Sunday, June 29, 2008

I Can Sew!

After seeing Lynn's creation on her daughter Olivia's blog (another Qinzhou girl like my Chloe), I became motivated to make something for the girls myself. As the timing worked out, I was one day away from traveling to the mountains to move our stuff out of our vacation home (we sold it) and one of the items I kept there was a sewing machine.

Well, I am certainly no expert. I haven't sewn in about 7 years. I bought my new sewing machine 7 years ago and only used it once. It came with a video instead of an owner's manual and now I have lost the video. I really don't know how to use this machine, but I played around with it until I could accomplish a couple of different stitches and I started with this very simple project. I also had to research on the internet to figure out how to thread the needle and wind a bobbin. I never did figure out how to backstitch. The first top must have taken me 5 hours. But, then the learning curve kicked in and I was able to crank out the second top in about half that time.

The girls had so much fun in the backyard picking oranges and grapefruits in their new tops. Chloe's is a bit long, so it looks more like a dress, but she likes it that way. I guess that just means she will be able to wear it for a long time.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Farewell to Chris

Another daughter has left the nest. Chris was our second exchange student from Beijing China and she has become like another daughter to us. Chloe and Pearl were out of sorts all day after Chris left, acting out and being moody. It was clear that they missed their big sister, who has returned home to China for the Summer and then will return to the United States in the Fall to attend college at the University of Washington in Seattle. We are making plans to have her with us for Christmas. Pearl keeps asking when Christmas is.

Dad drove Chris to the airport at 3:30 AM so that she could catch her 6 AM flight to San Franscisco and then onto Beijing. Her friend Alana spent the night so that she too, could go to the airport to say goodbye and wish Chris well. Chris, we wish you all the best in whatever you do and we will always be here for you if you need anything.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

More Pics from Hawaii

Here are a few more pictures taken of the girls while we were in Hawaii. Dad took them shopping and bought them two dress-up outfits to keep them entertained while we just hung out at the condo.

We're Home

We had a wonderful vacation! We have been home for three days now and we are still recovering from the colds that we picked up. It has been a lazy few days. Our trip home was very long. Our plane landed in LAX at 4:30 AM and we had to wait at the airport for nearly 7 hours for the bus ride (3hrs) home. We didn't sleep well on the plane or the bus, so we were pretty much exhausted when we got home. If I had realized the schedule would have been this bad, we probably would have driven to the airport and paid for the two weeks parking.

Chloe and Pearl seemed so happy to be home and to play with their toys in the playroom. They spent the entire day Friday down there and they never even managed to change out of their pajamas. But they did manage to brush their teeth, if not their hair.

Chris will only be with us for a few more days before she has to return to China. I could tell she was starting to pack and "thin out" her stuff because the girls kept bringing me gifts from their big sister. She gave them five little mascots from the Beijing Olympics and she also gave them a fan from China. This is what spurred Chloe to dress up as a princess and display her new fan.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Trip to see Volcanoes

We departed our condo this morning on a trip across the Big Island to the Volcanoes National Park. Chloe was afraid to go because she didn't want us to get hurt by the hot lava. We explained that we wouldn't be near any hot lava, but she was still apprehensive.

It took about 3 hours to get to the park, so we pretty much wanted to see the highlights and get back on the road. We went to the visitor's center and a volcano museum. Next, we went to an area where steam vents come up out of the earth all over. It was fun to walk on the trail where we were very cold and then come up close to a steam vent where we could warm up for a few brief moments. We forgot to pack any sweaters or raincoats. Then we went on a trail to walk through a lava tube. I didn't know what to expect, but a lava tube is a very large cave or tunnel that is left behind after the lava flows out of the center. It was very exciting. Kilauea was the volcano that we were observing and it is the most active volcano on earth. We didn't get a chance to go down by the ocean where the lava is actually running into the water, but we had a fascinating trip anyway. We didn't make it back to our room until nearly dark.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day in Hawaii

This was a great Father's Day to spend together as a family, filled with swimming and playing and more swimming and more playing. Chloe and Pearl love their Daddy so very much and he clearly loves them too. These are the moments we treasure and hang onto as long as our memories allow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Arrival on the Big Island & a Submarine Ride

Arriving at our new home
Our kitchen for the week

Hilton Grounds
Tram ride at the Hilton

We have been on the Big Island for 3 days now. It seems like only one. The time is flying by so quickly. I have come down with a cold, but everyone else seems to be faring well so far.

This island is dramatically different than Kauai. We haven't ventured out to see the green side yet, but the scenery here is mostly black lava rock, dry shrubs and a palm tree-lined coast. We are staying at a very luxurious resort in Waikoloa. This place is very nice and very touristy. Our condo is amazing. This place must be 1400 square feet and brand new. It is a large complex and mostly empty, so we have all the great facilities to ourselves. There is a nice pool, and a wading pool with a sand bottom for the kids, a hot tub for grown ups and a work-out room. The beach is just a few steps beyond the pool and it is loaded with amenities. You can rent anything from kayaks to scuba gear. It would be very easy to spend all our time here without seeing the rest of the island.

We are sandwiched between some very high end resorts and the Hilton Waikoloa is within walking distance. This place is a destination in itself, situated on 62 acres. There are lagoons, shops, restaurants, multiple towers with rooms and it takes a tram or boat ride to get around. Hopefully, we will take the girls here later to experience a dolphin encounter. The grounds are spectacular and there are beautiful statues, bridges and works of art everywhere.

