It was ambitious. On a lot of levels. 10 days, three states, 1,000 miles up and 1,000 miles back. Oh, and we brought an RV travel trailer…which we bought right before the trip. All these things we had never attempted or experienced before. Like I said, it was ambitious.
We took a day trip to Santa Cruz today as sort of a last “hurrah” of winter break. I think we’re all agreed here at Team Hokama that the beach is pretty much our favorite place. No matter how cold the ocean, the kids are drawn to it and absolutely love running around in it (when their parents forbid them to actually go all the way in due to outside temps).
Since both Sarah and I went to school at UCSC and stayed by the coast for a few years after graduating, I think it will always be a place that feels like home. The whole family is just happier and more at peace there and there’s something rejuvenating about being by/in the ocean. We don’t know when and we don’t know how, but I think it’s safe to say we will live there once again. Mark my words.
Yesterday we did make it up to the kilns with our extra hiker, Luna, and she and Keana continued where they left off on our hike to the falls, singing made-up songs together and making plans for staying in touch once we all went our separate ways. Maia really was pretty much done, so I carried her on my back in the Ergo. Good exercise for me and I was even fine in my Vibram five-fingers.
After the hike, Luna’s parents welcomed us with fresh cod sautéed in lemon and butter and then we all headed down to the beach, with Anya in tow as well. And it was a perfect beach day. We played, talked, got some sun, and even saw a seal just barely off the shore. It was pretty spectacular.
After the beach, both Aliya and Maia were very tired and upset (i.e. tired out), and Keana was rearing to go to Luna’s camp as soon as she could. Aliya eventually crashed on my shoulder while Sarah navigated Maia’s needs through dinner. Then Maia and Keana headed off into the forest for a “parting ways banana s’mores party” at Luna’s camp. We decided to wake Aliya from her late nap so we could all go, and we were really glad we did. We all had fun making bananas filled with marshmallows and chocolate chips, then roasted them in the fire. The kids played and roasted marshmallows while we visited some more with Ayan, Liza, their friend Liz, and Cindy (Anya’s mom). They were very gracious hosts and we left feeling very fortunate to have found such friendly, kind, open, and like-minded people while camping.
Maia would not be parted from me for bed time, so she and I stayed out and closed camp for the night, which was pretty cool because then she got to see more stars since it was way after 9 by the time we were winding down.
Today the kids woke up mostly with a sense if excitement for heading home, but Keana, especially, was sad to leave the friends she had made. Maia was the most ready to get back to civilization and all our creature comforts, which made her the most helpful packing up as well. Keana got one last visit with Luna, and Aliya just played in and out of the car while continually asking for Mentos. Overall, Aliya really had an excellent attitude the entire trip, and was the most easy-going of the three, even though she’s just barely three.
We got packed and on the road by 10:30ish, had breakfast at the Whale Watcher Cafe in Gorda, then continued our journey back to super-hot Fresno. The heat basically sucks, but the one good thing is all our equipment dried out in two seconds.
I’m not going to lie, it was not an easy trip. But sickness and meltdowns aside, we thoroughly enjoyed being at the beach and in the redwoods, recharging in many ways apart from normal life. Having time together as a family without the interruptions of the every day is so important, and connecting with new, like-minded people that were easy to hang out with really feeds us in another way too. As it is with the rest of our life, this vacation tested us as parents and individuals, and I wish I could say we hit home runs every time. But no one does and I feel pretty good knowing we did our best and many things were much better than last year’s camping experiences. I’m pretty sure we’re making mostly positive, unforgettable memories for the kids, and look forward to many more wilderness adventures.
9:58: Woke up this morning a little before 8 and everyone was healthy! Maia made it through the night without being sick. Quick breakfast today: cereal. Really nice having minimal prep/clean-up, buuuuut, 10 minutes after finishing, Keana says, “I’m hungry, I need a snack.” So it was really a breakfast of cereal, salami, cheese, and crackers.
