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I over think everything.

Case in point: I’ve been sitting here, sort of half-watching “Blue’s Clues” while trying to figure out how to start this post. I want to be funny but I’m not funny so nix that, I want the post to be deep but not toooooo deep or people’ll get lost, and I want it to be full of a wit and wisdom that I simply don’t have. And my house yurt is a mess because I’m gutting it for a full-on feng shui because I need CHANGE IN OUR LIVES and that just isn’t going to happen without some feng shui action. So this is more stream of consciousness than anything, right?

I’m 44 now, guys.

Forty-four years old.

This is a big deal for me because Dana was 44 when he left last year. I’m the same age as he was. Am I going to go this year too? Who knows. Who knows when any of us will go. But I do know that I want my affairs to be in better order than they are. I don’t want a lot of stuff untried, undone. So I’ve scheduled my tattoo appointments, clarifying the legacy that I want to leave my kids, and pulling out all of my unfinished paintings to finish.

The world is a beautiful one on the Lost Coast right now.

Flowers are everywhere, especially California poppies and yellow mustard.

When I was a little kid on our sheep ranch in Cloverdale, I loved that mustard. My mom had a vegetable garden that was fenced (because, deer) and it was choked up with yellow mustard growing wild.

My dad went to whack it all out and I was so upset. I cried and wailed and begged him to leave the mustard because I loved it so much. He was annoyed, “it’s a WEED” but my mom took pity on me asked him to leave it. He grudgingly relented.

It’s weird, the things that we remember.

Half-jointed stories of moments that meant something to us, or simply moments that stuck to the crevices of our mind. Golden balls of “core” like they chased in the movie, “Inside Out.”

I don’t know what my kids will remember; I’m trying to make their memories something beautiful – always a hard thing when I’m solo parenting and stressed out, overwhelmed and under-supported, with the sadness from the loss of Dana always, always being just under my skin and at the ever-ready to spill forth into full-on grief.

Then I’m just kicking myself for yelling at them or being angry when there really wasn’t any need to be, you know? I was reacting on reactions and then more reacting. This stupid vicious circle that solves nothing.

I remember to breathe sometimes.

I guess this is my version of a mid-life “crisis”?

But it’s not a crisis.

It’s a step back and an evaluation of my life as I’m making it. It’s a mid-life re-boot.

I don’t feel the need to prove anything or do anything, but I need to do with absolute surety, that I am doing my best, that I’m going forward in directions that I know I will regret if I don’t.

Like figuring out how to parent.

Not in the way that my parents did with me or Dana – or rather, maybe I’ll take a few things and not the rest.

But like, how to do this?

That picture of Micah fake-meditating reminds me of real-meditating, and of course that leads me to what I feel is the answer to this whole parenting thing.

I just have to research, try, try, try.

Breathe, let go, breathe. On repeat.

Mack’s growing up.

And with that comes his own personality blooming, full-force.

He’s flower-loving, hella creative, independent, fun, sociable, eminently likable. He’s also so sensitive that he’ll pack his bag and leave if he’s upset with us, and he’s 4.

He’ll also just curl up and cry with upset or just need to “be ALONE.”

And he he likes dance parties, making books, creating “masterpieces” and all things SuperHero/Pokemon/whatever-Micah-likes-now.

Back to my mid-life re-boot

44.

My brother left his physical life last September when he was 44.

Think about all the things you want to do before you go, or who you want to be. What kind of person do you want to go out as. It can seem like an overwhelming amount of BIG-ness (I mean, there is so much to do! And learn and grow and be!), until you kind of break it down into bite-sized chunks. (It should go without saying that I’m guessing my way around this, because like everyone else, I’ve never done this before.)

So, bite-sized chunks.

Bite-sized chunks. Using the visual analogy of the maypole, I need to not look up at the distance that I need to climb, I need to focus on the ribbons.

The color of the ribbons. The length. The pattern they will weave. All of that to me is a metaphor for what matters most in this world.


That answer will be different for everyone.

I think for me, relationships form a big chunk of my bite. Like, the relationships between me and my kids, me and Mikey, my mom and I. The relationships between people that I’m angry with or want nothing to do with – because if I believe (as I do) that we’ll have life after “death”, then relationships naturally carry on. I need to learn to take the difficult pieces and resolve them.

That is SO. FREAKIN’. HARD.

So, yeah. Maybe if I focus on the smaller pieces – like the color and weave (- the feeling, intuition, words), the larger pieces will come together? Because I know I can’t focus on the larger pieces. It’s just too much.

Art’s in there too, on my list of things that are really important to me.

You know, I used to wake up naturally at 5 in the morning to charge out of bed to edit photos and blog. Since I’ve been changing the format of this site to “more helpful; less me” I’ve been sleeping in. It’s super weird.

I need to figure out a balance – so that I can make this site what I want it to be – which is, super helpful – and also get my art-rush in. Because clearly, art will get me out of bed when it’s dark outside but even though writing a post on Down syndrome Resources is fun, it won’t.

I miss Hawaii too.

I miss swimming and the warm ocean. I miss being able to just take the kids to the beach and stay all day, only worrying about sunscreen and if I brought enough snacks.

The ocean up here is so glorious and powerful, but it’s like this constant tease of being so close to it and not being able to go in because of the freezing cold, sharks, riptide, and currents.

I know even after we move back to Hawaii, this place will stay in my heart. Northern California has always been in my heart, with it’s majestic beauty, greens and lush loveliness.

I’ve loved to live in a place that I’m from, too.

I mean, I wasn’t born on the Lost Coast, but with my Grandma having been born in Blue Lake, my Grandparents living in Big Lagoon when they were first married, my Great-Grandfather and Grandpa both loggers (and my Great-Grandpa actually killed by a falling tree), and with cousins, nephews and family that I can run into at the market, it’s pretty sweet. The third culture kid part of me always craved this.

And that’s a cool mushroom thing that has no place in this story! (but it sure is cool, isn’t it?!!)

Over and out.

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Lovely Jesusita (“Tia Susie”) sent the kids presents from Texas. That included an Elsa dress that Moxie wore for 3 days in a row, a life-sized Elsa doll that sits next to Moxie at the table, and fun things for all 3, including kites.

Mack saw those kites and his head about exploded. He could.not.wait to get outside and let that kite rip, but day after day was rainy and completely un-kite-worthy. Then came a day that was sunny. He busted it out.

There was a small problem of the wind. As in, there was none.

So after a few tries of running down the hill as fast as he could, trying to get the kite to float aloft, he hollered for Micah and Moxie’s help.

They all worked on the mechanics of the kite body, the tail, the configuration.

I took photos of the budding poppies.

And the pond, that is chock-full of water, which is kind of cool.

Mack kept on running down that hill, trying to make the kite take off. Over and over again, he would race down with his hopes on his little face, only to see that the kite would not take off. There just wasn’t any wind.

Mikey came down to take a look at it.

