Saturday, June 10, 2017

#MCWlove in Oahu, Part 2

Here's the thing with houseguests, it can be a challenge balancing your visitor's vacation-of-a-lifetime experience and your own everyday-life one. The first half of their visit, the boys were still in school, still had homework. Jon was able to take a few days off but was working the rest of the time. I had some work to do for MOPS, a research paper that I'm assisting a former professor with, and just the normal laundry, cooking, and cleaning that it takes to keep up with a family of six.

For example, I had a photo due for The Fresh 20 and ended up cooking Shrimp Lo Mein at 9am, in the middle of a playdate, just to meet my deadline because there hadn't been an opportunity earlier in the week.
And then there's the social aspect. Which could be just me, but sometimes mama needs a social timeout. My kids calls it my "alone time," and it has little do with with having extra people in the house and everything to do with raising children in a very loud, talkative (million questions a day), but still always-around-me stage. If you have to ask me the same question a few times, if I'm staring at you and my eyes glaze over, or if I'm not staring at you because I've reached max threshold and cannot handle anymore incoming information ... it probably means I need some alone time.

And this is the beauty of having an extra car--or really just a second car because I'm more than happy to be stuck at home. Our guests can go out and experience whatever they want to, especially those things that we've already done time and time again, and I can stay back and nurse sick kids, fold laundry, or read a book. So if you're ever visiting and I offer to send you off on your own adventure while I hang back and "do nothing." Don't worry. It's not you, it's me.

But speaking of our every day normal life...

Day 7
Halfway through Micah and Carrie's visit was Sunday--which is church followed by Flag Football. It's not easy living so far away from our family so it's always a special treat when grandparents or aunts and uncles can attend something as simple as a school award ceremony or sports game. Jack and Jude had a great game and I know they appreciated the extra fans we had that day!

Certain grandparents have been asking for videos of the boys playing. This is not easy because many of these plays are very short and uneventful. It's also hard for me because I'm trying not to cheer and scream while holding the camera. But I did capture a little of the excitement. It's hard to see, but the first one is Jude giving the handoff to Jack, who nearly scored a touchdown but the ref didn't call it. And the second one is Jude passing the ball to Jack, who caught it and scored an actual touchdown. They're are really fun to watch and I'm actually learning a little bit about football too!


After a game in the hot Hawaii sun, we came home, "reprovisioned" (as my husband would say,) and headed to the West Coast. We don't make it over to that side of the island very often, and we had a few things on our agenda this visit. Mainly, picnic on the beach during sunset. Like me, Micah and Carrie had never seen the sun set on the ocean before (although I have plenty of memories of my brother and I waking up early on vacation to catch a sunrise!)

For Mother's Day, we came out this way so I could eat at one of my favorite restaurants and watch the sun set (if you haven't caught on yet, mama loves sunsets.) While here, we came across an interesting looking cave, noticed a pin on Google Maps for "Mermaid Tunnels" which sounded intriguing, and drove through a lovely little state park at the very end of the road. So these were all on our itinerary for this return trip.

What we didn't really consider was that this was a holiday weekend. Do ya'll know what Hawaii beaches look like on holiday weekends? Pretty much like campgrounds--one tent after another, people partying in their truckbeds, each one blasting a different tune from their monstrous speakers-on-wheels. But hey, I love the Hawaiians sense of "ohana," even if it means a parking spot is almost as rare as seeing a snake.

This was the first beach and much less crowded with tents than when we reached the state park.
We managed to find two spots (because, two cars. You guys, you don't know how badly I want one of those vintage VW vans that all the cool surfers drive out here. Except I want mine to haul actual people, not just beach gear) and set out to locate the Mermaid Tunnels.

These are sorta-secret. They're mentioned on a lot of blogs but a lot of those bloggers won't tell you their exact location. I'm not exactly sure why. I understand keeping some things a local attraction, but if you're going to mention it, or post it on Pinterest, you're just driving people to find it on another webpage that actually describes the location. In this case, there's not much by way of directions. You just head out to the rocks and keep walking until you come to a hole that leads to a cavern. Orrrrr, you go on a holiday weekend and look for a crowd of people standing in a circle on the rocks.

We had the advantage of the latter. The giveway were the two little girls (like maybe 10 years old??) jumping into the hole and coming out the other side. Then most of the crowd dispersed and we had the cave to ourselves long enough to check it out and snap a few pictures.

Unfortunately, it was not just high tide, but also King Tide, which meant the tunnel was full of water. Of course, this did not phase the 10 year old girls. They just swam under water to the other side. You know, just swam through rising water with a rock ceiling directly overhead. Also, just typing that makes me feel like I'm suffocating. Clearly, I did not attempt. Jon and Micah checked things out and the kids jumped down to see the tunnel for themselves. But I was more than willing to view things from dry land and put this on my list of "things to see during low tide and less crowds."

