Enjoying life at Camp Chinqueka

Sophia and her Cabin 1 bunkmates for the first session.

Sophia and her Cabin 1 bunkmates for the first session.

Today marks the end of our third week of summer camp, and man has it flown by!  It’s hard to believe that camp is already almost half way done, but then again it always tends to fly by very quick.

I am glad to report that both Sophia and Sawyer are really enjoying themselves here at Chinqueka.  Sophia a full-fledged camper this year and is in Cabin 1.  She was very proud of herself on the first day of camp as she showed Beth, myself, and anybody else who would listen her bunk full of all of her stuff.  Beth and I have tried to be kind of hands off as much as we can so she can enjoy a real camp experience without her pesky mom and dad butting in.  Normally she does her own thing, but she does stop by our cabin every once in a while to check in.

Sophia and Sawyer got a little dirty during the "Goldrush" evening activity.

Sophia and Sawyer got a little dirty during the “Goldrush” evening activity.

My nickname for Sawyer is the “Prince of Chinqueka.”  He has turned into quite the ladies man!  Pretty much every girl at camp, both camper and counselor, go up to him to ask if he knows their name.  I am impressed he is able to remember as many as he does!

Sawyer and his nanny, April, get to run around camp and do pretty much whatever they want.  April is especially good at catching bugs, frogs, salamanders, and other various animals for Sawyer.

We have been splitting up our days off between relaxing around camp and going to Boston to visit Beth’s family.  Yesterday we spent a day off at an indoor trampoline park called Flight.  Needless to say, nobody in our family bounces on a trampoline very often, so it was a fun experience to jump around and try some flips.

We only have a few weeks of camp before we have to go back to the real world.  Part of me is ready to be a normal person again.  But then again, I know it won’t take long before I’m wishing to be back at Camp Chinqueka again!

Going strong after our first week of camp

Sawyer and April take aim at the archery range.

Sawyer and April take aim at the archery range.

It’s great to be back at Sunny Camp Chinqueka! We have been here for over a week, so I think we are pretty much settled. We are back in the infirmary, which is a nice place for us. Beth has her work area and then we have our own little two-bedroom living quarters off the back. It’s a bit cozy, but it works well for us.

We got a great surprise when we arrived to a clean cabin! Last year we had a lot of cleaning to do when we first got to camp. But this year our cabin was cleaned and the beds were even made prior to our arrival. We have about 50% of last year’s staff returning to camp this year, so things around camp have been ahead of schedule.

Unfortunately, our Katie “Nana” wasn’t able to come back to camp this year. The darn US Government denied her Visa and wouldn’t let her come back. So Sawyer has a new nanny and her name is April. She is from Scotland and I’m happy to say she and the kids have gotten off to a great start! I’m sure April and Sawyer will spend a lot of time at the playground and hunting for bugs.

Travis, Sawyer, Drew, Sophia, Harrison, and Beth pose for a quick picture.

Travis, Sawyer, Drew, Sophia, Harrison, and Beth pose for a quick picture.

I’m glad to say we have even managed to make it back to see Grammie and Grampie Stanton twice already! The first time was a quick visit during the day. We went to a park with cousins Travis and Drew, and went out for a nice dinner. Plus we all met baby Harrison for the first time! The second trip was an overnight trip at Uncle Damon and Aunt Jackie’s house. We had a bbq and a campfire while the kids swam in the pool and ran around.  Sophie and Sawyer have really enjoyed playing with Travis and Drew!

We have a few more calm days before the kids arrive at camp. Then the craziness begins! Even though this is just the calm before storm, it is still great to be back at camp!

Fun and busy week with Kelley Family in Los Angeles

The whole Kelley crew meets Mickey before our Disney breakfast.

The whole Kelley crew meets Mickey before our Disney breakfast.

Today the Kelley family is on the road again. We are just finishing up a vacation with my family in Los Angeles. As usual, we packed a lot of fun and activities into one short week.

