Charlie, pretty pleased about this dramatic story and....the carcasses of the first sheep with one leg tied to the tree and the other, who sadly met his demise the next night in the background. Real world farm life!

The other thing that was troubling upon arrival was the delivery of a new puppy which will grow into a very large dog very soon! As puppies do, she was nipping at the kids and jumping on them with dirty paws and Emmeline and Peter were terrified!  The first couple of weeks on the ranch, Saydi along with the enormous task of setting up a new/old farmhouse and a new life for their family, she also had two little children clinging to her legs for fear of the dog!  Sadly this is the only picture I got of that fluffy white pup! Luckily by the time we got there the dog had settled down a little and the kids had faced their fear and bravely made friends with him! 

Because of all the rain, the property looked like something straight out of Ireland! Brilliant green and moss covered trees were everywhere and Saydi was totally into feeling the joy! 

The kids are thrilled with their new charges: a gaggle of baby chicks, two fat little pigs. Hazel and Charlie immediately loved the dog who is settling into his place in the family! 

Let's take a closer look at those "little" pigs! Sorry about the low light in the barn! 

There is so much to explore and so much to learn! 

And such a sense of the freedom of childhood! 

Peter loves driving his own car around the grounds! 

There's always lots of work to do on a farm!  The owner had sent about 50 trees that needed to be planted so we all worked to get some of them in cloth bags surrounded by soil to prepare them to be put in the ground. 

I hope they don't plant this one:  

Luckily the wild California Coast is only about 10 minutes away.  We loved exploring that while we were there too. In about half an hour we could be at Half Moon Bay. We went there to enjoy a gorgeous sunset one night and a fire at the Ritz.  Dreamy! 

Saydi tries to have one day a week where each child is "the child of the day." when they get special time and attention. As you may have noticed, this was Emmeline's day. I had such a lot of fun helping this little musician with her violin lessons. Saydi is homeschooling and Richard and I got a chance to teach the kids. He taught them how to write poetry and I taught them what I had just learned in London about one of my new favorite people: William Wilberforce, the man who, along with a team of good people dedicated much of their lives to end slavery in England. The next day Richard did a lesson on writing prose and I had a chance to share some stories about my mom and her family. 

The sunset was simply spectacular! 

Last week, the owner sent over two baby goats!  Look at those kids' faces! 

Saydi produced some remarkable meals out of that old fashioned farm kitchen and we had some spectacular meals around their little table. It was so exciting to see that great family settle into"the dirty life" with a passion! Richard's brother and his wife joined us for a day and an evening and we were entertained by the kids' rendition of Hamilton! They know almost every word of that Broadway phenomenon! For lots more details, beautifully written from the mind and eye of Saydi and some fabulous photography, check out Saydi's blog here