Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ryan...

Happy birthday to my wonderful husband!  A man who sets the example of how to follow Jesus. A man with a servant's heart.  A man who loves his children unconditionally.  A man who always gives 100% in whatever he is asked to do.  A man who stole my heart when I was 20 years old.  A man who puts up with all of my quirks and loves me anyway.  Happy Birthday, Ryan, we love you so much!





Monday, December 8, 2014

A New Season...

It has been a while since I posted.  I honestly haven't felt like writing and have withdrawn into myself for comfort and solitude.  Things had been going well, barely any bumps in the road, and then school started...  My punkin horsie is having a rough go of it this year in Kindergarten.  About a month into school she began to meltdown at bedtime, sobbing hysterically that she didn't want to go to school.  She has figured out that she is behind her classmates.  Ryan and I would take turns holding her, as she buried her head into our chests and sobbed, sometimes for an hour or more.  It broke my heart..

I emailed her teacher, case manager, and therapists immediately when this began and all were quick to support her.  Her teacher put together a special bag with a chalkboard, markers, and a letter writing practice book for us to use at home.  She was excited to practice her writing, we stick with markers over pencil right now as she can write better with those, and we bought her a set to use at school where her teacher allows her to use them instead of pencils.  Things seemed to be improving and she stopped crying at bedtime.  Then, we hit October.

In October, she began to have accidents at school.  I had her checked for UTI's twice, and she was negative.  At home, all of her bodily functions were working, but at school we thought she was just getting distracted and forgetting to pee.  I should change that, we THOUGHT she was getting distracted, until the day when she had 3 accidents in less than 1 hour and Ryan had to go to school and get her.  A doctor's visit and an x-ray showed that her intestines were full and when the doctor tried to listen for movement, he heard nothing.  So began the path we are currently on to avoid having any type of surgery.  A path paved with suppositories, Miralax, Mineral Oil, and Senna.  We were reunited with Dr. Fishbein at Children's, who was pleased to see us again, until he heard why we were there.

In November, I went to Parent-Teacher conferences, and I almost wish I hadn't.  It's hard to sit there and keep from crying when you are bombarded with everything you already know to be true.  Yes, I know she is behind in Math.  Yes, I know she struggles to write her letters and numbers.  Yes, I know she struggles with counting.  And the list goes on...until I got to speech and that was the shining moment of the day- she is excelling at her speech goals :-)  When I left her conference and prepared to go back to school to begin my own parent-teacher conferences, I cried the entire way back to school as well as in the privacy of my classroom.

Yes, my punkin horsie is having a tough time in Kindergarten this year.  Every day after work we have a schedule of what we need to work on.  We are extremely blessed with the new daycare that we found, as Miss Nora works with Juli after she gets off the bus from Kindergarten.  She has made her lots of reusable letter sheets for her to trace and practice writing her letters on, and with Miss Nora's help, her writing is getting better.

What I so wish for people to see with my little girl is that while she may be behind in many areas, she does excel at others.  She can sing most of the words to: Thrive by Casting Crowns, God's Not Dead by the Newsboys, Kings & Queens by Audio Adrenaline, & You Are by Colton Dixon.  She has a wonderful imagination and one of our favorite things to do at night is to play "Big Sully/Little Sully" with her stuffed Sully animals.  One thing I have learned from being Juli's mom is that every season will eventually end.  Our last rough season ended eventually, and I know that this season will end eventually as well.

Romans 5:3-5 "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

And now for some cuteness...

video

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Violated...

I walked back into my classroom this week expecting to see the posters, drawings, and pictures I had accumulated over my years of teaching still hanging on the bulletin boards that I had left up at the end of the school year.  We had been told we didn't need to take anything down off our bulletin boards, as they wouldn't be painting the walls this summer.  That was what I expected to see.  What I saw when I walked in, was nothing.  Everything was gone.  My bulletin boards were bare, pictures gone.  Posters, gone.  Not going to lie, I said a few choice inappropriate words.  A friend and I searched my room, going through every drawer and cabinet, thinking that whomever had done this had maybe left everything in a pile somewhere else.  After an hour of searching, I told her we should stop.  My stuff was gone.

