Segovia

Walt Disney got his inspiration for Cinderella’s castle from the castle in Segovia. And it’s not surprise as it’s beautiful and picturesque, and just the sort of castle you’d expect to see in a fairytale.

We took a day trip to Segovia from Madrid, which was a one hour straight shot bus ride, and it was totally worth it.

It’s a gorgeous town with its fairy tale castle and famous aqueduct.

Can you see all of those birds flying? Sweet M was in heaven!

This is what you get when your husband tells you to sit on a wall with a baby strapped to your back and wiley toddler in your arms, and the knowledge that if you fall off the back you will likely plummet to your death.

It also has a gorgeous cathedral if that’s your thing (its my thing, but with small children it’s less my thing…)

It has winding little cobblestone streets and musicians tucked away in doorways. The food is delicious and the people friendly. The town isn’t remotely as big as Madrid so you can trek the whole thing in no time and still have energy to spare (thank God. 4 kids is kind of exhausting all on its own.)

Madrid

I know; these titles of mine are mind blowing.

We flew from Berlin to Madrid to spend a few days.

10 years ago J asked me to go to Spain with him. I didn’t know him very well. I was about to move to England for a year, and I was slightly afraid of being human trafficked (for real – I knew him that well!). But for reasons I can’t wholly explain, I agreed.

And I filled my backpack with “disposable clothes” and left with him. I had no idea where in Spain we were going or really what we were doing other than he’d swayed be the La Alhambra and my romantic ideas of writers and Ernest Hemingway and history I could walk through.

Needless to say, returning to Spain with nearly nine years of marriage under our belts and 4 crazy bambinos has been a very different experience.

Funnily enough, we are still sleeping in separate beds this go-round.

Madrid is just as lovely as the first time. The sangria still as sweet and the sights as beautiful and the company as good.

Miss H’s advice for traveling with a big family is to give the papa the baby so he can’t wonder too far from her food source – and I will admit it’s pretty sound advice.

Spain is such a different atmosphere than Germany in terms of family. I don’t know if everyone in Berlin really is angry and hates young people, but the atmosphere feels like it.

We haven’t gone into a single restaurant or store or even really walked down the street without everyone smiling and commenting on our kids and engaging with them. Everyone is constantly handing them lollipops and telling J how lucky he is. Restaurants are happy to seat us and wait staff even carry babies around for us so we can dine with both hands.

Spain really is so family orientated that it makes it so easy to travel with kids.

We popped into a small cafe one morning and Sweet M forgot him chupi there. For all of 10 seconds J decided that would mean we were weaning him from it, but then he popped into a pharmacy to buy another, ha. We stopped into the same cafe the next morning and the waiter immediately procured M’s chupi. We never expected them to have still had it, but sure enough!

We’ve enjoyed the Prado and walking around the city. Walking through gardens and stopping at playgrounds; keeping things as low key and kid-friendly as possible.

Berlin

Like my creative title there? That’s where I am at in life right now, ha.

So, we had a whole day in Berlin due to the way our travel plans lined up. I will be honest, Berlin has never come close to my bucket list of places to visit, but I’m also open to pretty much anything so I wasn’t sad about it either.

It was super nice that my friend C was staying at our Air BnB with us and played tour guide in Berlin for us. It took all the guess work and planning out of it, which was a nice way to ease into our European adventure. (I keep wanting to call it a “vacation,” but a vacation has some element of relaxation to it in my opinion, and this is amazing, but not relaxing, ha.)

We hopped on the train with our hands full of pastries and headed to downtown Berlin. Since it wasn’t a place J not I had been making big plans for, we were pretty open to what we saw. We both wanted to see the wall, in whatever capacity that was, and J wanted to visit checkpoint Charlie.

That much was accomplished, and more.

I’m not going to lie, I can’t tell you what everything we saw was exactly, but much of it was gorgeous.

