Friday, February 28, 2014

A Day in San Francisco

After we got to Travis on Feb. 11, we couldn't rent a big van until the next day, Thursday.  That was fine because we were all exhausted!  We watched the Olympics and attempted to order pizza for dinner to be delivered to the TLF.  Bob was clear that we were on base, but 45 minutes later, we got a phone call from the driver saying he didn't know we were on base, and he couldn't get on, so we needed to meet him at the gate (about a mile away).  Bob told him we didn't have a car, and the guy hung up on him!  By this point everything in the BX food court had closed, so Bob had to walk over to the on-base Burger King to get dinner.  I guess Burger King has a contract with AF bases because there always seems to be one on base.  We had to eat several times at Burger King during the course of this trip.  I was never a huge fan of Burger King, but let me tell you--after this trip, I don't think I will EVER want to eat there again!  Just the thought turns my stomach!

Thursday, we picked up the van, and Bob and I went to the commissary to get breakfast and lunch food.  We talked about actually doing something, but none of us were really motivated.  I was depressed that we seemed to be stuck in CA while the east coast had a huge snowstorm, we were worried about our house because Christine had texted us right when we landed to say that she had gone over to change the water in the fish tank, and there was water under our fridge leaking into our basement storage room (she turned off the water, moved a bunch of boxes, and set up fans), and no one was excited about going anywhere.  So we watched more Olympics, and I polished off the rest of my birthday chocolate macademia nut clusters, which were delicious and cheered me up a bit, LOL.  I did put a request out on facebook to a friend from Sacramento to get her recommendations on what to do.  Christina gave us a fantastic itinerary, so we decided we would go into San Francisco on Friday.

We got there around lunchtime and ate sandwiches in the van.  Then we walked over to a museum by the Hyde Street Pier (the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park), where all the old boats are.  The museum was really well-done, I thought.  The displays, about the history of the bay, were interesting, and they also had a lot of sounds to make it seem like you were there in whatever picture you were looking at.  Then we went down the pier and bought our tickets to go tour the boats.  It was a real bargain for us--$5 for adults, and kids under 16 were free!

The first boat we toured was an old ferryboat, built in 1890, called the Eureka.  I think it was my favorite.  The first floor was filled with a bunch of old cars!
The next floor up was where all the passengers would have sat.  It was so light and airy, but I'm sure it was jam-packed with people, and not so nice then, LOL.
We walked around on the deck, and we could see a bunch of sea lions on the next little pier over.  We never did make it over to Pier 39, which is so famous for the sea lions, so I was very glad the kids could see and hear them here!
Next we did a guided tour of an 1886 square-rigger called the Balclutha.  The tour guide asked me when the next little one was due, so I was obviously looking pregnant enough even at that point that people felt very comfortable assuming I was not just fat, LOL.  The tour was interesting, although Nathan and Luke felt like they could have gotten all the information just by reading the signs.  The guide was very slow and deliberate, so I understood their frustration!

From the top deck, you can see us on the gang plank, but also the ferry behind us.
We also toured this cute little tugboat called the Hercules.
After all the boats, little (and bigger) people were flagging, so we headed over to the Ghirardelli Square, where we stood in a long line and bought ice cream for everyone.  It was good, but not as good as Young's!  It did ward off starvation, however, so that was a good thing.  Whew!

Next we headed over to Pier 45, where we visited the Musee Mechanique.  This arcade has a ton of old games, most of which are only a quarter.  Bob gave the kids each a few quarters, and they had a fun time picking games to spend them on.  Of course, most of the old games aren't really all that exciting, LOL, so they were sometimes disappointed.
I spent my 2 quarters making this really detailed model of a turn-of-the-century amusement park light up and go.  It reminded me of Idlewild, the old amusement park by Bob's parents' house!  I thought it was well worth my $ .50, and Micah and Drew liked it too.
Caleb mastered the "Steam Shovel" game, where you had a complex set of instructions to make a scoop open up, lower down, scoop up gum balls, close back up, raise up, and then move over to the chute, where you would then drop the gumballs in.  Caleb got enough gumballs for everyone!

