Saturday, September 23, 2006

Aloha! We're home!

What an amazing, wonderful, relaxing, romantic vacation!

I was just sick about having to leave my girls. I forced some cheerfulness when we dropped them off and they didn't seem at all sad to see us go. But once I got in the car, I cried. : ( I really didn't feel better until after we got in Hawaii.

We arrived in Honolulu late at night and by the time we got our luggage, our rental car, drove to the North Shore and checked in it was after 1am Hawaii time. Which was 4am PST. So we were pretty tired but that didn't stop us from ordering room service. We were starving!

The weather was so warm and comfortable that we slept with our lenai door open every night so we could feel the breeze and hear the ocean. Waking up that first morning was amazing. I literally could open my eyes and not move an inch and see the ocean right from our bed. What a gorgeous way to wake up every day!!

Of course the first thing I did was call my babies! They were doing great and having a blast with Auntie and Grandma Beth, having lunch at the mall. Since they were at the mall and on a cell phone, it was hard to hear them so I promised I'd call later in the afternoon. Erick and I got dressed and went down stairs for breakfast. We were staying at the Turtle Bay Resort which is somewhat secluded so we really didn't plan to leave the resort too much for the first two days. Most of our meals were at the hotel. We had breakfast every morning at Palm Terrace where they had the most AMAZING buffet! Smoked fishes, island fruits, an omelette bar....I mean how often can you say you ate smoked marlin and dragon fruit for breakfast with a glass of guava juice? I had the Turtle Bay Omelette which was made with brie cheese, spinach and crab meat. Everything was just so yummy!

After breakfast we walked around the resort to check things out. It was so beautiful. There were just enough people so that we didn't feel like we were in an abandoned hotel but it wasn't at all overcrowded. The perfect balance. After walking around and doing a little shopping in the resort gift shops, we decided to try some snorkeling. You have to know that I am SCARED of the ocean! I'm scared of the creatures that lurk below the surface, I'm scared of the unexpected temperment of the waves, I'm scared of the unknowns like riptides and strong currents, I'm scared I'll get a foot cramp and drown (my dance days have left me with some pretty wicked feet cramps). I hate not being able to put my feet on the bottom or at least hold on to the side of something. I'm a good swimmer but I just feel like the ocean is too freaking unpredictable. So anyway, I know snorkeling was something Erick really wanted to try and watching everyone else do it seemed kind of fun. Plus the resort had a nice enclosed bay with safety boundaries up so it seemed like the best place for a beginner, if any. Unfortunately, the conditions were poor. Really windy so the water was too choppy and murky to really see near the surface. I would've had to dive down 7 or 8 feet and that was NOT happening! But I did go in the ocean and Erick and I had a lot of fun together, even if the most interesting thing I saw was a giant boulder and he saw one clown fish and some sea urchins. I was half being a nervous freak (I swear I almost fell in a secret, hidden volcano under water. I swear it!) and half laughing and having a blast just because I knew I was being ridiculous but it was fun to let Erick take care of me and teach me how to snorkel. So for me, that was a trip highlight. Once I gave up on snorkeling, I went to lie on the beach and Erick did a little more snorkeling. That was actually the only time we went in the water the whole trip. The surf conditions were poor the whole weekend. That was the one and only disappointing aspect of the trip - being right there at the most famous surf spots in the world like Waimea Bay and Pipeline and not getting to see the infamous 30 foot waves. I think we'd need to come back in the winter for that unfortunately. But still, even a bad surf day in Hawaii is still a gorgeous day on the water.

