Sunday, August 10, 2014

Carlie's 2.25 year update!

Carlie is now 2-1/4 years old and she continues to grow and change each and every day. She is really quite the chatterbox these days, though we joke that there are very few people who are actually fluent in Carlie. If you aren't around her for a day or more at a time, it can be pretty hard to understand her, but the girl definitely knows what she wants to say and gets REALLY upset if you aren't cooperating with her!

Carlie now weighs around 30 pounds and is about 34 inches tall. As far as her size, she hasn't changed much in the last three months - she still wears size 4 diapers (with no potty-training in sight at this point!), 2T clothes, and size 5 (almost 6!) shoes. I'm fairly certain that by next summer, both girls will be completely sharing their wardrobes! Carlie also now has all of her 2-year molars, which means that she now has 20 teeth!

Carlie is still very sensitive and shy. She has been getting better at "warming up" quicker in social situations and around new people, though, which is great! It helps that she loves to tag along with Haddy and doesn't want to be left out of the fun, even if it makes her a little uncomfortable at first. Car-Car loves to play with her big sister and pretty much do everything Hadley does. We always say that they play together nicely about 90% of the time (because Carlie pretty much lets Haddy do whatever she wants!) and the other 10% of the time, well....look out! They especially love to play dollhouse and draw together, as well as climb all over the furniture and make a mess!

Since our last update, Carlie got to go to her first movie - Rise of the Guardians at the Summer Express dollar movies! She did great, even though she did say that her favorite part of the movie was the "rawr-rawr" in the Littlest Pet Shop short in the previews.

Carlie is beginning to learn her letters (she knows B, C, O, T, G, and H) and is slowly showing an interest in possibly going to dance class this year. We will see where that leads!

Here are a few of her favorite things...

-Rawr-rawrs (now sometimes known as kitty cats)
-fruit - rab-bebbies (raspberries), boo-bebbies (blueberries), and daw-bee-bees (strawberries) are favorites, as well as "baby oranges"
-attempting to make everyone change her diaper backwards (yeah, that's a fun one!)!
-going to the "pay-roun" (playground) to go "dooper-EYE" (super high) on the swings
-saying "Wait a MIM-MIT!" and "I keep you!" (as well as, "I don't want you - you go to Honolulu!" when Mommy said something she didn't like!")
-tackling Haddy and laughing hysterically
-going into the "dower" (the craft closet that they pretend is a shower) because "I reeawy dinky!"
-being sung the ABCs, and variations of Row Your Boat ('Meow the Cat' and 'Bark the Dog')
-being buried in the sand at the beach
-riding in the Baw-bee Deep (Barbie Jeep)
-brushing her teeth
-giving "Moo Kisses" (as opposed to lick-kisses - this is how we taught her to pucker up instead of sticking her tongue over her lips while she kisses)
-pointing at random things saying it's a "Nitty Yi-yun" (Nittany Lion) or a pineapple - I think she just likes saying those words!
-having her hair pulled up in a ponytail at bedtime so she can twirl it in her fingers
-sleeping in until 9 or later - and then still taking a 2 hour nap!

Carlie does NOT like...

-the idea of giving up her paci - little does she know, the Binky Fairy is looming!
-cleaning up her messes
-being put down for bed - she's learning her sister's stall tactics!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

10th Anniversary Vacation Recap!

From June 13th to the 21st, 2014, we went on a journey to celebrate ten years of wedded bliss! Here is the detailed play-by-play of our adventure!

FRIDAY On Friday, June 13th, we woke up around 4:30am (after very little sleep due to excitement and anxiety the night before). Gregg's dad picked us up at 4:45 to head to the airport. At this point, I still had zero idea where we were going (I was kept in the dark completely by choice - I love a good surprise)! I had assumed up until this point that I would find out our final destination once we got to our gate at the airport, but Gregg had other plans in mind! Once he checked us in at the kiosk (he didn't want me to see the final destination because it was only at this point that I learned we would have a layover somewhere (still didn't know where)! Once he checked us in, while we were walking upstairs to security, he told me that there was an "unintended surprise" that he had just learned about the previous week. I had apparently mentioned that our friends Kara and Josh (from Wyoming) just happened to be leaving on their anniversary vacation on the same day as us. He said that he had then messaged Josh on Facebook to find out if our paths would cross because we, too, would be having a layover in Denver. I was SO excited to find out that not only did we have a similar layover, but that Kara (who also didn't know the destination of their anniversary vacation, but supposedly did know the destination of ours) had no idea that we had a layover at all (Gregg told her we had a direct flight), let alone in Denver, so I would get to surprise her at the airport! It was then that Gregg told me that Josh and Kara were going on a cruise of the Bahamas, so we were going somewhere west and they were traveling east!

