Saturday, July 30, 2016

Who, what, where, when, Waikiki

Picking up where we left off previously...

Saturday was the day we got to see our house for the first time!! Naturally, the drive there was beautiful and I was staring out the window the entire time. But when we came through the tunnel and around the bend on the other side of the mountain--catching our first glimpse of Kailua--I knew no matter what, we had made the right choice. For our family, there's just something about this part of the island that "feels" right to me!

I won't say much about the house, since I'm saving all that for its own post. But I will say that I had prepared myself for the worst, and was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Living in Hawaii is going to be an adjustment--it already is an adjustment. But I think we're going to be just fine.

He was too excited about his Aloha shirt, er, outfit!

After touring the house and meeting our landlord, there wasn't much else to do there. So we threw a load of laundry into the washer and set off to check out Kailua. We had dinner at what is now one of our new favorite restaurants and then spent some quality time at Target picking up a few things to keep the kids occupied in our empty nest. Like, a skateboard. Because, Hawaii.

We tried to head back to Waikiki at a decent hour, but since there was still a little lingering east coastness in our blood, the kids once again started falling asleep in the car sometime after 6:00. And once again, we had to usher 4 sleeping/crying children into our resort--past the kidless couples rocking on the veranda, past no less than 4 brides (I don't know if they just come here for photos or what, but seriously, Bride Central, people!), past the honeymooners heading out for a quiet dinner... If only I had a shirt to wear that said "This is not our vacation." Instead, I'm sure the family with the 4 [constantly] crying kids was quite the hotel mystery.

We were up bright and early again on Sunday and figured, since we've got all this time before us, let's check out church! Actually, not going to lie here. But after being in such close proximity to my kids (like never being more than a few inches from them even in my sleep) for going on 4 days, I was desperate for a break! We had two different churches that we had checked out online and decided to visit the largest one first.

This is the view from the church parking lot... not bad!
And this is the part where I thank the Lord I have such outgoing kids (even though it is utterly exhausting at other times.) Not one of my offspring balked at walking into a room full of kid-strangers and hanging out there for 2 hours. Nobody even looked back. (Maybe they were as desperate for a break from me as I was from them?) I mean, I STILL remember being PETRIFIED visiting new churches whenever we traveled as a kid. Just thinking about it even now gives me a chill.

But they went willingly and when we came back to pick them up everybody had such glowing reports to give about "the new church." Even Jack loved it. And Jack did not love our previous church. When you ask him why, he says it's because this one gives you snacks. So there you have it folks. The way to a boy's heart, is through his stomach.

Jon and I enjoyed it as well. We've been back several times since our first visit, so I think this may be the one. Although everyone knows, plugging in to a new church is about so much more than just showing up on Sundays. But I'm sure we'll get there eventually!

Afterwards, we visited the Marine Base nearby for lunch and a little shopping at the Exchange. Then we drove around and explored a few options for the beach and other fun, as well as the fancy housing here--since we're working very hard to convince some of our Marine friends that they need to move here next year!

The base was pretty impressive. I love the Coast Guard, but since we're such a small service, we don't have much to offer. So I'm very happy to bum off our Marine neighbors for the next four years!

In an effort to be healthy and to deter from "all this eating out", we decided to grab dinner at Whole Foods. That's right, Kailua has a Target and a Whole Foods. We are living large, people! (Except without Chick-Fil-A.)

As I'm sure you can guess by now, we didn't hit the road until after 6:00 and our kids didn't make it over the mountains without falling asleep. But we were slowly coming out of our EST funk and settling into Hawaii time.

"McGee and Me" --we can watch online through RightNow Media!
Jon started officially working full-time on Monday which meant the kids and I were on our own for the next week. Our days were pretty much the same: we'd wake up, chill out for a little, then get ready for the pool and beach (which took a good hour considering how much effort is involved in getting 4 kids dressed, lathered in sun lotion, and loaded down with water toys.)

It sounds lovely--hanging out by the pool all day gettin' our tan on. Except it's not like that at all. One downfall to staying in a fancy schmancy resort is that everyone around you is there on vacation. And most people didn't bring their kids. There were a few who did, and my kids would instantly befriend them. But typically they were gone by the next day or two.