Stuff can be replaced, I know that.  What hurt me was that some of those pictures had been drawn by some talented students who have long graduated from South.  The picture that made me cry and was like a stab to my heart when I realized it was gone, was the picture of my Chili Dawg, from when he had made the Tripawds calendar the January after he had crossed the rainbow bridge.

I know nothing can be done to get my stuff back.  It's gone.  I asked the head custodian if he knew anything about it, and he asked his staff, the answer was no.  I sent an email to my boss letting him know my stuff was taken, because I was too emotional to discuss it in person. The principal knows, he walked in when we were discussing it.  He feels bad for me, but again, there's nothing that can be done.

I feel violated.  Why would someone do that to me?  I won't ever know.  Stuff can always be replaced.  At least I have the memories still.  So now I move forward, gathering new posters and pictures, and re-decorating my very sterile classroom.  What a way to start the new school year.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sometimes All It Takes Is Kindness...

We were about halfway through our third flight on our way to Hawaii, when the crying began.  I was kiddie corner from the mom and I watched as she tried to soothe her young son.  Nothing was working and she was getting frustrated.  Her husband came up from a few rows back, grabbed the boy by the arm and said something to him, I don't know what, but it made him cry even harder when he left.

I have been that mom many times, not just on land, but also in the air.  I remember holding Juli on the airplane while she screamed, because the flight attendant made me wake her up and buckle her in her seat due to turbulence.  The consequence of that action?  A screaming 2 year old for the remaining 2 hours of the flight.  I wracked my brain for a way to help this mom, who was desperate to stop her son from screaming on the plane.

This was the first time Ryan and I had vacationed childless, so none of my "go-to's" were in my backpack.  I had left my tablet at home for the kids to play on if needed.  I didn't have any children's books, coloring books/crayons, play-doh, suckers, etc in my backpack.  I just had boring old grown up stuff, and then something prodded my brain, "you have your iPod and there are movies on it" (the in flight movie was not a kids movie, and honestly it sucked).  I pulled out my iPod, and scrolled through the movies, hoping there was one on it that wasn't scary for a little boy, and I found one.  "Thanks, God" I whispered, as I tapped the mom on her shoulder.

"I know you don't know me, but I have been in your place before; trapped on an airplane with a child who is melting down.  I was wondering if your son would like to watch a movie on my iPod".  The woman looked at me and burst into tears, "That is the nicest thing anyone has done for me today!"  I crouched down in the aisle, so I could be face to face with her son, "Hey buddy, do you like movies with aliens?  I have a movie on my iPod that we could plug your ninja turtle headphones into and you could watch.  What do you think?"  The boy got quiet and looked at me.  I handed my iPod to his mom and pointed to where I was sitting, I squeezed her shoulder and went back to my seat.  I watched the little boy climb into his mom's lap and put his head on her chest.  30 minutes later, she handed me back the iPod with a thank you and said he had fallen asleep.

I know I've written this before, but I will continue to write it: don't judge the parent and immediately label the child as a brat when they are having a meltdown until you have walked in their shoes.  Sometimes all it takes is a kind word or gesture and you can make a difference in a situation that isn't going so great.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Being Thankful For What You Have...

On Monday, we returned home from a camping trip with Ryan's Mom & Dad (I will blog about that on a different day).  We had left the air conditioning on, and "held" it at 75 since Buster would be home (don't worry, someone was taking care of him-thanks Desi!).  When we finished unloading everything, Ryan and I noticed that the house was warmer than it should be.  A LOT warmer than it should be, since we held the thermostat at 75.  It was 81 degrees.  The air conditioner was running, but the air coming out of it did not feel that cold.