By the time we left there, we were definitely stuck in rush hour traffic leaving San Francisco.  It took us awhile to get back to Travis, but we decided to wait until we got close to the base to stop and eat.  We found an In-N-Out, and stopped there.  We were so surprised to find it totally crowded and hopping at 8:00 at night!  We finally got our burgers.  Bob and the kids loved them (Nathan and Luke raved about how good they were, as well as how simple and easy their menu was to navigate!), but by this point, I was totally and completely burger-ed out.  I don't think I'll be eating another hamburger from ANYWHERE during this pregnancy!!  On a side note, I was more nauseous during our time at Travis than I am pretty much ever during pregnancy.  I think it was all the weird food we were eating, and the rather random times we were eating it!  We went back to the TLF and went to bed, although not without checking facebook to see if any flights east had popped up.  They hadn't.  Sigh.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Back to CA

So the flight we decided to try for had a 6:00 AM showtime, so we had to be there around 5:00.  We got up really early and attempted to tiptoe around so we wouldn't wake the entire household with our noise, although that was a challenge!  The reason we decided to try was because this flight was a contracted commercial flight, so it was more like a typical airliner, instead of a military plane.  There were only 41 seats, though, so we weren't at all sure that we would get out on it.  But our names were indeed called, so we texted the C's with the sad news.  We had all decided that we most likely wouldn't make it out, and we had plans for how we were going to spend the rest of the day!  But one of the cardinal rules of space-a is to always try for a flight going your direction as soon as you are ready to start heading back.  In retrospect, it probably was a good decision.  We continued watching Hickam's facebook page, and there was not another big flight to Travis for the next several days--only ones with 5 or 7 seats.  I'm sure we would have been panicking!

The aircraft was a 757, but only the back half had seats (7 rows of 6).  There was a big wall at the front of the cabin dividing it from the rest of the airplane, which had cargo in it.  Since it was a commercial plane, we had to pay a "head tax" for it--$8.70 a person.  Quite a bargain to fly across the Pacific!
The airplane was very comfortable!  Nice seats, lots of leg room--and I wasn't fighting to keep earplugs in Micah and Drew's ears!  I had given some thought to the seating arrangements, and we ended up with Nathan sitting in one row between Grace and Faith on the other side of the aisle.  In the row in front of me was Jonathan, Caleb, and Anna.  I sat with Luke and Micah, and Bob sat behind us with Drew and some other gentleman.  This was a MUCH better arrangement!
Drew fell asleep pretty much as soon as we took off, and he happily slept almost the entire flight, which was lovely.  Micah didn't sleep much at all, but that was because he was having such a good time!  The flight attendant passed out bags with coloring books, crayons, and stickers for the kids, so he had a good time with that.  And he loved looking out the window!
They served us this amazing breakfast, with chicken sausage, roasted red potatoes, scrambled eggs, a croissant with butter and jam, and a big container of fresh fruit.  It was delicious!  I told the kids to never expect this kind of meal from a regular airline, LOL.
After breakfast, the flight attendants passed out these personal electronic devices that were loaded with games, movies, TV shows, and music to anyone who wanted them, along with ear buds.  This kept the kids happily occupied for the rest of the time!
There was a nice tail wind, so the flight only took 4 1/2 hours, as opposed to the 6 it took to get from Travis to Hickam!  All too soon we were back at Travis, collecting our bags, and looking at the displays in the terminal to see what flights were heading east.  Unfortunately, there weren't many . . .  We trudged off to lodging, where we were able to get another lovely TLF with 2 bedrooms.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rivendell, West Campus

Tuesday (Feb. 11) we had Rivendell!  Finally we could experience being on the "other" side of the skype screen!  They took pity on me, and I did not teach chemistry starting at 4:45 AM (the time Eric has to get up for our regular chemistry class, at 9:45 EST).  Instead, Christine taught econ first starting at 6:15.  The boys did their class downstairs in the garage area where they were sleeping, and later on they had lit class down there too.

I taught chemistry at the end of the day, when we would normally be rushing out to Civil Air Patrol.  Notice my periodic table t-shirt, another gift to myself that is now too small . . .  We worked on more problems instead of doing a lab.
Jonathan and Caleb had their lit class with Lily on the upstairs porch off the master bedroom.  They definitely had the best view!

Saying hi to the memory work kids back in Virginia!
For memory work, Jonathan channeled his inner Pacific islander, and dressed in this lovely outfit.  He also demonstrated his hula technique, all of which was a bit distracting, if you can imagine.  At least he was paying attention to his little onstage lesson the night before!

The nice thing about the Hawaii Rivendell campus is that classes are over at lunchtime!  Plenty of time to hit the beach in the afternoon!  We actually went over to Hickam and did a little more souvenir shopping at the BX, as well as stopped by the terminal to check on flights in person, so we could find out aircraft types.  We got back in time for Nathan to visit Boy Scouts with Eric in the evening.  And then I sadly had to pack because we decided to try for a flight back to California the next morning.  Was our dream vacation really coming to an end??  Noooooooo!!!!


Monday night (Feb. 10), we met the C's at the Hale Koa for a luau.  When everyone walked in, we were given these shell necklaces and the choice of a drink (alcoholic or not).  The kids thought the non-alcoholic drink was really good!  Drew got the cherries from everyone who didn't like them, so he was pretty happy too.