For the most part, our fellow resort guests were composed of older couples visiting from Australia and younger couples visiting from Japan. And while I would say our hotel was very family-friendly, it was clear that is not an aspect most of the visitors were there for. And so my time poolside was divided between keeping four children alive and keeping four children from disturbing our fellow guests. "Don't splash. Don't jump. No cannonballs. Watch where you're going." ... you get the idea.

When the only person around to help put sun lotion on your back is a toddler ...

 I only talked to three different people during our entire stay: (1) a lady relaxing next to me, reading a book, who mentioned that she also had 4 kids--but had left them behind. Naturally, I felt terrible that she was seated next to us at the pool. (2) an elderly Australian gentlemen that would greet us every morning on his way to aquacise. Our final day there, he asked if I was the babysitter. Oh no, they're all mine. I do this for free! (3) an Australian lady that was there with her entire family, including teenage kids. I actually had the opportunity to tell her why we were really there. She was so kind and compassionate. And it was during this conversation, the first I had all week, that THE INCIDENT happened.

I'll mention here that my kids are not swimmers. We haven't had much experience with pools in their short lifetime. Naturally, they're picking things up super quick now that we've spent the majority of our summer vacation near water. But still, the skills aren't there. Jack and Jude had quickly made friends with this one other boy that they called TaiTai (or something along those lines, I'm not sure they heard his name correctly.)

Apparently, Jack and TaiTai were having a jumping competition. I was rotating my vision amongst my four little waterlings and when I last glanced at him, he was hanging out and laughing by the edge of the pool. At some point between then and me checking on my other three kids, Jack decided to follow TaiTai into the pool and jumped straight into the deep end. I never saw it happen, but within seconds this timid little boy walked up to me and said, quietly, "um, I think your son needs help." I looked up and could see Jack flailing his arms in the deep end gargling, "help, help!" Thankfully, one of the pool attendants saw him about the same time I did and jumped in to rescue him. Jack ended up being fine, just a little shaken. He laid down on the lounge chair and fell asleep within a few minutes (and stayed that way for the next 2 hours.)

I, on the other hand, was a little more rattled. I resorted to my "new mother" tactics of checking on my sleeping child every 5 minutes to make sure he was still breathing, chastised myself for ever thinking it was okay to start visiting with a fellow hotel guest, and never relaxed poolside again.

Thankfully Jack made a full recovery. And although he wasn't very interested in the pool for the rest of that day, he was right back at it the following day, albeit staying far away from where toes can't touch.

Other poolside fun included taking the girls to the bathroom approximately every 10 minutes (and thus making very stern threats to the boys to STAY OUT OF THE WATER while I'm gone,) rescuing Joci when she fell into the water next to me, and forking out $40-some dollars each day for a "mid-morning snack" at the Tiki Bar.

In case you're wondering why we didn't spend more time at the beach, we did make a few attempts. But the waves were a little rough--Jude had a scary "going under" experience that made him a bit skittish the rest of the week. And the beach was so crowded, I didn't feel comfortable leaving the girls behind to be in the waves with the boys. Then there was the big boats that kept rolling in right next to us. And the fact that there was no potty nearby... So after two visits to the beach, we decided to save that experience for the evenings when Daddy was home.

Our days took on a new rhythm of waking up, eating breakfast in the hotel room (either instant oatmeal cups or yogurt + granola), getting ready for the pool, hanging out there as long as we could stand it, returning to the room to shut the curtains and turn off the lights for "mandatory quiet time" and a movie from VidAngel, and then counting down the hours until Daddy got home.

Every evening we had to go out to eat. I say "had" because eating out gets very old, very fast with 4 kids. Especially in Waikiki. We did visit a grocery store in a very "interesting" part of town one evening and got enough hotel-friendly food to last about 2 days, but those prices were shockingly high as well. Apparently there's a fabulous restaurant with a world-famous chef at our resort, which we obviously did not eat at. But we did enjoy a few dinners on the terrace where, in addition to one free kid's meal per adult meal purchase (#winning), they also served up live music and hula dancing.

