Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our other (temporary) children...

Back in October 2008, in those final, crazy days as we prepared for Stella's arrival, I posted a blog entry where I mentioned that we had started watching two cats, Wesley and Buttercup, while their owners did a year long Round the World trip. Well, fast forward to today, 10 months later, and the two kitties, while not often mentioned here, are still with us and it is almost hard to remember what it was like before their arrival.

Sadly, while they are generally a joy to have around, Sarah and I often feel a little sorry for them. With the adjustment to becoming new parents, the kitties are often ignored. Or, if they are acknowledged, it's as I chase one of them around the house with a spray bottle for scratching a piece of furniture or meowing while Stella naps. Obviously, not my proudest moments.

That said, at the end of the day, I'm really glad to have them in our lives right now, if for no other reason than for the benefits for Stella. Even ignoring some research that maintains that growing up in a house with pets helps prevent future animal-related allergies, it is obvious that having the cats around has helped Stella both developmentally, and given her a source of endless entertainment.

Early on, when she was just several months old, we noticed that she would start to notice the kitties. Her head turning to follow them across the room. Later, when we'd go to various parenting groups. We'd notice that whenever an animal entered the room, she would take note.

For the past several months though, it would be safe to say that the kitties are a near constant obsession for her. And, if she could talk, she would probably claim they were some of her best friends. This creates an interesting circular dynamic in our household...

• Stella is constantly trying to chase and touch the kitties.
• The kitties, in turn, are following us around waiting for their next meal.
• And Sarah and I are, of course, trying to play with Stella.

Around and around we go!

So, what do the kitties think of Stella?

Well, as near as we can tell, Wesley does his best to ignore and steer clear of Stella. I'm sure, in his mind, Stella is a noisy, nuisance that he'd prefer wasn't around. As a general rule, he does his best to ignore her in a live-and-let-live manner. But, while Buttercup initially seemed to have a similar opinion; over the last couple months her opinion has changed a bit... as seen in this video:

Stella is still struggling to understand the idea of "pet," and either resorts to sort of slapping Buttercup or pulling out tuffs of fur. But, Buttercup has proven to be very tolerant of this behavior and even seems to enjoy interacting with Stella from time to time.

As I said, I'm glad we've had them around the house these last 10 months. And, while I'm sure they'll be happy for Shahaf and Pnina's return, I'm sure that Stella will miss them.

And, who knows, maybe Buttercup will miss Stella too... just a little.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Beating the Heat and Looking for Lyrics

Seattle's in the midst of a heat advisory. After growing up (and lifeguarding summers) in Texas I had trouble taking the projected temperatures in the 90s too seriously. But it's hot. You can't buy a fan anywhere. And now we have to find ways to keep Stella from overheating.

Tonight that meant heading to one of Seattle's wading pools, for a little cool splashing in the shade.

Standing with Mom at the edge

Getting braver--sitting in the pool

Testing the waters

Wrinkly feet!

Black hole sun Stella (a sculpture at Volunteer Park)

As I type, Stella is fighting sleep. She's realized she can sit up in her crib and turn her mobile on and off. (The mobile's days, sadly for all of us, are numbered.)

Wide awake, sitting up, fighting sleep

One of the tricks in our bag is to sing Stella a few songs. Tyler's more of the songsmith in our family, but I've been adapting "Rubber Ducky" to be Stella-specific.

Little Stella, you're the one.
You make our life lots of fun!
Little Stella, we're awfully fond of you.

Little Stella, you're so cute.
We love it even when you toot!
Little Stella, we're awfully fond of you.

Little Stella, you're so neat.
We love you down to your little feet!
Little Stella, we're awfully fond of you.

Little Stella, you're so rad.
We love you even when your diaper smells bad!
Little Stella, we're awfully fond of you.

Little Stella, you're such a treat,
with your little smile so sweet!
Little Stella, we're awfully fond of you.

These are the verses I've got so far, but I could use a few more. Suggestions?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

All Terrain Stella

See why babyproofing is on our list of things to do this weekend....

A Typical Stella Morning Floor Time

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wind and Water

We got a few fun videos while on Oahu. Enjoy!

Stella at the Pali Lookout, loving the wind

She didn't like waves, but the pool at the Waimea Valley waterfalls makes me wish we had stayed somewhere with a swimming pool


We have plenty of other stuff to catch up on, too. Stella's started to enjoy a few foods (blueberries were a big hit), she's crawled a few "steps" properly and she can get herself into a sitting position on her own. Lots of changes as she finishes her 8th month!

