Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Life is Good 2011 - In Words

As usual, after a bit of processing, I feel like I am left with so many things that made an impact on me - some are big and some are small, but all are worth mentioning. So here is my list, in no particular order...

The lady who smiled... - There was a mom this year I noticed the first day because she came to the meet n greet for new folks. She looked really unhappy, with kindof a furrowed brow, and I couldn't help but wonder what she thought of all this! I saw her a few more times in the first couple days, and she always had a frown on her face. I also made an effort to chat with her, and saw others talking to her a few times. And then it happened - a few days in, she was smiling, and it totally transformed her face and energy. I don't know what shifted for her, but the image of it has stuck with me.

Fire Alarms - This was the first year we had some fire alarms pulled, and the variety of responses to it was really interesting. I mean, there is no doubt it is annoying, but how do you respond if at all? The hotel was amazing. After it happened twice, they just called the fire department and asked them not to come unless they get an actual phone call. The girl at the front desk was kinda like, bunch of kids, what do you expect? But... the hotel also gets charged alot for false alarms. So what does our community do? They take up a collection to cover the cost. Some people didn't agree with this, but I thought it was touching and a huge message to the kid(s) involved. It reminded me of something I read about certain tribal cultures (wish I could remember which ones) that surround people with love when they have committed some type of wrongdoing. It is like they know there is some unmet need there, and by showing them they are worthy, they will be healed and brought into alignment with the energy of others. So, just, yeah... really moved.

That darn gluten - I feel like food is that one area I am always shifting. Are my kids really drawn to what they are sensitive to, making it impossible for them to listen to their bodies? Are their symptoms bad enough, dangerous enough, etc to warrant me controlling their eating? I am sure there are other questions I could frame around this. I wanted to do the let go and trust thing, but it really just doesn't sit right with me, at least when the kids are this young. What age is the right age to start totally letting go of food restrictions? Ah, another question. But anyway, I had a really interesting talk with a mom who has an older son with gluten issues, and they are pretty bad issues, but still she let's him choose. I had heard these ideas in principle, but somehow having that one on one time and hearing a real life story brought it home much more. In their case, she often found her son hiding in the closet with wheat products, or it would get back to her that he was eating them when out. Now she is a partner with him, so she knows when he chooses gluten, and also knows to expect the symptoms and isn't left wondering what the heck is going on. He usually only chooses it when he is involved in a group situation and that is what everybody else is eating. What it comes down to is that she firmly believes her son will consume less gluten in his lifetime this way than he would if she was *trying* to control it. Will I end up thinking the same thing about my kids when they are older? And at what age? Will they mostly outgrow their symptoms? Is gluten really doing lifelong damage to their insides that I have been reading about lately. Questions, questions, questions, but I am so glad to have this community and their stories to learn from.

There is more than one way to handle a problem - and the best way might not come to you at 2am when you have just found out about it. There is alot more I could say about this, but in the interest of letting sleeping dogs lie, I am going to leave it at that.

Orion expanding - Orion made several leaps this year. In general, he seemed pretty capable of being more on his own, although we still hired helpers to hang with him. There were two really big things that happened though. The first was that he got up on stage for the talent show!!! This is a kid who has never even watched it, let alone performed, but when I mentioned how much he liked showing people his cartwheels, he thought it was a great idea. Whaaaat? Goes to show - keep offering because you never know! His swimming also went off the charts. I really think the couple private lessons he had made a huge difference. is confidence has been much higher in general, but then at LIG, all of sudden he took off into the deepend without even telling me he was going! He swam all the way to the far end and back - pretty much a doggy style, but still - whoa! Even though his skills have looked good to me, he had insisted he can't really SWIM. Guess he changed his mind!

Funky Chicken - Or something like that. What was that secret dance folks agreed on to recognize each other if they came they night before? Well, it wasn't really needed lol! There were so many people already there on Wed, and we pretty much took over the lobby! I was so glad I went early as I got a chance to really connect with a few people. The best part was that I posted in case anybody wanted to share my room since I went with just Akasha, and ended up sharing with a mom and daughter I have met a couple times but not gotten to know as well as I would have liked! It is so nice to feel like I know them well now! I think the daughter is about 12 (I don't have a very good memory for these things, and indeed, they don't seem to matter that much in the unschooling world), and one of my favorite memories of the conference is staying up late with her that first night, whispering across the beds after her mom and Akasha had both gone to sleep. I think we talked until about 4:30am!!! And I have to say, I would rather talk to this "kid" than many adults I know, and I could easily say that about most of the unschooled youth! It is one of the reasons I knew we had found our community years ago!