Micah and Moxie had given up and were playing on the trampoline.

Mikey kept helping Mack figure out the kite configuration – what might make it fly? What could mechanically be changed to help it even a little?

And then the wind blew.

I was thinking about that for a long time.

The pieces of trying so hard to make the kite fly, then how high the kite would fly with just a breath of wind, those were not lost on me.

I think about the myriad of times in my life when I have myself been holding on to some kite (maybe it was a job or a boyfriend, not a literal kite) trying to make it work, trying and trying and trying.

And in the end, the only way I could make anything go was to let go and let the wind blow.

Let the wind blow.

I look at the house now –

It looks pretty nice from the outside, down below. What you can’t see in the photo is how unfinished it all is, and how impossible it feels to finish it. Impossible, because of the isolation, impossible because Dana is gone, impossible because it costs so much money.

The outhouse feels impossible too, especially through the winter and the rain.

The roads feel impossible.

Imagine a minimum of 50 minutes of this a day, and you will also understand why we are perpetually fixing the car.

Life seems sometimes to me this interesting adventure in which you need to test your courage to get your dreams rolling and the things you long to experience in play. And from there, it’s an exciting bundle of choice. Choice to run down a hill to fly your kite – ? Or find where the wind will blow?

There is also the choice to check the mechanics of the kite – all of the parameters which would make the kite able to fly in the first place. Those need to be there too, right? So there is also that.

I remember reading Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha (free on kindle, follow that link) when I was living in Tucson, Arizona when I was 22, half my life ago. I remember that nothing struck me so much in that book as a sense of recognition that that would be my life.

That I would, like Siddhartha, experience everything, and I’d come back to the end, to the river, to something so simple.

I knew that at age 22, I know it still and the details remain pieces that my mind longs to slip into place like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together. I want to know, for example: when do we leave? When do we stay? How clear must everything in life be?

And then when I close my eyes and feel my brother Dana in my heart, I know for a certainty that making sense of things with my mind isn’t important. I need to make sense of everything within me. It has to resonate in a clear way with my spirit, and that’s it.

Spring is bursting over here on the Lost Coast, in between all the rain and cold spells.

That 2-hour drive to Costco (or anywhere in town) is still as striking, jaw-dropping and as utterly magnificent as it was when we first came here.

The kids are still romping it in the “bathtub” which we converted from an agricultural tub, and filled with fresh spring water, from this property.

How good can it get, really, when our kids are bathing in water so fresh from the source?!

How amazing is this life that we live, how incredible that we were given the opportunity to experience this at all?!

I am so grateful.

And I lean and feel the wind beneath me, and feel my own spirit loosen it’s hold, allowing that air-force to rise up and lift us.

I talk so much about disability on this site, and how I define myself as “disabled.” Not meaning of course that I can’t do anything; rather than I have a duality in my physical existence: the way that my body is and the world around me. I’ve also talked about how I see travel and disability overlapping. Disability is a strong aspect of my personal culture, but so too is being a third culture kid.

What “third culture kid” means is that I was brought up outside the US, by parents who were from a culture other than the ones I was raised in. That’s me being raised in Fiji and Hawaii by parents from the Berkeley area, and then in Japan and Taiwan  by myself (before I was 18, as well as after).

Being a third culture kid is the big, huge, enormous thing that Mikey and I have in common. Besides the fact that we love each other eternally (and have 3 kids together), it’s probably why we’ll never split up: it’s too hard to find other people like us. He was raised in the Philippines, New Zealand, France, Ghana, Bangladesh and the US.

Both of us are used to moving a lot. Not necessarily traveling full-time like the Bumfuzzles (a family whose blog I love to follow), but like setting down, living for 3-4 years in one place, then leaving. And repeat. And repeat.

I’ve been getting itchy feet, right along with Mikey, and I can’t tell if it’s the rain or the effect of growing up as a third culture kid. Like, is the constant, incessant rain and dealing with walking to the outhouse in the mud and downpours getting to me, or is it that we’ve lived here for over 3 years now, so our internal clock is ticking and telling us to move on?

For anyone who is a third culture kid, you know what a hard call this is. Are you making up annoying things to be annoyed at because you feel like it’s time to move, or are you genuinely annoyed at it, or is it just the rain and it’s all going to pass?

I really don't know

But I do know that when I’m driving uphill (or down, for that matter) and the car tires sink down in.one.more.huge.pothole and the body sort of slides around in the mud a little, potholes so bad that (as Mikey quotes an NPR piece on Zimbabwe) “only drunk drivers go straight,” and I’m thinking, ‘nuh-uh… I’m over this.”

Is it the rain?

Or is it 3 years?

Mikey says it the amount of rain in such a short period of time, plus the dirt mountain roads.

Hmm.

via GIPHY

I don't know!

Off the grid living, man!

Roaming with Blue

Moxie was gifted a bunch of Frozen gear from her Auntie Jesusita, and wouldn’t take it off for THREE DAYS.

She walked through the rain and mud with that Elsa dress on! It was as cute as it gets.

And those 3 are fish. They jump in the tub any chance they get, rain, shine or anything in between.

I don’t know, you know?

We’re still looking into moving back to Hawai’i, like I was talking about in this post. We’re looking at land, options, jobs, schools the whole ball of wax.

And we are taking our time, because the one thing that both Mikey and I both want to do is  The Right Thing. We’re just trying to figure out what that is.

We’ve been having fun over in our neck of the hill.

Micah’s at home now on Mondays and Fridays for homeschool – a nice compromise between full time homeschooling and full time school. We’re seeing how it goes, and so far, it’s been great! He’s built his own computer, he’s working on coding it, he works with Mikey on truck-fixing projects, zooms through more Harry Potter, practices art with Mack (who is also home on Mondays and Fridays), and jumps on the trampoline.

I like it because it’s cool to see him really taking off with things he likes, and still be able to go to school, which he also enjoys.

That’s Blue, our crazy-making Blue Heeler, trying to chase cows, who are getting really pissed off with her.

Mack got to close the cattle gate for the first time. He was thrilled.

Country life is awesome.

When there is a break in the rain, we go for it. The kids and the dogs respond exactly the same way – if I say, “let’s go!” they race for the door.

Mack and Moxie hold hands while they run. I swoon.

Micah’s back to bike riding. I remembered what a stellar rider he was before, but he hasn’t been able to ride much recently on account of our hills (we don’t live in a “hilly place”, indicating there are some flat spaces; we live ON A HILL, which means it’s all about a hill and more hill). Solution? Walk down to where it’s flat and roll!

It’s totally working. He’s diggin’ it.

This is a road! Haha. Glad most of us have high-clearance vehicles out here. right?

I love it here

Fresh air, pure water. Healthy kids who are thriving in the light.

Sometimes I think back to the ‘me’ that I was, what, 15-20 years ago? You couldn’t give me enough concrete! I was in joy over all those rail tracks in Tokyo, and I lived for big city, big time.

