Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Another Life on Irish Beach

This past weekend we experienced something that was long, long overdue: a family vacation. Unlike most of our time away from home, this trip was only a three hour drive, involved no schedules, and was not an attempt to see as many family, friends, sites, restaurants, and playgrounds as possible. It was basically a staycation away from home.

I did a little research to make sure our trip would be relaxing. Mimi helped me pinpoint a spot using her new globe, which we picked up at an antiques fair. She kept pointing to Hawaii. Sorry, not this time, kid.
We ended up renting a lovely home in Irish Beach, which is about 20 miles south of Mendocino. This was our first time renting a home for a vacation. If only I had known how friggin' fantastic it is to vacation in a home with kids, I would've been doing this for the past five years. The home we rented definitely made an impression on us. It was beautiful.
The kids (and Sumie) took quickly to the overstuffed recliners.
 Mimi liked the one on the left in particular.
They had a great time sleeping in their own bedroom, too. Well, Kuri had a great time after the first night. He wasn't too sure about sleeping in a strange room, no matter how nice it was.
Another favorite of the house was the spiral staircase leading to the upstairs loft. There was a bed up there as well, but despite Mimi's consistent pleading, it went unused.
Kuri, unfortunately, loved the upstairs loft as well. Don't worry, there was always a Mama or Papa on guard duty.
The view of the house from the loft was pretty cool. I think that's why Mimi liked it so much. It reminded me a bit of all the time I spent on the balcony of the home in which I grew up, looking down on the exciting action of adults watching TV.
The house came complete with access to what is as close as you can get to a private beach in California. A gated entry-way led to a very steep and very twisty single-lane road that takes you to the northernmost point of Manchester beach. The beach itself is open to the public, but where we were is about a six mile hike from the public entrance.
It was a really unique experience, having this huge beach virtually to ourselves. Tremendously calming. The wind, however, was a different issue. Our first day out was blustery, to say the least. Kuri took to sitting on Mama's lap, and Mimi decided she'd wear goggles to keep out the sand.
The wind did make for perfect kite-flying weather. This was Mimi's first time to fly a kite, and she absolutely loved it. For her father, it was a bit of a learning experience. Two things I discovered are: a. Never attempt to assemble a cheap kite you got for free two years ago in the sand on a tremendously windy day. and b. Thin strands of seaweed, when bundled together, can make a workable tail for the cheap kite that of course came with no tail, but may gross out your squeamish five year old daughter.
One of the best aspects of our "home away from home" was that we could cook real meals. Over four days and three nights we only ate out twice. Sourcing good ingredients on the north coast is a bit tricky - we'll bring a full-stocked ice chest the next time around - but I was still able to put together some tasty meals.
 After dinner, all we had on the agenda was lounging...
 ...some burp-cloth ninja tricks...
...warming up by the fire...
...and, of course, roasting marshmallow.
On Sunday we made the short drive (about an hour) up to Fort Bragg. We were able to catch a view of the Skunk Train as it pulled out of the station...
 ...leaving Mimi and Kuri to imagine what the journey must be like on an engine more their size in the souvenir shop.
Being in Fort Bragg meant a visit to Glass Beach, which I had not been to since I was a kid. For those who are unfamiliar with Glass Beach, it's a series of former dump sites for Fort Bragg. Over the years they have been cleaned of dangerous debris, but all the glass has been left behind and worn smooth by the ocean waves. It's a pretty unique spot.  Kuri wasn't too sure what all the fuss was about.
Unfortunately, he was more interested in the jelly fish that kept washing up. Not a good idea, kiddo.
The picture below is, I believe, what's left of a car. The steel has corroded and there were thousands of glass pieces mixed in. Shooting out of the old wreck is what's left of a shock absorber.
On our last morning, Mimi and I returned to the beach by our beach house for another round of kite flying. Having learned my lessons, I purchased a decent kite in Fort Bragg and assembled it prior to heading down to the beach. For this outing we had the right equipment, but we didn't have the wind. And that meant a hell of a lot of running (Mimi wanted that kite up in the air no matter what). First, I ran down half the beach with Mimi at my side. We then walked back to our start point. That's when Mimi took over as the kite flyer. And she seriously took off. She was sprinting like a girl possessed. Every once in a while she'd stop to see if the kite would stay up on its own, but it wouldn't, and so off again she'd speed. Before I knew it, she'd nearly reached the rocks signaling the end of the beach. Believe it or not, there is a little girl and a kite somewhere in the picture below.
Mimi's run was fortuitous because it took us to some tide pools we hadn't seen on our last outing. Mimi was entranced by the sea anemones.
On our way back to the car we stopped for a picture in one of the many driftwood huts that dotted the beach.
One of the biggest highlights of the trip was a series of unexpected, but very friendly and very cute, visitors.
Mimi and Kuri could've spent hours watching the fawns and their parents forage in the backyard. I've never seen them so focused.
Over our four days and three nights we didn't do all that much, but that was pretty much the point. Instead of a grand adventure, our vacation was a series of small, but joyous little vignettes. Mimi flew her first kite and watched The Wizard of Oz for the first time. Kuri learned to sleep in a new room without going bonkers and saw his first deer in the wild. Sumie and I had our first vacation in ages where each morning we woke up more relaxed than the day before. It was short, but pretty close to perfect. When the time came to go home, we all gathered for a picture. Kuri didn't want to leave.
But eventually he got in line and we paid a fond farewell to our home away from home. We have a feeling we'll be back again soon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cousins Come to Town

Regular readers of this blob probably never think about what our morning routine is like. And I'm sure that occasional readers have never given it a second thought. However, I'm going to share it all with you anyway to kick off this blog post because I have some cute pictures.

