Wildlife tour of the PNW

Dear Mai,

This weekend was awesome. Grandma bought daddy a whale watching gift certificate for my last birthday and we finally decided to use it. I've been wanting to see whales since before we moved out to these parts. This weekend, it was going to happen.

So we took off Friday morning to catch the afternoon ferry. What does that mean to an 18 month old baby? Exploration time.

You loved to zig and zag up and down the ferry isles screaming your little nonsense. I never thought something could be so cute and irritating at the same time. It was pretty funny when you talked to people out on the deck of the ferry. Folks would say hi and fuss over your cute little self and you'd point to the water and say "wa ta." Just in case they didn't know there was water out there. Sometimes you'd follow that up with "bote." You probably felt some folks needed a good explanation on their surroundings.

The first part of the ferry ride to Lopez island was uneventful. It was pretty fogging and cloudy out so Mama and I changed our reservations for the whale watching tour. We pushed it back to the afternoon tour on Saturday hoping the fog would be gone by then. While it might be pretty and mysterious by itself, we worried it might hamper our ability to see what we came out here to see.

Apparently, we weren't the only one worried about visibility. Our ferry pretty much ran over a sail boat a few minutes outside of our final destination, Orcas island. Luckily no one was hurt. Well, everyone minus the boat.

Hopefully that was the worst part of our adventure. We chalked it up to it being Friday the 13. <tangent> By the time you are reading this it is quite possible that the Friday the 13th movie franchise is still going on so you won't think this is some dated pop culture reference. Maybe we will just have got back from seeing a double feature of Friday the 13th part 20 and Rocky XIX. </tangent>

So we hit Orcas island and hit our cottage where we are staying for the night. Pebble Cove Farm couldn't be any more quaint. It was this farm with a couple of suites and a cottage. We stayed in the cottage. The farm itself had all kinds of animals, gardens and it was right on the shore of massacre bay. (must resist another Friday the 13th reference)

First there was Buddy the horse. You were kind of terrified of Buddy the horse at first but you warmed up to him and gave him a few pets. Of course you know "what a horse says" so you were trying to "neigh" him on. He did not respond. He was pretty happy just grazing on the grass.

Then there were the chickens. You loved the chickens. You'd go "bawk bawk!" and they'd reply. They came right up to us and were very friendly. They were even friends with Buddy. One chicken was kicking up dirt backwards and you thought it was the funniest thing in the world. Hysterical giggles ensued. Then you put your hand down and "kicked" the dirt to mimic him. That drove me to hysterics. You're pretty darn funny sometimes Mai.

The goats were pretty funny to watch. They (like all the animals) expected us to give them food. We were obviously unprepared for their expectation of gifts so they turned back to playing around. Its apparently fun in the goat world to headbutt each other. The next day that one black goat tried to headbutt daddy. I'm going to say he liked me. Really I think he was trying to take me. Luckily I'm kind of a big guy. I ain't afraid of no goat. <tangent> If you are reading this and haven't seen ghostbusters yet, pause your little computing device, find me, smack my hand and make me show you this movie. It's classic. Classic like Casablanca classic. </tangent>

The farm also had this garden where we could go and pick whatever was fresh and use it. They had kale, apples, corn... just all kinds of stuff. We didn't pick any but we are planning on going back and just staying at the farm the whole time. Our cottage was pretty incredible and we'd love to cook with all their goodies. We could also get fresh eggs from the chickens too. Inside the garden there was this old fashioned toy that you loved. It was pretty darn cute.

They had this little swing and playset. You used to be a little terrified of swings but not any more! Pretty soon you'll be racing mommy and seeing who can get higher!

Then there was the rocky beach. Our own personal little beach to explore, walk on logs, rest in the hammock. There was even a little row boat that we could have taken out to explore. The little island in the cove is called skull island. Skull island on massacre bay. Someone HAD to be a horror movie fan when they named these.

Daddy got a raging fire going in the wood burning stove at the end of the day and we were all warm, comfy and cozy in our little cottage for the night. The place is pretty incredible. I mean c'mon. Our view out of our sliding glass doors was a pony eating grass in front of a private cove with an island. Sheesh that first night was peaceful.

The next day the tide was really low so we got to see some starfish, crabs and jellyfish. It was really neat (and kinda creepy) when you just stood still you could here this "sizzle." It was from all of the tiny little crabs just scurrying around. 

You love to go beach combing with Mama and this beach did not disappoint.

It was a pretty magical trip already and it could have ended there. But there was still so much to do! I must digress a bit here to briefly talk about our dinner the night before at Doe Bay Cafe. It isn't that often you have an opportunity to eat a meal this good. I must say this was probably one of the best meals I've had in my life. It was just perfect. You weren't a big fan of it but that's ok. Some of what we ate is probably an acquired taste; and we had puffs, yogurt and applesauce just in case anyhow. That seemed to please you just fine.