Mmmm, blueberries! Finger foods seem to be going over better than the purees

Friday, July 17, 2009

Babymoon* (Or, Hawaii Vacation, Part 2)

*While a "babymoon" traditionally refers to a trip for the expectant couple before the babe's anticipated arrival, I like to think of our trip to Hawaii as our babymoon. Like a honeymoon, it happened after the big event--our first vacation with the baby.

As Tyler mentioned at the close of his entry, we were hitting the end of our day roadtripping along the windward side of Oahu. One of the things we'd learned (the hard way) was that we all had more fun if we scheduled our long car rides for times when Stella would typically nap, minimize the number of times we were in and out of the car, and try to make the stops lengthy enough to give Stella a break. After going to Chinaman's Hat and the Buddhist temple, we were pushing our luck to do anything besides get home and give Stella a car break. But our drive home took us past Kahuku, a town now famous for shrimp and shrimp trucks. We'd had one shrimp truck experience in Haleiwa, but I wanted to try once more, and our guide book recommended this one for a sweet and spicy flavored version that tempted me. So we decided to brave the angry baby and stop. Somehow in our peeling, eating and Stella handoff, we failed to get any photos, but the shrimp were very fresh and tasty. I'd also say that while our first stop wasn't the most popular or touted, Tyler and I both favored Macky's. I guess it goes to show it's good to take chances and not always go by the guidebook recommendations!

This must have been our day to test those guidebook assumptions, as we decided to finally brave the lines at Matsumoto, the other shaved ice place in Haleiwa. The guidebooks we had said that they thought the lines were a little unjustified at Matsumoto's and Aoki's was just as good. But the crowds (and tour buses, not always a reliable barometer) definitely meant good business. So we got in line and shuffled through the Matsumoto experience. The bottom line? Both Aoki's and Matsumoto's had different good things going for them. Matsumoto had some different and good syrups (like green tea) and slightly better quality ice cream. Aoki's had better li hing mui (the sour, salty, sweet plum flavor we loved) and friendlier service. In a perfect world, there'd be another shop between the two bridging the best of both.

Finally braving the lines at Matsumoto's Shaved Ice

The next day we scheduled to be our Honolulu day--get up early, head down south, hike Diamond Head before it was too hot or crowded and see Pearl Harbor. We got a little later start than we'd initially intended, had to do a little bit of running around to get gas, but made it to Diamond Head at a reasonable hour.

Entering the Diamond Head Park. Looks auspicious enough.

We start the hike to the top. After all our hikes in the Cascades, this was pretty reasonable, some stairs, a few switchbacks and you're at the top. But as we neared the top, it got a bit cloudier. Once we pushed our way to the upper viewpoint, it was windy, pellet-y rain and no visibility. Some people seemed anxious at the top about the weather--Stella took it all in stride and seemed to enjoy the whole experience. And it was oddly fitting for Tyler and I. We often hike to something that's supposed to have a good view, only to be socked in with bad weather--a hike in Haines on our honeymoon, the start of our morning in Macchu Picchu, our camping trip to Mt. St. Helen's last year... Let's just say it's not a big shock anymore!

No view from Diamond Head

Once again, Stella's a trooper in the wind and the rain

So we hiked down, packed up and headed over to Pearl Harbor. After getting Stella in and out of the car again, tromping around in the heat, we found they were doing some work on the theater and only doing half the number of usual shows. And the shows for the day were sold out. It was about 11AM--we were disappointed. We contemplated heading home in defeat, but we decided to take advantage of our location and head back to Waikiki and get a little beach time--splurge on a lunch somewhere with a view and see if we couldn't spend a little time by the ocean. We found a good parking garage (thanks, guidebook!), found a restaurant in the book that sounded like it would fit our bill and set off. Unfortunately in our haze of hunger and the heat, we ended up wandering far longer than necessary to find it. But, find it we did, and we even got a table with a great beach view. (Apparently it's not a problem to have babies in the bar area?!)

Finally at the beachfront bar

While we were eating, we saw an area full of umbrellas and lounge chairs. We decided to rent them for a half day and spend some time on the beach. Stella still hated the ocean, so Tyler and I took turns getting out into the water, taking in the view and feeling like we were really in Hawaii.

Waikiki from our shaded lounge chairs

After a few days on the run--and an evening luau scheduled--we took the next day easy, having a big breakfast, relaxing, napping and walking a bit around Haleiwa.

