One of the great things about our annual Pacific Northwest trips are the mini trips that we often plan within our vacations. Since we come out here every year to visit and stay with family, we like to revisit places that we haven’t been to in 20 years and we get to share some of these places with our girls. This year we decided to drive to the Washington coast. A road trip! Driving our cousin’s big van with family, the trunk filled with suitcases and food, we set out for a 5 day adventure.
Ruby Beach was our first stop on our way to our final destination. We ate brie and pear sandwiches and explored the beach while we had a break from the misty rain. It would be our only dry day on the coast. More photos to come…
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A little break from the city at a cousin’s house. With horses. And miniature horses. And perhaps the first dog to win Miss C’s affection.
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Have you ever noticed when on vacation that the first few days feel like you’ve been away from home for an eternity? Then somewhere after the midway point, time speeds up and you feel like holding on to the last few days because it’s suddenly going too fast. We kept saying yesterday that we couldn’t believe we were on a plane just 24 hours before because we felt like we’ve been in Seattle already for a week. So far in the first 2 days we’ve eaten a lot of seafood, drank a lot of coffee, walked for miles and hugged a lot of family.
I guess there has been more humid than usual summer weather this year because we felt some moisture in the air that we normally don’t feel on the day we arrived. Still, we pulled on hoodies as soon the shady areas outnumbered the sunny spots on the sidewalks. Usually we come to Seattle with our days planned, but this year we’re just floating. As long as the girls can spend as much time with their aunt and grandma as possible, they are happy. Mia is making breakfast for us every morning and washing the dishes after every meal. Hmmm….wonder why she doesn’t do this at home.
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There are some memories that get left behind in childhood and some that stay imprinted in our minds. Not sure why some stay or go, but it’s been interesting to see how some of these childhood memories inform some of our decisions as parents.
I’ve written before about how we rarely traveled when I was a kid. From photos, it appears that my parents and I did a bit more traveling in my earliest years before my brother was born – I remember going to Niagara Falls; I’ve seen photos of us in Washington DC. But it seems that after my brother came along, the traveling became less frequent. I don’t know if it’s cultural and the influence of how my parents grew up themselves, but I’m pretty sure the whole notion of vacation didn’t exist under the circumstances of their upbringing back in Korea. I remember getting exasperated by their “why do you have to go there?” response every time I told them that I was going on a trip. They never understood why I wanted to leave NY when NY had everything. And visiting a destination twice? That was even harder for them to understand. But sometimes I also wonder if this was actually the norm back when I was a kid because I don’t remember any of my friends traveling either. Maybe it happened, but from my recollection I never heard of my friends taking trips to Florida or the Caribbean during Spring Break or going to Europe, or really anywhere. It could just be that I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Queens and people vacationed the way we did – occasional weekend motel trips to Montauk or the Poconos – or that vacation was an entirely different concept back in the 70s or 80s, but Spring Break and Summer vacations to us were playing in the back yard, playing with our toys, watching TV and yes, sitting around the house getting bored.
Those few trips to Montauk and the Poconos, however, are some of those memories that stuck around. They were never very long and they certainly weren’t fancy, but I remember that they were fun. We’d gather a few other families, sometimes cousins, aunts and uncles and sometimes family friends, and we’d rent a few motel rooms and all pile in for the weekend. I hadn’t been back to Montauk since one of those childhood trips so it had been a good 30 or so years since I’ve been out there. At one point a few years back, it seemed like everyone in our neighborhood was going out to Montauk. It had become suddenly hip and was on everyone’s radar. We decided over the weekend to take a spontaneous drive. It’s pretty far from the city, especially because of one lane traffic at the end of the island, but not a bad drive from where my parents are. We left early in the morning and stayed until the sun went down before our drive back. When we got to Montauk, nothing looked familiar to me – not the beaches or the town and at night, the whole place seemed to transform into a party (by the way, you want a sure fire way to make yourself feel instantly old? Realizing that all those teens and college aged kids spilling out of those house parties are much closer in age to your kids than you are should do it. I seem to be doing that a lot these days. I see a group of teenage girls and think, oh my god, this could be the girls soon. But I digress). It wasn’t until we got to the lighthouse at the end of the day that I felt a sense of familiarity. I remembered those rocks and I remember taking photos on that rocky beach.
Ironically, I was the first person in my family to take a trip outside of the states, overseas on a plane. It happened twice and both times I went without my family. The first was on a government sponsored trip to Korea when I was 10, the one and only time I had ever gone back since being born there and the second happened when I was 17 on a school chaperoned trip to London and Paris during Spring Break. Our high school conducted many of these trips to a few European cities every year. Twelve kids on a 9 day trip chaperoned by a nun and a biology teacher (I went to a Catholic high school). Pretty wild for this British music obsessed American teenager in the late 80s. I feel really grateful to my parents for sending me on those 2 trips and opening up my world. The first trip was hard because it really was a culture shock and I was away from my parents for 2 months at still a young age in essentially a foreign country (and that was the point of the government sponsored trip – to reacquaint Korean American kids with their home country. We were even on the news because this was the first program of its kind). The second trip was just pure fun – and yes, nuns know how to party, especially when they start drinking at dance clubs and uh, French Burlesque shows.