Connections - again... Well, every year it seems I go in determined to talk more to people I don't know, and then somehow at the end, I feel like I didn't do a "good job" of it. I got off to a good start this time - I went to the Meet and Greet and tried to fix in my head the faces of the new or second year folk, I went to the Family Speed Dating, (and actually did think that was really great and may have set the groundwork for getting to know some folk), and I literally tried to smile at, make eye contact with and say "hi" to EVERY person I passed - and I am not exaggerating. But at the end of several days, I still found myself looking at pictures and names and thinking who IS that person? How can I have never passed them once? Is my memory really that bad lol? And wow, I didn't make that many "real" connections, *again*.

So I spent some time thinking, why do I keep ending up with this feeling year after year? Well, part of it is because I only hire childcare when I am wanting to go to a talk or circle chat. The rest of the time I was pretty much watching my 2yo which means not much eye contact and running off at any minute. But I also realized that, for me, there are two factors that seem to make a difference. The first is having a certain "subject of depth", if you will, that you can connect over. I have a few memories over the year that were as short as an elevator ride, but they stick out because of something significant that was talked about, and again, this year, somebody checked in with me about something they remembered from my past, and it turned out we shared much in common. So, the message is, don't be afraid to ask the big questions! But the other factor is time, just pure time baby. Having a 5 minute conversation in the train room about where do you live and how old are your kids is not going to mean you made a connection. Having several 5 minute conversations, something might start to build up, but it is going to take awhile. So the message still is, ask some big questions, even if you don't know much about the person yet! Will I remember this next year? Maybe I should just try to remember to read THIS next year lol.

But having said all that... I can also say that every year I have made at least one connection that "stuck" and deepened several more, including this year, so maybe that should be "good enough". :) I *am* to hard on myself I know.

Speakers and Chats - lots of great stuff, but I think our favorite would have to be Patty Digh. She had so many heartwarming stories, and her finger thing about perspective is going to stick with us for a long time. I have a feeling Ron and I will be giving each other a certain look and twirling our fingers at each other for years to come. Sorry if you have no idea what I am talking about. It is really hard to explain in words. Check out the audio if you missed her and maybe it will come across. Or have me show you next time I see you in person, whoever you are. Feel free to come visit any time lol!

And my favorite mental image goes to... A certain young boy, whom I think his parents prefer remain nameless, having a blast learning how to open various alcoholic beverages at a room party. I am sure all who saw it agree!

And last but not least - The party/wake in Mary's room the last night. When I heard her mother had died, my heart went out to her, and I thought, what bad timing. (As if death ever has good timing). I didn't know if she would want space or...? Then the word went out. Please come, she wants as many people in her room as possible. So I left the kids with a couple friends and went down for a hug and a few songs - yes, there were people playing live music and singing right there in her room. The whole thing was very touching, and again, what a community! I was left thinking how wrong I was, and what good timing this was, if there can be such a thing, to be surrounded by so many loving friends!

So another year has come and gone. I often write about Ron and what he got out of it as he doesn't usually blog himself. And there was "stuff" for him for sure, but he got stuck working alot, and also had some regrets about things he *didn't* do. So that was interesting.... Maybe I will encourage him to write up his thoughts. But in the meantime, I actually found he wanted to go to Good Vibrations! So that was a great surprise. We are officially a two conferences a year family. Wonder if/when we will step up to 3 or even 4?! Only time will tell. :)

Life is Good 2011 - In Pictures

Wow, our fifth year at Life is Good - so unbelievable! And it was bigger than ever before, with even a new room added. I have lots of thoughts, but always like to get my picture thread up first, so here it is...

