vacation

Paradise – The Last Day

(Our last day in Kauai ended at the airport where we prepared for our overnight flight back to Denver. Because we had precious few hours left in paradise, I chose to save my final post about our trip until today. I’m sure you understand.)

Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls

We set the alarm for a 6:30 wake up call because we had a lot to accomplish. Happy to see that the clouds were finally clearing from Lihue, we decided our first stop would be Wailua Falls. Perhaps because this particular destination was relatively close to our lodging, we’d managed not to make it there yet. The mood was already somber in the car as we all took in the gravity of the situation. We were heading home at the end of the day, and not one of us was yet ready to leave.

When we reached the falls, it was lightly misting and the sun was obscured behind some clouds. Still, it was barely 8 a.m. on a workday morning for most folks in Kauai, so we had the falls to ourselves. We stood there for a few minutes enjoying it. The heavy rains from the preceding day had turned what should have been two separate falls into one large one, an upside surprise to visiting Kauai during the rainy season. As we stood there snapping photos, the clouds began to break up and for a brief minute the falls and the vibrant green forest surrounding it were illuminated. Perfection.

Sunny Poipu Beach mostly to ourselves

Sunny Poipu Beach mostly to ourselves

As beautiful as it was, we were eager to get on with our day so we headed to Koloa for coffee and breakfast to take to the beach. We were on Poipu before 9, and it was relatively empty as most folks were still sizing up the clouds and enjoying sleeping in on vacation. I headed for the water immediately, hell bent on getting some more fish photos with the underwater camera. I had hoped to spy a turtle in the surf but had no such luck. It was cool enough on the beach that the water felt pleasantly warm, so I swam and enjoyed the fish for about 45 minutes while the boys played in the mellow waves. We stayed on the beach until 11 and then packed up to go back to Koloa to purchase the last of a few souvenirs and gifts.

Our token Hawaiian souvenir photo for the koa wood frame we bought

Our token Hawaiian souvenir photo

Our last token Hawaiian moment happened after showers. On the first full day of our trip we had bought Hawaiian garb, somewhat tacky and obnoxious and yet wholly necessary. Once we were cleaned, we donned our Hawaiian outfits and drove down to Kalapaki Beach, the first place we touched the sand and the ocean on our very first night in Kauai. There with the late afternoon waves pounding the shore break, we posed in between waves for a quick family photo as our last nod to Hawaii. It was hard to be cheerful about it, but we tried.

Pretty sure I could get used to life in flip flops, tank tops, and no make up

Pretty sure I could get used to life in flip flops, tank tops, and no make up

On the flight from Kauai to Honolulu where we would catch our red-eye to Denver, Joe talked non-stop about how much he wanted to move to Hawaii. He says these things about every place we visit, so I didn’t think much of it. Truth is, though, that I was with him. I could live in Hawaii. Island fever be damned. There’s something magical about Kauai…the quiet pace of life, the light, the lushness, the friendly people, the steady and warm rain. I could do it. I could cash in my busy life to be quietly zen on Kauai. I’m sure of it. It would be a life completely different from the one I am living now, but I’m pretty certain I could live on a steady stream of flip-flops and farmer’s markets in paradise. Luke said that even paradise would seem boring after a few months. After all, if you’ve seen one sea turtle you’ve seen them all right? He asserts that some day even humpback whale sightings would be commonplace, much the way coyote and elk sightings are at home. He may be right. I suppose it’s possible. I’d simply like the opportunity to find out for sure.

Need A Vacation From My Subconscious

My greatest joys, my biggest concerns

I had a nightmare last night. Not a bad dream, a nightmare. A bad dream is something you will remember when you awaken and say “wow…that was unpleasant.” A nightmare is something that wakes you up, sticks with you, and makes you uncomfortable enough that you’re not even sure you want to go back to sleep. The last nightmare I had was about my boys and I standing on a dock over icy water, think Anchorage in late March. Both boys stepped a little closer to the edge of the dock and simultaneously they both slipped into the water. I tried to grab them, got a hold of one, and the other went under and did not come back up. I didn’t have a chance to find out if I jumped in to get the other one because I awoke at the moment that I realized I was losing one. Still, this nightmare causes me to tear up years later.

