I am so glad you can be a part of our Hawaiian adventure.
Enjoy! --Kristine

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Welcome to Maui

Well, our adventure in Maui has begun. Of course the island is stunning, and having a new landscape (with a crater right next door!) has us feeling like the things we knew about Hawaii all need to be updated with new data (uh oh... my science geek side is showing).  It has been so great to share a lovely house with the Kahns. Imagine a large wrap-around deck, a wide ocean view and sunsets that burn the clouds to crimson.  I've been wanting to write a short poem about this place because we live in a town called Haiku.

Davis and Benjamin have begun a sweet friendship that involves legos, kites, bubbles, and wrestling. All the while Karin and I have been rekindling our close friendship from our BU days, and I've gotten to meet new baby, Carter.  Not surprisingly, we've picked up with our relationship like days have passed instead of years. The setting of our reunion obviously can't be beat, but more importantly this experience is a reminder that one of life's most valuable gifts is the meaningful connections we make along the way.

Good thing...

Because now the Kahn house is serving as my recovery room following an unexpected trip to the ER yesterday. I've learned that one of the moments when I'm not so wild about being on the laid-back "island time" is when I'm in the hospital waiting room with a staph infection creeping up my arm. Yup, you read that right. From one tiny hangnail plus an ocean swim came forth the beast that felt like fire aunts on my middle finger, and sent a burning red stripe of infection up my arm. I spent the afternoon at the Maui hospital hooked up to IV antibiotic cocktails (which, by the way, can't hold a candle to Karin's beer margaritas from the night before). Then my finger was sliced, oozed, and packaged for my delivery to the outside world. Welcome to Maui... have an x-ray, tetanus shot, drugs, some gauze and a sling.

Luckily, the antibiotics seem to be working, and the vicadin is helping me with pain.  Tag has been a huge help, and Karin, Peter and our gaggle of little kids have been wonderful. Before our Maui Memorial Hospital adventure we had great trips to the playground and the beach. I'm looking forward to many more adventures once I've moved from bandages to band aids.  In the mean time I'm eating cupcakes with avocado frosting.

Here are some pics from Maui so far:

Baby Carter at 3 months-- newest member of the Kahn ohana.


Good buddies love to wrestle. Two of the tallest 3 year olds around.

They were laughing so hard at this game.

It even involved some victory dancing. 

Get back up. Repeat.

High five, bruddah!

Look at me hanging out!

My souvenir.

Loving Maui friends
Ocean blew my finger up
Better days ahead

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What time is it?

Life here is different from home in so many big ways, but there are a number of subtle changes in my routine that indicate I'm not in California anymore:

  • I don't wear a watch and so I never know the date/time, but I still manage to eat every two hours (big shocker, there).
  • My phone is often on an empty battery, and I don't care because none of you people call me (Hint! and you pretend to be "big fans" of the blog, but me and my dead iPhone know the truth).
  • I haven't made a bulleted list since I went to shop at Kauai's Costco about a month ago (and right now, of course). I was the queen AND king of bulleted lists at Valley Vision, and now I can't even organize my thoughts into a concise and consistently organized blog post. I've fallen so far from the peek of intra-office communications, it's sick. 
  • No eating out for lunch. Instead, I'm a one-woman PB&J factory with a salad bar for adults. And, yes, the jam is tropical. Give me some credit, here. 
  • I never blow dry my hair. Instead I wear it in this wind-blown, wavy, just-got-off-the-beach style that I know is really hot.  
  • My weather interests focus on the trade winds instead of rainy seasons and really hot weather. I don't even really know what that trade winds are all about, because it seems pretty damn nice here every day.  I pretend to pay attention and care about them because that is all the meteorologist has to talk about on the 10pm news.   
Well, that just about exhausts my deep thinking for the day. I must return to watching Wall-E with Benjamin, because you really can't see that film too many times. Shaka! 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bon Voyage!

Today we took a boat trip up the Wailua River to visit Fern Grotto, a place of special significance to the Hawaiian Islanders. It was a full-on tourist attraction, and we basked in the glory of the live music and the chance to learn some Hula dancing on board the boat.  In the multiple times we've traveled to Kauai, we've never made this journey before. The excuse today was having one final outing with Uncle Nate, who leaves for Ohio at 8:00 tonight.