I can't freehand letters for beans, so I came up with this idea for a door sign and made it ahead of time. Orion had a blast helping me look for letters and deciding which ones to use.
Akasha was just in love with this little doggie. Somebody had given him a Snapple lid, and it looks like he is saying, "I just dare you to try to take it away." And indeed, he wasn't about to let anybody have it!
Once again I was fortunate to have some great kids help me out with watching the kids!
Akasha learned Red Light, Green Light the first night. Oh the power! And what great and patient friends to play with her over and over!
Running races with her buddy Zola.
Butt bouncin' down the stairs lol.
All sorts of fun in the balloon room!
Love it when the older kids play along. The littles are always so thrilled and entertained!
Both my kids fell in love with Hungry Hippos!
The Lego table! (And photographers capturing each other. :) ) While Orion isn't in this photo, he spent alot of time here!
I think this was the best year for homemade wares ever. I bought more than a few things!
Still happy to play with a train set.

But oh, the fort room was the biggest hit with Orion I think!

Last morning... this says it all.
The kids were pretty worn out, but we decided to hit the picnic for a bit. Didn't last too long but had fun hanging while we did. Love this picture of Amma pushing Tessi lol!
Wiggling up the slide...
Moments like these are what unschooling is all about. :)
And I had to include this pic of a friend's baby just because it is so darn cute lol.
Phew, another year, new friends, old friends, thoughts of adding another conference... love this life we lead!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rapture Baby!

We decided to have a spur of the moment rapture party at Rachele's old place on Burnside.

Look, some rapturees have departed...

...leaving us to engage in our vices in peace. I have such cool friends.
Ciara put on an old bridesmaid dress of Rachele's, which was amusing to all, although she looks like a melting witch in this picture lol.
As the night went on (read more alcohol consumed), the pictures got stranger and stranger lol.
Ciara has fallen and can't get up!
Now Ciara is dressing Akasha up in the gown...
Final shot of the night... Really? Still life with shoes and plastic animals? No clue who took this OR what they were thinking lol.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On the Way Home

The kids were totally fascinated with this "tornado machine" where we changed planes in San Francisco. It was great they had a spot for them to run around a bit after a long flight!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kona 2011 - Day 7

We kept going back and forth on whether or not to do this seahorse tour, because Orion didn't seem that interested, but we decided to go for it as he usually ends up liking things once he gets going, and Ron and I both really like seahorses. :) They didn't allow any photography on most of the tour. They are also a business that sells seahorses, and I guess they do things differently and don't want their secrets out there lol. Not really sure, but I do know their seahorses were super friendly and social. There is one stop on the tour where you feed them, and they literally looked like they were coming up the top and begging lol. There was one area where you could take photos, and you can see how they like holding tails in this one:

Here they are live:

There was also a touch tank that had lots of hermit crabs in it.
Close up!
Here is the tank where they let you hold one!

Later that day I took a little drive to try and get a couple more caches. I drove down this one street because I was also curious about all the history in the area, and came across these burials just right next to the road!

And guess what was literally right across the street? Yep, a golf course. More side by side oddities. Turned out there were a heck of alot more burials here than I realized. On my way out, I noticed this sign:
Here was the battlefield. It is so strange to me that the Hawaiians have such a history of war and violence when they seem like such a laid back group of people!

We had a great farewell dinner the final night, but I will write about that in the foodie post. :)

Kona 2011 for the Foodies!

OK, here it is.... The Foodie Post lol! I only wish I had taken more pictures of all the food haha!

I had used Tripadvisor and Yelp to research local restaurants, and had already fallen in love with The Lotus Cafe. From their pan asian menu to their solar panels to their emphasis on organic ingredients, what's not to love?! I was fully prepared not to make it in time the first night between getting our luggage and rental car, but we did! I was going to get one of the more unusual dishes, but when I started chatting with the gal, and she said they could make Pad Kee Mao, I decided to go for it. And Ron got his usual Pad Thai. But there was nothing usual about these dishes! I can definitely say I had never had either dish taste like these! The flavors mostly came from fresh ingredients, like galangal and lemon grass, instead of sauces. They were like the fresca version of Thai noodles lol! Really yummy, and if this place had been closer to town, we probably would have eaten there again.

The next day we decided on U Top It for breakfast (or more like brunch really :) ). It also had great reviews and wow, we were impressed! Their specialty is crepes made with taro! The amazing thing was that it was so casual and yet the food came out so beautifully presented! I had the Veggie Omelet and Ron had the Breakfast Club pancrepe. Another win! We came back here!

I don't think we went out to dinner that night as we were too late coming down from the observatory. I think I got a salad at Wendy's lol.

