Back in the USA: Family, Friends, and Pumpkin Bowling

After a three hour delay, a grueling ten-hour redeye flight from Buenos Aires to Mexico City, a three-hour layover, and then another four-hour flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles, we arrived home–or at least to one of the homes we call home. Soleil slept the entire first leg of the trip and half the second, leaving Mama and Dada to suffer quietly with bad movies, intermittent sleep and free airline booze.

At one point in Mexico City, I recall telling Tree that it would have been easier had we driven back to the States. I mean, really, what’s 30,000 more miles and another four years compared to 20 hours of uncomfortable, germ-infested air travel? 
Flight home

Whenever we’re in the States, I’m overwhelmed by the love and support from our family and friends.

For all intents and purposes, we are homeless people. We are those friends that show up on your doorstep with overflowing suitcases, surfboards, a car seat with no car, and a high impact two-year that want to crash at your house for… you know…a while.  I still can’t believe anyone let’s us do this.

Soleil, below, working hard at the desk Cyndi, her Abuelita, bought her.  It’s the only furniture we own. (Thank you Cyndi.  We love you so much and are so grateful for all that you do for us.)

Soleil and Abuelita

We spent two weeks in Los Angeles, and Soleil played nearly every day with her cousin Abigail.  These two are so sweet together, shoving puffs in each other’s mouths, offering slobbery sucks off the same sippy-cup. Ten months apart, Soleil has been in love with her baby cousin from the day she was born.  As some of you may know, my sister and I don’t speak to our parents, and the majority of our extended family lives back East. For much of our lives, it was just us–or, at least it felt that way.  Now, my sister and I are both married to wonderful men, with two precious little girls between the two of us.  I look at the two of them hugging and kissing (the babies, not the men) and I think, We’re okay. 

I can’t begin to describe how healing it is to give the love you didn’t receive. I feel sad that my parents were unable to find this kind of love within themselves–they struggle with psychic wounds they just can’t seem to heal–but I am so grateful that my sister and I have it within to give and around to receive.

Cousins playing

Kissing cousins

Hugging cousins

Two generations of Aunties.

Aunties and nieces

Soleil was really having a blast in Hermosa at her Abuelita’s house, playing at the beach, jumping in the waves, visiting her cousin, rocking out on the piano, singing songs…..

Here’s a short video of her full ‘concert’.  (Warning: CUTENESS OVERLOAD. Your heart might explode.)

But then she got sick. The earth stopped. And she consumed nothing but teta and ice cream for four straight days.  Apparently those are  the only two things worth living for when you’re not feeling well. (Funny, Tree feels the same way).

Get Well Soon Soleil

Raising Soleil in South America for the past two years has been great baby-training (read: parent-training). She’s adaptable and friendly, which I’m sure is partially a product of her nature, but always being on the go has definitely shaped her easy-going attitude, as well. And thank heavens she doesn’t freak out when things around her change because everything around her is always changing. On the road she slept in cushy hotel beds, on the floor of the van, or under a tree. She made friends for a day-week-month, said ciao and blew besitos, and then made new friends in the next town.  Sometimes we were camped in the middle of nowhere, spending our days rock climbing and playing in the dirt; sometimes we were in capital cities, going to puppet shows and eating gelato at sidewalk cafes. People spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese. Whatever. She spoke Spanglishuese and thought everyone else should, too. The only thing that didn’t change in this kid’s life was the constant flow of love from Tree, me, and her ‘muchos amigos.’

Living on the road made us tough and easy-to-please. But, sadly,  I think all that grit and gratitude might turn soft real soon. Being back home is just too easy. Everything is accessible and convenient. There’s all these advantages like family and friends who will watch my child for free, huge parks without major safety hazards like concrete below the lopsided, wooden slide with splinters sticking out; and, at least in Hermosa and Hood River (our two main stays so far), there’s so many fresh, locally sourced restaurants that make eating out a healthy (albeit not cheap) option.

Soleil's gym

Yeah, Soleil, I feel the same way. It’s a little overwhelming, isn’t it?
Soleil caution tape

After a couple weeks in LA, we flew to Oregon to hangout at ODP headquarters in Hood River.

Soleil, the real CEO of Outdoorplay.  The boss is back in town!