Once we had our fill of mermaid caves and tidal pools, we made our way past the partiers back to the cars to drive up the coast a bit more to Kaneana Cave (or Makua Cave.) This one is not a secret. Super easy to find, especially if you're gawking out the window at the scenery

Love these westside views!

Eventually, the mountains will turn brown and you'll run into a huge hole in the side of one. (Or you can just look for a big parking lot on the left and a sign for Kaneana Point.)

There's not a whole lot to see here, and the kids weren't too interested in hanging out very long. The plan was for Carrie and I to entertain the children on ground level while Jon and Micah hiked up the mountain to "Upper Makua Cave" (which appears on the internet to have some splendid views of the west coast.) But after a cursory exploration they decided to turn and rejoin us. And we didn't mind, because at that point a truck had pulled in next-door and it's passengers were blasting extremely loud explicit lyrics and engaging in questionable activity. Time to move on!

Our final destination was Ka'ena Point State Park. Apparently, the entire western half of Hawaii had the same plan because it was absolutely packed. We're talking tents, tables, grills ... one family even had their own porta-potties! But we came to enjoy a beach picnic and see the sun set and that is what we were going to do! So after driving to the very tip and back again, we were able to squeeze into two parking spots. Interestingly enough, most people hang out at the top of the beach and leave the rest wide open. Or maybe it was just the tide.

But just know that despite the calm and quiet appearance of these photos, there was some questionable activity occurring directly behind us. To the tune of "music we don't usually listen to." Tunnel vision and earmuffs, children!!

Never wants his photo taken.

Cloudy sunset, yet still beautiful!

Day 8
Sunday was a full day. But Monday was still a holiday and we wanted to make the most of it. Jon, Micah, and two of our guy friends had morning plans to hike Olamana--known locally as "Three Peaks." They just hiked the first peak because it's the least deadliest and the highest. I would love, love to do this hike but someone had to entertain the keiki. Also, I'm very supportive of my husband scoping out activities first and then taking me back later when he knows the lay of the land. So next time. Until then, we enjoyed the men's stories and photos.

Photo Credit: Micah
The guys needed a break after their momentous event, so we chilled at home before heading out to the beach later in the afternoon and meeting up with two other families for sun, surf, and burritos for dinner. No photos, because we do this so often I no longer think to document it.

Day 9
On the pontoon / Makin' waves and catchin' rays up on the roof / Jumpin' out the back, don't act like you don't want to / Party in slow motion / Out here in the open / Mm, motorboatin'
Another one of our favorite guest activities--renting a pontoon to take out to the K-Bay Sandbar. We invited our new Coastie friends that just moved here last week to join in the fun--they were also a part of church, the Olamana Hike, and dinner on the beach. We assured them that we are only this exciting because we have visitors in town and we will soon return to our normal, less-eventful lives.

I'm pretty sure I've blogged about the sandbar before. Or maybe we just do it so often it feels like I have. But it's all the same. Anchoring out at the sandbar, admiring the view of the island from the sea, swimming with the sea turtles, and paddle boarding as far as you can see.

We even had a rainbow this time!

At this point the kids, and more specifically the boys, were starting to droop. I think all the fun was taking its toll.

Jack and Jude spent half their time on the boat napping.

Day 10
The above is probably why I have no--ZERO--pictures of the next two days--the keiki were just wiped. I had two days of hours-long training to do (more on that later.) So Uncle Micah and Aunt Carrie took kid-duty on Wednesday and Thursday morning. And it was much appreciated! The first day, they spent the morning at the beach catching minnows and playing in the waves. And that afternoon they took the car by themselves and visited another park at the south of the island.

Day 11
The second morning they explored the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens and fed the fish and ducks. Julia had gymnastics that afternoon and then our babysitter showed up so the adults could get a double-date night in Waikiki. We ate at a restaurant with ocean views and then walked around downtown at night--exploring the streets and touristy shops.

On the way home, we decided to see Tantalus Lookout at night. Except it was closed. So after a very long and windy drive up the mountain and back down again, we found a place to stop with comparable views of the city (and several parked cars containing people NOT there for the views.)

Day 12
Uncle Micah and Aunt Carrie's final day--their flight was in the afternoon so we had the whole morning for one final hurrah. We decided to hike the Judd Trail since it's kid-friendly and we hadn't done anything "woodsy" during their visit.

