Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Turning 34

An impacting  thought I read recently is this: 

"Reasonable people can and do differ."
And it's true. We can have different beliefs, different ideals, and different lifestyles based on those beliefs and ideals, and still be reasonable people.... You can be passionate without being self-righteous, and you can be live up to your own standards while maintaining an attitude of love and humility. 
This is what I was thinking this week as I was reflecting on all the beautiful and  diverse friendships I have in my life. I truly expect my friends to respect my spiritual/religious beliefs just as much as I respect there's. I try to live daily by this, my favorite quote by Christina Baldwin: 
"To work in the world lovingly means that we are defining what we will be for, rather than reacting to what we are against." 
It is a beautiful quote, one that reminds me to keep being who I am, and to keep standing for what I believe in, despite what anyone else says around me. 

My husband took this photo of me standing in front of the Kona LDS Temple last month. 
Going to the temple each month is something I look forward to. It brings peace and clarity into my life, and a greater sense of who I am and my relationship with God. It is a place of love and serenity and deeply meaningful ceremonies. 
I didn't always used to feel this way. 
My testimony of the temple and it's sacredness has developed and changed  over the years, and matured with age, just as I have. My understanding of what it is and how it blesses my life has been something I have worked for, as I've opened my heart to God, and allowed Him to teach me what I need to know.

I was thinking how this is true for so many things in my life; how I didn't understand something very clearly, yet now it has become so obvious to me. I suppose that's how we learn and grow, isn't it.  I don't understand everything in my religion, but I understand that God gives us the understanding we need, when we need it.  Just as I didn't know everything about giving birth and having babies, but slowly over time my eyes have opened up. Now I have a greater understanding of what it means to push a baby into this world and become a mother, and like my religion, my heart is permanently attached to it all.

Because I love lists, and because I am 34 today, I made one regarding the things I have learned since I've become an adult Mormon. (Last year's Turning 33 list was things I learned about my adult self) My religion is very important to me, and very much part of who I am as a person. Here's a few things that are clearer to me now:

1. This isn't the same church I attended when I was a kid. Although my parents took us to church on Sundays , I really can't compare my two experiences. As a child/teenager, I didn't learn what it meant to truly devote yourself to beliefs and to truly commit to practice living righteous principles. I knew there was goodness to the morals and values my church taught, but I never understood what it meant to devote oneself to God; to devote oneself to the teachings and principles taught in the scriptures, and through the prophets. As an adult, I feel more committed, confident, and dedicated to God, rather than to a church. Attending church on Sunday is more to me than driving to the church and walking in-it's a commitment I've made to God to walk a certain path in life.

2. My church is not a social function. I don't attend church to show up at extra-activities or chit chat in the hallways. I attend church to renew my promises with God through taking the weekly sacrament, to serve my fellow members, and to learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am always grateful for the love and support I receive in my life from my fellow ward, but it's not the sole purpose.

3. Being Mormon doesn't mean living by rules and restrictions. Everything we do is a choice in life, and we are free to make those choices. The health laws and the commandments were created to protect us and bless us, not hold us back.  I am personally grateful for the health laws and commandments in my life- they have protected me and given me good health, happiness and freedom. 
- It seems funny to me that Mormon critics would view keeping the commandments as extreme. In my experience things like "Thou shalt not steal" and "Thou shalt not commit adultery" make pretty good common sense. I personally don't think God wants me to pick and choose what commandments are most important to me, as he has asked us to keep all of them. 

4. My church is full of normal people who make lots of mistakes. When I was younger I used to look up to everyone, as though they were perfect and probably better than me; like there was some sort of pecking order that I would fall into someday. So not true. We are all just people living our lives--trying to serve God and our fellow man, constantly  stumbling and falling and getting back up again.  Through Jesus Christ we can repent for the wrong things we've done and wipe our slates clean again. The power of the atonement is real. The relief I've felt in my life through being able to repent from past mistakes is amazing.