Polar opposite now, baby.

I guess it goes to show that you just never know about anyone.

I mean, look at this guy! On our second date, he told me didn’t want to have kids!

And here he is, the ultimate Daddy-Man, doing the family thing from The Good Dinosaur. Cuz he does stuff like that now.

I know. I married well. Stop being jealous; just come on over and he’ll bake you some bread too.

These guys are tight.

When Moxie’s at school on Mondays and Fridays, he draws pictures for her. When they are in school together on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, he picks flowers at school for her, and can’t wait to see her again (even though their classrooms are next door to each other, their schedules are different).

He adores her. And the feeling is mutual.

She’s being a goat. See the shells on her head?

She thinks it’s a riot.

So of course, he does, too.

And it really IS pretty funny!

That’s our simple little life right here, right now.

It’s winter over here on the Lost Coast.

Which means that these pictures are from last month, because there is nothing here that is not green right now!

It’s an Emerald Wonderland.

A very WET Wonderland.

 

That little creek there is normally our tiny (non-babbling) brook.

Those are my feet there, as I stand on our little footbridge and admire the new creek that’s totally babbling. I mean, it’s babbling so hard that warbling. Is “warbling” louder than “babbling”?

Anyway. My point is that there is a LOT OF WATER.

Mikey thought he could make it!

That was kind of hilarious.

Then of course, he had to drive the tractor down to get it out before a landslide potentially happened and covered it. Then he had to clean out the water-logged engine, change the fluids and laugh uproariously at the truck-driving-in-the-river scene in “Open Season.”

Tons of earthworms coming on up to say ‘hi’ now. Or get eaten by our chickens. Who are getting a new coop, by the way!

Exciting!

I’m sure they will be super-psyched about that.

Not as psyched as I’ll be to get new doors though.

Want to hear my biggest peeve now?

Okay, here it is: OUR DOORS.

The doors to our yurt don’t shut all the way. For one of the doors, the catch thing doesn’t work and it can swing open. For the other, the doorknob was knocked off by the kids. What this means is that the dogs can just wander in at any time they want – we have no way at all of keeping them OUT.

The same goes for cold! Coupled with a non-insulated place (with the drywall incomplete), a fireplace that burns in the wrong area (right by the door, so all the heat goes out) and one little tiny propane heater to do the trick, and you have for one Mama that’s not totally tickled pink.

But the kids don’t care and neither does Mikey, really. I’m the minority in this.

Boy, does Moxie ever love Blue Velcro.

Look at that.

L-O-V-E.

Guess what else she loves?!

Running in mud!

Except when she falls in it, maybe!

Cold, wet weather + hot chocolate = bliss.

And that’s a fact.

:// Over and out.

PS

PS2

Want to buy some of these photos? Head on over to my shop!

While the rhythm of the life here, shuttling between the ICU (to be with Dana) and the hotel (for the swimming and sleep with the kids) is not a difficult one, I miss home.

I miss the ka-pow! beauty of the mist, the water, trees and hills. I even miss that stinker, Blue, and Kianna, and our cats. I miss Mikey most of all.

Here are some photos that I found on my computer. I guess this is a good time to tell you that I’ve started up a place where you can look at my photos and even buy them if you want. It’s linked here.

Over & out.

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PS

Thanks to my friend Jesusita for letting me take her photo

So, what do you do when you live by one of the wonders of the world? Do you go and hang out all the time and explore the living marrow out of it? Well, you probably do, but we don’t. We usually just drive through the Redwoods, because we are in a hurry to get home. Sometimes we pull over to pee. But that’s about it.

Summer vacation changed all that, with the no-schedule and my own remarkably relaxed attitude (my new motto: “have stroller; can do”).

Meriah Nichols Redwoods-55Moss makes me happy. I think I must have been from Yoda’s tribe in a past life.

Meriah Nichols Redwoods-49Meriah Nichols Redwoods-51Interesting random fact: do you remember Julia “Butterfly” Hill? She was that girl in the 90’s who lived on a redwood tree for 2 years to prevent it from being cut down. Well, she came to the Lost Coast and was living briefly out here before she met the people who would inspire her to action. Kind of cool, huh? When I was digging for a link for you just now, I came upon this old article in Mother Jones about her (linked here). She sounds like an amazing human being. Two years in a tree, man. That’s not for the faint-hearted!

Meriah Nichols Redwoods-44Meriah Nichols Redwoods-46Meriah Nichols Redwoods-26Meriah Nichols Redwoods-25This is my favorite picture:

Meriah Nichols Redwoods-21When I was little, my Grandpa Knobby came over to our house and played his harmonica. Grandpa was an amazing harmonica player – like, one of those guys you see playing sometimes and are like, “holy COW; I didn’t know you could play classical stuff on a harmonica!” So, there he was playing the harmonica and my dad was recording it all on his brand-spanking-new video recorder (this was the late 70’s). I stayed right behind Grandpa, with my brother Dana, and happily danced around while pulling my face like these guys above.

I remember my dad getting mad at us, but Grandpa just laughed.

Meriah Nichols Redwoods-1Kids.

They are so exasperating sometimes, aren’t they? And adorable. And everything in between.

Meriah Nichols Redwoods-15Meriah Nichols Redwoods-32Meriah Nichols Redwoods-8Meriah Nichols Redwoods-62Meriah Nichols Redwoods-56Meriah Nichols Redwoods-34Mack has this thing: he has to bring a ton of stuff with him, wherever. In the photo above, he had collected night vision binoculars, water bottle, backpack (with spiderman and a sweater inside). He called it his “gear”, like, “got my gear!”And then he hit the ground in this huge tantrum when, oh I don’t know – what was it that time? Did I not fold his pants leg up the right way? Or did he want his hat and I refused to go back to the car for it? Honestly, I don’t remember.

But it sure happens a lot. It’s like, we’ll be having fun and then Mack will get upset about something and bust out.

On that particular day, I felt myself getting annoyed about his tantrum, then I just stood there and looked up at the trees and tried to get all zen with life. Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s all goooooooood. Breathe in. Breathe out. I was trying to not throw us in the Cycle of Upset – where he gets upset, I’m upset with his upset, then he’s upset with my upset AND his original upset is still there.

When I was super-chill from the breathing, I found it was a lot easier to figure out what he was upset about, how to resolve/redirect it.

Meriah Nichols Redwoods-61It’s funny though, because of all of Mack’s fussiness, I can see my Grandpa Knobby. My Grandpa was the guy, after all, who starched his shirts, then folded his cuffs precisely under, “just to be different.” Grandpa, like Mack, took care of his stuff and liked what he had. I remember he said once after I figured out that his curtains were over 30 years old, “yeah, I’ve got the same curtains, the same house, the same wife! I don’t like change.”

Neither does Mack.

Meriah Nichols Redwoods-16haha!

