Friday, August 26, 2016

Fourth of July

For the past three years, we've attended the 4th of July Parade and party at the Thomas family's home along the parade route. We are thankful for the annual invite. The children love the parade. We all do! We love that we can walk a short, pleasant distance from our home to theirs that morning. We love the energy as our neighbors are all out on their front lawns and people drive from miles away to experience it with us. We enjoy breakfast goodies and a place to relax. If the kids need to use the bathroom, we have a place to take them. The parade is a few hours long and then we have a cook-out lunch and pot-luck afterwards. Every year I take a few pics of our kids and the parade, but I really need to take more pics of the whole crowd! Several of our close friends attend and our children enjoy watching it together. This parade is just as all-American as it can get. Well, except for maybe the mariachi band and Mexican flag and sombreros? Just joking. That's all-American, too. We are all a big melting pot of ethnicities and cultures. Proud of our heritage and proud to be American. 

On our way to watch the parade!

Selfie with my big girl
I love the "cable cars" that are part of the parade every year.

Putting AK to work with back yard mowing.

Chow time.
My friend has a sweet little tree house in the back yard that was a big hit with the 3+ year olds. 

Baby girl looking cute in her festive outfit from Dinkney. 

Post nap messiness. Ice cream maybe?

A little sibling basketball
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And this, my friends, is known as a "parenting fail." I thought I had a few sparklers for them to enjoy, but I think these may have been left over from our wedding ten years ago. OOPS! So, they had a fireball at the end of the stick instead of a pretty cascade of sparklers. 

Yep, not a good idea. We'll try again. :) 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Things to not forget

Emily and Caleb are currently taking swim lessons through our Parks and Rec. Department. Lessons are Monday-Thursday for three weeks. Whew! It's been quite a commitment for me. I have to wake Anna Kate up early from her nap four days in a row. Every day I have the towels and wet bathing suits and sunscreen application to deal with. On top of all that, I have to keep Anna Kate entertained for an hour and half near a pool that she's not allowed to get in to play. Obviously, I'm not doing this for the fun of it. I think learning to swim well is hugely important or I would not put myself through this daily. On top of all of that, I accidentally double booked myself. Last week I had to pick Emily up at 2:30 from Girl Scout Camp in order to make our 2:45 swim lesson. (Camp ended at 3pm, but I requested to pick her up early.) I could have given myself more time, but I was trying to let AK sleep as long as possible. (Poor baby usually naps almost three hours and last week only got 1 1/2 hrs. or less) The swim center is less than a mile down the road from camp. Girl Scout Camp had an awesome car pool line so that Emily could get checked out and hop in the van without me having to park or unload the kids. It was so convenient. Anyway, all of that to say that we only had 15 minutes or less to drive to the swim center and get Emily changed into her swim suit in time for her lesson.

This week I could really see growth and maturity in Emily and it has made me LOVE having older kids. This is what we did. Emily is very familiar with the swim center having taken lessons there for three summers. I let Emily out of the van at the front entrance so she could check-in and get a head start on changing. Meanwhile, I parked the van. (It's always a bit of a walk to the entrance.) I unloaded Anna, Caleb, our stroller, and our swim bag. By the time I had done all of that, Emily was already in the pool and on time for class. She even had folded her change of clothes neatly where we sit to watch her. Amazing. I love having an older kid. I don't know if I would have done that last year or if Emily would have been mature enough to trust. Honestly, I might not have let her have this tiny bit of extra responsibility had it not been more or less necessary for us to be on time. I've been reminded how much growth and maturity takes place in just one year. It's mostly wonderful, but I can't help but think how quickly they are all going to grow up.

Caleb's first year of lessons. 
Little buddy was hesitant his first day even though the kid loves the water. He just wasn't so sure about going in without a parent. First day he was a little clingy and didn't want me to leave his side. He was almost on the verge of crying. I encouraged him and told him he could do it. As I walked away, I could see he was building up the resolve to do it, but needed one more thing. "Mommy, I need to kiss you!" he said. He ran a few steps to me. I bent down to his level, and he popped a good kiss on my check and hugged my neck. Then, as soon as he did that, he bravely stepped down the stairs and into the pool to his instructor. That boy melts my heart. He does that at bedtime, too. Always wants me to lie down beside him for just a little while to cuddle. As I stand up to leave his room, he'll call me back one more time and say, "Wait Mommy! I need to kiss you first." It's the last thing he does to get the reassurance he needs before falling asleep on his own. Oh, dear boy. Mama loves that my love makes you brave.

Our friends had class with us, too! We spent a lot of time together during the first two week of swim lessons. I wanted to take this photo with them since they are moving so soon! We will miss them dearly! Emily also had swim class with her our former neighbor, Riley. It was fun to see him and his mama every day, too. 

Little sis looking chill. I brought snacks, drinks, books, etc. to try to keep her happy in the stroller for as long as possible. After I let her out of the stroller, she would wander around making it hard to keep her out of the pool area and watch the children swim. The last week I had had enough and just started taking walks with her during swim class and missed many of the lessons. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Tenth Anniversary to Maui

Just checked in! View from our lanai. 

