Friday, August 31, 2012

Teacher Notes

Well, this is our last Friday of no school at our house.  In all reality, we've been doing school part time during the summer so that we all stayed sane, but we're going to start full time school next Tuesday, after Labor Day.

I wish I could say I was really excited.

In all truthfulness, I'm not geared up at all for this upcoming year and that sort of worries me.  If I'm feeling sluggish now, what hope to I have for February?  I do have lesson plans worked out for the first month.  I've learned that for myself, it's not good to have them written out much further than that because I move stuff around way too much.  I add a field trip here, or stay on a section that the kids need extra work on there.  A month is about right.

Here's some things that are on my mind.

We aren't organized.  Normally I have the bookshelf all lined up with books for the year, in the order we intend to go through them.  That way I don't waste school time hunting down the book we need.  You mother's know, that it only takes about a half a second of looking for something for all the students to mysteriously disappear and then you have to hunt them down. 

The only reason we are not organized is because I have no place to put our curriculum for this year.  It's just stacked up in a pile for the year.  Knut has been working all Summer on some new built in bookshelves in our den, and as of this evening...he should be done.  He finished the last layer of varnish last night, and this morning he spent a bit of time installing, and after he runs some errands in town this afternoon while the little ones are napping, he'll finish the installation.  I'm so relieved.  A place of organization will be a huge burden lifted off my shoulders.

He does plan on having the bottom portion of the bookshelves to be cabinets for me to sort school supplies, but he let me know the doors for those won't be worked on until this winter.  I'm fine with that, as long as I have a place for the books.  I can always organize the supplies in shoe boxes and stick them on a high shelf (since I'll have so many!) until the lower locked cabinets will be done.

If a way to a man's heart is through his stomach, the way to a homeschooling mom's heart is through new bookshelves.

The other major thing on my mind is the transition to 2 full time students this year.  Silje will be working on 3rd grade, and David will be 1st grade.  You know that feeling you get before you give birth to your 2nd child, and you wonder how in the world you will handle it?  That's what this feels like.  How am I going to teach them both, when they will have such different needs?  I know that just like when the 2nd child is born, and you just muddle through and find a new normal, we will do that as well too.  I just don't know if the ideas in my head to work it out will actually work out yet.  I suppose we won't know until we try.

Here's the last thing I'm nervous about, or that at least I can think of at this time.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been very emotional lately.  My patience is thin.  I know that starting school will be an adjustment for the kids.  I know there will be some whining.  I know they will miss the amount of free time to which they have become accustomed.  It's one thing to get a huge switch of routine with a huge switch of location like a lot of kids who go to school.  Their location will be the same, and we'll have to transition anyway.  I know I'll have to deal with attitudes.  I'm not confident I will handle that well.  I'm not confident I will have the patience.  I don't sympathize with them well with their cushy life is disrupted.  I know that using some empathy will really help them transition, and I'm not sure that's in me.

I keep reminding myself that it may not be in me, but it's in Christ, and Christ is in me.  I will have to draw from His patience, from His empathy, from His wisdom in handling situations.  It's just that this will be our 3rd year homeschooling, and although I have learned so much, I feel like I should be better by now.  I feel like I should have unending patience, and every answer to every question and confidence in knowing how to handle each day well, and I should be organized.  By now I should like the jean jumpers, and be sweetness and cheerfulness itself.

I'm not, and somehow that surprises me.  Homeschooling has not made me perfect, although I do think it is something God is really using in our family to help all of us.  The one thing I DON'T worry about is whether or not God still wants us to be doing this.  Believe me...I've asked him, and questioned him strongly on this.  More then ever, I feel like we are on the right path.  I'm just surprised that we, or at least I, am not there yet.  I haven't got it down.  My kids have not been magically made perfect in the last 2 years.  They still have attitudes, still disobey, and still have subjects they like and don't like.  I will say that they've grown and matured in astounding ways in the last 2 years, but this year I go into it knowing fully that there will be hard days.

It's sort of like going into childbirth having gone through it before.  You know what's ahead, and you know you'll just have to deal with it.