Kicking back in Haleiwa (note Stella's leg), drinking papaya juice

But even a baby gets bored of too much lounging around in a little house without too many distractions, so we ended up packing up and going to see a nearby cultural site, the Pu'u o Mahuka Heiau, an ancient temple that as a certain kind of temple that included human sacrifice. The ruins themselves were interesting (though the photographs may not seem that compelling), and we had a good time hiking around, getting views of Waimea Bay below us. (As an interesting side note, it was at Waimea Bay where Captain Vancouver was killed.)

Hiking around the heiau on the red dirt trails

View of the Heiau remnants

Looking down at Waimea Bay

Post-hiking afternoon nap

Then it was time to head out for our luau. On our way to the luau, which was in the southwest corner of Oahu, we stopped to see the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones, a sacred place where all royal women on Oahu went to have their children. It was good to have directions in the guidebook--the entrance was a small dirt deadend in between pineapple plantations. But the site itself was amazing. I'm sure a lot of it was having had the recent experience of childbirth, but seeing the stones so many women used so long ago and thinking of what their birth experiences must have been like was really powerful.

Path to the birthing stones, set unexpectedly amongst modern-day pineapple plantations

The Birthing Stones

We continued on to the luau we had chosen, Germaine's, which had gotten good reviews. Like a lot of Oahu, it seemed that not much had changed there since the 70s. But the dancing was good, the people were nice and seemed to be enjoying themselves, and it was a good enough time, even if it was a wee bit challenging with Stella as the night wore on.

Dancers from Germaine's Luau--cheesy, but fun

At the beginning of the evening, the dancers circulated and talked to people. It turned out that the nice guy who had talked to us about his daughter was the fire dancer

Suddenly, where there had been times when our vacation stretched before us with innumerable options, we had one day left. We decided we'd do three things we'd wanted to do all week: see the Pearl Harbor site, do the maze at the Dole Plantation and see sunset at a beach. To avoid disaster a second time, we got up early and headed south again to get free tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial, which incudes a film, the boat trip out to the memorial, and time on the memorial itself. We got tickets and only had a little time to wait before it began. We thought the whole thing was well done. The footage in the film was moving without being over the top, and the memorial was tasteful and touching. After it was over, we thought about taking in more of the sites there--there's a submarine you can tour, the boat where the war with Japan ended, and a aircraft museum. We actually got back in line to see the aircraft museum (Tyler's grandfather had been a pilot in the pacific theater during the war), but it was getting hot, Stella was getting cranky and it just wasn't working out, so we headed back north.

USS Arizona Memorial

From the memorial--some of the Arizona that can be seen, as well as the bloom of still leaking oil

On our way home, we stopped at the Dole Plantation, where they have either the largest or second largest hedge maze in the world, depending on your source. At the start, they give you a ticket and you have to find seven hidden stations in the maze. At each station, you stick in your ticket and trace a marker to prove you've been to each one. We set off as a team, winding our way along the first opening of the maze. At some point, we realized other people had cards that provided a map of the maze to help them find the markers. I don't know why we didn't get one, but it seems like that would take away half the fun. Isn't the point of a maze to get disoriented and wander around rather than just prove your map following skills? Ultimately, it took us about an hour and 20 minutes to do the whole thing without a map. Not too shabby!

Finishing the Dole Plantation Maze. Still not sure why others had maps, but that still seems that it would take the fun out of the whole thing.

After a rest and dinner, we headed out for a beach and decided to stop at Turtle Beach again. I'd been wanting to see more sea turtles, and it was accessible and picturesque. Stella wasn't thrilled with our plan--she didn't care for the waves, could care less about the sea turtles and was hot and tired. Until a little boy caught her attention and he started clowning around for her. (Funnily enough, he lives on Vashon!) We watched a paddle surfer, some kind of outrigger canoe, and the sunset, and waited a bit longer to see if we couldn't see the turtles head back to sea. We did ultimately see a big male come up onto shore as well as a very small, young turtle that was apparently new to the beach. It was a good way to cap off our trip.

Our last night in Hawaii: sunset at Turtle Beach

Two of the four honu (sea turtles) on Turtle Beach

But we weren't totally done with our adventures yet. After packing up, having breakfast and finding a place to take our recycling from the week, we decided to check out one last beach I had seen in the guidebook that was the location of many sets from the show Lost. After a small trek along the shore, we saw a roped off area with a security guard. He was actually very nice, talking to us about the job and the shooting. After that final experience, we headed to the airport for our flight back home.

