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Home Sweet Home

Quote of the Day

Peanut, "Wow, mom, now we can say we've been to all 50 states! What are we gonna do next?"

22 February 2009

Good-bye Hawaii

We found a beach with proper sand!!!!!!! What a treasure for our last day in Hawaii, this tiny little cove at Kukio Beach. Not only was the water shallow and calm, it offered easy snorkeling, a few turtle sightings, numerous humpbacks breaching in the distance and finally, some rays to jump start our Vitamin D intake before heading home.

Here were our favorite parts of the trip to Hawaii:

1. Curly Top: the ultra soft feel of pulu (fern fuzz), and a red-footed booby landing next to me on the beach.
2. Tomcat: lava tubes, green turtles, the dose of Vitamin D.

3. Little Man: getting his ukulele, shave ice and swimming in the ocean.
4. Doodle: seeing Island Girl and whatever Peanut liked.
5. Peanut: besides the thrill of digging a pearl out of an oyster, she signed the guest book in our condo, and we're tickled by what she wrote (I corrected the spelling):

We loved our trip to Hawaii!! It was a pleasure to visit. Our favorite things were: going to the Sheraton Resort where the manta rays came out for plankton, hiking up Akaka Falls, Botanical Gardens where we saw trees with roots that can walk and lots of other cool plants, the long drive to the ranch where we road on horses, Volcano National Park and Kukio Bay. We are going to all 50 states. If you would like to visit our blog go to www.fiftystatesofmind.blogspot.com. We are not a big computer family but we are making a blog because we might write a book. We have had a wonderful time in Hawaii and we really enjoyed it! Peanut (cat face), age 8

21 February 2009

Volcanoes National Park

Doodle asked me if Pele, the Volcano Goddess, is nice and I said she's actually pretty grumpy. The natives were always trying to please her because if she got mad, she'd cry lava tears and throw her glass hair around (did you know lava rock is actually glass?). There are numerous Hawaiian legends and plenty of them involve the wrath of Pele when she gets pissed.

(Speaking of myths, my favorite Hawaiian myth is the one about the Naupaka flower.)

After ample time at the Visitors Center (with the best park ranger interactions to date), the kids earned another Junior Ranger Badge. What's required of them to get a badge is incredible and worth every day of missed school. One of the required explorations was to walk through a lava tube.

This was creepy as hell, but we all dug it -- just like the Tom Sawyer cave in Missouri. In fact, it was likely the highlight for all of us.

Kilauea volcano looks different than our Pacific Northwest volcanoes because it's flat and spread out. Picture a stack of pancakes with syrup pouring across them and you've got a good visual. Sometimes the pancake bubbles and syrup blows a hole out the side. It's alive and smoking and my gut was in knots the entire day.

Eventually I realized that I was simply afraid. With a small stumble, one of us could land in a crater or a caldera (why build railings when they just get destroyed by the random eruption?). Also, we watched a movie warning us about walking on the bench because it's "here today gone tomorrow". Falling into a boiling sea is at the top of the list for experiences I'd like to avoid. Finally, there are posted signs everywhere that basically say "walk or breathe at your own risk".

Right now the current lava travels underground for 9 miles, out of the park and onto private property before it pours into the ocean. The once lush hillside, dotted with houses, is now a sea of black lava rock from last year's eruption. A few houses remain...

This is where we were allowed to traverse the lava field. Peanut was fascinated that people would choose to live here (as am I), and she kept talking about the private property aspect, like how nice this person was to let all these strangers walk across their property. We survived the trek with only one stumble by Little Man (small as it was, the cries were loud) only seconds after asking why oh why we had to wear gloves.

At the end of the trail, we witnessed smoke billowing out of the lava tube, but since Pele was in a kind mood,
we left without seeing any of the famed red glow. Bummer.

20 February 2009

Hello Hilo

There are 3 main roads on the Big Island:
1. A semi-boring one across the top, Rt. 19.
2. A curvy, car-sick potential one around the bottom, Rt. 11.
3. A partially paved rollercoaster style one that goes across the middle, Saddle Road.

Each takes the same amount of time

to get from Kailua to Hilo: 2-4 hours depending on traffic. ( I was thinking about how many states we crossed in that amount of time in New England!)

First stop was Akaka Falls State Park. The falls drop about 450 feet and they are pretty, but I think this would be a much more worthwhile destination for someone who's never seen an impressive waterfall.

The coolest part of this stop was the Hawaiian man weaving palm leaves into baskets at the entrance. The kids were in a trance watching him, and he indulged their inquisitive minds knowing we weren't going to purchase one.