What I am so excited about is starting up our Fall activities.  I know, I'm the homebody who hates running around.  Even after this crazy busy Summer, I'm beyond excited about meeting up with our homeschool group again.  I'm so excited to see my mom-friends.  I'm so excited for our monthly "Mom's Night Out" of homeschooling moms.  That group of women is so encouraging, so funny, and probably the smartest people I know.  I've missed them this Summer.  Likewise, I know the kids are so excited to see their friends at homeschool group again.  They're excited for choir and piano to start up again.  They're excited for gym and picnics.

I'm so excited to have a daily routine back.  That is for sure.  I love routines, and that's probably why this Summer felt so crazy.  I'm not sure, looking back, if doing school part time this last Summer was a good idea, or a bad one.  On one hand, it grounded us on days when the kids were bored.  I'd pull out a math worksheet, or have them work on a Chinese lesson on the computer.  I'd have Silje play around on the piano for 30 minutes, and I'd have David continue his reading.  I like that they haven't lost a lot of information during the summer with our reviewing like that.  I wonder if we got enough of a break, though.  If I had allowed them to be terribly bored and lose some memory, would we have more excitement about school starting?  Would we be craving it more?  I'm not sure.  Either way, there's nothing I can do about it now.

I'll keep you updated, as always.  I'll try to remain honest.  I will also try for, my own sake, to see the bright side of every week.  I need to remind myself how much fun some days are.  I need to remember sights like this one, where my kids just love reading together, and often sneak off to do so when I realize that it's too quiet.  I love the love for literature that my kids are growing.  I love their curiosity and their creativity.  I love the time they get to spend doing things worthwhile each day.  I love the friendship between them.  There are so many things I love about our school days, and although some times I'm having a hard time gearing up, I need to remember: 1) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, 2) I only need to handle one day at a time, not the whole year, and 3) My days are full of amazing moments if I can just take the time to notice.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yarn Along

I'm excited to be back on the bandwagon of doing the weekly Yarn Along with Ginny after taking a few weeks off.  We finished just before vacation, but I realized I never blogged how much the kids have been enjoying reading from the Chronicles of Narnia (specifically, 'The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe') this summer.  They really wanted to continue on reading at night even though we had no school books to read for the summer, and we thought they might be ready for this series.  I was a little nervous it would be too much over their head, and therefore be a big flop, but there was no need to worry, as it might be Silje and David's new all time favorite book.

The book we have lists what I consider an incorrect order of the series, as I like reading them in the order in which Lewis published them, not in the chronological order in the history of Narnia.  To each his own, I guess.

This sweater has been revisited after a tearful frogging session a few months back.  As I neared the end of the body of this design, I was really not liking the fit on my dressform, and realized that it was not turning out how I wanted (and I still had a lot to learn about planning for ease in a garment) and I frogged the whole thing.  Needless to say, I have been very conscious of ease in my designs since then.  I still loved the design idea, though, and I had all the yarn for it.  So I bravely started again just before our trip, and then the lace portion was my plane knitting.  I'm very grateful that knitting needles are once again allowed on planes.

I'm hoping to have this pattern out by October at the latest.  My big debut in a national knitting magazine is in October, and I'd really like to have at least one more pattern under my belt before I get what I hope will be a big boost to my pattern sales.  I've recently had one more surprising pattern for a summer top (which won't be published until next Spring/Summer of course) get accepted for publication, and I'm waiting for the yarn in the mail so I can cast on and get it done ASAP.  So until the yarn for that project comes in the mail, I'm desperately trying to finish the last sleeve of this sweater so it won't have to be put on hold again.

Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm Blessed

Whew.  It's good to be back.  I'm eager to write this post because I'm in need of it.  You'd think that after coming back from such an amazing trip, rejuvenated, I would be flying with the clouds for awhile.  In all honesty, even in Hawaii I had my tearful moments.  With so much less stress there, it didn't come up as much, but it has dawned on me the other night that I'm nearly in the third trimester.  I'm not just perpetually pregnant...I'm actually a ticking time bomb.

I just reached the moment the other day when I realized that before I know it, it will all be over, and I will have 5 children under my care instead of 4.  While this thought excites me, it doesn't change my hormone levels.  Those levels have reached the point where I'm close to tears often, and often without reason.

