Musgrave Orchards

I have driven by the signs for Musgrave Orchards countless times over the past ten years. Always coming or going, but never stopping to check it out.

Finally, I decided to round up the munchkins up one weekend and check out this little gem of an orchard that is right in our backyard (figuratively speaking), along with my baby sister and her family.

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It’s not a you-pick orchard like some of the larger ones further away, but that’s doesn’t mean it isn’t charming and completely worth the stop!

You can walk about the property, and if you’re a dog-owner, pups are allowed on a leash. It’s great for a stroll, a picnic, or some fun fall photos.

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Inside the store you can purchase apples that are grown there at the orchard, homemade apple cider, local honey, chapsticks, and other great goodies!

You can also purchase apples slices and caramel to munch on while hanging out on the veranda where there is often local bands playing music.

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It’s not a big hoorah orchard, but it’s worth your time for sure! We will definitely be back in the future.

Mr. B Turns SEVEN…A Month and a Half Ago…

So, two of my kiddos have had birthdays since we’ve moved and I’ve still not even had time to fully process it.

Mr. B was insistent that he have a birthday party. And because he is kind of a middle child, and I relate to him on so many levels, it was important that we made that happen. Never mind that we were literally moving into our house (our household goods arrived on his actual birthday) and that I was doing it mostly solo because J was out of town up until the party weekend.

I decided to do a combined party for him and Bean, since I figured we should acknowledge her first birthday (I kind of thought that maybe if we pretended it wasn’t happening, then she’d stay a tiny baby forever, alas). Mr. B and Bean’s birthdays are exactly one week apart, so it worked out well. And since Bean’s only friends are in Hawaii, there was no competition on that front, ha.

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Truthfully, even though it wasn’t beautiful, having a brunch birthday party for him was a fantastic was for us to get to visit with many of the friends we had missed for the past year+ while we were away; and I’ve been so non-stop busy since our move, it may not have happened if B hadn’t been so insistent.

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This friend even flew all the way from NYC just to see him! Okay, maybe he flew to see his wife and this was an added bonus, but either way, B was delighted!

I made life as simple as possible and outsourced the cake making to the amazing Rebecca of Stryking Events, who did a superb job. Mr. B wanted a cookie dough cake on top, and chocolate mint on bottom. So not only was the cake freaking gorgeous, it tasted divine to boot. I will hire Rebecca again and again for our party needs because she always goes above and beyond. Always.

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This seriously is the best cake you’ve ever seen, isn’t it!?
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My momma made this dinosaur watermelon that the kids still talk about!

Mr. B is pretty much one of the sweetest kids out there. His heart is so big and so full of good; he really give me hope for the next generation of males (sorry, the climate right now is seeping into everything). When I worry about what the future may hold for the world, I remind myself that B is going to be a part of it, so it will be okay. Eventually.

He’s an absolute cuddle bug. None of my other kids are as cuddly and lovey as B is; not even Sweet M, and that is saying a lot! He loves to study graphic novels and build Lego sets. He’s still obsessed with all things dinosaurs and Jurassic World (hence our fourth dinosaur birthday out of seven…). He loves mythology and science, and I love that loves two such fascinating and complex subjects so immensely.

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He still enjoys playing his ukulele and is also slowly learning the electric guitar (please send ear plugs and coffee…just kidding. Maybe.).

He still has an amazing sense of style that puts the rest of the world to shame. I don’t know how I got such fashionable kids!

B loved Hawaii the least of everyone; he tolerated it and made some fantastic friends and memories, but he was ready to come back to the Midwest pretty much from day one. And he’s melded right back into his roll and life here and hasn’t really looked back.

I cannot wait to see what the future holds for him.

I Let My Kids Play Outside. Unsupervised.

It’s been a long time since I’ve said something publicly and had to stop and wonder if I shouldn’t have. But I mentioned in front of another momma last week that all four of my kids play outside while I make dinner, and often after dinner while I do clean up. Alone. (And many other times too, but those are the two times they’re pretty much always out there.)

She looked uncomfortable. Like maybe I’d just confessed that I sometimes let my 8 year old drive herself to the mini mart to pick me up a 6 pack (I mean, obviously, I’m a classy lady. I’d at least ask for a proper bottle of wine, ha.)

