Lots of beach time and my first 5k race

There are a decent amount of beaches here where we can hang our new hammock and swing chair.

There are a decent amount of beaches here where we can hang our new hammock and swing chair.

It’s hard to believe we have been in Hawaii for almost three months.  Beth’s original contract end date is coming up, so that’s normally when we would be looking at where we are headed next.  But since we are already committed to going back to Camp Chinqueka in June, we are forced to extend here until the end of May.  I suppose we can suck it up and spend another couple of months here.  :)

Our exploring has actually slowed down quite a bit the past couple of weeks.  We haven’t done everything there is to do on Maui, but we have hit pretty much all of the highlights.  This is where the island aspect is a bit of a negative for me.  Normally, I like to plan weekend trips and drive a few hours away.  But here we are confined on how far we can go.  At 727 square miles, Maui is actually fairly big.  But the majority of that space is taken up by the mountains and volcano and is not accessible.

The most popular thing to on Maui is go to the beach.  There are tons of beaches here and that is where we have been spending a lot of our weekends.  We bought a hammock and swing chair at a swap meet, so we try to find beaches that have trees to hang them.

Proudly displaying my medal after my first 5k road race.

Proudly displaying my medal after my first 5k road race.

On a different note, today I completed my first 5k race.  I’ve actually gotten into running quite a bit since we got here.  Normally my exercise of choice is an exercise bike, but for the past couple of months I’ve taken to running.  My normal path is a 1-mile city block right next to our apartment and I try to run 2-3 miles every other day.

I ran my first 5k length a while back, but today was my first actual race.  I got 127th place overall, but 5th in the male 30-34 division.  My time was 26:01, which is a personal best for me.  Running in an actual race was interesting.  Dodging the people who sprint past you and then quickly decide to walk was the most challenging part.  It wasn’t too bad though.

I’m not sure how long this running kick I am currently on will last.  It’s a great form of exercise, so hopefully it will stick for a while!

2013 Year in Review slideshow

Yes, I know it is late March.  But I finally got around to doing something I’ve been meaning to do for a while – make my annual “year in review” slideshow.

Maybe it’s the Journalism side of me showing, but I’ve always been a fan of documenting my life and the life of my kids.  I’ve been making an annual photobook and slideshow for about five years.  My philosophy is I don’t want all of these pictures I take to get buried in my computer and never get used.  Years down the road it will be fun to go back and look at everything we did and what the kids looked like when they were younger.

I started doing the slideshows because I tend to take a lot of small videos.  You can put pictures in a photobook, but I didn’t have a way to use the videos.  With a slideshow I can use the best of both.  I already enjoy going back and seeing what life was like when Sophie was still a baby.

Be warned – this year’s video is about 15 minutes.  There are a lot of friends and family who are in it, so I figured I’d post a link so those who have time to kill and want to watch it.

Click here to see the video on Youtube:  http://youtu.be/8kpQH4OnWvk

Cruising along with “Daddy school”

This week we are talking about the value of coins.  I generally have one big topic every week and then mix in refreshers of previous topics.

This week we are talking about the value of coins. I generally have one big topic every week and then mix in refreshers of previous topics.

Shortly after we started traveling in May of 2012 I launched “Daddy school.”  Back then my focus was pretty much limited to teaching Sophia the alphabet.  Once she learned her ABCs we branched out a bit to upper and lower case and then writing the ABCs.  The goal was to make sure she was at or above the level expected when a student enters kindergarten.

After we made the decision to keep traveling and home school kindergarten, Daddy school took on a whole new level.  Well, at first it was “Katie school.”  While we were in Denver, Katie worked with Sophie on the normal kindergarten curriculum.  Katie has experience in the Elementary Education field, so it was nice having somebody who knows what they are doing in charge of Sophie’s learning.  Unfortunately, when Katie wasn’t able to come back after Christmas, the homeschooling of kindergarten fell to me.  Daddy school was back.

Kindergartners learn a heck of a lot more than the ABCs, I can tell you that!  Last week we were working on the decomposing of numbers  in the base ten format.  What is that you ask?  Well, I had to get a bit of a refresher too.  (14 = one group of ten and four left over)

One activity that motivates Sophia is when I sell her some Dots.  If she gives me the correct amount, she eats it.  If not, I eat it.

One activity that motivates Sophia is when I sell her some Dots. If she gives me the correct amount of money I ask for, she eats it. If not, I eat it.

I am proud to say that we are cruising along with Daddy school and I think we are doing well.  It took me a little while to get in the swing of things, but I think I’ve got the hang of it.  We generally work for about two hours per day and then throw in a little life lessons here and there whenever they come up.

I’ve come to find the hardest part of homeschooling kindergarten is finding things to do that are not worksheets.  I make a lesson plan every day and try to use a variety of things:  games on the Internet, songs or videos from Youtube, textbooks that we bought, crafts, and of course a good amount of printed worksheets.

