Making Vacation Memories

I know all parents desire a family vacation where their kids come home with great family memories. Today I want to share a few tips that we have learned for creating those unforgettable moments and still having a great time. First of all it is … Continue reading

Family Camping

This past week our family enjoyed a 3 day camping trip along with 3 other families from church at one of our local state parks. Even though Onondaga Cave State Park is only a short 20 minute drive from our house … Continue reading

Hawaii Vacation

Last fall my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew moved to Hawaii. We were very fortunate this past month to spend 8 days exploring the island of Oahu with them.


We packed each day with as many fun, exciting, and memorable moments as we could. Warning: this is a long post (probably should have broken it down into two – sorry.)


On Wednesday we took a short drive to Hanauma Bay for a day of swimming, sandcastles, and snorkeling.

bay1Over forty thousand years ago, volcanic eruptions from beneath the ocean formed a crater. Today, this crater is known as Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District. About 400 species of fish are known to inhabit the bay and is known for its abundance of green sea turtles. We didn’t see any turtles but saw many black sea urchins, parrot fish, Raccoon Butterflyfish, and puffer fish in the coral.


It was so great having family with us. Both sets of parents took turns watching the kids so the adult couples could go out and snorkel together.

On Thursday we traveled to the northern coast of Ohau. Eden has loved turtles from a very early age and had included on her vacation wish list to see “real sea turtles in the wild.” This area is know for their sea turtles, so we were hoping we would get lucky and we did.


We felt very fortunate to get to see two of the sea turtles basking in the sun. As we arrived the volunteers were just setting up ropes to keep visitors at a safe distance. Sadly in the past the turtles have been hurt from people trying to ride them, feed them, and pick them up and now have to be watched more closely. Each of the turtles have a tracking device on them to help researches learn about their activity.

Moments after arriving it started to rain and by the time we got back to our car we were drenched. Getting soaking wet while watching the sea turtles will be a day will all remember forever.

IMG_5211Back at the car we stripped the kids down and worked to dry their clothes as we traveled along the coast. We stopped for lunch at a little place I saw on Food Networks: Diners, Drive-in, & Dives and was also seen on Fifty First Dates. I think Hukilau IMG_5210cafe was the only place to eat in this small town but was friendly and very fast at getting our cold hungry kids food. They are known for their Hukilau Burger, it comes with teriyaki beef, grilled onions, and a fried egg. Joseph was the only one to try it but he liked it.


The rest of our day was spent  at the Polynesian Culture Center. We visited six authentic villages; where we got to mingle with natives as they demonstrate their arts. We enjoyed an in-depth, entertaining look at unique aspects of each of the various Polynesian cultures.
LessonsWe learned to tie knots, shake our hips and tell a story with our hands, use items from nature to make mats and toys, and how to make fire by rubbing two sticks together.


IMG_8944We got to learn about and try traditional foods. This is a taro plant that grows native to Hawaii. It is the staple of the Native Hawaiian diet and at the core of the Hawaiian culture.  The root is toxic until boiled but once prepared it can be made into everything from pie, to “burgers” and chips, to a smooth, purple-ish, creamy staple dish called “poi.” “Poi” can be an acquired taste but Eden liked it.

We also learned how to easily crack open a coconut using a small pebble and how to create coconut “milk” with your bare hands. We enjoyed our own coconut. Games1

We got to try out several different traditional games. We played tititorea, a Maori stick game designed to develop hand-eye coordination, we tested our dexterity (or lack thereof) by trying to catch poi balls, and tried out a form of tops made from nuts. All of these intricate movements allowed women to keep their hands flexible for weaving and helped the men with their strength and coordination.

Games2We also went for a race in native-style canoes like the islanders used centuries ago, played Konane, similar to checkers and a Tongan shuffleboard game, called lafo.


IMG_9048We finished our day with the tradition of the Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The Ali’i Luau is a royal celebration of Polynesian cultural heritage which includes the Royal Court possession, presentation of the imu (underground oven with roasted pig) and delicious traditional food and lively Hawaiian entertainment.

As we entered we each were given a lei. Our dinner menu included: steam tropical fish, shoyu glazed chicken, teriyaki marinated strip loin, poi rolls, poke, and more.

DoleOn Friday we traveled towards the middle of the island to visit the Dole Pineapple Farm. Originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, Dole Plantation opened to the public as Hawaii’s “Pineapple Experience” in 1989. Today, Dole Plantation is one of Oahu’s most popular visitor attractions and welcomes more than one million visitors a year.