Meriah Nichols Redwoods-9Over and out. Hope your week is going great, you are enjoying the Conventions and taking time to smell the flowers. Or climb the trees. Or whatever floats your boat.

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Mikey and I jokingly say that we have 4 types of friends: the type who don’t visit. The type who visit and leave the next day (usually because of kids and incredibly uncomfortable guest quarters), the type who who visit more than a day (even with incredibly uncomfortable guest quarters), and lastly, the type who stay more than a day (in the incredibly uncomfortable guest quarters) and then come back (to the same or even more uncomfortable guest quarters!).

My friend Stefanie is the rare breed of the latter.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-17She and I became friends a million years ago when we were both working in the disability field (she, with legal advocacy and me, with career counseling) and yeah, man. We gelled!

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The funny thing is, so have our boys.

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I get the warm fuzzies when I see them together. There is something wonderful about your kids being real friends with your friend’s kid, you know?

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-7
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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-9And seeing your own friend playing with your kids.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-10Stefanie is some kind of kid-whisperer.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-16I was flabbergasted by the way she can diffuse and whip situations around.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-85
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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-81Because all of these happy pictures weren’t always happy.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-91The thing is, she sort of zeros in and figures out what the key issue/desire of the child is, then redirects it.

After I saw her redirect this really normal situation that Moxie and Mack get into (splashing/screaming/crying/fighting), I sputtered out a “WHAT are you doing?? HOW DO YOU DO THIS????” She said she tunes into this thing called “A-Ha Parenting” – it’s all about peaceful parenting, connecting and coaching, rather than controlling. Even Mikey was super impressed, and both of us are on board with taking the A-Ha Parenting course.

There is nothing – nothing!!! – like seeing a pro in action, actually diffusing and redirecting the explosions that your kids have daily, to make you a convert.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-96Not to make this post all about “A-Ha Parenting.” I just felt that as your friend, I really should mention it because, WHOAH.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-12Hey cutie!

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-14You are pretty cute, too.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-15We had a lot of fun at the river.

When I first moved here, a mom said that the river here is like Chuck E. Cheese to other places – lots of birthday parties held there. It’s also the easiest place to just go and chill out. The water ranges from deep to super shallow, and it’s knock-out stunning.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-90The kids are all either swimming or learning to swim.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-90Know what else this Kid-Whisperer did? She brought a big-ass trampoline up (last year) and set it up with her husband (this year).

THANK YOU STEFANIE!!!!

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-81Sooooo grateful for this.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-93The duo power of the trampoline and the play structure are totally priceless.

As are these precious people.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-21We love you.

Come back soon, okay?!

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I missed Grandma so much while I was sitting on that bench, remembering how Grandma was sitting next to me the last time I was there.

Meriah Nichols-8She kept calling me “Diana,” (I look a lot like my mom now; I’ll take that as a compliment). She wanted me to fetch her a banana from the toy co-op. I said, “Grandma, it’s not a real banana” – she said she didn’t care, she’d still like to have it. I said I couldn’t give it to her because this was part of the play museum. She shook her head, laughed with those dimples popping, and said, “well, I’ll be… what is this?!”

Meriah Nichols-9It’s a different world, Grandma, that’s what it is.

It’s a world where we pay to have things nice and tidy for our kids, things that smack of learning and education and fair play. It’s not the one where you ran free in Oakland with your cousin and some pennies and watched movies in theatres by your own small selves.

It’s also a world with anatomically correct dolls.

Meriah Nichols-7I had gotten a little flustered the last time I was there because Moxie had a blowout in her pullups, Grandma was mad because I was gone (cleaning up Moxie), and she also wanted to go to the bathroom, then I was worried about her in the bathroom alone. I checked on her. Okay. Then Mack had to go, and his was all about poop too. I hadn’t slept much the night before – Grandma needed to get up most of the night – I felt worn at the ends, frazzled, drained, and I didn’t mind it at all because I knew that each moment with Grandma – crazy or not – was a gift.

I am grateful that I felt that.

When I was sitting on the bench last week, I was glad that my memories aren’t laced with any recollections of feeling annoyed with Grandma, or impatient, or anything. I am glad I only remember how much love for her I felt on that day, on every day that I was around her.

My Grandma loved me best.

Oh, okay, maybe she actually didn’t (?), but she always made me feel like I was her favorite, that I was the best thing since sliced bread. There is so much comfort in that. I think more than anything, I want everyone to know what that feels like. To know that there is one person in your world, in your life, who thinks your shit doesn’t stink. Or if your shit does stink, there’s probably some marvelous reason for it stinking, because you are essentially just the most marvelous person, ever. No matter what.

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Last week Moxie bolted out of the Discovery Museum, and of course it was a moment in which I wasn’t looking. This little gaggle of concerned mothers came to me as I was downloading something onto the iphone and said, “your daughter just ran out of the door” (which they had to repeat, like 5 times because I couldn’t hear them or read their lips well). I writhed in shame. Bad mom, horrible no-good, tech-obsessed mom.

Moxie was back in (on her own) by the time they were done being concerned with me, and I took her gently by the shoulders and said, “you just can’t run out, honey.” She said, “why?”, I said “because we are in here – you need to stay with me. We are playing inside here, now. ” She said, “ok” but I have no idea how much she actually understood. I asked her if she wanted to leave. She said, “no.” So then I said that if she didn’t want to leave, she needed to stay inside. If she wanted to go, just tell me; we’ll go. Okay? “Okay.”

But I put the phone completely down and away. Just in case.

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I was proud of how she played and basically covered every living inch out of every single item there. Puppet show? Check

Kaleidescope? Check. Ball-over-blast-of-air? Check. Bike-powered stoplights? Check. Golf-ball-ramp? Check. She didn’t waste time. She literally played with EVERY SINGLE THING. I can’t say that about anyone else there.

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Back to Grandma.

meriah nichols grandma-5The death of someone loved isn’t just a loss; it’s an absence. It’s the not being there, the physical space that was once occupied by them, now empty. It’s my Grandma’s chair blanket that once made her butt warm, it’s her cat, Hester, that is still so sad, looking everywhere for Grandma’s bright smile and kind, petting hands.

I try not to think of her absence. It sounds really cheesy and all new-agey to say this, but I try and focus on the fact that I lost her in her physical form, but I’ve gained the best damn angel-protector-guardian anyone could ever have. Nobody’s going to watch over me like my Grandma!

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Who loved me best, haha!

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PS

For those of you who like my kinda-controversial disability-related posts, I have a new one up on Two Thirds of the Planet – “Hey ‘Special Needs Parents’! Where’s the Outrage Over “Me Before You”?”

A tree branch was blocking our direct satellite link to the sky. That is, a tree branch was blocking it when the wind was blowing, so that meant that if the wind wasn’t blowing – or moving at all, really – we’d have internet access and if there was any kind of puff at all, there was a fresh hunk of nada moving across our router, with an endless “connecting” circle playing.