I sent a text message to Theresa (the same Theresa that watched our kiddos during the school year) and asked if her husband, Larry, had a moment sometime during the week to come over and check out our air conditioner (Larry works for a heating/cooling company and has done maintenance on our air conditioner and furnace in the past).  Larry texted me back and asked what the problem was.  I explained what was going on, and he said he was on his way over!  How is that for quick?!?

After Larry finished checking everything out, he told us that our Freon was extremely low & he suspected there was a leak somewhere.  He didn't have the equipment at his house to fix it, but he gave Ryan his work number and told Ryan what to tell them when he called in the morning so that Larry could be sent back out to our house to do the leak check, leak repair (hopefully), & Freon refill.

We told the kids to pretend they were tent camping, except they got to be in their own beds with fans and put them to bed.  Fortunately, we have a large whole house fan, and we counted on that to suck in the cool night air and cool down the house.  Ryan and I went to bed around 10 that night, the house had cooled down to about 80 degrees by then.

Around 11:20, I was woken up by a crying and VERY wet Noah.  The poor kid was sobbing because it was pouring rain into his room.  He was soaking wet, his trundle bed that he was sleeping in was soaking wet, the bottom part of his bunk bed was soaking wet.  I got him changed into dry pajamas and calmed him down.  Then I took care of the wet bedding (after closing the window in his room), and then woke up Ryan so he could help me close windows and mop up the wet patches.  The house temperature had made it down to 79, but now we had to shut off the big fan and close windows.

I finally climbed back into bed and then it began to thunder.  If you don't remember, Buster, is terrified of thunder and fireworks.  He immediately jumped into our bed and laid all 82 pounds of golden retriever on top of me as he panted in my face.  It was magical.

At 12:30, Juli woke up crying because she was hot and thirsty- I was still awake, because I had a dog in bed with me, so I got her something to drink & untangled her from her blankets.  I got her back into her bed, and then checked on Noah.  He was awake because I had forgotten to take the ladder out of the top bunk bed (we store it up there so Juli isn't climbing up there) and he didn't have much room in the bed.  I took care of that and went back to bed.  Buster had already found somewhere else to sleep during this, so I thought I would be able to fall back to sleep, but I didn't.

Sometime after 1, the storm ended, so I was able to get up and turn the big fan back on and open the windows again to start cooling the house back down.  Then I fell asleep.  Around 2:15, I woke up to Juli gagging, and I smelled skunk.  I swear that skunk had to have sprayed right underneath her window because when I walked into her room, I gagged too!  I shut off the big fan and closed her window and got her back to sleep.  Then I fell back to sleep.

I woke up again at 4, I don't know why, and the skunk smell was gone so I turned the big fan back on again and slept until 6 when I woke up wide awake.  We successfully cooled the house down to 72 degrees in the night, but I was exhausted.  Why didn't I wake Ryan up to help me, you might ask?  He had to work on Tuesday and had to give a presentation, so I knew he needed to sleep.

Tuesday, it was humid, and Larry was unable to give us good news about the air conditioner.  The cost to repair where the leak was and fill it with Freon was almost as expensive as putting in a whole new air conditioning unit.  So, guess what is being installed on Thursday?  Be thankful for what you have, because Monday night was a miserable night in the Mahlberg house without air conditioning (I did remind my children that I used to have to sleep without air conditioning when I was a kid, because we didn't have it at all, and they couldn't believe it).  I am also thankful that we installed the big whole house fan right after we moved in, because that fan is wonderful (when it's not raining or a skunk has sprayed).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Final Thoughts About Hawaii...

As the month of July comes to an end, so do my blogs about Hawaii (I know, it took my about 2 months to write about a 7 day trip).  Here are my final thoughts:

1) I want to go back some day, so Ryan, start collecting miles again, because you spoiled me by flying me First Class and I don't know if I can travel in coach again (just kidding, but flying to Hawaii in coach would not be fun- right Dad?)

2) Having to do all your sleeping on the flight back is not fun, even if your seat reclines most of the way.  I think I slept, at most 2 hours, and when we landed in Dallas it was 6 AM their time, but 1 AM in Hawaii, and sleeping was all done for the day.  Ryan and I were T-I-R-E-D for the rest of the day.

