Saturday, June 16, 2018

On the Road Again: The (Temporary) Return of the Travel Blog

Back on the road...!

It has been one year since I've contributed to this little space of mine, and three years since the four of us have all piled into our RV for a looooong road trip.

I've missed both.

For the next month, we will be on the road in "Honu," our 32 foot Class C motorhome traveling around to both new and familiar places in the Southeast U.S.

"A month?!?" people usually gasp. "Wow. All of you? In there? For a month?"

This is actually shorter than our last summer trip, which took us (almost) to Canada (it was too damn cold for this beach bum) and took up about 6 weeks of our summer. So yeah, a month doesn't really scare us.


Last time it was a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old we were dragging around and sharing about 250 square feet of living space with, not a practically-13-year-old and a now-suddenly-getting-opinionated-nearly-10-year-old. For people who do not have kids (stop gloating), that may not seem like much of an age difference. For those who have entered, are enduring, or have survived the teen years, you know this can be a potentially volatile situation.


Hubby and I are (perhaps naively) optimistic. In fact, we couldn't wait to get back in the RV and escape it all with them. You see, the amazing thing for us is that when we do go camping together (I use the term "camping" loosely here, since, hello, I have a mini apartment on wheels here), everything else seems to fall away. The essence of who we all are, as individuals and as a family, seems to really come back to the surface. This is our hope for this trip: that we stop bickering (mostly) about nonsense like video game time or who sits where on the couch...that we will, once again, build memories that will make them want to continue spending time with us, even as they grow older...that they will meet new people and see new places and try new things and just sit and breathe and play and laugh and love.

We have made a lot of changes in our lives over the last few years so that we can attempt to live in a perpetual state of vacation. We take mini trips every other month, if not more often. We go to the beach on weekdays. We make time to play as often as possible. But these trips, the "big ones", these are really what it's about for us. So here's hoping that this one, like all the others, fills up our souls and brings us even closer together.

Here's the itinerary:
Stop 1: Melbourne, Fl...Visiting "Tantala" AKA our dearest friend and the boys' pseudo Grandmother
Stop 2: St. Augustine, Fl....After studying Florida history, Ben requested we return to check it out again
Stop 3: South of the Border, North & South Carolina state line...this stop is mostly for practical purposes, but I'm thinking we may get a little Griswald-y here
Stop 4: Cedar Island, NC..just an overnight sleep stop
Stop 5: Outer Banks, NC...AKA My Second Favorite Place Ever
Stop 6: Cherokee, Smoky Mountains, NC...hoping to get over my fear of white water rafting here as well as enjoy some tubing, aerial park adventures, visit Asheville, do some hikes
Stop 7: Nashville, TN...spending a little downtime between the mountains and our next long drive during July 4th week at truly country-themed campground
Stop 8: Pitstop in Lynchburg, TN to check out the Jack Daniels Distillery (if you know us, no explanation is necessary here)
Stop 9: Florida Caverns State Park, Fl...went here on our very first RV summer trip (back when we thought being gone for 9 days was an adventure), and the boys barely remember it
Stop 10: Henderson Beach, Destin, Fl...this was my first beach campground experience and became the measuring stick for all future beach camping trips

Happy (and safe) travels to us...!

Old posts from the road:

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."
                                        ~Helen Keller

Friday, August 11, 2017

This summer was...

Summer is good.
But in this house, summer is glorious. 
For two school teacher parents and two school-age boys, summer around here means nine weeks of "What do you wanna do today?" 
And because we did not go on any possibly life-altering trips this summer, we had a lot of time to sleep in, stay up late, and just play.

This summer was...

...camping and surfing

...first-time-ever Zoo Camp

...motel sneak-aways

...boat days with friends

...spontaneous baby turtle sightings

...finally getting the big projects done water park days bonding over penguins

...never too old for matching birthday drinking shirts

...summer bucket list ice skating

...growing up on the beach 

 ...surprise manatee visitations while SUPing

 ...finally shooting hoops in the front yard

We are ridiculously lucky.
We know this.
But we also know that life's too short to just play for one season. 
So, in an attempt to celebrate what's coming instead of mourning what's ending...

