Book Report: Northwest Kid Trips

In our family, Tom is the itinerary planner. And when I say planner, I don’t want you to think of someone loosely drafting a mental list of places he’d like to see, or being the one to hold on to the vital documents (that’s actually my job). No, Tom drafts multi-page outlines of each day and bullet points of what we will see. We aren’t obligated to stick to any of that if it ends up that we’d rather see something else, but it usually keeps us organized and feeling like we’re sucking every last bit of experience out of a place.

Lazy as I am, you can see why I delighted in our trip to Kauai: at 13 weeks pregnant and in the throes of vicious all-day-not-just-morning sickness, I had the perfect excuse to lie next to the pool, listen to the gentle ocean waves and suck down ice chips and virgin daquiris. (Though I did do a 4-mile hike/kayak trip. Barefoot. Who’s awesome?)

That being said, Tom wasn’t originally going to come with us to Seattle and Vancouver; he was able to do so because some former commitments ended up falling through, but the initial task of trip planning fell to me. Not only that, but planning a trip with a child just straddling the baby/toddler line. So it came to pass that I ordered Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria from Amazon.

YOU GUYS. I am not exaggerating* when I say that this is a vital purchase for any family planning to visit the Pacific Northwest. Though I did not get a chance to use the Portland or Victoria sections, the Seattle and Vancouver sections were indispensible.

Pros: specific itineraries for families by category like “artsy” or “foodie”, other points of interest by age group (babe in arms to surly teen), mention of library locations (a piece of advice I covered in my guest post on Everywhereist), tips for eating on the cheap, and a whole wealth of nifty stores and a kid-friendly slant on the major city attractions. I picked our hotel in Vancouver (more expensive than I had realized but not the book’s fault, prices do vary and it’s the reader’s responsibility to blah blah blah) and Maggie’s first chopstick experience was recommended as a cheap and fun eat with toddlers, to which I heartily concur.

Cons: No maps. Those are easy enough to come by, but I did borrow my friend’s copy of Top Ten Seattle and supplemented with a few tourist maps of Seattle and Vancouver from the ferry and our Vancouver hotel, respectively, but it might have been nice to have it all in one package. A minor quibble and not one that should keep you from buying the book.  And for those of you who don’t travel without your iPhone or iPad, I don’t believe there’s an e-copy available. (I like to keep my paperback travel guides and make notes in the margins and doodle. It’s another souvenir, in my opinion. But that’s just me.)

We also lucked out in that the side trip feature location for Seattle was Bainbridge Island, where we happened to be staying. We overslept for the local market and things do close down around 5-7pm, but the ice cream and kid museum recs were a big hit.

In short: I planned an itinerary just like Tom, all by my onesies. And I only used this book and a few minutes with Google to reconfirm some addresses.

*Nor am I being paid, by anyone, to say nice things about this book. I say nice things because I want YOU to enjoy a happy trip, not because I’m getting a cut. Yes, even you. You know who you are. Buy the book.

We Ate WA

Grocery shopping in Hawaii for the first time in months today was a deeply unpleasant shock. I had gotten rather used to Florida prices and even though the local Publix had a less-than-stellar selection, they at least devoted half an aisle to tasty organic healthy treats. Not so at our local Safeway and we can’t afford to shop at Times ($7! for milk!), but even their scattered Safeway Organic generics ran us $70 on a list of basics: bread, milk, some lunch meats, and basic produce.  I need to work extra hard at finding local markets and better food source options; Hawaii is certainly bountiful, but I don’t see the focus on local and green options here like I did in Seattle and I think maybe I’m just not looking in the right places.  But boy howdy, those Pacific Northwesterners take their locally grown organic food seriously.

The vendor selling these tasty little morsels in Pike Place had a fresh chocolate linguini to sample and a plethora of oils to try. While Tom stuffed Maggie senseless on bread dunked in truffle oil (and if there’s an allergy risk there, I don’t want to know about it) I tried it–good, not overpowering, but I wouldn’t put tomato sauce on it.

This bunch was only $20, but I was sure we’d have a tough time getting it into our bags and back to Hawaii unharmed. They take transporting vegetables into the islands rather seriously. I also had to sneak this photo on the sly from a tired vendor.

The sampler set at Granville Brewing Company in Vancouver; my favorite was the Maple Cream Ale. But that’s not even what I want to discuss, because Tom flew into Portland and spent a few days bumming around Oregon before he met us. Between his hostel and the few samplers we ordered from local breweries, he had over thirty different types of beer during his trip. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TRAVEL WITHOUT A BABY. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout. I’m just so…sober.


