Thursday, August 27, 2015

On the Zipline

This past weekend, I was thinking about how smart my husband is. One of the bajillion things I love about him is that he challenges my thinking.  I've always loved our conversations.

I was thinking this -- then a few hours later, I learned that he had thought of giving me a shark cage experience for my birthday.  Maybe he wasn't so smart after all?  Jayna had talked him out of it, apparently saying almost verbatim the impassioned remarks I would have made if he had actually gone through with it.

But, he announced, while he wasn't going to make me get in a cage surrounded by sharks for "fun", this birthday was to be my "face my fears" birthday.  He arranged something for me Sunday afternoon, and I had no idea what it was except that I had to wear shorts (not my favorite) and running shoes and be ready at noon with Annalee tanked up.  And Jayna was going with me.

Turned out: ziplining at Kualoa Ranch.  It was not at all scary (ssshh, don't tell him!), but provided great views and a whole lot of fun.  Jayna and I had a blast.

The next day, my actual birthday, I woke up in the wee hours to the sound of thunder, flashes of lightning illuminating my bedroom... And the sound of my phone going crazy with an emergency alert for a flash flood warning.  Now, we haven't been California dry, but it has been a very hot summer with much less rain than I remember from our past two summers here.  I love a good storm, so it felt kind of like a birthday present, except that Matt had planned more fear-facing that was now cancelled.  So he got me a hot stone massage instead.  It was amazing.  I hadn't  had one before, but it might be my favorite, at least from the woman who did it.  (I can see how it might not be so if someone didn't know what he/ she was doing.)

We also grabbed lunch out and went to Bellows.  Since it wasn't great swimming conditions, we walked on the beach before heading home for dinner (Matt made his famous tacos) and cake.  It was a really lovely, kind of quiet day, good for reflection.

I feel like my last birthday kicked off my best year yet. The year before had been a very tough one, but my pregnancy with Annalee started soon after my birthday, so it's kind of like she is my gift from last year.  Knowing her and how much delight she has added to our family casts this golden sheen on everything.

But then, when I put on my Honesty Glasses, I think of all the things that happened that weren't so great.  There was uncertainty, loads of stress, stinging disappointment.  There was plenty of fear that I had to face and fight.  It's just the perfect hindsight, knowing that it turned out great so far, that makes it seem so amazing.

So what I've been thinking is, even without ziplines and shark cages, getting up every day means facing your fears.  And when it's something good at stake, it's even scarier.  

After going through a particularly hard time at the beginning of high school, my confidence evaporated.  By the time I started college, it was almost paralyzing for me to talk to people, to request anything, to hope for a friend.  I literally shook when I talked to people.

Similarly, every time I click "publish" on this blog, I'm facing a fear.  I have this strong desire to write and share with the world.  It might be hard to understand, but sometimes it feels just like there's this itch that will only be relieved if I sit down and write. My blog gives me a place to practice what I love.  But sharing it is completely terrifying at the same time as it's relieving... if that makes any sense at all.  Sometimes, again, I'm literally shaking.  Or I wake up in the middle of the night regretting what I wrote.  Or I just don't publish at all.  I'm scared of what my friends and readers will think.  I'm scared of doing poorly.  I'm scared that when you see the messy glimpses of Real Me, you'll realize how flawed I am.  

Every time I think about educating my kids, it's terrifying.  On the one hand, it feels like the most natural and obvious thing to do. On the other hand, I feel like there is so much at stake.  What if I fail them?

I could just stay wrapped in my fear.  But if I had stayed afraid those days in my teens and early twenties, I would have missed so much -- so many friendships and just plain self-respect.  If I don't blog, which seems like the easy answer, I'll miss those opportunities when one person says, "You really encouraged me," or "That was so funny!" or "I can totally relate!" or "I don't feel so alone now," and then I'm basically happy dancing.  As for homeschooling, I really do love being this integral part of their education, especially now that we've been doing it for a few years, and I can see how far we've come.

But my ziplining experience, I think, provides a perfect metaphor, even if it didn't terrify me.  I showed up, not knowing what I was in for.  Then I stepped off the platform, the sure thing, trusting harnesses and cables that someone else had to think up and hopefully do correctly.  I was flying through the air, the wind against my face -- and it felt great.  But best of all was the view, so completely amazing.  

Then it was over all too soon... and all I wanted was to do it again. 

And I found myself thinking, Maybe I could do the shark cage.

{What are some fears you're facing?}

Thursday, August 20, 2015

This and That

Well, it's come to that point where there are just a lot of little things to say, none quite worthy of an entire post but things I wanted to say.  So random bullet-point post it is!

