Category: Family

I Have Returned…

June 15, 2020

Grahamspencerblog

(Spencer, 13  Graham, 15)

Hello Friends.

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?  It’s actually been about six and a half years.  I’m doing the math in my head as I type this and I truly can’t believe it has been that long since I’ve been back to this space.  A LOT has happened.  A LOT is happening right now for all of us, isn’t it? The question of why I am back now is a lot simpler than the question of where I have been.  I’m back because I’ve been wanting to come back for a long time and earlier this year, when life was, you know, normal-ish, I set a goal for myself to get back to my blog.  Generally I’m not a big goal setter, but I have a Big Birthday coming up at the end of July and I thought setting some goals for this year would be helpful.  When I’m not actually in the kitchen cooking, or planning on what I will be cooking, I tend to be a procrastinator and sometimes a little lazy.  So as I made that list, it seemed ambitious.  Now, with life altered and a lot of time on my hands, I’ve been chipping away at the goals.  I have already surpassed doing 50 Peloton rides by the end of July, I’ve tackled pizza and sourdough among other baking challenges, and at long last, I’m back here in the land of food blogging.

I’ve missed this space so much.  So much.  Please let me say thank you so much for all of you who have reached out over the years, all of you who have asked me when I’m coming back, all of you who have continued to use the recipes on this site and have recommended it to friends.  It has continued to be a source of joy for me even as I went dark.  Once I get this post out of the way, I will get back to posting food photos and recipes.  I just need to tell you where I’ve been.

In January of 2014, I was felled by a terrible episode of depression.  It seemingly came out of nowhere.  One day I was fine, the next day I felt a little blue, and the next day I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  At first I chalked it up to coming off a busy holiday season with family in town but after the third day of terrible exhaustion, I went to see my doctor.  She told me I was showing signs of depression and gave me a prescription for Lexapro.  She also told me to try and find someone to talk to but “good luck with that because they all have really busy practices”.  (I no longer see this doctor.)  And thus began the next four years of my life.  Crushing soul sucking depression.  It runs in my family and I had had minor bouts of it in the past but absolutely nothing could have prepared me for how awful I felt.  It’s called mental illness for a reason, I was sick.  I felt sick.  Not sad.  Like a migraine without the headache is how I sometimes described it. But so much worse than that. The first year was absolutely paralyzingly awful.  I was seeing a psychiatrist who was not really helping me but I was too wasted to find someone else.  We were trying to find the right meds and the right dosage and all of that took so much TIME and so many side effects.  The few weeks of intense anxiety I felt while adjusting to Lexapro, on top of paralyzing depression, almost sent me over the edge.  I was just waiting and waiting to feel better.  Thankfully, my kids were still young enough to not really understand that something was drastically wrong with me.  They didn’t question why they were getting Oreos in their lunchboxes instead of homemade treats, or why I was in bed all the time.  They didn’t mind the spaghetti with jarred sauce that I made regularly and which should signal to anyone who has read this blog how bad I really felt.  I lost all my joy besides my kids.

After the first year and switching to a new psychiatrist and a different med, I felt a tiny bit better.  Joy was still in short supply and I had absolutely no energy and I was sleeping an alarming number of hours each day, but I didn’t feel that unspeakable awfulness.  The following year was a little better and by year four, I could say that once I was able to get myself out of bed, which was most of the time around noon, I felt more or less normal.  I was back to cooking and baking a bit, I had things I was looking forward to, I was a more active participant in my life.  That terrible weight sitting on my head had lifted.  I had gained a significant amount of weight (common with anti-depressants) and it seemed that most of my feeling terrible had transferred to how I looked.  I really felt all right but I had all this weight on me, a visible symptom of what I had been through.  By January of 2018, I felt ready to take control of the situation.  With my doctor’s blessing and plan for doing it safely, I went off my meds.  Very slowly I started exercising and I also got back to a healthy way of eating. Much more importantly, I found joy again in my life and rejoined my family and friends.