As usual, it had been a few hours, and we were all in need of a shave ice. A funny little one-street town called Honomu is just outside the Falls. While we waited for our shave ice, I tasted several of the nearly 100 home-made jams for sale. Then I bought several bottles each of coconut and Jaboticaba (a kind of plum that grows right off the bark). They were to die for!

Peanut gets sucked into markets and antique stores like lava in a lava tube. This tiny town had a musty antique store with shelves upon shelves of old glass bottles, dug up around the island. Of course, this island doesn't have any sand to make glass, so all the bottles have their own unique history.

(Note to Texas: I thought this was a really clever concept for a store -- and one that my history-loving-brown-bottle-collecting sister should visit some day!)

When we heard the Big Island had a Botanical Garden we considered it a must-see for the kids. They enjoyed hiking through the cool rainforest -- it felt like a jungle to them. But I longed for a guide; it makes such a difference. (If you ever go to Kauai be sure to visit their little Botanical Garden -- it's a gem.)

Our final stop was Hilo, the biggest city in many ways: size, population, orchid production, port, amount of rain...

We found the big market and picked up a few trinkets, headed to a guitar shop where Tomcat bought his own ukulele (so he and Little Man can play together), and then I found our best cup of joe thus far at Sharks.
Boy, did we need it.

Little Man's Boobs

Well, what can I say? His fascination continues...

The Big Island

A quick flight and we've arrived in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. Our beach time is essentially over because there really aren't any beaches here; the coastline is rocky as hell.

Supposedly, this is the "real Hawaii", but it seems the least like any of my Hawaii imaginings. We will undoubtedly be putting some serious miles on our rental car here as the island is far larger than you'd think.

Our condo has a good pool and a peaceful lanai, facing the ocean. The minute Peanut discovered it, she's been out there drawing. Nothing beats the sound of the ocean right out your door. I'm sleeping like a baby for the first time in...8 1/2 years?

We actually ran into a kid from Peanut's class and his dad gave us a phenomenal tip. The Sheraton Resort has a deck where you can view manta rays every night! Like moths, they follow light, and the hotel shines huge lights into the ocean after the sun goes down. Soon enough, they're flying around right below you in perfect view.

How cool is that?

We invited ourselves to a private presentation on manta rays while we waited for them to show up. The kids had excellent questions and I think they were so pleased that they just let us stay! Here are a few things we learned:

1. Manta Rays are gentle giants.
2. The oil on our hands wrecks havoc on their mucus membranes so we can't touch them -- but they can, and often do, rub against humans to check us out!
3. They have 154 manta rays along this coast, and they can identify them easily by name. One regular visitor has a wing span of 16 feet!
4. They're pregnant for 13 months.

19 February 2009

Giddy Yap!

The Big Island is so big you could put all the other islands on top of it and still have room left over. I booked us a horse-back riding trip at the Dahana Ranch (they'll allow a 3 year-old to ride alone) and this is when the enormity of the Big Island hit home.

Neighboring Parker Ranch occupies 250,000 acres -- 2/3 the size of Oahu! We seriously felt like we were in Montana. D
espite the looming snow-capped volcano, we were meandering over lush green hills at 3,000 feet above sea level and it was windy and quite cool. Cows with their babies were everywhere.

Our ranger was awesome at controlling Doodle's reigns and let her control the ride, "More trotting! More trotting!" She loved going bouncy bouncy bouncy and I'm compelled to note that Little Man did not.

We also took
a drive North to the Waipio Valley. This is a sacred place where Hawaiian deity used to hang out and we considered taking an HOV tour down the (near) vertical drop. Considering how many people don't actually come out in one piece, we were satisfied with a view from the top.

18 February 2009

Eye to Eye with Sea Turtles

We decided to get out on the water for a dolphin cruise with Ko Olina Ocean Adventures. Could these kids be any cuter in their wetsuits?

This was the kids' first time swimming out in the deep ocean and I have some advice at the end of this post, if you're planning on snorkeling at some point with your little ones. The captain said we were very well prepared.

Our first snorkel was along an underwater pipeline that shoots out warm water, which the fish love. It was alive with colorful fish, but getting there and staying put was tricky business. Oh, the current!

The captain gave Tomcat a huge boogie board for Doodle. She did great swimming until she saw a fish. Go figure.
Maybe it was the pig nosed humuhumunukunukuaapuaa?

I took
Peanut and Little Man and practically dragged them over to the reef by their life jackets. It was incredibly exhausting, but we still managed about 15 minutes in the water; it was just enough time to thrill and terrify them. We hadn't prepared them for the depth of the ocean and it made them very nervous.

Back on the boat they seemed done with snorkeling...forever. Tomcat, ocean enthusiast that he is, refused to let this be a negative experience for them. So when the captain said we had another opportunity to snorkel -- with sea turtles -- he was all set to get them below sea level one more time. Apparently, the turtles have a little ocean spas down below where they get picked clean, etc. by other critters. We'd found such a spot and were allowed to go down.