 5. I love everyone, no matter what. Having certain beliefs different than others doesn't mean I harbor hatred or resentment towards others who differ from me. Jesus Christ teaches us to love everyone, to treat everyone with compassion, dignity, and respect. Oftentimes people confuse strong beliefs with prejudice and bigotry.   I love everyone...no matter what, (although I'm not always as kind as I'd like to be, but I'm learning). I believe It's an important principle to live by, especially if you want friends....

Well, that's it for now.  I am grateful for getting older, because it often means understanding things better than before!  For me it means growing into the person I'm meant to be. 
I am grateful for all the wonderful and diverse people I have in my life, who uplift and inspire me to be a better person
Can't wait to turn 40!

Bonus picture of the little cuties that I luv.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hapuna mini-vacation

It's been really cold in Hilo lately, as I've  officially acclimated to the weather here. I've been suffering in the low 60's temps all month! I actually have to wake up and put on socks and a sweater in the morning, and even keep the windows shut at night. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr.

But, to get away from the chilly wind and rain, it's nice to know we can still drive 2 hours to the other side of the island and find a warm, sandy beach! We spent Saturday at Hapuna Beach State Park, where we swam, dug sand holes, built sand castles, and romped in the surf. It was a heavenly mini-vacation for me, (til I can rough out the end of this frigid Hilo winter. :)

Here's some pictures to warm you up, my dear friends who are experiencing  REAL winters all over the world.......From our latest trip to the other side:

Lovely Hapuna--the "Waikiki" of Big Island

Jonah and his new, best friend.

These photos below are from the jogging trail near Old Airport road. We always take our kids down there to play, while Micah and I take turns in the Kona temple.

Best Friends



Jogging the trail!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Man of the Mist

Today is my Dad's birthday. He is 64. I always know how old he is because he is exactly 30 years and 2 days older than me. I also always know how old he is because he's my Dad, but the timing thing helps out as we get older and more forgetful...(I'll be 34 in two days, aaaaaaghhh!! Where have the years gone?)

Last month my dad flew over from Oahu for work, and we got to hang out with him for an evening. It was Monday night, hence family home evening night in our house. My Dad said he had a special "FHE" lesson planned for us, so after dinner, we settled in on the couches for a lesson from good, ol' Grandpa Bill!
 I was really excited, wondering what he would share with our family! I know he recently took a trip to the Sacred Grove, and visited some historical church sights on the east coast. Perhaps he would share some insights into Joseph Smith's first vision, or the impact his trip had on his spiritual well being....

But no, not this time, for he had something else important to share. It was a story about a lovely young Native American maiden who was forced to marry a stinky old man who smelled like a bear. This young maiden lived with her family in a tribe near Niagara Falls. She was feeling so heartbroken and bitter about her horrible fate, that she paddled her canoe over Niagara Falls to her death. The story goes, that ever since her fateful plunge into the falls, the mist from the gigantic waterfalls, has been know as the "Maid of the Mist."

Here is my dad retelling the story, fully dressed in protective mist ponchos, from his voyage to the famous falls. He is actually wearing 3 rain ponchos, which he took off one by one during his lesson to show the kids what each one looked like.

Well,  I wish I had a picture of me laughing really hard, because that's exactly what I was doing during his "lesson". It was just really, really hilarious...and silly, and unconventional, and exactly the kind of lesson I would expect from my wonderful dad. Thanks for the laughs and smiles, Dad!  You always bring happiness, laughter, and fun into our lives! We love you, we love your stories,  and we wish you a 
Happy 64th Birthday!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Breadmaker Guy

Zadok made his first ever loaves of bread yesterday, and boy was this 6 year old proud! 

When his bread was all done he said excitedly to Micah and I, "I guess I'm the Breadmaker Guy!"
Zadok's Yummy Homemade Bread
(with the Kitchenaid mixer)
3 cups warm water
1 1/2 Tbs active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cooking oil
1/3 cup brown sugar or honey
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups white flour

Pour the warm (about 110 Fahrenheit) water into the mixing bowl and add the yeast. Whisk together by hand, until combined. Next add the salt, oil, sugar, and whole what flour. Mix it all together with the bread paddle. 