3) I discovered that no matter the body type, everyone can wear a bikini.  I was in the minority with my bathing suit, but honestly, I wouldn't have the courage to flaunt my stretch marks or my belly pooch on the beach for all to see.

4) We had planned to do our touristy shopping at the International Marketplace, but it was closed due to being renovated.  Fortunately, Duke's Alley was still open.  Duke's Alley is just what it sounds like- a narrow alley, full of vendors.  The best part of all, is if you are cheap (like we are), the moment you hesitate when they name a price, the vendor immediately drops to a lower price and usually follows up with "no tax".  We were able to get both kids nice Hawaiian outfits and some other trinkets for much less than what the stores were selling them for.

5) Take the time to walk and take it all in.  We walked the beach every morning and night.  We even found some trees from Lost, but no smoke monster or polar bear!
See, no smoke monster...
6) Make sure you try new things.  Ryan used Yelp several times to find some cheap, yet good eats.  One of those places was this pizza truck that literally made pizza in a parking lot, called Agostino's.  It was delicious, but if you weren't paying attention, you would have walked right by it.  
Literally in the middle of a parking lot
7) Some other good eats we found: Tucker &  Bevvy's Picnic Food.  They have gourmet food that they pack picnic style for you to eat on the beach.  Very filling and very delicious.  One of the afternoons, Ryan had to do his class, so I wandered around for a bit and wandered into the Coconut Cafe.  I ordered a most delicious Diamond Head smoothie.  I got the small size and it was HUGE!  I couldn't even finish it and brought it back to the hotel room for Ryan to finish.  Sean the Marine, recommended we try Teddy's Bigger Burgers, and they were delicious as well.  Not as good as Portillo's, but they were well worth the money spent.  One night we ate at the Steak Shack, which was right on the beach, and not only did we have a beautiful view of the sunset, but we had an excellent dinner.

Overall, this was an excellent celebration for our 15 year anniversary.  The weather was amazing, the people were friendly and helpful, the scenery was beautiful, and the time spent with my husband was wonderful.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 7: Last Day in Hawaii...

Friday, June 11, was our final day in Hawaii.  Our flight departed that afternoon at 4:50 PM, Hawaii time (9:50 PM, Illinois time), which meant that all of our sleeping was going to to have to be on the plane before it landed in Texas for our 1 hour layover.  I will discuss how well that went on another day.  We spent the morning on the beach and in the ocean and then headed back to the hotel to shower and get dressed.  We had to checkout of the Ohana by noon and the airport shuttle wasn't picking us up until 2:30.  The Ohana was great and they had a storage area where we could lock up our bags after we checked out, so after 12 we just did our final walk around Oahu.
Last morning on the beach
One of the things we did while we were in Hawaii that I haven't blogged about yet, was Stand Up Paddleboarding.  Originally, Ryan and I had planned on signing up to take surfing lessons, but our first day there, I had seen some people doing SUP and pointed it out to Ryan.  We were both intrigued.  Several places along the beach offered lessons, but before we signed up for lessons, Ryan decided to research it (have I mentioned that Ryan researches EVERYTHING?).  That night, Ryan pulled up a couple youtube videos on how to SUP and after watching them, we were pretty sure we didn't need to do the lesson (so, yes, it was smart of him to research it).

The first time we decided to rent paddleboards, we were in an area of beach that was a bit crowded.  The guy cut us a deal though, so we can't complain.  Instead of 2 boards for $50 for an hour, we got 2 boards for $40 for 90 minutes.  Ryan was a beast the first time and I did okay.  Ryan was able to stand and paddle past the reef.  I was able to stand and paddle, but when I got to the reef, the water got really choppy and I would lose my balance unless I dropped to my knees (I don't have the abs like Ryan does- and if you have seen Ryan, you know he has a 6 pack-seriously, he does). I didn't make it for the entire 90 minutes the first day.  At around the 75 minute mark, I lost my balance, hit my head on the board and inhaled some serious ocean.  I took that as a sign that I should be done for the day, but I am forever hooked on paddleboarding now.

