Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back in Time....April 2016....and the most wonderful vacation we've ever had!

Slowly but surely we are getting caught up.  April was an AMAZING month! The year isn't even over and I can already tell that April will be my favorite month of them all in 2016!

 I love General Conference weekend.  It is so nice to get a break from the busyness of Sunday church responsibilities to sit and listen and reflect at home. The kids however, are still too young to appreciate the blessings of General Conference. They just love that we make treats and take them on outings between and after the sessions to try and use up their energy.

 Lily asked me to take her on a walk around the temple after the Sunday sessions of conference.  We had a sweet time together. I just let her talk about anything and everything. We ran into some sister missionaries who offered to take our picture.  I'm grateful for that little moment.
You might live in the country if your neighbor's cow ends up in your yard!
Every day from February 4th to April 7th, I spent counting down to this day.  Our first real vacation without kids.  It had been 13 years since we took a vacation - that wasn't centered on a family reunion or time with the kids.  Just us. For 10 whole days.  Can you see the relief and joy in our faces?  We couldn't wait to get to Hawaii!

We arrived late at night and went straight to sleep.  No babies waking us in the night!  I think I slept better than I had in almost a year.  Still on Idaho time, we were our of bed by 5:00 a.m., so we went to the beach to try and catch the sunrise.  It was too cloudy for a good view but we enjoyed the warm morning on the beach.

Then back to the house for some breakfast and scripture reading by the pool.

The kids wanted to know what real coconuts on a tree looked like.  It was easy to show them since this tree was right in the front yard.  Off for our first adventure to Maunawili Falls!  We were so excited to begin Day 1 of our time in Hawaii.

Big smiles and sparkly clean shoes at the beginning of our hike.  It sure felt like we were in the jungle with all the vines and roots crossing the trail.
 We thought this twisted tree was so interesting.  Halfway there and still having fun.
 Amazing forests
 A few stream crossings and lots of stairs, and we finally made it.

 Beautiful little place.

Jeremy got brave enough to jump in.  After watching a man slip on the rocks and fall in, I was determined to stay safely on the ground.
 The stairs back out. Yikes!

 It started to rain and muddy up the trails.  I think I slipped or fell at least five times.  I was getting covered in mud and my shoes were full of mud.  Jeremy changed into his water sandals.  I should have done the same. I felt so water-logged and dirty by the time we were done.  But we had a great time and the falls was a beautiful place.

The muddy aftermath.  We were so hungry when we finished.  We stopped in Kailua and had great burgers, then went home to clean up for dinner with the family at Kathy and Richie's house.

 It was a great night.  Kathy presented the family with a hula.  Richie told a beautiful story and presented Chris and Becca with symbolic gifts.

 Papa, Jeremy, Kevin
 Peter and Cole

 It was a great finish to our first day.  Seeing so many of my cousins, celebrating the marriage of Becca and Chris, meeting more Hawaii family, meeting Chris's family and friends. I missed the kids a little bit. But a day just with each other was exactly what we needed.

The next day was all about Becca's wedding.  We spent the morning at the Waikiki Elk's Club loading in the flowers and decorations. I stayed behind with mom to try and help with set up. Dad spent the day driving around the wedding party to take pictures. Jeremy was stuck back at the house.  He went to the beach for a little while but it wasn't very fun alone. By early afternoon we had everything set up and went back to Kailua to dress for the wedding.

Mom put together these arrangements so fast.  It was amazing.

 Mom did a great job working her magic.  The facility was beautiful too.  The cake arrived a little later than we had hoped, but everything else went fine.  The ceremony had a few hiccups, it would have been wise to have a rehearsal, but oh well.  What matters most is that the couple is in love and made a commitment to each other.  We hope they will be very happy together.

 Jessica and Phoenix
 This table was such a nice touch.  They had pictures of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

 After a few drinks, everyone started to get a little silly.  Parties with the Gomes family are always a hoot.

 Wedding favors were little boxes of Hawaiian salt
 The cake was so delicious! Lots of tropical flavor.
 Congratulations Chris and Becca.  It was a very joyous wedding and we hope all the best for you!
After all the decorations were down we made a stop at Leonard's for malasadas.  We saved them for the next morning.  Big mistake.  I couldn't eat mine.  It tasted like greasy bread.  I guess they must be better eaten hot.  Lesson learned. I'm not a big doughnut fan anyway.