I found myself stammering to justify it in the moment, but I probably only made it worse. And later I was kicking myself anyway. Why did I feel so compelled to try and justify my parenting (or lack there of, that’s up to you) to a semi-stranger?

Why?

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Well, because we’re living in the 21st century where literally every decision is scrutinized under a microscope, and it doesn’t matter what you choose, you’re going to be wrong to someone.

Because we are living in the age of media. Where although crime has actually gone down over the decades, everyone is far more aware and terrified because all they hear is awful stories.

I’m not going to lie to you.

I have zero fears of my kids being kidnapped. Like when people say they can’t let their kids be outside alone because they may be kidnapped, that doesn’t even cross my mind. I can’t say it’s absolutely impossible, but the likelihood is so slim that it’s not even on my radar.

do worry about them gouging each others eyes out with sticks. Or falling off of a swing and breaking their arm (been there done, that. Me, not them.) I occasionally worry that the 2.5 year old may have a temporary lapse in self-control and venture into the street after something. But he’s always out there with his older siblings, and they typically are all engaged in some deep form of play that he’d never be able to squirrel away and get as far as the road without them noticing (and he never has. And H and B simply never did, so again, not that it couldn’t happen, but it’s not a constant worry.)

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I think what my children gain from free, unadulterated play is far more than they could ever gain with constant supervision, and is worth that mild risk of something going wrong. (And if we are being completely truthful here, every single injury my kids have had that landed us in the emergency room have happened with them just an arms reach or so away from me; not on their own.)

When I was a kid I can remember roaming the woods with my friends. We were as young as Mr. B; 7 years old. No adults nearby. We would roam and explore and play for hours before resurfacing for sustenance. It was beautiful and wonderful, and the type of freedom I wish for my children.

We’d get on our bikes and bike to the gas station for candy or to the playground or to the library. The world was our oyster.

But I also realize that my children aren’t privy to that sort of freedom.

We don’t have woods, and as far as I know, none of our close friends do either. If I let my children bike around town on their own, let’s be honest: someone would surely call DCS. Because that’s the world we live in these days.

So what I can give my children is a few hours in their own backyard, playing without interference from me or J; allowed to make up their own world of pretend. Allowed to make their own rules and negotiations.

Allowed to just be kids.

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(And sometimes I peek through the back windows because I’m a cool, free-range momma, but I also worry like crazy because I brought those babies into this world and I want them whole and in one piece forever and ever.)

Return to the Midwest

Well, we are not in Hawaii anymore. I guess that’s obvious at this point. It was a whirlwind of an adventure. We essentially went from looking at housing that was closer to J’s work, to packing our stuff and leaving the island in less than a month. But that’s the government for you. You have to be ready at the drop of a hat.

I’m still processing the move. As are the kiddos. They’ve done awesome though. The big kids transitioned back to the Midwest with zero issues. And Bean hasn’t had any noticeable issues with it either. But for Sweet M, it has definitely been a struggle. He asks to go the beach daily. He talks about his missing friends nonstop. He’s sleeping poorly, and experiencing frequent night terrors. He’s incredibly clingy, which for him, is not the norm. He isn’t dealing with separation, even in small amounts, from anyone in his immediate family well.

But he will get there. I’m confident of that. With a lot of love and patience, he will get there. Kids are super resilient, and Sweet M is no exception. He’s the toughest little dude I know.

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For everything I miss about Hawaii, there is something I love about the Midwest, and vice versa. It makes my feelings so jumbled up.

I miss the ocean. The smell of the water.

I miss my friends. My community.

But I’m glad to have space in this big ol’ house of ours for our family to expand in. And I’m thrilled to be able to afford to eat again, bahaha. Air conditioning and a dish washer is a luxury I had deeply missed. And I love the lack of traffic and the ability to drive anywhere I want.

The seasons are starting to change and I realize I missed that, too. I’m not looking forward to snow though. I didn’t miss that. Not even an incy wincy amount.

But I love that we can hang out at the playground and not sweat to death. That we can walk nearly everywhere we want to go.

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I’ve brought a lot of that aloha lifestyle back with us, too.

I’m not trying to do a million things anymore. I’m embracing the less is more. H and B are doing music lessons, and that’s it. I refuse to run around on the week day evenings. We are just chill being and enjoying. Although the babies could be doing a ton all day, we are content playing with duplos and being outside, and honoring naps.