The next morning we had breakfast at the condo before heading out to Waipio valley and just had some snacks on the road until we came back to town for dinner. I was really looking forward to checking out Jackie Rey's, and I am SO glad we did. I think this was my favorite meal in Kona, and we would have never known about it as it was off the beaten path. They had me at an amazing and creative menu next to paper covered tables with crayons lol. But add to that staff that seems to genuinely enjoy children and comes to your table to play with them, a great wine list, and artistically prepared food - this place just ROCKED. Almost everything we has was from the specials for that night, made with their fresh catch, which was ono (and which we got to SEE because they like to take kids back into the freezer to see the big fish!)

I did get a couple pics with my phone, so they aren't great but here they are.... These were the crab cakes:
This was my dish:
It basically had all of my favorite things! Capers, sundried tomatoes, a cilantro pesto, feta cheese.... yum. We also had an appetizer that included like an ono sushi salad that was amazing, and Ron's entree was kindof an upscale fish and chips lol. There were round pieces of lightly breaded and fried ono over a purple sweet potato mash (which you can also see at the bottom of my dish). I would have come back here for sure if we wanted to have another expensive meal lol.

No exciting food to report the next day as our main activity was the night snorkel, so we just ate at the condo before heading over there.

The next day we went to Volcanoes NP and had a great Thai lunch in the little town of Volcano. We got back into town fairly late, so we decided to give the Kona Brew Pub a try, since a friend of a friend works there, and we heard the food was pretty good too! I had intended to stay somewhat low carb on this trip, but oh well, I pretty much failed with so much amazing food! I mean, how could I say no to a pizza named after Pele? The pizza here truly was amazing and lived up to its rep!

After our long snorkeling day, we wanted to go back to U Top It for dinner. We were there like an hour before their posted closing time, but they were closed lol. A true locally owned business, where hours are "approximate" haha. So we ended up at a place called Lava Java. We had heard it was really good for breakfast and planned on that the next day, and Orion liked the name and wanted to go there lol, but we found out they had dinner, so we just flopped and decided to do our second U Top It visit for another breakfast. Well, it turned out to be a great decision with great food, and once again, artistically presented as well. AND they had Wiki Stix for the kids to play with. This is a dang kid friendly town it seems! I had the macadamia crusted fish and Ron had the brie stuffed chicken - both were great!

So the one place I was dying about not getting to yet was Da Poke Shack. First of all, Poke is one of THE authentic Hawaiian things to try. Second of all, how often do you find a place that is nothing but 5 star ratings on like EVERY site? We were planning on a sushi place for date night, so I wasn't so sure I wanted raw fish for lunch as well, but I decided to dash in while I was out getting some caches and.... OH.MY.GOD. It was heavenly, and there were so many types! I tasted several and got small containers of two. Imagine the most delicious melt in your mouth chunks of raw fish, with a creamy dressing and some onions and other small veggies - it was kindof like the sashimi version of potato salad lol. The other one I got was seasoned with shoyu and something sweet. Yum!

And this brings me to our final out to eat meal.... We had wanted some good sushi and asked around, but it just so happened our waitress at Jackie Rey's new somebody who worked at a local place and gave us a friends and family 50% off coupon!!! I was worried it wasn't going to be a great place, but I read the reviews and it looked good. So Kenichi it was! It actually turned out to be perfect because they had much more than just sushi, so I ended up getting the duck comfit - yum! Ron was happy with a bunch of sushi. :) And the best part was that I had read about a ukelele jam (lol) happening at this shopping center the same night, and it turned out to be right in the plaza next to the restaurant, and we got an outdoor table so we could hear it! The place was really high end, with a great wine list, but still this was the look on our table:

LOL gotta love a wine glass on a beer coaster! And here is the beautiful dessert we got:
Ah Kona, your food was good to us, and this was a great farewell meal!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kona 2011 - Day 6

Warning! Huge post ahead! This was a long day!

I really wanted to make sure I got a chance to snorkel at Kahalu'u since it was so close to our hotel and supposed to be one of the best spots on the island, so I decided to head over by myself early, before the kids were even up! And I am so glad I did! Wow, it was amazing!

Here is the entry area - looks so unassuming. :)
Then you look under water and bam, fish everywhere! And SO much variety. I took about 100 pictures lol. Here are some of my favorites:

The colors on this one were amazing. Wish I had got a better shot.