We have about two months left of school before the summer.  However, unfortunately for Sophia, we are not going to give her the summer off.  Last year I worked on teaching her how to read and she forgot virtually everything over the summer because I slacked off and didn’t work with her.  This year while we are at summer camp, we are still going to do some school work.  Hopefully when she enters first grade in August, she exceed our goal of being at or above where she should be academically.

Our camping adventure in Hana

Dozens of waterfalls and pretty views of the coast are the highlight on the road to Hana.

Dozens of waterfalls and pretty views of the coast are the highlight on the road to Hana.

It seemed like such a good idea.  The Road to Hana is supposed to be one of the prettiest drives in the world.  The actual distance to Hana is only 52 miles, but it takes about three hours to get there.  Once you get to Hana, you have to turn around and drive the same route back.  Past Hana is a really rough dirt road that voids most car rental contracts.  The one-way drive to Hana consists of approximately 620 curves and 59 one lane bridges.  It’s said that the journey is the main draw because you drive through a really tropical environment with dozens of waterfalls.

The “good idea” we had was to camp near Hana.  That way we could take our time getting there and then have an extra day or two to explore the area.  What went wrong with our camping trip is the same thing that ruins most camping trips – rain.

Luckily, we had a really good first day.  We managed to complete the drive to Hana and found our camping site at Wai’anapanapa State Park.  Since anybody going to Hana is taking a day trip, the road gets very busy in the mornings.  So we left a little later in the morning to avoid the parade of cars.

Beth took both kids swimming near Pua'a Ka'a Falls.

Beth took both kids swimming near Pua’a Ka’a Falls.

We stopped at quite a few waterfalls.  Most of the waterfalls are not right along the road, and nothing is really labeled with signs.  I guess part of the fun is exploring on your own and finding what you find, but having two young kids limits the amount of exploring we can do.  Plus there are limited spots to pull off the road.

I’m probably making it sound worse than it was, because the drive was beautiful.  I just wish we were able to get out and do all of the hikes that the guidebook recommends.

We made it to our campsite at about 4:30pm – just in time to set up our tent and start working on dinner.  The good thing about camping at Wai’anapanapa State Park is you are right along the ocean.  The bad thing is you are likely camping with a dozen other people.  Instead of individual sites, it was more of an open field of people camping wherever they want.  You don’t realize how loud your kids really are until you are around a group of people who are enjoying the piece and quiet of nature.

We had an ocean view from our campsite.  But we shared that ocean view with a lot of other people.

We had an ocean view from our campsite, but we shared that ocean view with a lot of other people.

After a night of playing Uno in the tent and a little stargazing on the prettiest sky I have ever seen, we started to hear rain drops.  The kids woke up at about 6:30am and we immediately left the campsite for a walk around the state park.  Again, our kids are not the quietest people.

By the time we left Wai’anapanapa it was full out raining.  We were headed to the highlight of the trip to Hana – the Ohe’o Gulch.  It is a series of cascading waterfalls that go all the way to the ocean.  Plus you can swim in them!  It is supposed to fill up with tourists, so one of the reasons we camped was so we could be there early.

You would think with it raining at a pretty good rate, the flow of water on the falls would be good.  Nope.  Barely even a trickle.  Total waste of time.  It was at that point, we made the decision to cut our losses.  We were supposed to spend the day relaxing at the waterfalls, go on some hikes, and then camp one more night.  But instead we headed back to the camp site, packed up and headed home.  The rain looked like it was going to be around all day.

One last obstacle in our camping trip.  Luckily we were able to change the tire without too much trouble.

One last obstacle in our camping trip. Luckily we were able to change the tire without too much trouble.

Anyone who has camped in the rain knows how much fun packing up your camp site is.  Plus to top it all off, as we were leaving the state park, we moved off the side of the road to let a car pass and blew a tire in our car.  That meant we had to empty the car out to get the spare.  Again….camping in Hana SEEMED like a good idea!

Happy birthday Beth!

We were rocking our homemade birthday hats while we sang Happy Birthday to Beth and enjoyed the cake.

We were rocking our homemade birthday hats while we sang Happy Birthday to Beth and enjoyed the cake.

After working a long work week at the hospital, you would think one thing Beth wanted for her birthday was to sleep in.  But she traded that opportunity, for the chance to get up at 4:45am and see some whales!

We are in the middle of whale season here in Maui, so naturally the whale watch boat cruises are on top of the tourist lists.  Its estimated between 12-14 thousand humpback whales come to the waters of Hawaii every winter.  They travel thousands of miles from the waters near Alaska to take advantage of the warm and shallow water in Hawaii.  Most of the baby whales, or calves, are born here.

A momma and her baby calf whale swim near the coast of Maui.