 Sunday morning we visited an early ward in Kailua for church.  Then Jeremy wanted to visit some cemeteries where relatives might be buried. We had a hot and frustrating couple of hours that didn't produce one name. Bummer. We did get pictures of a few family graves. But we didn't find the farther back names and dates we were hoping to locate. I guess we'll have to go back!

 This is Donald Correa - my great-grandmother Lily's brother.

These are my great-grandparents on my maternal side (Cambra family). Louis and Lily Cambra are Kathryn Gomes' parents.
This is Sister Mary Liberta, original name Olivia daSilva. The sister of my great-grandmother on my maternal side (Gomes family).

We learned the importance of visiting a cemetery during business hours so that you have a better chance of getting help from the office or a worker.  We also learned that we need to have things clearly written down when names and dates are so similar in order to make headstones easier to find. Although we didn't find everything we were looking for, we had a sweet experience that Sabbath day. For dinner we cooked at home and my parents hosted Kathy and Richie that night.  It's always great to spend time with them.

Monday morning we went to Lanikai beach to try and swim.  It was windy, raining, and a little chilly - not exactly jump in the water type weather.  We tried to swim but the surf was a bit rough for me and Jeremy thought the water was cold, so we took a walk down the beach to watch some windsurfers.  They were awesome. 

 Mom was so happy to be in the water.
 Dad gave snorkeling a try.
Too windy for me!

Of course just as we needed to leave, the weather started to warm up! We went home to shower and made the drive to Laie for an afternoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
 I think there's a rule that you have to try drinking from a coconut at least once while you're in Hawaii. It wasn't as tasty as we hoped, but it was good. We liked the coconut meat a lot and tried to scrape it out with the straw.
 We got tattoos in the New Zealand "Aotearoa" village.  Jeremy's symbol represents strength and mine represents family.
 Such a beautiful place.

 The PCC was everything we hoped it would be, we just didn't have time to experience it all.  Next time we will arrive much earlier so we can spend time in each island village.  We got there so late in the day that we felt like we were playing a game of hurry up and wait all afternoon.  We sat through a new movie that opened this year - it was a disappointment.  Our time would have been better spent exploring the center.  But I can see the appeal of a cool movie theater on a really hot day. We were lucky to have very nice weather.

 The canoe parade was lots of fun.  The audience was invited to sing and clap along with the dancers.  Since we are so closely tied to Church education through Jeremy's job, seeing these students work hard is dear to our hearts.  We support what BYU-Hawaii is trying to do with their work & study programs and we hope the students at the college will treasure their years here.
 Still can't believe we're actually in Hawaii.  Dream come true! Look how relaxed we are.  Five days without kids will do that. How will we ever go back to normal life?
 Jeremy wants to bring me back again as soon as possible - just so he can have another one of these amazing pina coladas!  It was one of the best things we ate on our whole trip.

For dinner and the luau show we had to rearrange some tickets so we could sit with Mom and Dad and Norm and Sue.  The show host was a great entertainer.  She was so welcoming and had a pleasant voice.  We sat right next to a cute LDS couple from Japan on their honeymoon.  They seemed so shy together.  It brought back so many funny and sweet memories of our honeymoon.

We had some time between dinner and the night show so we took some pictures.  Jeremy kept shooting until we started to say something.  This is the result.......
 A good shot
 a few shots later, Sue starts asking "are you done yet?"
 Now Mom is feeling ready to be done, "Come on Jeremy!"
 Leave it to his wife to say "Just be done already!"
 "Seriously....give me the camera."
 Jeremy showing off his fake ink next to Norm's "Luann" tattoo.
 And I got a good one of the guys in one take!

 After dinner we rode a tour shuttle to the Laie temple.  It was a beautiful sight against the dark cloudy sky. Such a gorgeous night.

No photos are allowed during the night show.  We enjoyed it but it made for a long day, Next time we'll just get a day pass and explore the PCC all day, then go somewhere else for dinner.  We felt like we had to be lined up for dinner an hour before it even started which again took away from our play time.  It was still a great experience and we were glad to see it together.  We even managed a ukelele lesson where we learned "You Are My Sunshine". Jeremy picked it up really fast.  I think we need to buy a ukelele!

