Thursday, March 18, 2021

Back to School

 We got word this week that our school district is eligible to return to in-person learning. The kids are thrilled and I'm freaking out. Now that all of the adults in our house have gotten both of their shots, I feel much less worried about COVID. Teachers have all been able to get vaccinated. We've ironed out many of the issues that were impacting the kids' well-being but Eli especially really needs to get back into traditional school. But also the logistics of the school's plan is so ridiculous that even with three driving adults and one quasi-responsible teenager, I have no idea how we're going to manage. The kids are going back to school, two days a week, for two hours a day. Thank God that at least they're all in the same cohort so it's the same days, but of course all three schools (the girls, C's, and the high school) have slightly different start times and VERY strict guidelines on how long kids can be on campus before and after school. 

We'll get it figured out. I'm aware of the ridiculous privilege that we have in that we DO have three driving adults (one who works in the schools), flexible schedules, and kids who are old enough to contribute. I absolutely cannot imagine how a more conventional family would make this work without have to spend half their paycheck on aftercare or a nanny. 

The kids on the other hand, are thrilled. Even Syd, who got her anxiety from her mama and has a thing about germs, can't wait to get back to class. We're celebrating this weekend with new back-to-school outfits (more for my own reputation preservation but don't tell them that), new masks, and shiny new hand sanitizers. For those of you who's kids have already gone back, any tips? I can only imagine how weird and overwhelming it might be to be back in the classroom after a full year. Your teacher has legs!!! 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Hawaii and home again

After our trip to the Kona coast, where we decided that despite our previous plans we didn't want to do that again, the rain really started to come down. In fact, on Sunday night the whole state of Hawaii was under a state of emergency with flood warnings on several islands. It was only projected to get worse, so we decided to risk it to get one last thing checked off of our vacation bucket list. We hadn't seen Akaka Falls yet, and according to the maps it was a pretty quick drive from Hilo. We went back to Ken's Pancake House for the famous macadamia nut and banana pancakes and then headed up to the falls. 

It rained the whole time, but by the time we reached the parking lot it was literally dumping so hard that our windshield wipers couldn't keep up. We'd packed warm coats, but we had two raincoats for the five of us, and both mysteriously did not make it into the car. After waiting for about 30 minutes for the rain to let up, we decided to try again later and drive in search of both ponchos and cool stuff to see. Monday ended up being one of our favorite days. We drove north on the coast and because of the rain, the forest was especially spectacular. The rivers were raging and we found several waterfalls. We drove slow and took a lot of detours before ultimately deciding to commit to the journey and head to the Waimea coast. When we come back we want to stay in that area next time. It was so beautiful! We ate at the Big Island Brewhaus where we were pleasantly surprised by their southwestern food. It's hard to nail a green chile stew! 

After lunch we tracked down rain ponchos and headed back to the falls, figuring it was now or never. When we got there it was still raining, but we were committed to the cause. We threw our ponchos on and started down the trail (paved the whole way, with handrails), quickly realizing that despite the cars parked on the road that we were the only people there. I did have a moment where I realized that without good cell service no one knew where we were and that if something happened we'd be screwed. We were at a giant waterfall in the middle of flash flood warnings. Next time I'll live tweet our adventures or at least leave a note on the dashboard. 

The hike was SO FUN, and totally worth it when we got to the falls. I don't know what they usually look like but I have to imagine that the rain made them even more spectacular and the pouring rain made it that much more of an adventure. 

There are no pictures of Tuesday because it was boring and rainy. We went back to Hilo hoping to hit the Tsunami Museum and the Discovery Center. Both were designated as open when we checked on-line, but were definitely not when we showed up. We wandered downtown Hilo a bit, bought some last minute souvenirs, and then headed back to the house for laundry, school, and packing. 

I didn't sleep well Tuesday night, both because I was petrified I'd miss our 5:00 alarm and because the rain was coming down so hard that whenever I did sleep I dreamt that I was underwater. We all were up in time and getting loaded was easy. Have I mentioned how wonderful traveling with sentient beings is? Eli gathered trash while the girls corralled day packs and C and I did the final house sweep. Teamwork! In the car, all of our phones started pinging with emergency alerts telling us all to stay home unless we were fleeing :/ 

We made it to the airport and even got to the gate in time to fill water bottles! We were still all getting flash flood warnings (including the pilots) but the rain had slowed down so with a gorgeous sunrise over Mauna Kea, we waved goodbye to the island. 

At one point in the flight Averson put her sweatshirt on backwards and was asleep in about 10 seconds. I think she's reached a new level of traveler status. 