This Fall will be...

...back to healthy(-er) eating and gym mornings
...the blessed type-A sense of calm that comes with routine
..."This Is Us" new episodes
...using Thursdays as an excuse for wine
...using Fridays as an excuse for Happy Hour
...regular paychecks
...Epcot Food and Wine trips more go at Disney in the RV
...the holidays (Halloween is right around the corner and before you know it, hello!'s Christmas!)
...falling asleep on the sofa by 8:45
...looking forward to the weekends to go out and play!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Private Love Letter for the World to Read (Again)

March 23, 2002  Key West, Florida

Fifteen years of marriage.

It simultaneously feels like it was "just yesterday" and a lifetime. I can't remember what my life was like or who I was before I married him. And yet, it still feels so fun and exciting and worthwhile, that on date nights, I still get slightly giddy. I still fluff my hair out a bit when I see him walk in the room.

So in spite of the fact that I rarely visit this little corner of my world lately, I could not let such an important date go by without feeling the need for a little declaration, an "ode to" of sorts...

I wrote this letter a little over seven years ago as a response to a blog challenge in which I participated. Every word still rings true, and, I suspect (and hope), it still will in another seven...or fifteen...or fifty....

Dear "Hubby,"

When Momalom put out a challenge to write a love letter, you immediately came to mind. I hesitated, though, because really...what would people think...that I am choosing to profess my love to my husband? And on the Internet?? Seriously, how corny and codependent is that? I thought of so many other clever "loves": my stilettos, my cocktails, my pillow. Even writing a love letter to my children, although very predictable, would have been more acceptable, I suspect.

But I chose you. I think I owed it to you and to Us to be honest. To put it out there. You have never been afraid to shout it from the rooftops. And as loud as I usually am, I think you deserve a little more noise from my side.

Plus, our love affair started on stapled shut, letters on notebook paper...the lines impossibly and frantically filled with confessions, promises, and fears.

So let me just say it...the cliche...the thing so often found inside greeting cards this time of year: I don't know how I got so lucky.

I don't.

I look around and find it impossibly delicious that you are mine.

There was something about you, from the beginning, that made me stop breathing. Literally. I would stop breathing when you walked into a room. What is that? Really. What is that? And although I can say I think you're hot as hell, and although I am sure you'd love to hear that it was your amazingly rugged good looks that did it to me, it wasn't. It was something else entirely. Although, even now, ten years later, I still can not name it.

The absolutely most amazing thing about it is this: when you walk unexpectedly into a room, and I look up and am surprised to see you, in that moment when the realization hits that it is You, I still get a flutter...there is still a very slight, very shallow, very sudden intake of breath. Oh. It's you.

Some of my love is shallow and silly. Sometimes, when we're out on a date night, I scan the room. I look at all the men there and I pretend I don't know you and I am always amazed that you are the only guy I would want to buy me a drink. And probably take me home.

Some of my love is the kind that can only grow from the everyday: raising children, paying mortgages, real life. When the children are sick, you wake up right alongside me (sometimes without me), you take the temperatures, you clean the vomit, you hold them close until they fall asleep. You make them feel safe. When the house needs cleaning, when the dinner needs cooking, when the laundry needs doing, you just do it. You don't point it out. You don't ask for props. You never call it "helping."

But even more than my partner at home, you're my partner in crime. There is no one I have more fun one I'd rather get slammed drunk one makes me laugh as much as you do. How is it that I have married a man who can be at a club with me til 4:00 in the morning, partying like a frat boy, and then be Daddy the next day, so often better than I can be Mommy?

You love like no one I know, yet you don't offer it easily. It's hard to get to you. It's hard to matter in your life. As sensitive and passionate as you are, you reserve that for a very select few. You simply don't have time, you say. And, as you so honestly put it, just don't care. You don't care about being politically correct. You don't care about what others want or expect. You answer to nearly no one. Yet for those of us who have been lucky enough, your loyalty is frighteningly intense. You will go to the ends of the earth for someone you love, but always expect the same in return.