After the snorkeling, we went to the poolside bar (Hang Ten) for lunch. This is when we fell into full-blown island relaxation mode. I think we could've fallen asleep right there at the table. After lunch we made one more call to the girls. The funniest part of that call was listening to McKenna yell "Gavin! Move! You're standing on my shadow!" LOL! Like she couldn't move until he was off of her shadow! We went back to our room and Erick fell asleep so I took my book out on the lenai and read and then went downstairs to the gift shops for a bit. Once he woke up, we got ready for dinner. We decided we weren't hungry just yet so we drove to Waimea Bay to watch the sunset. Turns out, we could've watched it right from our balcony but we wanted to see Waimea Bay so it was still beautiful. Then we headed to Lei Lei's, the bar & grill just off of the golf course at the resort. It was so wonderful to have a romantic dinner where we could talk and laugh and have a drink. I very rarely ever have a drink if my children are awake because I don't ever want to risk being inattentive to their safety. So I always wait until after they're in bed. But by that time I'm too tired to want a glass of wine or anything else. So it was just nice to be able to have a drink at dinner and not worry. I had one drink and then after we ate I thought "Let's order a dessert coffee drink." Ew. Hard liquor is NOT my friend. I drank about 1/3 of it and it made me feel way too tipsy. I don't have the drinking stamina that I used to (not that I'm sad about that! Blech! Wine yay. Liquor boo!) So when we were walking back from the restaurant to the hotel Erick kept snapping "drunk Shannon pictures." What a butt he is, right?! But we were laughing hysterically and it was those silly moments that I loved best about the trip.

For day #2 we debated if we wanted to go horseback riding or take advantage of the spa treatments that the resort had available. We decided that our time on the island was so short that we didn't want to waste time doing things that we could easily do in California. When we first made plans for the trip, we thought that Turtle Bay was SO secluded that it would be a hassle to leave the resort at all. But Oahu is not that large of an island and there was a lot within a short driving distance that we wanted to see. So we nixed some of the resort activities in favor of actually seeing the island. After breakfast we took a short drive around the north west part of the island. Then we headed to Haleiwa aka "The REAL Surf City, U.S.A.". It's a historic plantation town and it was a strange vibe there. People were nice enough but you also got the sense that they were VERY protective of their way of life and were very weary of visitors. Petitions on merchant counter tops showed that they were currently fighting against the Turtle Bay Resort who wanted to take over more land for an expansion project. In California, it'd be a done deal. We're all about the commerce here. But these people like their small business in their plantation style stores. It was interesting because on the one hand, you know that Hawaii relies on it's tourism dollars. But on the other hand, would they actually lose visitors by not expanding an already huge resort? Anyway, politics aside, we did a little shopping there. We bought cute island dresses for each of the girls and some specialty blend coffees from their independent coffee shop. They had an adorable children's store called The Growing Keiki and we spent a lot of time shopping in there. They had the absolute cutest items! Books and stuffed animals and clothes and baby gear. Just all too cute for words!

Headed to Waimea Valley Audobon Center and called the girls. McKenna yelled at the other kids "Everyone stop shouting! McKenna is on the phone!" She just cracked me up everytime we talked to her. I thought it might make me sad to talk to her but because she seemed to be so happy and was having such a good time, I usually hung up feeling happy. I couldn't wait to get back to my girls but knowing that they were doing so well made it easier to just enjoy the time with my husband. Anyway, we had planned to take the hike to see the Waimea Falls but they wanted to charge $8. Please. $8 and I have to walk? No way. If I'm paying you $8 you're driving my butt up there in a tram, thank you very much. So that was a no.

As we were driving back to the resort we decided we didn't really want to eat lunch there so we drove past it and hoped we'd find something sort of authentic and unique to Hawaii. We found Romy's. You could fish for fresh water prawns if you wanted to. We chose not to but we did order lunch. We shared a pound of shrimp. With their heads still on. Yeah, can you believe that? I ripped off shrimp heads. AAAH! But I was in Hawaii and feeling adventerous. If I could go in the ocean, I could rip off shrimp heads. After you get over the idea of what you're doing, they were (of course) delicious. And it actually turned out to be a really fun experience that I would not miss if given the opportunity to do again!

On the drive back we stopped at a little stand on the side of the road and bought some fresh coconut slices. Erick also bought a real coconut and they hammer a hole in it and give you a straw so that you can drink the milk. He loved it. I did not. But the fresh coconut slices were YUMMY! We took our coconut treats and went back to the resort where we sat overlooking the ocean and talking. We decided to explore the other side of the resort which we hadn't walked to yet. It was really rocky but Erick had fun chasing the crabs and looking for fish in the tide pools. Then we headed back to the room to get dressed for dinner.