The kids’ favorite part was definitely the bubble guy. In the afternoon when we were pooped he entertained my kiddos for a good hour; the 5€ I left him wasn’t enough, I know.

We ate yummy food and drank delicious coffee and fruity drinks. And I had an amazing waffle. I’ve been fantasizing about good waffles for years, because you just cannot get a proper waffle in the states.

It was so nice to spend the day with C, and I think we helped insure her childless lifestyle a while longer, ha. I passed out on her in the middle of a serious conversation, because, kids. Exhaustion. Whoops.

I will say, Berlin was fairly dirty. I wasn’t quite expecting that. But otherwise it was super enjoyable and I’m so glad we got to visit it, but I’m not sure I’d have wanted much more time there personally. Maybe if I were sans kids and could drink my way through it, haha.

Bergen-Belsen

I went back and forth on whether or not I should visit Bergen-Belsen memorial with the kids. I am always so torn between trying to present them with the most beautiful of worlds, while also not sheltering them from devastating realities.

Ultimately, I decided to take them.

They all ready know quite a bit about World War 2, the Holocaust, and the atrocities that occurred. We studied the Hawaiian/American aspect of it pretty extensively this past year, while also discussing with them aspects of the Holocaust and learning about Anne Frank.

I was able to appreciate that much of it they’re still too innocent to fully grasp.

A burial site for 1000 slain humans is a number they can’t truly fathom. Let alone 5000. Or millions.

But they were able to grasp that it’s a lot.

And there were children.

Babies.

Grandparents.

My degree is in Human Rights and Western European History. I’ve studied WW2 and the Holocaust quite extensively. It was all very gruesome and tragic 10 years ago when I was earning my degree, and I was not quite ready for how much it would hurt now, as a mother, to walk through that burnt down camp of forest and flowers and monuments, knowing that those had been someone’s babies. Someone’s children. Regardless of age.

And that someone had made them an “other” and decided their lives were disposable.

Worse yet, others were complicit in this mass slaughter of humans with their silence, with their blind obedience and fear of the same fate befalling them if they were to object.

I’d like to say I can’t imagine someone viewing my children as “other” because of their religious beliefs, sexuality, or the color of their skin. But it’d be a lie. Because we live in America where brown children are viewed as less than and my husband thanks god that they can “pass as white” so perhaps they won’t have the same hardships and prejudices as he’s faced in this life.

As I walked by the memorial sites, all I could think of was that quote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

So very many laws were not broken during the Holocaust. Hitler was elected properly and so many people were happy to have the Jewish people as a scapegoat for all that wasn’t quite perfect in their lives.

It was easy for them to dehumanize them and ostracized them, and slowly their humanity devolved as they were filled with hate toward a group of humans who were exactly like them outside of socially created constructs.

So many thoughts and feelings were, and still are, jumbled and scattered in my brain and in my heart that I just cannot articulate well at this point.

We, as human beings, and not for the first time in history, allowed for something so horrific to happen. And if we aren’t careful, we will allow for it to happen again. And that is why not just knowing, but truly understanding history is invaluable and absolutely imperative.

Needless to say, I’m holding my babies a little tighter.

And reflecting on the image of my little girl, taking a photo of the tombstone of a little girl not so unlike herself; bound by the beauty and faults that is humanity; and the desire to see the good in the world, even in the moments when it’s challenging to find.

A German Wedding

J and I had been planning to venture to Europe next year for our big 1-0 anniversary. Still with kids because that’s how we roll, so when my dear friend announced she was getting married in Germany this summer, we decided to bump things up a bit.

This actually worked out better – in my book anyway – as it was a good transition for us from Hawaii to the mainland – and since we can’t get into our home in Indiana until August, it forced us to extend our trip a bit longer than we had been originally planning. Win-win all around.

I was a little anxious about bringing a gaggle of jet lagged kids to a wedding (it’s exactly 12 hours time difference, so a 3pm wedding is 3am their time, after literally traveling 48 hours to get there).