Set from Lost. I know, we're dorks.

Final beach visit in Hawaii

Funnily enough, Stella did even better on the flight home than on the way to Oahu. And some people waiting for the plane had been on our same flight to Honolulu, remembered her and were happy to see Stella again. Yay for good baby flying skills!

For all we did on the trip (and we still managed to do a bit), one of my favorite memories will be of the mornings I got up with Stella early in the morning. We'd head out to the porch, she'd sit in my lap or on the chair behind me, and we'd watch the birds and enjoy the cool early morning.

Stella on the porch, watching the birds

When we left, we also thought Stella might start crawling. We figured she'd have less clothing to stop her and plenty of floor time. But while she did continue practicing popping up onto her hands and knees, she actually moved less than she does at home--I think her sweatiness and the grit from the sand on the floor actually made it harder to move!

Stella practicing her "hands and knees" pose on the bed. Note the baby chub tan lines in the elbows!

So, after a few fits and starts, we got our own baby travelling skills and had a lovely, relaxing time in Oahu. I enjoyed the island and hope to go back to see some of the others (the Big Island and Kauai, in particuar) again. Our current thinking has our next vacation going back to an island, but in a different direction. Time to get Stella's passport--we're thinking Iceland in 2010.

PS Video from our trip to follow as the next post--stay tuned!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hal-ee-ewa? Holly-eye-wah? Hall-ee-wah?

Even though it took me several days to get the pronunciation right, the sleepy North Shore surf-town of Hale'iwa, O'ahu was our destination last Friday. (It's pronounced "Holly-evuh", by the way.) Even though we'd travelled with Stella before, our week long vacation in Hawaii would be our first real test of how she did when away from routine home life for an extended period of time, and would be our first test of how well Sarah and I handled travelling with an infant. And, I'm happy to say we all seemed to pass our tests with flying colors.

Speaking of flying, the first test would be how Stella handled being on a plane for nearly six hours. And, luckily, things went well. She slept for about half the time, and while she got squirmy and a little fussy on occasion, she generally seemed to enjoy the flight, and spent a lot of time making friends with other people sitting around us. One thing was for sure, she definitely wasn't "that kid"... y'know, the kid you don't want to get stuck sitting next to on a six hour flight.

...Unfortunately, Sarah and I found ourselves sitting next to "that kid" instead. Now, I hate to bad mouth children, but... man, oh, man... when you are trying to manage a baby while on a long flight possibly the last thing you want to deal with is sitting next to an 11-year-old who is trying to instruct you on how to manage that baby.

"You should really have her chew gum to help her ears pop... Are you sure breast feeding is healthy? ...Yeah, I can tell her teeth are coming in. You should get her something cold to chew. You know why babies like cold things to chew on?... If the plane was going down, could you really hold onto her for dear life?..."

And on, and on.... and on. For pretty much 6 hours straight. Well, except for when she was complaining about how bored she was, or demanding that the flight attendant give her alcoholic drinks but without the alcohol.

Anyhow, the flight there was over soon enough, and next thing we were doing was picking up our rental car.

Tyler: "Honey, they said we could have that Vibe over there. Or that red thing."
Sarah: "Let's take the red thing."

(This photo is actually from the end of our trip, but I couldn't pass up posting another picture of me with a rental car.)

Now, even though none of us had been to Hawaii before, we expected that the islands would be fairly small. That said, we were still pretty impressed when -only about 30 minutes later- we were pulling into Haleiwa and parking in front of our little one bedroom villa there. The villa ended up being a nearly perfect choice for us, giving us enough room to move and live for a week, allowing Stella a little more floor to crawl around on, and it had a kitchen so we were able to eat in from time to time. Probably the only down side was that it didn't have air-conditioning, so between noon about about 4pm it was hot! But, instead of complaining about it, we tried to use it as motivation to get out at do some site-seeing or find a restaurant or shop with air conditioning each day.

That first night, we grabbed burgers and then got our first of many shaved ice. Now, Haleiwa is the type of town that can support not one, but two shaved-ice stands and have both regular feature lines around the block. Of the two, Matsumoto's is the more popular, but because of the lengths of its lines we settled on Aoki's for the first night. Incidentally, when we finally got around to trying Matsumoto's several days later, we decided that we probably actually liked Aoki's more... based almost solely on the fact that their Li Hing Mui (sweet and spicy plum) flavoring was better.

