Back Broken

{ Image source: Emily Higginson }
My poor, broken body.

Since mid-February, I've been going to my kids' gym to work on learning the USA Gymnastics Level 5 floor exercise routine. Every evening that I go, I come home hurting. But last night, I hurt myself.

I haven't been in a few weeks because I've had other obligations. Last night, however, I had the opportunity and energy to go. So I did.

It was more playful than it has been in a while. There are some new people coming and learning, and they're a lot of fun. Some of the other staff members have been hanging around more because, let's face it, the new people are good-looking guys in their mid-twenties and the staff members are single females. The two coaches leading the sessions are starting to warm to me - I'm no longer just one of the moms but am now one of the adult gymnasts as well. It's a nice feeling.

Anyway, I took a more relaxed attitude towards the evening, working on a little of this, a little of that, moving from a routine dance-through to working on back extension rolls to a few tumbling runs. And that's where I ran into trouble.

I forgot to warm up my back before working on back handsprings.

I'm not as young as I used to be, and I'm not nearly as flexible or strong as I used to be. As a result, I have to really stretch my back and torso before doing anything bendy, and I have to be really careful and precise when tumbling. And I wasn't.

I felt it mid-air: my feet were behind me when I started the back handspring. They should have been in front of me. And having that small mistake basically broke me in half.

I spent the rest of the evening bent over to try to stretch out my back. I barely made it home. Once there, wine and a hot bath helped, but this morning, I woke up extremely stiff. Which is really unfortunately, because I had stuff to do today.

I'm not going back this week. To be honest, this may have cut my goal short. This is something I want to do, but not at the expense of being able to function in my day-to-day life.


The Harry Potter Project: And So It Begins

{ Image source: JeffChristiansen }
I love my children, but they, like their mother, have gotten used to traveling in style. How can they not when it seems like EVERY TIME we go somewhere, we're staying in cabins with tennis courts or family-style suites at exclusive resorts?

(Note: thank you, Mom and Dad, for funding these pipe dream vacations!)

The latest request is to visit the Wizarding World of Harry PotterTM in Orlando, Florida.

That's something I can truly get behind, because I'm an unashamed Potterhead myself. But it's not something for which we can just shell out thousands of dollars, and it's not something that we should do right now because the baby is so small.

So we got them in on it.

Last night, we delivered the plan to the kids: if they want to go to the Wizarding World of Harry PotterTM, then they need to help out. We're going to place a jar in a prominent place in the house. They can make contributions to it as they see fit, with the exception of money already in their piggybanks and money that they receive for putting towards college. So, spare change, birthday money, Christmas money, it can all go in the bucket.

I want the kids to truly appreciate this trip, and they won't do that unless they work for it. They're young, yes, but it's never too early to learn the value of hard work. They will earn a much bigger reward than just a fun vacation.

Now, to find a tub of sorts ...


Top Ten Funniest Shows on TV RIGHT NOW*

I can't lie to you, I'm a little tapped out for post ideas this week. Don't judge me - I've been traveling the world and penning a life-changing novel. (*cough* note the BIG FAT LIES *cough*) As a total cop out, I give you my favorite comedies currently running on television.

10. Suburgatory
{ Image Source: ABC.com }

9. Psych
{ Image Source: TVline.com }
8. How I Met Your Mother
{Image Source: SheKnows.com }

7. Modern Family
{ Image Source: SpoilerTV }

6. New Girl
{ Image Source: InHer Glam }

5. Hart of Dixie
{ Image source: FanPop }

4. Cougar Town
{ Image source: TV Fanatic }

3. The Big Bang Theory
{ Image Source: FanPop }

2. GCB
{ Image source: Curvy Magazine }

1. Happy Endings
{ Image source: FanPop }
*That I Watch


Christmas in Hawaii: the Rest

Click here to start at the beginning.

The rest of the time in Hawaii was split between swimming in Waikiki Bay with the kids, eating at fabulous restaurants, and being resort bitches. Oftentimes, we would wake up, meander downstairs in our swimsuits for a coffee and a croissant, then head over to the beach to play for an hour or so. When the kids were sleepy/cranky enough, we would head back to the hotel for lunch at the bar. After lunch we put the kids down for naps.

After naptime, we generally would head back down to the pool and swim for a little bit.

Happy hour started at 3pm, so we would order things like Kahlua Pig Nachos and Lava Flows and charge them to the room. We liked to drink until we were done (whatever that meant to the individual, drunkenness or the end of happy hour), then we would go back to our rooms, shower, and dress for dinner.