So what happened?  Why did it strike me the way it did?  These are two of the many questions I explored with the two doctors I saw.  Depression, of course, can just happen.  There doesn’t have to be a cause.  But for me, I realized, with the help of my doctors, that I had so many unexplored feelings about having a child with special needs.  We’ve known since Graham was 18 months old that something was wrong and his childhood and adolescence has had so many twists and turns.  But I had never really talked to anyone about how that felt.  I talked about him to people but it was more situational than emotional.  “We need to find a different school for him because his school is becoming a language immersion school and that won’t work for him.”  But not how that felt. How sad I was that he wasn’t “normal” and how exhausting it was to have to keep ahead of the game and find the right thing for him.  How I would think “Why me?” and then immediately feel guilty for thinking that when I had the gift of this amazing kid.  I think the deepest and most candid I got about these feelings were the posts I wrote here on my blog.

But even deeper than these unexplored feelings about having him as a child were/are my feelings about how I mother him.  Beyond the terrible guilt about sometimes wishing he was different, lies the shame in all the times I have yelled at him for things he can’t help.  The impatience I feel for things that are not his fault.  The worry I feel about his future, beyond the regular worry that I feel for Spencer, and how much despair I feel about that.  These are terrible dark things to feel and so painful to confront and I came away from the four years of feeling bad thinking, no wonder.  No wonder I got felled hard by these terrible things I was feeling and these terrible things I was telling myself.  I think the most valuable thing my doctor gave me, besides her unflagging empathy, is the idea that I am so incredibly hard on myself about how I mother Graham because I have very high standards about the mother I want to be and how I should mother him.  He’s an amazing giving loving person, so I should be more patient.  He can’t help it that he can’t keep track of his things, so I shouldn’t yell at him for losing his jacket.  My doctor helped normalize the things I was telling myself and was very adamant that I not “should myself to death”.

Now that I am on the other side of those four dark years, I have many thoughts and feelings about it.  I feel fear that it will all come crashing down again.  I worked really hard in therapy but I could have worked harder.  There are scary things that I explored but also scary things that I left alone.  Will that come back to haunt me?  I also have to deal with the fact that I lost my mid-40′s.  I have memories from those years, of course, but with a pall over them.  It was the dark time and it took up a significant chunk of my life.  When I expressed regret about that to my doctor, she asked me if I could have a magic pill to make it so that the depression never have happened, would I take it?  That’s a tough one but after thinking about it, I would say that no, I wouldn’t take the pill.  My life changed forever when I was 43 not because of anything I did, and that’s a twist that I have to own.  I came out the other side so grateful to feel better.  When I exercise, when I plan for and cook a big meal, when I am fully present with my family, I am extremely aware that it was not this way for a long while and to never take health, mental and otherwise, for granted.

Next up, a food post!



Nine

December 16, 2013

Deep deep sigh.

My son, my big boy, is nine years old.  His birthday was November 28th – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and his birthday all in one this year.  I started doing these birthday posts when he was six – the age his younger brother is now, although it is only two more months before Spencer turns seven. I like to go back and reread these birthday posts more than any others here on my blog. I have a good memory but being able to capture little moments that slip through my mind’s cracks gives me a better sense of my family. The journey from eight years old to nine was a challenging one so truthfully, I’m not sad to leave eight behind. Even though Graham has become this huge person, not a little tiny boy anymore and that makes me sad, I’m just glad we are able to move on to the next year.