That night, walking through the town with our shaved ice and a sleeping Stella on my back, we were surprised and delighted to see Sea Turtles swimming in the river as we crossed Haleiwa's main bridge. This wouldn't be the last time we were surprised by sea turtles.

The next morning we were awoken early (mainly by a little girl who was still on West Coast time), and grabbed breakfast at Haleiwa Joe's Cafe before heading out to find a beach to relax on. After driving down the coast aways and passing several packed beaches, we finally settled on a "hidden" beach near the Turtle Bay Resort. Unfortunately, we got out of the car and started walking at the wrong entrance, and ended up having to hike a bit to find it. But, when we finally made it, we were rewarded with a nearly empty beach.

Giant banyan trees near the beach, As Seen On "Lost"™

Stella prepares to get her feet wet in the ocean for the first time!

This was Stella's first encounter with the ocean, and ...let's just say she was a bit overwhelmed. For the most part, she didn't mind sitting on the shore, but when we took her down to the water itself, the sound and movements of the waves would quickly overwhelm her and she'd start crying. So, after taking turns diving in for a bit individually, we packed up and headed back into town.

Before leaving on our trip, our friend Johnny told us, via email, that pretty much any food served out of a van or truck was going to be good. And, Haleiwa had no shortage of trucks selling shrimp, so we decided to try one out. Now, it's a pretty well documented fact that I'm not a big fan of seafood, but who am I to deny Sarah a chance to experience a shrimp truck. So, I soldiered up and ordered the spicy shrimp, figuring -if nothing else- I like spicy food. Let's just say neither of us were disappointed!

Yowza! Spicy!

Finally, since it was the 4th of July, we made our way back to the Turtle Bay Resort, where they were holding a fireworks display. This ended up being a nice way to wind down our day, sitting in the grass, enjoying some local food from vendors, and listening to some live Hawaiian music. Surprisingly, too, though it was held at a resort, the event was obviously held for the whole North Shore community. So, in addition to the tourists you'd expect, it was also a nice mix of local families. After the show, we climbed back into our red thing and got in line for the long slow drive home.

Stella seems slightly less than amused by the fireworks in this photo, but honestly seemed to be interested for the most part.

The next morning was Sunday, so we took the opportunity to check out Haleiwa's Farmers Market. Sarah and I are both fans of Seattle's Farmers Markets, and since we were planning on cooking some meals at our villa, we figured it was a good way to stock up on some local food for the week. The market turned out to be small, but with a nice mix of fruits, veggies and food vendors. We ended up grabbing pulled pork sandwiches there for lunch before heading back.

Our market purchases: Sea asparagus salad, stir-fry mix, bananas, pepper and smoked marlin.

The previous day, while check out beaches, we'd been intrigued by the Waimea Valley park entrance, located across the street from one of the busier beaches. So, we figured today would be a good day to check it out. It ended up being a nice pleasant hike through a park loaded with flowers and bird that wound its way up the valley to a small waterfall. Arriving at the waterfall, we figured we'd try getting Stella's feet wet a little and see if she liked it better than the overwhelming ocean. She definitely preferred it, happily kicking her feet in the water and hamming it up for the camera.

Stella prefers this to the ocean. No big, scary waves!

Big leaf or small baby? You make the call!

On the way back from Waimea Valley, we passed Turtle Beach, which is known for it's sea turtles. As we passed, Sarah suggested I slow down, so she could check to see if there was any sign of turtles. Suddenly...

"Whoa! Stop the car! Stop the car! They're on the beach! They're on the beach!"

Pulling the car to the side of the road, we scrambled down the beach to where a small group of people stood in a half moon around a pair of sea turtles sleeping in the sand. While we stood there, a volunteer explained that they usually get a couple of turtles each day on the beach, and then pointed down the beach to where other turtles were swimming, surrounded by snorkelers. Apparently there were a couple dozen sea turtles that called the beach home, and seeing them there was regular to the point of being ordinary. Still, sea turtles! Sarah and I were impressed. Stella, on the other had was cranky and tired, so we cut our stop short and headed home to get some rest.

Stella encounters sea turtles. I think, when we tried to point them out to her, she just thought they were big rocks.

