A sea star in the palm is worth almost as much as an octopus on the shore
A stranded octopus (not blue-ringed)
A kid on the beach pointed out this large octopus to us and we watched it for a while before someone helped it back into the water. It was pretty amazing.
We went to Santa Barbara to visit Omie over Christmas break. This decision was made at the last minute due to some miscommunications between Justin, who assumed we were going, and me, who thought it was decided we weren’t going anywhere. I scrambled to find a place to stay over a period of about a week, since staying at rental houses now involves asking for the time and space, waiting up to 24 hours for a response, and then trying somewhere else. Once accepted, the funds are withdrawn immediately, so we can’t try multiple places at once. Most of the places I tried had not updated their calendars and apologized for not being able to let us stay, one after the other after the other.
Santa on the beach in “Santa” Barbara (handing out a candy cane to Soren and other kids)
Still, I kept trying because we wanted to go, the kids wanted to go, and we know Omie comes up here a lot to see us. It would make the holiday much more special. What I ended up having to do was go farther afield, but we ended up in a nice house in Montecito, which is an area just adjacent to Santa Barbara where a ton of movie stars live. When my phone offered to “check in” for my location, it asked me if I was at Oprah’s, which was only a few-minute walk away. We were just down the road from a historical mansion (which I did not get to tour).
Soren, hanging out in the chair at our rental house
It was stormy and cold most of the time we were there, so we didn’t get to enjoy the yard very much, but I saw a lot of hummingbirds and the kids picked grapefruits for me. On the last day, it was so stormy the fence in the back yard actually blew down, along with a lot of the patio furniture. Tree debris was scattered all over the streets and along the freeways. A wildfire burned out of control 20 miles away in Ventura.
Soren and I were sick the whole time we were there as well. In fact, when the rest of the family went to see the new Star Wars film, Soren and I went back to the house and rested on the couch. Soren and I shared a room most of the time during our vacation because we coughed all night and kept each other awake. Soren is mostly better, although since I started writing this his dinner came up, out, and saturated the floor, his sheets, and “Wow! It even came up through my nose! That’s incredible!” Claire and Ronin have been sick off and on, with occasional cold symptoms and norovirus-type symptoms. They were mostly okay on the trip, though. Justin tells me every few days that he is sure that he is getting sick, and then he doesn’t seem to get worse.
This video shows the three kids playing “Simon Says” only with “Kitty Says.” They started out with Simon but after a while they got tired of that so they switched to other types of creatures. Ronin was calling the shots with this one. I thought it was very cute.
We did not spend all that much time at our rental house, although it was very nice to have the space to stretch out. We had everyone over for dinner several times, although I didn’t do any cooking. Justin’s mom brought over a bunch of delicious food on more than one occasion.
It was very nice to have two separate living areas, divided by a cozy fireplace
One day we went to the Mission in Santa Barbara. Ronin and I have both been wanting to tour it for ages, and it was quite beautiful. I believe there was some historical information for us to watch in the little chapel, and in writing on plaques here and there, and there were displays in the museum. There was a live-animal manger scene out front, but since it wasn’t quite Christmas yet, there was no baby Jesus for display. Our children were just thrilled to be able to pet some baby animals.
Claire pondering lives lost too soon, at the Santa Barbara Mission
There were some delightful gardens as well, but I had to take Soren out without seeing the whole Mission because he was behaving recklessly, probably because he was sick. We went out and (almost) napped in the car for a brief while waiting for everyone else to finish. This was the day that we skipped out on the movie. Justin was very surprised that Soren agreed to miss it, but he was feeling awful and he knew that he couldn’t sit quietly.
Walking at Elings Park
We did venture away from the ocean at one point. The Botanic Gardens were closed on the day we tried to visit, so we went for a walk at Elings Park, the largest privately funded park in America. We found a geocache and watched out for hang-gliders. We went out for lunch at the restaurant at a nearby beach. The fish tacos hit the spot.
Eating lunch at The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach (Arroyo Burro County Beach)
We spent a lot of time on the beach. My mom is still talking about how much she loved it.
Paused for a moment in front of the tree
Soren showing off his art kit to Justin
Christmas was wonderful. The kids got everything they wanted, and then some. They had pointed out some things in a catalog to Omie the last time she visited, and she very nicely bought them what they asked for. Soren had been asking for an art kit since Claire and Ronin each got one from our friend Chris on a recent birthday. They got some cool new games, clothes, and also a week at a summer camp (from my dad) that will teach them archery, tracking, building fires, and wilderness survival skills.
Claire and Grandma Jan
We did go back to the beach after the kids wound down from unwrapping and playing with their presents.
Claire and Omie walking together
Panorama of the beach
Ronin examining the water
Ronin pointing at a snowy egret
This is where all the magic happens
My mom, Jan, walking on the beach
We did not mean to coordinate all wearing red and blue. It just happened. Thankfully there were no prohibitions against gang colors. I often dress the kids in bright red just to make them more easily found, since that one camping trip when I realized that dressing them in browns and greens might be more soothing to the eye, but also more camoflaging.
Omie told me I had to see this art installation on the beach — and she was right!
Claire dancing in the waves even more
I realized, when I was recommending a trip to Santa Barbara to some friends of ours today, that many of our trips in the past have been accompanied by winter colds or some other kind of illness, or Justin’s sprained ankle. I guess winter vacation tends to fall in the microbe-sharing time of year. I am very glad we went, and despite feeling a little draggy after more than two weeks of being sick (I’m trying to post this retrospectively), the extra rest and not having to work have been doing me a lot of good. I’m averaging about twice the amount of sleep I normally get every night. I just hope that we were good enough to not pass this along as well.
Grandma Jan and the kids all together on Omie’s couch
Claire, with Omie serving a lavish breakfast of fresh fruit, German pancake, jams, cottage cheese, sausage, eggs, coffee and tea
Thank you so much for your hospitality, Omie! If you read the New Year’s post, you’ll see that they resolve to do this every year!