Even though our dinner at Lei Lei's the night before was so good, we thought "We can't eat at the same place twice." So we went to the Bay Club. We were seated, the waitress brought us our menus and some water. We looked at the menu and thought "This is cheap." They had like pizza and chicken tenders and that was it. So we put a dollar on the table to thank her for her assistance and snuck away as quickly as we could and headed to Lei Lei's where we had the BEST MEAL of our entire lives!! For an appetizer we had ahi poke. Now if you know me, you will be shocked because it was a RAW FISH covered in a CHILI SAUCE topped with RAW ONION and we dipped it in a heavy WASABI sauce! SPICY!! Me! Raw fish with spicy and onions?!?!?! And you know what, it was so freaking good that I'm craving it even right now. For our entrees, Erick had a 28 oz. prime rib and I had a grilled ahi Steak in ginger soy butter. Honestly, I think the ENTIRE conversation through that dinner revolved in some way over how good the food was. Erick even took a picture of his steak and sent it from his cell phone to his buddy's cell phone. LOL!! It was the greatest meal ever and that includes the time that we ate at the oldest seafood restaurant in Dublin, Ireland for a whopping $100. This was better than that! I kid you not, I gained 3 pounds on this trip. But don't worry, I've already lost 2 of them. ; ) But when you look at the pics, you can see a little extra pudge on day three. LOL!

The next morning after breakfast we checked out and headed to the Dole Pineapple Plantation. We hadn't planned to go there but I thought a fresh pineapple would make a great gift for Erick's Mom who is a big fan of fresh fruit. Turns out it would've made for one very expensive pineapple. We would've had to buy 2 and then either leave early to have them inspected or ship them for $35 to California. No. But we did enjoy shopping for a few other people on our list. And Erick picked up some real sugar cane for himself and I found the most heavenly mango peach tea. I will definitely be ordering more of this online soon!

Then we headed to Pearl Harbor. This would be one of the experiences that I feel like I have so much to say that I can almost say nothing about it. It was heartbreaking, interesting, moving, educational, frightening. Mostly I think it was shocking. Pearl Harbor was one of the few things I was really intrigued about during history class in school. I was just absorbed in the film Tora! Tora! Tora! The politics and war tactics are so fascinating to me. But when we got to the harbor I felt stunned at how small it was. I couldn't fathom a battle of that magnitude happening in that very spot. I just couldn't believe it. I read the list of American lives lost and I was shocked to see civilians listed. Ages 3 months, age 2, age 4. Babies. I know that is the horrible reality of war. But not for Americans. That's not our reality most of the time. I know that because I lived during Sept. 11, 2001 I felt connected to those who lived during December 7, 1941. For those who haven't been to the USS Arizona Memorial, here is an aerial photo so that you can grasp just how visible the ship still is. When you first arrive, you are given a ticket for the theater. While you wait for your turn, you can tour the museum of artifacts. One of the interesting things I read is that they still send a dive team down every 2 weeks. The team picks up any items that have been dropped by visitors in memoriam and they also investigate and search for more debris or artifacts. You can walk outside and there is a half circle of engraved tablets with all of the names of the Americans lost during the attack. You can look out over the harbor and that was when it struck me how tiny of an area this huge and massive attack took place in. Then you are allowed into the theater. They give an introduction and rules and one of the things that I think stood out the most is the fact that still to this day, approximately 2 quarts of oil seeps from the ships cracks every day. Some people refer to it as the ship's "black tears" that will not stop until the last remaining survivor is reunited with their lost loved one. That was both chilling and sobering - hearing about the survivors reminds you that this did not happen all that long ago.

You're then shown a movie so that you can understand the political backdrop to the battle, a poignant tale of the battle and ending with the importance of how our remembrance honors the lives lost. After the movie (which had me so choked up that I almost didn't want to get on the boat) we took a ferry to the memorial and we were allowed about 15 minutes there. It was quiet and almost tranquil. It was a beautiful tribute. We were allowed to photograph as much as we wanted as long as we were respectful and quiet. So we did take lots of pictures. Before we left, we stopped in the gift shop for a couple of memorabilia items that Erick wanted for himself and a replica of the newspaper for his Dad. I called the girls and Mel and I could both tell that McKenna was starting to get homesick. The length of that trip was just long enough.

