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.

England

We finished Europe in England. Primarily London, but we did venture to Windsor one day. We intentionally chose our last week in England because we knew we’d want some place where we could just be chill and not feel like we needed to see and do too much.

Basically, if J told me to pack my bags because we were moving to England tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t even bother packing. I’d just go without batting an eyelash. London is my favorite city in the world. I know J would prefer Spain if we were doing Europe, and I’d be okay with that too. But a little piece of my heart will always be in England.

We stayed at an amazing Air BnB for the week – it was the home of a family on holiday and it was so nice to explode and decompress and make our own meals and do laundry and just basically live for a week.

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We met up with one of my good university friends at St. James Park one day. The kids loved exploring the grounds and the birds and ducks. And of course, the amazing playground. And it was nice to catch up with my friend and feel like a real human who has relationships outside of my children. I mean, they’re cute kids, but sometimes it’s easy to feel a little lost with who I am apart from them.

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Of course, being at St. James Park meant that we were right by Buckingham Palace, so we knocked out some sight-seeing as well. We are pretty good multi-taskers.

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We took lots of naps and explored the nearby parks and ponds where we were staying. It kept things real and everyone happy.

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This fox just walked right up to this lady and drank the water from her water bottle. Like no big deal.

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She’d take a lot of steps for over a month, but London is where she truly started walking like the boss she is.

We also enjoyed walking around London City. We took the kids to Tower Bridge and the Globe Theatre. We will for sure go back again one day when the babies are big enough to sit through shows and we will just go go go and watch a million shows. The plays and musicals in London are better than any I’ve seen anywhere else. And I’ve seen quite a bit. I mean, I don’t have a theatre degree, but I know what I enjoy watching. And London is where it is at. And I’d love to watch Shakespeare at the Globe since it’s something I’ve yet to do.

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But we’ve got plenty of time for all of that. I want them to enjoy their travels age-appropriately. The big kids love the theatre, but so do J and I and neither of us wanted to be the one to stay behind, haha.

We trekked over to Windsor for a day and visited another friend. That was so lovely and fun. The kids enjoyed seeing the castle (one of my favorites!) and the town of Windsor. The heat wave was breaking around this time, thank god, so it was a bit cooler and more enjoyable.

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Don’t mind Freja’s look of pure terror. She’s used to being that deeply loved. We are working on toning down the love though, because people should only be touched if they consent. And yes, even a 2 year old can learn that.

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We hit up the Natural History Museum one day. We didn’t even see everything there was to see and we spent most of the day there. It was an absolute blast and I would not be opposed to returning there again. And we wanted to go to the Science Museum as well, but just not time.

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Our last day of London was an epic trip to Hamley’s. I’d been telling the kids about Hamley’s loooong before we even went to Europe, and it did not disappoint. I mean, what kid does not love a toy store? I enjoyed Hamley’s all those years ago when I was studying in England, and I was long past the age of playing. We had so much fun exploring each floor and all the gems they held. And the kids were so awesome about choosing just one toy to take home with us. As crazy as they drive me sometimes (oftentimes?) I really do have to give them all credit for being pretty much the best humans I know.

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It was also pretty entertaining that none of them picked anything “new.” It was all the things they love most. H got Calico Critters. B got Legos. M got Duplos. And baby F got a stuffie with an “I Love Bean” shirt (which was just kinda perfect since we call her Bean). But I love that I know those kids inside and out. I grabbed a few fun books for them because books always have my heart, and you can simply never  have too many.

And then that was it. We were off. Back to the mainland where we hadn’t been for a year. Back to our house that we hadn’t lived in for a year. Back to resume lives that, for a year, we had disappeared from while being island dwellers. But more on all of that later.

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Paris

I’m going to get slayed admitting this here, but I don’t love Paris. I know! I’ve been there half a dozen times and J even proposed there. And I still just don’t like it. I mean, I really love the idea of Paris. I think old Paris is what is alluring. But the reality of it is that it’s just not for me.

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J is grimacing because the sun is in his eyes. Or because he’s 10 years deep now and can’t get out, haha.

That said, I am so freaking thrilled that we were able to take Miss H to Paris. I’m glad she got to cross that off her bucket list and all of her eight-year-old dreams were able to come true (for those days anyway).

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Paris is big and dirty and not wholly family or kid friendly. And not that the world needs to cater to kids, but maybe accepting them as actual persons would be cool. And all the things I used to love about Paris 10+ years ago have mostly changed and been ruined – large walls around the the Eiffel Tower, and much of the insides of Versailles is roped off so you feel like you’re being pushed through a cattle call.

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He’s grimacing again. Hm.

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A statue in Versailles.

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This is definitely the face of a mischievous little brute who’d run into the Notre Dame.

It probably didn’t help that in this city Sweet M escaped into the Notre Dame without us, ran onto the tram tacks while I was adjusting his baby sister in the Ergo, got his foot stuck in a metro door, and escaped the metro wholly at one point. Is it a surprise he’s the one aging me that quickest?

And before you start judging me or pointing fingers – I get it! I was you. I laugh to think I once thought 2 year old B was a handful. He climbed bookshelves and cabinets occasionally, but never tried to be the cover of an international news story. Sweet M is a breed all of his own.

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We also entered an extreme heat wave throughout Europe at this time. For someone who ended up really loving Hawaii, I still do not love the heat. At all.

But Miss H got to see Paris and really that was what it was all for.And I’d do it a million times over to see her little face light up at the sights.  She was totally committed to the idea, and I loved that.