Equally preposterous are the size of the locally grown berries. In Maine we had black raspberry bushes around the edge of my grandparents’ house and the berries were delicious, but really no bigger than a pencil eraser. These fat bastards were veritable ping-pong balls of fruity delight.

These babies were smaller, but adorable. D’awwww….who’s a good little currant? You are, you ARE.

These might not have been locally made (although their menu stressed when things were) but Guu With Garlic was an incredible spot to take Maggie for her first foray into Japanese noodles. Her intake of the noodles wasn’t exactly a slurp; it was closer in sound and intensity to the pneumatic tubes at the bank. Whoosh!

Obviously, she loved it. She also had one more huge milestone…

Maggie + taro dumplings + chopsticks = An enormously proud day for Team Monkey

Now I’m hungry again, dammit. I’ll just have to enjoy one of my $3 Hawaiian apples and the bananas from Guatemala.

The Zone

Tonight is our last night on the road; this dispatch comes from my friend’s fiance’s computer on lovely and damp Bainbridge Island in Washington State.  BI is just a short ferry ride from Seattle and guys, I think I’m about to commit bigamy with a location. I want to marry Bainbridge Island, have little yuppie babies raised on local food and sent to any one of the schools in the buyer’s market of Montessori and Waldorf options, name them ironic names like Watson or Asher and then have a very understanding and gentle divorce when our island love turns out not to be.

In short: Ah <3 Bainbridge 4Eva.

Typically when we travel I get a touch of “Why don’t we live here?!” if I’m in one place for any amount of time.  This seems particularly prevalent on the West Coast where the abundance of creative artsy types seem to outnumber the government types that (by necessity) populate our usual living space.  Tomorrow, though…tomorrow I get to go back to a place most people dream of living in and then dismiss as impractical, which is a little fun for me.

Mostly though, after five months of up and down and all around, we’re going to go back to Hawaii and rebuild our home. Rebuild our life; create a nest of our own where our child can have a little routine and calm while we plan the Next Big Adventure.  We’re going to recreate the happy little family zone where we can explore our own backyard and daydream and remember what we’ve done while we think about what we’re doing in the future.

I can’t wait to write about where we’ve been in the last few months.  But I also can’t wait to write about what’s next.

Countdown

In four days, we will be in Seattle.  A week from today, Vancouver.  And a week from Monday, back in Hawaii after a grueling-but-awesome five and a half month runaround.

I swear to you, Internet, I am going to sleep through the rest of August. We’re not even going to go to the other side of the island. And if I find a grocery delivery on-island, we’re not going to even leave the house. My brain is so deep-fried tired that I can’t bring myself to sit down and get into the routine, and as such my writing has gone stagnant for the moment. To not have a regular creative outlet is horrible for me and for Maggie too; I have a billion product ideas for Examiner, god knows I have a LOT I could be pitching to family travel websites, and in the background percolating in my head are a bunch of ideas for trying to figure out a way for us to homeschool Maggie and the as-yet-unconceived 2.0. But the words aren’t quite gelling together right now.

[Side note on having another child. Me: “I think I’m ready for another, Maggie’s old enough, we have a name we agree on, it’s time.” Tom: “Well, see if you can wait until we’re in the same state.” …Twit.]

I’ve been reading so much on the Montessori and Waldorf and unschooling educational models and equal amounts on the general failure of a lot of public schools and now I am obsessed with creating a curriculum for our kids at home. This is INSANE, people. I’m already going a little crazy at home, but so far my experience is that I’m better at being a mom than I have ever been at anything else. Which…yeah. I’m not even saying I’m such a great parent, but I feel best about myself when I think I’m doing right by my kid. So why not see if we can find a way to run with it?

This is also a good way to distract myself from not thinking about how busy our fall is going to be. We’re signing up for Stroller Strides again once I get my house back together, toddler Spanish on Saturdays and possibly family music lessons on Sundays, baby yoga on Mondays and then babywearing and LLL once a month. I am determined to bust out of my antisocial grumpy shell and give Maggie some socialization (and me too).  I will also secretly be trolling for trustworthy types to babysit my kid so Tom and I can go see a movie and eat food that we don’t have to cut into teeny pieces to share. For my own sanity, I’m looking at starting Bikram once a week to get out of the house sans Maggie.  I’m going to a wedding in Vermont this fall (by MYSELF, holy shit) and we are taking a big trip in late October/early November.  Oh, and sometime between December and March…we’re moving and leaving Hawaii forever. And we don’t know when we’ll move, to where or for how long.

