Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Across the Pacific, Again

After a very full two weeks at McCall visiting with Christa and the grandkids, we drove Christa’s new Chevy Traverse from Boise to Seattle while she flew over with the kids. Having being at sea for over eight months, it was wonderful to drive through Idaho and Eastern Washington, where your eyes can linger on the vast expanse of wheat fields stretching to the horizon. It reminded me, in a way, of being at sea.

We stopped at one of the ubiquitous fruit stands and stocked up on super fresh peaches and corn-on-the-cob, missing the super farm fresh veggies you can get in Eastern Washington. Driving over Snoqualmie Pass, something we’ve done hundreds of times, was like a homecoming to the evergreen forests of our youth. Around every bend was a hike we’d done or a mountain peak we’d climbed.

Arriving in Issaquah we were welcomed with open arms by our friends Paul and Irene Ballew, who are always ready to listen to our tall tales of the South Pacific. Visiting with them is like going home, they make us feel so welcome and accepted.

On Saturday August 1 we were invited to a pool party by our kid’s former childcare provider and surrogate grandmother, Anna. It was great to watch Quinn and Brody competing for the most outrageous jump off the diving board, and the fearless Conner, who although he can’t swim yet, still thinks he can. We all did our best job keeping him afloat long enough to make it to the side.

On Sunday we drove and hour and one-half south to Meryl’s sister’s place in Allyn, Washington, where her husband Bob was celebrating his 81st birthday. Fun to see old friends from our days at Camp Pecusa in Maui. 

The next few days were full of medical appointments and general errands around Seattle, and the joy of returning to the Ballews for a fresh gin and tonic and great conversation long into the night. I might mention running around Seattle is no easy task these days as traffic seems to be approaching gridlock, quite a change from our lifestyle on the open sea.

Traveling 12 hours on an overseas flight is not everyone's cuppa tea. These kids were great (most of the time).
The view of Lobster Bay from the top floor of Christa and Nash's house.
As if we hadn’t traveled enough, on Wednesday we headed out to SeaTac Airport with Christa to help her with the kids on the flight back to Hong Kong. Quinn, who at age five has more air miles than most adults, is a seasoned traveler and quickly broke into her routine of games, arts & crafts, and iPad movies. Conner did much of the same, just with a little more drama involved. All in all they were great kids on the flight. Twelve hours later Nash met us at the airport and chauffeured Christa and the kids home while we followed in a cab (their luggage alone filled the car).

Sai Kung Harbor is packed with sampans and other watercraft. Makes our crowded anchorages look like child's play.
I love this little Chinese hardware stores; you can find the most interesting stuff just browsing the aisles.
We'd stop at the Sai Kung market to get fresh veggies for the night's meal.
Sai Kung is famous for it's outdoor fish restaurants. Huge tanks showcase almost every type of seafood available, and as they say, it's fresh to your table.

Christa had an intense week-long medical training for her job, putting us in the roll of Grandma and Grandpa for the duration. Our job was to drive the kids 15 miles to Sai Kung each day where they were enrolled in a summer sports camp. Now imagine that you’ve been on a boat for eight months and are suddenly placed in a left-hand drive car, in a foreign country, whose narrow roads challenge even a Mini Cooper (throw in the running commentary from a 3- and 5-year-old), well, you understand the situation. While the kids were at camp Meryl and I would wander down to Sai Kung village and roam around. It’s a popular area with the ex-pat community and full of interesting shops and restaurants. We would typically end up at the local Starbucks, which had good WiFi and even better tea and scones.
The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club had just installed a new children's playground. Quinn and Conner could get lost in the maze of toys and contraptions.
My favorite Chinese food in life is char sui bows, and these were exceptionally good.

A ride on the new Hong Kong Wheel near the business district (Nash's office is in the background) on Hong Kong Island.
Meals in Hong Kong were interesting as Nash and Christa were on a strict diet and exercise program (Kensei), and Meryl and I were not (but should have been). We did get the opportunity to walk over to the Sai Kung pool while the kids were at camp and swim in their 50-meter pool (I though it was a 100-meter pool and kept telling Meryl we must be great shape because we just swam 1,000 yards). We went to Nash’s club, The Clearwater Golf and Country Club, several times to go swimming with the kids and have lunch. Christa also took us out to the City Mansions on Hong Kong Island for great dim sum lunch with the kids and a ride on the Hong Kong Wheel.