Last Day in Poipu

Staying here 5 days feels short. It has been an awesome location on a beautiful island. The sandy beach just outside our condo wasn't the best beach for the kids, but it was a great place to view surfers and wildlife. A monk seal came upon the beach to sunbathe and local staff cordoned him off to keep the tourists from getting too close.

Just about a half mile from our room, was Poipu Beach State Park. This beach was perfect for the girls, lots of secluded and protected shallow water to play in, a lifeguard on duty, restrooms, playground and covered picnic structures. And of course, across the street, one could find refreshments such as Hawaiian shaved ice. Every spare chance we had, Dad took the girls to play at this beach.

On our last day, we had a few hours to pass between check out time and airplane boarding time. We found a nice shopping center, had lunch and let the girls play one last time at the playground.

Next stop, the Big Island

The Pictures are Real

Sunset view looking west from our patio
Sunset view looking east from our patio
Chloe at Sunset

I noticed one of our blogger friends Donna mentioned that the backdrop on our first Kaui photo looked fake. I hope that the posts since then have cleared the matter up. Thanks for commenting. It's so nice to hear from you. Now I will have to go check out how Gwenny and Maddie are doing.

Here are some more pictures from our patio. Hopefully, they look a little more real.

Waimea Canyon

Often referred to as the "Grand Canyon" of Hawaii, Waimea Canyon is a beautiful place with gorgeous red earth and green plantlife. The drive is narrow and winding, but worth the views. It did remind us of the Grand Canyon, which is a very special place for Pete and I as we were married right on the rim.

The island of Kauai is overrun with chickens. They are everywhere and they are not shy. There is something strange about relaxing on the beach in lovely Hawaii listening to the waves pound the shore and the roosters crowing at all times of the day.

Luau in Kauai

We couldn't come all the way to Hawaii without experiencing a luau, so we booked an evening at Luau Kalamakua (I probably misspelled that). This is a fairly new theatrical production and they are on a large plantation. When we arrived, we took a train ride around the plantation and looked at lots of the plants and wild pigs. Then the train stopped and we disembarked to feed the pigs. This had Chloe and Pearl squealing with joy as they tried to feed the babies and avoid the big ones. Be assured that these scrawny wild pigs were not the same pigs served up as dinner.

The show was very nice and the performers were great. I wasn't that excited about the food (considering the hefty price tag), but all in all is was a memorable and enjoyable experience.

The Napali Coast

Our third day in Kauai, we took a half-day catamaran ride out to the Napali Coast. The cliffs are so steep and rugged that the only way to see them is by boat or helicopter. At points, they rise more than 3000 feet above the shoreline.

Since we knew that Pearl was subject to motion sickness, we all took Dramamine beforehand and consequently, Chloe and Pearl ended up sleeping through much of the ride. This was an amazing journey, but the ride back was like one long roller coaster ride. There wasn't a dry rider (we are talking dripping soaking wet) on the boat by the time we pulled into the port. This trip is awesome, but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone 3 or under.

Northern Kauai & Tunnels Beach

The four storey building on the right was our condo. We were in the corner ground floor unit, next to the water's edge. The building on the left is the famed Beach House Restaurant. That is where we ate our best meal so far.

We stayed at Poipu Beach on the southern tip of Kauai. Our first day out, Chris and I took a helicopter ride over the entire island. It was beautiful, but I was sick to my stomach the whole ride. That was our first time in a helicopter and each time I focused on the camera to take a picture, I was reminded of my sensitive stomach. We survived without having to relieve ourselves (Chris was sick too) and decided that we were glad that we didn't take Pete and the kids.

On our second day here, we traveled all the way to the northern point. The beach at the end of the road is Ke'e beach, but it was so full of people, that we turned back and stopped at Tunnels Beach, just two beaches down and much prettier.

Chloe and Pearl at a Hanelei Valley overlook.

Beautiful Tunnels Beach

Pearl running on the beach.

Pearl playing

Chloe playing

Chloe, Dad, Pearl & Chris

So Much to Catch up on

Kauai exceeded our expectations. I guess I expected a real "resort-like" atmosphere, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this island is more natural and rustic. I feel like we are seeing the "real" Hawaii. There are signs of big growth coming, but so much of it feels untouched. It is a fairly small island and you can drive from the south to the north in about an hour.

Speaking of driving, it is a winding meandering road with many one lane bridges. Pearl got carsick, so now we realize that we have to take precautions with her. On one day trip, I brought two changes of clothes for Chloe and one for Pearl and we managed to go through them all. Near the end of the road (it dead ends into a cliff, the Napali Coast) is the beautiful Tunnels Beach. Gorgeous snorkeling in safe waters for the little kids. It is stunningly beautiful here. The one drawback is the sand. Walking on it is akin to walking on fresh powder snow, your feet sink in past the ankles with each step. It seems like a short hike from the parking lot, but don't let appearances deceive you. It is a healthy hike. If you attempt to avoid the heat of the scalding sand and walk along the waters' edge, then your sensitive feet are subject to the small pebblized shells that grind on the bottom of them, still sinking deep into the sand. My feet were sore for three days after that.
Tunnels Beach pictures to appear in a future post.