In my "normal" state, I'm actually cry way too easily, and that's not because I'm sad often, but because I don't always have the best handle on my emotions.  A good portion of that is crying from joy.  Then there's crying from frustration...

The added problem with the hormones of pregnancy in my body is that I am aware that sometimes I'm illogical.  I recognize that.  When that happens I often just keep my mouth shut, and try to keep myself from looking stupid, or inflicting my illogical will on others.  Unfortunately, it doesn't stop the churning frustration that things aren't going my illogical preferred way.  I just try to keep that frustration to myself so everyone doesn't have to deal with my issues.

When I get to the point of frustration that I can't manage my feelings that I recognize don't make sense, I start crying because I'm mad.  Then I feel better.  Crying is cleansing.  It's a good reboot button.  I feel so silly about it, though.

So this morning I need some reflecting on blessings.  I think it will be some good medicine.

I'm blessed with Knut.  I'm blessed with our time together.  I'm blessed that he is who he is.

I'm blessed with our extended family, both for watching our kids when we're gone, and being there for us when we got back.  I enjoyed talking to my sister-in-law yesterday as she shared he excitement for moving out of the basement of the in-laws, and into their own house 45 minutes away from us, instead of a 2 day drive away from us as it has been in years past.  I'm so blessed that they're going to live close, as her friendship couldn't have been made available at a better time.

I'm blessed that we have the freedom to make so many decisions for our family.  As we approach school starting, and the birth of our baby in a few months, my mind is consumed with working out the details of those 2 events.  We are making some choices that are not "common" to the mainstream, but I'm blessed that we live in a place where we are allowed to do what we think is best for our family, and not the status quo.  The details sometimes overwhelm me, but I would much rather have that then to have the inability to make those decisions at all, or have someone make them for me.  Freedom often means more responsibility, and therefore we shouldn't try to remove all responsibility from our shoulders, or we might find ourselves in an oppressive state.

I'm thankful for my kids.  David especially has been so, so helpful.  Solveig is sleeping better.  Her kisses and jibbery talk just light up my day.  She talks so seriously to me these days, and I listen intently as her tongue moves around to "pretend" talk without saying anything you could technically call a word.

And lastly, I'm blessed that some leaves are already turning on the trees.  Although it seems early, it is most welcome.  I love Fall.  There's something about it that just is calming and consistent, and settles down the craziness of Summer.

Please share how God has blessed you this last week.  This week more than ever, I've been looking forward to reading what you will write. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hawaii Part 2 of 2

Just to give you fair warning, I took most of my pictures in this second half of our trip.  They're gorgeous, so it's worth scrolling through, but I just thought I'd warn you!

Day 5
As I mentioned in the last post, Knut and I did end up purchasing 1 tour, and that was a sailing/snorkeling tour.  Knut loves sailing.  I enjoy it but he loves it.   As far as snorkeling, I had never done it.  I know how to swim, but I'm not a strong swimmer.  I never passed swimming lessons as a child, and as a preteen, when my family moved to Arizona (aka pool-ville) my mom and sister taught me how to float on my back, do the dog paddle, tread water, and swim "deep" (for a pool, that is).  So I can do it, I'm just not good at it.  I still hate jumping in water, and have done it less times than I can count on my hand.  I've got a big fear issue there, so I was worried the only way to go snorkeling was to jump out of the boat. 

I was still excited, though, because I have never seen coral reefs close up, and I've heard it's amazing.  I was sure I could figure out the whole snorkeling thing, and go at my own pace.  I did not bring my camera out in the water, though.  So you'll just have to sit back for the story on this day.

It was a perfect day for sailing.  The waves weren't huge, and no one got sick.  We chose a destination that doesn't draw as many tourists because it's a nature preserve, and you're not allowed to touch anything, although you can swim by it.  It was less crowded there, and you may know by now, we avoid the crowds...especially when it comes to water.

The crew on the ship was so helpful.  We found out that the captain was actually from Minnesota, and we got to chat a bit.  He made some yummy chicken on the BBQ while we were all in the water.  We were able to use whatever equipment we liked.  I chose to have a floatie around my chest, since I wasn't sure I had the stamina to swim or even float for that long.  Knut and I, and the other tourists on the boat (about 10 others) got to step down into the water Knut showed me how to breath through the mouthpiece.  It took me about 5 minutes before I felt comfortable enough to leave the side of the boat and attempt breathing with my face in the water.