If you have been reading here long enough, you know that Graham has some challenges that do not have a name.  (You can read more posts about him here.)  He is not on the spectrum (Autism or Asperger’s), he is not dyslexic, he doesn’t have behavioral issues, and he is healthy as an ox. He probably has some kind of auditory processing disorder meaning that he doesn’t process language in the way that you and I do. He hears the words fine but doesn’t make sense of them in a timely manner, or sometimes at all. Language, as I have learned first hand, affects everything you do in your life. If you are not fluent in speaking and understanding, you are probably also not fluent in social language. He struggles to follow along in his classroom and he also struggles on the playground. Ever the cheerful and friendly child, he wants to join in games at recess but can’t follow the complex rules that sometimes go along with those games and frustration ensues.   Fortunately, in his case, frustration means walking away, not hauling off and hitting someone.  He also just doesn’t read people in quite the right way so kids sometimes find him annoying or inappropriate. It is heartbreaking to watch. All he wants is to connect, to be friends, and he just doesn’t go about it quite the right way. I watch Spencer, his junior by two years, navigate friendships effortlessly. But for Graham it is just so much harder. I will say that the older kids, especially the girls, adore him and he gets high fives whenever he sees them.

All along, Randy and I have held tight to the idea that public school is the best choice for Graham. Because he has been tested and has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), he has legal rights to services within the school. If we opt out and go to private school, we lose our rights to services during the school day. The burden would fall to us to get him extra help. Over the years, the schools he has attended have offered him quite a bit in the way of services, but it has never been quite enough, especially as he has gotten older and school has gotten more sophisticated. This past year it seemed they are always just falling short of what he really needs. This has been a frustrating process, to say the least. Both Randy and I believe that their hearts are in the right place, that they care deeply about Graham and want him to succeed, but for many complicated reasons, including funding, they are not able to give him quite enough help. Last year, at the end of our rope, we hired a lawyer to help us navigate the meetings and to help us speak the correct language to get what we want for him.

Through the process of many meetings and innumerable emails, not to mention an honest threat to sue the Oakland school district, Graham is now being helped more than before. He attends a special reading clinic every morning where he and one other student get intensive reaching coaching by a specialist. He still gets help with reading and writing during the school day, and he has an aide shadowing him at recess, to help him navigate the complex rules of the playground. He also goes to speech therapy twice a week. This kid works so hard. I have to wake him up most mornings, then he gets breakfast, then I pile the two boys in the car and drive to downtown Oakland where the reading clinic is. He spends an hour and forty minutes with no break practicing reading and pronunciation. He scores a ten out of ten almost every single day for his effort.  Then he gets on a bus and goes back to his regular school where he has just missed recess, and has to jump in with two feet to whatever is on the schedule that day. His teacher is kind and accommodating, telling him to get his wiggles out on the playground if he needs to, and offering him time to eat a snack, but it is still a big transition. One that he does every single day and will do through the end of the school year. Graham has homework every night that can take him up to an hour, with a lot of assistance, and it is so difficult for him. All through these long days with challenging expectations, he is cheerful and compliant. “How was school today?” is met, unfailingly, with “Great!”

I am so proud of him. I also continue to be frustrated by him. And that is where this post will sound like all the other birthday posts that I have written about Graham. I have this beautiful amazingly sweet tempered child, who tries his best every single day (how many of us can say that?), and much of the time, in addition to loving him, I am impatient with him. Homework is the time of day where I am tested. I sit with him as he struggles to recognize his spelling words (must they be written in cursive??) and watch as his math skills, which are very good, flee his brain as he contemplates word problems. Third grade is a big transition, the work is less linear, more complex. This does not work well for our child. Again, I am grateful to his teacher who is compassionate and understanding. She suggests that he does 20 minutes of homework only, set a timer, and whatever he finishes is great.  So far, that has made things a bit easier for all of us.

At his last IEP meeting, an emotional one where the school therapist shared her findings, and her deep affection for Graham, in a stirring way, Randy raised the difficult question. The one that has been in the back of our minds since he started school. “At what point do we hold him back?” It was one of those things that had been with me so long that it was startling to hear it voiced aloud. And even more startling was how they unequivocally told us that studies show that “retaining” students does them no good. They progress for a while and then continue to get stuck about where they did the previous year. Much better to keep assessing his needs and making accommodations for him along the way. I felt so much better after that was cleared up.  And I also worry.  Of course I worry.  How will this look in the future?  How will he continue to be in the classroom with typically developing kids without his very strong self esteem being impacted?