The next morning we met at Cinnamon's for breakfast.  The banana pancakes and kalua pork eggs benedict were yummy.  Norm ordered red velvet pancakes that were divine!  The local style omelletes looked messy but were good.  The only disappointment was the hashbrowns. After breakfast we drove to Diamond Head with Neal and Sue.  We had to be at Pearl Harbor before 11:00 am for our tour so we were worried about getting up and down Diamond Head in time.  We hiked up as fast as we could without running.  We made great time and didn't have to rush to get down.

The ocean looked so blue and clear from up top.  And the famous Waikiki beach/Honolulu skyline was amazing.  It would be wonderful to get this view at night with all the hotels lit up.

So windy!

It was a quick hike.  I would do it again. And it would be nice to have time to relax and enjoy it a little more without a time deadline....or a rush to the potty.

Pear Harbor was emotional. It was fascinating to be there. But the tragedy of it hit me pretty hard. I loved doing the audio tour. I learned so much listening to the recordings. I don't even have words for the experience. We felt so drained when we finished. But we want to go back to see some of the other ships there on the site when we return to Hawaii.
We had lunch at a fast food Hawaiian BBQ place. It's called L&L Hawaiian BBQ. Not that great. Then we raced to Iolani Palace for a tour.  The whole day felt like a hurry up and wait day. Neal got pulled over for doing a u-turn in front of the palace. And to make things worse, his wallet was in the back of our car rather than his because he went on the hike with us that morning.  Jeremy tried to run the wallet out to him but the officer realized dad was just a tourist and thankfully let him off.


We loved seeing this interesting part of Hawaii's history.  I don't think we'll go back again, but it was a neat stop to make.  The crown jewels were very distinct.  Lots of shells and pearls and exotic items from other countries like whale and shark teeth and tiger claws. My favorite things in the palace were the music room - I didn't know that the royal family was so musical, the wooden toilets adjacent to the king's bedroom and the dining room, and a quilt made by the queen while she was held captive in the palace.

After the palace we made a stop at Ala Moana beach to try swimming.  Mom was excited to take us there because she remembers swimming there as a child. The beach was full of rocks and seashells - very poky.  Plus there were some children swimming there without adult supervision.  They were fighting with each other and kept trying to get our attention.  It was stressing me out to see such little kids left all alone at the beach so desperate for positive adult attention. Jeremy and I didn't stay long, instead we drove to the Pali lookout.

 It's amazing how different the weather can be on opposite sides of the same small island. It was cloudy, rainy, and windy at the lookout. We couldn't see the cliffs because it was so cloudy and misty. The wind was insane. We just cracked up when we got out there-we didn't want to blow away-so we kept our stop short and made our way back to Kailua.

Our parents had raved about a restaurant called Buzz's. So we decided to give it a try. The only problem was, all the dishes my parents recommended weren't on the menu we were given.  When we asked about another menu our server said there wasn't any other menu. We were confused.  We ordered and paid way too much for teriyaki steaks. They were not that great to be honest.  But I ordered a shrimp, crab, and avacado cocktail that was heavenly - I wish I had just ordered two of those! Later that night when we explained our disappointment to my parents, they told us that there is a separate happy hour type appetizer menu they use to order from. Since we were seated inside the restaurant, I guess we weren't allowed to use that menu, we could only order off the dinner menu.  Next time we'll request outdoor seating and ask for the appetizer menu only so we can order the amazing food we kept hearing about but never got to try!

It was a tiring day.  Lots of "touristy" stuff and rushing around - plus the emotions of Pear Harbor.  We were glad to get back to the house and have a quiet night swim, then go to bed.

The next morning Jeremy and I woke up early to make it to Hanauma Bay before the crowds. We were rewarded with a beautiful morning of swimming and snorkeling.  It was the start of our favorite day in Hawaii.

Almost no one on the beach. So quiet.  The water was nice and clear.  There were moments when we couldn't breathe through our masks because the beauty of the ocean brought tears to our eyes. The pictures don't do the colors justice. We found a few larger groups of fish and lots of individual fish.  The sea urchins were so neat.  Jeremy thought he spotted an eel.  I'm really glad I missed that, I might have been too scared to get back in the water.

Here is the state fish of Hawaii.  The humuhumunukunukuapua'a. Puna and Papa bought a toy one for Joey.  The girls love showing it to friends and teaching them how to say its name.

As it got closer to noon, the park really filled up.  We were bumping into people in the water and there was so much sand getting kicked up that the water wasn't as clear.  Plus we were tired from hours of swimming.  As we started to pack up and leave, we spotted Mom and Dad with Norm and Sue.  We stopped to say hello/goodbye and made the trek up the hill to find some lunch.

