Gloria Highlights, Week 58

Gloria spent some time brushing up her skillz this week. After a few intense practice sessions, she had an “a-ha” moment with her tiger stacking toy – this involved holding the rings in both hands, and sometimes holding the base steady with her legs. Now she’ll sit with it for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, deep in concentration as she practices stacking the rings one by one. It’s the only object that has ever held her fascination for so long – and hence it is a wonderful thing. She has also been making some progress with her shape sorter. She can get the shapes into the sorter, although chance still seems to play a large role in whether she matches the shape to its corresponding slot correctly or not. Often she’ll drop one shape into the sorter successfully and then attempt to drop all subsequent shapes into the same slot. On the gross motor skills front, Gloria has also been pulling herself up to standing quite a bit more (although she’s not actually cruising furniture yet).

It’s been about a week and a half since Gloria’s first dentist appointment, during which we received some instruction (and a teeny bit of a guilt trip) about getting more regular with tooth brushing. Since then, we’ve been trying more consistently, but it hasn’t gotten any easier – Miss G clenches her mouth shut tightly and refuses to let the brush in. We’d welcome any advice from experienced parents on this one!

We took Gloria to Southern California to visit her grandparents for the weekend – it was our second visit this summer (although the first was unfortunately for my grandfather’s funeral). The flight to Long Beach went surprisingly well, and Gloria even got a bit of a morning nap in the Gemini carrier. After we arrived, we met my dad for a fancy 5-course lunch at his friend’s restaurant – G enjoyed house-smoked salmon, mushroom soup, veggies, and other goodies. She seemed to have some kind of allergic reaction after the meal though – her lips broke out in spots that remained for a few hours. We suspect a shellfish allergy, as the reaction was familiar to Kenny via his sister’s childhood allergy, and Gloria did try some of the vegetables from our mussels ceviche. The meal bumped up against Gloria’s regular afternoon naptime, and our sleepy munchkin fell asleep in the car during the trip home.

The next day we took Gloria to the beach. It was her first time setting foot on the sand since Thailand so many months ago, and she seemed fascinated by her surroundings. Gloria enjoyed a nice picnic, dipped her feet in the cold Pacific Ocean, and played with little sand crabs burrowing their way into the sand (I was relieved that although she picked them up, she refrained from trying to eat them).

Sleep did not go particularly well in Huntington Beach. Gloria flat-out refused to sleep in her trusty Peapod tent that served her so well in Thailand. The first night, when we failed after many attempts to get her to sleep in the tent, she ended up passing out in a heap on the floor of Grandma Sandra’s office. The next morning, we went out and bought her a pack and play, and tried putting her in it for her morning nap. She still freaked out when we tried to leave the room, however, so Kenny stayed in the room with her until she fell asleep. This only took 15 minutes, so we decided it was a small price to pay for getting Gloria to sleep away from home. However, the next nap took 30 minutes for her to fall asleep, during which Kenny pretended to sleep on the floor next to the pack and play and observed G doing all kinds of acrobatics – pulling herself up to standing and then thumping down onto the mattress over and over. She also did some downward dogs, looked over the side of the crib to observe her motionless father, and pitched her stuffed animals out onto floor. I took a turn for bedtime, and the process took 45 minutes, as she did more acrobatics in the crib and tried to get my attention. It was an ordeal, but better than listening to her scream herself to sleep (I think).

Gloria enjoyed the trip home, although she failed to get a nap during the flight. She especially loved opening and closing the airplane window and flirting with our neighbor in the aisle seat.

Eating – and trying new foods – was a pervasive theme this week, although Gloria’s appetite was somewhat erratic (some nights it seemed like she ate air for dinner). In Huntington Beach, Gloria loved Grandma Sandra’s chicken soup (the mushy carrots, chicken, and broth), kugel, guacamole, cupcakes, barbecue chicken, watermelon, mango, blueberries, pineapple, corn (on the cob!), a whole wheat bagel, and cream cheese. She’s also been practicing with the spoon, and managed to feed herself a few bites of polenta at home earlier this week. To ease her teething pain, Gloria has been chomping on baby carrots and eating frozen peas and carrots (still frozen!) To cap off her culinary experiences for the week, Gloria joined us for our anniversary dinner at Poppy. As we often do, we brought some of “her” food along with us in case the restaurant fare arrived too late or wasn’t baby-friendly enough. It turns out, G wanted nothing to do with the food we brought, but she loved the stuffed squash blossoms, fennel soup, cauliflower gratin, and assorted other small dishes from our thali.