From the beginning, you put me first. That was our deal. Above everything and everyone, we would make Us our priority. And even after the kids came, even after life became more and more difficult to juggle, you've held me to that. You've held Us to that. When I get caught up in Life: the bills, the responsibility, the kids, the general noise inside my head, you call me on it. You want to talk. To drink wine. To listen. To love.

I love you as much for this constant desire to make time for us as for your absolute refusal to put up with my shit. I can be tough. I can be clingy. I can be whiny. I can be bitchy. You call me on that, too.

Yet despite your total and complete commitment to me, you have your own life. You have your passions outside of Us. You need your time away, your time alone, to be your own self, separate from being mine, or ours, or theirs. Your love for the outdoors, for your bikes, for testing your limits, makes me love you even more. You are, without question, your own person, apart from your family. And so you understand why I need to have my own things, too. It is what makes you understand all of blog, my friends, my interests, my latest crazy idea.

That is the best thing about you, I think, if I had to pick one (other than those forearms of yours): you understand me. Really, and truly, you understand me. You've seen my absolute best and, embarrassingly, my absolute worst, and everything in between. You not only accept who I am, but you want me to be more of it: you are the one who constantly reminds me to stop being afraid of myself.

So, no. I don't know how I got so lucky. I don't know what happened or how it happened or why it happened. Sometimes I look around, at you, at our kids, at us, and I still can't believe this has worked. I can't believe we are this happy...this in sync. So, yes. My love letter had to be to you. Because there is nothing and no one I love the way I love you.


*This blog was originally posted here on February 8, 2010.
Happy Anniversary, P. 
You were the best decision I ever made.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Why They Should Sell Booze at The Magic Kingdom - Throwback Thursday

If you live in Florida, there exists a sort of Golden Ticket, if you will, known as The Disney Annual Pass. We get little perks and privileges for living so close and The Powers That Be over at Disney know that if they promise a little discount here and a little payment plan there, we will be suckers enough to think it's such a bargain that we must repeatedly count our lucky stars, load up the car, and drive a few hours over to this magical place as often as humanly possible. Really, we get ourselves to the point where it almost feels like we are "just running over to Disney for a few incredibly discounted hours of fun!"

And over at our house, I fully admit, we are suckers. Big time.

And it's not just for the kids, either. My husband and I love it just as much. It's quite amusing, in fact, to hear my testosterone-laden, scruffy and tattooed-up, long-haired man talk about how excited he is when counting down the days to the next long weekend.

So after a few years off, we are finally, once again, the proud Golden Ticket Holders of an Annual Pass. Which means we will be going to Disney. A lot. Which reminded me of...

Why They Should Sell Booze at the Magic Kingdom
originally posted here on October 29, 2013 

I was startled (we all were, really) by a woman's shrill reprimand: "You put your mouth on it! Don't tell me you didn't put your mouth on it! You did!" I turned (as did everyone else, really) to see a mother disdainfully holding a red frozen fruit bar and looking accusingly at a pre-teen-ish age girl. I didn't really understand why she was so mad, so I kept watching in hopes I'd figure it out: was the kid sick and therefore banned from sharing any of the rest of the family's popsicle snacks? Was this mother one of those germaphobes who did not like sharing food with her own children? I must not have been the only bystander trying to figure out what had caused the woman's reaction, because she looked up suddenly and noticed that everyone (and I do mean everyone) around her was staring, and she apologized (almost as loudly) a half-ass apology: "Sorry. Sorry, everyone. Sorry." As she and her apparently sneaky, popsicle-licking daughter resumed walking passed us, another woman who I assumed was the aunt came over and put her arm around the kid. The mother (now no longer shrilly shrieking, at least) silently lifted the arm off her daughter's shoulders, and spat out: "Why don't you go up there and walk with your Uncle Timmy?" To this, a man one could only assume was Uncle Timmy, turned around and came over to his niece, throwing an arm around the kid's neck and loudly proclaiming: "C'mon, kid, this is the happiest place on earth! Let's go be happy!" and he skipped away with her, chuckling.