Some of the ferns at Fern Grotto. 
All aboard a large flat boat. There is a hula dancer in the background... wait until you see our moves!
It is crazy that our month of guests has come to a close. It went so fast because we've been having such fun. We have just another week on Kauai, and then we're off to Maui to visit with our friends-- the Kahn family-- who are also here on sabbatical with two little kids and are also blogging (this is when I've found out just how similar I am to my college housemate, despite graduating more than a dozen years ago and having typically 3,000 miles between us).  Karin and Peter's blog has me so excited for our trip there. It will be great to see them and it will be a whole new island experience (new beaches, new falls, new gelato and shave ice, oh my!)... AND we will take a break from turtling and just focus on vacationing. I know it has looked like that's all we're doing already, and that is a fair assessment. This would be one of those times when I would highly recommend marrying a turtle biologist who focuses on unattractive species in highly attractive locations. It has PAID OFF.

Yesterday at the beach. 

My little guy looking handsome in his green swim shirt (even though it made him cry with devastation over the fact that the sleeves are not long... oh, the emotional ups and downs of toddlerhood!)

Farewell, Uncle Nate! 

This species loves being sandy. The post-beach showering involves removing all of the swimwear and the diaper, and doing some major washing from all angles. She loves that, too. 

By the way, tomorrow is the birthday of my favorite turtle biologist (Tag) (Looking great at 39!).  I love him with all of my heart. It is hard to do something extra special when you feel like you're living it every day... but I'll try!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sleeping Giant

There is a mysterious trail head about a mile from our house that we drive past every day. Nate and I used the morning yesterday to finally see where it goes. We live behind a mountain called Sleeping Giant, and yesterday I found myself scaling his belly.  It was the perfect morning for a hike-- sunny and breezy with clear views of the valleys surrounding the slumbering giant.  My goal was to walk far enough around the mountain that we'd get a view of the ocean on the other side. Mission accomplished.

One of the valley views from the mountain.
Tag stayed at home with the kids because Benji had a 24-hour virus and was getting over a high fever in the morning. The three of them had a good visit with the kids' programming on PBS. Thankfully by the time Nate and I came back home it seemed like Benjamin was getting much better. Our final effort to bring down his fever the last degree to normal was to take him to the ocean for a late afternoon swim (way better than tylenol, right?).

This past week we found a new place near our house called "baby beach." Perfect, huh? It is a small spot that is protected from wave action. Very hip with the local keiki. There also happens to be some good snorkeling all along the reef break, which makes it hip with Nate, too.  Following the swim Benji was indeed back to his normal self. We enjoyed pizza for dinner, pretended to eat play-doh cake for dessert, and then called it a day.    

Evidence of the trailhead. A horse is there in the adjacent field to greet you, too. 
Crossing the river to the Sleeping Giant. Beware: Tropical foliage ahead.
Cook Pines were brought to Hawaii by Captain Cook, and were planted on tropical islands to make the masts of sailing ships.  Cook's first stop in Hawaii was Kauai. 
Like Cook, we are intrepid explorers. With Blackberries and iPhones to take pics along the way. 
Baby Beach at 4:00 pm.
Another turtle takes a vacation to our house. 
Yes, that's the head (just the nose, really).
I know.
Tag loves them, anyway. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hanalei and other entertainment

We've had another few adventures since my last writing that I want to share updates on. Our visit and picnic at Hanalei Beach yesterday was a lot of fun-- some bright sunshine and some light rain. The kids enjoyed the waves, and the adults enjoyed the views. Hanalei is a long, arced beach with mountains all around. At this time of year there are several waterfalls running in the mountains nonstop. I love that the sand at Hanalei is so SOFT.  I taught Alice how to make drip castles (she preferred the destruction part).  I remember making many drip castles as a kid in Avalon, and it is still just as fun. As part of our budget-conscious picnic meal we ate pb&j's, mandarins and Hawaiian Hurricane Popcorn (love the bag! love the seaweed!). It turns out the kids don't mind if the popcorn is extra crunchy, because Alice enjoyed eating it out of her sand castle bucket. Nate did some walking along the beach and captured some nice photos along the way.