Somehow everything fell into place for Jeremy and I to celebrate our tenth anniversary with a big trip to Maui. I still can't believe it all worked out. I just know that I happened to mention it to Mom months ago that it would be nice to take a trip and she volunteered to fly out with Dad and watch the kids. I couldn't believe it. Really? Yay!!! I started planning in January and quickly narrowed down a week that would work for everyone. At first we considered going for spring break, but then realized it would be easier for Mom and Dad to take care of the kids while Emily was in school for most of the day. (Taking care of any combo of our two kids isn't too hard...add a third and things get REAL.) Our anniversary is April 22nd, but we decided to push the trip back a month so that the waters would be warmer and we would be less likely to experience rainy weather. We still managed to get the trip in well before peak season which turned out great for us! We didn't have any issues with getting dinner reservations (or not making any at all.) Traffic wasn't bad. We had an easy time with booking our excursions, flights, hotel, etc. While we were researching the trip, a family friend offered to let us use their Marriott points to save on our lodging. After debating a little between Kauai and Maui, we decided to go to Maui and stay at the Marriott Ocean Club in Kaanapali.

At first, I worried that the resort would be too big or too crowded, but I really appreciated the beautiful grounds, perfect location, and nice amenities. The pools were refreshing and beautiful. I think it would have also been nice to stay somewhere more secluded in upcountry near Hana, but we didn't have time to do that for this trip since we elected to stay just four nights and five days. (I could have easily stayed a week, but we were trying not to make it too long for Mom and Dad.)

Lovely grounds
Sunsets are a daily ritual worth stopping for. Staying on the west side of the island had its perks.

First stop for fresh food and banana bread on our way to hotel

I miss this.

Several people raved about the Hula Pie at Leilani's. So, we indulged. I'd do it again!

Jeremy and I both wanted to go to the summit of Haleakala crater, but we had a hard time deciding when to do it. Sunrise is supposed to be amazing on a good day. However, I also read a lot of things that said it was miserable to do that. The summit was about two hours from our hotel and we'd need to leave at around 3 am on our first day there! (This would be the day after catching a 7 am flight when we woke at 5am!) It is often packed with tourists for sunrise, freezing cold (about 40 deg. and very windy) and sometimes just not worth it. I still kind of wanted to do the sunrise because that's just what you DO! Jeremy didn't care about the sunrise. He just wanted to see it and bike down the crater. He won. I wasn't too hard to convince that it would be fine to forget about sunrise and get some sleep. Maybe after we aren't exhausted from almost seven years of parenting young children, we can talk more about sunrises on vacation. ha!

Not a bad view, even if it's not sunrise!

We booked a wonderful tour with five other folks with Cruiser Phil's. The guides were very knowledgeable about the islands. We learned so much just through our conversations on the long ride there and back. They picked us up from the hotel early (6:45 am), but not CRAZY early. Once we got near the base of the crater, we had a curvy and steep ride to the top. I started to seriously question our decision to bike down. I knew it wasn't without danger. We would be sharing the same road as other cars coming and going. We would absolutely need to stay on our side of the road and not cross the line when banking around blind curves. Our guide gave us A LOT of safety instruction....things about following the road with our eyes through the turns. "Where you eyes go, your bike goes." He encouraged us to get the feel of the perfectly banked turns and not stay on our brakes the whole time, but stay in control. We were warned that we would be taken off our bikes and asked to stay in the van the rest of the trip down the crater if we ever crossed the line. The bikes are sturdy one speeds with comfortable seats. The ride down Haleakala to Paia is over 20 miles and takes about 1 1/2 hours.  I was very tense for the first few miles through the most steep and curvy roads. I could feel my whole body tightening up as I wondered, "am I taking these turns to fast or is it going to be OK???" I felt better knowing that the van was behind us watching our backs. He would radio the lead biker guide who would signal us if we needed to move to the side of the road and let a few cars pass us safely. I was able to fully concentrate on the road ahead and not worry about cars behind us because of this system. Once we took a rest stop at the location above, I was having a great time! What a cool experience! We were experiencing so much more by being on bike versus being cooped up in the van. The purple Jacaranda trees were in bloom and were so lovely. Jeremy said at one point he just laughed out loud because he was flying through the clouds ON A BIKE in MAUI! It's probably the closest thing I'll ever know to driving a motorcycle. At one point, our guide said he estimated we were going about 38 mph at our fastest. THIS WAS A GOOD DAY. 

On our third day, we decided to do part of the Road to Hana. This was a difficult decision for us because while we knew it would be beautiful, we also knew it was a lot of driving through curvy roads and one way bridges. (More fun though since we rented a convertible). For many reasons, it's not easy to do a simple loop. Most people drive a little past Hana and back in the same day stopping for a few sights along the way. However, this is a really long tiring day and especially difficult for the driver. We're talking over eight hours of driving through extremely challenging roads. (Estimated at 3 hrs. 15 min. from Kaanapali--one way--without stops--and many of best sights are actually AFTER Hana.) At first, I thought maybe we should just stay at the hotel and rest. (Hello, we had a lovely resort and didn't need to go anywhere!) Maybe drive up north to Kapalua Bay or see some sights past that. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that I would be disappointed if we didn't do it at all. I knew from all of my research it would be far better to do this over several days and stay near Hana one or two nights, but most people (like us) only have one day to devote to it on their vacation. So, we set out that morning, but not too early. Picked up coffee and a picnic lunch at a market in Paia and set out to enjoy the day.