The internet guy told us all this, while he moved his little device (that looked a lot like a tricorder from Star Trek) around and found “readings.” I was impressed. I was even more impressed that he fixed it, and also maybe most impressed that he found our place all on his own.

Meriah Nichols-11Our place is not an easy one to find.

Meriah Nichols-10My own niece can’t find it.

I ask her why she never visits me, her poor old auntie all out on the hill by herself, besieged with children and animals and longing for adult-niece company, and she says, “cuz you live out in the middle of nowhere and I can’t find your place.”

Meriah Nichols-8Hurumph.

Meriah Nichols-9Mack came flying inside when he spotted the “ca-ta-pi-wah”, just squirming in excitement because he wanted to see it change to a “bu-tah-fwhy” and wanted me to take a “pik-cher” of it before it did, but to be extremely careful not to hurt it – “DON’T TOUCH IT, MOMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!” he bellows, and I’m marveling partly at how well his teacher has taught him the life-cycle of these things (because I sure as hell didn’t), and wondering at where he got this idea that I’m some kind of Caterpiller Crusher? What’d I ever do to make him think I’d like, reach over and whack that cute and furry critter?!!!

Sheesh. Kids.

Meriah Nichols-18“KISS ME”

Meriah Nichols-14Fur-kid.

Meriah Nichols-13California Poppies are all over the place and I do believe my heart melts when I see them.

I remember when I was really little on our sheep ranch in Cloverdale (before we moved to Fiji). I had been told in school that picking California Poppies was highly illegal. One day after school, I was wandering around our ranch and I surreptitiously reached out and plucked one. I held it in my (probably really grubby) hand and waited for either God to send over a bolt of lightening or for swarms of helicopters to swoop down, cuff me and lead me away.

Thrill seeking, hick-kid style.

Meriah Nichols-15This kid gets her thrills by bolting!

This is a Down syndrome thing that I’ve gotten into hot water by talking about in the past. It’s like, ‘zero impulse control’ – which is to say, when she wants to go, she just GOES. She doesn’t think about the consequences sometimes, doesn’t do anything other than GO.

It’s a real pain in the butt and a total nerve-wrencher. Imagine living out here with a kid who just bolts, when you know there are things like, scorpions, bobcats, mountain lions, snakes, bears and wild boar (with tusks and stuff) out there, and moreover, you know it’s not some “talk of wild animals”, it’s like, you’ve actually SEEN them (and EATEN some).

Plus side is that she’s older so she will reason sometimes.

Sometimes the “Moxie, come back NOW or Mommy will spank you and put you in time out and you will NOT LIKE THAT” sinks in and she returns. The other week, she slipped out and ran over to the next hill – through the valley of poison oak! – and I only know this because the dogs were with her, and herded her back a bit. Then she got stuck in blackberry brambles and I had to find her and unravel her.

I was not pleased.

But I had also been so scared shitless that I was completely pleased, just to see her precious face and hold her in my arms and tell her over and over to not do that, please, it’s so scary for Mommy, please don’t do that, no, no, no. I can’t take it, honey.

Meriah Nichols-17Kids.

Mack likes to drive and have Moxie ride next to him. Meriah Nichols-16He says, “Moxie is my lady”

Meriah Nichols-19He says, “you are Daddy’s lady, Mommy, and Moxie’s my lady”

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I don’t buy that many toys for the kids, but I’ve started to buy more than I have in the past, because it’s fun to watch them play (right, it’s all about me?! haha)

Meriah Nichols-5This helicopter thing was a total winner.

$25 as Micah’s birthday present, and all 3 kids just soaked the living sauce out of it!

Meriah Nichols-4So. Much. Fun.

Meriah Nichols-2Mikey wanted his turn too.

He just about broke the thing – I might need to get him one for his birthday, too.

Meriah Nichols-1Over and out.

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Hey! Do you guys remember our shower?

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (20 of 22)It was set outside, made out of  wood pallets and was just about the best damn shower, ever. Hot water, straight from the spring, and don’t let anyone tell you differently: there isn’t anything better than an outdoor shower. At night, with the stars overhead, or in the morning with the fresh light and dew, or even in the afternoon with the sun and clouds, it just doesn’t get better than that.

Well, we had to tear it out to make way for the Guest House Project.

20160330-_DSC2709-2Which was cool, totally cool, because we’d get the Guest House, right? And the Guest House will have a shower, bath and laundry room.

But immediately after we tore out the shower and tapped the soil down, the rains started again, so we had to wait 2 weeks before the guys could come back up to work on it. That was still okay, and honestly, the 6+ weeks now that we’ve been without a shower isn’t that a big a deal except for…

Meriah Nichols moles-9Poison Oak. 

It’s hit me so bad that I’m on my second round of prednisone. Poison Oak isn’t really something you want to sit in a bath with. so yeah. it’s been tough.

Miserable, in fact.

Nothing I want more when I’m screaming under my skin as to stand in the shower with the blistering hot water to numb the itch.

As if poison oak weren’t enough (and really, it was quite enough), Mack and I got a vile sort of stomach flu.

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This isn’t really a picture of Mack and I with the stomach flu. That would be gross. It’s just us zoning at my brother’s place

The stomach flu has been wrenching, but more than anything, makes me miss the shower even more. I feel so dirty.

Bleh.

I think it’ll all be done soon – they guys have been working miracles out there. More photos when I’m feeling able to get out of bed.

In the meantime!

Meriah Nichols moles-3Did you guys even see this?! I slipped it in a post last week (I think) to see if you would notice, but no one said anything!

It’s a MOLE!

The cats, having killed all the mice in the house, the shed and surrounding areas, have moved on to MOLES.

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Meriah Nichols moles-2We had never actually seen one before. That was kind of neat. Not for them, though, obviously.

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Moxie loves her sand. Or maybe that’s cooking in her sand!

Meriah Nichols moles-14And some more photos from when the kids and I went to the redwood forest on our way home – I already posted a bunch, but here’s the rest:

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Meriah Nichols moles-17Tired out…

Meriah Nichols moles-12And a homecoming…Meriah Nichols moles-11

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5 inches of rain.

That’s what Mikey says anyway, and I think that while it sounds like a lot, it doesn’t feel like as much as it should be. I think 15 inches is more like it.

The river is full.

meriah nichols lost coast-2-2 meriah nichols lost coast-3-2The soil is, too. Which has had… interesting repercussions.

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landslide cleared
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overflowing
overflowing

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    The little creek that runs alongside our yurt is bubbling

meriah nichols lost coast-24Moxie’s the most badass of our kids, and she’s the one who I take hiking with me now. She charges up the hills – just FLIES! And she doesn’t care about getting wet. She’s an awful lot of fun to hang out with.

