Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Since Hawaii.....

Since Hawaii, life has been incredibly typical. I finally pulled myself together enough to make a giant list of projects that I've been knocking out and the kids have found their own amusements....

Blondie, knowing that she'll be in 5th grade this year, and knowing that my students last year went knitting crazy, and knowing that where there's a will, there is a way..... picked up a loom that a friend gave me, and started knitting a scarf with one hand.

Big Al..... yes... she's 15...... so that is the internet up on the laptop, with her cell phone in her left hand fielding phone texts, and her ipod in her right hand checking out twitter.  I think it's time she headed for the lakehouse to unplug for awhile. She has also been working very hard on her tumbling this summer, and in addition to cheer practice, took on a tumbling clinic on her week "off." Driving is also taking center stage.

My list included things like "Hubby needs to finish the hardwood floors upstairs" (which he is patiently doing one closet at a time), which then added to my list the item of "clean out every single closet upstairs and purge until there are only useful items left." I've made several runs to the thrift store to drop off, and plan more trips in the future.  Another item on my list was, "clean off the sewing table and prioritize your projects."  SO, I finished the above set of dishcloths for someone whose last name starts with Y now..... that will be sent off tomorrow, and then made a couple more for myself because I like them.

And then in cleaning up I found my stash of patches for our blue jean travel blanket (I sewed on diligently), which then led to the extra blue jean squares. When you have 100 6x6 blue jean squares you have to make another blanket for someone else for Christmas (can't say who, but I also sewed on that person's patches), and I have almost enough for someone else's jean blanket.  I also found a project I started last year for someone else and got that back to them, and started my niece and Big Al on their own quilts. Those seem to have stalled though, so I'm sure I'm supposed to finish those too. 

So, in general, it's a giant sewing, movie watching, Olympic watching, clean up on commercials kind of couple weeks. But honestly when it is so unbelievably hot outside what else can you do.  Hopefully we get out to the lake before school starts and I'm planning on a kayak trip at some point too.  Busy, but unexciting.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Surfing and Happy Tears

(*note: This was posted on facebook too, so part of this you may have already read)
All night I've been thinking about yesterday, not just the amazing turtles, but the Aloha spirit that permeates many of the locals here.Knowing we were coming to Hawaii, and having Blondie ask if she could take a surf lesson like her sisters, I found a group that claimed to do this with special needs kids. We emailed back and forth and in February they quoted me a price (I would have gladly paid) and said they would get back with me with the name of someone who would be available during the time we were here. This group gathers folks for a free day on the first Saturday of the month, but we just weren't going to be here on those dates. About a month ago another hemi family had a problem with enrolling their daughter into a cooking camp, and this made me remember to email again about Blondie's lesson, but I didn't get a response. So when we arrived I called and left a message. Then I emailed. After repeated attempts I pretty much gave up, which seemed to be okay with Blondie because she had been knocked down on the North Shore, and felt the power of the waves and the current, and was now a bit hesitant.

Yesterday though, while trying to squeeze every experience into the remaining days left, we stopped by a random place to see if they could take the older two girls. The guy, "Uncle Bryan" (Uncle and Auntie are terms of endearment and respect an older generation of loved ones or mentors) mentioned something about wounded warriors, and my ears picked up. What's that you say? Let me tell you about my pint-sized wounded warrior. He became very indignant as I mentioned that we couldn't get in touch with the other group, and were going to pay for her lesson. "No, NO. She's free. Come and sit."  We went into a "soccer mom" type tent with a carpet on the sand where he spends a lot of his day running his business. "I was making this lei for my girl friend, but I'm giving it to your daughter."  Come to find out, Uncle Bryan has coached some great surfers and was all over the pro circuit for awhile. He told us he had worked with Make A Wish, and the Wounded Warrior Project, and another group that escapes me at the moment. He spoke of one surfer who became paralyzed, and how he helped him figure out a way to enjoy surfing again. On the way out he gave Blondie his surf instructor hat.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning when we hurried out the door early to make the 45 minute drive to North Shore. The girls were set up with coaches and boards, and actually were surfing around the point from the turtles the previous day. First they all listened to directions on how to get up in the water, and then they practiced for a few times.

Cheesie working on her stance.

Then they all got out there and Zane Surratt rode with Blondie.  He started her out by lying on the board and riding it in. After a couple of those he had her arching up with her one hand, then she started moving to her knees.  When she felt up to it he somehow helped her to her feet by holding her waist, which really impressed us because she isn't able to really help too much in that department. Zane was lifting her up and balancing the board. Blondie was able to get up 3 times and was SO PROUD OF HERSELF. Brian and I were yelling from the shore.  I have to share, that a lot of families like ours were thrilled to get the first pictures on facebook and I highly recommend this group if you have someone with special needs. 