Dinner over these last few nights were the Elks Club in Honolulu and the smattering of hotel restaurants in the immediate area. There was dancing, drinking, laughter, strolling along the water, watching the fireworks, and general merriment. We got our Zippy's on New Year's Eve (!) along with a guava chiffon cake (!!) and ended the trip with New Year's Day Mass at St. Augustine by-the-Sea. It was glorious.

We didn't want to leave. Why would you? We spent nearly two weeks completely removed from reality. To do that here, I have to drink wine. And a lot of it.

Clearly, we had to go home. Clearly, we're here. Clearly, Real Life has set in, and we're counting down the days to our next vacation. In the autumn. If we're lucky.


Other posts about our Christmas in Hawaii:
Days One and Two
Day Three
Day Four
Days Five and Six
Day Seven


Christmas in Hawaii: Day Seven

Click here to start at the beginning.

Originally, I intended to lump all of our Oahu stories into one post. I mean, seriously, how many times can we say "we went to the beach and got awesomely tan"?

Day Seven was different, though.

We started out early in the morning and stopped by the BEST manapua shop in the WORLD, Libby's. It's a local place in the industrial district that caters to locals, dock workers, factory workers, etc. It's not a place one wanders into unless one knows EXACTLY what one wants. Just a fair warning.

We had intended to stop at the beach and eat our food there, but I really wanted to eat at Ala Moana and we were long past it. So we kept driving towards the North Shore until we got to the Dole Plantation.

Let me stop and tell you that yes, while this place is fun, it's definitely touristy. I wouldn't normally recommend it as a place to stop unless you a) have to pee, b) are thirsty, c) are in the mood for something touristy, or d) really enjoy horticultural mazes. We were everything, so we stopped. We dug into our manapua and pork hash and washed it all down with freshly-squeezed pineapple juice. Then we took the kids through the maze for a 30-minute trial of patience. And when we couldn't stand it anymore, we hopped back into the car and headed for Hale'iwa.

Our mission on the North Shore was singular: find the LOST beach. I promised Matt that we would look for it, and guess what. WE FOUND IT, thanks to this post from Go Visit Hawaii.

It's amazing, really. You turn off Kamehameha Highway onto Papailoa Road, a private drive with expensive houses. There a small parking lot near a narrow public beach access path. Turn left and trudge along for about 10 minutes and BAM. You're there. The campsite is actually just someone's backyard, and there are remnants of the set still there. It's mostly Coke cans and orange fencing, but still! And because it's in a curve of the coast, there is NO ONE there. No footprints, no sunbathers, nothing. You really get the feeling of being marooned.

Our intention was to complete the drive around the island, maybe cutting through over Nu'uanu Pali to get back for dinner, but traffic was so backed up on Kamehameha Hwy that we decided to turn around and go back the way we came. Lucky thing, too, because it gave us an excuse to stop at Matsumoto Shave Ice.

I do recommend this place: it's famous. And the shave ice is unparalleled. I had to get something a little campy for the kids (a Hawaiian blend), but I got guava and lilikoi (yellow passion fruit). It was ... just ... mmmmm.

The drive home was uneventful, and we spent the rest of the day kickin' it at Waikiki.

Well, the rest of the day until Matt and I went our for our anniversary dinner. Yes, we were lucky enough to celebrate our wedding anniversary in Honolulu. We were able to get reservations at Chai's Island Bistro, this minuscule restaurant in the Aloha Tower Marketplace. It's well known for its live entertainment, often featuring the Brothers Cazimero, who are probably the most famous Hawaiian musicians of our day. I don't remember who was entertaining that night, unfortunately; we were wrapped up in our little cocoon of being in love that we forgot to check. I'm sure she was someone well known; my grandparents kept asking how we enjoyed her music.

We topped off our night with fruity drinks at the Banyan Courtyard at the Moana Surfrider Hotel, another luxurious Waikiki beach resort. All in all, not a bad way to celebrate four years of marriage.

Other posts about our Christmas in Hawaii:
Days One and Two
Day Three
Day Four
Days Five and Six
The Rest


Christmas in Hawaii: Days Five and Six

Click here for the beginning of the story.

My pictures from here on out are pretty sparse, mostly because it's just more cute pictures of our cute children doing cute things, and while that's (ahem) cute, it also gets old. So I'll leave you with just one more:

This is an extremely cropped picture of the baby eating miso soup for the first time. She took one tentative sip, smacked her lips, then stuck her face into the bowl. Hilar.

Day Five was mostly about the stars. After our Japanese lunch at Miyo, we headed over to the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center. While there, we played with the hands-on games and puzzles, watched the standard movie about how the Polynesians navigated to Hawaii using their own star lines, and a really cool 3D showing of our space exploration so far. My favorite part about 'Imiloa was that all of the information for the exhibits were translated into Hawaiian. Can I understand it? No, I read the English, but it's cool that this center is built not just for astronomical learning and education, but also for the preservation of the Hawaiian culture and language.