After breakfast, while Sarah and I sat looking at the ocean from our “front porch,” it hit me (again) what a huge strain it is having just one sick child. Maia’s part of our team and we need her in the line-up! Aside from having to do extra care and cleaning when she’s sick, her presence amongst her sisters is really an important factor in harmony for the whole family. So while we were talking, Aliya came over and said she was tired and wanted to go in the tent. She was distracted throwing rocks for a minute, then started brushing her teeth and headed for the tent. Sarah’s in there with her now and I think she really is going back to sleep. Now to see what adventures Maia, Keana, and I can stir up…
Then my friend Luna came and wanted to play. We said after lunch. I had some bread and honey. Then we headed up to Luna’s camp. We climbed on rocks to the creek. Then we decided to go to the beach. We climbed back and asked if we could go to the beach. They said yes. Luna put her swim suit on. Then we went to our camp and put our swim suits on. We went down and set up our towels. Then we played sharks. Then we went to the beach. We played on the castle rock. Then we ran in the waves. Then we started to collect seaweed. Soon, a girl named Ania joined in a became my friend. As soon as we collected a whole pile we decided to do a fashion show. We dressed myself up in seaweed first. Then we dressed Ania in seaweed. Then we made a hole called a toilet.
Then we buried Lunda’s brother in sand. Then we laid down and a big wave got us and Lunda’s brother. Luna’s brother was unhurried and taken care of. Then we decided to go river climbing. When we were climbing I fell in. Then we went back and played in the ocean for a while. Then we decided to rinse off in a secret pool. Then Ania and her mom went back to camp and Luna came with me to my site. She went to her camp site to get ready. Then I took a shower. Then I sat on a rock and waited. Then I made quarter stacks and had a snack. Soon later Luna and Ania came. We carried Maia up by making a chair with our arms. Then Luna had to go so me, Maia, and Ania went to camp site 17 to explore. On the way we saw a snake. Then we planned a surprise picnic for Luna.
I journaled during our camping trip using an app on my phone (sans internet access) for most of our trip, however, this first day I didn’t have time to get down. So this is a post-adventure recap, but the rest that follow were written while on our trip.
It might have been a record getting out of town, only 30 minutes later than we planned! We packed the Thule skybox the night before so we were halfway there. It’s amazing how all the little things add up to a lot of time when trying to get out of your house for the week—last cleaning of the cat boxes, fresh water, food; taking out the garbage/recycling; closing all the windows/doors/garage; instructions for the person watching the house—doesn’t sound like a lot, but I swear just those little things add at least an hour.
But we got on the road and spirits were high until just outside Paso de Robles. That’s when Maia began feeling sick. In the back of mind I worried that we had finally reached the point when one of our kids started being car sick on long rides. Then again, Sarah, Aliya, and Keana had just had a nasty stomach bug, so…we pulled over once going over the hill to Cambria, stopped in Cambria, then just after the windy part of the road started, Maia lost it. I’d have to say that kids puking in the car is one of my worst nightmares. Hate. It. But she did pretty good and sadly threw up a few more times in the last 45 minutes of the car ride.
We (luckily) got an “overflow” site at Limekiln though, right on the beach and under the bridge, and got to work setting up camp. It was definitely one of the least stressful camp set-ups in Team Hokama history. And since we got there so early in the day, we even had time for the beach, though it was a little foggy.
As dinner approached, it was clear Maia was not just car sick. She had gotten whatever bug her sisters had the week before. I was also feeling a bit nauseous, but attributed it to having to deal with cleaning barf pans (though Sarah handled handled most of the hands-on stuff in the tent).
So, unfortunately, the exciting start to our camping adventure was clouded a little by poor Maia not feeling well. We went to bed hopeful that it would pass quickly so she could start having fun with the rest of us.
Keana also wrote each day to capture her adventures, so I’ll be including excerpts from her writing as well. Here’s a little something from Day One:
I woke up tired today. As soon as I got used to it I tried to wake up Papa. He said, “Give me till 8:00.” So while I waited, I played horses. Then I played with Aliya for a little, then finally, Papa got up. I got dressed and went outside. Papa put on the bacon while heating the water. Then I had a piece of bacon. Then Papa put on the pancakes. Aliya got half a big pancake and I got the other half.
May 4, 2009, 2:00 p.m.
Being away from my family always reinforces how much I love them, and thinking about/telling people I meet of all the fun, cute, silly, smart, crazy things Keana and Maia do really brings me joy, especially when I’m away from them. Of course that also leads to talking about what an amazing, supportive wife Sarah is—keeping the home-front running smoothly while I have time for myself and my friends. I’m here in Boston right now, waiting for my flight back to San Francisco, and I’ve been in Massachusetts for Neel’s wedding since Friday. Since we just moved to Fresno, and because of the cost, I wasn’t able to bring Sarah and the girls with me, but there will be a celebration on the West Coast, so we’re looking forward to that.