We had a great time putting together a neat video on “the neighborhood animals in Hong Kong” for a friend of Christa’s whose child was in the hospital in the States. It was fun following Nash and Quinn around the tideflats in front of their house looking for a wayward crab or errant clam.
This is about as far as you can get from my typical breakfast at the Mt. Si Golf Club.
What a great day with a great son-in-law. 
The highlight of the trip (other than just spending quality time with the grandkids) was when Nash invited me to go golfing at the Clearwater Bay Club. He made it sound like we’d just go out on Sunday and hit some balls, but when we arrived there was some huge ceremony involving the founding fathers of the club with lots of pomp and circumstance. 

We ended up playing in a shot gun tournament, paired with a very nice Chinese couple who politely ignored my complete lack of golf skills (I had played once in the last eight years). Nash discreetly called to the Pro Shop and had them deliver an extra case of golf balls just so I could finish the course. Non-the-less, it was a stunning golf course and I felt very special to spend the afternoon with Nash.
Oh what can I say, a long foot massage seems to make all the world's problems melt away.
The other highlight for both Meryl and I was the opportunity to go to frequent foot massage parlors with Nash and Christa to relax our tired bodies. If I were a rich man I would probably just go from massage parlor to massage parlor all day long.

The time went too fast, as it always does, and soon we were being dropped off at the airport by Christa after a tearful goodbye with the grandkids. Unfortunately there was a huge line for the United Employee Check-In and we had to flag down an official to help get us through security and immigration in time to catch our flight. Just as we ran up to the gate they were calling our name and we simply continued straight on to the airplane. A huge consolation was being able to sit in Global First Class and watch a zillion movies on the way back to San Francisco. Thanks to Meryl for having flown those million miles to make all this possible.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

R U Ready for the Show?

Finally, the whole family is together again this time for several days at Brad’s lovely new home out in Preston.  Their home is situated on 9 acres and  is a kid’s dream house surrounded by woods with trails leading everywhere, a great tree house with electricity and two bunks, and a large pond with a floating dock and a live beaver.  Brad has spent many hours  helping construct trails at Evans Preserve as a volunteer for the Sammamish Parks Department and now has his own territory to develop.  He has added more trails, a zip-line, a great sandbox, and thrives on keeping the yard mowed with his riding lawn mower.  Brody and Bennett seem to thrive on being out in nature and helping Dad out in the woods.

Ashley and  Brody, Brad and Bennett, along with Maya

Brody and Bennett were so anxious to see their cousins and Ashley had all kinds of activities planned. With four energetic kids under the age of five it was quite the show. The kids love being together and since Brody and Quinn are so close in age they get along pretty well as the ring leaders for all the activity.

Brody 5, Quinn 5, Conner 3, Bennett 2 all dressed in Seahawk PJs.
Brody, now five,  has always looked older than his years and is in a pre- kindergarden class. He has the prettiest blue eyes with long lashes and a mischievous grin especially when he's teasing. He loves riding his scooter, playing baseball, and wrestling with Boppa. He's good at sports and is already learning to play golf with a new set of clubs from Papa (Russell) that look close to professional.

Walter can remember doing this with Brad not that long ago.
Brody on his new all terrain scooter.
Bennett at 2, is the sweetest and cuddliest little guy and says some of the funniest things that pop into his head. He seems to hold his own with brother Brody and also loves his scooter, helping Mom in the kitchen, playing with trucks, and hiking around the trails.

Bennett out scooting around the driveway.
The  kids played endlessly out in the sandbox with the trucks and loader. Conner got up early one morning  and headed out to the sandbox to have all the trucks to himself.

Sandbox time is all day long.
By far the favorite activity was the “slip and slide” This was no ordinary slide, it started with a high blow up slide at the top and ran down the hillside for a long slide. This went on for hours with brief intermissions.  We don't have enough bandwidth to put in a video so you'll have to use your imagination.  Another favorite was to hike on down to the pond, sit on the bench and watch the birds and an occasional beaver working away on the dam.

We had a Family barbecue gathering with Auntie Durlyn and a couple friends. Brad is the BBQ extraordinaire! By the end  each day the grandkids had the bubbliest of baths and the parents would get a chance to put up their feet and relax for a few minutes before falling off into a deep sleep! Kids require a lot of energy especially for us!

Brad tending over some delicious Salmon fillets.