rituals: cation house (siv ricketts).

Man. I can’t wait to share today’s post with you, because it’s family and it’s vacation, it’s memories and it’s a shared place. And it comes from a favorite friend of mine, someone whose words always mull within me as they should. So, meet Siv [pronounced like Steve, minus the “t”], otherwise known as Milagro Mama and a favorite friend of mine.


Writ large on the walls of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pablo Neruda’s words strike a chord in my soul: “I spin on the circle of wave upon wave of the sea.”

My life has felt like constant spinning, waves of joy and laughter, wash of chaos and drama, waves of peaceful beauty. My parents’ lives spun on disorder and turmoil until they spun into each other and, quickly, marriage. They attempted to overcome the tidal pull of established patterns; they did their best to remain upright in swirling waters. Still, my Airline Captain father flew in and out of our lives on air currents rather than water.

While I attended college my parents purchased a Time Share blocks from a NorCal beach (we lived a short drive from SoCal beaches). Recently I asked my mom, “Why?”

“To create family memories, to have a place we could come back to year after year.”

My parents, siblings and I never spent a week there as a family. My family, however – my mom and nephew, my husband and sons – has spent a week there every summer since Teen was two years old. We call it the “Cation House.”

We look forward to the Cation House all year, one of our most significant shared family rituals. The three kids have each created school essays and projects about the Cation House. Each generation swimming against currents of the past, I asked my boys which traditions, rituals, have meant the most to them in our family life: Cation House!, their unequivocal shared response.

When we all lived in SoCal, we rented a minivan and made the ten-hour journey a road trip. Now that four of us live in NorCal, the others fly up and extend their stay on either end for a longer vacation.

Each vacation is the same. We go to the same beaches (Lovers’ Point, Asilomar). We walk the same streets (Lighthouse-Forrest Aves). We take the same pictures (kids in wet suits, holding sea stars). We do the same things (“journal pages” before dinner, hiking at Point Lobos, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Farmers’ Market, beach, beach and More Beach!).

Each vacation is different. The kids grow (drat that, both blessing and curse). The toys change – Thomas the Tank Engine has been replaced by an inflatable kayak. Some years we paddle boat, others we maneuver a surrey-bike. Scheduling has gotten harder as kids get older, with more demands competing for their time. We have had to drive/fly the older two in late, allowing them to miss days without missing the whole experience (always a cost to us and to them, but the week is a priority and so we flex). This year, surprisingly?, the boys could not only tolerate but enjoy a lecture on sea turtles by the American Cetacean Society, held at the Stanford Marine Research Center. How can we possibly have gotten here?

Rituals help us remember and reflect. Each year we remember years previous: the first trip when Teen and Nephew laughed “diapo” back and forth for the whole drive, their 2-year-old diaper “dirty joke”; the many times enthusiastic boys stripped naked and charged lapping waters before adults could grab suits and towels; the time boys slipped behind the bakery counter and helped themselves to cookies; the year boys felt sufficiently confident for Guy to take them kayaking.

Each year we reflect on who we have been, where we have been, how we have changed and where we are going. Kids have grown, demonstrating God-given gifts, strengths, aptitudes. So have adults. Several years Guy and I walked late at night, wondering if God would grant us only one child; other years we pondered job responsibilities and changes. During the years we’ve visited the Cation House, my dear dad and precious grandma have passed; siblings have married, cousins have been born; my family moved most of a long state away. Mom has cheered family in different directions while her big once-family-filled house has emptied, filled, emptied again.

Fifteen years ago, realizing my frazzled Mom needed a vacation, I queried: “Don’t you have a Time Share? Could we take the babies and go?” So we did, and It Was Good. We moved at kid-speed. We walked and played at beaches and play grounds. We prepared easy food. We relaxed and read and talked, good for our souls. We pondered, “Why don’t we do this again next year?”

Next Year became Every Year. What began as a vacation became a ritual. With The Kids we have created family memories, a place they can come back to year after year. These kids plan to come back, again and again, year after year, together and, eventually, with their own families. Undoubtedly, they will go to the same beaches, walk the same streets, take the same pictures, do the same things. Each year it will be the Same and Different. They will Remember and Reflect. They will spin on the circle of wave upon wave of the sea…and of family ritual.