The reef was so amazing.  There were so many fish, and Knut and I swam for nearly an hour together.  At that point, my stomach was getting some pains, which was most similar to the side muscle ache I get when my stomach is stretching.  Still, to be on the safe side, I told Knut I was going to rest a bit on the boat, and I'd head back later.  So he continued on down the wall of the reef, and I headed back to the boat.

The crew made sure I was alright, and I didn't mean to alarm them by coming back early.  I wasn't hurt at all, I just felt my body was telling me to rest a bit.  I thought drinking a bunch at that point wouldn't hurt anything either.  It was rough, I tell you: sitting back, drinking water and eating fresh pineapple on this gorgeous sailboat.  Knut shouted to me that he found some giant sea turtles.  I was bummed, because I really wanted to see them, but I knew that I couldn't possibly swim to catch up to him at that point.  Still, I didn't want to waste time and I got back in the water after my break, and swam the reef closest to the boat once again before lunch.

After lunch on the boat (which consisted of chicken, salad, and corn on the cob.  Knut and I had to laugh at that a bit.  Let's just say, that it wasn't our corn), we sailed to a second reef not far away at all.  I wanted to get back in the water, but at that point I was cold.  One of the crew members, the lady, asked if I wanted a wet suit.  I didn't take one in the first place because I doubted they had one that would fit me.  She talked me into trying a few on anyway.

I tried on an XS, because although she thought it'd be big on me, it'd go over my belly.  It went over my belly, but was so baggy in the shoulders that she said it wouldn't keep me warm at all.  So I tried their XXS small, and she helped me stretch it as far as it would go around my belly.  I joked, "What, you don't have an XXS maternity on this ship?"  Quick as could be, she said "I guess we'll have to put it on our wish list!"  We got the belly shoved in, and I headed back into the water, nice and toasty.

I'm so glad I did, because even though I was behind Knut and swimming alone again, I found a "baby" giant sea turtle, which was the biggest turtle I ever saw.  It was only about 10 feet away from me and swimming all around.  We were swimming together, the turtle and I, for about 5 minutes before other swimmers noticed us, and soon there was a crowd.  So I decided to go back to the boat for more of that yummy pineapple.

Day 6
It was another early morning, as Knut and I drove all the way from the West coast of the island where we were staying to the East coast which is supposed to have more rain forests.  Much of the Eastern part of the island is a nature preserve, and National forests, and there's an extremely limited amount of hotels, places to eat, etc. because of those restrictions.  The road to Hana, our destination, is not far mileage-wise, but it took us 3 hours to drive the whole way.  The famous "road to Hana" boasts of nearly 200 hairpin turns with several 1 lane bridges and roads to the edge of cliffs...with no guard rails.

I realized it was not the plane ride to Hawaii that I should have been fearing all along.

I hesitated going to Hana because it's supposed to be really tough on those who get carsick, and I get carsick really easily.  However, the hikes at the end were by far the ones Knut and I really wanted to do the most.  The most beautiful parts of the island were along this road, and I knew I'd regret not taking the chance and seeing it.

Fortuneately for me, my husband does a decent amount of driving in his line of work.  From tractors to semi-trucks...he's a really good driver.  I rarely get carsick when I'm sitting next to him.  I still do, but not as often.  That day, I made it the whole way without feeling nauseous at all, except for about the last 5 miles on the way back home.  I didn't get sick or anything, but I was just done at that point.

Anyway, the sights were spectacular.  Here are some of my favorite views from our 3 hour drive there:

Once we got past Hana, we headed to the trails.  There was this hike called "The 7 Sacred Pools" although that's like saying Minnesota is the land of 10,000's just a saying and there's actually lots more.

It was not an easy hike, but it wasn't hard either.  It was 2 miles up to the big waterfall, and 2 miles back down.  I was so thankful that Knut (my hiking know-it-all in our house) insisted that I get some Keen sandals for this trip.  It should not be done in flip flops.  Some people were wearing running shoes, but they didn't dare go through the last part of the trail where you had to cross 2 streams about 6 inches deep to get to the end.  Most people who made it to the end had hiking sandals like ours.  So if you go hiking when you're 22 weeks pregnant, I suggest you gear up as well!