I’m not stressing out over whether or not the house is picked up and looks akin to something out of a Home and Gardens Magazine. Sorry, but not really. I just can’t do that anymore. I mean, not like it ever did in the first place, but Lord knows I stressed myself out over it.

I’m spending a lot more time by myself. Well, by myself with my kids, I’m never truly alone, ha. At first, despite being an introvert, I found that uncomfortable, but I’m really embracing it now and loving how this time gives me the space to enjoy these kiddos as they properly should be. They’re not competing for my attention with friends or activities.

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I don’t know how long this season of contentment will last. I tend to always get a little stir crazy and antsy after a while. But now that we are officially moved in – though still working on unpacking and making this house ours again – I’m feeling really at peace with where we are in life right now.

It’s not Hawaii, that’s for sure. But it’s still something beautiful.

Pokai Beach

The kids and I tend to venture to the same few favorite beaches of ours for the most part. We try a new one every so many few weeks, but overall, we tend to like what we like, ha.

A few months ago my brother and sister in law introduced us to a new beach that we really loved: Pokai Beach.

It’s pretty windward, but worth the drive with its smooth sand and kid-friendly waves for boogie boarding.

And of course, any beach with your cousins is worthwhile!

We spent two days at Pokai Beach last week while my sister was visiting and Miss H got her first sunburn, but it was still pretty worth it. After a year on this island I finally invested in my first rash guard on day 2, because I had the same fate with the sun.

It was so awesome to have part of the fam jam together (there’s a lot of us, so having all of us at once is asking a lot). And it was so much fun to see all those little cousins running around.

Plus, last year my brother, sister, and myself all had babies. So getting all those cuties together was a bit epic.

It’s also a great Beach for kayaking! The kids all love that their Tio and Titi have a kayak. They feel like pretty big stuff out in it.

It’s a gorgeous beach and totally kid-friendly. It’s worth the drive and we’d go again if we had the time.

Aloha.

I Went Skydiving

You know the very first thing that came into your head was that song – “I went skydiving/Rocky Mountain climbing/…”

Last Saturday we were up bright and early and out the door to the North Shore. I had a date with the sky and I wasn’t keen on being late.

I go back and forth between being the most zen human and the most anxious – lucky for me, zen was my sweet spot that day.

I kept waiting for my heart to race, my palms to get sweaty, and maybe even to back out. And when it didn’t happen I figured it probably would when I was in the sky, at the door of the plane, no chance of turning back.

But it never happened.

I’ve always thought I’d like to experience skydiving some day. But it wasn’t something I felt strongly enough to put on my bucket list. If it happened, cool. If not, I wasn’t losing sleep over it.

We were driving around the North Shore a few months ago and happened to be watching the skydivers and my interest was piqued again.

“I want to do that,” I told myself. “I want to do that here, where the scenery is gorgeous.”

So I googled and it, and discovered that I know more than one person whose bought shoes for more than what it costs, and it helps that for some reason it’s like the 2nd least expensive place to skydive in the U.S. There wasn’t much reason to not do it. (Other than possibly my trepidation with Heights, but hey!)

The day I had originally intended to do it months ago, roadwork was being done that made the drive there even longer, so I put t off.

Then I realized that time had slipped away from me and I didn’t really have much time left if I wanted to do it on the island. So I booked a slot and made it official.

Have I ever mentioned that I have an amazing husband? When I told him what I was doing there was nothing but “awesome!” and “can we [he and the kids] come cheer you on?” He didn’t try to psych me out or grumble that I was spending money needlessly. He didn’t tell me to chill my 30 year old crisis out. He’s kind of like the greatest human I know.

The kids all waved me on after I was suited up and the guy that I was diving tandem with – Stepan from the Ukraine – walked out the the plane. It was me and several other women also diving solo, and then a few friends who’d come together.

I was to be the last one out of the plane, which I had to laugh about because I’d wanted to be first. No time to think about it.

Turns out I wasn’t even thinking about it anyway. The little plane was loud but oh my gosh. The views.

Oahu is gorgeous as is. I could literally just drive around the island all day and marvel in its beauty. I love a good hike that takes us high and gives us outstanding panoramic views.

But from the sky? Birds eye view?

