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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!

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!

Exploring West Maui

This Banyan Tree and all of its limbs took up an entire city block.

This Banyan Tree and all of its limbs took up an entire city block.

After being on Maui for almost a week, we finally got the chance to get out and do a little exploring.  There are a ton of things to do and sights to see, so it was hard to decide where to start.  So we ended up just hopping in the car and headed to West Maui.

The first stop on our trip was the town of Lahaina.  It is very much a tourist town with tons of shops and restaurants.  One of the neat things right in the middle of town is Banyan Tree Park.  It is a huge, sprawling tree that takes up an entire city block.  They happen to have a farmers market going on while we were there, but it was mostly expensive crafts.

IMG_3642After a quick Hawaiian shaved ice snack, we kept traveling up the coast of West Maui looking for a nice beach to relax and have some lunch.  We ended up picking DT Fleming Beach Park.  It is near the Northern tip of Maui so the waves were really high.  The beach was split between the surfers and the swimmers.

The Nakalele Blowhole wasn't as high as it could have been, but it was still a cool hike to get there.

The Nakalele Blowhole wasn’t as high as it could have been, but it was still a cool hike to get there.

Another stop on our trip was the Nakalele Blowhole.  It is a small, natural hole on a lava-rock ledge near the ocean.  When the waves come crashing in, it creates a tall gyser of water.  We were there pretty close to low tide, so the water wasn’t going very high.  But it was still a fun place to get out, climb on the rocks, and explore the tidepools.

The trip from the blowhole back to Kahului was very adventurous.  You have to take an eight mile stretch of road that is one lane and very curvy.  They have a lot of pullouts for cars to maneuver past each other, but it was still a tight trip.  Luckily, we didn’t encounter very many cars.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad first day trip around Maui.  It is nice that we are here long enough to take in all of the sights without being rushed.  Beth’s schedule at the hospital is likely going to be two 8-hour shifts plus two 12-hour shifts per week, so that means she will get an extra day off.  That leaves more time to explore!

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Watersports Day and the Mystic Aquarium

Sophia and Katie dressed up as clowns for Watersports Day.  Sawyer was a strong man.

Sophia and Katie dressed up as clowns for Watersports Day. Sawyer was a strong man.

If you asked most campers to name the highlight of the summer, the most common answer is probably Watersports Day.  That is the day that is all about the boys vs. the girls –  Awosting vs. Chinqueka.  We go over to Awosting for a big swim meet, dinner, and then a dance.

Every year both Awosting and Chinqueka choose different themes.  This year the boys had a ninja theme and greeted the girls with a smoke bomb and swarm of ninjas attacking as they entered.  Chinqueka chose a theme of traveling circus. All of the cabins dressed up as clowns, acrobats, animals, and more.

All of the activities had to be postponed a while due to a good rain storm, but that didn’t diminish the competitive spirit.  The boys won Watersports Day.  There is one big event of the day called War Canoe, and the boys won that too.  However I think everyone had a great time.

Sophie and Sawyer watch the rays at the Mystic Aquarium.

Sophie and Sawyer watch the rays at the Mystic Aquarium.

On another note, yesterday was another day off, so we decided to head to Mystic, CT.  We had heard about a nice aquarium and wanted to give it a look.  Everybody loves visiting an aquarium!  The highlight (to me) were the beluga whales.

Mystic is a nice area to walk around.  They have a lot of neat boats, a nice historic downtown area with shops, and of course the ocean.  Ocean/beach towns are always fun to visit.

Tomorrow is the start of the last session of camp.  Two weeks from now all of the kids will be gone and the summer will essentially be over.  Time flies!

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Hiking on the summit of South Mountain

Dobbins Lookout is pretty close to the summit of South Mountain.

Dobbins Lookout is pretty close to the summit of South Mountain.

I wanted to do something a little adventurous today.  The Phoenix area has lots of mountains.  The kids and I enjoy a good hike, so I figured why not do a little mountain hiking.

Both Sophie and Sawyer are pretty good at hiking, but I don’t think either are quite ready to actually hike to the top of a mountain.  So I had to find a mountain where we could drive to the top and then simply get out and explore.  South Mountain, properly named since it’s just south of Phoenix, was exactly what I was looking for.

There were some pretty views from the top.  Sawyer really enjoyed watching the airplanes come and go from the airport.  Sophie enjoyed collecting the beer bottle caps and other “treasures” she could find on the ground.  In North Carolina we were spoiled by lots of good nature parks and that is something that was lacking in Florida.  It was nice to get out and hike again, even if it was just for an hour or two.

It was some pretty rocky terrain, but both kids do pretty well.

It was some pretty rocky terrain, but both kids do pretty well.

Sophie and her "treasures."

Sophie and her “treasures.”

We were walking and I heard Sawyer say, "Ouchy ouchy!"  It turned out he stepped on a small cactus.  I don't think it really hurt him, but he was lucky!

We were walking and I heard Sawyer say, “Ouchy ouchy!” It turned out he stepped on a small cactus. I don’t think it really hurt him, but he was lucky!

Sawyer demonstrating how big this cactus is.

Sawyer demonstrating how big this cactus is.

 

Airport lunch with the Daniel’s and another trip to Magic Kingdom

Sophie, Sawyer, Reese, and Avery run into Hello Kitty at the Orlando International Airport.

We don’t get a chance to visit with friends very often, so when the opportunity presents itself we have to take advantage.  When our good friends, the Daniel family, said they had a few hours to kill at the Orlando airport, we decided to make the two hour drive and say hello.

Unfortunately Beth had to be on call all day, so it was just the kids and myself.  Brett, Megan, Avery, and Reese had just finished a week long Disney cruise.  It sounds like they had an awesome time!

We found a nice quiet place in the airport to catch up.  Then we grabbed some quick lunch at the food court.  After a couple of hours, they had to get through security and the kids and I headed to Magic Kingdom.

I figured since we spent the time and gas to get to Orlando, why not attempt Disney.  This was the first time I took the kids without Beth, so I wasn’t sure how long we would stay.  But the kids did really well.  Sawyer got a quick cat nap right before dinner, so we ended up staying until about 10pm.

Sophie and Sawyer with Cinderella. The first time we met the princesses, Sawyer wasn’t interested in posing with them. He really enjoyed it this time. He’s turning into quite a ladies man.

We managed to hit a couple of the rides that we haven’t gone on yet.  Sophie really liked the Flight of Peter Pan.  A lot of the rides still scare her, but I think she is getting braver as we go along.

We finished off the night with another viewing of the light parade and fireworks.  It was a late night, but both kids fell asleep shortly after we left.  All in all, not too bad for my first attempt at Disney by myself.

A sad goodbye

Beth and I have finally started our new travel nursing journey.  Unfortunately the journey couldn’t get started without saying goodbye to all of our close friends.  Yesterday our friends threw us a really nice going away party.  One last bash before we left town.  It seems like our friends group rarely has a chance to all get together, so it was nice seeing everyone.  But it was hard to say goodbye.

I’m not sure what the future holds for us.  Our plan right now is to travel for two years before Sophie starts school.  We could travel the whole time, find a place we really love, and settle down somewhere unexpectedly.  Or we could get to our first assignment and it might not be all that it’s cracked up to be.  In that case, we could call it quits early and move to Boston.

I’m guessing we do eventually end up living in Boston, but I’m not going to rule anything out.  Beth and I both have a part of us that always likes to travel. Needless to say, it was hard to leave the lives we had built in the Quad Cities.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before we are able to visit.