One thing we did kind of different on this trip is we rented a vacation house and all lived together. It allowed us to put the kids to bed and still hang out instead of retreating to our own rooms. Plus all of the kids got to sleep in the same bedroom, which they really enjoyed. We weren’t sure how that would work out, but they actually did really well.

IMG_4926We started our vacation off at the Happiest Place on Earth – Disneyland. Actually, we started our vacation off with a character breakfast at Disney. That is somethign my family didn’t ever do in Florida, so it was kind of neat experiencing one. The kids were able to meet Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Daisy, and Stitch as we ate breakfast. It beat waiting in line for a long time to see each one!

The following day was our big Disney day. We were at the park right after they opened, had fun until lunch time, then went back to our house for naps. We were back in the park and caught the 4pm parade.  That allowed us to stay at the park until 11pm without too much trouble from the kids. We didn’t get to do all of the rides, but we managed to knock out most of them.

Grandma and Grandpa Kelley with all of the grandkids.

Grandma and Grandpa Kelley with all of the grandkids.

After Disney we spent a few days outdoors. We took a hike at the Oak Canyon Nature Center one afternoon. Then spent the next day visiting where Beth and I lived in 2005 at Redondo Beach. Out of all of the places Beth and I have visited during our almost five years of travel nursing, Redondo Beach has been both of our favorite. So it was cool to see the beach and the pier again.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour was quite a sight to see at the California Science Center.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour was quite a sight to see at the California Science Center.

We headed near downtown Los Angeles one day to tour the California Science Center. The highlight of that museum is to see the big Space Shuttle Endeavor. It is the actual space shuttle that was donated to them by NASA a few years ago. The museum was actually a very good museum for the kids. Very informational, but still enough buttons and play area for the younger kids.

We spent our last day going on the Monrovia Canyon Waterfall trail. It was a 1.5 mile round trip hike. It turned out a little rockier than I thought it would be, so little Cooper had to be carried most of the way. But it was still worth doing.

IMG_4786The week has been very busy with activities, but we have still managed to have a decent amount of down time. The house that we have been staying in had a nice heated pool. Sophia, Sawyer, Sydney, and Riley have all made big strides in their swimming abilities. Tyler has been a virtual fish for a while. The house ended up working perfectly for our family.

Today we are back on the road. We have a 4.5 hour plane ride to Nashville, followed by a 2 hour car ride to my parents house. Then we will have a day and a half to pack up all of our stuff into our cars, followed by a 14 hour drive to camp. Then…..after going from Hawaii to Connecticut in about a week and a half….we will finally be settled at Sunny Camp Chinqueka!

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Time to say Aloha to Hawaii

IMG_20140605_124028_481Today is our last day in the great state of Hawaii.  After coming here in the middle of January, as usual, the time has gone by very quickly.  Especially our one week here on Big Island.

We have had a great end to our time on Hawaii.  Yesterday we went back to the Pu`ukoholā Heiau temple and took advantage of their free canoe rides.  They take you out in a double hulled canoe, similar to the type the native Hawaiians used when they discovered the islands.  We got to sail around a bit and then they go in and talk about the history of the boats and how they were used.  We weren’t quite prepared to get as wet as we all got, but it was still fun to get out on the water.

Last night we drove to the top of Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in Hawaii, to see the sunset.  Actually, we didn’t go to the top.  You need a 4×4 jeep or van to go to the summit.  Plus they don’t allow kids under 16.  But we went to the visitor center and watched a pretty sunset.

Sophia looking at Jupiter and it's moons through the telescope near the top of Mauna Kea.

Sophia looking at Jupiter and it’s moons through the telescope near the top of Mauna Kea.

After the sunset, we stayed for some star gazing.  The top of Mauna Kea is supposed to be one of the best places in the world to see the stars.  They have about 340 clear nights per year because they are so high up.  The cool weather at night forces the clouds below the summit.  Plus there is less light pollution here than most other places.  The kids got a chance to look through some high powered telescopes to see the moon, Jupiter, and even Saturn.

