Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Menlo Park, Ojai and Duarte, CALIFORNIA

Making Balloon Animals
After our crazy night in Portland, we awoke at 4 am to drive the long stretch to Menlo Park, California. We arrived around 7 pm and were greeted along the roadside by my Aunt Donna and Uncle John. They made a delicious meal which we all enjoyed on the patio, by the light of my Uncle's fish lantern.

In the morning, Uncle John got out remote-controlled race cars for Alley to play with. She drove them and Soul-Baby chased after them. It was super cute to watch. We all tried our hand at making balloon animals and shapes. When we climbed in the car to continue our journey, we were surrounded by funky-looking dogs and multi-coloured hats and bracelets.

Uncle John gave us a book called The Ultimate Gift, which we read on our way to Ojai, California. It's a thoughtful read about leaving a legacy. The main character, Red Stevens, is a Millionaire who realizes the disservice he has done to his family by giving them large amounts of money without any training or exemplary wisdom. He has felt disconnected from his family and experiences a sense of regret. As his estate of oil companies is being divided, the true colours of his heirs come through in their selfish and greedy attitudes during the reading of his will.

His great nephew Jason is given an odd inheritance. He must go through 12 challenges on a monthly basis. If he is able to stay on course, he will receive the "ultimate gift" at the end of the year.

It is a simple, yet stirring parable-like tale: definitely worth the read. They have recently made the book into a movie. We really appreciated the gift and the chance to read it aloud and talk as we drove along. We finished it by the time we pulled into the town of Ojai.

Grandma and Grandpa Ward
Ojai was sunny and beautiful. We spent the night with my husband's Grandparents on his Dad's side. Bryan's dad was actually visiting them at the same time so we all enjoyed being together.

They live in a suite atop the garage of their daughter Sarah and her husband Randy's home. They are in their 80's and never cease to amaze me with their wit and hospitality. Grandma only has a toaster oven to cook with and still managed to make Baked Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Pepper, rice and steamed veggies. How does she do it?!

They had gifts for the kids, a trampoline out back for getting the wiggles out before bed, and a screened-in sleeping porch. I could tell it all felt magical for Alley. Before we left the next day, we went out for delicious Mexican food at a local favorite of theirs. And shortly after, we waved as we continued down the highway toward Duarte.

Grandma Russell
Our final stop in California was at "Russell's Rest", the home and Bed and Breakfast of Bryan's Grandmother on his mom's side. What a lovely woman! She showed Alley her singing birds and mural in the Solarium. And various artifacts from her time in Ethiopia. We enjoyed conversation over dinner and then relaxed in the living room when Aunt Jen and Uncle Michael joined us with their Dog Ruby.

One of Bryan's favorite things about his Grandma (fondly called "Queen Esther") is her breakfasts. They are always delicious and celebratory. We were not surprised when we awoke to blaring instrumental music, a beautifully set table and large slices of melon at each spot. She had everything you could imagine for a FULL breakfast. Yum!

And as we pulled away from each home on our trip through California, we felt both filled up with blessings and saddened that we can't do daily life more often with this family we love.


elizabeth said...

thank you so much for sharing; it is hard being far from family - i can relate.

i really got a sense of what you were describing; i love getting pictures of your life and how you are seeking to live fully with much creativity. thanks again... :)

Yalalteca said...

Reading that made me feel as though I were little Allie, surrounded by the blessings of family and adventure. I didn't know much about Brian's side of the family, so it was great to get a sneak peek!

Mari de Andrade said...

Dear Kell,

What a wonderfull trip! Keep posting. Alley is such a beautifull girl, she is intriguing to me as she is such a mixture of you guys in the way she looks. What a miracle.



L.L. Barkat said...

I love that picture of the melon on the plate. A fine and beautiful hospitality.

Mama Monk said...

Thank you Elizabeth, yalalteca, mari and L.L for your comments. It has been a life-giving discipline to record my thoughts from the road, and to know they are read. Thank you for visiting with me.