Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Months ago Brian and I decided to take a family vacation to Hawaii in October 2018. Late in the summer Brian was doing research on the Disney resort, Aulani, in Oahu and he called me and asked if we should go to Hawaii in 2017 instead. Obviously. :) We sat the kids down and said we couldn't go to Hawaii next year and waited for them to be sad, then we told them, "Because we're going this year!" We took them out of school for a week! In November! (Not as easy to do that when they get to junior high.) It was magical!
Brian booked a direct flight from Salt Lake City, which means six hours in the air. It was the boys' first time on an airplane. I've never seen them endure anything for six seconds, so I put together a little kit for the plane. A book of origami patterns and paper, their own new set of markers, dot-to-dot and word puzzles, invisible ink pen and pad, their own set of headphones, magnetic hangman.  I needn't have bothered - they had their own screens! We sat on a row with the boys, me, and Bridget while Brian was two rows ahead of us. The boys messed with their screens the whole time (eye roll). 
Bridget got her own plane ride kit, too. Fancy headphones.

It was a little challenging finding our rental car (Brian booked Aulani, the plane tickets, and the rental car through Costco), and we were in rush hour traffic getting to the resort, but it was amazing to all of us to be able to see the ocean no matter where we were. When we got to Aulani the kids got little menehune necklaces, Brian got one of those nut-looking leis and I got an orchid lei that smelled AMAZING. They gave us citrus-infused water while we waited in line for our room keys. We had a one bedroom suite (the couch was a really nice pull-out bed and there was a Murphy bed hidden in the cabinet with the TV on it) with a full kitchen and a washer and dryer. Um, you guys? Always have a kitchen and a washer and dryer in your hotel room. The kids got in their suits and we went TO THE POOL.
There are lots of winding paths and lots of different styles of pool in one place at Aulani - lazy river, slides, tubes, hot tubs, infinity pools. We walked around a corner and there was the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean! It took my breath away! So pretty. And everything in Hawaii smells good. After we played for a while I went to one of the poolside restaurants and ordered a pizza. For one million dollars. (You know I'm exaggerating, but WOW. Disney is getting your money, man.) We took it up to our room and added all the leftover food I'd packed for the plane to our dinner. (Brian and I took our favorite sandwiches from Kneaders on the plane. Brilliant!)
I was up at the crack of 4:00 AM. The boys were up at 6:00 AM. Dude! (They're fighting with the little pillows I put in their plane kit.) More about Hawaiian quilts later, but find the Mickey ears on this one. Fun!

We reserved a table for the character breakfast at one of the Aulani restaurants at 10:00 AM on Tuesday because I'm a fool. I thought we'd want to sleep in! We did not. I did have plenty of time to go to Target and get us food for the week, which was nice. While I was there I bought Emil a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops. He had been begging for a Hawaiian shirt since we got off the airplane! Emil wants to immerse himself in new experiences, which is very fun. I bought us Eggo waffles for breakfasts, mostly because Brian and I were binge-ing on Stranger Things and I was reminded of them. Ha! While I was at Target Brian discovered The Deal at Aulani. If you want to get kids signed up for stuff at Aunty's Beach House or any other adventure, you need to be in line, in person by 7:00 in the morning. Who knew?! (And we found out too late that first day that you can call a number from your room phone to find out where the characters will be during the day.)
It was finally time for breakfast! Mickey Mouse greeted the kids with a hug. Look at his cute outfit!
In Hawaii you HAVE to do the chakra in every photo. Brian knows.
This million dollar breakfast buffet was the best breakfast I've ever had. I'm absolutely doing that to the bananas I serve my grandkids - make it look like a dolphin with a fish in its mouth! And the fresh pineapple?! I had a little piece of steak with a perfectly poached egg and gravy on it. How have I lived this long without having gravy for breakfast? The syrup was coconut syrup. We were all hungry enough (except Colin) to eat a lot.
Minnie came to our table for a photo op.
We had to chase Goofy down a little, but we got him. Kids not getting the whole chakra thing yet.
After breakfast Brian and the kids got back in their swimsuits and went to get passes to Rainbow Reef. (Aulani has their own little saltwater snorkeling pool.) I watched them get in the water and went to the big windows to see them underwater. I came back and Colin was off the project. He couldn't figure out how to breathe through his mouth with the mask on and he wasn't going to try it more than once. I followed him around while Brian, Bridget and Emil snorkeled.
Brian went down the slides and circled the lazy river all day! He looks relaxed, but I went on a tube like this with Colin and there's a lot of sharp elbows and knees involved in a tube ride with Colin. I married the perfect man.
We had to ask around, but we found the shack with the Pineapple Dole Whip on the beach. Aulani has their own little cove with plenty of chairs and umbrellas (which we had to use for rain a few minutes after this photo was taken).
Emil claimed a big hole someone else dug.
These are their faces in Hawaii.