Right now we are all resting up for our big travel night.  Our plane leaves Big Island at 10:40pm and we fly through the night to Seattle, Washington.  We get there at 7:30am, have a three hour layover, then fly about 2.5 hours to Los Angeles.  Then we are meeting up with my parents, sisters, and their families for a week long Kelley Family vacation.

It’s been a fun five months in Hawaii.  But now it’s time to say Aloha!

History, waterfalls, swimming with turtles, and LOTS of driving

The Puʻukoholā Heiau temple was built by hand using a 14 mile long human chain.

The Puʻukoholā Heiau temple was built by hand using a 14 mile long human chain.

We have been pretty busy the past couple of days.  We were on Maui for almost five months, so we had more than enough time to see all of the sights.  Big Island is at least three times bigger than Maui and we are only here a week, so we are trying to cram as much in as we can.

After spending our first full day at Volcano National Park, we didn’t push it too hard on day two.  We tried to stay fairly close to the resort.  We spent the morning at a local beach and then went into Kona to do some shopping after dinner.

Day three we were back on the road exploring the northern part of the island.  Our first two stops we learned about some of the history of the island.  The first one was Puʻukoholā Heiau – a temple built by King Kamehameha in 1791.  It was prophesied that Kamehameha would win the ongoing war and unify all of the Hawaiian islands if he built this temple.  People made a 14-mile long human chain and passed the rocks by hand.  The temple was started and completed within one year, and the prophesy came true.  Kamehameha won the war and was the first person to rule all of Hawaii.

Our picnic spot was the beach on the bottom of the Pololu Valley.  It was a steep hike down and back up!

Our picnic spot was the beach on the bottom of the Pololu Valley. It was a steep hike down and back up!

We also stopped at two very scenic valley overlooks on day three.  The first one was Pololu Valley.  We took a 1.5 mile round trip hike to the bottom of the valley to a remote black sand beach.  It made for quite a picnic spot!  After lunch (and some ice cream) we drove to our second scenic lookout – Waipio Valley.  We opted not to hike into this valley, but it was still a beautiful overlook.

Of all the waterfalls we have seen in Hawaii, Akaka Falls is probably my favorite.

Of all the waterfalls we have seen in Hawaii, Akaka Falls is probably my favorite.

We headed over to the Hilo side of the island for day four.  After a quick stop at the farmers market, we went to a roadside waterfall called Rainbow Falls.  It was a quick stop, but still a very pretty waterfall.  Then we headed north a bit and went to Akaka Falls.  Akaka is a very tall waterfall, said to be twice the height of Niagara Falls.

After visiting the falls it was time to go for a swim.  Beth heard from one of her coworkers about a place in Hilo that sea turtles like to go – Carlsmith Beach Park.  We threw on our swim suits and some water shoes and went looking for turtles.  We were not disappointed!

This turtle kept nudging both Beth and myself until we got out of his way.

This turtle kept nudging both Beth and myself until we got out of his way.

We only saw one turtle, but it was a very close encounter.  He started swimming closer and closer to us until Beth and I each grabbed a kid and stood on top of some nearby rocks.  The turtle still kept coming closer.  I don’t know if he was just curious about us, or if we were simply in his way, but he nudged both Beth and I on the leg until we moved.  It was neat and a little scary at the same time.

We ended day four at Ahalanui Park Hot Springs – a natural thermal pool where the water temperature is in the 90s.  It was a nice, relaxing way to end the day.  Plus Sawyer made a lot of strides in learning to swim.  He has been without a flotation device since we left Maui and he has been a quick learner!

Volcano National Park on Big Island

vnpWe left Maui yesterday and boarded a small nine passenger puddle jumper airplane to Big Island. Traveling with two kids, five checked bags, three carry-ons, and two car seats is not my idea of a fun way to travel. But luckily our short trip to change islands went as smooth as possible.

