by Meredith M. Griffith
Bright-eyed Isabella, 3, clambers all over her mother as if she’s a jungle gym, with a huge grin on her little face. Pit-shepherd mix Maple wriggles with excitement, trying to soak up a few more pats while simultaneously sniffing everyone and trying to fit through impossible spaces.
Kimberly Malo, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Orcas Island Elementary School, sits with a quiet smile on her face while the smells of sizzling dinner waft in from the kitchen.
Ten-year-old twins Tomasi and Timoteo explain a game they love to play on the trampoline, aptly named “Release the Baby!” after the voracious cave-baby Sandy from the movie “The Croods.”
“He hates being a twin, but I love it!” Tomasi interjects gleefully as 5-year-old Sandra wanders in to see what’s going on, and big sisters Tayla, 14, and Lili, 12, relax nearby.
Over the Malo family living room hangs a plaque that reads “O Aiga e Fa’avavau,” which means “Families are forever” in the Samoan language.
“I grew up in a big family,” says Kim. “I think they learn so much from each other, the kids. I like the chaos; I guess I’m a bit crazy.” She adds, “Before we had kids, my husband would always say, ‘It’s too quiet. Where are the kids?’ I think families are important, and ours wasn’t complete until we had all these little monsters.”
Kim’s own family of nine (seven kids) moved to Orcas when she was 8 years old, and her parents Sandra and Kendall Taylor currently own and operate the Orcas Island Golf Course along with Kim’s brother Justin Taylor. The family spent some years in Utah as well, where Kim and a visiting Masi were introduced by a mutual friend. They married five months later. Celebrating Masi’s Samoan heritage, they attended a Polynesian church congregation, and Tayla studied Polynesian dance. But Orcas was calling, and four years ago Kim convinced her family to return to the island, just to “give it a try” for a year.
Now on summer Saturdays, the Malo family runs their Moa Grill stand at the Orcas Island Farmers Market, selling “poly plates” that include Masi’s special barbecue chicken, pork chop suey and rice. The older children take turns babysitting and helping at the stand. Masi works full time for the San Juan County road crew, and the family enjoys kayaking, swimming, fishing and just spending time together at Cascade Lake.
“We are all very close; I love that,” says Tayla. “They are all my best buds. We spend a lot of time together as a family.” Of Kim, Tayla says, “She’s always down for an adventure. She’s very hardworking and does her best to make us all happy.” Lili says that she enjoys big dinners with the extended family, laughing, “We eat a lot of rice.”
And Sandra, adopted from a sister of Masi who lives in Samoa, says she’s pretty excited about camping with her family this summer – especially at the annual summer “cousin camp” where the family meets up with Kim’s sister from Utah for an epic cousin get-together.
“I totally think our family is complete, but our door would always be open,” Kim says. “Kids are a blessing. We feel very lucky to have all these lovely children. …. The kids are the future. If you want to have an influence in society, teach a kid. And it’s not just about what I give them as a teacher; I learn so much from them and their examples, their innocence. My belief is that families are essential and important in our world. I think that is something our society is losing.”
Says Masi: “I think I got lucky that I got such a good mother for these kids. She’s very patient, loving and humble. She’s so special in our family.”
He appreciates that Kim is “a very hard worker,” very supportive and always taking care of people, both inside and outside their family.
“Without her in our family, we don’t function right,” Masi grins.