After Justin left we stayed on in California for 2 more weeks, doing pretty much the same max chillaxin’ that we had been for the previous two weeks. The only other thing on my mind was a little bit of nesting so that there would be some things waiting for us when we came back at the beginning of October – I mostly bought lots of kids books at thrift stores and went to Ikea. The original plan was to stay on in California until right before Elliott’s birthday and then head back to Utah, but something a little more important came up:
We were so happy to be there for Lauren and Ben’s big day. And since almost all the Bytheway cousins were going to be around we decided to have Elliott’s birthday the day after their wedding. Elliott had only a few requests for his party – sleepover, pizza (Hot N’ Ready, you are the best), cake (Walmart, you are also the best), and a water fight. So I got a slip n’ slide, some water guns, and we filled up some water balloons and let them go at it. Easy birthday parties are the best birthday parties.
One of the fun things about being in the foreign service and living around the world is the traditions that you pick up from other countries. In Mexico they shove the birthday boy/girl’s face into the cake after they sing the birthday song (Las Mananitas) and so we started it with out kids when we were there. They love it, Eleanor talks about it constantly – “I can’t wait until my birthday when you guys will shove my face in my cake.”
Elliott’s actual birthday was a few days later, on Pioneer Day, a big state holiday in Utah that is celebrated with parades and fireworks so I got some fireworks for that evening. As we were heading home from the parade I asked Elliott if there was anything else he wanted for his birthday and he said “I just wish that I could use my fireworks to blow something up. Like a house or something.” Ah, adolescent pyromania, you have surfaced early. Since we obviously didn’t have a house that he could blow up his grandpa made him one out of cardboard and Elliott was absolutely delighted with the results.
I don’t exact understand the point of covering up a fireworks display with a cardboard box, but I’m pretty sure that the ensuing fire was better than any of the other explosions of the night in Elliott’s mind. Whenever I asked him about his favorite part about his birthday he would say “when you were the firefighter and put out the fire on the house!” Hey, whatever a birthday kid wants a birthday kid gets.
The rest of our time in Utah was pretty great. We would get up in the morning, get dressed, and then I would send them outside to play, largely unsupervised in the case of the older two, for the rest of the day. You see, this is literally Justin’s backyard.
Justin’s childhood had way more in common with my parents’ childhoods than it ever did with mine – my dad and Justin have had conversations about how traumatic it was when the milkman stopped delivering milk at their homes in glass bottles. As a kid Justin would hop on his bike and ride it up into the hills around his house where he would explore for the rest of the day. And while my childhood was not quite as wild and free and Justin’s, it was definitely more than what we’ve been able to give our kids (as has been been discussed ad nauseam in the media lately) and we always feel bad about it. So the summers that they’re able to spend running around, shoeless, half naked and covered in mud, fill me with joy. Especially when they come back in with stories of the evil witches and creatures that live in the “magic woods” (a small grove of apple trees) around grandma and grandpa’s house.
It really is harder to imagine a more extreme contrast than the one between New Delhi, India and rural Utah. With that being said New Delhi had the ultimate draw, and no, it’s not Elliott’s legos even though that’s what he would say he missed the most being away from our house for the summer – it’s my man. We missed him tons in spite of all the fun we were having and so as sad as we were to say goodbye to the U.S. we were pretty excited to be reunited with Justin again, as hard as it was to say goodbye to grandma and grandpa at the airport.
I was pretty worried about the flight with 3 kids all by myself, but for the most part it was relatively painless. Elliott had to sit by himself across the aisle from us for all the flights and for the most part this wasn’t an issue. And now we’re back and settling back into life – school, church, chores – while at the same time emotionally preparing ourselves to do this all over again in 6 weeks.