I wasn’t going to do another year of the Portrait Project. It’s been so hard to keep up with it as well as make sure I post here each week. But then I finished making the book with all the portraits of 2017 and Ellie wanted to go through the older albums and so we’ve been reading them, one book a night. I have 5 of them. One for every year of Ellie’s life so far. Ellie has been loving hearing each photo’s story so much that I knew after reading the first book to her, I had to continue with the project… These books are way too important to me and to her. So, here it is…. 2018’s first photo…
“A photo of Ellie, once a week, every week in 2018.”
Eloise: January 2018, you are 5 and 5 months old, running down a sandy hill at the beach close to our home. After a strange December, we are getting our groove back. Walking the beach, enjoying the sunshine and watching you grow into a beautiful, young lady, ready to take on the world.
It’s a New Year. I drove from our house in Ventura, up the coast to Santa Barbara today to visit the MOXI museum with Ellie and our good friends. It was the first time I had seen the expanse of devastation the Thomas Fire had left behind. For miles, the hills were charred black, burnt palm trees as far as the eye could see, houses leveled, and ash still collected in crevices and cracks in the streets and sidewalks. We were a ways from the flames in Ventura when the fire was at its worst, back in early December, but our favorite park was burned down, the botanic gardens we took family photos in completely charred and so many homes right in our downtown…. completely gone. The month of December was such a strange one. My mom having surgery, having to leave Ventura for most of the month to steer clear of awful smoke and ashy air conditions… learning about all our friends who had to evacuate, never knowing if they would lose their homes. It was just so surreal. With all the anxiety, we surprisingly had a very nice Christmas. We spent so much more time with my parents and family then we had in a long time, we made memories with evacuated friends who were staying close to where my parents lived. We were able to get back into our home before Christmas and spend Christmas morning at home. All the while, feeling somewhat guilty that we had a home while others in our community did not. Most of our friends are back in their homes. We’ve all been cleaning, washing the ash off the windows and trying to get back to normal. New Years Eve was spent in the town over with all our friends. There was so much joy being reunited with these friends, who just weeks before were all over the state on evacuation. We sang, had a parade with the kids, ate good home-cooked food and relished in being together. Every now and then, the smell of stale camp fire would waft in from outside and would remind us of the chaos of the Thomas Fire.
The New Year brought a walk along the beach. Our first one since before the fires. The air felt fresh, even if we could see the blackened hills behind us. But the walk so clearing and hopeful. Watching the birds fly and watching Ellie run around enjoying the sand and crisp air. We found a lovely 2018 written in the sand and that along with our beach walk, made a wonderful, hopeful start to this New Year.
Eloise: It’s moments like these that make me feel really good about our choice to home school you for kindergarten. You delve into a project and figure things out on your own and then proceed to keeping building… layer upon layer of learning.
Eloise: I am certainly thankful for you, my spunky, precocious, incorrigible, funny 5 year old.
Oops, well, so much for being on time with these. Looks like I’m another 4 weeks behind! Here you go!!
eloise: We spend our Tuesdays learning about letters and sounds and numbers. We’re taking it nice and slow with lots of games and silly stuff throughout the “academics”. This is you trying to make a “J” with your body.
eloise: Emotions have been running high around these parts. Lots of challenging behaviors that I thought we were finally leaving behind us. I’ve been trying my best to be gentle and patient but there are some days where that’s been very hard. I have to remind myself that you are still only 5 and are still learning to control your emotions and behavior. This photo was after a “tantrum” of sorts… you finally decided that playing with magnatiles would calm your body down. And it certainly did.
eloise: You had your art class art show the other day and donned all in witch attire (you’ve been wearing this outfit daily all month), we got to see what you have been working on! You were very proud of the art you made and rightly so. I’ve watched you blossom in this class, from not really wanting to do much to coming to pick you up and seeing that you are still engrossed in your art work hours later.
eloise: “Mama, I’m going to be a good witch and build my own apothecary and do spells… good spells. I’m going to be a witch every day.”