Dinner in the bathtub
Having dinner in the bathtub makes clean-up a snap!

Ready to board
Ready to board for Long Beach

BAD WOLF
A Cali welcome note for Gloria? Oddly, someone had chalked this message on the wall adjacent to my dad’s house.

Dining
Who needs a highchair? The floor will do just fine, thanks.

Beach family Yellow bikini
Bathing beauty at Huntington Beach

With Grandpa Moose
Ready to go boogie boarding with Grandpa Moose

Sand
Learning about sand

Dancing with daddy
Dancing with daddy in front of an impressive sand castle

Ice Cold Refreshment

At one point, we heard some sage advice about bottle-feeding: there’s no need to warm your baby’s milk if she’s willing to drink it cold. So we’ve never warmed a bottle, and Gloria has never complained. She does seem to prefer her milk closer to room temperature rather than straight out of the fridge, so I try to take it out a bit early (or avoid putting it in the fridge at all if I’m pumping milk that Kenny will feed her within an hour or so).

Today, during our final beach day here in Phuket, Gloria tried a whole new bottle-feeding experience. We had some pumped milk in the little freezer section of the mini fridge in our hotel room. We had been keeping it there because the fridge would power off when we weren’t in the room – it’s one of those guest house rooms with a master power switch activated by the room key. We decided to bring a bottle with us to the beach, but didn’t get a chance to defrost it. We figured it would melt in the hot sun soon enough anyway. Hanging out on the beach, even in the shade of our umbrella, poor Gloria was hot and sweaty and clearly very uncomfortable. So we decided to feed her a bit of the ice cold milk to see if it would help cool her down. She loved it, and guzzled the whole bottle in just a couple of minutes! I ended up making a trip back to our guest house (~20 minutes round trip) to get another frozen bottle so she could enjoy another refreshing meal a bit later.

I wish we had known this trick for some of the hot days we had this summer!

Ice cold
Sometimes milk is a dish best served cold

Gloria Highlights, Week 18

What a week! Of course, this week’s major highlight was the start of Gloria’s first international trip. We started our week in Seattle, spent a long time in transit, stayed one night in Chiang Mai, and are currently sunning ourselves on Nai Yang Beach, Phuket.

Baby G has been a rock star traveler so far, although she was certainly thrown for a loop by the time change. She’s been waking up several times a night, clearly convinced that it’s daytime and wanting to play/eat/cuddle/etc. Fortunately it hasn’t been too difficult to soothe her back to sleep on each waking, but the fractured sleep has definitely prolonged my jet lag recovery. It seems to be getting progressively better, so hopefully she’ll be fully adjusted within a couple more days.

In other news, she has turned into a drool monster and she constantly wants to munch on her hands. Our pediatrician warned us that these signs would be coming soon – and that they wouldn’t necessarily imply teething. Still, I can’t help but wonder – is she teething?

OMG
OMG, I can’t believe we’re going to Thailand!

Good morning Chiang Mai
Good morning Chiang Mai

Three Kings
Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai

Napping
Catching a nap in the carrier at Chiang Mai airport, en route to Phuket

Baby G finds her thumb
Baby G has been gnawing on her hands for weeks, but on our flight to Phuket she found the elusive holy grail of hand munching – the thumb!

SunbathingSunbathing
Sunbathing

Naptime on the beach
Naptime on the beach was a nice theory; but who can sleep when there are so many new things to see?

First dip in the oceanFirst dip in the ocean
Taking her first dip in the ocean

Our Babe in Thailand

Today we are leaving to help Gloria fulfill her fortune:

Fortune

We fly to Thailand this afternoon, via Seoul. After a night in Chiang Mai we head south to spend a few days on our favorite beach in Southeast Asia, Nai Yang. We are then spending the bulk of our time in Mae Hong Son reconnecting with friends, enjoying the slow pace of life, and gorging on delicious Thai stir friestropical fruits (including mango and sticky rice), and spicy Burmese hill tribe food.

Gloria going to Chiang Mai
Guess where I’m going?