The second time we rented paddleboards, we didn't get the same deal, BUT we were in a less crowded area and the water wasn't as wavy.  We had been on the island for a few days at this point and had scoped out the beach for the best areas to paddleboard.  The guy we rented from thought Ryan was in the military because of his hair cut and tried to give him a military discount but Ryan quickly told him he wasn't in the military.  This time we only had the boards for an hour, BUT I didn't fall off the entire time, AND I even rode a few waves.  Ryan only fell in once, but he also paddles faster than I do.  The two of us are definitely addicted to paddleboarding now.  It is a good workout and great for working on balance.
You start on your knees in the shallow water
And if you are a beast, like my husband, you stand up immediately
Then you turn and yell, "stop taking pictures and come in already!"
See, I'm standing :-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 6: Dinner With Marines...

I had Sean when he was a Junior in my Chemistry class.  He was a bit of a goofball and he didn't always make the best decisions.  The two of us formed a bond pretty quickly, as I had taught his older brother, and it built up from there.  His senior year, he continued making some poor decisions, which broke my heart, and he wound up having to leave out school.  I didn't even get to say good-bye to him.

A year later, he was escorted to my classroom by his dean.  He asked me if I could write him a letter of recommendation for the Marines.  You see, when you have a history of making bad decisions and have a record, the Marines are not so sure that you are the best fit for them.  Writing that letter for Sean was one of the easiest letters I have written for a former student.  I knew that if Sean could get into the Marines, he could get his life straightened out and head down the path that I knew he should be on.

Sean got into the Marines, and graduated from boot camp.  I've never been prouder of one of my students.  He kept in touch with me through facebook, and I have been able to see everything that he is doing.  Sean applied to be stationed "over seas", and was placed in Hawaii- who knew Hawaii counted as "over seas"?  When it got closer for our trip to Hawaii, I messaged Sean to see if it would be possible for me to meet up with him for even just a short time.  I hadn't seen him in a while, and I wanted him to know how proud I was of him.  It took a little while, and it almost didn't happen, but the night before our last day in Hawaii, Sean was able to get a car, and finish his job and come out.  He brought along one of his roommates, Anthony, who is from California and is hilarious.

Ryan and I bought them dinner, Sean picked Chili's, and we got to hang out with them for a little while.  Both Marines were respectful, well spoken, and very nice young men.  They shared stories with us about their training, what it's like to be a Marine, and what it's like when the President comes to the base.  It was a really nice visit. Sean has become the man that I always knew he could be and I couldn't be any prouder of him than I already am.

*We were dumb, and didn't bring our camera to dinner, so I don't have any pictures of the guys.  Thanks to facebook, I "borrowed" these pictures from Sean's facebook page (thanks, Sean!).
Sean, after graduating boot camp
Sean & Anthony- I don't think Anthony ever stopped smiling while we were at Chili's- he was hilarious

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day 5: Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay...

The morning after the luau, we woke up and had our breakfast of champions again: Beef Jerky and an oatmeal bar (blech, but you gotta do what you gotta do to catch The Bus) and headed to the bus stop to go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay.  Little did we, or any of the other tourists, know that The Bus was running on the holiday schedule and that we had time to eat a real breakfast that morning.

When The Bus finally arrived, we rode on an extremely crowded bus, where Ryan and I stood for most of the 45 minute ride (note to self: if we ever get the opportunity to go back, Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays, so everyone likes to go on Wednesdays like we were doing).  After we arrived, we immediately saw Hanauma Bay, it is BREATHTAKING.
Beautiful isn't it?