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no eggs now
no eggs now

meriah nichols lost coast-23The big old fig tree is their playground

meriah nichols lost coast-5 meriah nichols lost coast-3 meriah nichols lost coast-1But I’m pretty sure they have a blast with everything else too

meriah nichols lost coast-6 meriah nichols lost coast-33 meriah nichols lost coast-34 meriah nichols lost coast-22 meriah nichols lost coast-32Our deck is pretty much finished! But when they were working on it, they ripped out our outdoor shower to start building a bathhouse in its stead. Only problem is that right after they ripped it out, it started RAINING and it hasn’t really stopped yet. So they haven’t been able to work on anything.

That means we improvise. And seriously? It’s totally fine.

"the hillbilly hot tub"
“the hillbilly hot tub”

This place has some kinda magic.

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Remember the “Chromosome Shirt” I was making and selling last year? I’ve got them up again on Zazzle, with 100% of the proceeds going to keeping the “A Day in the Life with Down syndrome” Project going. It’s a cool shirt, and World Down syndrome Day is coming up – please support a great cause and gain a cool shirt at the same time!

The awesome thing about this is that YOU can tailor the shirt however you want. Sleeveless, v-neck, white, Kid’s sizes, baby body suit, men’s boxy-T; whatever! And tons of sizes. 🙂

All right, so, there is a break in the weather and I just remembered I need to feed the rabbits – over & out

Great tidings today from our yurt:

THE DECK IS FINALLY GETTING BUILT!

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Yes! Taking advantage of a break in the rain, my brother sent up a crew of guys to hammer it on out

deck-5Nothing about construction up here is easy. I mean, you take the normal hard stuff related to construction and times it by 3 – because you have to get the materials up here by way of some pretty fierce roads, and then deal with building off the grid (which means limited power supplies, no phone lines, etc). Oh, and the weather. It really did rain around 17 inches last month.

deck-2-2These guys are going to be putting in a deck, and most likely, a washroom and shower. They might even do some more?!

deck-4All of the kids were in school today – the first time in around 2 weeks because of spring break last week and the pre-school schedule for Mack and Moxie.

That means I sat by the window with half-bated breath and watched the deck emerge (while working on A Day in the Life with Down syndrome and Down syndrome Blogs – stay tuned, because cool stuff will be coming out of that site!).

deck-3It’s like, every time I look at it, I feel like smiling, but then I’m scared to smile in case Something Happens

deck-1-2They were prepping u the area by our front door, where a mud room is planned.

Anyway, that’s it, but I just wanted to tell you about this because it’s just every kind of exciting for me.

(more butterflies looking at that half-finished deck – ack!!!)

 

[before you start – if you are on a computer, considering clicking the “enter reading mode” on the top right corner – it will take the sidebar away and the photos will be full-sized]

Humboldt County, California is known for being green and wet. Very wet. It’s why my grandparents left so many years ago, “we were just tired of the rain,” they sighed when asked.

Global warming has changed all that, and the last few winters have been pretty dry.

This year, though, the year we decided to stay through the winter, is the one everyone is nodding their heads vigorously over. “It’s a real Humboldt winter!” people have said with some satisfaction.

“A real Humboldt Winter” can mean 17 inches of rain in a month.

Meriah Nichols Humboldt-32 Meriah Nichols Humboldt-31 Meriah Nichols Humboldt-30It’s so green here that it looks fake, like we are living in a technicolor-land. It’s absurdly, outrageously gorgeous

Meriah Nichols Humboldt-20 Meriah Nichols Humboldt-17Meriah Nichols Humboldt-29The water makes puddles, and puddles make happy kids

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Wanna see our house? Here it is:

Meriah Nichols Humboldt-27You can sort of glimpse it up there on the left, right?

Cute lil’ yurt on a hill

Meriah Nichols Humboldt-4Glad it’s not an actual tent-yurt though, because those get blown away up here, real easy, real fast. Our neighbor’s yurt was blown off his hill last year – he’s going for something more sturdy this year.

We’re happy ours is made of copper and concrete with some pretty strong base work. It stays tight with the heavy wind and rain.

Meriah Nichols Humboldt-18This is the little creek. Not so little now!

Meriah Nichols Humboldt-14Meriah Nichols Humboldt-16Meriah Nichols Humboldt-15Meriah Nichols Humboldt-13Meriah Nichols Humboldt-12Little moment for a thought on Down syndrome –

I suppose in every parent of a child who has a disability that is unusual or new to the parent, there is a rather lot of reflection or sharing of learnings along the way. The “wow!” factor is big.

I feel that way so often with Moxie. She is the explorer in our family, the fearless child who longs for new adventures and who can get her brothers to do more. It’s certainly not me – I’m the type who likes to sit around a warm fire with a book and a cup of tea, NOT go charging through creeks in the rain. Moxie pushes us to do all that stuff. I know we’re happier because we follow her lead – adventures are a blast, once you get started! I know we have more fun because of her.

But did I see that coming when the perinatologist was telling me that we should abort her because she would be a “burden for life” for us, for Micah? Oh, hell no.

And it pisses me off that he can say that kind of crap and get away with it. And it pisses me off that even if I went back now and told him how wrong he is and how FUN she is and how she leads her brothers on adventures – he’d find a way to say that it’s just her. That not ALL people with Down syndrome have something to offer, or are as fun-filled as our Moxie is. That’s the part that really pisses me off – because I know now that he’s absolutely and completely wrong. Every human being has something to offer and it’s our job as parents to relax and provide environments and encouragement that let that beauty emerge and unfurl.

Meriah Nichols Humboldt-11 Meriah Nichols Humboldt-10 Meriah Nichols Humboldt-9 Meriah Nichols Humboldt-8I’m so proud of her.

I’m so proud that she’s gone so far beyond what I ever could – that’s she so fearless and curious where I was always more of a wuss. I’m so proud that my own daughter leaps where I mince. I’m proud that she loves the ride and doesn’t mind getting wet and cold.

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Meriah Nichols Humboldt-6 Meriah Nichols Humboldt-5 Meriah Nichols Humboldt-3 Meriah Nichols Humboldt-2I love this winter. It’s a lot of rain, sure. But with that, come beautifully intense clouds. Raindrops that sparkle like jewels. Green, so much green. Rivers that surge, water all around, and even more green. Mists and wind.

And rainbows.

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It’s 2:15 and I just finished the bulk of the housework. I can’t even wrap my head around that sometimes, you know – what this whole life is about, the WORK and how a day can just fly by and I’m left with the memories of meals that I made, clothes washed, a yurt cleaned, animals fed, children too. But it’s all so intangible and gone in hours. So much work done for what feels like a moment of accomplishment.

And then I wonder… why’d I get that Master’s degree (in International Management!!) anyway? I mean, does it help me hang up these clothes on the line any easier, and what about figuring out this whole “lasagna gardening” thing? Does it help me any with that, or with the making of the fig jam?