Even the road to the hike was lovely!
This was a really fun hike with all sorts of varying terrain/scenery. The kids got a little whiny at the end (okay, Joci got a lot whiny), but I think it had more to do with over-extending them for 12 days and less to do with the hike itself.

Getting lost in the bamboo forest.
This tree grew right over a rock.

We love these trees! Rumor is Captain Cook brought them to the island because they're great for creating ship masts.
We literally had to drag her out of the forest kicking and screaming.
Afterwards, we came home to wash the mud off and grab lunch. Jon was working this day so the kids and I did the airport run. Is it just me or are airport drop-offs the worst place for goodbyes? It's probably just me. But I get so nervous trying to find a place to pull in and quickly unload. I barely remember the goodbyes. And Joci completely slept through it all.

But it's not goodbye, because hopefully we'll make it back to the east coast at one point during the next few years. And if not, we're already working on a list of things to do when Micah and Carrie come back for another visit. So instead, we say a hui hou--until we meet again!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

#MCWlove in Oahu

Now that we are residents of one of the most beautiful places on earth, people remind us all the time to expect visitors. Lots and lots of visitors. Instead, the majority of our guests have consisted of lizards and cockroaches... and a total of three visits from the grandparents. I think this is because most of our friends are in the throes of bearing babies or deep in the trenches of home ownership and renovations--two life phases that we feel very far removed from these days!

It also doesn't help that flying here is spendy! Honestly, if you had given me an $800-$1000 plane ticket 18 months ago and asked me where I'd want to go, it wouldn't have been Hawaii. It would've definitely been somewhere east of U.S. I'd always assumed our 50th state was for people looking for resorts and sunshine and pristine beaches. What I've learned over the last 11 months is that, while Hawaii is certainly all those things, it's also so much more. It's rugged and varied and thrilling ... and I'm fairly certain that after four years of living here, we'll never run out of things to do. (I'm also fairly certain that it won't be easy to return to some place normal after this, like D.C. I think we're going to have to plan a step-down tour before we move back to the east coast!)

And while we don't exactly have the best accommodations to offer (i.e. sharing a bathroom and wall with four small children), we try to make up for it with plenty of adventure out of the house. So we were pumped when Uncle Micah and Aunt Carrie found came out to explore our little bit of paradise with us this month!

Here is a not-so-brief overview of all we were able to accomplish in 12 days.

Day 1: Arrival
Jet lag is a beast, my friends. Micah and Carrie arrived around 3pm our time, which is 9pm East Coast time. In other words, just as our little brood is ramping up for the witching hour our guests are winding down for bed. So today's goal was to keep everyone awake long enough to get just a taste of Hawaii life. Since Jon works down in Honolulu, he's usually the one doing airport pickups. And what is quickly becoming our post-flight MO is a stop at the Pali Lookout. I love this place--it's easy to access, free to park for military, and has the most amazing views of the windward side of the island (as well as some sketchy history)--the perfect introduction!

Photo Credit: Micah
After a rousing welcome by The Junior J. Crew, we enjoyed an early dinner and drove down to Kailua Beach for an evening walk on what has occasionally been voted a Most Beautiful Beach in the World (although not recently--thanks tourists.) Which brings us to another favorite guest activity--Jeep rides!

Since we can only fit one extra person in our minivan, we become a two-car family whenever we have visitors. But I think we can all agree cruising around Kailua in our island beater is much more authentic than being jammed in the backseat of a minivan with all the sand and goldfish from our previous beach visit!

Day 2
One avantage to the jet lag is that it suits our schedule better. We are very much early to bed, early to rise kinda people. My kids have rarely slept past 6am since we moved here. And falling asleep before 10pm isn't highly unusual either. So Jon took a day off of work, the boys went to school, and the rest of us we're out of the house and heading to the Pillbox Trail before 9am.

I was pretty pumped about this excursion. Jon's done it twice, but after nearly a year here I had yet to make it! (Our first attempt was way too muddy for the kids. And Jon decided to take the boys on his own the second time to make sure the girls could handle it.) It was a little challenging in a few spots but Julia was able to do the entire hike on her own. And Joci enjoyed the whole experience from the backpack carrier.

It was a beautiful morning but you could see the clouds rolling in from out to sea. So we had a few rain squalls once we reached the top, but it was much more preferable to hiking in the heat of the day!

And the views were everything I had hoped they'd be, but I actually liked the ridge hike even more! The mountain ridges here are amazing to see and hiking alone one's edge was even more of a thrill!

Photo Credit: Micah
Julia had speech that afternoon and the boys were due home from school, so Jon took Micah and Carrie out for a scenic exploration down the southeast coast--one of our favorite drives peppered with gorgeous mountain views, windy highways, scenic overlooks, blowholes, and cliffy coasts.