Everything in the water that looks "brown" is all reef
We stood in line to pay the entrance fee ($7.50), and then we got our tickets to enter.  Before you are allowed to walk down the quarter mile hill to snorkel, you are required to watch a short film about Hanauma Bay- it is a living coral reef and the video tells you where you can stand up and not stand up, and what you can touch and not touch.  Then, we trekked the quarter mile down the hill and rented snorkel gear for ourselves (they do have a tram that you can pay to take you to the bottom and back up for like a dollar).
It was a little windy, if you look at the palm trees
There are VERY few things that I can do better than Ryan.  Swimming is one of them (seriously).  When we had staked our location on the Bay and set out our towels, the lifeguards were announcing that the tide was coming in, that there was a strong undertow and that children and non-strong swimmers should not venture far out into the bay.  They even stressed that children should not be more than an arm's length away from their parent at all time.  With that said, we ventured down to the Bay with our snorkel gear and put it on.  At first, I took the lead, but I wasn't comfortable with that, as I couldn't keep Ryan in my sights and if he got into "trouble" in the water, I would have no way of knowing.  We spent about an hour out in the Bay and then came back to the beach to drink some water and rest.  The fish and corral were beautiful.  There were some places that were so shallow that you couldn't kick your legs for fear of touching the corral.  In fact, I scraped a part of my foot on the corral and it took almost a month for the cut to heal.  We discovered, ironically, that the prettier fish were closer to shore and that if you went out to the deeper parts of the bay, you didn't see many fish, so the next few times we went in, we stayed closer to shore- and I didn't feel the need to keep an eye on Ryan as much.  We don't have an underwater camera, so I took these fish pictures off of their website- these are the fish we saw:
A milletseed butterfly fish swims by the surface.
You could swim so close to the fish you could almost touch them!
Picasso triggerfish (Rhinecanthus aculeatus). Not photographed in Hanauma Bay. Photographed by Adrian Pingstone in December 2005 and released to the public domain.
Whitespotted Surgeonfish
After several hours, the Bay got busier and warmer, and it was time for lunch.  We weren't sure when the next Bus was going to come since we didn't have a copy of the holiday schedule, so we hiked back up to the top (and saw why some people paid to ride the tram-it's straight up!) and grabbed some cheap lunch from the snack bar.  We went and ate at one of the picnic tables near the bus stop and were harassed by a rooster who kept crowing at us and running away.  Just as we finished our lunch, The Bus we needed to take pulled up and we got on.  As Ryan tried to pay for our tickets, the VERY cranky driver yelled at him, "Do you have transfer stubs?!?"  I said, "Yes, but they are expired by 2 hours."  The cranky driver yelled back, "Are they transfer stubs or not?"  Me: "Yes, but they aren't good any longer, we need to pay."  The driver: "Go sit down now!" and refused to take Ryan's money.  So we found seats and sat down.  When the next person got on and said their transfer stub was expired he made them pay.  We didn't get understand what the difference between us and the other person was.
Our lunch time stalker
On the bus ride back I mentioned that I was sad that we hadn't seen any sea turtles.  Don't get me wrong, the fish were beautiful, but Ryan had seen a sea turtle on the first day we went paddle boarding (don't worry, I will discuss that on a different day, because that is one of my new favorite activities now!) so I wanted to see one too.  That night, when we took our walk along the beach before dinner, we noticed a crowd of people gathered by one of the sea walls.  When we finally got to it, there were 2 gigantic sea turtles just hanging out there in the water!  It was so cool, and I was thankful that God gave me the opportunity to see some more of His creation.
How cool is this?!?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 4: Evening Luau...

When Ryan used his miles for the Hawaii trip, and we knew all we would have to pay for was the hotel and wherever we would eat cheaply, we decided to splurge and attend a luau.  It was something we both wanted to do and what were the odds that we were ever going to get back to Hawaii again?