The kids did homework on our layover in Honolulu and we all ate BurgerKing for breakfast. I lamented my absolutely ridiculous outfit/sweatsuit. 

It was SUCH a good trip. We did enough to make it awesome but left enough to make us want to go back. I'm so grateful to know that this is an option for us and just how lovely and pleasant all these people in my family are. I couldn't believe how easy going and flexible the kids were. I really think that made all the difference. We were nervous about traveling during COVID, but we felt very safe and comfortable the whole time. The flights weren't crowded, restaurants all offered good social distancing and take out options, every store required masks and hand sanitizer upon entry, the house gave us plenty of room, and nothing felt too crowded. 


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Hawaii part 2

Hilo has this beautiful Japanese garden and we took advantage of the good weather to wander a bit
Future album cover

Syd does this pose compulsively so we made a point to try to get pictures everywhere

We went to a different beach park hoping to see sea turtles again. We were not disappointed! At this park the turtles and fish swim into a little inlet that is shallow and calm, making it so easy to watch them! One turtle fell in love with our family and absolutely would not leave. It's illegal to pet them (something we didn't know at the time!) but I'm not sure he knew that either. 

Averson found this jaw bone while we were swimming. Anyone have any idea of what it is? 
The jaw part was more cartilage-y feeling and the teeth have small serrations. 

On Saturday we hit up the Hilo Farmers Market where the girls picked out their aloha dresses. Things Syd typically does not love: Dresses. Color. Matching with her sister. Showing her legs. Things Syd loved about this dress: All of the above. 

After the farmers market (where we bought very little actual food after getting a very graphic education on Rat Lung Disease), we drove to Hawaii Volcanos National Park. The park itself was open (and shout out to the extension of the free park passes to include 5th graders!) but the visitor center was closed. A nice ranger stationed in the parking lot gave us tips on how to organize our visit. We hiked to see the steam vents (super weird) and then through the rain forest.  I was expecting it to look a lot like the lava tubes in Oregon so I was doubly surprised when it was so lush! After our hikes we drove to the little town of Volcano for dinner and then back to the park to wait for dark. 

Waiting for it to get dark. The rain was starting and it was pretty cold so we put the seats down and the kids learned to play Blackjack. 

 LAVA! I was worried that this might be underwhelming but dude. That's the glow from LAVA. There's no accessible flows right now but we were able to see into the crater where there was activity. And once again the clouds parted so we were able to nerd out on the stars again too. 

On Sunday, it was raining in earnest in Hilo so we decided to drive to the Kona side of the island for a beach day. It's about a 2 hour drive if you go straight across, and about a 7 million hour drive if you follow the south coast (which we learned the hard way). The kids liked playing in the waves but everyone agreed that they preferred the lava rock pools better. 

On the drive home I'd hoped to hit a coffee farm for a tasting, a couple of sight seeing stops, and the kids had been begging for shave ice. We got shave ice. The coffee farm I was looking for was closed and the one we found was nice but probably not worth the stop. The sight seeing stops had either closed for the day, were closed due to COVID, or we got there after dark. And we back tracked for the treats. That part was worth it though. We found an organic shop with a huge menu and giant portions. This is a small! The day was fun, but we were all so over the drive that no one had any interest in trying to hit what we missed on a different day. 


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Vacation in the time of COVID

About 18 months ago, inspired by really cheap Southwest tickets, C and I decided to plan our first family vacation that wouldn’t require us to cram all of our stuff into the back of our car. We originally planned a trip to DC in October (hahahaha). Once it became clear that that would be a terrible idea, we switched our tickets to Hawaii instead. 

Three reschedules, two vaccines, and an upcoming big life thing later, we decided it was time to go! 

The Big Island required a second COVID test so we camped out in a very apocalyptic waiting room. Travel in 2021 is weird but travel with three kids who can entertain themselves and carry their own stuff is awesome. 

We’d originally planned to go to Oahu, but since it was still COVID we switched to the Big Island thinking it would be less crowded. We rented a house on the rainy side outside of Hilo (IN the rain forest) and started researching what was open. 

The only thing we ended up booking was a Mauna Kea star tour that C really wanted to do. I’m not really into astronomy (or I wasn’t) but this was SO COOL. And because of capacity restrictions we had the whole tour to ourselves. We got to look at the sun through a solar telescope, visited waterfalls and lava caves, and just as we started to worry that the clouds might ruin the star gazing the sky cleared and we got to spend two hours looking at stars, constellations, nebula, and galaxies through a fancy telescope. 

There’s not many sandy beaches on the Hilo side but the kids loved these lava rock coves and they were full of fish and sea turtles