FullSizeRenderSiv M. Ricketts (aka “Milagro Mama”) is a San Francisco Bay Area 40-something, married 20-something years to the love of her life, parenting two sons (Teen and Tween). A Jesus-follower passionate about time with her beloveds, storytelling, cooking, and other creative endeavors, she blogs Miracles in the Mundane at https://milagromama.wordpress.com/.

we’re family!

He told me not to get up from my spot on the couch when he and Auntie walked through the door. He asked me not to sweep and mop the floors beforehand, and to stop apologizing for a smattering of breakfast crumbs on the dining room table.

“We’re family!” he said to me, right arm raised in reminder, fingers jabbing the air for emphasis. This wasn’t the first time he’d reminded me to stop treating him like a guest, but sometimes it takes awhile for truth to sink in, for lessons to be learned.

The dude who reminds me that we're family, with Frodo last Christmas.
The dude who reminds me that we’re family, with Frodo last Christmas.

You see, sometimes there exists within me a pint-sized Martha Stewart who burrows under my skin, digging into my soul like an unwelcome parasite. A pious woman, she begs me believe that my house must be spotless and the table set with only the most Pinterest-worthy of decorations.

The food, she whispers, must be prepared in the most timely of manners. As the hostess, I should have time to not only rest (with slices of chilled English cucumbers adorned to tired, puffy eyes), but also to perhaps dab a bit of rouge to pinched cheeks before the guests arrive.

Never mind the toddler who runs circles around the living room, the dining room, the kitchen and the hallway, stripped down to nothing but black and yellow Batman underwear. He wildly waves his superhero stuffed monkey in the air and yells to no one in particular, “No more monkeys jump on bed! No more monkeys jump on bed!”

Never mind his baby brother, the one I’ve propped upright in the bouncer in hopes that he’ll be entertained for just a few minutes longer. He has, of course, declared with battling screams that he is done.

Never mind the boxes still scattered throughout the house from our move only weeks prior, and the fact that I’ve been wearing the same clothes out of a single suitcase for the past six weeks.

Never mind that I’m still not sure where the wine opener is and I haven’t yet found the bottle of vanilla, so we can’t further prolong the unpacking process with a batch of homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, or a swirling glass of Pinot Noir.

Never mind that we’re supposed to eat in less than ten minutes, even though I haven’t defrosted or prepped the hamburger patties for grilling, nor have I made the salad or set the table or checked the freezer to see if we have ice cream for the promised frozen dessert treat.

Never mind, never mind, never mind it all.

Never mind the mess and the chaos and the reality of my everyday life, because in the myriad of lies and truths there’s one thing I’ve forgotten: the people who walk through our front doors aren’t guests, they’re family.

And when someone is family, they enter the mess, gladly, yearningly.

When someone is family, they not only enter the insanity, but they embrace the insanity. They see that you’re trying your hardest to survive, and they’re grateful that you’d invite them in to the muck and the mess, the hard and the good.

Because they don’t want to be entertained – they just want to be welcomed. They don’t want a rehearsed air of civilities, but they want to borrow a superhero cape and run around circles around the living room, the dining room, the kitchen and the hallway, too. They want to hold the baby and feed the baby and love the baby, and they want to help cut the tomatoes and the cucumber and the avocado for the salad. They want to learn their way around your kitchen and teach you how to make the perfect Dijon vinaigrette.

And when dinner is served, eventually, and the burgers are a little too done, and the fries take a longer than usual, and one of the buns has holes poked in the sides from the two year old superhero who now sits at your table, you still look at each other and give thanks.

You give thanks because you’ve let them into the mess, and you’ve broken bread together, and you’ve been family.

This was written a few months back, right after we moved …but I’d say it’s just as appropriate now as it was then. I am so appreciative of my aunt and uncle who live nearby, and the times we get to enter into the normalcy of everyday life and eat together. What about you? Who reminds you that “We’re family!” Who do you embrace the mess with?

a story, the beach & some family pictures.

Shelley and I met back in the days when she was a morning news anchor and I spent my days entertaining high school students with the likes of Steinbeck and Shakespeare. We spent nearly every Tuesday night together, gathering with an eclectic group of Santa Cruz twenty-somethings all trying to pinpoint and nail down our identities, our spouses, our callings.