This one had these amazing subtle colors. Picture doesn't do it justice!

Came across this little group and shot a picture before I even noticed who was down there under the rock.... Do you see it?
A moray! Glad I got this shot because when I got closer he popped back in.
Just when I thought I had seen every kind of fish, I would see another new type. These guys were a trip.
And then I spotted this guy! He had a crazy, long, forked tongue and was using his mouth to move really big rocks. All the fish moved stuff around with their mouths - never realized how handy they were that way - but this guy seemed stronger. I got video footage of him as well that I will add later.
I only spotted a few puffers. They seemed shyer than the other fish, and stuck close to the rocks and hid when I got near, but I did capture this little one. They are so cute!

Phew, totally like being in another world! When I got out, I stopped to talk to a Hawaiian guy who was working on an archeological site that was an old royal bathing area. What a character he turned out to be! I told him about some of the reading I had been doing about Hawaiian history, and he thanked me for taking an interest in his people, but was quick to say most of the interpretations are wrong. He started telling me the correct version of the Captain Cook story, which had to do with him first coming to the island during peacetime, and then returning during wartime. That was an interesting concept as I had always thought it just meant "if at peace or war", but it turns out the year was divided into sections, and all the tribes agreed to peace at certain times, kindof a time out lol.

We also talked about the surfing stone, where you are supposed to knock to bring up bigger waves. I said, "Does it work?" He narrowed his eyes and said, "Of course it works. Why you think people gonna stand around knocking on a stone if it doesn't work?" Ha! He rocked. But the most fascinating things he talked about were the stories passed down through his people that say the Samoans came from Hawaii, and not the other way around. He told me they were carried there by a series of tsunamis, and that there had been a recent archeological discovery of bones on one of the volcanoes that date back much earlier than they thought there were people there, so they are getting proof now. Really, who am I to argue with historical story tellers?

So speaking of history, next on the agenda was to go see a petroglyph area (and ahem, get the cache there). Ron had no interest, so I went with just Akasha. It was a longer drive than I realized AND a longer hike AND super hot! So we ended up in a bit of a rush as we had a snorkel trip on a boat to make it to later. Thanks be that Akasha was really into walking, because I am not sure I could have carried her all that way in that heat!

Some petroglyphs they had sitting out at the trailhead:

I thought these figures looked to be surfing. What do you think?
On the trail. There were lots of rocks embedded in the dirt, and Akasha fell a couple times, but dang, she was a trooper!
Coming on to the main area from the trail:
The area was a large flat expanse. We were there at the worst time for photos, with the sun directly above, but you get the idea.
I brought this travel bug that wanted to see the world, so I had to get a photo of it here. :)
There were several spots right on the trail that had petroglyphs as well. They were marked with these rings so people would hopefully not step on them.
Lots more here, but you can't really see them. :/
Akasha at the cache. Hmmm, what's under these rocks?
Another view of the area.
On the way back, I had passed this cool metal dragon sculpture a few times and finally grabbed a photo. You can also see and example of how people "write" things on the lava with white coral.
We all made it to the boat in just the nick of time! I was really excited we found this company, Fair Wind, because every other tour I found didn't allow kids under about 6 or 7. This boat was family friendly, had slides and jumping platforms, great set ups for kids to view fish, like boogies boards with viewing windows and all sorts of flotation devices AND a bar lol. It basically had everything you might want. :)
There were these little nooks you could stand in out at the front of the boat. Orion really enjoyed them!

Akasha looks thrilled to be in this self portrait lol. Also on the second level you can see a bunch of kids. Our trip happened to include a class full of local kids from a Hawaiian language immersion school! Listening to the teachers talk to them was so fluid! And they were so sweet and nice to our kids!
Orion climbing up the ladder to the top level.
Sails! The boat was pretty as well. :)
Orion in his new swim shirt, getting ready to hit the water. They had stairs all the way into the water. It really couldn't have been easier! There were even families on this trip that couldn't swim, and they were patiently helping them in.
More fish, taken by Ron this time. :) Our destination was Kealakekua, which was a deeper area than I had been in that morning, but still lovely!

This was a really cool fish, but so interesting to see the difference in clarity!

Long but lovely day. Here is Akasha, ready to go out to dinner in the outfit picked out by Grandpa Jim. It fit right in. Notice the mosquito bites all over her legs. :/