There isn’t anything quite so breathtakingly gorgeous. I was more than excited and happy to jump out of that plane and free fall headfirst into the majestic beauty of God’s creation.

I’ll be honest though; the free falling bit wasn’t my favorite. I mean, I definitely enjoyed it, but it was so much wind and air in my face that I wasn’t really able to appreciate the moment fully.

Unlike once the chute was pulled.

I understand why people do this. Like more than once. Why they jump out of planes as a regular hobby or for a living.

I can’t say I’d ever want to do it not tandem, but maybe. I could probably work my way up to that desire.

I do know that I definitely want to do it again. Hands down. That will not be my one and only time skydiving.

Sweet M was pretty sad he didn’t get to do it with me (though my biggest cheerleader. As we waited for my turn, with each person that came down, he’d yell, “Do that, Momma! Do that!”) so I told him when he’s 18 we’ll “do that” together. Knowing him, he will remember and hold me to it.

I’ve always been so good about “someday.” So I’m glad I’m being more mindful of the present and doing things “now.” Because who knows otherwise if and when someday would even come.

Baby Makapu’u Tide Pools

One of my absolute favorite places on Oahu is the Baby Makapu’u Tide Pools. They’re typically uncrowded, they’re crazy kid friendly, and we often see monk seals!

Despite having been here for a year, J hadn’t ever been with us and I really wanted him to experience them. So on a whim I asked him to come home early and go to the beach with us for he evening.

I packed up the kids and a beach dinner, and he actually came home on time!

I cannot describe how much joy it brings me to see my kiddos in the water and my husband happy, playing with them.

I so appreciate how hard he works so that this can be my normal daily life, and I don’t take for granted that he misses out on a lot because of it. So when he’s able to catch a break and enjoy time and connect with them, we all benefit.

I love this carefree, take it easy lifestyle. I didn’t anticipate loving Aloha life so much.

Kamananui Valley Trail

I love hiking. Fortunately, my big kids are amenable to it as well. Unfortunately, my youngest does not like to be worn, and is still not yet capable of walking. Needless to say, we have been on very few hikes in the past six months. We have still done them, but sparingly to appease her.

This past weekend we return to an oldie, but a goodie. One that the kids and I have done, but J has never had the privilege of accompanying on us. Weirdly enough, he seems to have to work for a living. It really puts a cramp in our lifestyle, ha.

We ventured off to Kamananui Valley Trail. This trail starts at Moanalua Valley Park, which is nice because there is a playground and potties right there before you even get started, and at the end. There is also a nice little shower slicker to rinse yourself/shoes off if you happen to catch the trail on a muddy day (which is most days).

I love this trail because you can make t what you want it. It can be the whole 6.2 miles if you want, you you can turn back at your own halfway point. We’ve yet to make it all the way to the end, and since we are leaving in less than a month (waaaaah!), I don’t anticipate we will make it to the end this year.

Regardless, I love this hike with kids because there is so much to see, and it’s a relatively easy, and steady trail.

The kids love taking in the river in all of it’s roaring beauty.

There are small detours off the trail in some areas. Toward the beginning there is a great one that leads to a hidden house ruins site where Douglas Damon once lived. This is definitely one of my kids’ favorite little spots!

There are several creek crossings, all of which my kids enjoy. I mean, who doesn’t like getting a little wet on a hot, Hawaiian day?

And plenty of trees to monkey around in, of course.

We are definitely not serious hikers on a mission, but we enjoy nature and being in it, and allowing our kidlets to explore and learn to love and appreciate it, as well.

Molokai

10 years ago while I was living in England, I went through confirmation for the Catholic Church. I’d been baptized in it as a baby, but I hadn’t been raised in the church and I knew at that time that it was important to me that I was married in the church, and that my future children would be raised in it.

The father there, Father Peter, had a strong sense of camaraderie with Father Damien who was being canonized that year.

There were many liturgies that he gave surrounding Father Damien’s teachings. One evening during a Catholic Society meeting we watched a movie about Father Damien and all of his work, his life and ultimately his death, in Molokai.

Pretty much all people of faith, regardless of what that particular faith is, deeply intrigue me. I’m fascinated by people who can so easily believe in things they can’t see, and have such a strong calling to something that so many find unworthy. The idea of being so selfless, so giving, whilst expecting no worldly return is something I deeply strive of myself , although I know I could never be quite that humble and selfless.