We were quickly learning a lesson about travelling with a baby: What adults want to do on vacation, and what babies want to do on vacation rarely overlap. But, again, instead of seeing this as a negative, Sarah and I were trying to use it as an opportunity to learn more about this little person who has come into our lives. So, for example, we'd learned that -despite her love of bath time and water- she didn't really care for the beach and ocean. But, converse, we did discover something she truly seemed to enjoy: Wind. Read on.

The following morning, we decided to explore the far side of the island a bit. The first stop: Pali Pass. The Pali Highway winds its way from outside of Honolulu through lush green mountains, and right at the pass there is an amazing view point which overlooks Kaneohe Bay. But, when we got there it was windy! Nearly blow-your-clothes-right-off-you windy. But, surprisingly, Stella seemed to love it, laughing and smiling the whole time as we pushed her around in her stroller and pretended to get thrown around by the wind. Other people were even pointing her out to their friends and family: "Look at that baby! She really likes the wind!"

Not too windy for a baby, but maybe too windy for a daddy.

Happy to see Stella enjoying herself, we carried on farther down the island to Makapuu Point. At the point, we loaded Stella into her hiking backpack, and set off up the trail. The trail ended with a observation booth that overlooked a lighthouse on the point and the Pacific stretching endlessly beyond. Off to one side, you could make out the dim and distant shape of some of O'ahu's nearest neighbors. As we stood there, the wind kicked up again and rain began to fall, so even though Stella didn't seem to mind, we quickly made our way back down to the car.

Sleepy! Stella crashes out while hiking back down from the point.

We did quickly learn that there is one thing Stella did mind: Spending too much time in the car! Our next planned activity was to take a quick drive up Tantalus and Round Top Drive. Tantalus and Round Top were two winding roads just outside of Honolulu that twisted and turned tightly through jungly rain forest and provided several scenic views of Honolulu and Waikiki. Unfortunately, the main thing we noticed was Stella crying in the backseat as we rushed through our drive.

Quickly finishing that up, we drove into Honolulu's Chinatown. Unfortunately, by this point, Stella wasn't the only one who was cranky, because both Sarah and I were starving. So, rather than hunt around for the perfect restaurant, we picked a Vietnamese restaurant at random and popped inside. The food ended up being pretty decent, and a middle aged woman who worked there offered to hold Stella while we ate... but that quickly dissolved into tears, and Sarah and I went back to taking turns eating while the other entertained Stella.

After lunch, we made our way back to the car, Sarah buying more fruit from vendors on the way, while I tried to sneak photographs of some guys unloading whole dead pigs from the back of the truck. Then, it was back to Haleiwa, to let Stella get a break and to get some more shaved ice.

Dead pigs! ...not sure why I found this so fascinating, or why I was afraid to just take a picture (this one was taken over my shoulder).

Tuesday morning, we climbed into the car and set off down the coast again, past the Turtle Bay Resort to see the Chinaman's Hat. Chinaman's Hat is a small island off the coast which has the same distinct shape as a conical hat. We'd heard from others who'd been there that you could pretty much wade out to it, but we must have been there during high-tide, because the distant island was separated from us by dark and choppy waters. So, after relaxing on the beach, and staring across the water at it for a while, we headed onward.

The whole family, with Chinaman's Hat in the background. One of the few pictures of all three of us together in Hawaii.

The next stop was the Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples. The Valley of the Temples is actually a large cemetery nestled in a long valley, and surrounded by a number of temples from a number of religions. At the end of the valley is the Byodo-In Temple, a replica of a 950-year-old Japanese Buddhist temple. As we pulled into the parking lot, and looked across at the temple, nestled in the valley, and with grey misty clouds wrapping the mountains above it, we could have swore we were in Japan. As we wandered the grounds, ringing the giant bell, peaking in at the Buddha statue and trying to point the koi fish out to Stella, Sarah and I agreed with each other: We definitely need to go back to Asia someday.

I thought we were in Hawaii?

I'll end my entry here, since it's about the halfway point in our trip. I want to give Sarah the chance to talk about our second shrimp truck, our hike on Diamond Head and our day on the beaches of Waikiki. But, I will quickly say that while it was a bit rocky at first, and while we did occasionally doubt whether or not it was "fair" to drag Stella with us to Hawaii, we really did end up feeling positive about the whole thing, and excited about travelling with her in the future. I think, once we realized the limitations to travelling with a baby, we also were able to quickly learn to appreciate the joys. Little moments throughout the trip reminded us that she was seeing so many things from the first time. Watching her kick her feet in the water or laugh in the face of the wind were the sort of experiences and memories I know I'll hold onto for years to come.