After doing some research (because Ryan researches EVERYTHING), we decided on a luau at Paradise Cove.  They even sent a bus to pick us up, and our guide who went by the name "Cousin Rich" was hilarious.  He memorized all 50+ of our names and entertained us on the drive to the luau, teaching us a bus chant (in case people became too intoxicated to remember what bus they needed to get back on to get home), and some bus signals to flash at other luau buses.  We laughed the entire ride there.
Yes, I am actually in a dress

Isn't he handsome?
When we arrived, we were "carded",banded accordingly, given a lei, and had our pictures taken with "island natives".  Then we had time to wander around and do different activities.  I learned how to make a flower bracelet from one of the ladies.  They also showed us how to husk and crack a coconut, how to climb a coconut tree (that kid was CRAZY!).  Time flew by, and then it was time for the ceremony of the uncovering of the pig and we gathered in the outdoor auditorium for that.  It was pretty cool- they did some songs and hulas and showed us what we were going to eat.  We then went back to our tables for the "family prayer" first in Hawaiian and then in English.

Paradise Cove- Nice View, eh?
The ceremony for removing of the pig (it's under the black cloth in the picture)
The buffet lines went very quick and then we were back at our tables to enjoy the meal.  Ryan and I were seated with 2 older couples from Australia on either side of us.  We learned quite a bit about Australia from them.  After we were given time to eat and have dessert, the show started and what a show it was.  My favorite part was the fire dancer from Samoa.  He did stuff with fire that was INSANE.  I got most of it on video so I could show it to the kids when we got home.
A picture of the show- a little blurry because it was dark, but you can see a bit of the flame on the side from the Samoan
Afterwards, we got back on the bus and headed back to the hotel.  "Cousin Rich" again entertained us on the way home.  He was extremely hilarious and gave everyone a hug as they got off the bus.  I have no idea where he gets all his energy, but I could think of a few of my students who would be good at this type of job.
We got back to the hotel at 10:30, and this was the first night we had been up this late and we were tired!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 3: Pearl Harbor...

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in World War II.  At my parents' house my dad has framed photographs taken from the bombing of Pearl Harbor- actually taken that day by a family member who was serving in Hawaii at the time.  Visiting Pearl Harbor has been on my bucket list of places to visit and it was on Ryan's list as well, so we made sure to plan for it on our trip.

The Bus ride there was going to be almost an hour, and if you read the website, it says to get there early if you want to get tickets to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, because it's a first come, first serve basis and they only have 2000 tickets.  I was up at 4:30 and got Ryan up at 5.  We were at the stop before 6 AM, after eating a breakfast of champions: some pieces of beef jerky and an oatmeal bar (we had brought snacks from home for having to eat on the fly).

Finally, The Bus arrived, and there was a long line already- and it hadn't even opened yet!  You aren't allowed to bring anything in with you- no purses, backpacks, camera bags (you can bring in your camera), etc, so we moved up quickly in the line as people either went back to their cars or went to the baggage check area.  Then, Ryan got in line to get the tickets to go see the USS Arizona Memorial (those are free), and I stood in line to buy the tickets to see the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the USS Bowfin Submarine Memorial.  Ryan's line moved quickly, and mine took forever, because people had to decide what attractions they wanted to see.

Our tickets for the Arizona weren't until 10:30 AM, and we had just over 2.5 hours to kill, so we caught the first shuttle to Ford Island to see the Mighty Mo.  When you arrive, first you walk through an entry way of American flags- very cool.  Then, you get your picture taken and they try to get you to buy it later (we didn't, but they give you this card so you can upload it to facebook and make it your profile picture).


Isn't she big???
We weren't quite ready when they snapped the picture.
Impressive guns, eh?
This was where the Japanese surrendered to end the war
Looking down, you can see her standing guard over the Arizona
After that, we headed on deck, where we were given a wonderful tour by a very knowledgeable lady.  She told us many stories of the Mighty Mo, and after the tour was over, we were allowed to go above and below deck.  The ship is huge!  I think we spent an hour and a half on the ship and then caught the shuttle back.  While we waited for our time for the Arizona, we toured some of Pearl Harbor- the "Road to War" and "Attack" galleries.  Then we got in line for the Arizona.  