After dinner of rice and barbecue chicken from the refrigerator section at Target, we went down to the fire pit and listened to Uncle tell the story of the menehune. There are lots of little menehune statues hidden all over the Aulani resort and they encourage the kids to try to find them. There's even one underwater at Rainbow Reef. That is super fun, but they need something to keep track of the ones they've found. There was nothing! Colin would have been DOWN with that - he always wanted to look for menehune.

On Wednesday morning I went down to stand in line at Aunty's Beach House to get the kids into something. After breakfast, they went to Aunty's to make slime and meet Stitch from the movie Lilo and Stitch. Bridget is too old for that nonsense, but she is always game and she did it anyway. Brian and I went for a walk and saw a bunch of crabs crawling all over the rocks at the beach. EW! They look like giant spiders! Oh well, they're delicious.

We went to the Polynesian Cultural Center after lunch in our room. It took over an hour to get there, but the drive was beautiful and interesting. (The check out lady at Target said she moved to Hawaii from Arizona. She loves it, but not being able to leave the island without getting on a plane has made her feel claustrophobic after a few months. I hadn't thought of that! Right when she said it, I knew I could never live in Hawaii.)
Bridget really wanted to try a real coconut, TA DA they had coconuts they would punch a hole in right in front of us, then they put in a straw for us to drink the juice.
See how Colin is already expecting not to love coconut juice? He tried it, though. #progress

The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC from here on out) needs to have a more informative website. They assumed we knew all the stuff. What is happening?! What is this place?! We had no idea. A nice lady told us we should take the canoe ride through each of the villages, then make our way back visiting the ones we wanted to visit. Oooohhh! So it's a mini version of all the islands where you can learn about that specific culture and participate in their dances and food. Why don't they just SAY that.
We got off the canoe and walked to the Hawaii village where they taught us how to throw a fishing net. 
Can you tell how good Brian is going to be at throwing this net?
It landed in a perfect circle and Brian's mentor over there was SO HAPPY. :) Good to know Brian would be able to provide if we were deserted on a tropical island. 
Then we watched a couple of guys make poi for us to try. Poi is purple! Weird. It tastes like a raw potato.
Emil's face. Right after this we watched an amazing parade on the "river." Each of the villages had a canoe with people dressed in the island's colors and clothes, doing dances and singing songs. At some point during the parade Emil yelled at me, "I want something to eat besides POI." Oh, Emil. HAHAHAHA!
This is the real name of New Zealand. Bridget is still carrying around that coconut because the lady told her she could bring it back and they'd crack it open for her to eat. If that's not a great reason to carry around a wet coconut for hours, what is?!
The Aotearoa village is where we learned this great routine with sticks. Where are Colin's shoes?
Everyone was jealous of the tattoo I got while I was trying to find a place to stamp their PCC passport, so they all had to get one too. :)

We had to make our way to the luau after this, but we literally could have spent an entire day exploring the villages. What a cool place. At the luau we got another lei and they seated us at a great table. There was a show through the whole dinner, which was amazing. I noticed purple rolls in the buffet and knew immediately that they were poi rolls. Fun! The pulled pork was fantastic. I think Colin ate pineapple and cake.
This is my favorite picture of the whole trip. Bridget loved Hawaii so much! She wanted to learn everything and do everything and try all the food. She's the best. :)
This smoothie in a pineapple was delicious.
This is a 12 year-old kid. 
This is Bridget watching that kid. :) (The Sunday after we got home Colin was doing a haka dance when he stopped and said, "Mom, I need two sticks and some fire.")
I'm fascinated by how different Hawaiian quilts are from those on the main land. Why? It's cool - like a kaleidoscope. There are shapes in the patterns - like the turtle in the brown one and the palm trees in the red one. This is one of the stores at the PCC, dedicated just to quilts and Hawaiian fabric. I spent a little time in it while an LDS missionary taught Brian and the kids a little tune on the ukulele.

It was getting dark and the villages were closing. We walked through an old island church with some of the history of religion on the islands. So interesting! We still had time before the big final show, Breath of Life, so we took the bus tour of BYU Hawaii and the Hawaii Temple. (I texted our nephew Ethan when we were right in front of his school, but he was at work. So sad to be right there and not be able to connect!)
Breath of Life was a remarkable show. We were close to the front and could feel a little of the heat. (Right before we went in Bridget bought herself a Hawaiian dress at one of the shops. I love that that is what she chose for her souvenir.) The kids were SO TIRED by the time the show started - 10:30 Mountain Time. Emil fell asleep on Brian, but before he did he asked, "Dad will you wake me up when there's fire?" :) The fire stuff was definitely worth waking up for!