By the time 2005 rolled around, Tuesday nights had fizzled, but Shelley had taken a group of women under her wing. We’d meet at her all-white apartment, and we’d try our hardest to be our most authentic selves – asking questions and giving real answers and seeking Truth in return. While I don’t remember much else about our gatherings, I do remember that at the end of our time together, every single one of us made major life-changing decisions: we left jobs and we moved across the continent. We pursued dreams and we said yes to decisions that seemed terribly impractical to anyone who believed in making more than $26,000 a year.

With each other’s support, we took leaps of faith.

Seeking the holy, we became our Most Brave Selves. 

In that way, what a delight to have Shelley – who’s known such an intimate part of my life and story – offer to take our pictures a couple weeks ago. And they’re every good as she is, every good as her part in my story is, too.


Cancan was delighted to realize family pictures were at the beach – Frodo, though, remained a wee bit skeptical:


I’d also like to point out that I had the Cutest Outfit Ever picked out for Cancan, which, with epic tantrum, he promptly refused and instead insisted on sporting dirty swim trunks he’d worn the previous two days:



While I chased our almost three-year-old in the waves, the HBH (Hot Black Husband) got quality bonding time with Frodo:


And we did get the gift of this perfect-in-the-moment shot:


And these epic shots of and with the boys:



I’m grateful for friendships and I’m grateful for stories. I’m grateful for Saturday morning photo shoots and I’m grateful for talented photographers who have a knack for capturing the moment just as it is.

So, if you’re in the greater Santa Cruz or Monterey areas, do consider hiring Shelley to take your family’s pictures in a natural setting or environment such as the beach or woods. You won’t be sorry!

xo, c.

So, what story comes to mind when you read about my friendship with Shelley? Do tell! Otherwise, which of the pictures above MUST we get blown up to show case at our home? 

rituals: living room dance parties.

Right before this evening's dance parade.
Right before this evening’s dance parade.

I married a dancer.

Let me clarify: I did not marry a man classically trained in the art of ballet or jazz or ballroom, but I married a man whose insides rhythmically know how to move.  His heart pulsates and pumps a beat that flows from his deepest self, electric movements that wiggle and worm their way to the ends of his fingers, his head, his toes.

Take, for instance, a wedding: this summer we found ourselves cheering on Cousin and Cousin-in-law at their June nuptials.  At thirty-four weeks’ pregnant, I nearly upstaged the bride with my protruding, “Holy crap, is she going to go into labor?” belly, upon performing my marry-and-bury duties. (Well, the marrying part, that is).  But, as happens at nearly every wedding my husband attends, the other guests did not go home thinking about the potential of my water breaking. They went home thinking about the HBH’s (Hot Black Husband’s) dance skills.  

For he’s the one who befriends the DJ so he can get a Michael Jackson song played.

He’s the one who packs special dancing shoes just for the occasion.

He’s the one whose bald head drips with beads of sweat, whose Thriller-like moves part the waters, whose mid-air jumps create a circle of envy around him.

As wedding guests, we wait not for the cake to be cut, but for the boom of the speakers to begin.  This is when we’re most alive, when our defenses are down and laughter is up and anger is pushed aside.  

This is when I’m most proud.

Because dancing at weddings is just the icing on the cake, but the bulk of it happens most every night in our living room.

The ritual began a year or two ago when we began learning about bed time routines for our older son, Cancan.  Parents, we read, should establish a nightly routine for their young child, incorporating bath time or book reading or song-singing religiously.  And we’re like, we get it.  Bring on Goodnight Moon, again.  But in an effort to knock out any remaining energy the little one still had within him, we also added dancing to the mix.  Flipping on the kids’ station, Pharrell Williams and Kelly Clarkson and Justin Beiber became a part of our Normal, Ordinary Everyday.

And I tell you, there’s something about standing up after you’ve digested Micha’s Chinese tofu salad for dinner, in between sips of an earthy Pinot Noir.  You forget about the long commute you had, the hours you spent in Bay Area traffic, waiting, waiting, waiting.  You put aside frustrations of not having enough or being enough or loving enough, and you just enter in to the dance.  You embrace the moment and you feel its force, even if you look a little silly and can’t stop the giggles.  You wonder bemusedly at your four-month-old’s ability to kick stocky legs to the 1-2-3-4 rhythm, and you hold sticky hands with your toddler, twirling and kicking and bopping to the beat.  And as you look at the man in front of you, head tilted back, eyes smiling, joy abounding, you say a hearty Yes, Yes, Yes all over again.