After Pearl Harbor we drove to Waikiki and decided to finish up our souvenir shopping at the Ala Moana Shopping Center. It was a four story semi-outdoor mall. We found just about everything left on our list plus we bought ourselves some Notre Dame caps and I stopped at Williams Sonoma for some seasonal baking items that I love (yeah, I could've waited until we got home but patience has never been one of my strongest virtues). The one thing I had yet to find (believe it or not) was a starfish for McKenna. I had promised I'd find her a star fish figuring I could buy one somewhere. It was Hawaii after all! But no. I could not find one anywhere. I searched at least 20 stores. N'er a starfish was to be found on the island. But I was not going to give up until they forced me on the airplane. We did take a break and had lunch at Jackie's Kitchen which is owned by Jackie Chan. That was pretty cool because Erick and I both like Jackie. Ok, he LOVES Jackie and I find Jackie entertaining and talented but I'm not a fanatic like Erick and his best friend Paul are. Still though, it was a fun place. They showed Jackie movies on the big screen and all the staff were really awesome. The food was excellent too. This was when we realized that we probably spent as much on tipping in Hawaii as we did on souvenirs. The customer service on Oahu can not be beat!

We still had a few hours before our flight so we drove to Waikiki Beach. We walked along the shoreline during sunset, stopped for a few pictures and then crossed the street where I dragged Erick into every single gift shop to find a star fish. And wonder of wonders, we found one! A little jeweled phone clip star fish. LOL! Whatever! It worked! I bought it and we headed back to the airport.

I could not wait to get home to my babies. We departed at 10:30pm Hawaiian time but because of the time difference we were in L.A. at 7am PST. So for us, it felt like 4am. We barely slept on the plane. We had upgraded to the economy plus seats so we'd have more room but I think we were both too excited about seeing the girls. I woke up constantly just to look out the window, hoping I'd see the sun rising so that I'd know we were almost home. I was elated when I saw that tiny glow off in the distance.

My Dad (God bless him!) drove us to the airport so he picked us up as well. Pretty generous considering how early he had to get up just to pick us up (thanks again Dad!) He dropped us off at home, we grabbed our car and took off for Corona to pick up the girls from my sister's. When McKenna saw us, she froze...smiled...and took off running and hid her face. Erick scooped her up and her little face crumbled. She was desperately trying not to cry. She was just suddenly so overwhelmed by it all, missing us and life in a home that isn't hers and finally being reunited with us. Kyla just had a gigantic grin from ear to ear. So we hugged everyone (my sweet nephews seemed to miss us just as much! Awww!) and we handed out some souvenirs and then headed out. I have no idea how my sister handled all 4 kids, all 3 years old and younger for that long. Of course she had her husband there and my Mom came to help out for a bit too. But my sister was the one who was with them non-stop. When we picked the girls up, they were bathed and had their hair all done pretty. Everything was packed. All the laundry from the week was done AND folded. She's organized everything which was amazing because we sent a LOT of things over to her place. There is no way I could or would ever have left my babies for 4 days if I couldn't have left them with Mel and Brian. I'm not at all surprised that they were so well cared for but I am surprised at the amazing attitude that my sister had about it all. McKenna and Luke are both going through a "mine" stage so there is a lot of bickering and yelling. Kyla and Gavin are both going through a mischievous "I can climb everything, nothing scares me" stage. So she seriously had her hands full. And while she wouldn't dare deny that it was exhuasting, she has not made me feel a single bit like we put her out or that we owe her big for what she did. In fact, the night we picked them up, she emailed that she missed the girls. : ) So thank you Mel and Brian for that. If not for your loving care of our children, we not only wouldn't have been able to relax, I doubt we would've gone at all! And thank you Mom for taking time off work to go and help out. What a great family I have!