 This was the first spot of the hike.  There were some signs that read "Danger!  Fatal Cliff.  Stay Away."  To which, Knut (like most men I know) would walk over and peer over.  Then I would call after him (like most women I know) "You are the sole support for 6 people!  You're not allowed to look over fatal cliffs!"  It didn't stop him, though, and he peered over each one.
 Here's Knut by that magnificant banyan tree I was telling you about yesterday.  It still catches my breath looking at this picture.
Then the hike moved onto the bamboo forest.  If you wonder what a bamboo forest looks like from the outside, simply see the picture above, or look inside any Dr. Seuss book.  You'll get the general idea.

 We walked along streams most of the way, and past several waterfalls.
 The bamboo forest was shady, which was very welcome at that time!  It was quiet in there, except for the dull clicking sound of the bamboo knocking into each other when the wind blew.
 Not too many people made it to the end.  Of all the people we saw on the trail, there were only about 10 people hanging out at the finish line.  (Also known as the most beautiful sight I have seen in my entire life.)

Knut's jaw dropped as he said that the dripping wall made the weeping wall at Glacier National Park look puny.  We climbed over several lava rocks and found a few big ones to stop and eat our packed lunch.  There were no trash cans, no signs, no nothing.  Just the waterfall a few feet in front of us...
and this lovely sight to our backs.

 I took so many pictures of it, but I don't think a camera can show from this close distance how HUGE it was, and how the water dripping down the wall on either side of the waterfall just made the whole wall glitter in the sunlight.  Amazing, breathtaking...every cliche description in the book doesn't begin to cover it.
It didn't take long for us to get too hot, though, and we had to seek shelter back in the shade of the trail.  It was by far my favorite day of our whole trip.  Knut and I said that if we ever made it back to Hawaii someday, this was one thing we would do again and again in a heartbeat.

Day 7
(We're almost done!)
This was a REALLY early morning, and we put it near the end to help get us used to our regular time zone again.  We woke up about 3am, and headed once again in the car up the tallest mountain in Maui (10,000 feet) to see the sunrise from above the clouds.  It's quite the thing to do, and the locals around here told us to dress very warmly as it gets very cold up there.  We would smile at them and chuckle to ourselves (yeah right, cold!)  Still, I packed the towels from our hotel to use as a blanket.  I packed a thin wool sweater just for this event, and long jeans.  Knut had a thin jacket and 1 long sleeve shirt along, so he felt all set as well.

We arrived at the top of the mountain 30 minutes before the sun had risen, and we barely got a spot in the parking lot, there were so many people!
It was about 40 degrees up there, but that's not counting wind chill, and the wind came up out of the crater below very fast, and it was very cold! 
Knut got a kick out of all the people who just looked like they brought their bed with and just wrapped up in their hotel blankets.

 This was the view looking to the West.
There was a huge telescope station just behind us, as far as we know, 
restricted to the scientists who worked there.
 Just as we were reaching the finale of the big show: the sun appearing, a huge fog covered the peak, and we saw no more but the inside of a cloud.  I was a bit disappointed by that, but I was rewarded with the flip side of that on our trip back down the mountain:

It was the most vibrant, the biggest, and the most complete arch of a rainbow I have ever seen in my whole life.  It was huge!  I felt like I was in some sort of fairy tale.  It was spectacular.

Then we got some Starbucks.  I was very thankful this baby has been allowing me hot drinks again.

After resting a bit, we headed out for some places closer to home this time.  There was a coffee plantation just up the road from our hotel, and we went to go driving around it.  Knut brought some green coffee beans from their little shop home so he could see if he could roast them.  It was fun to see what other farmers see and do in the middle of the ocean.

Well, I think it's safe to say that the coffee farmers here have 
some pretty spectacular views from their "office."
 The coffee plants were very tall, with little berries all over them, nearing harvest.
The plantation was just in between the mountains and the ocean.
When they get the right shade of green-yellow, they are harvested, and then dried, getting that shriveled line in them, and then roasted brownish black.