After 'Imiloa, Matt, my brother, and I piled into my grandparents van and made the trip up to the Mauna Kea Observatory. We planned it nicely - we made it to the 9,000-foot level about 30 minutes before sundown.

If you've never been that high up, the first thing I have to say is WHOA. The clouds top out at about the 6,000-foot level, so we were 3,000 feet above the clouds. From our vantage point, we looked like we were on a small, pimply (from the cinder cones) island in a sea of clouds. It's breathtaking.

That's just looking down. Looking up, the sun blazes along the cloud line as it sets, completely unfettered by an urban horizon. Night falls quickly, but even on the night of a new moon, it's bright because of the vast display of stars. The stars literally (LITERALLY) form a dome over your head, and the Milky Way streaks across the sky.

Having come from 'Imiloa, we were up on our constellations. We were easily able to pick out Orion's Belt, Taurus, the Pleiades, and both of the Dippers. Unfortunately, we were there at the wrong time to see the Southern Cross; it didn't rise until about 3am.

On Day Six, we hopped on an inter-island flight and headed back to Oahu. Talk about a 180: instead of staying in a cabin with scratchy sheets on an island with about 185,000 people total, we were thrown into the lap of luxury at a Waikiki resort. Bellhops waiting to drag our bags to our spacious, well-appointed rooms, and the lobby of the hotel was lined with shops catering to every single need you may have, from cheap booze to freshly-plucked pearls.

Not that we stayed around to enjoy it long: we had to head to our favorite restaurant, Kin Wah. It is, hands down, the best Chinese food in the state. The crispy gau gee is just crispy enough without being too oily, the rice is just the right amount of sticky, and the ginger chicken! The beef and broccoli! The shrimp balls!

My mouth is watering RIGHT NOW.

Other posts about our Christmas in Hawaii:
Days One and Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Seven
The Rest


Christmas in Hawaii: Day Four

Click here to get to the beginning of the story.

You would think that after a fun-filled Christmas Day, we would want to relax and hang around Volcano. Nope, we had to have an adventure: a trip to Punalu'u Beach, the Black Sands Beach, and Pu'uhonua O Honaunau, the City of Refuge.

Some background information on Punalu'u: The sand is made from volcanic basalt from Kilauea. If you look closely in the granules, you can see small pieces of olivine, which, in it's gem form, is also called peridot and chrysolite. Small areas are fed by submerged freshwater springs, which creates extremely cold regions in an otherwise temperate bay. Another cool thing about Punalu'u is the anchialine ponds, which are home to rare algial and invertebrate life forms. There are only about 700 of these ponds in the U.S., all of them in the State of Hawaii.

And some background information on Pu'uhonua O Honaunau: I'll call it "the City of Refuge" from now on, to make it easier. The City of Refuge was built as, well, a refuge for criminals and runaways. If you could make it to the City, usually by swimming, without dying, you were granted amnesty. There was also a small site of worship and a royal landing bay, which is now inhabited by green sea turtles. The area is protected under the National Parks System and is open to visitors year round.

Ahem. Now that you have your Hawaiian history lesson, some pictures:

The baby didn't even make it out of Volcano. She fell asleep in the car almost immediately, but we refused to let her miss the experience of being at her first black sand beach. Of course, she didn't wake up, so ... well, she missed it anyway.

There's my three-year-old, hanging in her adorbs rash guard and ruffled bikini bottoms. After this picture, she took off like a shot towards the anchialine pools to check out the shrimp.

We had to reel everyone back in for a family photo op. The baby, clearly, is still asleep.

We had to stop near Na'aleahu (the U.S.'s southernmost town) because we crossed paths with an L&L Hawaiian Barbeque joint. I don't even know how to describe this goodness. It's American, Asian, and Hawaiian fare, so you can get anything from a burger to beef curry and rice. My oldest decided, at this meal, that chicken katsu is her absolute favorite Hawaiian dish, as long as she doesn't have to eat the katsu sauce. You know what that means? She likes chicken fingers.


By the time we got to the City of Refuge, everyone was awake and ready to walk.

This shot captures the essence of the City of Refuge. In the foreground is the royal landing bay, which was off-limits to non-royals and is now off-limits because of the turtles. I prefer to believe that the spirits of the ancient Hawaiians are using the turtles to protect their parking areas. In the background is the place of worship. There are wooden carvings looking out over the water as if searching for refugees; others guard the chapel. They are extremely similar to the carved faces on Easter Island.