My mom taught me once that our dreams are our mind’s way of working out things that are troubling us in our subconscious. The things that we bury deeply don’t stay buried. Sooner or later our mind wants to work them out. She taught me to look to the feeling you’re having when you are in the dream for a clue as to what is bothering you. Then, look to your life and see where that feeling might match up. In my nightmare where the boys fall off the dock, I was feeling helpless and guilty, guilty that I saved one and not the other. In my life at the time, I’d been working extra hard to help Joe after his ADHD diagnosis. I was putting in hours a night to help him with his school work, meanwhile letting Luke more or less fend for himself. I was doing what I needed to be doing at the time, but I knew deep down that I wasn’t giving as much to Luke as I was to Joe. During my waking hours, that thought would cross my mind but I would shrug it off, saying that I had to be there for Joe while he struggled. During my sleeping hours, my mind reminded me that I felt as if I was shortchanging Luke. I felt bad for neglecting him.

Well, last night my subconscious brought me a real doozy. I was on a plane with the boys, heading somewhere exotic and distant. The plane suddenly started to fall from the sky. The cabin was losing pressure. Oxygen masks dropped, but not mine. I put Luke’s on him. Then I realized Joe’s was mask was a cord with nothing attached. I moved him to another seat that had a working mask and secured it. I was now separated from Luke and crouching down next to Joe as I realized I was running out of air. I grabbed Joe’s hand, told him I loved him, and he began sobbing. That’s when I woke up, heart pounding, breathing more heavily than I should be. I lay there for a minute, taking deep breaths and simply trying to return to a normal pulse rate. I shook my head as if somehow the act would work like an Etch-A-Sketch and clear the image from my brain. It did not work. It was shades of my last nightmare coming back to me. I help Luke who doesn’t need much help and focus on Joe who needs me more, all the while feeling like a horrible mother for neglecting my second child. Not good.

I suppose the fact that we just learned that Luke has some serious reading concerns isn’t helping my subconscious relax any. As Luke was starting with his pre-reading skills, Joe was struggling mightily in first grade. For the next two years, I worked hard with Joe to try to catch him up to grade level. Luke seemed to be doing well enough, so I let him simmer on the back burner. I reasoned that a lot of kids struggle with reading until around 3rd grade. For many children, at that time things start to click. At the end of last year, however, I realized how far behind Luke was with his reading skills but by then the issue was already firmly in place. Now, Luke gets to endure 2 hours a week of customized reading tutoring with a dyslexia specialist in our home to try to correct the issues we didn’t catch when he was first learning to read. And, yes, I feel like a big schmuck for not being more proactive and paying enough attention to Luke. Big letter L on my loser forehead.

You know, I appreciate the work my subconscious is trying to do for me, always running in background and working furiously to fix things for me. But, sometimes, I really wish it would just leave me alone. I’m subjugating those emotions because I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to deal with them at this point. Why can’t my subconscious take a vacation like my conscience does on occasion? Being The Mom (like The Donald only without all the braggadocio and bloviating) is tough. Is it too much to ask for a little respite on occasion? Wait a minute. Instead of having my subconscious leave me, perhaps it would be better if I left it? Perhaps if I could leave it behind with my conscience, I could relax, let loose, and recharge somewhere tropical, like Hawaii. Then I could come back with the energy to help both boys simultaneously, and my subconscious could return to its job, running quietly in background mode and leaving me the hell alone.

Why You Don’t Mess With English Majors

About to board for our Norway trip.

So, we’re leaving on this big expedition to the Galapagos tomorrow, right? I’ve spent my day packing and cleaning and writing out luggage tags and running errands. I have to get up at 4 a.m. to start this journey, but I have so much to do to finish getting ready that I am already acknowledging that tomorrow is going to be a triple shot latte followed by two Cokes kind of day. Still, I am excited. I love travel. Love it. Once we get to the airport, I will be in my happy place.

Anyway, yesterday I was at a party for a friend and someone asked me if I was excited about our upcoming vacation. Clearly this particular friend hasn’t known me for very long.

“It’s a trip,” I corrected him.

He stared at me blankly.

“Oh. Steve said you guys were going on a family vacation,” he said, puzzled by my distinction.

“Oh. It’s a family vacation for Steve. For me, it’s a family trip.”

He furrowed his eyebrows.