Because we’ve made travel a priority, I’m learning that fancy vacations don’t matter to the kids, just as I don’t think those childhood trips to Montauk would have been any more memorable had we stayed in fancier digs or ate dinner out at restaurants instead of cooking meals on a grill. Similarly, we’ve figured out how to travel fairly on the cheap no matter where we go (someday the girls might roll their eyes over stories of how their mom stuffed suitcases full of snacks to save money on food). I know we’re lucky in that we have family to visit in such nice places as Seattle every year – the girls look forward to that trip every summer more so than anything else. I also know that we’re lucky to have my parents’ house in the Long Island burbs to escape to on the weekends. It makes city living all the more bearable when you don’t feel so trapped in by concrete and crowds at all times. But despite what my parents have always told me when I was a kid, that there was no reason to leave NY, I think it’s important to show the girls that there is indeed life outside of NYC and that people live differently in different places. So we do what we can, and what we have is good.
I hope your summer is good too.
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I kept thinking over the weekend as I watched the girls enjoy the beach during our day trip to Montauk that we’re giving the kids a really good childhood. And it’s not because we have lots of money to spend on toys and gadgets and trips. On the contrary, we have pared down our lifestyle even further in the last 18 months, partly out of necessity and partly out of the desire to cut down on needless consumerism, but we also acknowledge that we are more fortunate than most. The one thing, for the most part, that we’ve had in abundance despite the intense juggling of business and work, is time spent with the kids. This is what I need to remind myself of when the envy starts to creep in. Oh you know, looking through vacation photos of friends on Facebook, admiring stuff that you wish you could buy.
But what I have learned in recent years is this: the stuff that you wished you sometimes had, that you thought you would need to give your kids a good childhood is often not necessary at all. Sometimes our perception of what we need can be influenced by what our friends and peers have, but it’s really not how much you have that’s important; it’s what you do with what you have that matters.
Not to say that the girls themselves aren’t immune to this. Mia in particular, will sometimes say that she’s the only one in her class who hasn’t traveled to another country yet (oh reeeally? I ask her). She’s been asking to go to sleepaway camp for the past few years like so many of her friends and I tell her, I don’t know, maybe some day. It’s these moments when I start to feel a bit bad that we don’t have the means to do some of the things that they ask for because frankly, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to afford sleepaway camp or extra dance classes or music lessons. But I just need to shake those feelings off because sleepaway camp or no camp, European vacation or not, the girls have a pretty sweet childhood.
Sometimes I feel like I manage our money a little too tight fisted and perhaps that’s rooted in the fear of what’s unknown, but when I see their smiles at the beach or the movies, or the times we spend in the burbs at my parents’ house, then I know that choosing experiences over things is right for us. It may get harder as they get older when they’ll feel pressured on their own to keep up with their peers, but I do hope that we’re laying down the foundation for them to feel secure within themselves, despite of all that (sometimes we need this reminder ourselves too). I remember wanting things and wishing my life was a bit different; I was a teenager once. I hope when they look back, they’ll remember how good it was and they’ll know that we tried to give them the best childhood that we could, just as my mom tried to give us a better childhood than the one she had.
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I think we might be all festivaled out from the past few weekends. We didn’t set out to spend Father’s Day weekend at 2 festivals. Actually, I was looking to recreate the tradition that we started last year – spending a peaceful day strawberry picking at a farm. We did decide to go to a strawberry festival on the North Fork, but we didn’t realize what a carnival-type scene it would be, crowds and all. I thought it would be more of a quaint, relaxed country type affair – you know, where people judge the best pie and race little piglets or something, but it ended up being more like Coney Island, but in the middle of farm land. We ate lots of fried stuff and a huge strawberry shortcake big enough to feed an entire family for $5. That was pretty much the only strawberry themed item at the Strawberry Festival, but eh…like I said about Disney World, I can embrace the cheese and have fun pretty much anywhere (that’s a good skill to have, by the way. Comes in handy when doing unpredictable, family outings). Besides, I think Mark secretly enjoyed chasing after Mia with his bumper car and repeatedly slamming into her.
Saturday was spent with my dad at a Korean block party somewhere in Queens. There were performances up on stage, ping pong tables, and oddly enough, a sand pit where Korean wrestling was supposed to take place later on in the afternoon (don’t ask…I don’t know), but as it is at most street fairs, it’s usually all about the food. I think what my dad really wanted though was a bowl of noodles at some restaurant down the block because he kept dropping hints even though there was food around us everywhere. Even after finishing off a plate of rice, beef and kimchi, he kept mentioning noodles (uh…dad…do you want to go get some noodles??). Finally about an hour later, he steered us towards the restaurant he wanted to try out, giving as an excuse the fact that Miss C hadn’t eaten anything yet. When we sat down, we realized that it was a Vietnamese Pho place run by Koreans (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and not a typical Korean noodle shop like he thought. It was ok though; my dad had spent a week in Vietnam last year and had eaten plenty of Pho, but he kept asking us and the waitress if it came with “hove”. Huh? Interestingly enough, the waitress knew what he was talking about, but Mark and I were completely perplexed. What the hell is “hove”? My dad kept insisting that he didn’t want any “hove” on his noodles and told us that in Vietnam, he liked the food as long as they didn’t put any “hove” in it.
Um, ok. “Dad, I don’t what you’re saying. Hove is not a word.”
And then it hit me about 15 minutes later. He meant herb . “Hove” was herb, but he couldn’t pronounce it correctly because, well you know, it’s hard for Koreans to pronounce an ‘r’, no matter how long they’ve lived in the states. He didn’t want any cilantro on his pho. “No hove, no hove!”
I told you Koreans didn’t like cilantro.
ps. I know Michelle Obama’s name is spelled wrong in that last photo. It amuses me endlessly that Koreans still get amazed every single time they see a non-Korean person eating and enjoying kimchi. It’s the same reason why Mark gets the white person treatment at Korean restaurants, which my parents then have to correct with the waitress. Oh, you know, getting cold water instead of hot barley tea, a fork instead of chopsticks, not getting certain individual appetizers when the rest of us do. It makes him so mad.
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