And then I remember what his pediatrician said long ago.  Before we knew what this was (and we still don’t), before he had started in school, just about when we realized that he wasn’t talking and all the babies his age were.  She told me that as long as he was making progress, we shouldn’t worry.  His peers will make progress too, most of the time faster than he will, so it won’t be a race.  He won’t necessarily catch up.  But as long as he is moving forward, that is what we need to hold on to.  And he is moving forward.  When he was starting developmental preschool and he was still wearing diapers, I could not imagine a day when he would sit at a real desk and do real math problems and read real books.  And here he is doing all of those things and thriving in his own way.

There are lessons here.  Be easier on him.  Be easier on myself.  Celebrate what you have without wishing for what you don’t.  Why is it all so hard?  I imagine other people’s houses at homework time and how effortlessly it must flow.  I imagine other people’s weekends and how much less frustration they must experience just trying to get out the door in addition to everything else.  And then I remember a valuable lesson I learned when I went through my divorce from my first husband.  When we announced to friends and family that we were splitting up, people were absolutely shocked.  From the outside, we seemed like the perfect couple – how could we divorce?  I realized that no one knows what is going on in your house and the challenges you face.  So as I imagine these other people with their other children, I need to remember that everyone has something.  What I have is a gloriously happy (and handsome) child with an amazing attitude who thinks he is awesome and that his life is great.  And I have a temper I wish was less volatile when it comes to this child.  We’ve done the work for him and we will continue to do it.  I think I need to do some work on me.



Eight and Six and Family Vacation

September 17, 2013

(I know I’ve been gone a while.  Apologies.  I’ve got a long post below for you to read.  I quickly want to announce that I have new classes listed on my the site – go to the “classes” tab or just click here.  Some really good things coming your way!)

Three years ago, I wrote a post called Five and Three in an effort to try and capture the sweetness of my children.  Also to tell the story of why I have two of them.  The year after that, I wrote a post called First Grade and Pre-K.  Last year, I intended to write something called Seven and Five or Second Grade and Kindergarten, but I just never did.  I now feel this call to write about them.  I know I always do around their birthdays and I know I’ve written quite a bit about Graham, and I know they appear frequently on my Slice of Life posts.  I guess I feel this sweet sweet age that they are now, Eight and Six – or really Eight-and-Three-Quarters and Six-and-a-Half – is fleeting.  I watch them grow and mature practically before my eyes.  These kids (kids!) are really mine?  Where did the babies go?

(First Slurpees!)

We’ve been living in Oakland for a year now (!) and my boys have just started their second year at our sweet school – third and first grades.  They have adjusted to our new life amazingly well.  They love the sunshine and have made some nice friends.  Our community is so friendly and we love being able to just drive home from somewhere and pull over to buy lemonade from a schoolmate’s stand.  They spent the summer in camps and swimming at the community pool.  They have gone from being sort of confident in the water to really being able to swim in the space of the summer.  We traveled a bit, to Delaware with Randy’s family and to Seattle to visit mine (more on that in a minute).  On both of those trips they were terrific travelers.  We had long delays and long car rides and they took it all in stride.  I can put them in a strange bed and they will just pass out without anxiety or nightmares.

(First day of school.)