When I’m away I imagine all the ways the girls might change in the time I’m gone. Even though it’s just five days, they often have new favorite toys, new words, new games, and new jokes. Keana’s growing up so fast. Last Wednesday, April 29, she had her first day at Grandma Bev’s preschool by herself. She was very excited, and though she said she didn’t want to go alone, by the time Sarah got her there, she was more than ready to jump in with the other kids and start the day. The basic day consists of free time and art projects, then exercise and snacks, more play time- usually outside and barefoot- then a circle time where they share their stories, something a special they bring to share, or finish up art projects. At the end of the day, around noon, they all sit down for lunch. When Sarah, Maia, and I came by that first day, they were so cute! A bunch of little people, sitting together at a table outside, just eating and talking like a table of adults. Calm and polite, they just hung out and finished out their day together. We are really thankful for such a great school and I think it’s the perfect beginning to Keana’s education outside of our house.
Other than school, Keana is still busy playing with dolls and stuffed animals, often inventing little stories and scenarios between them, changing outfits and arrangements every five seconds. Sometimes I listen in and can’t help but laugh at something funny she does and I think this makes her self-conscious, because she’ll say something like, “Don’t listen Papa!” or “Don’t look over here Papa, just keep working.” It cracks me up, but at the same time I want her to know that I just love her imagination and always want to support it, so I say okay and look away. Keana still loves her movies so we have to regulate that, but we don’t have “regular” TV in Fresno now, so that’s not an issue. And of course, at bedtime, she still loves her stories and often can’t get enough of the dinosaurs. She even knows the dino families like the Sauropods (Brontasaurus, Brachiosaurus) and Ceritopsians (Triceritops/Pentaceritops).
Little Miss Maia is still our action baby. Her independence is growing by the day and she can get out of bed on her own and just walks out of the bedroom, and through the house, looking for her Papa and sister in the morning. Last week I showed the girls how to climb a tree in our front yard and she was so excited that she demanded I put her up on a branch. She LOVED it. Keana on the other hand wasn’t so sure, and exclaimed, “I’m not as brave as Maia!” But she’s brave in other ways. Maia also discovered the little froggies in our backyard and when playing outside, likes to say, “Huh, huh!” when exploring the known froggie haunts as if to ask, “Are they in there? Are they here?” She’s also quite fast; speed she’s gained while running from her sister when they play chasing games. The girls love to play with each-other and if we have to change Maia’s diaper or start something like bath time, Keana yells, “Put her down! We’re playing! Bring her back!” Maia’s vocabulary is also expanding with words like toot, balloon, sissy (for sister), tacos, and other words she may copy from you, but hasn’t really used consistently. She understands just about any yes/no question you ask her, and last week she even started saying, “Mmmhmm.” Adorable.
Since being in Fresno, we’ve spent quite a bit of time with Grandma Jennie, which has been really great. For the whole first week, Keana said several times a day, “I want to see Grandma!” or “Let’s go to Grandma’s house!” She does not like the fact that Grandma has to actually work. A week ago Jennie brought some ribs over to barbecue, and found three dead baby chicks on the ground while we were all playing outside. The night before had been really windy, so we think they fell out of the tree. Anyway, Grandma facilitated the burial while both Keana and Maia looked on. I think it was a tough experience for them, especially Maia, but I also think it’s so important for the girls to learn about the natural world, good and sad, and I’m really glad Grandma buried them, cause I was not prepared to be doing that.
So it’s time to board the plane, but I cannot wait to get home and see my ladies. I won’t be traveling for a while so that’s good. While these breaks are good for me to have time to myself and do my thing, I feel like I’m missing out on a lot back home.
Is it too late to say Happy New Years? I can’t believe that was almost a week ago! We headed to Fresno on December 26 and planned to leave “early”, but got on the road around 11:30 a.m. As I was saying in one of my recent posts though, Maia is really getting used to our world, and it showed in this road trip. She slept for the first hour-and-a-half and then hung out peacefully in the car until we stopped for lunch in Los Banos. Then we preceded to have a relatively mellow ride the rest of the way. Until this point, we hadn’t had an extended car ride like this where Maia wasn’t screaming the saddest sobs you’ve ever heard for almost an hour. We had a great afternoon with Grandma Jennie and Uncle Michael, and finished out the day by watching Pixar’s Wall-E. We’re probably some of the last people on earth to have watched this movie, and we all thoroughly loved it. It was amazing how much of story could be told with almost no dialogue, something that really appealed to Keana.