Kaweonui Beach

Our intention this morning was to head out early to Pali Ke Kua (Hideaways) Beach, which had been recommended to us by a number of people. However, a leisurely breakfast resulted in us arriving at its teeny (and overfull) parking lot by 10:30. Fortunately there is no shortage of great beaches on the northern shore of Kauai, and we backtracked two miles through Princeville to check out Kaweonui Beach, also known as “Sealodge Beach” due to the access trail’s proximity to Sealodge Resort. After skirting the edge of the resort near Buliding A, we were able to found our way courtesy of some imposing signage.

Caution sign 

DSC_0758
View of the beach from the access trail

The trail was beautiful, with lots of shade and great views of the coast. We were also blessed with dry, sunny weather, so the trail was easy to navigate – much simpler than the path to Queen’s Bath.

When we arrived, we had the beach almost to ourselves. We set up shop under the ample shade, enjoyed a few games of Scrabble, and sunned ourselves on the large volcanic rocks. The sand was coarse and thick; the water was clear though the surf was too rough for snorkeling (which is supposedly “outstanding” during calm seas). We had read about numerous turtle sightings in the water, but to my dismay there were none to be found today. 

Overall I found Kaweonui Beach to be a peaceful, secluded, relaxing beach that feels worlds away from civilization, yet is easily accessible.

DSC_0781
About 2/3 of the petite beach

DSC_0804
View of the massive reef from the access trail

Self-portrait
Self-portrait

Queen’s Bath

While not technically a “beach,” Queen’s Bath is one of the most interesting aquatic sites we’ve checked out so far on this island. After a tricky hike down a narrow, muddy trail, we scampered over lava rocks for what felt like a long time (although it was likely a relatively short distance) until we arrived at the Bath – a calm, natural pool with lava rock walls and water that is constantly refilled by the wild tide just beyond its edge. The tides also wash in numerous sea creatures, making the pool an excellent spot for snorkeling – mask and snorkel only, no fins needed.

The trail to Queen's Bath
Ocean view from the Queen’s Bath trail

Waterfall on the trail
A nice water feature on the hike down

Shortly after we arrived at Queen’s Bath, some menacing rainclouds started moving our way, and a gentle shower began. We decided that there was no point in leaving, as the water inside the pool was still calm, visibility was good, and the fish were plentiful. Kenny moved a few of our belongings into a little cubby in the rocks for better cover, and we continued our snorkeling. It was fun to watch the ocean outside the pool get more turbulent as the rain picked up, and occasionally a big wave came over the edge of the pool, splashing us and carrying in sea creatures as unwitting passengers.

The Bath, with ominous rainclouds in the background
Ominous rainclouds overhead

Kenny lounging on the rocks
Kenny lounging on the rocks after the rain let up

Taking a bath
Kenny enjoying the bath

Queen’s Bath is a unique place, and should certainly make anyone’s list of spots to check out on a trip to Kauai. The trail, while a bit narrow, should not be a deterrent – if I can do it at 25 weeks pregnant, I can’t imagine it would pose a challenge for most.

Kauapea Beach

Our second stop of the morning was Kauapea Beach, also known as Secret Beach. While I heard that the secret is out and that this secluded beach can get quite crowded, we couldn’t pass up the “long, golden sand beach…worth the trip year-round just to see its exceptionally scenic beauty.”

We followed the unmarked road to a small parking lot which still had multiple free spots available (I guess those who know the secret also sleep in past 10:30AM). With our snorkeling gear and beach chairs in tow, we set off on a hike through the forest and down to the beach.

Hiking to the beach 

10 minutes later, a pristine secluded beach with soft, fine-grained sand welcomed us. The waves were too rough for snorkeling today, but we had a relaxing morning reading under the false kamani trees, enjoying the views, and splashing around. We also enjoyed free entertainment in the form of aspiring surfer kings; I got to practice my sports photography, a pastime I quite enjoy when the opportunity presents itself. Secret Beach fully lived up to the hype, and we only left the beautiful scenery when we succumbed to the lunchtime call of our growling tummies.