How to describe who these boys are right now?  I think six and eight is a bit magical.  People often smile at me when I walk down the street with them.  I know they are cute boys but I also think this age exudes sweetness and yet they are far from babies.  They are old enough to be a bit independent but young enough to still need their mommy.  And they still call me mommy.  They remember (most of the time) to pull their lunch boxes (Spider Man and Batman) out of their backpacks (ditto), but I still need to pack those lunch boxes.  They listen to me when I tell them they don’t get a treat if they don’t finish their fruit.  They don’t question my rules.  They are quick to say, “Sorry Mommy” if they cross a line.  They play well together, usually with the millions of Legos we seem to have acquired.  Sometimes the games involve multiple sheets of paper taped together with masking tape and require pens to be scattered across the living room floor.  Their imaginations inspire and amaze me.  I love hearing them using pretend voices.  I giggle when they play “restaurant”.

I love to kiss their necks in the morning just after they have woken up, their skin so warm and smelling so sweet.  They are still very innocent in the ways of the world and very trusting.  Also so curious.  Spencer asks me about 60 questions a day ranging from the interesting to the hilarious.  (A recent favorite – If you were having a snowball fight and one of the snowballs got hit by lightening, what would happen?)  If I answer that I don’t know, he will suggest we ask Daddy or Boppa – my dad.

With a new school year just beginning, we have high hopes for the boys.  Spencer had a magical kindergarten year – a kind teacher, nice kids, involved parents and real! big boy! school!  He was so ready.  He thrived in his classroom, got invited to all the birthday parties, and had lots of play dates.  I called him the mayor of his classroom.  He got lucky again with another nice teacher and many of the same sweet children.  I have already gotten five emails saying he has had Outstanding Behavior from his teacher so it looks like we are off to a good start.

Second grade was a tough year for Graham.  Being the new kid and being a bit different turned out to be a bad combination at that age.  Throw in a few really mean boys and a teacher who yelled a lot and it is astonishing to me that he wanted to go to school at all.  But want he did and he got three good report cards with the surprise that he is advanced in math and the non-surprise that he excels in listening, being a team player, and being kind to his classmates.  Thankfully, the mean boys were split up this year and Graham has a much nicer teacher who seems to be really on the ball and to already “get” him.  With the help of an attorney, we have been pushing the school district to provide more help for him in the areas where he needs it and hopefully it will all be in place soon.  We just never stop fighting for this boy.

A little more about our trip to Seattle.  It was actually supposed to be trip to Sun Valley to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday.  My whole family was set to meet up and stay in my parents’ time share condo but the terrible fires in Idaho kept us from doing so.  We were literally on the road, car packed up, friends in place to house- sit in Oakland, when my dad called and said the condo building was being evacuated.  I turned to Randy and asked, “Should we just go to Seattle?” and he said, “Sure!”  The boys were so ready for a road trip and so ready to see their cousins and to turn around just seemed sad.  So we tacked on an additional 400 miles to our trip and headed north and west.

Probably the most special part of the trip is that we got a chance to go to Lopez Island.  I was actually feeling a little stressed that this was going to be the first summer in 32 summers! that I wouldn’t spend a night on that island.  But with some frantic phone calls to find space to accommodate all of us, we squeezed in two nights there.  We got to visit Holly B’s and all of our favorite spots on the island, including the sweet church where we got married.  We had been planning to have a photographer take family shots in Sun Valley and Randy made some calls and somehow found us a wonderful photographer on Lopez to do the same.  We are all thrilled with the pictures he took and as soon as I can figure out how to share them, I will.  We got a picture at the more or less exact spot where we got engaged.

The sweet church.

The most beautiful beach in the world.

Madrona trees are my favorite.  They only grow in Northwest.

My dad, overwhelmed by choices at Holly B’s.

My parents.

My youngest brother Michael and Graham.  They look alike, don’t you think?

I made a decision that on road trips, long or short, we do them with no screens.  I am not *that* mom.  I let my kids watch tv and they play with our iPads after dinner.  But here is the thing.  When I was a kid, we drove to Sun Valley every winter and summer and I remember being bored but I also remember listening to my Walkman, looking out the window, napping, snacking, and just generally spacing out.  I don’t think kids get a lot of time to space out these days and I wanted to give them that chance.