Next swap out the paddle for the bread hook and add all the flour. Start the mixer on setting #2, and watch as it turns into a ball of dough.
While your ball is forming, go warm the oven to 120 degrees.
Now come back to your ball of dough and check for stickiness. If the dough is still sticking to your fingers, add another 1/4 cup of white flour. Keeping sprinkling in flour until the ball of dough is firm and ready to shape, which will add up to about 3/4 more flour.
Turn off the oven as soon as it is pre-heated!
Now take out your big, ball of dough and round it out on the table. Use a bread knife to cut it in half. 
Spray two loaf pans with spray-on-oil, and put one half in each pan.
Put the loaf pans in the oven.
Set the timer for 35 minutes and let bread rise.
As soon as the timer dings, leave the risen bread in the oven,  set oven temp to 350 and timer for 30 minutes.

*Wait hungrily as your bread cooks into a delicious, fluffy, loaf of yumminess.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Big Steps to Keiki Steps

 It took a huge leap of faith forward for me to get my kids signed up for something besides play dates with friends. I knew that we needed something extra curricular in our lives because I was tired of trying to do all the entertaining and activities myself. During the week I would try to get my kids out of the house to the beaches, the museum, the parks, the library, etc,  but it was getting lonesome never seeing anyone else. We'd also try hard to make play dates with friends, but sometimes they'd fall through or we just didn't have enough friends to fill in our week. 
I would often talk to other moms who were busy at PTA meetings, or soccer practice, or kung-fu practice, or meeting up with friends at swim lessons, and I'd feel so left out. I need community, I'd think. I need people around me to support me and uplift me in what I do as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom! 
But, as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, I've come to discover that community is something you have to create for yourself.
In order to feel a part of something, you really need to be proactive in making a life for yourself and your kids, or it gets lonely. At least for me. I am a very outgoing and social person who thrives on the energy and company of other people. I love my family and love being with them, and for some homeschoolers that is enough community, but for me, I need to see and be around friends during the week. I need like-minded folks to validate my lifestyle and share in the ups and downs.

So why don't I just sign my kids up for sports and go out and make friends? For two reasons: The first is that this area doesn't have a strong, cohesive, homeschooling community that does regular, fun stuff together. And second, because God thought it would be really  funny to give me an extremely shy, introverted child who likes to stay home. And my eldest is not only shy, he gets downright anxious and panicky at the mere mention of taking a class or joining a sports team. Never!! I hear him say. I am never, ever, doing that!
 I've heard of other parents forcing their children to join a team, for the benefit of learning social interaction and boosting self-confidence. I couldn't force Zadok with all the promises of money and computers in the world; he simply would not go, and it turn he would get very sad. Like big-puppy-dog-tears-sad. The kind of sad that makes you melt into a big, sappy puddle, and promise never to mention soccer, or kung-fu, or swim lessons ever again.
So, to make the long story of my life (sort of) short, I realized that I needed to let go of my angst about having an anxious and shy child, and get on with life. I needed to sign my younger kids up for fun stuff and pull him along behind us, even if it meant dragging a miserable 6 year old out the door every week. It's hard. It's exhausting, but I feel like the Lord is answering my prayers for help in so many ways. He gives me strength each day to battle my challenges, and it's slowly getting better for all of us.
For starters, I started taking Odin and Jonah to a free mommy and me-type pre-school program called Keiki Steps, which is really fun for them. We sing songs, do crafts, play games, and learn Native Hawaiian culture and values in a real Montesorri-type setting.  It is 4 days a week, and we try to go at least 2-3 out of 4 of the days.

 I love it. It has given me a small sense of belonging and community, even if it's just for a few hours a day. I get to talk to other adults and enjoy the company of my children. Zadok is too old for the program, but they let him join along (mostly because this is Hawaii and everything is pretty laid back anyways. Thank goodness.) 

He gets really bored and irritable sometimes in there, but I've explained that, "as a homeschooling family we need to allow each other opportunities to learn and grow." I also feel that he needs to do this for his brothers, especially so they don't end up wanting to stay home all day, too. That would super-stink. So this has been really good for all of us, including Zadok. I feel more connected to those around me, and feel less isolated during the day with my boys. Yay for Keiki Steps!

