It's already Saturday. Our vacation ends tomorrow. It's always hard not to wish for just a little bit more time, but I feel pretty satisfied with our trip overall. As time went on, we developed a good rhythm--get up and have a leisurely time having breakfast and relaxing. Head for a beach--whatever sounded good and seemed like we'd have luck actually getting into the water (see previous entry for why this was a prerequisite!). Have a picnic lunch or come home to eat and have a break, often just in time to wait out some afternoon rain. Head to the pool for mini-lessons and play time. Head to Foodland, make a dinner out of leftovers, or consider going out for dinner. Read books. Crash.
On our first jaunt out to Ke'e Beach, a little girl came up and started playing with Stella as did her twin sister. I talked a little with their parents (who were from Edmonds, small world) and they said this was their first family vacation--that they had decided they just wouldn't travel with their kids until they were five.
As anyone who knows me would know, this is clearly not the route Tyler and I took. We've travelled to Mexico with Stella, and Kauai, Iceland, Ireland, and France with both the kids, not to mention more regular trips to Texas and Illinois for family visits. But on this trip I could acknowledge that travelling with the kids now is a totally different experience. We're not driven by nap schedules. We can go for a pretty long day without having major meltdowns. We can often all enjoy the same thing at the same time! While I'll be the first to admit all those earlier trips were for Tyler and I and not for the kids, it does make things easier and more fun when we are all excited about the plans at hand.
So rather than catch up on the last few days (which I hope Tyler will, in his inimitably wonderful way, before all is said and done), I thought I'd share a few thoughts on more general themes.
We've gotten out of the habit of more regular blogging (case in point: my last entry was Otto's *third* birthday--yikes!), but it's a good chance to take stock of where they are right now.
Stella, Hawaiian cutie
Oh, Stella. It's so wonderful to see what a great person she is becoming! She's resilient, able to handle change, disappointment and food she doesn't like with aplomb and good manners. (To Otto: "When you don't like something on your plate, just set it aside and don't eat it. At the end of the meal you can say, "that's not my favorite" so Mommy knows.") When we started this trip, we worried a little that her sense of caution might mean she'd miss out on some fun. She didn't really want to go to the beach and, at first, was extremely tenuous about getting into the water. Otto, on the other, had too little caution, but more on that soon. By the second and third days, though, she was increasing in confidence and could hardly be taken away from the surf. She likes to explain things, even when her "explanations" are stretched a little thin--at last night's luau she was quite worried about how the dancers got from one part of the stage to another so quickly and worked something out in her head that helped her resolve it. And we usually know what's going on in her head because she is a serious external processor--I hear rumors that Tyler's parents used to tell him that he wouldn't stop breathing if he stopped talking, and Stella has more than a little of that instinct in her. She's also initially shy around new kids--when other kids approach her on the beach, she'll tend to be stand-off-ish unless they are particularly persistent. For example, before she played with the twins on the beach, I think the girl had to approach Stella about four times before Stella really actually got engaged with her. And then she quickly takes charge and starts telling everyone else what to do.....
Exuberantly entering the water for the last beach visit of this trip
"Otto, how's the beach?" "Awesome!"
Within a week of both Stella and Otto's fourth birthdays, I've found myself thinking, "Wow--what an interesting person [insert correct child's name] is! I really love them!" There's something around four I just love. I think it's the clarity of personality that starts to more clearly emerge when they start spending less time trying to assert their independence. Otto is a ham--he likes making people laugh and is social--he's always keeping tabs on what everyone in his class is up to. We get regular reports about the goings-ons of the preschool set, often who is hitting who and who starts hitting under what circumstances. He's also incredibly affectionate and still can't get enough of me or my attention. He's also somewhat inexplicably decided to spend a lot of time talking in Ewokese, despite the fact that we tell him he'd be more effective in English. Yertl, which is technically an insult, seems to be the word of choice right now, and it means whatever he wants it to in that moment. He also keeps track of things and likes order. If we say that in three days we'll have breakfast, then go to the pool, then go to the beach, he will notice if we decide instead to go to the beach first. And, as you would probably gather from his sharings about his friends at school, he's very observant and often wants to know why things are the way they are or how they came to be that way. We joke that he inherited a lot of my family's engineering genes, though he's also loving art these days, too. When we first got here, he seemed pretty intent on just throwing himself into the water, seemingly confident that he could figure out the whole swimming thing in a pinch. Fortunately for us, without any major incident, he seems to have evened out a bit in his confidence. He's more happy to stay at the shoreline and loves paddling around in the life jacket in the pool, so we're far less worried about needing to dive in and save him than we were at the start of this trip.