IMG_9142The main attraction at the plantation is the Pineapple Express. Chugging along we learned about the history of the world’s most beloved tropical fruit and heared the story of James Drummond Dole, Hawaii’s pineapple pioneer. The 20 minute journey took us through a working plantation of pineapple and other crops, with fields in all stages of growth, from planting to harvest.

train ride

The boys especially loved riding the train and are stilling talking about it today.

IMG_9096IMG_9135The plantation also had gardens for their visitors to walk through with examples of the many different varieties of pineapples they grow. While walking around the gardens and taking pictures we had the kids say pineapple instead of cheese. They thought this was great and now always want to say pineapple; the problem with this is that it doesn’t result in a smile but rather an open mouth.


Have you ever seen a red pineapple? I hadn’t. We learned lots of really cool things about pineapples during our visit. All pineapples are also harvested by hand. The first crop, called a “plant crop,” takes 18–20 months to be ready for harvest. The next crop, called the “first ratoon,” takes another 15 months. For the harvest, workers walk through the pineapple rows, dressed in thick gloves and clothing to protect them from the spiky bromeliad leaves and twist the fruit from its base. IMG_9145

What trip would be complete with out a taste of this sweet fruit. We, everyone expect Joseph who doesn’t like pineapple, enjoyed pineapple ice-cream with fresh pineapple.

IMG_5256Friday night we tried out another Food Network featured restaurant. I can’t say Rainbow Drive-Inn was my favorite; it had a fairly Hawaiian menu, with many local favorites but I just wasn’t feeling it that day.


Saturday we went on a whale watching cruise with Atlantis Cruises. whale4

After setting sea we headed outside to get an area by the rail for the best viewing. We sailed along the coast and right out in front of hotel were two whales.


For the next hour we watched a momma and baby swim. The cruise had a naturalist onboard that informed us of what was going on. He thought the baby was about 12 weeks old but then decided she was much younger from the lack of activity and how often she was having to come up for air. He guested about 6 weeks old.


Because the baby was so young the main activity we saw from the mother was her tail coming up and then slowly rolling back and going down which is called a Tail Fluke Dive.

whale2At the very end of the tour a large male came to escort the mother and baby out to deeper water. We had lots of fun and can’t wait to do it again someday.

hike1In the afternoon we all traveled to the Manua Valley for a hike through the rainforest to the Manua Falls. One of the coolest hikes I have ever taken.

IMG_5325This area is one of the main areas that the TV show LOST was filmed. I was a pretty big LOST fan back when it was on so the whole time it felt like I was walking through their show.

hike2It was only a little over a mile hike up but it took us a couple hours because there were so many cool things to stop and look at along the way.


I loved all the different kinds of trees.

hike4We made it to the falls which really wasn’t following much that day but was still pretty. Others that we resting at the top said that most of the time it is a really pretty waterfall.

hike5After making it back down we tried out Rainbow’s End, which was recommend from other hikers. A shave Ice/Snack shop with so many different flavors. They also had pictures from the various LOST senses that were filmed in the area and pictures with the cast eating there. I was shocked they didn’t sell any LOST memorabilia.

beachbbq1We ended our busy day grilling out on the beach. There was a small park located next to our hotel that had outdoor grills.

beachbbq2This was one of those things I will remember forever. The kids chased Uncle Turtle  around in the sand as Joseph did the grilling and Amber and I prepared the rest of the food. We watched the sun set and then a fire juggling show on the beach.


On our last day in Hawaii we traveled to a less touristy beach to do a little volcano science experiment.


What better place to make a volcano than on a island created by a volcano and at a beach covered with lava rocks.


We purchased supplies at a local grocery store and created our sand volcano with baking soda, red food coloring, and vinegar. I think it is really cool how after it erupted and soaked down into the sand it leaves little popped bubbles that resemble the lava rocks all around us. The boys thought the bubbling lava was a lot of fun to play in and ended up with red hands.


After the volcanoes we explored the tide pool. The kids all loved discovering what each of the small crevices had in them.

I will leave you with a short video of the kids hula lesson. Aloha!

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This past week Joseph made a business trip to Kansas City, and I decided to turn the two nights into a fun little get away for the kids and me.  Our family does a decent bit of traveling, and I thought … Continue reading

Family Vacation

We returned last night from our family vacation. Everyone is asking to see photos; I don’t know if everyone really wants to see them, but either way here they are. Warning: this is a long post but has lots of … Continue reading