I think back to when I first started considering homeschooling our children. Zadok was just 2 years old, and I was excited about all the fun possibilities we'd have as a family. I never thought in a million years that I would be homeschooling a child with very unique needs, and that because he has these needs, I would need to be homeschooling him. It's like the chicken and the egg. What actually came first, I don't know, but I am so grateful that God has allowed me to see what needs to be done, and gives me strength me to do it. Even when some days,  it's not fun at all.

All in all, I've finally found some peace to my homeschooling problems. I was struggling a lot this past year, feeling like homeschooling was suffocating my life, but I realized it wasn't homeschooling in itself; it was more of a combination of the unique family dynamics we have, and the area we live in. But, it's getting better. It really is. We are making friends, we are finding things to do, and we are making big leaps forward. Big leaps for me and the keiki!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Camping at Spencer Beach Park

Over the holiday break we went camping at Spencer Beach Park. This beach park is on the other side of the island from us, about a 2 hour drive from Hilo. It's just south of Kawaiahe Harbor, and north of Kona.
The funny thing about camping here is that it's so far off from any outdoorsy camping experience we've  had on the mainland, that it's almost laughable, (in a good-natured way). You basically drive your car up, pick a spot in the dirt, pitch your tent and throw your stuff on a picnic table, and spend the day at the beach! There isn't a lot of maintenance involved, since there's bathrooms and showers right there, and there isn't much privacy, either,  since you are sharing the campgrounds with dozens of other campers. 

There also aren't any bonfire pits, so without a fire, there isn't much for our family to do in the evenings.  It seems to be the same for most people who come there, which is why at dark, we see everyone congregate in the giant pavilion  The giant pavilion is overlooking the ocean, and has electrical outlets and lights. People wander in from their campsights to cook dinner, hang out, and charge their cell phones. The sunsets are breathtaking.

The first night we were there we met a large, gathering of Micronesians, line-dancing to electric- keyboard music, a small band of old-timer-hippies, playing their flutes, and children running everywhere, chasing paper airplanes in the wind. Our kids took to playing with their flashlights and chasing each other in circles, until they got too tired out.

I'm not sure if Micah found our camping holiday as humorous as I did. It was windy as hell, our tent broke in the night, and he kept having to fix it! Our toddler was up all night, cursing the tent, and I was laughing at the whole situation,  realizing that you just can't compare camping experiences. This is not like anything else; It's Spencers! But, if you come with the right spirit, it can be a lot of fun!

Besides hanging out in the pavilion at night, our other favorite thing to do is hike on the little trail heading just south of the camp-sights, to a secluded beach called Maumae. This was my first time going to this beach, as Micah had taken the boys last Summer on their own, camping adventure. They named it "the hiking beach,"  because the trail is about 1/2 mile long and leads right up to a gorgeous, white sand beach.
Maumae Beach
We swam, we played, we made sand castles, and we enjoyed every second of it!

So, despite the incredibly windy nights (our tent pole actually snapped in two!), and the fact that I was up all night because Jonah hated sleeping in a tent, and that Micah secretely wishes this was Arches National Park, we had fun! Yes, we had fun. And every experience outside having fun with the family is worth it!


Friday, January 4, 2013

Home again: Revisiting the North Shore

The small, passenger airplane I was on from Hilo, landed in Honolulu  on a beautiful, sunny, Saturday morning exactly one year ago today! It was the perfect weekend to attend an old friend's wedding on the North Shore!

I left my husband and 2 older boys in Hilo, and flew over with my toddler. We rented a car right away, and pulled out of the airport, heading straight into the direction of  Haleiwa town. I was excited about this trip, and had been anticipating it for several months. I hadn't been to my home island of Oahu since my eldest son was a baby, and that was nearly 6 years ago! This was my first time stepping on Oahu soil, after many long years of being away, and I was thrilled to be home. I was also having a really hard time back in Hilo, and needed a break from reality for a few days. I had hoped this trip would also have the potential to help me find some peace of mind.