A momma and her baby calf whale swim near the coast of Maui.

I read the best time to see the whales is the 6:30am boat.  The whales are always active, but the water is generally calmer first thing in the morning so they are easier to see.  Luckily we picked a great day!  We manged to see about 12 whales and a small pod of dolphins.

We didn’t get super close to any of the whales.  The laws say you have to stop moving within 100 yards of seeing a whale.  They can approach you if they want, but you can’t get any closer to them.  Sometimes their curiosity brings them over, but our boat was probably too big because none of them got very close.

whale taleEven though we didn’t get super close, we still manged to see a lot.  We got close enough it was easy to see the size of them – and they are huge!  There were a lot of times when we came upon a mother whale and her baby.  The baby would often stay right along the surface of the water while the mother stayed deeper.

Seeing a whale jump out of the water or come right next to us would have been awesome!  But just being close to them was still a great experience.

Family picture in front of the Iao Needle.

Family picture in front of the Iao Needle.

Since we started the whale watch so early, we were done about 8:30am.  That meant Beth still had a lot of birthday left.  We headed home to relax for a bit, got some lunch, and then headed to the beach.  With a winter birthday, Beth doesn’t usually get a chance to go to a beach on her birthday!

Although we did it a day after her birthday, one other cool thing we did this weekend was visited the Iao Valley State Park.  It is a small state park near the middle of the island, inside the valley of the West Maui Mountains.  Iao Valley is home to the 1,200 ft. Iao Needle.  It is a rock formation that basically sticks straight up out of the ground, and it was used as a lookout by the native Hawaiians.

Maui Ocean Center and Whale Day Festival

Sophia and Sawyer walked away with lots of candy from the Whale Day parade.

Sophia and Sawyer walked away with lots of candy from the Whale Day parade.

Whales are a big deal here on Maui.  We are right in the heart of Whale season, which brings Maui a lot of its tourists.  The season runs from December till March and during that time the waters just off the shore are full of whales.  If you sit and watch the water for a minute or two, more often than not you will see at least one whale sprouting water or flapping its tail.

Saturday was World Whale Day and they celebrated here in Kihei with a parade and a Whale festival.  The parade turned out to be better than I expected.  They had a good amount of floats mixed in with the usual marching bands, police cars, and other parade entries.  We found a good spot along the parade route that didn’t have many people, so the kids did really well in the candy department!

After the parade they had a whale festival to promote the safe treatment of whales and the environment.  They had lots of crafts, music, food, and games for the kids.

maui ocean centerWe were planning on continuing our whale themed weekend with a whale watch on Sunday morning, but the threat of rain made us change our plans.  We decided to do one of the few indoor tourist things on the island – the Maui Ocean Center.

The ocean center is really just a fancy way to say aquarium.  It was kind of small, but the quality was really good.  The kids are starting to get old enough where they are interested in learning about these kind of things instead of just looking at the pretty fish.  The highlight of the aquarium was the shark tunnel.  Even though it was crowded, it was cool seeing the different kinds of sharks and sting rays swimming right above your head.

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Beach day and exploring Twin Falls

I don't think I'll ever get the guts to surf, but I did enjoy my first time on a boogie board.

I don’t think I’ll ever get the guts to surf, but I did enjoy my first time on a boogie board.

The rain in Maui has finally stopped!  Or at least it has stopped long enough to have a great weekend outside.  Beth has started taking call time again at work, which meant we couldn’t stray too far on Saturday.  So it was a perfect day to head to the beach!

We headed to our favorite beach so far - Kamaole Beach III.  It is in our town of Kihei and is only about a 10 minute drive from our apartment.  It’s known for being a great swimming and boogie boarding beach because it has a very sandy bottom and not many rocks.

Going to beaches is much nicer now because both Sophia and Sawyer are old enough to have fun on their own.  They don’t need to be entertained the entire time we are there.  They had a great time alternating between playing in the sand and playing in the water.  Beth and I both managed a few turns boogie boarding.  It was easier than I thought!

The hike to Twin Falls is about 30 minutes, with the last five going up a stream.

The hike to Twin Falls is about 30 minutes, with the last five going up a stream.

Today we ventured down the Road to Hana to a waterfall called Twin Falls.  It is a nice waterfall that you can swim in, but you have to walk quite a ways through water to get there.  With our handy water shoes on, we manged to make it to the falls without too much hassle.  The water was very refreshing – and by “refreshing” I mean freezing.  But swimming in a waterfall is fun, so we all sucked it up and got in.

After a quick picnic lunch and a little bit more playing in the water, it was time to head home.  The Road to Hana is supposed to be one of the most scenic drives in the world.  We have only gone a fraction of the way so far.  Instead of taking in the whole drive in one day, we have the luxury of spacing out the sights over a few visits.  Many more waterfalls await, and I can’t wait to see them!