To be fair, it wasn't just Blondie that we were delighted with, our other girls did well too.

Big Al caught on quickly and thoroughly enjoyed herself.  On one of her runs she cut her toe open, but she kept going and stuck it out.

 Cheesie was a bit tentative, and I worried about her giving up after getting caught in a couple of waves, but there was always a coach paddling out to her.  She was proud of herself, and I bet she'll do this again.

T-Rex made it up too - FABULOUS. I was so glad that all 4 of the girls found success.

Here they all are waiting for their turn on a wave.

 Hey Mom, look at me!

When we were finished we made sure to go find Uncle Bryan and thank him for the opportunity. I don't know that many people without a special needs family member can really understand how deeply thrilling it is to find someone who simply accepts our child as simply another kid who wants to surf. There are so many hemi families who are touched by what Uncle Bryan did for our family, and making it work when another group just couldn't or wouldn't. Our kids want to participate in things with their friends and family members without feeling judged, or different, and the happy tears in my eyes (and others who saw these pictures today) are from the sheer joy of seeing ALL of my kids succeed. 

P.S. I'll try to update the rasmussen's blog eventually but give me until the weekend, or early next week because I'm sure we're going to be pooped.

Swimming with Sea Turtles, and the Hula Dancer

On this trip, we've come together as a giant family, and are staying in several houses on the same compound. During the day some of us will head in one direction and others will join, or head in a different direction. In the evenings we come back together for dinner, or at least the evening before going to bed, and compare notes, and then plan the next day's activities. Brian's brother Barry, and his sister Lori both came back on Sunday night raving about Laniakea Beach and the Sea Turtles, so Brian and I planned that trip for Monday. So, after waking up early, packing a picnic and all of the sandy gear into the car, we headed for the North Shore and Laniakea Beach

There were turtles everywhere.  The two above (Claudette on top, and Iron Man - misnamed because she's female) were hanging out on the sand.  They had ropes around these two to remind folks to keep their distance. You can see Claudette lying on an algae covered rock reef.  This is what a lot of them come up to eat, or if you're Iron Man, you're just basking in the sun.  There were turtle ladies there to remind everyone to keep their distance (6 feet even if they swim up behind you), that they do bite sometimes if you aren't paying attention, and to remind you that they are wild animals, and deserve to swim in their own ecosystem without people touching them, or trying to ride them.

Brian caught pictures of these in the surf.  As  you walked the beach you saw them just a few feet offshore hanging out in the crashing waves. DOZENS OF THEM.  We couldn't really swim here where the lifeguard was located because of the reef and the strong currents (and the larger waves), but you could snorkel among the boulders in the bay. Thank goodness I have an underwater camera.

Brian took T-Rex, and later I went with Big Al, Cheesie and Lori and Leigh Ann, over to the boulders. You could simply sit in the water with the snorkel and watch these smaller guys dive for food and hang out in the waves.  Blondie did go over to them, but watched from above the water.  She was knocked down by a wave on the North Shore, and wasn't too keen to go back in the water to snorkel.

At one point the lifeguard goes running out of the tower (with equipment just in case) and heads over to this man, shakes his hand and sits and chats with him. They finish talking and again, the VERY RESPECTFUL handshake. As he walks by I ask the lifeguard who he was (much to Big Al's embarrassment), and it turns out this is the director of the triple crown of surfing, out enjoying the day.

At some point in the day we decided to stay and watch the sunset (on Brian's list of things to do) but his mom sent us a text saying the hula dancer (I'll get that post up soon) from Jerry Santos is coming to dinner and wants to teach the kids how to make leis. I left it up to Brian, but he just looked at the girls and said, "Grab your stuff, let's go!" Did I mention that I just adore that guy? So we drove the 45 minutes home, and the girls quickly settled in with Nohono and the flowers.

Cheesie trying to string the flowers without splitting them

Nohono helping Blondie, and cousin "D"

T-Rex and D with all of the plumeria he brought.

Big Al with her finished Lei

Blondie and Nohono adding croatan leaves to a lei.

SHAKA with Rachel and Nohono.  Rachel found flowers left over from the wedding and made a lei from those as well. Nohono has a super Aloha spirit. He's so mellow and laid back. At one point he was mentioning how he had left his laundry outside to dry (crazy expensive electricity here) and it had rained a little bit as he took a nap. He said he just shrugged and thank the heavens for the blessing on his clothes. 

Then our guest brought snacks to share, some sort of spice he added to pineapples, and a mochi crunch you add to buttered popcorn (the latter being my preference).

Brian fired up the grill and made amazing hamburgers,

while the kids (and Nohono's son and neighbor) swam in the pool. Here's Alex with our now favorite, Shaka!

