One of my very favorite people in the whole wide world just turned the big 4-0. She had a party to celebrate the occasion and there was no way I was missing it. I knew it would be a quick weekend, but there was also no way I could go back to the Bay Area without taking Norah. I did the unthinkable (gasp!) and pulled her out of school for a day in order to make the trip. It was totally worth it.
We left at the crack of dawn on Friday. Literally the crack. It was very, very, very early. That's how much we like A. Norah is actually a great traveler, especially when it is just the two of us. She can entertain herself, she's not super needy, and we have great conversations. I took the ipad but never even took it out of the bag because we flew Jet Blue and they have DirectTV. Which means that she got to watch 3.5 hours straight of the Cartoon Network. Brain melt.
We got to SFO easy-peasy and rented a car. I forgot how annoying renting a car at SFO is. You basically trek the entire airport to take a train to the car rental counters, wait in a cray long line, and then wait again to get your car. All of this would be tiresome, but add in a tired five year old who is beyond over it and we could not get out of there fast enough (I actually give her a lot of credit. I was way grumpier than she was).
Grandpa Gene and Ms. Mary were kind enough to drive all the way across the bay to meet us for breakfast. I managed to not take a single picture of them with Norah, which really bums me out. We had a great meal with them. I have come to the conclusion that I am now completely indoctrinated by Texas living. It took us about 10 minutes to find a parking space and we walked about five blocks to the restaurant. Two years ago I would have thought that nothing short of a miracle. Now it just seems inconvenient. Nevertheless, Norah got some gluten free pancakes and some much appreciated grandparent attention, so it was all worth it.
By that time Norah was pretty much DYING to get her hands on Ruby. M texted me a photo of a forlorn Ruby waiting at the window, so we got there as quickly as we could. Now, since we moved we have seen Ruby a good handful of times. The girls also FaceTime and make their moms send photos and videos via text message regularly. So, they have a decent amount of contact with each other. Despite all of that I always have that moment before they see each other when I worry they will no longer have anything in common or won't enjoy each other's company.
My moment of worry was all in vain. It was an immediate love fest.
I think Ruby is taller every time we see her. Now Norah is by no means super tall, but she is definitely above average for girls her age. She is one of the tallest girls in her class. And Ruby TOWERS over her by a good foot. Ruby is a supermodel in the making.
After about 15 seconds they were off--playing kitchen and school and putting on plays about fairies who escape lava attacks and people who want to pin their wings. I love that they play in exactly the same way. Norah gets along with everyone, but she has yet to find someone else that she is as compatible with play-wise then she is with Ruby. They just really like all of the same stuff and are on the same wave length.
After a few hours we headed over to A's house and the dream hatched over five years ago finally came true--A, M, and I drank wine in the afternoon while the kids played outside together. With each other. Not us. It was glorious.
Norah and Ruby can sometimes exist in their own little world, but thankfully they were more than happy to let Ella, Caleb, and Lucas in. Caleb tolerates the girls, but Lucas is more than happy to actually play along with most of their demands. Ella definitely wants to play with the big kids but is also pretty content to do her own thing. I hadn't seen her since she was five months old (in TX) and now she is almost two. Despite my best efforts she had some (understandable) stranger danger, so I spent most of my time chasing her down.
The four "big" kids schooled us in how to best play "Plants vs. Zombies."
And then tore it up outside.
They all got filthy playing with dirt and chalk so they cleaned up in A's gigantic tub (Norah called it the "palace bathtub").
The girls got dressed in the matching nightgowns we brought.
Played some more.
Had gluten free mac and cheese for dinner.
Watched a show.
And did just one more project.
A had invited Norah and I to stay at her house for the night, but it soon became clear that there was no way Ruby was leaving to go home to her own house if Norah was staying. So Ruby stayed too. I was a little concerned they would want to stay up until all hours of the morning, but at about 8:30 (which was technically 10:30 our time), Norah asked if she and Ruby could please, please, please just go to bed already. Done and done.
The next morning they were up early for a rousing game of TRAP. These kids are like elephants with those memories because TRAP is a nonsense game they made up TWO YEARS ago at A's house. As soon as I told Norah we were staying with A she announced they would be playing TRAP. And play TRAP they did.
There was a lot of "Plants vs. Zombies" strategy talk.
A had a hectic morning of in-laws and soccer class, so Norah and I went to see my good friend T and her little boy Sean whose sixth birthday was that day. We got to chat a bit while the kids shared some hot cocoa and Sean told us all about how it felt to be six. Norah said she was really looking forward to it.
I took a picture of Sean and Norah, so Norah insisted on taking a picture of me and T. She's getting better.
We went back to Ruby's house and the girls were very relieved to be back together. Apparently that hour apart almost did them in.
We had a bit of time that afternoon, so we took the girls and we all indulged in some mani/pedis. Norah loved it. This was a legit kid mani/pedi--not just nail painting but nail trimming, filing, buffing, etc. She was really into the pampering.
Norah's first slurpee was next, as were their best zombie impressions. Ruby actually makes a really good zombie.
They asked for pictures of the finished product.
Once we determined we would be able to make it out to A's birthday party, Ruby and Norah were all over the idea of a big, fancy sleepover. Thankfully, Pamma stepped right in and offered to host them. There was pizza, movies, and tons of playing. Ruby's auntie even came by with gluten free Halloween cookies for the girls to decorate.
Pamma sent us photos throughout the evening of the fun they had.
The sweetness is palpable.
Meanwhile, A was gracious enough to organize a sleepover of our own and got the moms a room at the hotel across the street from the restaurant where the party was held.
This is how more of my Saturday nights should start.
We had someone from the hotel take our photo and although it is pretty blurry it is easy to see how fantastic we all looked.
The party was at a place called The Sea and was a gathering of A's family, friends from childhood, college, and grown-up 'hood. It was a lovely celebration for an awesome person and I was really happy that I got to be there. There are very few people in the world like A--funny, charming, smart, generous, and really, really, really kind. I feel lucky every day that I get to know her.
And I felt very lucky that night to get to eat these scallops.
Unfortunately the rest of the night is a bit of a blur because, well, free flowing wine. It was just like a wedding--almost impossible to NOT get drunk. Someone lovely was always refilling my glass and I felt like it was rude to say no...thankfully it was also Daylights Savings, so at least we got an extra hour in that morning.
Norah and I had to leave really early to get home at a decent hour. I picked her up from Ruby's and we were able to get out of there with only a few tears (mostly mine) and promises of what they plan to do on our holiday visit in just a few weeks (BVZ and Louie get to come this time). The trek back to the airport was long, but tolerable.
Norah wanted to take a photo of us making a "sad face" on the train, but the light flashed at the exact moment I took it and she really liked the effect.
It's always sad to leave but nice to know we will be back soon. For the first time coming back, Austin truly felt like home. That makes me a little sad but mostly very happy. BVZ and Louie were thrilled to see us. Lou told be beforehand that while we were gone he planned to: 1) play with all the toys in Norah's room; 2) eat tacos in the bathtub and 3) drive a car. It was mum's the word about what they actually ended up doing, so for all I know Louie now has a learner's permit.
It was a great weekend. I look forward to many, many more.