As it turns out, they were busy on this trip.  The good kind of busy.  This was one of the keys.  I got lots of dot-to-dot books, coloring books, sticker books, comic books -  most of which we picked out together – and plenty of pens.  This contraption sat between them throughout the ride and they could dip into it whenever they wanted.  They also got plenty of snacks in their very own bin and they did not have to ask me whenever they wanted one.  The biggest time passer was listening to Harry Potter on CD.  Randy had read them the first one and we listened to the second one and all of us loved it.  The above photo of Graham is how he looked when we listened to it.  Just Zen.  It was a great trip.

Finally, randomly, this is a shot of us going out to celebrate our 11th anniversary.  That dress is my wedding dress.  Randy and I both been married before and had both had big weddings.  We decided to do something much smaller and more simple and I decided to wear a dress I liked, not a wedding dress.  It turned out that I fell in love with a white dress and I have worn it every anniversary since (except the pregnant and nursing years).  It doesn’t fit quite the same but it still fits!  Randy is wearing his wedding finery too.



A Slice of My Life – Bethany Beach, DE

July 10, 2013

My husband Randy’s immediate family lives in Richmond and Houston, but the entire extended family, and there are a lot of them, live in the Baltimore area.  The family is close and they see a lot of each other.  Every year, over 4th of July week, the entire crew picks up and heads to the Delaware shore for beach time, eating, drinking, and singing.  We go every other year and it is a trip I really look forward to.

On the West coast, if you tell people you are going to Delaware, they look at you funny.  Why Delaware?  For the beach, of course.  Beach to a West coaster, unless you are talking about Southern California, is a place to enjoy beauty, maybe play in the sand, perhaps dip a toe in the water on a really hot day.  East coast beaches are for lounging all day and swimming, really swimming, in the ocean.  Every time we go, I have a hard time with the sand for the first day or so.  My boys do too.  “Where is the pool?”, they want to know.  But then we all settle in, get used to sand being everywhere, and adjust to long lazy days with nothing much to do.  Every morning, Uncle Dan heads down to the beach in front of his house and sets up chairs and umbrellas and then people come and go throughout the day.  Some stay all day, some just come for happy hour beers.  It is a great vacation.

We flew Virgin America for my first time.  I’m no longer a Virgin virgin.  It was great having the convenience of screens in the seats, on demand movies and food and drink.  It was also great flying out of terminal 2 in San Francisco where there are great restaurants and even a yoga studio.  We were able to take advantage of these things because we had a three hour delay on our way out.  Then we had to circle for an hour over Washington D.C. because a tornado hit near National airport.  It was quite a trip out but the trip back was worse.

We never try and make it to the shore in one day because of things like delays and tornadoes.  We spent the night near the airport and the boys shared a bed.  When they went to sleep, they were head to head but sometime during the night this happened.

Weird to drive over two Bay bridges on opposite sides of the country within 24 hours of each other.

This is so not a West coast sky.

One of the highlights of the trip was spending time with Randy’s sisters, their husbands, and all the kids.  Cousin Charles got a big kick out of his big boy cousins.  (The frozen custard was pretty great too.)

Each time we go to Bethany, we make sure to spend at least one day at the boardwalk in Rehoboth.  It has a great area for rides that is especially good for young children.  It was bittersweet to walk by all the kiddie rides and realize that my children are much too old and big for them now.  They still get a tremendous kick out of trying to win animals.  For some reason, we had never gotten fries at Thrasher’s but we remedied that this trip.  I was disappointed.  They were greasy and not salty enough.

One of the biggest family activities is the one or two hootenannies that happen each week.  Many of the family members are musical, so singing and playing guitar is a big part of their lives.  I sing and play the guitar, I used to perform in coffee houses, but I almost never sing or play anymore.  Each visit, I am coerced to play for everyone so I spend some time practicing so I don’t make a fool out of myself.  The boys were captivated when I played.  (Note to self: play more often.)  Spencer thought he might perform a song of his own but decided he wouldn’t sing.  He would play the guitar only and it would be “jazz”.  In the end, he opted to play with the cousins instead.