Before you get onto the boat to the Arizona Memorial, you watch a 23 minute documentary video on the Pearl Harbor attack.  Then you get on a navy shuttle boat to ride out to the Arizona.  The boat ride out there was full, but everyone was silent as we approached the Memorial, even the smallest child was silent.  I can't even explain the feeling that comes over you as you walk into the memorial.  As you look down, you can see parts of the Arizona, and realizing how many men died trapped down there was overwhelming to me.  One of the men who works at the memorial told us that some of the men who survived from the Arizona requested to be buried with their shipmates.  They perform a special ceremony with their ashes in a special urn and a diver brings them to a designated part of the ship under the water.  He said that there are currently 8 survivors remaining and 1 has requested to be buried there.
Part of the USS Arizona
This is the entrance, where the boat drops you off. 
The Shrine Room with the names of the 1,177 Sailors & Marines who perished on the USS Arizona. It also honors the survivors who have chosen to be interred with their shipmates.
The USS Arizona Memorial
When we returned, we ate lunch and then toured the USS Bowfin Submarine, the "Pearl Harbor Avenger".  I decided I would be too claustrophobic to be in a submarine, as I was very uncomfortable in the small space.  I don't know how those guys do it, being so close to each other and sleeping in bunks basically on top of each other, I couldn't do it! After that we toured the Submarine Museum and then walked the rest of Pearl Harbor- they have a Remembrance Circle, and some other naval sites to see.  Then, we caught The Bus back to Waikiki.

The USS Bowfin Submarine
Ryan doing something with weapons...
Notice the bunkbeds on the right aren't even all the way down! No thank you!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day 2: Hiking Diamond Head...

For our second full day in Hawaii, Ryan and I woke up early (of course, we were still on IL time) and ate an early breakfast.  While we were eating breakfast, we looked up the times for The Bus in the book we had picked up the day earlier with all the routes and numbers.  We had already planned to hike Diamond Head today (Sunday, June 8) and we wanted to do it early, because from everything we had heard from my parents and my sister, there wasn't much shade offered, except in the tunnels.

The Bus dropped us off in a parking lot outside of Diamond Head and the driver pointed out where we were to cross the road and start the journey upwards to reach the entrance to Diamond Head.  We walked about 3/4 of a mile or maybe a mile to the entrance (all up hill), and the view was already something to behold.  
Starting up to the entrance of the state park
Almost to the entrance...
We made it to the entrance!
We paid our $1 entry fee to get into the park, stopped at the bathrooms and began our hike up Diamond Head.  On the website for this state park it says: "The hiking trail to the summit is very steep and uneven in some areas.  The last 1/10 of a mile is all stairs and especially steep.   Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for your hike.  Wear good walking shoes, bring water, and wear a hat and sunscreen"  And they weren't lying.  It was a steep hike and the trail was uneven.  The last 1/10 of a mile WAS all stairs going straight up!  But once you got to the top... What. A. View!  It was beautiful and well worth all the sweating we did to get up there.  We drank almost 2 of our big water bottles by the time we were back down.  Some people must not have read the website, because there were ladies wearing really fancy dress shoes, there were men in flip flops, poor little kids were in sandals (I'm sure they all had blisters by the time they were done).  We ran into several military families where there were men in camo pants with kids riding in backpack carriers- they got my respect!
Isn't this flower gorgeous?!?
Our view as we hiked upwards
The first round of stairs, then a tunnel, then some more stairs...
The view from the top!
If you look at the trees, you can see how windy it was (the breeze felt wonderful)
So sweaty (why Ryan doesn't look like it, I have no idea, lucky man!)

Once we got back down to the visitor's center, we stopped off at the food truck and Ryan bought us a strawberry & pineapple shave ice.  It was refreshing and cold and basically was gone by the time we finished walking to the stop where The Bus was going to pick us back up.  We were fortunate that The Bus had just arrived and we didn't have to wait at all, AND our transfer passes were still valid (our original driver had given us 4 hour passes instead of 2 hour passes) so we didn't have to pay for the return ride back to Waikiki (score for us, our goal for being frugal continued!).