At first I was completely calm, driving along the quiet streets of Nimitz Highway, past Pearl City and Aiea, and past the exits towards Waianae.....until I saw my turnoff for Wahiawa. That was when I totally lost it.
Tears! Tears starting rolling faster than I could keep up with! My hand flew up like a frantic, windshield wiper in a blizzard, trying to clear the moisture from my blustering eyes, as I soaked in my surroundings. "I am home!" I yelled back to Jonah. He was sitting in his car-seat, happily chewing on a toy. "Mommy is home! Mommy is home!" I shouted again! I was suddenly an overly-excited, hysterical mess, as I started pointing out everything I knew, to my oblivious, 17 month old. 

"There's Mililani, where we used to go to the movies, and Wal-Mart--my friend Amber lives here! This is Wahiawa, where we'd drive through and stop for food, on our way to and from "town". There's Kemoo Pub where we'd go watch live music and dance. There's the beautiful river that runs down into Waialua! And this is pineapple road, that takes us down to the North Shore! That there is the start of Ka'ena point, the mountains we named you after. Isn't it beautiful? If you look at it from this direction, it looks like a pregnant mama lying on her back! And here comes my favorite part, the view I have loved forever!" 

I could feel that same happy feeling coming over me, as I pointed out the gorgeous, panorama of the North Shore coming into view-- the  same feeling I'd get every time I drove back from the other side of the island to my beloved, North Shore. 
"This is the North Shore, baby Jonah!," I shouted out, with the biggest smile on my face!," This is where mommy lived when I was a little girl,  and spent all my growing years!" He smiled back at me, clapping his chubby hands together, happily surprised by all the unexpected excitement.

Instead of taking the bypass road towards Sunset, I detoured through Haleiwa town. The wedding didn't start til 4pm, so I had plenty of time to dawdle, and absorb the memories of my past.

One thing that made me laugh is how small everything seemed to me! That "freeway" I just drove on, was the dinkiest, wusiest excuse for a freeway I've ever seen! 55 mph? Ha! It took me 30 measly minutes just to get to Haleiwa from the airport, something which used to seem like a huge deal back in the day. (I was mostly laughing at my own, small-town-girl mentality, after living in Los Angelos later on in life.....)
Jack Johnson at Haleiwa Joe's, 2001.
Haleiwa seemed smaller than normal, too. Growing up out in Sunset beach meant that coming into Haleiwa town was often the hub of the North Shore-the place where we'd come to eat out, or shop, or do anything besides go to  Pupukea Foodland. Driving through Haleiwa town brought back so many old memories, I could barely contain myself! I pointed out where I used to go to the surf-night-movie-parties at the Christian church, where the Haleiwa carnival set up once a year, where I'd go dancing and listen to live music at Haleiwa Joe's. where I'd dine with friends at Cholos Mexican restaurant, where I'd stop into Waialua Bakery or the Coffee Gallery for smoothies, where I'd wait in line for the best breakfast burritos at Cafe Haleiwa, and of course, where I was a waitress for several years, slinging pizza and beer at Pizza Bob's. 
Shopping with friends in Haleiwa town, 1996
And on and on; the memories just kept flooding in, as the tears kept flooding my rental car. I hadn't realized how home-sick I was!

Moving down the road, I headed  towards Sunset Beach. Since I had plenty of time to cruise,  I took the liberty to drive as slowly as an annoying tourist on a Hawaii vacation.
I was also starting to calm down, emotionally, and looked forward to finding a nice beach to relax on. However, as I drove past Laniakea beach, my hysterical excitement got worse, as I was approaching all my favorite beaches and surf spots!
How could I forget the territorial stomping grounds and playgrounds of my youth?! These were the places where I spent all of my spare time at; the places that offered me happiness, peace, a sense of belonging, and rest from all the worries of the world. 
The ocean became so many things for me over the years. It was the place where I could let- go and feel liberating happiness, yet also shed tears, and regroup from rough times. It was a place to laugh and have fun, yet also a place to meditate deeply and heal my wounded heart. 