The next morning, I was ripping sugar packets open and dumping way too many into my coffee, when I noticed (how could I not?) a toddler wearing "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" pajamas having a complete and total meltdown while his mother was trying to pull him up to standing. The kid was doing that thing toddlers do: letting his bones go all Jell-O, his face scrunched up, his eyes shut tight, wailing (even louder than the mom in paragraph one, above) incoherently. I stirred my coffee and watched as the mom attempted to shut him up and pull him up to standing. When neither of these two were accomplished, she let him go (I suspect if she could have bounced him painfully onto the ground like a basketball, she would have), tossed her arms up in the air, and stepped back over to the register a couple feet away where she had been trying to pay for her $10 Mickey-shaped waffle. The kid remained writhing and wriggling and wailing on the food court's shiny tile floor, while other guests walked around him with their coffee cups and breakfast trays. I didn't stick around long enough to see how the mother managed to drag him and her breakfast tray back over to wherever, but I did silently hope that she was washing that cute little pajama in hot water before putting it back on the kid for bed.

Then there was the dad who, in the middle of a crowded area, grabbed his son's face as if his fingers were tweezers and the kid's face was a nasty embedded splinter. He nearly put his forehead right up to his kid's, and shouted in one of those gruff, manly, camo-wearing type voices: "Get. Outta. My. Face. I've. Had. E. Nuff."

Those are some of the scenes I witnessed this weekend at Walt Disney World.

And, as a parent, I totally get it. 

I'm not saying that I approve of any of these parental reactions.
I'm not saying that I would have done or said the same things with the same level of ferocity and impatience.
All I'm saying is that I might have.

There really, truly is something magical about Disney. I've said it before. As someone who has grown up four hours away, I'm one of those people who has been so many times, she's lost count. I realize that to some, this is cause for great envy, while for others, this is cause for great, wrinkly-nosed disdain. But I love Disney. I love everything about it (except the summertime and the long lines). I love the way they pay attention to every detail, how even the soaps in the hotel and the signs in the public restrooms have Mickey shapes. I love how they are constantly trying to outdo themselves. I love how everyone who works there is required to smile and be cheerful and somehow, they never seem to be faking it. I love the looks on my kids' faces when the fireworks display begins and Tinkerbell "flies" along the night sky out of Cinderella's castle window and off into wherever that nearly invisible zipline ends. I love the Caribbean pirates chanting their "Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me." I love the giggles a photo op with Winnie the Pooh and Goofy elicit from my little boys. And I love, love, love the fully-grown adults who happily and casually walk around wearing Mouse ears and coordinated t-shirts. Disney, you see, is full of whimsy.

And I love me some whimsy.

But those of us who have been there with small (and even not-so-small) children know that just like Disney World can bring out the best in parents, it can inevitably bring out the worst.

We were lucky on this trip: the boys behaved--for the most part--beautifully. But there was no way we were going to walk around passing any kind of judgment on the parents described above. Cause God knows (or, in this case, should I say 'Walt knows'?) that we are always just one tantrum away from being the crazy parents screaming shrilly about a popsicle while crushing our kid's face for dramatic emphasis.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Remembering another "First Day of School"

Today my oldest started his last year of elementary school, and my littlest is not so little anymore.
I am the mom of a fifth grader and a third grader.
We have gone from light up superhero sneakers to high-top Vans.
In honor of today, I go back to another First Day...a pivotal one (probably more for me than them), when my oldest started kindergarten and my littlest was still quite little.

The First Day
*Originally published here on August 23, 2011

I was not prepared.

I bought all of the supplies.

Attended the meet-and-greet.

Packed their backpacks.

Reviewed shoe-tying.

Charged the camera battery.

Woke up extra early.

But I was not prepared.

On that first day

when I had done it all

checked it all off the lists

made sure we were all ready

I was not prepared.

I was not prepared for the pain

of the realization

that I was leaving my littlest one


for the first time


in a school

without his brother.

I was not prepared for the onslaught

of memories brought upon

by a moment captured on film:

a big brother helping a little brother

find his cubby

tuck his lunchbox

begin his day

exactly as he, himself, had done once

on his first day at the same little school.