The next day we had Christmas, opening lots of gifts and enjoying a generally mellow day, followed by a great turkey dinner, courtesy of Grandma Jennie. Aside from being with family, one of the best things about traveling to someone else’s house for events is not having to worry about food. I feel like many of our days just consist of planning meals and eating, interspersed with sleeping. So with Grandma on all the meals, we actually had time to relax and just play and visit; it was great! Both the girls absolutely love playing with Grandma and Uncle Michael, and Michael is still in school up at Evergreen, and we rarely see him, so it was a treat indeed.
The next day we headed over to Grandpa Robert and Nana Cin’s to keep the Christmas cheer flowing. They are always very hospitable and we can always depend on amazing food and plenty of it. It was great to catch up with them and the girls had fun running around and playing while we visited. We probably could have used a couple more days in Fresno to spend with family there, but we had to hit the road once more for our last stop: Los Angeles.
Getting out of Fresno proved harder than we thought. MIchael took off early for wisdom teeth removal, so we had the house to ourselves to pack up and attempt to find everything to pack. We did pretty good packing and decided to just get breakfast on the road, and as we were putting the kids in the car, Sarah realized she locked her purse in the house and we didn’t have a key. So we called Jennie and luckily she and Michael were almost done, so we went to get a quick bite to eat and gas. Of course the guy at Starbucks forgot one of our sandwiches, so once again, as we got the kids strapped in the car, we realized this and I had to run back in to get the missing sandwich, which hadn’t been made, so it was five more minutes, which is about 2 hours in kid time. During this time Maia had decided this was all bullshit and began to cry. And at this point, none of us blamed her. We headed back to Grandma Jennie’s house and got the purse, and miraculously made it out of Fresno. This did not bode well for our 4 hour trip to L.A. But actually, it was another miraculous day of travel for Maia. She and Keana slept for a couple hours and we made it all the way to Crenshaw without having to stop. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed the rest of the way Seal Beach for Hokama/Uno/Yoshimoto Christmas.
This was the first time the Japanese side of our family was all together since our wedding, so it was pretty special. Auntie Helene and Cousins Helen, Stan, Riki had never met the girls, and Great Nana and Granddad Hokama (from Hawaii) had never met Maia, so it was a momentous occasion indeed. Grandpa Jon made this all possible by orchestrating the rendezvous, and his wife Susan and their girls Grace and Lilli also flew out from Denver. Of course Uncle Peter came down from Santa Cruz, so with the exception of Auntie Julie, Uncle Lance, and Cousin Sasha, we were all there. Oh, and due to crazy schedules we were unable to see Riki, so that was unfortunate too. But we basically hung out in Seal Beach until New Years Eve when we headed to Disneyland for the Keana and Maia’s first visit to the magical kingdom.
Disneyland was in-sane. By 2 p.m. the park had sold out and you could tell on the inside. Lines for rides probably averaged 60 minutes and you could barely walk anywhere. As you can imagine with a one and three-year-old, there were some stressful times, but as a whole it was a lot of fun. We all had to split up because there was no way to keep 11 of us together in that mess, so Maia, Keana, Sarah, and I set out for kiddy rides. We rode King Arthur’s Carousel, Keana rode the Casey Jr. train and the Dumbo ride with Grandpa Jon and Grandma Susie, then the four of us rode the Pirates of the Caribbean, and Storybook Land. Keana really wanted to go into the whale’s mouth and I think she really enjoyed it. Maia did great and was only slightly scared on Pirates. As the day went on, the park seemed to get impossibly more crowded. Somehow we all were able to get a table at the Plaza Inn for dinner, after which our Quadripod had to head home. The girls were so strung out from Disneyland they couldn’t sleep, so they played around in the hotel room to unwind and we rang in the new year with Uncle Peter. What a day.
On New Years Day we headed over to Great Auntie Helene’s house where we celebrated with Helen and her new husband John, Stan, Great Nana and Granddad, Grandpa Jon and Grandma Susie, Aunties Grace and Lilli, and Uncle Peter. It was a lot of fun and we all got caught up, remembered visits to L.A. that Peter and I had had as kids, and played music together. It was really a great time and made me realize how important it was to me to stay in touch with our Japanese roots. Sarah and I both think it’s especially important we make the effort for the girls so they can know about this important part of where they come from.
On January 2nd we hit the road once more, and it took us about 9 hours to get home. A very long drive but very worth it. And so ended Christmas Tour 2008. It’s a ton of work to travel so much with the girls being so young, but the great time we had with all the various family more than made up for it and we hopefully look forward to much more time with family in 2009. Happy New Year and good night!