On most days we spend time out and about in the morning, and then return home so the kids can nap. Tag usually goes off to do his research at the same time. When Benji and Alice wake up I have been trying to keep them entertained with a variety of activities. Now I have Nate to help with this, too. Sometimes we go and feed Norbert's chickens next door, and visit his tropical plants farm. We've been tracking the growth of the pineapples, and to my untrained eye they are ripe and begging to be eaten by me and the fam.

We also do a lot of sidewalk chalk in the driveway. Nate really raised the bar with a large installation a couple of days ago, including a whole zone dedicated to turtles.  It is an ephemeral art form, because the rain so frequently wipes the slate clean.  Yesterday Benji drew lots of rocket ships and UFO's. Alice was the passenger (no surprise there). Then we blew lots of bubbles and the kids were pretending to be dewdrop fairies from Tinkerbell. It is amazing to see how expansive their creativity can be, and to be along for the ride.

Hanalei Bay surfers

Nate on the beach

Itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini. 
Benji with the chickens.
They liked the corn cobs, papaya skins, and sweet potatoes we brought for them.
Norbert's garden next door.

Fresh pineapple. Ready to eat?


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hair, nails and turtles

We're experiencing another guest transition... I know it is hard to keep up with our visitor rotation, but we're on to Tag's brother, Nate (aka "Cool Uncle Nate"). Michelle departed this morning for a brief stop in SF and then back to DC.  If there was a federal government shutdown we may have been able to convince our esteemed US Fish and Wildlife Service employee to be furloughed on Kauai. We had a very Hawaiian dinner for Michelle last night, including poke (ahi tuna served raw, island style), sushi rice and seaweed, pineapple, and asian salad. Fun and yum!

Yesterday Michelle and I spent the morning at the playground with the kids, and then took Benj for a haircut. I put Michelle totally in charge of the styling guidance, and she suggested a crew cut with some length on top for the "shuzz." I am still not really sure what that means, but I think it should involve some product and some styling time (we don't have either of those). Here are the before and after photos:

Shaggy and waiting for our stylist

Freshly clipped and styled

Michelle and I dropped of the kids with Tag for nap time, and then spent the afternoon snorkeling, doing water ballet, and hunting for a sea turtle that popped its head up and then disappeared on the reef (really I just sent Michelle on the search while I continued ballet-ing with much success). We picked up Nate at the airport on our way home from the beach, and got home just in time for happy hour.

Today we shifted from hair to nails. After painting my toenails a lovely shade of pink, both kids insisted that they get the same look. While Tag and Nate checked the turtle traps, I became an estetician to toddlers. We now all have the same toes, but I think my paint job survived the best because I did not insist on running through the grass and doing sidewalk chalk immediately after the application. Go figure.

Here are some pics of Tag and Nate's adventure. Sadly, the toenails have no footage.

Tag catches a lot of Tahitian prawns instead of turtles

Another turtle was caught today. The belly looks like raw chicken. 

Nate with his new pet, Cowpatty.
Yogurt, anyone?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

60% Chance of Rain

Well, the forecast was pretty accurate.  It was sunny 40% of the time, but WAY more than 60% rainy the rest of the time during our journey to Limahuli Gardens. Nonetheless, the kids loved it. Alice marched around the whole mile-long, rugged trail. Benjamin carried our team backpack the entire time (the adults only felt slightly guilty about this). Also, Michelle taught Alice and Benj to use leaves as umbrellas (this did not work, by the way).

We learned about the native plants, the invasive plants, and the ones that were brought here by the Polynesians. We're still in awe of the travelers' foresight to pack plants for cultivation when setting off into the big ocean in a wooden canoe.  Hmm... let's bring clothes, shoes, hats, hunting gear, bedding material, and perhaps some taro, turmeric, sugarcane, ginger, coconut palm and breadfruit plants just in case.  As Michelle just said, "that boat was FULL."

That is the 60% chance of rain heading our way...
Sopping wet! Happy! Benji is carrying his leaf umbrella.
Alice loved these little slippery steps and insisted on doing them "by self."  Let me translate. That means "don't touch me, don't even touch my shirt, and if you do I will squawk at you and say no, no, no."  
Back at home and riding a palm frond horse.