-- Several people have asked about the pronunciation of Annalee.  Or just not pronounced it the way we want.  That's okay, we knew when we named her that this was a possibility, and the other top-contender name would have been pronounced wrong half the time too.  BUT, for the record, here is our official pronunciation.  Ready?  


Emphasis on the Anna part, and Anna as is in the old, pre-Frozen way.  Rhymes (mostly) with "family" and, sort of, Emily.  In fact, when I say it, that's what most people think they heard.  It might have helped if I'd spelled it Annalie... Who knows?  But since I already explained our spelling choice in her birth story... oh well.  We still might call her Annie for short, as I talked about -- Jayna and Skyler sometimes do.  But I like this best for now.

-- Annalee finally got her two-month well-baby check-up last week!  It had been delayed due to a long and rather ugly/ sweaty story involving my malfunctioning AC, and technicians showing up saying they couldn't fix it when I'd cancelled her original appointment... Grrrr... but she is doing great! She weighed 13.6 pounds.  I can't find the paper that said her height, nor can I remember it, but she is in the 92nd percentile for weight and 86th for height!

Coincidentally or not... I'm starved!! 

-- We started back to homeschool this week! I kind of just decided all of a sudden that I was going to do it and jumped in before I could talk myself out of it.  I had planned to start last week, but only half our books were here.  Sunday night/ Monday morning, they still weren't here, but I realized we had enough to at least get started.  So I did, and then our books showed up!  It was kind of a Field of Dreams thing: "If you build it, they will come." = "If you start school, the books will come."

-- Not gonna lie, it's been pretty tiring.  It's not that the homeschool part is that different, but I'm trying to be totally ready for my day when I start so I can just nurse Annalee as I do lessons.  She usually sleeps till about eight, but most of this week, she was up before seven.  So there went my lofty goals.

Also, I have this story from last year (when there were only four), that illustrates well, I think, what my days are like.  Skyler was at the piano, which always means my dog Milo started "singing."  Trust me, it isn't pretty.  People who have never heard it before think it's funny the first time.  The second time, they might tell him to be quiet.  By the third time, they are all but cursing him.

Anyway, so Skyler was at the piano, Milo was singing, and I was going brough the History lesson with Lilly, spelling "Egyptian" for her.  I don't remember what Wyatt was up to, which is probably good.  Jayna came up while I was doing this, and asked me a question to which I replied, "Okay!" and went back to Lilly.  I looked down and saw "Egypoktian" on her paper.

"Why did you spell it that way?" I asked. 

"You said E-G-Y-P-O-K-T-I-A-N." 

"No, I didn't!... Oh... Wait.  I did."

I know this means we should have a talking stick or something and be better about not interrupting, but as imperfect as the system is, it's working.  The other day, Lilly was mad at Jayna, and she wrote a note that said, "Jayna stop being mean!" And I had a super proud moment because everything on it was spelled right! (Yes, a comma was missing, but still... big, BIG win!)

--Last but not least, I want to ask a couple questions of you lovely readers.  I know only a tiny percent of you comment on the blog, more of you on FB, but hey, I will ask anyway.  
1) Do you follow the blog using a subscription to email or a blog reader such as Feedly or Bloglovin, or do you just click on it when it shows up in your Facebook feed?  (No judging, just trying to figure out what works and what doesn't!)
2) Are you scared off of commenting here on the blog by Disqus/ one more thing to log into?  I use it (though it hasn't worked perfectly lately) to try to prevent spam comments.  So similarly, do the words "Your comment will be published after approval" put you off of commenting?

I ask these things because I really do want this to be a user-friendly blog.  During my month-long break, I thought about my goals here and honestly, one of them is to talk with you about the things I'm writing, to have a conversation.  If there is anything you'd like to recommend, I would love to hear (read?) it.  If there's anything you particularly like, I'd be tickled if you shared it.

Anyway, that's it for now, but more is coming soon!  Take care, friends!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Kid-friendly Tour of Oahu

Hey again!  We've had one of our good friends from Washington here this past week, so there's been quite a bit of running around as compared to what I talked about in my last post.  But since it's been doing fun, touristy things, I'd have to call it only the good kind of running around!

When we have guests in town, we tend to not do the things everyone thinks of when talking about O'ahu.  We do NOT go to Waikiki -- in fact, I haven't been to the beach there in about eighteen months.  Sure, it's fine you want to fight for an inch of sand among the hoardes.  But there's so much to the island that you'll miss these gems if you just follow the crowd.  Here's where I would take you if you were my guest:

1. When heading to the North Shore from the leeward side, I recommend turning left instead of right (toward Haleiwa) and head west toward Kaena Point.  We don't usually go all the way out to the point (where you can hike to the west side of the island if you want), but we stop at the beach nearby.  It's not the best place for swimming because the waves are often very rough and cover slippery rocks.  But we like to go have picnic lunches there and spot turtles in the waves.  It's a popular spot for windsurfers and kitesurfing, so that's fun to watch too.  