Because sometimes the most boring of rituals make the story deeper.  

They speak to our values, to embracing the moment, laughing and playing and being together.

They’re the things we do, even when we don’t feel like it because we know, when we look back on these years, on these memories, that we’ll be glad we entered into this tradition again …and again …and again.

For they tell the story of Who We Are, of our deepest selves, of how we fight for freedom as we cherish the parts that make up the whole.  

So friends, enter into the ritual.  Enter into Rituals, our theme for Guest Post Tuesdays this coming year.  I can’t wait for you to hear from a crew of talented writers – some old, some new – and learn from the ordinary, everyday stories that happen in living rooms and kitchen tables and on walks to the bus stop alike.

Join us, will you?

What’s a so-called boring ritual in your life that tells a much deeper story?   What traditions speak to your YOU-ness?  And, how about joining us for tomorrow night’s dance party?  

5 that just might change your life (2).

We interrupt this regularly scheduled lovely, pensive, endearing writing flow to bring you …5 that just might change your life, as they maybe have mine.  

Photo cred: GL Harmless Harvest.
Photo cred: GL Harmless Harvest.

1.  I know, I know, coconut water is sooo two thousand and late – but this brand trumps all other brands.  As does its price tag, which is why I only treat myself while occasionally grocery shopping at this shall-not-be-named overpriced food-carrying outlet.

Photo cred: Tom's Shoes.
Photo cred: Tom’s Shoes.

2.  Thank you, HBH’s new company for the Welcome! Tom’s gift card.  Thank you, HBH, for not really being into Tom’s shoes.  Thank you, early 90’s for coming back into my life again (should have kept those 7th grade Payless Shoe Source beauties).

Photo cred: Pumpkins in Toronto.
Photo cred: Pumpkins in Toronto.

3.  What, it’s fall?  What, another blog highlights the beauty of the orange, the loveliness of America’s favorite squash?  I make no apologies for pumpkin-banana-chocolate chip bread baking in the oven.  You’re welcome.  (And come on over – slices for all!)


4.  This little slice of epic-ness right here: my sister and I had our babies three days apart, so it’s always a real treat when the cousins are able to be together.  Up next: more baths, the beach, pumpkins in Half Moon Bay, sushi, more family, playgrounds and walks and football and food.

Photo cred: IMDB.
Photo cred: IMDB.

5.  K, we’re a little late jumping on the Weeds bandwagon, but it’s pretty pickin’ hilarious – I mean, in a your-heart-goes-out-to-an-illegal-pharmaceutical-provider sort of way.

Photo cred: nanowrimo.
Photo cred: nanowrimo.

6.  Bonus, bonus!  Really, it’s because I felt like I should have put this as #5 instead of Weeds, but I’m trying my hardest to just say no to should’s.  Regardless, nanowrimo happens every November – and try as I might, I’ve never gotten past day three of writing, hailing the (albeit bonafide) excuses of grad school, working full-time, pregnancy and then caring for a four-month-old as the main cited quitting reasons.  So, will I?  Can I?  Might I?  We shall see.

What about you?  What are 5 (ish) things you can’t live without?  And will you try any of the above?  


a little story of we’re (me, myself and I)

It’s summer.

You know that and I know that, and I also know that all regular attempts at writing four or five days a week on the blog may be labeled extinct when a flight or two and a house full of family is involved.  And that, I’d say, is a very good thing. 

So although we’re missing the HBH, Cancan and I are making lemonade out of lemons up in Washington state for the week.

We’re heading to Walmart and swerving up and down the blue and white aisles, illegally squishing two three-days-apart cousins into the front of a shopping cart …because we can. 

in a walmart shopping cart.
in a walmart shopping cart.

We’re buying fireworks that fly high in the sky from the local Indian reservation, and we’re firing up the grill every night; we’re taking lots and lots of walks, mostly because Mr. I’m-Almost-1 won’t take his naps anywhere but against his mama’s chest in the Ergo.

(And I for one, am not complaining…).

We’re looking at all the different shades of green, and over and over again, we’re thinking, Man, God… way to go on this bounty of creation.   Job well done.  The Crayola 64-pack ain’t got nothing on you.

Photo cred: Brenda Joy photography.  Green credit: Creator.
Photo cred: Brenda Joy Photography. Green credit: Creator.