Branching Out

Well, I am very sad to report that our neighborhood beach is closed for the next five weeks. Benji and I were speechless when we saw the sign. I found myself defaulting into his mode... "Why?" But, why?" As if this were really some major hardship I needed to overcome. Turns out there is some important dredging that must be done and it apparently takes a while to scoop up the ocean (five weeks, to be exact).

So with that news, we're going to have to take our show on the road and force ourselves to swim in new locations. I think we can rise to this occasion. Yesterday Michelle and I took the kids to Anini Beach, which is north of here. Anini is a long, narrow stretch of sand with a sandbar far out in the ocean that seems to break the waves and make the water very flat. All in all, a pretty good place for the kids except for the sideways current that carries you away from your beach chairs and sand toys.

The funniest thing that happened was when we were leaving Anini.  Gadd and I showered the kids to rinse off the sand, and then started to change them into their normal clothes for the drive. I had Benjamin done, but was working on naked, squirming Alice without much success. For some reason Benji decided at that moment to lick my legs.  This has never happened before. It tickled, so I was laughing, and Michelle was cracking up because I was defenseless. I couldn't let go of clean Alice for fear of her darting to the parking lot or the next pile of sand. I was compromised with no free hands and absolutely no sympathy from laughing Gadd, and Benji kept licking me to taste the salt and for the sheer pleasure of torturing his mama. I have no idea what the other people were thinking... crazy woman laughing hysterically, child licking her, and naked baby trying to escape. I was glad to finally get out of there alive.  

Today the whole group of us went back to Poipu Beach because it has the best chance for sunshine on the island (it was pouring rain at our house). We packed lunch and stayed until the early part of the afternoon. Michelle had a chance to do some snorkeling and had a good interaction with an eel. Tag took Benji for a swim and the lifeguard let him have a ride on his rescue surfboard. Alice met some other little girls and they made sand pizzas for the better part of an hour.

Tag went off to check his turtle traps after we returned home and while Benji was napping. It was raining so hard I was afraid Missy Kia might get stuck in the mud, or he may get swept away in the creek. Yikes!  Neither happened, of course. Instead he came home and we made burritos. It is amazing to see the culinary wonders Michelle and I have been able to achieve using the limited flavoring ingredients available in our rental home. Who knew that lemon pepper spice mix could add the right amount of tanginess and zing to guacamole? Well now you do, and you can thank me and McCormick's later.

When Alice shows up at the beach she goes straight into the water... binky and all!

My guys looking ready for some serious snorkeling. Hey...Wait! Tag forgot his water wings. 

Michelle harassing the sand shark.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Poipu Beach

Today is the last full day that my parents will be on Kauai, so we decided to hit Poipu Beach this morning for one last time before they go. We arrived around 9:30 am and the sun was already warm and the beach was filling up with people. Benjamin and Alice spent two straight hours swimming around.

Tag has been taking Benji snorkeling in the shallow rocky areas, and he has been getting very comfortable with wearing a mask and fins. In the mean time, Alice likes to lay down on her tummy in the shallow water and crawl around as a "baby seal." Sometimes I have to join her as the "mama seal," which gives me a great chance to work on tanning the backs of my legs.

Our friend from grad school, Michelle, arrives tonight from DC. She'll be just in time for an advance birthday party for me and Tag (both April birthdays). We're having cake with the whole family tonight, and I know that will make for some happy kiddos.

I'm attaching some photos from the past couple of days' adventures. I could not keep up with blogging about all of the excitement because Tag and I were busy beating Mom and Dad at Scrabble at night (and teaching Dad some new words). Plus, one evening we had a lovely date night at Postcards Cafe in Hanalei.  It was great to have some quiet time, and visit a place that is special to us.  I've been dreaming about their food ever since we went there on our honeymoon and it lived up to my high expectations.

Kiluea Lighthouse was part of the north shore tour

Mom Mom with her sweeties

Pretty blue water on the north side

Whole family hanging in the water

Snack time is an important part of the morning-- they turn into sand sharks without it!

In the yard yesterday

Alice this morning
Dad visiting the falls near our house. If he started wearing a coconut on his head and a grass skirt he could get a job greeting the tour buses.