Otto and his sand castle--he spent the last day on the beach playing in the sand, building castles and pirate ships which then attacked the castle
Stella AND Otto
It's fascinating to see the two of them together (at least for Tyler and I). We're often joking that it's good as eldest children to have two children and come to grips with what a jerk older siblings are to their younger kin. Of course, there's a lot of sweetness, too, but man, there's a lot of bossing around. (And, I know, I know--girls aren't supposed to be called bossy anymore, but as a strong woman leader and feminist, I'm not afraid to call it as I see it.) But when we aren't yelling at Stella to give Otto a break, she is often initiating games that Otto is happy to play along in. And I've had pleasant flashbacks to being young and playing with my brother as I overhear them in the backseat as we've gone on some of our longer drives. (Their games have a bit of a sophisticated bent--one was about a siphonphore which we thought Stella had made up until I remembered hearing it when they watched the Octonauts one day....) We're pretty fortunate that they are good playmates for each other--most of the time--which is another reason I think this trip is going smoothly for all of us. Neither is bored, and we don't feel stuck with being entertainers all the time.
Sibling love--or competition (I think this was when we had asked Stella for a picture by the white flower in her white dress, and Otto wanted in on the picture action
Stella and Otto assessing the newest beach before we all head in
If you do much research on food and restaurants in Kauai, you'll largely come away with the impression that there's not a lot to write home about and that you'll pay a lot for it regardless. I can't argue with that entirely, though I feel like I've had better and more interesting food this go around than the last time. Here are some favorites:
- Saimin at Hamura's in Lihue--this was our first stop on arrival because we needed a substantial lunch, and I remembered having saimin last time. It felt like a classically Kauaian place--a hole in the wall, low tables with little stools, a tiny Asian woman filling orders where you sort of feel like you should be a regular and know what's what. I think Tyler wrote about it, but we ended up being befriended by some nice local women who showed us how to garnish our food and gave suggestions for how to save money while on vacation (largely shop on the south/east side).
- Balinese food at the Hanelei Farmer's Market--last year our friend Yachi and I went here while the dad's were off on their Napali Coast tour and I had fondly remembered getting some good Indonesian food. The same woman was still there who was still tolerant of my attempts to speak the few words of Bahasa I still remember to her: Me: "Selamat pagi!" (Good morning!) Her: "Selamat pagi! Apa kabar?" (How are you?) Me: "Oh, shoot. I forget how to answer how are you...."
- Kilauea Fish Market in Kapa'a: we ate here twice, with food that I think was the most delicious. The first time I had an ahi wrap because I had read good reviews, and it was amazing. The ahi was fresh and smoky, and it was filled with rice, cabbage, carrots and a creamy soy dressing. I would go again tonight, if only Tyler got more excited about seafood. The second time I had fish tacos, one fried, one grilled--also delicious, but not quite as good as the wrap. Stella also loved her tofu and panko chicken on the two trips. And price-wise it definitely felt like great quality for a good price.
- Puka dog: I had wanted to try Puka Dog as I knew it was a Hawaiian chain and figured the price would be right, and they were rumored to have excellent lemonade. We went the day we were in Poipu, and it was fine. Not amazing, but more than adequate. The conceit is that there are "island" relishes and the bun is more like a hoagie that they toast a hotdog-sized hole in the middle. The lemonade was excellent.
- The fruit! I know I already talked about the Kapa'a farmer's market, but it's going to be hard to go home and not have ready access to perfectly ripe, perfectly perfect tropical fruit. It's just never the same--while we can have access to papayas and pineapples and even rambutan and longan nowadays, the toll of shipping (and probably shipping when green) show up in the taste and texture we can get in Seattle. I will miss papaya for breakfast every day.
- And then there are just the random delicacies that aren't typical at home: butter mocha, spicy tuna poke, Japanese bread (which I had once in Los Altos but hadn't seen previously--like white bread but with some rice flour so the texture is a little different), shave ice.... I'm sure I'm forgetting a few other things!
We've also eaten at home at least twice a day, which makes the trip a little more reasonable (and all the more reason when we do eat out that we hope it's really good!)
It's funny--in some ways, Kauai shouldn't have such as hold on us. I am by nature better off in more Northern climes. In heat and humidity, I get lethargic and cranky. I like beaches, but I can get put off by the wind and exposure. And I would say besides my love for the mountains and hiking, I'd call myself more of a city girl every day. Kauai is the Garden Island, for goodness sakes! It's pretty rural throughout. But there's something of the lush greenness that always makes Tyler and I imagine living here. It's a little bit shabby--it is, of course, a small island in the middle of a vast sea, left to the elements. And there are so many churches! I'm fairly convinced that every islander here must be members of at least two to keep them all going. And I grew more in my interest for the whole island--I knew last time I liked the north shore, but there are a lot of interesting things happening on the East coast in Kapa'a--amazing fresh juices, the shave ice, maybe it's the Olympia to Hanelei's better-known cool like Seattle. Or maybe I've just changed, and a more work-a-day town is more my speed. Who knows. In another few years when we're back again, I'll just have to re-assess!
Hideaways--our favorite beach this year. A short, steep hike down for a small, shaded beach with great mild-enough waves to enjoy the surf--Napali coast on the far left, and just five minutes from our condo
Happy family in Kauai