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Thoughts on ordinary and not so ordinary adventures in the life of one Mom

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vacation Pictures

         Ever since Steve and I returned from our trip to Kauai 3 years ago, I had been wanting to show the kids this island, the most beautiful place on Earth.  I would picture my favorite beach, Tunnels, on the north shore.  While I was snorkeling in the water there last time, I couldn't decide what to look at: the plentiful fish, the beautiful mountains, or the expansive ocean.   I wanted to take them on a catamaran ride along the Na Pali coast to see the verdant cliffs and sea caves.  And I wanted to try some new things that I'd seen in tour books and brochures, like hiking in Waimea Canyon, going to Ke'e beach, kayaking, visiting a botanical garden, horseback riding or mountain tubing.  I got the chance to show my family all Kauai had to offer this week as we took a little "vacation" to the Garden Isle.

         I planned a picture-perfect vacation.  This time, I really wanted to stay on the north shore, before October when the winter swells render many north shore beaches almost unswimmable.   This trip was also the first time in a long while that we took a vacation that was not part of a work-related trip.  Since most of our vacations are trips of opportunity, piggybacked on one of Steve's many conferences, we are not usually responsible for the destination or even the hotel (but, fortunately, not all the cost, either).  This vacation to Kauai, however, was completely my vision.

Kalalau Valley
         We encountered many disappointments as we embarked on this trip.  Our boat tour had been postponed due to weather and cancellation was a possibility.  The kids were especially annoying and cranky.  And it was raining when we arrived.

        As planned, we drove straight to Koke'e State Park and Waimea Canyon after we landed.  Rain is not a big deterrent on Kauai.  After all, Kauai is home to the world's rainiest spot, Mt. Wai'ale'ale, but it did make it difficult to get a good view from the Na Pali coast overlooks.  The mist and rain were sporadic, so while sometimes you could see to the ocean, most often visibility was limited to a few feet.  Luckily, for a few minutes, the fog dissipated and we saw a beautiful rainbow deep in the Kalalau Valley below.

       The rain also put a damper on our plans to do a rim hike in the Waimea Canyon, which would have been slippery and dangerous. Waimea Canyon is one of the gems on this small (550 square miles) island.   Although it's not as grand as the Grand Canyon, its beauty rivals our Arizona treasure.   As we headed out of the park and down to a lower elevation, the rain subsided.  We happened upon a great little hike, the Iliau Nature Loop and the start of the Kukui trail, which had terrific views of the canyon, nice examples of Kauai vegetation (with labeled signs), and nice rocks to climb.  Most importantly, it gave us the opportunity to stretch our legs and goof around for more than a few minutes. It was a much needed break for all of us after a couple of hours in a compact car.

That night, even after settling into the beautiful Hanalei Colony Resort, taking a solitary (recall the compact car and three children) sunset stroll, and enjoying the pool and hot tub, I couldn't help but feel disappointed in our vacation.  Things were not going according to plan. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Charm of the City

        Living in Hawaii has reminded us that the city can sometimes be hectic.  There is so much going on, all the time, it's easy to overlook the wonderful scenes unfolding all around you.    On our walk to the Waikiki Community Center, we almost missed our opportunity to help a lady, a neighbor, who was stuck on her balcony on the 15th floor.   She couldn't get back into her apartment and didn't have a phone to call for help.  We wouldn't have noticed her had it not been for the elderly man on the sidewalk who was looking up the side of the building.  It is a well-known fact of rubbernecking, that if someone is looking up at something, passersby will immediately follow suit and look up, even if there is nothing to look at.   Even though he didn't seem to understand her predicament or how to help, this stranger's  simple act of looking up in the middle of a busy sidewalk, called enough attention to her situation that help soon arrived.  That's where I came in.   I managed to speak (or yell) to the stranded lady during the 60 second breaks in the noisy traffic on Ala Wai Boulevard.  I got her apartment number, and we decided on the best plan of action.  I called the building manager and checked on her to make sure she was OK.  She was so appreciative, but I assured her that it was "no big whoop".  After all, we live in a city.  Someone was bound to help eventually.

        This scene reminded me of growing up in Brooklyn.  We were constantly talking, or rather, yelling, from our apartment down to the street.  In fact, we would often toss items down to our family members or friends from our 6th floor window.   If the ice cream truck stopped at the park down the block, there was always someone running to the building to "call" their mom so that they could "send" down some money.  This was before cell phones.

        There's a lot about Honolulu that reminds me of Brooklyn.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Go Fish

        The first week we were here, Steve bought a game for all of us to play on the occasions when we didn't have something exciting planned and we were cooped up in the small apartment.   It's called Go Fish! Hawaii.  Yes, it's just Go Fish, a game you can play with any deck of cards, but each card has a lovely drawing of a Hawaiian fish along with its Hawaiian name and a description.  Very educational ;)  and it has been worth the hefty price of $8 for the deck.  We play often because it is (mostly) fun to play games with your kids and this game has the right balance of luck, strategy and memory we look for when playing with an almost 6 year old.  What's most enjoyable, though, are the fish names, themselves.   The joy in our voices is apparent as we ask, "Nicki, do you have any Humuhumunukunukuapuaa?" or  "Alex, give me all of your Lauwiliwilinukunukuoioi."  These fish names are so fun to say, once you get the hang of it.  Nicki started off just holding up her card, not wanting to attempt the reading, but now she joins the rest of us in our all-out pronunciation of these funny fish names. 

