The first rain came yesterday, and I stepped out into a tropical breeze in the morning when I left my cabin. The air hung close around and wisps of mist were weaving through the trees. It was surprisingly warm and humid, raining ever so slightly. I hurried to get my laundry off the line and felt perfectly happy, loving the warm wind, which reminded me of Thailand. I rushed to tell Chinua to step outside and breathe it in, and he agreed with me. It was a perfect day.

It was a perfect day in many ways. It was my husband's birthday yesterday, and I'm so glad that I've been able to spend so many birthdays with him. The first we ever shared was in Thailand, when he turned twenty-seven, and we sat at our favorite restaurant in Chang Mai and ate Sesame Balls instead of birthday cake. This is the fifth birthday that I've been able to spend with him. Thank you, thank you, God.

The only thing Chinua really wanted for his birthday was a set of juggling torches. They are used for the simple purpose of--you guessed it--juggling fire. Teaching fire safety to our kids seems almost ridiculous, when they have a dad who throws flaming sticks around as if they were as benign as say, wax paper balls or something. I can just imagine saying, "Okay, kids, don't play with matches, all right?" They'll look at me as if to say, "Sure, Mom." I'll have to qualify, "Only adults play with fire." Given Kid A and the YaYa Sister's frantic and persistent attempts to learn how to juggle, they'll want to join in some day. Kid A's tries at juggling involve him throwing three or more items up in the air and then running around to try to catch them. Every time, they hit the ground, but I think that he really believes that if he just tries one more time, he'll figure it out. During YaYa's attempts at juggling, though, the objects don't even leave her hands.

Anyways, we all pitched in to put enough money together that Chinua could get his torches. I made Chinua look for his present, though, with a scavenger-hunt-type-thing where he searched for clues that brought him to the place where the promise of torches was hidden. (All we had was the I O U card. I would have no idea how to go about actually buying them, so I left it up to him.) The hunt was really, really fun. Maybe even mostly for me, since I was shaking with laughter over Chinua trying to puzzle out my elusive clues.

Then, OH, MY GRACIOUS, we actually went out to the big city of Garberville for dinner. Together. Alone. It has been about two months since we've done this, so it seemed like the most luxurious thing in the whole world. It's kind of cool to be deprived, because once you have what you were lacking, it is so sweet to you. (My dad used to work all night outdoors in ungodly weather. It would be -40 degrees Celsius with a wind chill, and he would say, "It's not too bad when you're cold, because it's so good when you're warm again." Right.) However, we haven't even really felt the lack all that much, since we are so much mellower now that we are here at the Land. In the City we seemed to have more date nights, as we would merely put the kids to bed and have someone listen for them while we crept around the city streets hand in hand. But, in the City, we lived in a flat with what was sometimes twenty other people, and it was a little difficult to be alone. We don't have the same problem here. (Although, being in a managerial position makes you incredibly prone to being questioned for advice at any moment, so if Chinua and I are walking hand in hand around the Land at night, and I see someone walking purposefully toward us, my instinctive and primal urge is to turn and flee.)

We had pasta with shrimp and smoked salmon, and I was disappointed that the salmon seemed somewhat cooked, expecting the rawer, creamier smoked salmon. This was probably good, however, seeing that I'm not actually supposed to be eating that sort of fish. I crave it, though, and was planning to cheat in that minor area of pregnancy do's and don'ts. What? It's not like I was planning to chug back a bottle of wine or something. I think that my pregnant self goes into some sort of primal world motherhood state, or the unity of all mothers everywhere, because I'm craving like I'm a Jewish mom in New York. Bagels and lox and cream cheese. Mmmmm. Capers. Mmmmm. Gefilte fish. (Just kidding) Or I'm Japanese. Sushi! miso soup. Or Vietnamese, desperately craving Pho Ga. It's seems to be different with every pregnancy, actually. With Kai I was Mexican, eating Mexican rice and beans like there was no tomorrow. With Kenya, it was the sushi. I ate whole packages of somewhat fake California rolls, sitting in the car in the parking lot at Trader Joe's. This time it seems to be the aforementioned food of American Jews. That, and the ever-present desire for macaroni and cheese from the box and Ramen noodles. (Though no one can make macaroni and cheese like they can in the South. When we went to Chinua's family reunion this summer I was blissed out for days.)

Anyways. Our meal was delicious and we had a wonderfully nerdy time discussing food in different cultures and the progression of civilizations as represented by their ability to survive and their interest in food. We figure that the colder it is, the less time people could dedicate to their culinary arts. Thus, Thai and Middle Eastern and Indian foods win out over kidney pie and borsht. Not that there's anything wrong with borsht. Chinua and I are total nerds. We really sit around and talk about this stuff on dates. It's actually our favorite thing in the whole world, next to discussing physics or math concepts.

So anyways, we arrived home to a painfully obvious attempt at a surprise party. As in, "Honey, will you put the ice cream in the freezer? I just have to "check something." Or, as we were walking up to the Big House from our cabin: "Honey? I feel like I should have the camera, just in case there's anything to take a picture of. I'll run back and get it." Yeah, right, in the dark? We both know it's a façade. It was a hilarious Land birthday party, though, complete with a round of Chinua and my personal favorite game, Narcoleptic Dog. (Chinua made it up, but our friend Amy came up with the name.) It's pretty great. It involves skits and drawings and dances and art criticism. The best kind of game.
ever. My favorites were when Jeff acted out Someone shooting arrows at San Francisco, and Derek enacting a parasitic cow. I've had some of the best times in my life playing games at the Land. It's as if in the midst of all the seriousness of broken lives that God is putting back together, He understands that we need these joyful, hilarious moments to even it all out. A lot of the guys who live here now have had their hearts absolutely crushed, and are being rebuilt from the ground up. And God brings such joy through them. I feel so fortunate to be here.

The crowning moment in the whole evening, however, was Kid A's break dancing. Our friend Jesse showed him some moves back in the city, and Kid A did a little bit for us, refusing to dance to anything other than the rings on my cell phone. We were laid out, laughing. He gets this super serious look on his face, and then starts a little toe tapping, to warm up. Then the fingers start wiggling. And then, the somersaults, the crouches, the kicks. It's the best thing ever, especially since he feels the music, you can tell. I'm telling you, this boy has talent. And he's only three.