Graham, on the other hand, performed a song of his own writing, music and lyrics, on both hootenanny nights.  I was proud to bursting and he brought the house down.

At the 4th of July parade.  Yes, you can see up my dress but I promise that is a bathing suit underneath.

You know.

This was home for a week.  So many of the houses along the shore are huge like this, built for multiple generations to be able to stay in one house and that is exactly what we had.  15 of us slept comfortably!

On our way back to D.C., we always stop in Annapolis to visit Randy’s alma mater.  We walk around the beautiful campus, stop in a few buildings, then hit the store for Navy gear for the boys.

Our flight home was supposed to leave at 10am.  We got to the airport at 8:30am and proceeded to wait for 12 hours.  The crash in San Francisco closed down two of the runways so everything was backed up.  It was one of those, “are we ever going to get home?” days.  We have been lucky with flying and had never been severely delayed so I wasn’t sure how the boys would do.  It turns out they are expert travelers and were amazingly flexible with our weird airport day.

Lots of walks up and down the terminal, new books, comic books, coloring books, treats, a surprisingly small amount of screen time, and they were true troopers.  We finally got on the plane, took off, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  And then I realized we still had a 5½ hour flight and a drive back across the Bay to Oakland to get through.  We got home at 1am which was 4am our time.  Still, I will never take landing safely for granted, especially at SFO.

Finally, I like to let you know what I am reading.  This is the current book.  I had high hopes.  Let the Great World Spin is on my top ten list of all time.  This book is beautifully written.  I have to stop and slow down and just marvel at the sentences and images sometimes.  But I’m not captivated by the story.  I admire it.  I can’t say I like it.  I have a lot of other great-sounding books waiting in the wings though.

 

 



A Slice of My Life – Kauai Edition

April 23, 2013

Last week, that week of utter craziness in Boston and Waco and unbelievable disappointment in our government, I was in Hawaii.  Kauai to be exact.  We heard the news about the bombings because a friend who came with us on our trip happened to be watching the news as she ran on the treadmill.  We were six hours behind the East coast and, it felt, a million miles away from all the bad things that were happening.  Kauai was actually a great place to be in a time of fear and uncertainty.  We didn’t have to shield our kids from the news because they were in the water from morning until evening.  And truthfully, whenever the tv was on, it was tuned to the Disney channel or Cartoon Network.  I relied on Facebook and the New York Times on my phone for updates and I felt utterly sick at times that I was sitting by the pool with a Mai Tai and watching my kids splash around while people were recuperating from unimaginable injuries in hospitals and others were imprisoned in their homes while a manhunt went on.  But what can I do?  I was on vacation, on an island in the middle of the Pacific, while some really bad shit went down in our country.  Does that mean I shouldn’t tell you about our trip?  I don’t think so.  So here we go.

This was our family’s fourth trip to Kauai.  Our first time Spencer had just turned a year and Graham was three.  I remember, viscerally, the stress of traveling that far with children that young.  My kids actually did great, I was the one who was a mess.  In general, I am not a high stress worrying kind of person.  But traveling across time zones on long flights with my children when they were young was hard for me.  It is so different now, at ages eight and six.  They pretty much entertained themselves, with the help of a combination of iPad, Leap Pad, and DVD players, and all the snacks that I don’t usually let them eat (think those white crackers with spreadable cheese), for the duration of the five hour flight.  We left Oakland early in the morning and arrived, thanks to a three hour time difference, around 9:30 in the morning.  That left us with a bonus day of sun and swimming.  Above is where I parked myself for the first three days of the trip.