It was hard to leave.  We were really considering coming back the very next day. Such an amazing place.

Rather than cut through the island to get back home, we drove around the coast and had a wonderful afternoon.  We stopped to see blow hole and tried to capture ourselves with a crashing wave behind us. Technically we weren't supposed to climb down this far on the rocks, but we couldn't help ourselves. After watching the waves for a while, we found a safe place that allowed us to get as close as we dared.

We stopped at Sandy Beach because I remember my grandpa telling me how he loved to body surf here when he was young.  We walked the beach and were amazed at how strong the surf was. We got to spot a sea turtle swimming in a little cove. None of the pictures I took of the turtle turned out. I felt emotional on the beach. I realized how little I really knew about my grandparents time in Hawaii. I missed them. I tried to just soak in the island and feel the presence of my grandparents.

There were lots of body surfers and a few board surfers.  We decided to buy lunch from a shrimp truck and watch the surfers for a while. Jeremy let me stay as long as I wanted.

I love that we can see the blowhole spouting in the background.

The coconut shrimp was really good - the macaroni salad - not so much.  Why do people love that stuff? We thought the artwork on the truck was awesome. We were really glad the truck sold bottled water. We had not brought enough to last us the day and there aren't any stores on this part of the island. All the snorkeling in the morning had made us thirsty.
After finishing our lunch we continued our drive around the coastline and stopped to walk the Makapu'u lighthouse trail.  We were a little disappointed that we couldn't access the lighthouse.  There is a fence and No Trespassing signs posted. A group of college kids just went through the fence anyway.  We debated but thought it would be better to follow the rules. The state parks department is also improving the trail and some of the lookout points so we couldn't get to the very top lookout. Kathy and Richie said we should have just gone through the fence and walked to the lighthouse.  Maybe next time. It was a neat little hike but we were disappointed that many of the lookouts were closed and we couldn't get directly to the lighthouse.
This is supposed to be a prime spot to see Humpback whales during their calving season. We didn't see any whales, but the view was still beautiful.
Another surprise was all the cactus along the lower part of the trail. I didn't expect to see cactus on Oahu. The bright yellow flowers were some of the only color along the trail.
This part of the island was so dry and hot. This was the view coming back down the trail. We were surprised again at how different the regions of the island are from each other.  We weren't expecting this desert-type landscape.
After all that time in the sun, we stopped at Mokulua Homemade Ice Cream for a treat. I went with coconut and mango flavors. Heavenly! It was very good ice cream but the price was high!

We loved having another whole day just to ourselves. No deadlines, no schedule, just total freedom to rest and explore. By the afternoon we were ready for a rest and a shower. Then we drove back to Waikiki to meet Kathy and Richie for drinks and music at the Halekulani hotel restaurant called House Without a Key. We met up with everyone to celebrate mom's birthday a night early. Kathy and Richie had reserved a table right up near the stage so that mom could be front and center for the music and dancing.
I ordered a virgin pina colada - but it tasted off, I didn't dare drink more just in case the bar had accidentally put alcohol in it.  Jeremy had a refreshing ginger lime soda.  It was delicious. At least one of us had a good drink.
This is my absolute favorite picture from the trip. So happy! This day and night in Hawaii were just magical.
Mom and Dad happy to celebrate Mom's 60th birthday!

An absolutely gorgeous place.  The music and dancing were perfect. Being there with family we love made it even more wonderful.
For dinner we ate at The Orchid restaurant.  Stunning atmosphere!  Jeremy and Norm had to borrow slacks from the restaurant because shorts were not allowed. Mom used the bathroom and came back to tell us all how amazing the toilets were.  Then of course all of us took turns trying out the toilet/bidet with sound effects for privacy, heated seats, and drying fans. Ha!

The restaurant was open to the ocean and we still had a perfect view of the stage and Diamond Head.

The food was wonderful. The setting was idyllic. Since we usually get to eat out at very casual restaurants, this was such a great experience.
Mom got a beautiful celebration cake for her birthday. We are so glad we got to celebrate together. I can't think of a better way to enjoy your 60th birthday.
 This was truly the most perfect vacation day I could ever imagine. We didn't want to leave and go to sleep that night because we knew that the next day would be our last in Hawaii. From the morning in the ocean to the evening with friends and family, this was a truly magical day. We will treasure it always.