And I suppose it was a bit appropriately placed. No one screamed or cried or ran around, so in that respect it was great. We were a wee bit late because our GPS took us to the wrong place first, but otherwise. B mostly dozed throughout the ceremony he was so exhausted, while M laid under my chair. F was pretty content but occasionally, quietly, fussed.

And H.

Oh, Miss H.

She was sitting in front of me and at one point during the ceremony when we were all standing, she walked back to me, putting her arms around my waist as she looked up at me, her eyes rolling to the back of her head and she dropped, fainting.

I summoned for J who was by the door and he picked her up and whisked her away outside, but after that my brain was mostly with her, worried.

She was fine after a long rest in the car though.

And the ceremony was gorgeous.

All the kids except B fell asleep between the church and the reception, but when they awoke they were rejuvenated and ready to party til midnight.

There were games and swings for the kids to enjoy. The food was delicious. And they all boogied like it was their job.

It was so nice to connect with friends whom I haven’t seen in ages and have an excuse to actually straighten my hair.

I did buy shoes just for this wedding, but I ended up forgetting them and wearing my Birks anyway, ha.

It was such a lovely day, followed by a delicious breakfast the next morning with everyone before saying adieu.

To Europe We Go

I will go back and wrap up our time in Hawaii, but it’s been so much and so crazy fast that I haven’t even really been able to process all those thoughts and emotions and last few days.

Anyway. I’ll just jump in.

Europe!

We departed on the 4th of July for an epic adventure.

We caught the red eye to Vancouver, where we had a 10 hour layover.

And yes, I know both of those babies should be in car seats. But we went back and forth because we wouldn’t be able to use their car seats in Europe (chest clips are illegal in Europe) and would primarily be using public transportation, so it would just be more stuff to lug around. Although I won’t lie, if I were to do it again I’d have purchased 2 $40 seats from Wal-Mart and pitched them at the airport, and then tried to do the same for the return flight. Oh well. I’ll accept the lynching though.

Having never been to Vancouver, we decided to make the best of our time and venture outside of the airport. It was definitely worth it!

It is gorgeous!

We took the train into the city and walked along the Stalin’s to Granville Island. We took in the scenery and stopped at a playground before grabbing lunch and heading back to the airport.

I would definitely like to return to Vancouver some day for some mkre sight seeing.

Then we boarded our second flight, going to Frankfurt, Germany.

It was a wee bit exhausting. And so hot. The airplane was so disgustingly hot that we the babies down to their diapers and they were still a bit sweaty.

Someone on the flight was sabotaging the toilets with stacks of paper towels. The flight attendants were worried that all the toilets would get clogged and we’d have to land early. Thankfully that did not happen; we just only had two working toilets throughout the flight.

Cool.

After we landed B barfed before we departed the plane. Pretty sure it was just from the heat and gross airplane food. He’s got his momma’s stomach.

Then we still had two hours before our Berlin flight. I grabbed pretzels for all the kids and we took it easy in the airport lobby.

Our last flight we all slept. All 6 of us. We were exhausted.

And we were officially in Berlin.

The kids were all such great travelers that I actually wouldn’t question flying such a distance with them again outside of my own jet lag and exhaustion, ha. We even decided to make his a 100% no electronics vacation outside of cameras (and Momma blogging when everyone is asleep), so the kids didn’t beings tablets or their Nintendo DS, even for the plane rides, and they were so stellar. I truly do believe that if you set the bar, the kids will rise to the occasion when given the chance.

Except for 2 year olds. They’re just crazy and need a lot of love and patience, ha! Because they’ll rip that bar down and club you in the head while squealing delightfully about it.

Traveling with kids isn’t all sunshine and roses. Mostly because you’ve added more people to something amazing and exhausting, and hanger is real. But I think how you view it and approach it is pretty key. If you expect it to be awful, it will be. If you expect it to be awesome, it will be. You really set the tone and get to decide.

I can’t wait to explore and eat our way through Europe!

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.

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.