We were slow getting up on Thursday, which was heavenly. That means waking up at 6:30 instead of 5:00. I wasn't able to get tickets for the USS Arizona tour at Pearl Harbor online or on the phone, but the guy on the phone said I could call at 7:00 the morning before we planned to go and get tickets. Right at 7:00, I was on the phone talking to a lady at Pearl Harbor who sounded like she was hiding under a bed somewhere while she was talking on the phone with me. Suddenly there was screaming and howling from the kitchen, making it even harder to understand the lady on the phone. I tried to go out on the deck, but the noise (Emil) followed me. His mouth was bloody and he was missing a tooth. I could hear Brian and Bridget talking loudly in the kitchen. It was a lot. In conclusion, I finally got the tickets and hung up the phone to find out that Emil had bumped his chin on the counter and one of his front teeth had come out and was now lost. The other one was super loose, so Brian pulled that one too. Bridget had told Brian that they were permanent teeth (eye roll), so he was freaking out. Not permanent teeth! They were loose anyway! Sheesh!
Our plan was to spend all of Thursday at Aulani having fun. :) We did it! I tried snorkeling because it looked so fun and I was all the way over my airplane headache by Thursday. While I was in the water with Emil one of the resort employees was feeding the fish and he let me hold the line the feeder was on. So cool! The fish were all around me, but weren't touching me. 
Colin and I went on a tube down the slide together, which was very fun and fast. Once we landed at the start of the lazy river, though, Colin was constantly walking over me or elbowing me in the thigh to lean out of the boat. What the heck? Brian had figured out by then to get out of the tube and push them. Our kids are not about being lazy on vacation. The kids and I got Mickey Mouse-shaped shave ice and all of us went to the beach to play.
We got a bag of beach toys to play with and a couple of boogie boards to take into the water. Brian and Bridget got snorkeling masks and went farther out into the water to explore. I lost sight of them for a minute, then thought I saw Brian swimming back alone. AH! It wasn't him. I had a heart attack for nothing. Some guy near the rocks asked them to help find a wrench he'd dropped. 

By late afternoon we were all exhausted. The kids didn't realize they were exhausted, but they were. We went back to our room to shower and change and go see if we could find some turtles that were supposed to be nearby. We climbed all over sharp rocks, but never saw any turtles. Bummer.

We woke up early on Friday (what else?!) and the kids hurried down to get the most out of the pool. I found out where Pluto was going to be and we waited in a short line for him.

Pluto needed his nose scratched.
It was sad leaving Aulani. Isn't that an incredible lobby?

After checking out at Aulani we headed to Pearl Harbor. We had enough time to tour the Bowfin Submarine, a real WWII submarine, as well as the Pearl Harbor Museum before our USS Arizona tour. Each of us got a head set and we could punch in a number to listen to an explanation of whatever part of the submarine we were in at the moment. I could never be a sailor! It was so tight in there and I could feel the constant, subtle motion of the waves. Nope!
Emil and Colin took their tour of the Bowfin at a run, which is how they do museums. There were so many cool things to see, though! I wish they'd slow down a little. :)
Look at this kitchen! Never. It's a one-bum kitchen for sure.
I had to talk Colin into buying this shirt at the PCC. It was spendy and he didn't want to use his money for it. Come on, though! It's my favorite.
The museum was so interesting. There was a display of President George H. W. Bush with photos and letters describing his experiences being rescued by the USS Finback Submarine when his plane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during World War II. He downplayed it, but holy crap! Most airmen were beheaded by the Japanese if they were captured. 

We had just a few minutes before the showing of the Pearl Harbor movie and then the boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, so we stopped at the Visitors' Center store and met an old Navy guy who told the kids cool stories. One of them was about a girl in Hiroshima who made 1000 paper cranes. (I picked up the book about her and she made 600-something, but her family and school mates made the rest. Because she died of leukemia before she could finish.)
Look at all of those cranes! Amazing. The kids figured out the chakra.
The Junior Ranger booklet came with the badge in it. Don't tell the park rangers in Yellowstone! Colin wore his the rest of the day. :)

The movie was 22 minutes long and I feel like I held my breath through most of it. They only used actual footage from the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was mesmerizing. The kids didn't make a noise through the whole thing. That really happened! We were in the spot where it happened! Sobering. Afterward we filed onto the boat and went to the USS Arizona Memorial across the bay. 
The memorial sits on top of the sunken USS Arizona. We could see the ship from inside the memorial. There is still oil in the water coming up from ship. 
I love this picture so much. The names of the 1,102 sailors and Marines who were killed on the USS Arizona are on the wall Colin is reading.
Emil and Colin have had many many questions about Pearl Harbor since we visited. Can you see the oil in the water? It was a really special experience to be there, especially with our kids.

After Pearl Harbor we did some quick research on our phones and found a fun place to eat in Honolulu, Uncle's Fish Market and Grill. I have no photos of this. It was delicious and I drank a lot of Dr. Pepper.
We went to the beach one last time and caught an amazing sunset before the long plane ride home. 
They are even louder than they look.
Bridget and I peeled after we'd been home for a week. Ha!

I sat by Emil on the way home and slept but didn't sleep. We got home at about 7:00 Saturday morning. It was 54 degrees inside the house! I turned the fireplace on and Bridget and Emil fell asleep in front of it. Colin fell asleep in his bed under all the blankets he could find. I'm glad we had a recovery day because we needed it! I love having all these new fond memories of our trip to Hawaii. :)


(Emil and Colin kept mixing Aloha up with the word "hola." When our flight attendant said "aloha" as we got off the plane the first time, I heard Colin say to her, "Hola." AHAHAHAHA!) 

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