“You see, my kids are coming with me. Since my career is as a full-time, stay-at-home parent, any traveling I do with my children is not technically a vacation for me. According to the dictionary definition, a vacation is a freedom or release from work. If my work is there, it’s a trip. You know, just like if you traveled for your job it would be a trip and not a vacation,” I explained.

“But, you’re going to the Galapagos Islands,” he said. “I think most people would call that a vacation.”

“I’m sure most people would. I would not. If you went to London for work, would you call it a vacation?” I asked.

“No.”

“If you went to London to see the Olympics, would you have to file for vacation time from work?”

“Of course,” he replied.

“See….that’s just it. I don’t file for vacation time because it’s not a vacation,” I continued. “It’s a trip. I’m bringing my work along.”

“But it’s the same thing,” he said.

“It’s not the same thing. For me, a vacation is when I’m away from my children. For you, a vacation is when you’re away from work,” I tried again.

“But, when you’re away from home doesn’t it feel like vacation?” he pressed.

“Not really because it’s actually easier to parent my kids at home than it is when we travel. When we travel there are all sorts of distractions and new issues. There’s no routine. Things are more chaotic, which sometimes makes work more difficult.”

At this point, I sensed his eyes starting to roll to the back of his head, so I dropped the subject and moved on. Clearly, he was not going to understand where I was coming from. I’m not entirely sure, in fact, that anyone but a fellow stay-at-home parent could understand my distinction between the two words at this point in my life. It’s an issue of semantics. I get that. Someday, when my boys are grown and I am without them more than with them, I’m sure my terminology will go back to the more standard and readily acceptable. Someday, when I vacation with my sons (and maybe even their families), the journeys will truly be vacations because I will have more freedom to enjoy myself and fewer responsibilities. For now, though, I’m sticking with calling this a “trip.” Don’t misunderstand me. It’s going to be an amazing, incredible, once-in-a-lifetime trip, but it’s still a trip…even if my work doesn’t fit into my laptop case.

 

Dorothy Was Right

 

On the ride home from Moab today, we made the boys turn off their DVD player for a few minutes so we could recap our weekend’s adventures, the good and bad parts, the things that will stick with us in our memories.

My birthday is May 27 and this is what I would like please.

 

I loved how when got to the Comfort Suites in Moab and checked into our room, Joe’s exact comment was “Whoa! This is the nicest hotel room we’ve ever stayed in!” Keep in mind that our son has stayed at both The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and The Hotel Jerome in Aspen, not to mention a 4-star resort on Captiva Island in Florida and several top-tier hotels in Norway. Apparently, those places have nothing on the Moab Comfort Suites. Good to know he’s not been spoiled by his travels. Joe’s favorite part was the hike to Delicate Arch (even though we scared him by taking a slightly off-track route along a seemingly perilous edge). He complained, however, that the traffic in Moab was “the worst,” a fairly amusing comment from a kid from Denver who sits in traffic all the time. Even with the April Action Car Show there this weekend, Moab could not possibly rival Denver’s traffic. Besides, we got to see all those cool, classic cars.

Luke buried at Sand Dune Arch.

Both boys agreed that the most fun arch in the park was Sand Dune arch. (Gee. I wonder why.) They also thought the hike to Broken Arch was the best, and that Double Arch wins the award for being the coolest arch. Luke’s only major disappointment was that the Moab Brewery did not have any plain vanilla ice cream and so he had to go without dessert last night.

Steve and I both thought the hike we did with the boys last night in the Park Avenue section of Arches was the best part. We were there on the desert floor, surrounded by these massive rock “fins.” It was sunset, and it felt like we were the only people in the world. (Although as Joe, Master of The Obvious, pointed out, we really weren’t the only people in the world because someone else had made that trail.) Still, it’s rare to have a trail to yourself and it’s even rarer when that trail is in a national park. If Steve and I had a complaint, it was only that our hotel room appeared to be located underneath that of a family of four large elephants with very heavy feet who, oddly enough, decided to walk the stairs next to our room repeatedly rather than taking the elevator. Aside from the somewhat noisy hotel room, we thought the entire trip was a success.

Park Avenue at sunset

We all agreed, though, as we pulled off C-470 and began heading south on Wadsworth toward our home with the sunset illuminating the sky, no matter how much fun we have on any trip we are always happy to pull into our neighborhood. Traveling is something we all love to do, but Dorothy was right. There’s no place like home.