Driving through took less than a half hour, so we kept driving up the coast, Northbound, to see what we culd find.  We found a little rainforest-y pocket along the rocky, dry coast.  It had the ruins of an old church there, and a rocky shore where some people went swimming.
 This was an easy hike compared to the last one.  Just a simple dirt path to the shore surrounded by lots and lots of greenery...
and coconuts.

In the bushes I thought I saw a chicken, but thought "It couldn't be!"
 When we got to the rocky shore, we saw about 20-30 of them running around wild.  I have no idea why they are here, but they looked everyone over for food.

They made me laugh really hard.  Who knew I'd see a bunch of chickens in Hawaii!?!

We finished off our last night by walking on the beach of our hotel at sunset, once again, until it was very dark.  Neither one of us was ready to leave the beach.

Having another slice of Hula pie did help...a bit.

Other amazing food of note: Knut highly recommends the fish O'no (I think that's how it's spelled) as he says it's the best he's tasted in his whole life.  I was a little less adventurous food-wise than him, but every continental breakfast we went to had a full Japanese spread as well with breakfast for the Japanese tourists: white rice and Miso soup (again, not sure on the spelling).  I think it's a basic tofu soup.  Knut had that a few times, because he likes to be different like that.

I just like the Hula pie.  We had it...twice.

Day 8:
Homeward bound.  After waking up, and taking one last dip in the ocean, we went to the lei ceremony down in the lobby where we got our farewell leis.  Then we headed to the airport, and started the long, long journey home.  The rest of this day was spent flying to LAX airport where we met my brother who lives there, and he took us out for some amazing deep dish pizza, followed by some deep dish warm cookies.

Day 9:
Just before 1am, our plane took off from LAX, and headed to Minneapolis.  From there, we had another layover, and another flight, which brought us home.  Knut's dad, along with Silje and David met us at the airport.  Silje and David fought the whole way home.  They were pretty cute about it, though.  At least, it was cute since we hadn't seen it for awhile.

Knut's mom had my house sparkling, and a warm "dinner" in the oven.  (They call it dinner, but the city girl in me still calls it "lunch.")  Elias is still calling me "Grandma" but it didn't take Solveig long to warm back up to me, and be clingy as ever.  I think I got 100 kisses from her yesterday.  She woke up every hour the first night we were home, just to be sure I was there.  I was expecting that, as she does that often when I leave her someplace for the day.  I expect that to improve.

I must admit, it feels good to be back in my own house again.  Still, it was the trip of a lifetime.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back! Part 1 of 2 trip details

So we're back.  We came home to happy kids, and a super clean house, and warm food.  Yes, my in-laws are incredible!  We had some recovery yesterday as we were trying to readjust back to our old time, and catch up from a night's lost sleep on the plane.  Today Knut is back to work, and I guess you could say the same about me!  Although, I'm going through the 200+ pictures on my camera to pick the very best for here.  I'm about half way through and have picked 50 "very best" so I think I'm going to have to narrow it even more!

It might be easiest to share our fun times day by day.

Day 1:
We arrive in Honululu around noon.  The hotel sent a shuttle service to pick us up, and we were greeted with fresh flower leis that smelled soooo good, and warm Hawaiian hugs. 

The shuttle ride to the hotel was about an hour, as we were staying on Waikiki Beach.  I will admit that we were excited to be there, but I was struck in this city at the number of homeless people who were around.  We drove past several shelters under bridges, and saw people pushing shopping carts.  I hated being one of those people driving past all of that as fast as I could to our nice hotel.  I've heard this is common in many touristy places of the world, but I still didn't like it.
(Our view from the corner of the balcony in our room)

The main reason we went to Honululu was to see Pearl Harbor.  We knew it was more urban than we were wanting, but we couldn't pass up seeing it.  The main strip of Waikiki Beach is crowded with shops and people and has an overwhelming odor of sunscreen and delicious food.  We were told that we should try to avoid taking a nap the first day, so that our internal clocks would be adjusted as soon as possible to Hawaii time.  So even though we were tired, we walked along the strip of shops.  Shopping is not Knut's thing at all, but we found some neat street performers and hula dancers, and ate some great foods from some farmers markets set up around there.  We headed to bed exhausted at 8pm, and I was surprised we couldn't hold out any longer. 