By Thursday, we needed a change. I decided a trip to the zoo was in order--and we would walk there. According to Google Maps, it appeared about 6 blocks away from our hotel. Surely we could manage that? (Sidenote: somehow we completely forgot to set aside our stroller and Ergo for this trip and they ended up getting packed with the rest of our household goods.) And we did. We made it all the way to the zoo. I may have included two pep talks along the lines of "If we do this, no one is allowed to complain ..." and apparently it worked. Certain parts of the zoo were a tad disappointing. We made the mistake of going left first and that led us through all the birds. Maybe I'm just not a bird person. I'm pretty sure my kids aren't. So having a 1/3 of a zoo composed entirely of birds just wasn't doing it for me.

Then we came across a playground and I couldn't get my kids to leave. I was like, "Children, I did not just spend all this money for you to play on a playground all day!" I think their other favorite part was the farmyard--because we haven't seen enough cows and chickens in our lives! And the biggest hit of all was the koi pond. I should explain here that there are koi ponds EVERYWHERE in Hawaii. Numerous hotels and business establishments have them simply for the pleasure of their patrons. We've seen lots of koi ponds since moving here. But THIS koi pond was the best of all koi ponds because it had a clear tube that allowed kids to crawl inside the pond and peer up through the top. Also, these fish were clearly of a performing background because there were numerous times when they would "swim" vertically over the top of the water around the pond. Even I thought it was pretty cool.

 So by the time we made it through the birds, out of the farmyard, and away from the snack bar, over half our day was over. I was a little disappointed that the lions never showed, the hippo exhibit was closed, the gorilla slept as far out of view as possible, and the rhino only gave us a view of his backside. But the zebras and were on point and the giraffes and elephants were enough of a boost to finish off the final leg of the zoo well.

Of course, by the time we were all reasonably exhausted from walking around the zoo ... it was time to walk home. Thankfully, there's a Starbucks across the street where we could all get sufficiently refueled. And the kind barista gave us a free cinnamon roll. Which reminds me--everyone in Hawaii is SO NICE! I mean, it may have been the whole four kids thing, but people were always giving us free food. Nancy at the snack bar felt so bad for me being at the pool on my own each day that at lunch she gave me my two free kids' meals WITHOUT the purchase of an adult one. And every time a family was leaving the resort for good, they donated their water toys to us. By the time we left the hotel, we had 3 boogie boards, 2 inner tubes, and a raft.

Hotel living with 4 kids was quite the experience. Living in downtown Waikiki with 4 kids was quite the experience. We had fun, but after a week, we were ready for a change. Our reservations ended on Friday and we were supposed to move to a 2-bedroom suite at a different resort closer to our house. We drove to check it out one evening and I nearly missed it--nestled amongst the houses near the bay. It didn't look very kid-friendly, and there was no beach within walking distance. It was also a good 15 minutes farther for Jon to travel for work. So I would've been trapped there with the kids for even longer days, and with little to keep us occupied.

After thinking it over, Jon decided the best route would be to just move into our empty house and camp out there until our stuff arrived. Our Advanced Shipment was arriving that Friday (with all our camping gear) and at least we'd have a yard with a few toys, and a driveway with bikes, and more than one or two rooms to hang out in. I was initially opposed because once we started spending the night in our home, it would mean giving up our room and board allowances. But honestly, we were having a hard time staying within the food budget anyway. And living in the house would give me a little more flexibility in the kitchen.

I was already starting to see Jon's point of view, but it wasn't until Thursday, after one week of hotel living, that I was convinced we needed to move on to greener pastures ... or bigger pastures. Whatever it took to give me a little more space from these four little crazies!

So much energy, so little space.
So Friday morning we rose with the sun, packed up our bags, and said our final farewell to the honeymoon suite we called our first home in Hawaii. The kids and I dropped Daddy off at work and then I gave everyone a stern talk about being super-duper quiet for the next 20 minutes because (a) this was my first time driving in Hawaii and (b) any kind of city driving makes me nervous in my old age.

We made it out of the city in one piece, dipped in and out of mountains on the way to the east coast, and craned our necks for views of our new home as we rounded the final bend. We'd finally arrived. The journey had seemed so long up to this point, but the adventure was far from over. Now would begin a new chapter of living in an empty house!

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