With it came the sudden awareness

of the passing of time

the acknowledgement, for the first time,

that it is true

what they say:

they grow up too fast.

I was not prepared for the look of panic

fleeting and barely noticeable

but definitely there

in that second

just as we left.

I was not prepared for the sobs that choked me

shocked me

the whole way from one school to the next

where it started all over:

more shock, more tears

all my own.

I was not prepared for the swell of pride

unexplainable, almost.

After all, I had never been one of Those Mothers

and really, it was "just kindergarten"

and certainly, yes, a day of note, but of pride?





I was not prepared for this feeling

that I was a mother

more than ever before

in that insignificant moment:

a nametag found and pinned

a bookbag draped over a chair

a boy

my boy


finding his seat

in kindergarten.

"Look. This is where you put your lunchbox."
This was the exact cubby Ben had used when he attended his preschool.
Coincidentally, his little brother was assigned the same exact one years later.
The fact that I captured this moment on film still makes me tear up.

The precise moment when the nametag was "found and pinned."


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Look who's on Mamapedia (again)!

This is the second time I hesitate on posting a piece, fearing it's not "good enough," and then I'm contacted about having it featured on

Surely, there is a lesson to be learned here...

Honored, once again, to be the featured voice today

Saturday, August 6, 2016

How buying my son his first phone broke my heart a little bit

Three garbage bags of toys are sitting on my front doorstep waiting to be picked up for donations. I did not even look in them. (Hubby handled this round of clearing out toy bins and outgrown school uniforms. I know. I'm lucky.) I have been a bit sentimental lately about the boys growing up. I didn't need to know if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Van he had wanted "soooo bad" was in there. Or any of the Hot Wheels cars. Or mini action figures. No need.

I was once told to enjoy the constant mess of strewn toys everywhere. Soon enough...sooner than I could living room floor and coffee table would be clear again, I was warned, and they would only be interested in their phones, their tablets, their headphones, their laptops. I would miss stepping barefoot on those Legos, I was promised.

And now here I am...getting my soon-to-be-11-year-old his first phone.


He deserves it.

He's a straight A student. He's going into 5th grade. He's honest. He's responsible. He is, as many people (from strangers to family) have told us, a little old soul.

And we are hard on him.

I like to think that's why he's as awesome and reliable as he is...but... who am I kidding? I question myself as a parent constantly. Don't we all want to credit ourselves when they are turning out good and throw our hands up in the air when they are...well...not so much?

We are hoping, I think, that this will send him a very loud message: we trust you.

I realize most kids these days have phones (and a million other devices and game consoles and whatever else exists out there that my husband and I continue to fight against). In fact, one of his classmates got the iPhone #493 when he was in second grade. But to us, in our home, this is a big deal. We spend hundreds on bikes, skateboards, trips, books, surfboards...but anything that has a screen? I believe we are a complete and total embarrassment to our children. And if we are not yet, we will be in a couple more years...

So, our Ben...I think he gets it.
I hope he gets it.

I remember when he was 2, it was all about the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Good Lord, how many times did we have to get our exhausted, sleep-deprived asses off the couch because he insisted we had to dance (and often, sing) the Hot Dog dance? He desperately wanted "a Mickey that dances Hot Dog" (and here, he would usually demonstrate the kicking motion he wanted his Mickey to do). We thought: Sure, how hard could it be to find a dancing Mickey? (Did I mention we were first time parents?). Only several hours and $84 dollars later, we found our first son's precious dancing must-have Mickey. He used it, like, 4 times.

Then there was the Go, Diego, Go! stage. Everything had to be Diego for this 3rd birthday: the outfit, the cake, the card, every single present. There were little animal figures and Diego's cousin Dora and Backpack and plastic little trees evvvvverrrrywhere. ("Swiper, no swiping!")

When we lived in our old "big house," we had a cavernous room devoid of furniture but lined with bins literally overflowing with toys. There was a Little Einstein's table ("Pat...! Pat...! Pat...! Blast offffff!") that was chronically covered with poorly closed containers of Play-Dough and dried out markers and scribbled, wrinkled drawings that we absolutely could not throw away, apparently, under any circumstances. The giant mess in that giant room drove me crazy.