{ Image source: Wikipedia }

Surprised? Don't be: the Polynesian triangle stretches to New Zealand in the south and west, Easter Island in the east, and Hawaii in the north. It encompasses Samoa, Tuvalu, Tonga, and the Cook Islands, to name a few others, and the inhabitants and descendants share similar language, culture, and belief systems. It makes sense that the moai at Rapa Nui (i.e. Easter Island) would be similar to the monoliths at Honaunau.

Wow, I got preachy again.

Anyway, we had grand plans to drive up Saddle Road and hit the Manua Kea Observatory, but after a day of driving, diving, and walking, we were exhausted. We decided to go back to our place and drink instead ... and it was the best decision we could have made. We lit a fire, curled up with the kiddos, and drained a bottle of wine before jumping into the whirlpool tub that, amazingly, EVERY CABIN had!

Other posts about our Christmas in Hawaii:
Days One and Two
Day Three
Days Five and Six
Day Seven
The Rest


Christmas in Hawaii: Day Three

Click here for the beginning of the story.

Day Three of our Island Adventure was Christmas Day, and it turned out to be a VERY busy one. We started, of course, with presents.

See all of the stuffed animals? I don't think the baby got anything that could cause damage this year, due to her reputation as being THE DESTROYER.

I got a lovely present that made me cry.

If you can't see that, it says "Words Mean Things." Matt filled the organizer with coupons for things like "I'll do the dishes" or "You can leave for a weekend (but please come back)."*

The little ones got a kick-ass present from my parents: gymnastics lessons! And leotards!

The baby also got bubbles ... which is the BEST present to give an 18-month-old. With sisters. Who enjoyed them more than she did.

But, you know, she still conferred her pleasure upon us.

After Christmas Mass, we grabbed food for a picnic lunch and took it down to Coconut Island, one of my favorite places in Hawaii.

{ Petra, peering into her steamed bun with kau yuk }

{ Malia, with pork and taro juices on her face }

{ Ana, running on the island }

{ Matt, perpetually on his cell phone. Also, aglow. }

{ Family, Coconut Island, Christmas Day 2011 }
Funny story about this last picture: We were standing there, looking out at the awesomeness of the Pacific. All of us had drifted away from the wall, except Malia. Out of nowhere, this HUGE wave crashed against the retaining wall and crashed over her. She stood there for a moment, shocked, then burst into tears. A very kind gentleman lent her a towel to dry off; he also reassured her that she is now a Child of Hawaii, having been Baptized by the ocean. She didn't feel better, but I did.

After Coconut Island, it was on to 'Akaka Falls. This is another one of my favorite places on the Big Island, a place that I've visited too many times to count. My family had never seen it, however, so I had to show it to them.

See the baby? Since Matt has no sunglasses to grab, she had to settle for his ears.

{ Red Ginger, 'Akaka Falls State Park }
{ A random copse of bamboo. Just for fun, yo }
After our tiring day, we headed to my grandmother's house for food good and good company with family, friends, and neighbors. I wish I had pictures of the spread that she put out, because it was SO 'ONO (extra tasty)!

*These are paraphrased

Other posts about our Christmas in Hawaii:
Days One and Two
Day Four
Days Five and Six
Day Seven
The Rest


Christmas in Hawaii: Days One and Two

For Christmas this past year, we took a family vacation to Hawaii.

I know what you're thinking: you lucky bitches! You're right, we ARE lucky bitches. The trip was amazing. I've been waiting for some of the pictures so that I could properly capture the essence of the trip; I still don't have all of them, but I can update if need be.

The trip started off VERY early in the morning, as we had a butt-crack-o-clock flight from our local airport.

Actually, let's not talk about the flight. We had two legs, they were long, the kids were well (enough) behaved. Personally, I was expecting to have to walk around with my toddler to keep her from screaming; she ended up sleeping for all but two hours of the trip and was happy with a bag of Oreos.

When we landed in Honolulu, one of the first things that we had to do was give the baby a manapua, a steamed bun filled with marinated meat. It's a staple snack in Hawaii, and we were curious to see how she would react.

Isn't that a look of utter contentment? I think she looks a little high. HIGH ON THE DELICIOUSNESS OF MANAPUA.

Because we were staying in Volcano National Park, we were able to take early morning hikes around Halemaumau, the active caldera on Kilauea.

You may not be able to see it, but the baby is totally jacking with Matt's sunglasses. She does this EVERY TIME she sits on his shoulders. It's amusing to me, mostly because Matt just takes it.

We spent our first full day there not doing a whole lot, mostly because we were exhausted. But we did do a lot of sitting on the porch.

A lovely start to the trip, yes?

Other posts about our Christmas in Hawaii:
Day Three
Day Four
Days Five and Six
Day Seven
The Rest
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