Father Damien, now Saint Damien, really spoke to me. His entire story was fearless and giving; he literally left his world to give everything, including, eventually his life, for people who were viewed by the world at the time as the most repugnant of all. He loved those people, deservedly. He served them and gospeled to them, and lived with them as an equal.

Needless to say, visiting Molokai went on my bucket list.

I’m declaring my 30s the decade of “doing shit now” instead of sitting back and saying “well, one of these days…”

I’m a fortunate human; I’ve had so many worldly experiences and privileges in my life, and I take none of it for granted. But I also am the Queen of Procrastination and turning down opportunities out of fear of failure or imperfection.

Well, not anymore.

So I scheduled a trip to visit Molokai the weekend after I turned 30.

A friend offered to keep all of my kiddos, which made planning this trip to this particular island much easier.

Molokai is not a tourist hub like Maui or Oahu. Roughly 75,000 tourists visit each year, which is not many at all.

We found lodging via Air BnB and the only car rentals we could find were on Turo.

We took the tiniest little airplane into the tiniest little airport, and enjoyed the weekend on Molokai with just Bean in tow.

Having just one little girl was so easy. Just one car seat to lug; one kid to feed and change and put to bed. No screaming or fighting from tiny humans.

Even so, we spent most of our time missing our kiddos, and I realized that I’m still not super ready to leave Sweet M overnight without his momma or papa quite yet, even though he did stellar.

We arrived early Saturday morning and spent our time driving to the eastern most part of the island. Visiting chapels and beaches, and taking in the uninhabited beauty that is Molokai.

The beaches and lava rock were breathtaking. Molokai is definitely my island. I could have stayed there forever.

And the food?

There weren’t many options, obviously. But we found a tiny little joint way outta the way that was SO worth it that we went back for breakfast the next morning. And it was worth it the second time, too!

Because we had Bean with us we were not able to trek down and tour the historic Kalaupapa. Individuals under the age of 18 are not allowed. I knew this before we made plans for Molokai, and although I would have greatly enjoyed making the hike down, I’m glad we opted to take Bean with because I know I’m not ready to be without her for that long quite yet. She’s much too little and precious to not be with her momma or papa for more than 24 hours.

It didn’t prevent us from taking the small hike to look at the cliffs where it lays below though.

Then we hiked to the nearby Phallic Rock, because with a name like that who could resist? During this hike J and I also realized how terribly out of shape we’ve both gotten since moving to this island. Eep.

We spent the evening walking the beach near our Air BnB and talking about life and beauty and how, after 10 years of loving each other, we are still both happily here, doing this awesome thing and raising these amazing people, and loving pretty fiercely the whole set up of it all.

The next morning we went for breakfast and then we drove to the west side of the island. The town of Mauna Loa is called a “ghost town”, and the valley below is inhabited mostly by crazy rich non-locals. The beaches are grand.

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It was such a wonderful, low key trip. I put a check on my bucket list and really got time to cherish and enjoy my husband’s company outside the hustle and bustle of our normal, every day lives. It was needed and so very appreciated. And I’m glad we got to do it somewhere so beautiful.

Saying Goodbye to Hopper

Pets are hard.

But letting them go is harder.

Hopper had never been a part of our plan, but he hopped into our backyard and practically right into Miss H’s lap and that was that.

I was torn from the beginning on what to do with him; knowing our stay here was temporary; knowing nothing about rabbits.

But the kids named him.

Hopper Smithsonian.

So that was kind of that.

In fairness, I thought we’d be here a bit longer than what it’s playing out to be, and after a bit of research, I felt pretty confident that we could take him back to the Midwest with us.

Then things changed and we learned that after we left for Europe in July we wouldn’t be returning to the island. And we couldn’t very well take Hopper all through Europe with us; even if it was allowed it wouldn’t be fair to him.

We screened a few families and found him a home with a little girl who seems to love him as much as my H does. Even H said she really wanted to be sad, but it was hard when she saw how happy Hopper’s new owner is.

It was a good few months with him. It was nice for me to see where my big kids have grown and matured, the areas where they have naturally begun being responsible, and the areas they’re still working on.

It is certain though, Hopper was dearly loved around here and will be sorely missed; but we are all excited for his new adventure.