I remembered seeing some TV special where this celebrity chef recommended it. We get there and it looks like a shack. We almost didn't go in. As soon as you step in it feels like you were swept away to a 5 star restaurant. It was busy, bustling and smelled amazing. We almost got turned away because we didn't have reservations and they were booked up for the night! Luckily island living is pretty laid back and the hostess made room for us. Man I'm going to remember that meal for the rest of my life.

Okay. Back to the story. After our casual morning on the farm and the beach, it was time to head back to the ferry to head to San Juan island and get ready for our tour! It was so cute watching you say goodbye to all the animals. "Bye chickens. Bye gotes. Bye Horse. Buddy. By watar. Wuv you."

As we were waiting for our ferry we had a little picnic and saw a whole bunch of bunnies. Maya: "Hop Hop Hop!" as you tried to bounce and imitate those crazy bunnies. You love to "hop" and "jump" these days even though you get zero air time. That is ok, Daddy probably doesn't clear any air when be bounces, jumps or hops either. Wait a minute. I don't do any of those things.

The trip to Friday Harbor was uneventful. (thankfully) We were a bit worried though because the fog hadn't lifted yet. You could barely see all the crazy island houses.

We bummed around Friday Harbor for a bit before it was time to board the Western Prince II. I have to admit, I was a little frightened.

This was you 5 minutes before we boarded. I wish I could sleep like that. But, you're kind of like mommy when it comes to naps sometimes. You can both be in an incredibly foul mood when you wake up from one. The first 15 minutes of our ride was you having one of the worst meltdowns this world has ever seen. It was dramatic, loud and drastic. All because we tried to put a life jacket on you. Well excuse us for caring and trying to protect you. Sheesh.

As we are taking off, Captain Peter and the two naturalist guides (Katie and Allison) explain that the whales are pretty far out passed the international boarder with Canada and its possible they'll have traveled too far. Now remember we were scheduled to go on the morning sail but we switched at the last minute. It has been a cruel joke that Daddy is a whale repellent and I thought... uh-oh. Here we go again. We could have saw them in the morning but we switched and now we won't see them in the afternoon. And we have a screaming tired little crazy person with us.

Luckily you calmed down inside the cabin. (Mama has the magic touch) We sailed for about an hour then we heard the engines cut. Followed by a few "Oooohs" and "Ahhs" outside. I quickly left you two and ran for the bow. 

I finally saw my whales. Out in the middle of the sea. Wild whales. Wow.

This is one of those times where pictures will not do this experience justice. If you look closely you can see a whale breach here.

It was truly one of the coolest experiences in my life. And the best part? You loved it too! You were so good during this part. We probably sat and watched the whales play for 30-45 minutes and you were good the entire time. When one would breach or just bob up you would yell "FISH!" followed by a quieter "wale" It was so stinking cute. Then they would dive down and you'd shrug your shoulders, hold out you hand and say "GO?" (for where'd they go) Then one would surface again. "FISH!"

Katie and Allison, our naturalists, said over and over again that what we witnessed was very rare. They said that most tours would spend the entire time either trying to find them or wait for a breach. They didn't breach in the morning. We must have witnessed 30+ breaches along with a bunch of spyhops, cartwheels, tail flaps and general surfacing. It was amazing. They knew the names of the whales and said we witnessed a "superpod" because two different pods joined together to socialize. The two families were the K pod and the J pod. Granny was from the k pod and she was 102 years old! Lobo was the largest male and his dorsal fin was probably over 5 feet tall. It was just incredibly cool I can't even describe it. 

Luckily Katie was super nice and offered to send us some pics she took of the trip. <advice> Maya, you should invest time and money in a good camera. Moments like these are rare. I never invested in a good "real" camera and even if I did I probably wouldn't have spent the time to learn to use it. If you do, that is just another way for you to express yourself and help others see your world. Then again by the time you are reading this you'll probably be able to take a picture with your mind so this advice might be moot. </advice>

The trip back to the island was still cool. We saw tons of porpoises, harbor seals and one bald eagle. To be honest I as kind of on "pretty overload" and nothing was going to compare to those magnificent orcas.

It was an incredible trip Mai. You were so awesome on it and you are such a good little traveler. Keep it up, see the world and live large little girl. We were one of the lucky ones to have such a good show. Mommy and I are even luckier because we got to share it with you. Chalk this weekend up to one of Daddy's best. I love you so much little girl.

"Buh wales"

Maya in Ohia

What a trip!!!!

We got home from Ohio yesterday. It was a blazing fast 8 days mixed of tears and cheers. Unfortunately Daddy lost his phone (camera) the last day of the trip so most of our pics are gone. We still got some good ones though! Let's see... what did we do?

Besides kicking it at the Granville Street Fair, You loved to play in Grandma's pond. You should know that Grandma, never, ever, EVER let's any kid throw rocks in her pond. Except for Maya. Because this made Maya happy.

You got to feed the fish in her pond.

You loved to dip your toes in the pond with cousin Hannah. Hannah was pretty cute and ready to play with you the entire time. You were probably a big disappointment for Hannah because well... you're still just a baby! Hannah was cute and even sang  you her version of the "Maya Papaya" song. You did have fun with her in the pond though!