While we stood around and listened to a trio of older men play some songs and banter cheesily, some of the kids also got these headbands made from coconut leaves, like Jonathan is modeling above, and most of the younger kids are modeling below.  The girls also got a flower bracelet thing, and most people got a temporary tattoo (I put a picture of Nathan's manta ray at the end of the post).  The girls weren't going to get a tattoo, but then Faith was very upset that she hadn't been "stamped", LOL.
Eventually we were able to get seated.  Our tables were the very last row, which turned out to be a very good thing, in retrospect, LOL.  We started out with really delicious fresh pineapple and some salads.  I was quite surprised--shocked even!-- at how much I liked the salads, because they weren't really things I thought I would like.  One was a salmon/tomato dish (I know!  But it was good!), another was some pickled vegetables, and the third was . . . hmmm, I can't remember.  It was good, but I didn't love it, so I didn't take as much.

It was quite confusing for our poor waitress how many dinners at each price point we had ordered, and we were one short for awhile (because she gave Caleb a "kids" portion, when in fact he got the "teen" portion, by age--so Faith, who was the one without a dinner--ended up with an extra "adult" plate).  Some of the luau places are buffets (and a LOT more expensive than the Hale Koa), but we had *more* than plenty of food without a buffet.  And frankly, buffets are a pain in the rear with this many young kids, LOL, so it was just as well.  Siri said most luaus have pretty much the same sort of selection of food.  We had a lot of different kids of meat--pork, for sure, plus some beef, and some fish, and some random side things, like a chunk of potato (literally) and rice.  I kept eating the salads.  For dessert, we had a choice of some kind of coconut jello, or some kind of coconut cake, so you can believe that I found it extremely easy to pass up dessert all together, LOL.  Nothing about coconut tempts me whatsoever!  I need to go on the coconut diet.  Instead, I had more fresh pineapple.  YUM!!

The older kids sat at one self-sufficient table.
The adults and younger kids sat at the other (needy, messy, loud) table.  Drew is in a high chair on the other side of Bob and Micah.

After we finished eating, there was a show, which Siri also said was pretty much the same at all these things!  Lots of native-type dances from around the Pacific, some fire-dancing (okay, that was really cool), some drumming and whatnot (Micah thought all that was "scary"), and a few songs and cheesy bits sprinkled throughout (while the dancers were changing costumes, I guess) by the emcee, a one-hit wonder I had never heard of from the 80's, who was dressed in a white suit.  Lots of hip-shaking going on!

During one dancing number, they asked if anyone wanted to go up on stage.  To my eternal shock, Jonathan and Anna both went up and danced, although not too enthusiastically.  You can barely see them in the front, between the guy on the left and the girl in the middle.
By the time it was winding down, Drew and Micah especially were getting quite antsy and tired.  We got Drew out of his high chair so he could walk around a bit, and he kept taking off, either towards the stage (ack) or along the path out of the luau area (no!).  So Bob and I spent the rest of the evening popping out of our chairs and after him.

It was a fun night, and I would definitely say that going to a luau is one of the "must do's" on any Hawaiian sightseeing list!  Micah and Drew were asleep as soon as we drove out of the parking garage though.  Big night!  (Yes, the Hale Koa had a parking garage that was 7'8" on all the floors, so a big 15 passenger van fit in it!  Amazing!)

And here's that picture of Nathan's temporary tattoo:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pearl Harbor

On Monday we got up and drove over to Pearl Harbor for the day.  We bought our tickets for the Arizona Memorial, but those weren't for until 1:00, so we decided to tour the USS Bowfin, a World War II submarine, first.  Micah and Drew weren't allowed on the actual submarine, but there was a museum associated with the boat that they could tour, so we did that first.  The lady there was nice and even let Micah have headphones and one of the little electronic devices so he could hear the tour.  I don't know how much he got, but it did keep him entertained!  Drew was in the Ergo, and he fussed around (a general theme for the day, as it turned out).  I thought the museum was really interesting.

After we were done in the museum, it was time for everyone else to go onto the sub.  Micah was distracted by these big guns, fortunately.  After I took this picture, I gave the camera to Bob.

The self-guided sub tour (with headphones again) was neat, I'm told.   Anna liked the torpedo room, which also had beds.  In the picture below, they are in an engine room.

On the very end of the boat.
Caleb sighting the gun.
 After they were done, they came back to the van in the parking lot, where Micah and Drew and I were snacking and enjoying the air conditioning.  We ate lunch over at Hickam, at a plate lunch place by the BX, before heading back to Pearl Harbor for our Arizona tour.

First everyone watches a movie.  It was really well-done, from what I could see of it, and it did a good job of making sure everyone knew what happened there, as well as the build-up to it, on Dec. 7, 1941.  The reason I was distracted was that Drew, who I was holding, was an absolute bear.  He was so crabby!  I stood at the back of the theater and bounced him around, trying to keep him quiet, because I really wanted to see the movie, but eventually I had to take him outside.  I was so not happy with him that day, let's just say.