Rainbow Eucalyptus trees along the way. How cool!

We ate here at the Ke'Anae peninsula for lunch. So gorgeous!

Shaved I miss you! My fave! This was at Aunt Sandy's roadside store at Ke'Anae peninsula

We skipped the first Twin Falls stop to have more time here at Upper Waikani Falls aka Three Bears. We took photos from car and then also got out to walk farther back to get a closer view which was totally worth it!

Three Bears Selfie

More waterfalls and I don't know which one this was...
 View of Three Bears from the Road

We took a two mile road off the Road to Hana to go down Nahiku Road to the coast. The Maui Revealed guidebook highly recommended it, but it also meant this took up some time from other things. It was incredibly green and lush. (FYI: George Harrison of Beatles fame once lived here.) There was a beautiful waterfall that pooled and then dumped out into the ocean. There was sweeping vistas and I can't even begin to photograph it.

Nahiku was one of the more private places we stopped along the way. The whole time we enjoyed this little piece of heaven, just a couple of other people ventured back here. I was glad we made the effort to get off the beaten path a little. At this point, we were probably about 3/4th of the way to Hana and Jeremy was getting exhausted with driving. On the way back, we had to stop twice because I was getting a headache. The whole rest of the night, I didn't feel "quite right" in the head! It was like delayed carsickness. I never got sick, but I definitely did not feel normal and didn't feel like having a full dinner that night. I worried that I had really messed myself up and the next day we would be on a boat!

Enjoying a night in Lahaina. What a pleasant and beautiful city. We were enthralled with this old Banyan tree. Can't begin to photograph it all--it took up a whole city block. 

On our fourth day, we did a tour of Molokini Crater. We booked a tour with Triology and they did an OUTSTANDING job. Five stars! The crew fed us a yummy breakfast and lunch. We enjoyed cocktails and ice cream after we had finished with snorkeling for the day. We only had a short drive along the coast to get to the Maalaea marina. The tour was from 8am until about 1:30 or 2pm. We stopped at Molokini Crater to snorkel, then drove to another spot to snorkel with sea turtles. At first, I thought we wouldn't find any, but then we found one and then another! We snorkeled above them for a long time as they "flew" through the water flapping their "wings". It was awesome! I have few photos of this day because we were just living it and enjoying it! Some people had underwater cameras and selfie sticks. We didn't even try to photograph the underwater scene. It was just really relaxing to float and swim around enjoying it. Just being out on the water gives you more appreciation of the Hawaiian islands. While boating, we could see the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Molokini crater and Kaho'olawe. 

We liked Lahina so much, we came back for another date AND lunch on the day we left.

Last sunset in Hawaii during dinner at Kimo's. 
Did I mention that I loved this tree?
More Resort Views

On our fifth and final day, we drove up to Kapalua Bay. Again, the photos do not do this place justice. STUNNING is a good adjective. The blue/green waters were shallow and clear  and you could snorkel or paddle board right here at this little cove very easily. My dream resort, the Montage, is here as well as The Ritz and a few more affordable condo options. While researching, I stumbled on it and was like, "yeah, this is what I want!" At first I thought it was within budget until I quickly discovered $900 was per night and not for five days. But seriously, check out their videos and tell me you don't dream of this....

Kapalua Bay-My Family Dream (Sixth video is my favorite for families.)

Oh, Maui!!! I miss you!

Jeremy was a great chauffeur! I'm glad we got the convertible. We would love to own one again one day when we're empty nesters! We got this upgrade when the first Chrysler convertible we were given had loud, annoying brakes! We took the car right back and let them know the problem and then were given this cute car instead. 

I don't have many photos with Mom and Dad and the kids since we were gone all week. Mom could do a "guest post" on their experiences with the grandkids! We took them to the Bay Area Discovery Museum on their last full day with us. I love this little children's museum and the views here are pretty nice, too. We also drove them down Conzelman Road (a coastal road north of GGB in Marin Headlands) to see more views of the city, bridge, Bay, and Pacific. I never tire showing our visitors the views from there! 

Jeremy and I had a wonderful trip. It will stay with me forever. I would love to go back again many more times. We still have lots to experience in Maui not to mention the other islands. It would be nice if we could go back again while we live on the west coast. It is so much cheaper and easier to do it from here. Our flight was about the same cost as a trip back to KY. It was a direct flight from Oakland Airport to Maui. Crazy that we can drive ten minutes down the road, hop on a jet, and be in paradise! The kids would love it, too. I know it would be a completely different trip with them. We are so thankful for my parents' sacrifice of their time and money to come visit us and take care of the children. They had wonderful quality time together. I love you, Mom and Dad! Thank you a million times over.