Soleil ODP

For the past two weeks, we’ve been staying with our very good friend, Cheryll, in White Salmon, Washington. The first time I stayed here was five years ago with Kiki, and both Kiki and Soleil had the same reaction to meeting Cheryll: love at first sight.  Some people just have good energy. “Shehr-WOOL?” Soleil says like a question, no less than a hundred times a day.  Sol toddles behind her, babbling orders in English, a language she is rapidly learning so that she can better “communicate” with her new friend.

Cheryll and Sol

A couple days before Halloween, Cheryll took us to Rasmussen farms to pick out a pumpkin. This was a mind-blowing experience for me. I couldn’t believe that the pumpkins really grew on vines out of the ground!  Where I grew up in L.A, our pumpkin patches were corner dirt lots, usually in less-nice neighborhoods where seasonal real estate wasn’t outrageously expensive, and the pumpkins were laid out in neat rows, according to price and size.

A real pumpkin patch

“Look at all those wild pumpkins in their natural habitat!” I said to Cheryll, but she said we did’t even see the half of them.

picking the pumpkin

Even more impressive than the REAL pumpkin patch was all the fun stuff around it.
soleil tractor

Dragons, Satyrs, Wizards, Witches and Unicorns….Soleil Dragon

Wizard and Unicorn

 The best by far, though, was the pumpkin bowling. Soleil took this very seriously.

Picking out her weapon….

Picking her pumpkin ball

Lining it up….

Lining it up

Okay so her ‘roll’ was more an overhand hurl. But…

Soleil pumpkin bowling

STRIKE!!!! We let form slide a little in the name of function.


It’s strange being back, and sometimes Tree and I lie in bed fantasizing about aborting mission and returning ASAP to South America.  But, at the same time, we’re fitting nicely into the fold, tucked under the wings of amazing friends and family, feeling snug and warm in a surreal Miyazaki embrace.


Hugging Maui

Sol has started going to an awesome Spanish immersion school, half-day, three times a week. We’re having dinner dates and going to story time at the library and scheduling swim and gymnastic lessons. I’m taking a How-to-Submit-Articles kind of instructional/motivational online writing course, and Tree is working his ass off everyday at Outdoorplay.

In other words, we’re working too hard and overbooking ourselves like good Americans do.

Soleil and Rosie
First day of school

Soleil at Story Time

Soleil at Story Time 2
Soleil and Mama bunny closeup

Last week we took an improptu day trip up to Seattle to see family.  Sol was so happy to see her Noni. She melted right into her arms.

Noni and Sol

And she played hard with her Tia and cousins, Nica and Theo.  Soleil is having enough fun these days to float the whole family. Which is good.

Indra and Soleil 2

Indra and Soleil

Next week we’ll be in San Diego, then to Arizona, and then back in Los Angeles for Thanksgiving.  ONWARD! -Stevie


  1. Uncle Mick says:

    I suspect Sol handles change so well because you & Tree are constants in her life…..

  2. <3

  3. Julie Williams says:

    Welcome back!! Enjoy this time with Sol and being surrounded by family and friends! Love you girl!

  4. I enjoy reading your posts. Your travels and life experiences. It is neat to hear of your experience coming back to the USA. I would read your older posts and think, “Wow, what a tough life”, like when your camping lonely out in South America to go climbing. No one around. Then I would read of these neat experiences in cities with new friends you made. I love what you have done.

    It is interesting to hear how easy we have it in USA. I live in San Francisco Bay Area.

    Friends, Family and Life Experiences are what count.

    Now I think a Truck Camper is for you guys. I’m looking at the Northern Lite Truck Campers. They are very nice inside. 4 season and can camp anywhere. Have some solar. Long tray underneath for skis. This way you can work and take last minute trips to wherever. Say you want to Mtn Bike Bend Oregon, or do some yoga in SF or go to LA or San Diego for the surf or Seattle for coffee or Whistler to ride or climb Yosemite or run off to Moab

    When my kids were younger we had a truck camper. We use to travel to race dirt bikes and mtn bikes. I had taken 7 years off from work and just focused on life experiences with my kids. We surfed, biked, raced motorcycles, traveled. Economy hit in 2008 and I had to lay off some people and go back to work. Got into Yoga heavily and now the kids have moved out. I’m back looking at a truck camper to travel around in. I may live in it or just take trips in it. Have not decided. Single again, so I’m free to do what ever. The Northern Lite’s with Crew Cab truck are perfect.

    Anyways, love your life style 🙂

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