On Christmas Day I left behind the Macy half of our clan and flew to Arizona to join the Carlson half of our clan in the remainder of their Christmas celebration and the days that followed. As always, I’m compelled to share with anyone interested and to satisfy my own journaling desires. It’s snowing outside as I begin, having returned last evening to clear runways and roads leading me home in the wee small hours of the morning.
Tossing chronology to the wind, I share my photographic adventures in segmented chapters. Along with our short Christmas celebration, we enjoyed several days in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico, at the vacation home of the same friends who let us use their mountain “cabin” for our Nill family reunion in June/July. (Think bowling lanes. . .) This eight-bedroom/bath home overlooks the Bay of California, which is a mere four-hour car ride from Phoenix. Commitments in Goodyear forced our early departure, but we carried back plenty of Mexico mud on our car from a nighttime rain storm to remind us of the good time we had enjoyed together.
Chapter One—Delayed Celebration
I arrived mid evening, Taylor assigned to my airport pick-up. We pulled up to the Andersons’ new-this-year home, having just observed the rare full Christmas moon—and then this!
I won’t say they saved the best part for me, since the Anderson/Carlson traditions are all meaningful. But there’s “that meal” containing all the right elements—ham, rice-broccoli-cheese casserole, green-bean casserole, fruit salad, mashed potatoes, and Quinn would never forget the rolls!—with this festive added element. Oh, and the pumpkin pie we were too full to indulge.
Your family has traditional holiday foods, and I imagine at least one of them matches ours.
Chilly Arizona weather didn’t impede a neighborhood walk to give baby Declan his first taste of seasonal lights.
He was duly impressed.
Chapter Two—Luxury Accommodations
We drove down in tandem—three cars because we had three separate departures and because we had a lot of people, food, and stuff!
I was lovingly assigned the master suite with ocean view, renamed the “Queen’s Suite” for my sake, since I am the matriarch. I received the honor gratefully and I hope gracefully.
Once the sun went down, this seemed the right place to sit.
Chapter Three—The Many Ways to Enjoy a Beach
Where beaches are concerned, I prefer to observe their beauty from a comfortable distance, never having to pour the sand from my shoes. But I set aside my sand aversion and embraced the grit. This particular beach beaconed my treasure-hunt instincts.
Any ideas what that is? It came home with me.
Along with most of these.
Dusty took his head-lamped kids out for a night look at the sea and found some spectacular creatures.
The beach has other attractions. I got to take a walk with this dear one and managed to get myself in the picture without even trying.
This photo shows opposing beach enjoyments—two get massages; three (Beth, Bailey, Cassidy) head out for their CrossFit WOD (workout of the day).
Another “first” for baby Declan.
The Anderson family never get enough beach time. Dusty said he could easily and very happily live on a beach full time.
CrossFit diehard Beth does lunges as part of her WOD.
That’s Bailey doing lunges with her. Taylor keeps his pace as their timer.
Of course I find this a perfectly respectable way to enjoy the beach.
Chapter Four—The Beach Has Nothing on the People
When there’s a sweet and cuddly four-month-old baby in the house, eyes tend to gravitate in his direction.
One of my great joys was watching Declan’s parents, especially the boy I raised, care for their child. I don’t know what I expected, but they are both naturals, remarkably relaxed (in appearance, at least) in this new role.
Now and then we let him take his naps on his own, though it’s hard to put him down, ever.
While Declan draws the lion’s share of attention, the bigger ones are every bit as precious. Just look at Bailey, halfway through his freshman year at Dordt College in Iowa and wearing a clear reminder that Iowa is not his home. A more rounded and grounded 19-year-old you might never meet, and he lights up all of our lives. His parents try to stay humble about him, but that’s nearly an impossible assignment.
I had the good fortune of being in town to join in the celebration of Marissa turning 17. Another well-rounded Anderson, Marissa plays sports, earns straight A’s in school, will be Student Council president for her senior year, and excels in friendship (evidenced by social media). Her parents are presently in denial that in another year they’ll be preparing their hearts for another Anderson to head off to college.
This makes them extra glad that Cassidy is still at that wonderful middle-school age so pivotal in the maturing process. At twelve, this girl loves to serve. “Would you like some popcorn?” “Can I make you a hot chocolate?” Oh yes! Cass and her friends started a cupcake business and have already had one gig. She loves to pin on Pinterest, usually loves school, has been a cheerleader and now runs track, and is working now to conquer her new Penny skateboard. She’s an excellent student and takes her grades very seriously (to a fault, actually). They say penmanship is a lost art, but not for Cass, whose script looks like a font.
She also kinda likes her newest cousin.
Chapter Five—The Other People
A rare moment when neither Quinn nor Dusty was occupied with wiping the counters or sweeping sand or heading to town to buy wood for a beach fire or running the two washers and dryers simultaneously or bouncing a baby or . . . much like their life at home.
Then there’s these guys.
By the time I arrived, Ben’s visit was nearing its completion. That’s not an excuse for not getting a good picture of him alone but for story sake I share this great shot friend Lisa took of me with “my babies” just before we gave Ben a traditional white-hanky farewell. Not that I want to take attention from them, but please notice the perfectly positioned background that provides me with a new Dutchy hairstyle.
Here, let me help.
Chapter Six—Lisa Cooks a Clam
On one of Dusty’s beach walks he found and brought back a clam still closed. What does Taylor’s face tell you about his impression of the inside?
Lisa said, “Let’s eat it!”
[I didn’t introduce Lisa in Chapter Five because I knew we’d be meeting here in this chapter. Taylor, Beth, and Lisa worked together in Iraq, and life has recently led Lisa to make her residence in Arizona and her home with Taylor, Beth, and Declan. That makes her family, you know.]
She went right to work, demonstrating how to clean the clam like a pro.
Dusty and Marissa bravely went first.
Bailey, then Lisa. All concurred it was tasty. But there was still one piece.
Chapter Seven—One with Everyone
Chapter Eight—Happy New Year to Me!
The commitment that enticed us away from the beach was for these three to volunteer in the New Years Eve hospitality suite for the media who would cover the Fiesta Bowl the following day. Their job was to keep the chips replenished, drinks flowing, and spread their cheer and goodwill.
That job sounds really exciting and all, but I had a much better job.
And the next morning he was bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to face a new year.
His parents might have missed him a little bit.
But then the sleep depravation settled in and . . . Zzzzzzzzz
Nobody felt up to cooking, so we piled in the car and enjoyed lunch at Red Lobster. Now don’t spoil my fun and remind me that Declan is wearing a crab, not a lobster, on his bottom. That would be mean.
Thanks for joining me on my winter vacation review. I’d be returning to work tomorrow morning, but Mom Edna fell this morning and bumped her crown and broke her hip. I’m here with her at the hospital and will be tomorrow as well while she recovers from today’s surgery. Life hasn’t treated her very well of late, losing her granddaughter in June, losing what little bit of her sight that remained, being forced to move to the highest level of care at her retirement home, and 2016 hasn’t started out very well for her. Being 96 is not for sissies. If you leave a cheer comment for her, I’ll read it to her.