Every weekday begins at 6:05 when my iPhone alarm goes off. It then begins again at 6:14, and on most days one more time at 6:23 when I finally stop hitting snooze and decide to get myself, and the rest of the family, out of bed. As Sumie steps into the shower, I check my work email and then begin heating up Kuri's morning milk. After a quick shower, I wake up Kuri (who is always happy to see me and raring to go) and wake up Mimi (who is, shall we say, less than enthusiastic to wake up) and get them going. 

My job is to dress the kids, feed them, prepare their stuff for school/daycare, etc. while Sumie gets ready for commute into the city and her long day at the hospital. It's a pretty good system. The last step is "KIDS IN CAR!!!", which I generally shout around 7:30. When Kuri jumps in, he needs to have at least one of his Thomas toys and his favorite Thomas book. He's now able to hold it up the right way on his own.
Mimi watches over Kuri, making sure everything is ready.
Of course, jumping into the car isn't as easy as it sounds. On most mornings they enjoy chasing each other around the front yard and peaking through the front fence to say "Hello, Papa!"
A couple weekends ago we enjoyed a special visit from my sister and Mimi and Kuri's cousins Alder and Brynn. Alder is just a month younger than Mimi and Brynn is only 3 months younger than Kuri. They don't get together as often as they should (which is partially our fault for not getting up to Oregon as often as we should), but when they do, they always have a fantastic time. All four of them made use of the trampoline.
Mimi, Alder, and Kuri were especially fond of their time on the tramp.
I think you can see the family resemblance in all three in this photo, but there's no denying that Mimi and Kuri are related.
The kids played pinball in the bedroom.
Which occasionally meant sitting on top of the pinball for a better view.
They also went for a swim in the wading pool in the back yard. This was great fun for all, save Kuri. He decided he'd cry through the whole thing...
 ...except for the 12 seconds he was distracted by a bubble wand. At least Mimi and Kuri had a great time.
During our weekend together we were even honored with a visit from Sumie's cousin - all the way from Taiwan - and Sumie's sister and her family. Saturday night found a very busy dinner table.
As the younger kids napped, Mimi and Alder would enjoy a movie together. Here they are completely immersed in "The Incredibles."
They at least had the courtesy to look up from their movie and peanut butter sandwiches to smile for a picture.
On Saturday, Mimi, Alder, and I made a trial shopping run in the Porsche for groceries. I needed to see if they'd be OK in the back before we made a longer journey the next day. As I suspected, they loved it. Porsche 911 back seats were made for kids under 12. It's a fact.
On Sunday the two kids again bundled into the 911 for a trip to the Larkspur Ferry. We were taking the ferry out for a day in San Francisco!
When we arrived at the ferry building, we weren't sure what to do, so we walked around. The large fountain downtown was turned off thanks to the drought, but that didn't keep Mimi and Alder from exploring it.
We gorged ourselves on burgers and shakes at Gott's Roadside. Very, very good.
Sadly, Alder, at least in this picture, reflects the general mood and the oppressive heat we faced before our food came.
 After lunch, we headed out to see if we could do a San Francisco specialty Mimi has never taken part in - riding on a cable car. Somehow, my sister and I, with two kids apiece, made it work.Mimi and Alder loved looking out the windows.
Mimi was impressed by the slope of the hill.
 She was so impressed that by the end of the ride, she'd slid right into her cousin.
Kuri sat on my lap the whole way.
He had a great time taking in all the sights.
Our time with the cousins was a ton of fun and over far too quickly. Before we knew it, we were back to our small family, making the most of the evenings we shared together. One night, Mimi decided she'd be a professional artist, complete with improvised beret.
And Kuri, though virtually naked, insisted on joining in.
 A few days ago, Mimi decided that Mama and Papa needed a special ring to share. She measured Mama's finger and then created this ring all on her own. She then put it in a jewelry box - incidentally, the same box that once held Sumie's engagement ring.
Despite the busy schedule, Kuri and I still found a few spare hours to make it over to Cars and Coffee. I really can't wait until he's a few years older and can run around with me, probably with a camera, ogling all the cars there. We saw a few amazing ones, including a Maserati Bora...
...and a V8 Daimler, direct from England, which I'd never even heard of.
Life has been filled to the brim these last few weeks between work, family, and friends, but we wouldn't have it any other way. With Mimi starting Kindergarten in a few weeks, we're going to try to eek out a very short vacation before the storm hits. I have a sinking suspicion it is about to get even busier over the next few months. Kindergarten is a big deal! At least I remember it that way.