Everyone who made leis.  I am so loving the spirit of the locals we have met here. I'm working on a blog post about the surfing for Tuesday, and how it came to be, so stay tuned.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Makapu'u Lighthouse and Dog the Bounty Hunter

     Makapu'u Lighthouse is found on the southeast side of the island. It was on our list of hikes to try, so off we went. I was very surprised by the dry, desert-like landscape especially compared to how rich and green much of the rest of the island is.


We started the "hike from the parking lot. The whole route is paved, so it isn't really hiking, but the views were spectacular.  


On the front side of the Makapu'u trail you could see the Koko head crater. There is an odd Hawaiian tale behind this crater, but it was a beautiful site.  Yesterday, Lori and Leigh Ann hiked up the back side of the crater (1,050ish) steps straight up the back side. 

Amazing views, and LOTS of cactus.  We also saw a mongoose or two (mongeese?) crossing the path from time to time. The girls mentioned today that is was weird to see them, and not the squirrels we're used to in SC.

Periodically we'd stop and take a break and enjoy the view.  In the winter months this trail is the prime location for viewing humpback whales (as well as others).  We also noticed a lot of locals leaving the trail and heading down the backside of the mountain to the rocky beaches below.  They looked rough to me, but many people seemed to be up for it. 


We finally reached the part of the trail where you could easily view the lighthouse, and then continued up to the top.

At the top we could see the Sea Live attraction, as well as a lot of folks who were paragliding, and hang gliding.  We walked back down the mountain, and continued driving around to the blowhole, and "toilet bowl" lookout points. 

The blowhole is a hole in the rocks where spray and ocean waves shoot up into the air.  We also saw a large green sea turtle out in this area as well.

This area is known as the "toilet bowl" because of the shape. I've read that it is actually a dangerous place to swim due to tides, and surf, but it didn't stop a lot of people from heading down there.  We stood at a lookout point watching folks get tossed onto the rocks though, so I don't think it is a place I would take my kids.

It was well past lunch at this point, so we continued on to a road that had a lot of places to eat (thank you Garmin).  Right next door to our restaurant was:

Yep. That's right. A store devoted to all things "Dog the Bounty Hunter."  Cheesie was thrilled because it is currently one of her favorite shows.  She went in and wandered around, finally selecting a t-shirt (black, not pink, because Beth would wear the pink one, not dog). The cashier chatted with us for a few minutes, told us that Dog was currently in Colorado (I hear on an "extended" visit), but gave us directions to his house which was very close by.

So we indulged Cheesie's adoration of this man who makes people follow rules, and essentially became one of those drive by tourists.  (Uh, Dog, you left the gate open to your house). As we drove by, Cheesie jumped out for a quick picture at his gate. This was on her list of things she really wanted to do in Oahu, so we finished up for her with.....

driving by his place of business. This storefront was essentially deserted, not sure if it's because he's out of town, or maybe because it's Sunday, but Cheesie was happy regardless.
We finished out the day by returning to the house, swimming in the pool, and hanging out with family.  Lori and Leigh Ann took the older kids (Megan, Big Al, and T-Rex) out to the shell in Waikiki to listen to Jason Mraz play a concert. They didn't go into the concert, but sat out in the park and listened from a distance.  Only a few days left of this wonderful vacation. 

Lanikai and Jerry Santos


Saturday (June 30) found us feeling rather lazy. We just wanted to spend time on the beach and relax, so we headed over to nearby Lanikai. Lanikai is a gorgeous place to live, and between houses there are access points to the beach.  

The girls and I stayed a fairly safe distance to the shore, but it is an easy place to swim. We didn't see any turtles this time, but Brian did snorkel out to the reef a ways from the beach and saw some fish. We learned about the Man-o-war jellyfish thanks to the warnings of the teenagers near us. They were fairly small jellies, but can pack a pretty good sting. Once we knew what to look for, we were fine.


The Mokes are still on my list of things to get done this week, but we're quickly running out of time.  I think I'm going to just have to get up fairly early on Thursday, rent a kayak, and then head for the island on the left. There is apparently really good snorkeling out there, and I won't be able to do the  Haiku stairs, so I'd at least like to accomplish this goal.

Big Al and Cheesie heading down the beach.

Later that evening, Brian and I headed out with Lori (sister) and Leigh Ann, Barry (brother) and his daughter Megan, and his parents to hear Jerry Santos sing. He's the one who sang at Jillianne's wedding, as well as the guy I went to listen to last weekend on Brian's first night.  We bought a couple of his CD's, and Brian bought me a really cool bracelet. There was a wonderful woman also singing on stage with Jerry. Once again, I was struck by how deep the Hawaiian culture runs, and I'm so glad to know that it isn't being lost in any way.