Facing west on Secret Beach
Soft sand, and heavy waves breaking on the west side of Secret Beach

Facing east on Secret Beach
Views of the Kilauea Point Lighthouse to the east

Kenny on the beach
Chilling on the beach

Surfing Surfer crash
Tricksy waves

Self portrait
Self-portrait

Aloha Kauai

While Kenny and I were in Oslo last December, a confluence of events led us to purchasing a couple of airline tickets to Kauai for the first week of May:

  • We had a companion ticket we needed to use before its mid-December expiration
  • We figured we’d want to spend a week somewhere nice for our last real vacation before there were more of us
  • We were in Oslo, and hence cold

So here we are, in sunny, beautiful, humid island paradise. We arrived around lunch time today, and spent the remainder of the day making our way slowly up the coast to get settled into the apartment we’ve rented for the week in Ha’ena, on the North Shore. While here, we plan to do some hiking, snorkeling, gorging on tropical fruit, serious beach lounging, perhaps a helicopter ride, and a lot of chilling out. Perhaps one of the most valuable things our sabbatical taught us was how to be beach bums, and we certainly don’t want to let those skills atrophy just because we’ve reentered the real world and reassumed responsible adulthood status.

First view of Kauai
Our first view of the island

Belly
25-week belly with a view

Rooster
There are feral chickens and roosters all over this island

50% off Passover Products
Picking up some essentials at Foodland in Kapa’a. We couldn’t resist 50% off all Passover products, so decided we’d be making whole wheat matzoh meal pancakes for breakfast.

Lauren on beachKenny on beach
Frolicking on the driftwood-strewn beach across the street from our rental apartment

DSelf portrait
Self-portrait

Top 10 Beaches of Our Sabbatical

We wrote this list while lounging around on the beach in Zanzibar, just to make you hate us. The criteria are totally subjective and not documented anywhere, but involve some combination of most beautiful setting, best food, best amenities, and best overall vibe.

In order from most to least amazing:

  1. Mandrem, Goa, India – we spent a week on Mandrem being beach bums at the end of our stay in India.
  2. Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand – Nai Yang was so beautiful we had to go twice, first at the beginning of our Southeast Asia jaunt in January, and then for a long weekend trip with Seema and Mark in April.
  3. Galu Beach, Mombasa, Kenya – an extremely laid-back spot to kite surf – or not – and enjoy beautiful water and endless soft sand.
  4. Long Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam – we spent four nights on Long Beach in February, before we started our volunteer assignments in Thailand, and we ate chili lemongrass shrimp every day.
  5. Khlong Nin, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we spent four nights at Khlong Nin beach on Ko Lanta in January, directly after our stay in Phuket. It was a beautiful setting, but not quite as amazing an overall package as Nai Yang.
  6. Kendwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania – it wasn’t easy to get there on foot from Nungwi, but it was worth the trek, as it offered a beautiful stretch of relatively-secluded beach.
  7. Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania – we spent four nights on Nungwi, in a hotel room with an incredible ocean view. Unfortunately there isn’t much beach to speak of at low tide, but Kendwa and East Nungwi, nearby, offer good swimming opportunities.
  8. Khlong Dao, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we finished up our January visit to Ko Lanta with two nights at Khlong Dao, which was nice but not as secluded or as pretty as Khlong Nin. We did find one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the world at Khlong Dao – Thai Is-San.
  9. Nha Trang, Vietnam – the beach was not as nice as we remembered it from our first visit in 2007, but the tropical fruits are still the best I’ve ever tasted.
  10. Matemwe, Zanzibar, Tanzania – fascinating tidal flat landscape at low tide, pretty (but skinny) stretch of beach at high tide. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a place to stay, but it’s certainly worth a day trip.

If it makes you hate us any less, our tans will most certainly have faded by the time we arrive back in Seattle on September 22, and we do not have any more beach time scheduled between now and then.

Little Vid Goes to the Beach

Little Vid enjoyed our 10-day beach holiday almost as much as Kenny and I did, especially because we got to celebrate her namesake’s birthday in Kenya.

Little Vid at Kenyaways
Little Vid enjoying the beach at Kenyaways

Camel transport
A little French girl on the beach tried to steal Little Vid when she saw her perched on the camel’s head

House red
Enjoying a glass of the house red for Vidya’s birthday

Stone Town
Lounging on our rooftop deck in Stone Town

Thali
Enjoying a vegetarian lunch thali in Stone Town

Rainbow
Somewhere over the rainbow is Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar

Matemwe
Checking out the strange environs at Matemwe Beach, Zanzibar

As always, you can follow Little Vid’s adventures here.