We’ve got our nose pressed in book after book, mostly because the iphone doesn’t get reception in these here Silverdale woods – but in doing so, we’re reminded that we want and desire to be present in the moment, with family and with books and in the presence of Creation.  So, as always, it’s good to turn off.  [Finished: Never Let Me Go and Momma Zen; reading: Care of the Soul and Cooked.  Reviews to come.]

And then we’re seeing those friends of the soul – those people who’ve known you and for some reason stuck with you over the years and through the seasons.  They’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly in you, and they’ve continued to show up.  So you wish that you could say thankyouthankyouthankyou in a 1000 different ways, but instead you find that you’re just figuring out how to catch up in conversation, so right when you leave you simply wish for another week longer.


Photo cred: Brenda Joy Photography.  Friendship courtesy of Whiteaker Middle School, Keizer, OR 97303.
Photo cred: Brenda Joy Photography. Friendship courtesy of Whiteaker Middle School, Keizer, OR 97303.

So in the meantime, you do a simple inhale-exhale.  You breathe deeply and you glance upward, grateful for another day, thankful for a pack of people who say YES to continuing to cheer you on in life.

And you hope – you hope hope hope – that you’ll be able to do the same for them.



Between the three of us, we single-handedly performed all of the Nativity’s roles – Mary, Joseph, the wise men and shepherds and the angel – thereby earning an early Christmas present on Christmas Eve.  (Resident guinea pig Henry the VIII and basset hound MacGruff the Crime Dog were stand-ins for Baby Jesus and the stable animals, respectively).

We spent our summers racing our 10-speeds to Holiday Swim Club in the morning, catching up on re-runs of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Full House in the afternoons, and sleeping outside in the three-story tree house at night.

We rescued tin cans from the recycling bin and strung a long piece of string between the two, whispering our secrets into the metal.  We held secret Kid Meetings, covering the heater vents so that Mom and Dad couldn’t hear our conversation, vowing to each other to help the family save money by turning out the lights whenever we left a room.

We ate popcorn and ice cream and Jello for dessert, only after refusing to eat onions, mushrooms and bell peppers for dinner.  We squinted our eyes at the old black and white TV in my bedroom, adjusting the rabbit ears every two minutes to see if Mr. Belvadere or The Cosby Show could come in any clearer.

We took road trips from Oregon to California and back again (and again and again), and sang along to Oldies; we got mad at each other if we weren’t able to sit in our favorite seat in the ’73 Ford Econoline van, but healed our wounds by stuffing Doritos into our mouths, washing the anger down with Capri Suns.


We were – and still are – siblings, and we share a unique and unexplainable bond, a view of the world that no one else quite knows or understands.   Who I am is part and parcel of Brandon and Aleah, and to see them is to recognize a deeper, insider’s view of their older sister: the quirks and mannerisms, the humor, a love of language, a foundation of faith.

And I wish I could boast my own perfection in our relationship, although that statement ended just as soon as this sentence began.  The truth is that as soon as the teenage years hit, I ran for the hills – and pursued everything but my family.  At the time, it yielded me a glittering prom queen tiara and shiny success in the eyes of my classmates and teachers, but with it came years of catching up with those I had known – but missed – from birth: Mom and Dad, Brother and Sister.

I suppose I realize now that truly knowing each other is a life-long process.  We’re grown-ups now – or so I’m told – with spouses and the next generation of kids in tote, with real jobs and mortgages and a couple of states between us.  They’ve both served in the Navy and known a subculture I’ve only heard stories about and experienced while visiting their worlds; they married their Loves and they found their People and they’ve established their Lives – all of which should really be lower-cased, but in an Emily Dickinson-esque sort of way, I think one’s Love and People and Life are that much weightier and that much more important.

And any sibling can attest, sometimes we seem more different than alike, making each of us wonder sometimes how we’re even related.   But that too is okay.

Because Brandon and Aleah, my friends, my blood, my mine, I love you.  I cheer you on and I’m proud of you.  I want to know you and see you and get you.  I want to see you on Skype and in person, in Oregon and in California, in Washington and in Idaho and every portal in between, because truthfully, I need you.

I need our memories and I need our future.  And you know what?  I think you need me too.

Xo, sis.

Thank you, Facebook, for this Sibling Day prompt of sorts.   But to the rest of you: continue the dialogue!  How have your siblings changed you?  How have they shaped your world?