Tomcat took Peanut back out alone and she returned beaming and full of stories! This got Little Man energized and out he went. Doodle joined them and they both came back thrilled with snorkeling. Persistence pays off once again.

(I have to credit the on-board photographer for the incredible under water pictures -- mahalo!)

Alas, we never found a pod of dolphins, but a mama humpback whale and her baby surprised us with a little show on our way back. It was fantastic -- we'd just seen these creatures in June up in Alaska! They'd had their feast and were now here for the winter to birth and feed their babies. Such marvelous creatures; I never tire of seeing them.

1. Get good snorkel gear and practice in the bathtub for about a month. The hardest part is getting them to cope with the rubber strap that pulls their hair when you're putting on the mask!
2. Just use good goggles on little ones like Doodle. When their nose is covered, they drink more water and do better just holding their breath.
3. Either practice with fins in a pool beforehand or skip them in the ocean. They help with swimming, but are really hard to maneuver when trying to "stand up" in the ocean, which kids want to do all the time (to talk to you mostly!).
4. Get prepared to swim harder than you've ever swam in the ocean. When helping little kids, your own snorkel experience becomes an endurance test rather than a "float".

A Day with Island Girl

My brother has had an Island Girl daughter for the past two years; she's going to school here at BYU-Hawaii up on the North Shore. It's always better touring with a local and lucky for us she was eager to show us around. We hadn't seen her since State #1 (Oregon) when we all met for her brother's

wedding reception. I have to say Hawaii looks very good on her, and she has the hang loose aura down to a tee.

We started out in her town of Laie where she showed us the nicest and certainly the cleanest student apartment I've ever been in. Adding to the appeal is the Hukilau beach which she calls her backyard. (We got a picture in front of the Hukilau Cafe because we loved 50 First Dates, but sadly the real cafe is in Hollywood somewhere.)

Ted's Bakery was only a short drive away followed by a picnic at Sunset Beach in search of big waves and surfers. Check out my local lunch: a slice of chocolate haupia pie and Loco Moco (think gradeschool cafeteria salisbury steak and gravy, over 2 scoops of sticky rice, topped with a fried egg!).

A good friend of mine told me to go Hale'iwa for
Shave Ice at Matsumoto, and Island Girl knew exactly what we were talking about. This place was well worth the wait in line.

Driving along, Waimea looked so gorgeous from the road that we just had to pull in. There were several teenage boys jumping off a rocky cliff into the crazy death-surf, and I was so happy to get a picture of them.
Tomcat and the kids were watching them and Island Girl kept telling them to back up. Sure enough an enormous wave came out of nowhere and tried to swallow them alive. Between the waves and the rain we never did completely dry out! This was definitely the fun, surfer beach we had in mind.

In our planning stages we'd decided to skip 4 obvious Oahu attractions: Hanauma Bay for snorkeling (too many people and too easy to get scratched on the coral), Pearl Harbor (not into this history yet with the kids), Polynesian Cultural Center (too cheesy) and the Dole Plantation (kids would be bored?).

Well, since we were so close we decided to visit the Dole Plantation anyway. I really wanted the kids to see how pineapples grow! Island Girl hadn't been there before and my brother used to work on a pineapple plantation as a teenager, so I thought she should see what it was all about. As it turns out we got there at closing time. No worries, they have a pineapple garden and the kids were as impressed with the little spiky bushes as I hoped they would be.

The highlight of this stop goes to Little Man who may have recieved his favorite souvenir of the entire road trip: a blue ukulele. He really thinks he has some kind of talent and can't wait to surprise Grandma back home; she has her grandpa's ukulele and has let Little Man play it a few times. All I can say is, "Look out, Grandma."

Our fun day ended at an L&L Drive In -- greasy fast food Hawaiian followed by a grocery store. I wanted to buy a few things Island Girl told me she'd miss back on the mainland: Li Hing Powder in particular. She said the Hawaiians sprinkle it on fruit, candy, whatever. I'm not urging you to try it, although it does have a certain revolting yet delicious appeal.

Mahalo, Island Girl, for a great day. We wish you could come with us to the Big Island so Tomcat and I could go on a date...alone.

17 February 2009

Byodo-in Temple

On our way to the North Shore we stopped at the Byodo-in Temple. There's something very special about Buddhist temples, isn't there? You know the dimply grin monks wear? The one that makes you think they must be happy and worry-free all day long? Well, I want that grin.

The visit affected all of us positively; watching the kids ring the enormous Peace Bell was

indeed a powerful image. The temple itself commands respect -- it's an exact replica of one in Japan and we'd love to see the original in person some day. (A note to Niece back home: the first season of Lost was filmed here!)