So you can see why I am spending my free time scanning Etsy for pretty Waldorf toys and, you know, not writing or thinking about a damn thing.

2010 has been a total kick in the junk for tons of our friends and comparatively, I can’t complain. We’ve only been mildly inconvenienced at best. But it has been an endurance marathon and I nearly burst into tears last Sunday flying from Manchester, NH back to Tampa when I realized I’d have to get Maggie to Seattle by myself, with a stopover in Denver and at a lousy time of the day for her schedule. It’s just.one.more.time. I can do it. But I’ve been counting down the days until I don’t have to do this alone anymore. Real single parents: a hug, a tip of my hat, and a standing offer of free babysitting to you. This is the hardest grind I’ve ever gone through and I only have one child and a vast network of family support.

Most importantly: four more days until Maggie can see her Daddy and I can see my favorite person in the world. It’s going to be awesome.

Consent

If I added everything correctly–and I am by no means sure that I did–I believe I will have a free Southwest flight available to use sometime in May. The British Columbia tourism board will be glad to note that their relentless celebrity advertising (hell-lo Ryan Reynolds, won’t you come sit by me?) during the Olympics attracted at least one wandering eye and open wallet, and if all goes to plan Maggie and I will be flying off to Seattle and then doing an overnight in Vancouver this June. My childhood friend Michelle is working on a PhD at UW in some brilliant field related to the biological sciences that I only vaguely understand, having gained most of my scientific education from “Beakman’s World,” but she’s agreed to tolerate us for a few days.

Because I am an insanely paranoid freak when it comes to paperwork, proper filing of (well, personal travel paperwork, at least; all of my former bosses just twitched and don’t know why), I went looking for rules regarding crossing the Canadian border. In a ruiniously expensive turn of events this summer, Tom’s passport expired, I had to get a new one with my married name, and Maggie needed her own passport. Tragically, Baby Fu is not her passport photo, but a passport issued to an infant is like, the cutest thing ever.

Fig. 1: Would YOU allow this person to cross international boundaries?

Anyway, the State Department and the passport photo guy at Costco got a ridiculous sum of our money and we’re all set there. What I was worried about was being alone with Maggie. There have been some high-profile custody cases in the news of late regarding parents snatching kids and dashing to some exotic land. America’s Hat may not be Argentina or Tokyo, but it IS a foreign country. So even more paranoid than my note from the pediatrician arguing the medical necessity of Maggie’s boobmilk is the letter we drafted the other night. It is a notice of travel consent in which Tom establishes his relationship to us, his understanding that we intend to travel extensively, and gives his consent for me to both travel internationally with Maggie in his absence and to determine the dates/times/locations at my discretion. A couple bucks and a notary seal later, and I think we’re good to go. Like I’d ever leave him and take the baby anyway; I am far too lazy to hack the single parent lifestyle because single parents are the hardest-working people in all of ParentLand, god love ya, and I’m no more likely to snatch the baby than I am to spontaneously run a marathon in clear stripper heels (there’s a visual).

I will bet a maple leaf flag and a Celine Dion CD that nobody in Maggie’s entire life will ask me for that letter. But it makes me feel happy to have it. Even though our travel plans aren’t firm, we’ve got husbandly legal consent to frolic about the northern hemisphere. It’s well worth the peace of mind if you’re paranoid and hell, when dealing with border crossings you probably should be. Break out the sippy cup of sparkling grape juice! (For me. Maggie still doesn’t use them. *sob*)

Now, for suggestions: having read the NY Times’ “36 Hours in Vancouver” and “36 Hours in Seattle” and finding them mostly helpful but geared toward someone youthful and trendy and without a mammalian cling-on, what should I do for food and fun? Parks are good, museums are too (Maggie is pretty good like that…usually). IF we do this, I’m not totally sure yet, Maggie will be about 14 months old, so kid-oriented stuff is always a good call.

ETA: OMG, YOU GUYS, MY HEART JUST WENT PLOOEY: This has NOTHING to do with the post AT ALL but I just got a notice in my email about “Daria: The Complete Animated Series” being available for pre-order. I squealed like a piglet and clapped my hands in glee. I can’t wait to buy it and relive the series that was partially responsible for me being such an obnoxious shit in junior high and high school (the other part being a cussedly stubborn and socially anxious nature and a tendency to wear black). Meeeeeeemoriiiieeeeeeeeees.