Waialua is the much quieter neighbor of Haleiwa.  It lacks some of the picturesque appeal, but there are fun things to see, too, like the Old Sugar Mill, where you can get naturally flavored shave ice or see how coffee is produced.  The only thing is, if you are just a regular old shmuck like yours truly, customer service is... well, on aloha time.  It's taken me half an hour to get an order for four filled.  But when the tour buses pull in, they (not kidding) yell, "Tour bus! Tour bus!" and prove they can hustle.  I've told my kids that the next time we go, I will make a sign for Ye Olde Odyssey that says "TOUR BUS" and see how things change.  

2.  I would probably say go to Matsumoto's for shave ice (and by the way, that's what it is called here -- shave not shaved ice -- I don't know why), but hopefully you would have at least two days here because first I would say go to Island Snow in Kailua.

The difference is the line is shorter (or maybe just moves faster?) at Island Snow, and time is everything when you have little ones.  I also think the flavors are generally better. It's just a matter of personal preference, but still.  Island Snow wins in my book.  Plus, now they have two locations.

3.  Instead of hiking Diamond Head, I recommend Makapu'u.  We have done Diamond Head once to get our check in the box, but in my opinion, there are so many better points to Makapu'u -- free parking closer to the hike is one of them.  But also, Diamond Head is a lot of stairs on a narrow path with about a million people.  When we went, we got stuck behind some people who were moving at a snail's pace, and I think we would all say it was kind of torment.  

Makapu'u has a paved road to the top, wide enough for a truck to go on, which makes it ideal for the stroller crowd... or those who have kids that are too big for backpacks and should be able to hike.  We, um, "forgot" the stroller on our last trip, (okay, honestly there was no room because we had our boogie boards in the car) and as you can see, it went really well.

Also, it should be noted that we make our guests carry our forty-pound kids on their backs in the blazing hot sun.  No special treatment here.

The views from Diamond Head are good city views, but Makapu'u shows more of the natural Hawaiian beauty. (plus a wee bit o' construction)

Also, during the winter months, it's a great place to spot whales.  The incline isn't too dramatic so it's feasible for a wide variety of fitness levels, and the road is wide enough that you won't be stuck behind anyone if you want to move a little faster.

Did I mention the views?

4. Kualoa Beach is fantastic for families with younger kids. If you drive to the end of the parking lot, then walk straight out, there is a nice quiet beach.  Well, I say "quiet" because I only go on weekdays. On the weekends, everyone and their best friend, brah, auntie, and cousin are there!  And understandably so!  It's one of those great-for-everyone beaches. (Just ask the creeper pictured here behind me near the rocks who wouldn't stop talking to us.)

(That he was wearing a Speedo was really the icing on the ick cake.  Sorry, but I'm biased like that.)   
Anyway!  There is a low sea wall maybe thirty feet from the beach, and the water is fairly shallow all the way out to it.

So there's perfect swimming area for all those who aren't strong swimmers.  Beyond the sea wall, those who are comfortable can snorkel (or swim out to Chinaman's Hat!).  And the views are amazing!  Every time I go there, I end up staying longer than I'd planned to.  

5. The lagoons at Ko'Olina.

There are four manmade lagoons at Ko'Olina.  Three of them are part of resorts, but you're allowed to use the lagoon.  But there is one by itself, and that's where I go. The only thing is, you have to get there early!  Weekdays are better.  Otherwise you spend a ton for parking, and it's crowded.  A friend and I went yesterday and got there about 9.  We were by no means the first ones there!  There were just a few parking spots left! The water is calm for kiddos and snorkellers, and there are showers for de-sanding and a public bathroom that is actually not disgusting, which is a critical factor when we're tallking kid-friendliness.  (The toilets even have seat covers! *high five*).

In a word, idyllic.

6.  Last but so very definitely not least, Bellows.

 In fact, if there was one place I would say you have to have to HAVE TO go, it would be Bellows.  It's the first beach I took Annalee to, six days after she was born.

The views are fantastic, and the waves are just perfect for boogie boarding, but you can also snorkel, SUP, or kayak if those activities tickle your fancy.  Also, two super important words: hot showers.  This doesn't always matter a whole lot to me, but when you're trying to de-sand your kids, they are generally much more willing to do so when the water isn't cold.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything wonderful on O'ahu.  It would take a long time to write everything good, and there are many books that do it better.  But those books don't necessarily talk about the kid-friendly factor, so hopefully I've done that here. At least a little?

Question for you: if you live here or have been here, what are your favorite spots?  And, more important in my book... How kid-friendly are they??? ;-)