        The fish pictured on the cards need to be seen though, in their natural habitat.  I am surprised it took us so long to finally get out in the water to snorkel.  It did take a while to make sure we had all of our equipment.  Aside from Alex (who needed to practice in our pool at home), we all bought snorkel gear here in Hawaii.  Once we had the masks, snorkels and fins, I went on a quest for "floaty things" like the banana yellow float belts Steve and I rented along with our snorkel gear the last time we were in Hawaii.   While we are all strong swimmers, I felt it best that we have flotation devices for our snorkeling adventure.  For me, at least, it makes the experience more enjoyable.  I don't really worry about tiredly stepping on fragile coral , or even worse, sea urchins.  I effortlessly float above it all, saving my energy for propelling myself forward to chase the cool species that swim by.   We settled on life jacket-like apparatus for Alex and Nicki, which warned "not to be used as a life saving device".  Ok, if someone is in trouble in the water, I promise not to use this to save their lives.  My search for float belts for the rest of us brought me back to Snorkel Bob's.   Turns out, Snorkel Bob will sell you one for $45 but, otherwise, they are nowhere to be found.  Being the consummate bargain shopper, I called all over town; surf shops, big box stores, sporting goods, even ABC.  I went online (of course I found exactly what I wanted here - but I didn't want to wait around to receive them) and asked around.  I just couldn't believe that these floaty things were not sold side by side with snorkel gear.  I was starting to think that I was a total wimp to for not wanting to tread water for an hour to watch fish do their thing.

        I hit the jackpot, though, when I found aqua aerobics equipment at Sports Authority.  They have a "Aqua Fitness Jog Belt"  that is designed to fit around your waste and keep you vertical as you jog or  pump iron under water.   At $25 a pop, it was the best bargain I could find.  We practiced snorkeling in the apartment pool, with and without the floaty things.  I was so glad I had my float belt.  It gave me the security to actually feel comfortable with my face under water, a fear I have never quite overcome since childhood.  Plus, since we were going with our kids, who are notorious for hanging onto you in the water, every bit of added buoyancy helps.

        I have snorkeled at three spots in Oahu so far.  Nicki and Alex and I went to the famous

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"I Call Taking a Shower First"

        I don't think I've ever heard this phrase coming from my kids until now.  I hear this practically every day in Hawaii.  We are taking advantage of all the outdoor opportunities in this natural paradise, and it's a dirty business.

        The messiest of all is by far the sand.  It gets everywhere!  Not just everywhere on your body.  It consumes all the places where you and your stuff resides...... your home, your car, your drawers full of clean clothes, your purse and your reusable shopping bags.  In fact, our checkout lady at Safeway, Lehua, spent a good two minutes shaking my bag out before she would put my newly purchased groceries in it.  I told her she didn't have to do it, but she insisted.  Maybe she's had a taste of turkey and sand on a whole wheat roll and wanted to spare me the experience.

        When you are ready to leave the beach,  you wash off in the ocean in a big wave, which helps a little.  Next, you rinse off at the beach-side showers.  After our first public shower, where we hogged all the spouts for an uncivilized amount of time, a local told us where the more powerful showers were.   They were better, but even after that, we stilled trekked plenty of sand to our apartment a good five blocks away.   I swear you could fill a kids sand box with what's left in our shoes, bathing suits and towels after a couple of hours at the beach.  I know what Joseph feels like when he doesn't want to go to the beach because he'll get all sandy, but the prospect of missing out on frolicking in ocean or snorkeling is too unthinkable to make me deny myself this pleasure.  I've decide to live with it, especially since I have no choice.

       Then there's the sweat.  It's true, we are more active here in Hawaii with so much outdoor activity and everything else within walking distance.  But more physical exertion is just part of it.  The weather is deceptive.  When the sun is blaring on you, you feel hot.  Otherwise, you feel so cool and comfortable in the constant breeze that you are surprised by the moisture soaking through your shirt in just a short walk.  To say the least, it's a wet heat.  On the plus side, no chapped lips.  On the minus, poofy hair.......with sand in it!

        Today, we discovered yet another reason to shower.......mud.  We hiked to Manoa Falls in the gorgeous Manoa valley.  This is where we see rainbows every evening from our apartment.  The reason: it rains every evening.

The wet valley is behind that rainbow
 That leaves morning hikes full of muddy trails and dripping leaves.  Slippery rocks, plus mud, plus kids equals a royal mess.  It's worth it, though.  The valley is pristine, the falls spectacular, the sweat profuse the poofiness