Day 2:
We were wide awake at 5am, and realized that maybe I'm not lazy because I love to sleep in.  Maybe I've just been on Hawaiian time my whole life. 

This was our Pearl Harbor day.  We spent some time on our Ipad searching out info on how to get to the Harbor.  We heard it's pretty simple to take the bus there and buy tickets.  However, we couldn't find the bus map online anywhere!  We had asked the front desk the day before about getting to Pearl Harbor, and they pointed us in the direction of the tour companies.  We didn't want to take a tour shuttle, though.  It was over $150/person.  It was a national monument, right?  Couldn't we just show up there?  Knut and I are both the independent sort, and didn't like the idea of moving at some tour company's pace anyway.

So we looked at the Pearl Harbor site, and they also recommended that we go through a tour company, and gave no bus info.  So we took a second look at the tour companies, and saw that most tours left at 6:30am.  At that point, that was just 30 minutes away, so we decided to head downstairs to the tour company's desk and ask more questions.  We were annoyed that it felt our hand was being forced to spend hundreds of dollars.

All the tour companies were still closed, but we found at the front desk at the hotel, the woman looked both ways and quickly handed us a bus map and told us which bus stop to walk to, and which bus number to take.  She said we should get there early as possible to get tickets to see the USS Arizona, as the tour companies buy them up early.  Knut and I referred to the tour companies as the "Hawaiian Mafia" from that point on.

It was about an hour and a half bus ride, but our bus driver was really fun, and talked football to Knut a lot of the time.  He was a big Pro-Bowl fan, and showed us so many things around the city that I don't think we would have otherwise seen.  He told us about flea markets we shouldn't miss, etc.  He told us about the church in Hawaii, and talked freely about his faith.  It was really fun.  Only $2.50/person round trip, too.

We got to Pearl Harbor, bought our entrance tickets, and got our tickets for the ferry to see the Arizona.  I think had we even been 30 minutes later, the ferry tickets might have been sold out for the day.

I didn't get the best pictures of all the monuments, and inside the submarine and "Might Mo" battleship.  I had my 50mm lens on, and I should have picked a different one for that day, as we were so close up to everything, I wished I could have zoomed out more.

It was amazing, and totally worth it.  It was overwhelming.  When it was our turn to take the ferry out to the USS Arizona, that was the most overwhelming.  The memorial is over the sunken ship, with all those bodies still entombed inside.  We learned that it burned for 3 days after the attack.  We learned so much.  There were a handful of survivors from that ship.  Either they survived because they jumped from the ship and somehow swam through the burning oil in the water to safety, or they were on assignment on land or elsewhere that day. 

The wall inside the memorial, which we were only allowed 15 minutes to view because of the sheer volume of people who want to see it, had the names of all those entombed inside.  Then there was a small section of survivors who have died since the war, and have been allowed to be buried inside the ship.  I guess there are only a handful of survivors still living, but when one of them dies, navy divers bring their bodies down to the side of the ship, and they are placed about 10 feet inside so that they may be laid to rest with the rest of the ship.  On those days, the memorial is shut down for the day, and the family has the memorial open to them for a full military funeral.

I know I'm not using the right words, but the whole experience was so overwhelming.  We learned so much about why we went to war with Japan, something that I was never clear on.  What was interesting was that we toured it with many Japanese tourists right next to us.  They were as overwhelmed as we were. 

We didn't wear sunscreen that day, as we were touring museums for the most part.  However, there was some walking outside, and I got my first sunburn of the trip on my chest.  Unfortunately, I was wearing a blouse with a lace border, and so I had a little lacy burn around my shoulders.  I was so mad about that because that was not the tan I was planning on returning home with.  I shouldn't have worried, though.  It was just the beginning of our sun adventures.

Day 3
We spent a leisurely morning on the beach and hanging out at the hotel, and then our shuttle took us back to the airport around noon where we took a flight from the island of Oahu, to the island of Maui where we were going to spend the bulk of our trip.  Once we got there, we picked up our rental car, stopped by the grocery store to get some lunch food and snacks for the week, and a big package of water bottles.