Surely, the Universe is laughing at me now: the girl who started a blog because she was so overwhelmed and sometimes miserable raising these babies. Now, that girl is writing about getting that same little boy his first phone as if he were going away to college. WTF? You mean all those people were right?!? When she would complain about surely never being able to go to the bathroom alone again? When she would complain about feeling like the rest of her life would surely be spent sprawled on the floor pretending to be interested in the Mickey Mouse train that was laying down railroad track and singing "Chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-choooo-chooooooo!""? It really is all over before you know it? She really should have enjoyed it more? She really should have stressed less? Damn. Good one, Universe.

Today surely marks a big day for Ben. But probably even more so for me. As a mom, this is definitely one of those days when you can hear the flipping of the pages as one cliched chapter is closed and another is opened. I will have to remind myself to enjoy every question he asks about Instagram and ringtones and apps. I will have to remind myself that this time period, too, will pass and I will miss it and look back and think "Aw, he was so little...only 11 years old..."  I will probably chuckle and laugh at myself: "Ha! And I thought that was a big deal back then...?!?"

In the meantime, I think I'm going to dig around his little brother's toy bins and see if I can find some cool action figures and Hot Wheels cars to tempt Ben with...even if he just wants to take some pictures of them with his new phone.
One of the smaller messes- circa 2009

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bringing the Aloha home

I lived on the North Shore of Oahu for a month.

It was a little old house with peeling paint and musty-smelling cabinets, but it was clean and kinda charming and right on the sand. Every night, I fell asleep to the sounds of the ocean through the open windows.  Occasionally, if I got up in the middle of the night for a glass of water, I'd see it right outside the living room. Even in the dark, I could see the reflection of the waves slowly rolling over the shallow reef that sheltered the house's shore line.

The house sat on a quiet little street--Crozier Street--a one lane road with 15 mph speed limit signs and homes that ranged from 1940's shacks originally owned by the sugar mill workers to mini-mansions that had obviously been built in the last decade.  Plumeria trees were everywhere---their blossoms mostly white, but some perfect shades of  yellows, oranges, and pinks, like mini replicas of the sunsets behind the house. Every morning, right before dawn, a million birds would chirp and sing and make quite a fuss in the giant tree outside the bedroom.

I had a stand up paddle board--a big, ugly, blue one that sat in "my" backyard and weighed a ton and I took out almost every morning.  The house's name, Hale Honu, means Turtle House, and everyday dozens of sea turtles would swim along our shoreline. Sometimes the curious, less timid ones would turn towards my board, peeking their heads out for a breath, the noise reminding me of the sudden gaspy breaths my boys would make as babies when coming up for air during their dreaded swimming lessons. 

My boys...they played on the grassy lawn, on the sand: They built forts out of beach chairs, towels, clothespins and driftwood sticks. They dug deep holes in the sand "because it's just fun, Mommy." They chased crabs and green geckos and snorkeled with turtles and fish. They ran down the beach and found the sandiest shore entry and flipped over and over in neon blue and green inner tubes. I never worried about them.

When we went into town (Haleiwa), we ate surfer breakfast burritos with the locals. We spent 10 hours in a tattoo parlor with a pothead surfer with PTSD  who never failed to smile and had more character than most people we've met. 

We decided that poke is our new favorite food and who the hell would have thought that a SPAM sushi roll would be so good?!?

We never once saw local kids side by side, heads down, fiddling with their phones. Instead, they were always playing--surfing, jumping off cliffs and bridges into the ocean, using fast food trays for body surfing (yes, for real), skating, eating, laughing, shouting, "talking story." 

On the North Shore, the beautiful women are strong and athletic with messy hair and chapstick. Everyone is a bit weathered--by the sun, the salt water, the pounding waves. 

You could see it and feel it--the local Hawaiians--they are proud and possessive of their culture and their island. Their priorities are simple: ohana (family) and nature.

It is a simpler way of living. 
And we loved it.