Unfortunately, the ocean also became a place to numb myself. Because of it's amazing power to wipe my mind clean, it  became a drug for me. When hard times hit, and I didn't have anyone, or anywhere else to go, I went to the ocean. I let the waves wash over me, and the water consume every crevice of my body, until I was filled with saltwater and sand, instead of anger and hurt. But like any addictive drug, it was a temporary numbing, so when I emerged back into reality, I still didn't feel the peace that I needed .
So, coming back to the North Shore, I felt a little overwhelmed, almost like an alcoholic walking back into a bar for the first time. I could smell the salt water, and feel the temptation lingering over my head! I wanted to jump right in and let the ocean do it's magic, but....I had learned a few things over the years. I now knew that only God holds that power, and only through Him can I escape, finding ultimate healing, and peace, through His mercy and love.  So, although the ocean was my medicine for so many years, I finally  knew that I had moved on. That if times got tough again, I could be happy living in inland Nevada, if I had to, as long as I had God by my side. I needed to see the North Shore again, to know that for sure.

I stopped by the beachside and offered a prayer of thanks to my Heavenly Father for giving me my ocean when I needed it, and for allowing it to heal me when I had strayed so far from Him. 
Thank you for Laniakeas with it's perfect rights, for Chuns Reef, where I spent many frustrating hours teaching myself how to surf.  For Waimea Bay, my second-home for swimming laps, jumping rock, and swimming with dolphins.. Thank you for  Rubber Duckies,  my secret home-spot for catching waves when everywhere else was a crowded mess. Thank you for Three Tables,  the beach across the street from my house where I would go to snorkel and meditate with the fish and sea turtles; where I spent hours playing on the beach with my little dog, Pog.
Thank you for  Sharks Cove, where I snorkeled for hours, and dared myself through underwater caves. Thank you for Keiki beach, where I had the most fun getting womped in the pounding surf,  collecting sea-shells, and spending many nights sleeping peacefully under the star-lit sky. Thank you for Log Cabins, Rock-piles, Backdoor, and Pipeline, where I would go to watch talented surfers ride nature's incredible phenomenons!
Thank you for Ehukais, where I became a Junior Lifeguard, and where I spent years playing in the waves with my best friend-- riding  the glassy, blue sandbars, and swimming under the turquoise sea. 
Junior Lifeguards, Ehukai beach, 1992
Thank you for Pupukeas, where I learned how to surf, and how it changed my life forever. Thank you for  Rocky Point, Monster Mush, Kammie Land, and Sunset Beach, one of the greatest playgrounds ever built for a kid! Thank you for Freddie Land! Enough said! And thank you for beautiful Kawela Bay, a place of refuge and solitude for my soul. 

As I looked out over the ocean and soaked in the scenes before me, I felt sadly homesick; a deep longing for my childhood. I wanted to be a kid again, splashing through the surf, without a care in the world. Yet, I also felt immense peace for where I am right now.  I feel that the North Shore is one of the most beautiful gifts  God has given me in my life,  and I appreciated every day of it.  I love the North Shore, and all it's unique beauty, but I know it's okay to live elsewhere--  I know it's okay to find  beauty in other places and things, and to find peace and happiness through God.

I ended up spending the day with my bestie from high school, and her family, watching the Pipeline Masters surf contest. It turned out to be a busy, active day! The waves were going off, and the energy from the ocean was contagious! Everywhere I visited that day-to Foodland, to my old high school, to the bathrooms at Sunset beach,  I ran into old friends, old acquaintances, old crushes, and even my high school principal. Smiles and hugs were exchanged as people asked, "Where the crap have you been?"  It was like nothing had changed, only everyone looked  older. 

My last stop before the wedding was the bathrooms at Sunset Beach. As I was walking back to my car, an older, local man on a bike stopped me and asked,"Hey, where you been?"
"Huh?" I responded, slightly confused. I didn't know who this guy was.
"Yah, I know you!" he said smiling ,"You used to be one, little grommet running round here! Glad to see you back on the North Shore!"

Thanks, I said! I didn't know I was missed!

Goodbye, my little, North Shore. You will forever hold a special place in my heart, even when I am far, far away, in other beautiful places with my family.
 Even when I'm just in Hilo.