Yesterday we got checked into our resort in a small town about a half hour north of Kona. Our room wasn’t quite ready for us, so we decided to drive around a bit. We quickly found out why they call this island Big Island – it takes forever to go anywhere! Big Island is more than twice the size of all of the other Hawaii islands combined.

Sophia and Sawyer point out the lava glow that is visible at night at Jagger Museum.

Sophia and Sawyer point out the lava glow that is visible at night at Jagger Museum.

Today was our first full day and we decided to check out arguably the biggest tourist attraction on the island – Volcano National Park. Big Island is the newest of all of the Hawaiin islands. There have been a number of volcanic eruptions in the past two hundred years, but the latest eruption started in 1983 and is still going strong.

We started our touring in the visitor center and watched a quick video about the park. It gave an update on all of the eruptions over the past few years and the current status of the volcano. The volcano is very active with lots of lava and steam pouring out. However, there is currently no viewable lava.

After the visitor center, we started driving to the best place to view volcanic steam. It is called Jagger Museum. The plume of smoke is visible 24 hours a day coming out of a well defined crater. It was quite a site to see!

Just a short drive from the museum was a place called Thurston Lava Tube.  It is exactly what it sounds like – a cave that lava carved out while flowing underground.  The kids thought it was pretty cool to walk through such a big cave.

Lava flow in 1983 caused a few problems for this road.

Lava flow in 1983 caused a few problems for this road.

Then we ventured down the Chain of Craters road down the side of the volcano. You can see evidence of multiple eruptions through the years as you make your way all the way down to ocean level. One cool thing at the bottom of the volcano is a spot where the lava spilled over the road and into the water. They never fixed the road, so you can park your car and climb around on the lava on top of the road.

After that we had a decision to make. We could start the long, 2.5 hour trek home. Or we could kill a few hours and come back to the park at night to see the lava glow. Like I said earlier, you can’t see any lava flowing. However, at night, you can see the glow of the lava at the Jagger Museum. We decided the possibility of seeing active lava was worth killing a few hours, so we drove around for a while and found some dinner.

The lava night glow was definitely worth waiting around to see.

The lava night glow was definitely worth waiting around to see.

We returned to Volcano National Park right at sundown. There was a very slight glow at first, but as the sky got darker, the glow grew very bright. It was qutie a site to see the lava in action!

Today was a long day with lots of time in the car. Tomorrow we are sticking closer to home. One thing we have learned during our travels is you don’t want to push the kids too hard. Otherwise nobody has any fun!

Road to Hana Part II

This is an example of a waterfall you might miss if you don't have a trusty guidebook to tell you when to stop and look back.

This is an example of a waterfall you might miss if you don’t have a trusty guidebook to tell you when to stop and look back.

This is our last weekend on Maui, so we wanted to do one of the highlights again before we left.  One of the most famous things you can do here is drive the scenic road to Hana.  Our last trip to Hana didn’t go so well.  Rain caused us to end our camping trip early, a lot of the waterfalls didn’t have any water flowing, and we got a flat tire on our rental car.  I’m happy to say this trip went much smoother.

The road to Hana is full of countless waterfalls and hikes.  I say countless because a lot of times you don’t know how close you really are.  There are multiple times when the road goes right over a huge waterfall and you wouldn’t even know it.  The biggest negative about the road is that there are not very many places to park.  Typically there is only a small pullout for a handful of cars.  But today we left the house a little earlier than last time, so we managed to stop at some of the places we missed last time.

Sophia took this lovely photo of Beth and I at Waianapanapa State Park.

Sophia took this lovely photo of Beth and I at Waianapanapa State Park.

One of the highlights of this trip was the Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park.  It wasn’t really black sand as much as it was black rocks, but it was still really cool to see a whole beach covered in them.  Plus there were lots of little caves for the kids to explore with their glow sticks.

Waterfalls are some of the bigger highlights.  Unlike last time when we made the trip, all of the falls were flowing.  Some of them required a small hike, but most of them were close to the road.  It would be neat to take a backpack and do some hard corp hiking to see some of the more remote falls.  Perhaps on a future trip to Maui!

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