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You can’t actually kiss Oscar Wilde’s tombstone anymore (omg, who would do that!? Germs…and if you know me, you know I’m laughing so hard right now because you can bet I once kissed that gravestone!). But she pretended. After all, he is her namesake. Our little Wilde Thing.

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And it was fun reminiscing to her about my first experience in Paris when I was 12. And also about being there with her papa when he proposed. It’s actually a bit amusing; for all the really wonderful memories and experiences in that city, you’d think I would like it a wee bit more.

Regardless, it was a fun experience for the kids and I hope they got something valuable and beautiful out of it.  Their little smiling faces and shrieks of delight made it worth it. It makes everything worth it, every time.

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Why yes, he did order this for breakfast. He loves his food as much as his momma does.
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This. This right here is why I adore this man so ridiculously much. 50 bags to transport and Sweet M just couldn’t hang and only wanted his papa, and he didn’t miss a beat. He could have said no, or been a grump about it, or a million other things but he didn’t. And not just this time, but EVERY time. He’s always a rock star who loves our babies so fiercely he’d lasso the moon for them if needed. He’s my favorite.

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My budding little photographer.

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Cordoba

Cordoba, Cordoba, rah rah rah!

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Okay, that’s definitely the wrong country, but for whatever reason, that is always what comes into my head when I think of Cordoba.

Cordoba is a gorgeous city in Andalusia, and the home of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. Despite identifying as Catholic myself, I don’t particularly love that this beautiful mosque is indeed used as a Catholic church in this day and age. Yes, it was the site originally of a Christian church before the great Mosque was built in 784. I won’t give you entire history schpeel here, but regardless of how the history of it has all played out, I still think it should be utilized as a mosque. Not that it matters what I think, the Catholic Church is not giving it up, ha.

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I really wanted my kiddos to see the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. It’s one of the grandest places I’ve ever been, and I really just find the whole building and experience to be majestic and humbling.

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Of course the babies won’t remember any of it at all, and the big kids may only retain vague memories in the long run if anything at all, but it still matters. To me, it matters. For them to have experiences that make them realize that the world is so much bigger than them; that history and cultures are deep and intertwining and beautiful and heartbreaking and worth being knowledgeable of. It matters.

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They’ll have photos and the next time they’re watching Rick Steves and see him wandering about Cordoba, they’ll be able to say, “I was there! I saw the elephant tusk on the ceiling!”

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And maybe one day one of my kiddos will develop a love for history. Or maybe a passions for different cultures. Or maybe they’ll just enjoy experiences that take them outside of their comfort zones, and travelling the world in order to enjoy and learn about things they can’t find in their own backyard.

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Sevilla

Well…I got really busy, and exhausted. And for some reason WordPress no longer wanted to work from my phone and we didn’t have our computers until the beginning of this month, and then lacked internet until today. Sooooo, there is a bit of a lag from our European adventure.

Alas.

We spent 5 days in Sevilla and it was so extremely lovely. It was enough time to not feel rushed, and to just take our time and truly enjoy the city.

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That was really our biggest focus with this trip. To just slow down and enjoy. I know there were moments where we didn’t accomplish that, but I do think that overall we managed.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Spain? It is so incredbly family friendly and no one seems to have any unrealistic expectation for children.

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At restaurants no one bats an eye if your toddler is squirmy or your kids talk too loudly or your breastfeeding the baby (uncovered – the horror!). If your toddler has a meltdown in the afternoon after a busy day you get offers of sweets from strangers, or offers to help in some way, but you don’t get people’s exasperated and annoyed sighs of disapproval (which I’ve completely learned to ignore at this point in my life, but it’s nice to not even have to bothered with them, you know?).

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And it’s clean. Unlike Berlin and Paris where I literally had to bathe my kids every night because they were streaked in dirt after walking around; I think I bathed my kiddos once in the whole 10 days we were in Spain (which is pretty on par for their bathing routines, ha).

Sevilla is gorgeous. It’s where I first held J’s hand a million years ago because I when I was young and bit prudish, and it was all I was ready to give at that point, and thankfully he was a gentleman and okay with that.

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I think the kids all enjoyed Sevilla as well.

I know B was burnt out on walking, but that was pretty much the whole of our trip. It’s hard being at that age where you’re just too big for the stroller and not quite big enough to keep up yet.

The Plaza de Espana was a favorite and we frequented it daily. It was built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, and its beauty does no disappoint.

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And they all enjoyed the frequent musicians and dancers about town. Sweet M realized he’s enthralled with tap dancing. That was fun to watch as he kept asking for “pennies” to give the street performer.

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They all enjoyed the bull fighting stadium – La Plaza de Toros (Momma had mixed feelings about that one). The guided tour of this 18th century building is ridiculously informative though, no matter what your actual feelings toward bull fighting may be. The rich history held within these walls was something I definitely wanted the kidlets exposed to, and they didn’t seem too bored with it.

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We of course hit up the Cathedral – Catedral de Sevilla -, which boasts being both the largest in square footage in the world, as well as where Christopher Columbus is buried (again…mixed feelings. Having both a history and human rights degree makes life fun!). It dates back to 1401, and Cathedrals are kinda my thing. I let the kids play at a bajillion different playgrounds and eat ice cream until they nearly explode, and they let Momma visit cathedrals and, occasionally, art museums. It all works out.

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But I will leave you with a few of my favorite photos that can sum up our experiences better than I can with words.

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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.