If you have been to Kauai, you know the weather is not a sure bet.  Our first time there, we had six hours of sun in seven days.  (You should click on that link if for no other reason than to see my kids at ages two and four – impossibly cute if I do say so myself.)  After that trip, we decided it would be a good idea to tack on a couple of days in Poipu at the beginning of the trip.  Poipu (which the boys thought was the funniest word ever) is on the sunny side of the island and it is nice to know that, if nothing else, we will get a few days of sun.  The Sheraton has a terrific pool and the beach is just steps away.

The view from our room in Poipu, setting up for the luau.  We contemplated going but realized that there was almost nothing for the boys and me to eat (the vegetarians in the family), so we opted to just watch from our balcony.

The boys liked the pretty girls “shaking their booties”.  All righty then.

Several examples of island style.  My dress is from that cool boutique in Oakland.

It wasn’t all sun and swimming and fruity beverages.  After three days in Poipu, we headed north and west to Princeville.  We stopped on the way for lunch in Kapa’a at a restaurant where we have eaten before.  Randy ordered fish tacos as he usually does when he has the opportunity.  About five minutes after finishing his lunch, he got a really bad headache.  Then his face turned bright red.  I suggested we turn around and head for the hospital near the airport.  He told me that he wanted to press on and we’d see how he felt.  This is something that Randy sometimes does, he won’t admit that something is wrong until it is dire.  Is this a guy thing?  Not only would he not turn around but he insisted on driving.  As we got on the road, I saw a sign for an urgent care just out of Kapa’a and made him make the turn.  It turns out they have an ER, thankfully.  In just a few minutes after checking in, his whole body turned bright red.  In order not to scare the boys or have them tear up the waiting room, we went back into town to get shave ice, more on that treat later, and waited for the call to come get him.  It turns out that Randy got scromboid poisoning, something that can affect certain kinds of fish if they are not refrigerated properly.  The redness was basically one huge hive that covered him in a histamine response.  It is amazing what the body can do when faced with an invader.  After some IV benadryl, his color was back to normal and away we went.  Needless to say, I drove the rest of the way.  Later in the trip, Randy got a bad cold and was hit by a car while riding his bike.  Again we were lucky and he was all right.

Princeville.  The only downside to our time share is that is not on the beach, although the pool is terrific.  We are just a few miles from Hanalei Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, and we are up the hill from a lovely St. Regis, where we have beach privileges.

Not too shabby.  We have to bring our own towels so we are recognized as the riff raff and we are NOT allowed in their pool.  We are allowed to order $15 cocktails however.

I’ve lived most of my life on the West Coast and right near the water.  The water has mostly been a Sound and is most recently a Bay.  Being in Hawaii and looking out on the Pacific Ocean is awe-inspiring.

I read three books.  Two are not really worth mentioning (all right, I read The Night Circus after hearing great things about it and all I thought was meh).  This one though.  Wow.  I’m kind of a fiction snob and was prepared not to like it or just to think of it as a beach read.  It was a beach read in that is has a great plot, but I also found it moving and very well written.  I half expected it to fall apart at the end as so many books that start well do (helllloooo Gone Girl), but the end was just as great as the rest.  Pick it up!

Every single day we had shave ice.  That is not a misprint.  In Hawaii it is shave (no “d”) ice and it is nothing like a sno-cone.  The ice truly is shaved from a huge block so it melts on the tongue like ice cream, and there is no crunching or pool of syrup left in your cup when you are done.  At first we got one for the boys to share (they are large) but Randy and kept dipping our spoons into it.  Then we got each of the boys their own but Randy and I kept dipping our spoons into it.  Finally, the boys each got their own and Randy and I got one to share.  Such good stuff.

Those rainy days I was telling you about.  It was still in the 70′s so it did not stop the boys from swimming.

Or me from drinking.

The annual boys in Aloha shirts in Randy’s arms photo.  (Here is the one from last time.)  I warned him that after poisoning, a bad cold, and a collision between his bike and a car that he did not need a hernia on top of everything.  Maybe next time the boys will pick him up.



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