Finally we got on the ferry boat, and he was a little happier since we were moving.  The memorial was really crowded, but it was still somber and moving.  Seeing the huge turret poking out of the water really made it all real.
Seeing the huge wall of the names of all the men who died was also so sobering.

After taking the ferry back, we spent time going through the Pearl Harbor Museum.  I also really thought it was good.  They had a lot of video testimonials from eyewitnesses, people who served, Japanese people, etc.  I also felt like they really tried to make the people who died be real, by including letters, pictures, and other memorabilia from their families, and there was a lot of information on the backdrop of the war, and the mistakes that were made because we were so stupidly blind and missed so many clues and signals.  It was really interesting.  There were a ton of Japanese tourists there, and I wondered what they thought.  I knew how embarrassed I was at the Iolani Palace on Friday at how our government acted when we took over Hawaii--did they feel like their government had messed up by killing all these sailors?  Or were they sad it happened because it "woke the sleeping giant", and caused Japan to lose the war?  Who knows?  

A few days later, my dad forwarded me an email about Pearl Harbor, from a guy who had read a book by Adm. Nimitz about Pearl Harbor.   

Sunday,December 7th, 1941--Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.
Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair,dejection and defeat--you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war.
On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters every where you looked.

As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, "Well Admiral,what do you think after seeing all this destruction?" Admiral Nimitz's reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice.
Admiral Nimitz said, "The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America.
 Which do you think it was?"
Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, "What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?" Nimitz explained:
Mistake number one:
The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave.
If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk--we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

Mistake number two:
When the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired.

As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America . And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.
Mistake number three:
Every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply and burned half the island down. That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.


The C's go to church on Sunday afternoons, so that leaves most of the day free to relax!  Nathan and Luke went on a morning hike with Eric and Celia.  It was drizzly, and they came back muddy, but they had a good time!  I didn't send the camera with them so--no pictures!
Bob did a lot of kayaking with the kids in the bay while we were there.  Sunday I finally got around to going with him.  The bay is so beautiful and peaceful!  I was a bit freaked out by all these pinkish snake-like things I could see right under my kayak because the water wasn't very deep.  Bob told me those things weren't anything to worry about--just the black snakes were poisonous.  So that made me jumpy about getting stranded on the shallow part of the reef and not being able to get free except by getting out!  Did I ever mention water is not my first love?!  But never fear--I did not get stranded, and we had a fun time!

Another Special Birthday!

Faith turned 5 on Feb. 8, so she also got to celebrate a special birthday in Hawaii!  The boys all went surfing in the morning at the Marine base, and some of the girls went to play in the sand, including Faith.  Well, actually the waves were really big, so the boys didn't technically surf--just boogie-boarded.  I stayed at home with the little boys and worked on chemistry.

After lunch, we headed back over to the Waikiki side of the island.  One thing I was constantly amazed at was the different weather microclimates all over the island, separated by not very much distance.  It was so interesting!  The mountains in the middle of the island have a huge effect, and they were almost always shrouded in clouds while we were there.  On Saturday, one side of the island was rainy, but on the other side of the mountains, everything was bright and sunny!

We decided to check out the beach at Hickam, since the off-base beaches were all crazy crowded.  We had to wander around a bit, but eventually we found it.  It was not very exciting for the older boys, but it was perfect for the younger kids!  The bonus was that the runway (shared by Hickam and Honolulu International Airport) was off to the left, jutting out into the water, so Micah got to watch lots of planes taking off and landing, which made him very happy.

Drew was not appeased by the beach toys we had picked up Friday night at the Hale Koa BX, but the other younger kids loved them!
Drew was absolutely not going to have any part of the beach, so he fussed and cried until someone took pity on him and picked him up!  Poor baby--he is definitely not a beach boy.  I took his clothes off, but I didn't bother putting a swim diaper or his swim suit on, since I knew there was no way on earth he was getting wet!

We drove back home in time for a birthday celebration with the C's!  Celia had baked yummy brownies, and there was ice cream and homemade fudge sauce to go on top!  Delicious!!  MUCH better than cake!

The C's gave Faith a lovely pink lei (which Anna has now co-opted to make a ponytail/bun wrapper, LOL).
They also gave Faith a book about an adorable little sea turtle named Honu, and the cutest little stuffed Honu, which you can see her holding.  This was a really great present because Faith lost her beloved Bear Blanket the night we spent at Dover, so she has started sleeping with Honu as her special lovey!  I got the best present--a box of macadamia nut chocolates!  I did share--a little . . .  Such fun birthday memories!