My first impression of Maui was: eco-friendly.  There were windmills on the hills, sun panels on every rooftop, and paper bags at the grocery stores as plastic bags are banned on the whole island.  Also from our first view, it was much more dry and agricultural than we had thought.  Many parts looked like we were visiting my family in Arizona, and there were sugar farms, and coffee farms the whole way to our hotel.
(Our view from our Maui room, overlooking the courtyard with the ocean in the background.)

Our hotel on Maui was amazing.  We stayed at the Ka'anipali Beach Hotel which Knut's cousin had strongly recommended us to use.  It's not one of the big chain hotels, but privately owned by actual Hawaiians.  The focus of the hotel is to engulf you in the Hawaiian culture, and they take that very seriously.  It felt like we were visiting our family in Hawaii.  Most of the staff was Hawaiian, and many spoke Hawaiian as their first language.  Everyone from the housekeeping to the restaurant had a teaching spirit and showed us things that I don't think we would have noticed otherwise.  As we butchered their language, they kindly corrected us, as it's almost impossible to even get directions places without pronouncing their words.  Every street name and location is a Hawaiian word that we had never seen before. 

The hotel does a hula show every night with music.  They explained that many hotels do dances that are not Hawaiian.  They are from Tahiti, or elsewhere.  They do whatever is flashy, but our hotel was very Hawaiian, and for them, hula dances were a family affair, not a tourist one.  Staff members of the hotel did the hula, and my favorite dancer of all must have been nearly 60 years old.  She was so graceful and smiled so big you could tell she was loving every movement that she had done since she was a child.

After the hula show, the band played some Christian worship music.  That, and the fact the hotel does a church service in the courtyard on Sundays, and the fact that there were copies of the Bible in our room in several languages (as opposed to our hotel in Honululu that had both the Bible and the teachings of Buddha) it lead us to believe that the owners of our hotel were probably Christians.

Even though we didn't do much but travel and get set up for the week on this day, I felt exhausted from our big Harbor day the day before.  We determined that our next day would be laying around and doing nothing.

Day 4
We woke up lazily, and headed to the beach.  It was 9am when we got there, and I sat for about 30 minutes before I thought I should put sunscreen on, even though it was early morning.  Well, it was too late, because in that 30 minutes, my back and one of my legs got fried.  Let's just say it doesn't happen that fast where we live!  Even 30 minutes after I had sunscreen on, the heat was getting to me, and I went inside.  I covered myself in aloe, and Knut and I decided to drive to the closest town to see the famed banyan tree and look around.

The banyan tree was amazing!  It's a type of tree that sends out these huge limbs, and then shoots down supports of those huge limbs to send roots out, and each of these supports looks like another tree trunk.  So it looks like 30+ trees all connected together by these huge limbs.  This one tree that was planted in 1870 covered a whole city block.  I have a better banyan tree picture when we were hiking, but this "urban" one was amazing!
(Knut by one of the limb "supports" of the banyan tree)

There was a little quilt shop in the tourist village, and I wasn't going to go in because the last thing I need right now is more fabric, but Knut pushed me in because he knew I would love to chat with the quilt lady in there.  Her quilts were beautiful, done in the traditional Hawaiian style.  She had several for sale that were hand stitched.  I was in awe over those.  She really enjoyed that because she said she got a lot of people saying how overpriced her hand stitched quilts were.  I didn't think they were overpriced in the least, and I told he that, even though I had no intention of buying a quilt that day.  We chatted awhile about how people don't understand the work that goes into something like a hand stitched quilt.  She noticed my burns, and told me to put some "Alo-eh" on it.  I was trying to understand her through her thick accent and said "Aloe?"  She smiled and said "Here in Hawaii, we pronounce every vowel.  We call it 'Alo-eh'"  To me it sounded more like the Canadian way to say it than Hawaiian, but I kept that to myself.

We decided to buy a half-day sailing and snorkeling trip for the next day.  I'll have to tell you all about the rest of our week next.  I took many, many more pictures in the last half of the trip as opposed to the first.  The first half was a lot of laying around and trying to remember what it was like to just do nothing.  They were our unwinding days.  It was so necessary.  Coming up are our day trip to Hana with tons of waterfalls, the story of our sailing trip, seeing the sunrise on a mountaintop, and yummy, yummy food.