Sharing sweet potato noodles!
Day 3
Jon was back to work and both boys were still in school so we went with a low-key option--the Mokapu'u Lighthouse Trail. This is paved, which makes it ideal for the double stroller. But it's also uphill the entire way. Good thing Uncle Micah was in the mood for a workout!

View looking down the southern coast.

View looking up the east coast.

Well that's one way to search for whales...

Looking down at Tidal Pools.

From the top of the trail you could look down and see the Mokapu'u Tide Pools. They looked fun and I'd never been before, so we made them a stop on the way home.

View looking back at lighthouse.

"Cheetah" and "Duck Baby" catching some rays.

We came home in time to pick up the boys from school and then took Uncle Micah and Aunt Carrie to the kids' favorite spot for minnow catching, kite flying, and drainage ditch floating. Ew. I mean, Hawaii can't ALL be beautiful.

Day 4
While laying out in the sun by the drainage-ditch-turned-minnow-pool the day before, the boys' principal called to (a) inform me no one was in trouble and (b) invite us to the end-of-year award ceremony where Jack would be surprised with the certificate for "Resiliency." So Uncle Micah and Aunt Carrie got to experience some "real life" fun that included sitting in a non-air-conditioned Hawaii school cafeteria and elementary school "silent applauses." See? We've got your full vacation experience covered!

Proud of this kid! I know elementary school awards are kind of a joke, but this kid really has shown resiliency over the past year and I so appreciate that his teacher noticed!

Jude actually go the award for "Responsibility" earlier this year--which also fits him perfectly!
 Our original plan for the rest of the day was to hike Diamond Head and visit Tantalus Lookout. But we decided to give our legs a break and take a less touristy route up and about the North Shore. Unfortunately, the award ceremony took up a big chunk of our morning and we didn't have a chance to see everything on the list. But we did get to:

Stop for coffee at Green World Coffee Farm ...

Sample Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation ...

Drive through historic Haleiwa and shop at the HE>i store, and then enjoy a picnic lunch at Waimea Bay while watching the more adventurous kids jump off Waimea Rock.

We took the long road home, but only had enough time to pass through Sunset Beach and Shark's Cove. The drive from the North Shore down the eastern coast is beautiful itself... it will also make you wonder at the legality of building a road so close to the ocean. (The spray from the waves actually hits the road!) Both girls were asleep by this point and I texted a friend quick to see if she could watch the boys if I came to school pick-up 10 minutes late. So we drove by Kualou Ranch and Uncle Micah got a quick photo-op of Chinaman's Hat. I had been hoping to check out the Macadamia Nut Farm but we were just out of time at that point.

Julia was supposed to have gymnastics that afternoon but I noticed she was shivering while getting dressed in her leotard. Not a good sign. Turns out, she developed a fever sometime between swimming with the sea turtles at Waimea Rock and arriving back home. Joci had a similar 12-hour fever just a few days before so at this point, instead of "what is it?" it was more of a question of "who's next?"

Day 5
Turns out, it was Jude. The boys' last day of school and Jude stayed home sick. He ended up sleeping most of the day, so Uncle Micah and Aunt Carrie took the girls to the beach while I stayed home and caught up on laundry, made dinner, and delivered food and loaner goods to our new Coastie friends that had just arrived on-island that afternoon. It was a good break because things were about to amp up for the holiday weekend!

Day 6
One of the things our family hadn't done in Hawaii yet was to visit Haunama Bay. This is one of the Top Rated Things to Do on Oahu so it's amazing ... and also a huge tourist attraction. And ya'll know how I feel about crowds. Our plan was to check it out during the week but we couldn't fit it in around Jon's work schedule. So because it was a Saturday on a holiday weekend, and because the preserve only has a limited number of parking spaces that fill quickly, we left the house at 6:15am and arrived there just after they opened at 7:00. (More advantages to jet lag!)

It ended up not being as crowded as I worried--despite the fact that buses of tourists from Waikiki were rolling in every hour! And it was such a cool little volcanically created cove! I knew snorkeling would be great there but I didn't know that you could experience close encounters with fish without the snorkel. They literally just swam around our toes in just a few inches of water! It was also super calm and great for the kids!

Of course, the boys were much more adventurous and took to snorkeling right away. It's so fun to see how quickly our kids have been able to pick up on things while living here--bike riding, swimming, boogie boarding, and now snorkeling. They're always up for a new adventure!

Photo Credit: Micah

Photo Credit: Micah
That sums up the first half of Uncle Micah and Aunt Carrie's visit. Stay tuned for more "never been done before" adventures, including the "high point" of the week. Tee-hee. *cheesy smile*
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