I was shocked--and incredibly relieved--to realize about two-thirds of the way through the trip that I actually wanted to come back home.

After three previous visits to Hawaii, and dreaming about and planning this trip for almost a decade, I had been pretty sure I was going to be bitter about returning to Florida. I was sure I'd come home begrudgingly, fantasizing about when and how we'd be able to finally move to Hawaii.

But I'm not.

In fact, I feel that although I'm sure I'm not "done" with Hawaii, it is not where I want to live.
For now, anyways.

'Cause here's the thing, I think, that I have figured out:

During this trip, I realized that blaming or crediting where I live for my children's interests or our family's values is a cop out.
It falls on me.
It's up to me to bring home from this trip what I believe in.
It's up to me to raise my kids to value Ohana and Mother Nature and a slower, simpler existence. 
I already have the ocean, and the palm trees, and the flip-flop lifestyle.
I have to make the effort every day.

I can bring home what I love the most about Hawaii.

Our family...we can make our own culture (and hopefully, that poke dish, too). 

I spent a month living on the North Shore of Oahu, and I will never be the same.


Pictures can never do this beautiful place justice, but here are a few highlights of the magical month we spent in Hawaii:

"Our" little house on the beach

The view from the backyard when you looked west

My daily morning coffee....I have never been so good about getting up in the morning

The boys snorkeling in "our backyard" with the Honu

Calling this house "Turtle House" is not an exaggeration!

Poke: our new favorite food in the whole world

We were lucky enough to meet 3 Pearl Harbor survivors and one witness when we visited.

This vet showed us how he could still make his hula girl tattoo dance on his forearm.

One of my favorite hikes: 5 miles along the coast to Kaena Point.
And right along the midway point?
"Hidden Beach"...all to ourselves! Those three teeny figures? That's us!

This is a happy man right here...

Hawaiian beer...locally grown papaya and pineapple...and a fresh plumeria lei.
This is a happy girl...

The size of this waterfall could not be captured on film...totally worth the hike it took to get there!

We took a dip in many (freezing) waterfall pools...
With views and dips like this, it was easy to stay motivated on hikes...

For some reason, we ended up jumping a lot on this trip...
That's little Kai doing his cannonball in a waterfall pool along a hike on the Hana Highway.

We did the back road of the famous Hana is hard to capture the adventure in a picture.
As if we needed a sign to "caution" us to "drive slow."
Those are clouds. Along the road. The road that turns. The road that is lined with small rocks that supposedly prevent you from falling straight down the mountain. And the road...well, it's barely a road at all. It's more like dirt. With some asphalt thrown in in patches. I was sure if we didn't fall off the cliff, the rental car would fall apart from the vibrations. 
The vastness and solitude of the views were worth the white-knuckling drive.

Ziplining...the last line was over 1200 feet long and got speeds of up to 40+ mph!
(I was the only one who screamed on that one.)

More jumping: one of Hubby's notorious back flips off the famous Waimea Bay big rock...
waaaaay higher from up top then it looked from down there.

Ben's dive (that was perfect until right at the end...landed on his back, poor thing)

One of the many sunset-like plumerias that inspired my new ink.
My tattoo only took about 2 of the 10 hours spent here.
Hubby's Polynesian quarter sleeve took the other 8 (split into two different days).

SUPing by Rainbow Bridge (built in 1921) in Haleiwa

SUPing behind the house...I called it the Mommy Snorkeling Tour:
 one kid hanging on to the leash in the back while the other looked for turtles and
manta rays from the top.

We took a quick trip mid-month to Maui for a few days.
The one typical touristy thing we could not pass up: a luau.
Black Sand Beach on Maui

Sunsets in the backyard were almost always perfection.

One of my favorite things: watching the boys playing, digging,
building "forts" in the sand at sunset.

Hiking bamboo forests

Told ya...we jumped. A lot. of the historic Haleiwa bridge...
...and "the groin" in Waikiki with the local kids.

Haleakala in Maui...the highest (and ridiculously coldest) point. We watched the sunset OVER the clouds up there. Pictures can not do it justice.

My whole world...on top of the world