For our last morning in Hawaii, we woke early and drove to the North Shore to attend the temple. We had some family names that needed to be done. I went to the initiatory room to have the initiatories done before the endowment session. I had three names. The sister serving there told me she was the only one there at the moment and that I couldn't do the initiatories before my session. I was disappointed. I went back to my locker and cried. My heart knew that these names needed their work done and that they would want it done in Hawaii where their lives had been spent. I got brave and left my locker to ask again. As I approached the room, my mom and Sue arrived. The three of us asked if there was anyway more sisters could be called to assist me in the initiatories. Before the sister could even pick up the phone to call for help, two sisters arrived. One showed up early for her assigned time and another was told that she was needed right there. I was able to get the work done. Barely. The temple workers and I were crying all through the ordinances. I felt spent before the endowment session had even begun. It was a little miracle that we were able to do the names that day.

 We love the banyan trees. They are fascinating.

 After finishing our session we took a walk around the temple grounds, stopped at the PCC Hawaiian marketplace to find souvenirs for the kids, and then we made our way to Pounders restaurant for lunch. Jeremy tried a local style burger.  It looked disgusting. A burger with rice, onions, a fried egg, and lots of gravy. No thanks! Mom and I shared a fabulous green salad with mango and papaya and the most amazing mahi mahi nuggets and a passion fruit dressing. So delicious. The hibiscus iced tea was also amazing. Then we bought purple taro rolls for an afternoon snack, but we couldn't resist and started eating them right there at the restaurant.

After lunch we had time for one more stop before we needed to get to the airport. We decided on the Dole Plantation. It closes fairly early so we didn't have time for a tour or the pineapple maze.  We just walked through the store and bought some treats for the kids - and a pineapple whip for ourselves!

 Life is good when you're laughing in a pineapple!
We said our goodbyes to my parents and the Thulins and made our way to the airport. We didn't feel ready to leave.  It went by way too fast. It was such a wonderful experience. We decided that we need more time like this together. We definitely have more trips to take in the years to come.

Grammy and Grampy took good care of the kids while we were away. And by the time we returned, they were worn out.  We met them in Pocatello to get the kids and let them get back home. We can't thank them enough for all they did so we could get away.

To be honest, the rest of April was a blur. It was hard to get back to reality. The kids had missed us and were pretty demanding of our time and attention. Work was busy for Jeremy. It was a tough adjustment for everyone.

Joey was almost crawling when we left. In one week, he learned to pull himself up to standing and was cruising along furniture. What? Such a big boy.

Our local grocery store was doing their Hawaiian days promo. The girls thought it was perfect since we had just come back from Hawaii.  Yeah......not the same! But we bought some tropical fruit and Hawaiian punch and tried to pretend like it was just as good as being in Hawaii.

Joey seems so much bigger. And he loves his turtle from Puna and Papa. He snuggles with it to sleep and nap every day.
Tommy loved having his Mommy back! And he likes his new shark shirt from Hawaii. Our first Sunday back we had rain on the way to church.  Tommy is a bit sensitive to rain and wind. He wore swimming goggles into church to keep the rain out. I tried to get a picture before he took them off but he was too quick for me.

I was invited to help chaperone Annie's preschool class field trip around our town.  We went to a florist shop, a pharmacy, the police station, post office, and the fire station.

 Annie loved having Tommy with her. I still can't get over how different these two look from each other.

 The florist gave each child their own flower and let the kids tour the huge refrigerator where the plants are stored. All the kiddos came out shivering.
 The police station was quiet so there wasn't much to see, but each child got a deputy sticker and we got to climb inside a patrol car and hear the siren. Tommy loved the lights and sounds.

 The kids wrote letters to their mommies and got to put them in the big mail box.

 The fire station was the big finale. All of our kids loved it. They got to see a firefighter put on all his gear, they got to try on gear, we had a little class on fire safety and everyone got to ride the big fire truck for a few miles through town and back.

 While the girls were at school one afternoon, we played across the street in the neighbor's back yard. Joey loved the baby swing. He just laughed and laughed the whole time. Them Tommy had to have a turn too.

 We finished off the month with another dance competition. Annie's group went on stage nearly two hours late because of a problem with one of the judges and sound system errors. Good grief! The dance competitions in this area need to get their act together. It is so frustrating to sit through extra hours of performances with four children. Annie was wonderful as always. She is definitely our tiny dancer!

And that sums up April 2016. What a month!