You know the answer to that just as well as I do, and I have to say, sometimes I’m just so tempted to tell the kids to screw education, you know? “Kids: I say unto you, know how to code and know how to grow your own food and use your passport.” The End. Love, Your Mother, Meriah. But education has its uses too. Degrees come in handy. Just not necessarily in the ways you once figured they would?

I don’t know. But I know this. I love it out here.

20150926-IMG_3043I love it because I can sit here and talk to you while the hummingbirds are feeding about 2 feet on either side of me.

That’s a big one.

I have no idea why, but hummingbirds are a constant reminder to me that life can be easy, that life SHOULD be easy; and I’m not talking about the easy way out or the slacker’s way of easy, but rather, that I shouldn’t be miserable. Hardship, difficulty and misery aren’t gateways to paradise and we weren’t born to be unhappy. We were born to find our hummingbirds and things that really get us going in a joyful way. Of this, I am certain.

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My view in the morning, which is when I usually do my writing and photo editing. This doesn’t get old for me. And I have learned that hummingbirds will come in the dark of the dawn.

20150918-IMG_2955This kid does too. He wakes up and stumbles blearily over to the warmth of my lap and crawls in. Sometimes I get irritated, like some cat that was rubbed the wrong way, my fur is going in different directions. I want my time to myself, I want my body back, I want my space. But I usually remember that he’s going to be 3 years old soon. His time in my lap is almost over.

My arms go around him and hold him tight as I remember that.

20150908-_DSC7283Tender moment aside! Baby alligator lizards in the yurt.

20150911-IMG_2826Whoah, mama!

They are pretty neat to watch. They move all sloooooooooow, until they think you aren’t watching, then they zip.

Hey Mommy!

[poke, poke, his fingers poke annoyingly into my back]

“Micah, don’t poke my back please. I don’t like it”, I say.

Sorry, Mommy; I just thought you’d want to see this big snake in the cupboard…

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Gulp.

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It’s raw and it’s real.

It can be scary. And intense. The two hour ride to Costco, Costco, stocking up:

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Stopping for a car wash, ours is always the only car in line that is getting washed because I literally can’t see out of the windows anymore; the dust is layered so thick I know make the car wash attendants nervous that we’ll clog their filters

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mid-left, you can see a spot on our car that does NOT have dust on it

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Cows in the road, home

20150918-IMG_2971 20150922-IMG_299720150919-IMG_297320150922-IMG_298720150918-IMG_2963Sooooo…housework.

From 7am straight through until 2:15, and not even done at that. Clothes on the line, drying in the heat of the last vestiges of the summer sun. Butterflies are fluttering all around my garden, we’re still eating what we’ve picked

20150923-IMG_2999Sometimes I feel like life is a setting on a machine.

You have ‘basic’, you have ‘medium’, you have ‘large’ and you have ‘ultra’. I feel like the Lost Coast is set on ‘ultra’, it’s as intense in the good and the hard that I’ve ever experienced. The lows are lower; the highs are higher. There are reptiles in the yurt, but the hummingbirds are closer, there are more of them and they will even land on my finger from time to time.

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It takes me 2 hours to drive from our yurt on the hill to Costco. Or a mall. Or McDonald’s (not that I’d be going there anyway though, right?!). That sounds so far and people tend to flip out a little when they hear that, like “oh, I could NEVER do that!”

But the thing is, I’m not driving in urban conditions. I’m not going bumper to bumper with some rage-filled commuter. I’m not slogging through an exit with 2 other cars necking in. I’m not being cut off by a pissed off mom in a minivan.

Driving for half an hour in the Bay Area usually left me bitter, seething, and with tension roiling in my belly.

2 hours here, driving through this? I’m a zen master, baby

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You know what annoys the crap out of me? Posts like that one from Off The Grid News that was was going viral recently about the family in Kentucky who were living off the grid. They had their kids taken away, etc, etc and everyone was freaking out about it, like OH MY GOD! The government is going to come and take everyone’s kids away! They are unschooling! This is about the government’s quest to control homeschooling! ACK! This is about a crackdown on religion or having lots of kids!

And seriously. On. And on. And on.

What a load of hogwash.

To be clear: we have a highly imperfect government. Amen.

But there was a hell of lot more to that story than Off the Grid News – and facebook groups full of supporters – were talking about. Like the family was basically living in a tent – with SNOW, it’s Kentucky and barely out of winter – without water. I mean, that’s a pretty big deal.

What pisses me off about this kind of thing is that everyone starts thinking that “off the grid” is synonymous with some piss-poor parenting. And it’s not. It’s synonymous with independent living.

The deal with living off the grid is, you are self-sufficient. You get your own power going, you deal with your own basic needs like water, sewage, garbage and so forth. You are not tethered to companies and as such, you don’t have bills like people who live on the grid do. Or rather, you have a different set of bills.

Rather than pay for your electricity every month, you invest in a solar system and let that carry you forward. Rather than pay for your garbage to be taken out weekly by the city, you pay yourself when you haul it to the dump. And you deal with your own compost.

And you deal with your own shit. Literally. You let your waste matter decompose and you haul it out of your outhouse when the time is right.

Living off the grid isn’t an excuse to not live responsibly or to not allow your children to grow up comfortably. Living off the grid is teaching your kids how to actually do these things for themselves.

Unschooling follows similar lines. I mean, you want to let your kids just run loose and without guidance? That’s one way – and it sounds a lot like that family in Kentucky was following that path. Or there is another way, which is to really work with and nurture each child. Sans curriculum but definitely with guidance. You can raise your kids responsibly and unschool them as a way to prepare them for their future – for sure! – but stories like this give the whole lot a really bad name.

Living off the grid isn’t something that most people should or or even could do. That’s just a fact – it’s not easy getting set up, and frankly, most people in developed countries now simply lack those types of skills – people don’t know how to wash their clothes by hand anymore, or how to run water pipes from their springs to their kitchen. How to compost or how to deal with their waste. These are forgotten skills in most areas of the United States.

But the fact that some people tried it and didn’t do it responsibly while caring for their 10 dependents shouldn’t give the rest of us – who ARE doing it responsibly and doing it well – a bad name.

://end rant.

Random:

I was brushing Micah’s hair on  the morning of School Photo Day, trying my best to create a less “mad scientist” look for him when he turned to me and said, “you know, you love my creativity so I don’t think you should be brushing my hair, Mommy.”

huh?

“Yeah, my hair is attached to my hair follicles and those are attached to the creativity in my brain, so when you brush my hair, some of my creativity is lost with the hair coming out and some of it is all swished around and gets disorganized inside my head.”

Random:

Meanwhile, his Daddy grabbed a shoe and killed a mouse with it – it may as well have been a cockroach. I mean, sheeeeeeeesh.

Random:

Mack adopted a large stuffed chicken while I was gone on my Momcation. I guess he needed something large, soft and squawwcking to drag around and replace Mama? He calls is Bawk-Bawk and it has to go with him everywhere, or else we all face the Wrath of Mack.