But what comes with playing in the pond? Dirty, dirty baby with pond scum. ew. yuck. That meant you got to take your first hose shower! Yea! You were pretty impressed.

You also got to have your first Tea Party with cousin Hannah! 

You, Grandma and Mommy visited the Columbus Zoo and you loved it! This was a much different experience than visiting the Tacoma Zoo. You actually saw all the animals and were interested! You loved the flamingos and the Elephants were your favorite. You came back able to make a pretty impressive Elephant sound. The Gorillas scared the bejesus out of you apparently though. Any mention of the word "monkey" that day was responded with a prompt "no" from you and a a violent shaking of the head.

The Toledo visit was a blur but it was a great visit. Unfortunately I lost most of those pics. But besides hanging with the family you got to go visit Grandpa again and visit the house Daddy grew up in! I had a great pic of you and Grandma on the front porch but it was still on my phone.

This is the tree outside of that house. Most of my childhood friends climbed that tree at one point in time. Daddy wasn't the most athletic kid on the block so I got as far as up that first stump. You also got about that far already. It is quite possible that you might become a professional rock climber.

We took you to Maumee Bay State Park and you got to take a dip in Lake Erie for the first time!

Now when I was a kid we used to head just east of that State park to Reno Beach Ohio. My friends and I had some good times on those shores and if we were lucky we got a view of Davis Besse (The Nuclear Power Plant) from the beach. 

Aunt Rosie and Uncle John are the restaurant connoisseurs of Northwest Ohio and Southwest Michigan. There is a great Lebanese restaurant they take us to in Dearborn. You loved the Hummus and Pita! After we ventured to this incredible bakery. You walked in like you owned the place and said hi to just about everyone. Twice.

Most of the Toledo time was just hanging with Family. Uncle John was your favorite by far. He had you laughing and you mimicked just about anything he did. In fact if Mommy or Daddy tried to get you to try some food you answered with your favorite word. "No." If Uncle John asked you to you more than willingly did. Beast. He taught you what "stuck" means and now when something is stuck you say "stuck" and proceed with the dramatic struggle to "un-stuck" it. Here you are kicking back on Grandma Castañeda's patio enjoying some watermelon. You got your first taste of real humidity. The pictures don't show the incredible mess you were that day. I think you had to have three baths that day to just not be totally gross.

On the way back to Granville from Toledo we had to take a pause in driving because of the torrential downpour we were in. Now people say it rains a lot in Seattle. It doesn't rain like what we drove though. Not even close. But our pause gave you a chance to cross off another Ohioism kids do. Late night Meijering. 

With such a short visit, most of the time was spent with Family. We did manage to see a few of our friends and you had a blast playing with their kids! Here you and Ryan are enjoying some ice cream in Granville.

Here you are playing with Wyatt and Sophia. You LOVED Wyatt and all his toys!

All in all it was a great trip Maya. The first few days were rough. Probably because of lack of sleep after taking a red eye. I think Mommy and Daddy learned a valuable lesson this trip. No more Ohio red eye trips. We also need to start buying you your own seat. A seat for you instead of on the lap makes a world of difference. You were pretty good on all the planes though. You were pretty attached to Mommy and Daddy the whole trip but warmed up a little bit. I think both Aunt Linda's "won" in the ability to hold Maya category. I think they both got to hold you three times without you throwing a crazy baby fit. All that will get better in time. Overall I think Mommy and I agree that you get somewhere between a "C+" or "B-" for the trip. :)

Now that we're back home its time to catch up on sleep and back to eating healthy. Time to get back on that potty too girlie! You do take after your daddy in lots of ways.

On to our next adventure...



Visiting Family on Vacation

Dear Mai,

In addition to checking out the desert, sun, warmth and sea, our vacation was also blessed with some great family time. Sometimes living so far away from most of our family in Ohio can be hard. But it is also nice being closer to our extended family that lives on the left coast too.

You always love Uncle Gary. It's probably because he is as goofy as you and when he holds you you're like 10 feet tall.

He's a pretty cool guy to just chill and hangout with too.

We also got to hangout with your Tia Abuela Lydia and prima and primos Poncho, Yvette and Julio. Grandpa Carlos would have been so happy to see you hanging with his family.

I always forgot how kind and nice the kids are on the Castañeda side of the family are. Your cousins Miguel and Juliana are Yvette's children and the first thing they did when they came into the house was kiss, hug and say hi to everyone. That is a sign of respect and courtesy that we should adopt little one.

Finally we got to see Prima Alma. It was touch and go if we were going to be able to see her but she met us at the airport and we were able to spend a little quality time with her before we jetted back home.

It was a great trip little girl. Jam packed 4 days. We'll see our family over here more often too. It's always a good time.

And if said family is reading this, this is a not so subtle hint for you all to come see us in Seattle. That means you Gary, Alma, Yvette and Poncho. And everyone. It's a quick plane ride up north and the summers are fantastic up here.


Anyway Mai, we're about to get ready on our next trip back east. Let's try to get some Castañeda kid manners in place before this one. ;-)