After putting our shoes back on and answering more questions about Siddhartha than we ever anticipated, we walked the grounds over to the gift shop. (Little Man is still enthralled with gift shops.) We fed the koi, talked to some cats and passed some women making tea pellets, preparing for the upcoming tea ceremony. We are quite the tea-drinking family and Tomcat was fascinated. I wish we could have hung out longer...

Paradise Cove Luau

I know a luau can be extremely cheesy, but it's a great opportunity for kids to see native Hawaiians in their element, and learn some Polynesian history through sensational dance and food. So, even though the luau at Paradise Cove was extremely expensive, we'd highly recommend it. If nothing else, the sunset location and the elaborate costumes make the entire event worth it.

This particular luau opened its gates 2 hours before the show so you could participate in all the activities: a Hawaiian version of horse shoes, conch shell blowing, tattoos, traditional canoe rides, dress-up in hula clothes (which I desperately wanted to do but everything was child size) and a mock hukilau with a dance lesson on stage to follow.

A luau involves a feast to be sure. Hawaiian food is pretty bland and unhealthy, but this luau had the best Hawaiian food we've ever tasted. The kids even devoured the chicken, salads and the kalua pork. We got to sample
poi, too. They brought around little cups and told us to dip in two fingers and smear it on our pork, which we did. Peanut gagged first, fiercely so.

Those of you who ate paste in Kindergarten just might have what it takes to savor the slightly chilled "purple glue" staple food of Hawaii.

There's also a lot of skin exposed at a luau. Peanut asked me why the native Hawaiians were so huge and the men truly are giants. The women are, too, actually. I told her it was their diet and hang loose lifestyle, their lack of exercise. However, when the dancers got on stage they were very fit and Peanut announced, "Oh look, mom! The dancers get exercise and they look really healthy!"

Lanikai Wind

This is the Windward side of Oahu and as we arrived in Kailua, Tomcat and I agreed that this is where we should have stayed. The entire area is incredibly laid back, with a cool local store, the Kalapawai Market, and a tidy neighborhood with numerous painted mailboxes. We were actually told to skip Kailua's beach and head down to Lanikai beach. It was easily missed, but I spied a public pathway and we soon realized these paths run between several houses in the neighborhood. We parked along the road and made our way to Lanikai, one of the most beautiful beaches we've ever seen.

I was in heaven, lying on a pristine beach wondering what would become of my New Year's Eve lavender hair in this Hawaiian sun; Tomcat was taking Doodle out to a small coral reef; Little Man was in awe of some college kids tossing a football in the waves until he got the grand idea to dig deep holes in the sand (with his hands). We thought all was well with the world until Peanut was found scrunched down in one of these sand holes trying to escape the wind. They call it the windward side for a reason and Peanut was howling in no time as the sand whipped at her from all directions. Needless to say, we left our post-card perfect paradise after only 30 minutes.

The drive alone was worth it though. I wanted to take the Likelike Highway (pronounced likey-likey) just so we could make stupid jokes like, "Oh, I likey this place so much" and it paid off. It is an incredibly scenic drive, however, green and lush with tall mountains that look like they've been clawed by some prehistoric beast. We have a favorite book called the Friends of the Menehunes about the legendary elf-like people who live at the top of the mountains in Oahu and the kids kept asking, "Is that where the Menehunes live?" And as usual, they started doling out parts so they could act out the story in the car.

Our road trip has officially begun again!

16 February 2009

Hawaii - State #39

After our New England road trip, we spent 3 months reconnecting with our school, the piano, neighbors and especially with Tomcat. Now, winter in the Pacific Northwest will get anyone dreaming of Hawaii and that's precisely what we've been doing for weeks now.

Aloha to everyone out there following us on adventure!

We plan to spend a week on the Big Island where the highlight is supposed to be horse-back riding (this explains the cowboy hats) rather than volcanoes for some reason. But first we'll hang out on the island of Oahu, staying on Waikiki. How exactly we ended up here is anyone's guess. All I can say is that sometimes I get it right...and other times I book us in the wrong part of town.

Not only is traffic horrendous in Waikiki, but we're surrounded by stylish Japanese tourists and posh shops.
We actually went shopping for swimsuits, and the extremely helpful Japanese girl working the counter told me that 3 year-old Doodle was "very sexy".

No worries. We got a rental car and went exploring. That's how we discovered that while none of us are surfers, we're pretty happy in dive shops like Aaron's. Smiling, dread-locked dudes who get goofy with our kids is what's going to make Hawaii a special state of mind for us. Hang loose, Jeffrey, and Mahalo for showing us the way to the turtles!