Random:

Our freezer is full of deer  and wild boar that WE KILLED. The kids look up at trees to see what they offer and the bear meat we ate last night was sauteed with kale and basil from the garden.

Real life, when you remove the grocery store packaging and distance from point of origin, is full of such brutality.

And is so breathtakingly beautiful.

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In the next few months, I know we’ll have some fabulous adventures – it is what we do best, after all. But we will miss our backyard.

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We were actually originally planning on leaving at the end of October. We delayed it first because of Halloween, then because of my Momcation. Then for the last time because of School Picture Day. We really wanted the kids to be a part of that and to be able to see themselves in the school yearbook when they are adults and pissed off because we dragged them around so much – we’ll point to the yearbook photos and be all, “what are you talking about?! you are RIGHT HERE!”

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The extra benefit to delaying our departure by a week was once last Horse Therapy session for Moxie.

I haven’t updated you much on how that’s been, but basically, in a nutshell,

IT ROCKS

You know how half-assed and on the fence I am about all therapy for Moxie, right? I mean, I am NOT “Flashcard Mom”, I am NOT about  “the more therapy, the better” or buying into everything that every therapist says.

That was the first thing Moxie taught me by having diffuse fetal hydrops and heart holes while she was growing inside me, and when the doctors were telling me I should abort her because she’d have no chance of being born alive. She taught me that THEY ARE OFTEN WRONG.

Like, REALLY, really, completely WRONG.

So back to horse therapy.

I am on the fence about therapy, I’m very cautious about dipping my proverbial toe in it’s waters. Horse Therapy though, which is the practice of engaging Moxie in therapy while riding a horse, has been far and away, leaps and bounds, better than anything that we have done with her to date.

It is astonishing to see how she is pre- and post- session. Pre session, she does not talk. Post session, she does.

Jennifer Belkin said once that therapy is like a bra, it’s not once size fits all. Besides sizes, some people need running bras, others need wire support or nursing, etc. It’s a great analogy and I think for Moxie, it’s true that horse therapy is IT for her – it works, it’s her size, it’s her fit. It might not be the case for all kids with Down syndrome, but it certainly is for her.

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Mack loves the horses and usually is allowed to ride for a little bit at the end of one of Moxie’s sessions. He didn’t for this last one, preferring instead to just play with the goats, rabbits, swings and toys.

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Not a bad life for a kid.

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We’re leaving today.

Our hearts stay here on the Lost Coast and we’ll put on our adventuresome caps (or pants, or shoes or whatever you want to call it) and head on south.

Maybe we’ll see you there.

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6 months ago we had to abort the Pan American Highway trip that we had planned and worked hard on for over two years. We felt kicked in the gut, forsaken, and had absolutely no idea that the Lost Coast would actually be what we were looking for: a place to call “home”.

We have all fallen in love with this place, and we plan on being here for the long haul. Sure, we want to travel, explore and make disability connections abroad (- the idea of an Inn in someplace balmy – in addition to a retreat center on the Lost Coast – is percolating for the future). But while the kids are young and less tethered to the Best School Ever, we’d like to leave for the winters, returning for the summer.

I was looking through photos and could not believe how much has changed in these past 6 months. It’s incredible, as in literally “hard to believe.”

When we came, the loft in our yurt didn’t have walls – you could roll off and smash into the concrete floor on the first floor. Not exactly kid proof! The stairs were unguarded, there was no furniture. All 5 of us crammed onto a double futon. It was freezing and Mikey had to go out and chop wood in the mornings. The outdoor shower made it all okay – we’ve always loved that – and the well-crafted outhouse, strangely enough, is also something we like. 

I’m sure many people would think we are still roughing it, but for us, our set up is comfortable and we are content. 

Here, I wanted to share some of the highlights of the past 6 months – 

driving to the Lost Coast for the first time
driving to the Lost Coast for the first time

Our first views of the Lost Coast –

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With steep switchbacks,frequent heavy fog, wandering deer and cattle, narrow rough roads, sun in your eyes and views that make it difficult to concentrate at times, the way to the Lost Coast is not for everyone.

It’s not a breeze through suburbia; it’s like dipping your toe into a wild California, a place that time somehow forgot.

It’s fitting that parts of Jurassic Park were filmed here.

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We arrived on our hill from the drive, parked our truck Myrtle and loped up into the yurt, dragging our jaws behind us.

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bare bones!

I don’t know how easily you can tell where the loft is in the photos? the lack of any protective walls or really, anything! It’s all funny to me now only because I don’t have to sleep with all the kids anymore.

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The beauty of this place hit us hard and didn’t stop.

It doesn’t end.

It’s like, beauty upon beauty upon beauty.

Changing beauty, relentless beauty, embracing beauty, enveloping beauty.

Beauty is the one constant here on the Lost Coast.

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I can live with that

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In fact, it’s true to say that I’ve learned that I cannot live without beauty. I mean, I can’t function, I am not a whole person if I am not surrounded by beauty. It’s like something in me just dies and the pieces that make up the whole of who I am become scattered without the beauty of nature around me to hold me enthralled and keep me focused. I don’t know if that makes sense.

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6 months.

Both Micah and Moxie started school. They are thrilled.

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School here is something to treasure – small classes, caring and intelligent teachers, an authentic and holistic view of community and the world. It’s a dream come true for me and I deeply appreciate the opportunity to have our kids be a part of it.

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6 months

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It feels like a life time, it feels like no time.

A blink of an eye, an eternity.

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… Home.

 

I was kind of dreading Halloween. On one hand, I love the kids costumes and I love the whole ‘dress up’ element, but I really wondered how fun it could be out here, when everyone lives miles away from one another. And getting in the car, fastening all the kids, driving to a house wayyyyyy out there to pop them all out again and walk to the door to trick-or treat just to walk back to the car, buckle in all the kids again and drive to the next place…sounded about as fun as an unmedicated tooth filling.

But I was wrong.

That’s not how it is here, or maybe it is for some people, but we didn’t do that.

What we did instead was, the entire school had a parade to our general store. A trunk-or-treating session was had by all, great delight and merriment.

Unfortunately, 2 of my 3 were asleep and would. not. budge.

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But one of my 3 had a fantastic time!

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Then school wrapped up, we went home – saw a bobcat on the way back! – to have dinner (more bear spaghetti). there was also time for a princess to visit her minions, the chickens, and for a little superhero-who-refused-to-wear-his-dinosaur-costume to pick some figs and play.

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meriah nichols halloween-17Then we packed up again and this time headed for the community center.

The community came together in a pinch-me-is-this-real way. It was like a really awesome house party that was by and for the COMMUNITY, and by that, I mean it was by and for everyone. Everything about it was FUN: the music, snacks, adult libations, kids playing, multiple generations dancing with each other, kids running out to use the adjoining playground, people all dressed up – oh man, the costumes! 

I haven’t had such a good time in, well, forever.

and of course I don’t have any pictures of it 🙂

 

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