Anyway, I apologize for the length. I wasn't really expecting anyone to read all this but I did want to journal it for Erick and I so that we could always remember our trip. Thank you sweetheart for your loving and romantic gesture of planning this trip for us. I had the time of my life with you, as I do every day that we are together. But I'm so grateful that you loved me enough to want to do something special like this for me, for us. I love you and I'm reminded every day how lucky I am to be married to you.

If you'd like to see pics, click here! You'll notice that some of the photo quality is crummy. That's because some of the pictures were taken with a disposable digital camera. We weren't about to hand our D-Rebel over to strangers, heck no! And if you did read this whole Thanks! I hope I didn't bore you! = D


Mom said...

LOL I read the whole thing! It was a fabulous read. I am so glad that you had such an awesome and relaxing time. I know how much you were loved and missed by the girls and all of us! I am glad your home safe and sound! Thank you for the gifts, the Pineapple snow coated macadamia nuts are yuuummmy! The Lei looks very nice from my rear view mirror 8) and I can't wait to try the coffee! Welcome home sweetheart!

Kim said...

So glad you had a great time, and were able to relax knowing that the girls were in capable, loving hands.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip! So glad you had a wonderful time!

Julie Jewels said...

I read the whole thing too! Of course I did-I've been waiting to hear how your trip was and mostly how sweet your homecoming to the girls was! :)
I'm so glad you had such a great time!
And what an awesome family you have! Sounds like Mel might need a GNO, huh?
Now I'm off to see your pictures!

Rose Brown said...

Of course I read the whole thing - had to know how the vacation went! So proud of you for snorkling - it can be scary, it gave me panic attacks when I was preg! Hate that you missed the falls - it was always my dream to get married there, very pretty! (worth the $8 crazy girl!! LOL!). Totally relate to the Pearl Harbor thing - the elem. school I went to still had holes in the buildings from the attack! If you watch the movie Pearl Harbor (a little cheezy, but still- the attack scene is just amazing and shocking)it will just break your heart now that you've seen all that in person. I wept like a baby in the theatre! Ok, my comment are gonna go on forever! LOL! Sounds like a really relaxing trip overall - so glad you all had fun and glad you're "home"!

Lauren said...

What a fabulous vacation! When we were on our honeymoon (in Mexico) I discovered I was terrified of snorkeling. I didn't think I'd have a problem with it, but it was so scary taking breaths under water. I was sure I'd choke. I didn't stay down as long as my husband did.
I'm glad y'all were able to get away and relax. In the pictures, it looks like you both were very relaxed and happy.

Delighted Mom said...

Lol about the snorkeling. I freaked out when we tried it on our honeymoon and we have laughed about it ever since. I swear the fish were all attacking me.
I am so glad for you that you could have such an awesome get away.

Dawn said...

I loved your recap of your vacation! I'm so glad you had such a great time, you deserve it! What a blessing your sister is...I ought to know...I had one just like her!
Love you! Aunt Dawn

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a positively heavenly vacation....and now you have this fabulous recount of it all so you never forget it all. So glad you both had a blast!Welcome home! Shanah

Elaine said...

I read the ENTIRE thing (living vicariously you see..) It sounds like you had a fabulous time!!! And awwww. I got all choked up when you told me that McKenna was trying hard not to break into tears because she missed you so much.

And go Mel for being the all star sister/babysitter of all time!!! How incredibly awesome of her.

Gina said...

Aloha! LOL The new avatar is pretty - it just made me laugh with the Blog title because it feels very Hawaiian around here suddenly!

Glad you had fun - you kept pretty busy. The pictures turned out great too!

Helen said...

Shannon what A lovely story, I enjoyed every bit and I agree with your Mom, a fabulous read. Glad you had such a great time, you both deserved it :)

Maegan said...

Whew! I made it. (I did have to break it up into two sessions). I am glad you had a good time. I just got back from the big island this morning. I enjoyed your slideshow and am so jealous of all the cute couple pictures you got. Zoƫ isn't exactly old enough to take our pictures yet. OK, I take that back. She thinks she is, but shoots at our feet. :)