After a four hour flight from Philly to Denver (flying over the Rocky Mountains was really cool), we landed and got off the plane while Gregg texted Josh to find out where they were hanging out on their layover. By this point, Kara was pretty confused because I had texted her that I still didn't know where I was going - as far as she knew, I had a direct flight, so how could I possibly get on a plane and not know where I was going? Finally she texted to ask where I was - and I told her to turn around - I was right behind her! THAT was a fun reunion! After many hugs, the two of us excitedly chatted about our impending trips when our husbands slyly looked at each other and said, "Do you want to tell them or do you want me to tell them?," as we confusedly looked around, back and forth between the two! Finally, Gregg and Josh said to us, "Well, we aren't really going either of the places that you two think each other is going. We're all going on a Hawaii!" and then they pulled out our Disney Aulani brochures to show us where we would be staying that night!" Apparently Kara and I had mentioned TWO YEARS AGO about how we would both be celebrating ten year anniversaries the same summer & we should totally go together - and our husbands who didn't know each other at all (but were Facebook friends because we kept telling our husbands that they were so similar and would hit it off) listened to us and planned this elaborate surprise. ABSOLUTE CRAZINESS. AWESOME HUSBANDS.

Destination: Honolulu!
So after the crazy shock wore off (though we were still reeling from the surprise), we walked around the airport (and then back to the other end) in search of Starbucks, where we got some snacks & lunch. We boarded the plane to Honolulu for the 7-hour flight. Luckily for us, there were tv/movie/game/map consoles at every seat, so it made the trip go a bit faster. There were a ton of children/babies on our flight & we were worried how that would go, but they were seriously rock-star travelers! We arrived in Hawaii around 3pm (9pm Eastern time) and took the SpeediShuttle to the Aulani resort. Little did we know that 3pm is rush hour in Honolulu on a Friday, so it seemed to take forever to get there - especially while sharing a shuttle with an overly talkative little girl. We did pass a few sights on the way, including the Aloha Stadium, where the Pro Bowl is played. The SpeediShuttle driver also gave us a little tour on the drive & informed us that, in Hawaii, jay-walking incurs a hefty fine of about $140! Good reason to keep to those cross-walks during our trip!

Aloha! Welcome to Hawaii!
In the SpeediShuttle, ready to head to Aulani!
We checked in at Aulani where we were greeted with beads and beautiful flower leis. Our rooms had amazing ocean views! We walked around the resort for a while where we bumped into Goofy and got our pictures taken with him! We went down to check out the beach (the water was COLD!) and then stopped at a little cafe in the resort for dinner (flat breads! Yum!).

Aulani and its gorgeous landscape
The beautiful Aulani resort
Selfie from the balcony in our room at Aulani
Hanging ten with Goofy at Aulani
SATURDAY On Saturday, June 14th, we got up and met for breakfast at the same little cafe. We decided to make the most of the few hours we had by getting on our suits and taking on the water slides and the lazy river at the resort. There were two different kinds of water slides (one with a raft/innertube and one without). We did the inner tube one twice with a double inner tube. Everyone thought it was hilarious as we exited the tube and I promptly flew through the air, off the front of the tube and plunged into the water! I didn't think it was quite so funny! The second time around, Gregg told me to lean back in the tube as we entered the water, so silly me, I listened! The force of his weight in the back catapulted him over top of me under the water - I didn't think that was very funny either - I'm so glad there were no pictures of those momentous events! We decided to then laze around the lazy river, but I quickly came to the conclusion that it's pretty hard to relax on an inner tube when your husband thinks it's funny to spin the tube around "just so" to make sure that you're caught under every single waterfall on the course! Both boys had the same idea on this one - karma is coming! Afterwards, we took a little swim in the Pacific Ocean & then got ourselves dressed for the rest of our day. We stopped for a Shaved Ice snack (a must-do in Hawaii) & then did a little shopping at the strip mall across the street from the resort...we visited an ABC Store (HUGE general-type store found all over Hawaii) and a surf shop, among other places.

Before breakfast at Aulani
Toes in the waters of the Pacific Ocean
I could get used to this!
Kona Shaved Ice! Yum!
We then checked out of our rooms & took an EXPENSIVE taxi ride ($100!) to the pier to board our ship, the Pride of America. We had to wait an hour to board because of the long lines at check-in (signing paper-work, getting pictures taken & ID cards issued, etc). There were people there handing out beads, flower leis, & hair flowers, as well as dancing various hula dances & a kid handing out slivers of coconut. There was also a photographer who took our picture with the hula dancers. As we boarded the ship, we all got our picture taken with "Uncle Sam" (who was an Eagles fan, by the way) and then we made our way to our room. We went up to deck 11 to grab a bite to eat since we hadn't had anything to eat since our shaved ice snack.

Leis and flowers!
Pre-boarding selfie
Official pre-boarding photo
Official boarding photo with Uncle Sam
We headed back to our room and hung out waiting for our luggage to be delivered when Gregg started to feel sick. At that point, we had to make our way to one of the decks for the muster drill. Not three minutes into the drill, Gregg took a knee because he started to feel light headed. He stood back up thinking he would be ok, but then felt sick again, so we tried to rush back into the ship, but Gregg blacked out (not really passed out - he remembered everything happening) before we could get inside. Luckily we caught him before he hit the ground! Josh and Kara headed over to us immediately as the drill was ending (Josh had to whip out his EMT status, as they weren't going to let them come near us). He had to head down to medical where Gregg was examined and found to have super-low blood pressure, which dropped even further as he stood up (opposite of what should happen). He was given an IV and an ambulance was called. We had to get off the ship, which meant that they would be leaving the island without us and we would be responsible for making our way back to the next island (Maui) to meet up with them the following day. After numerous tests at the hospital & a full bag of fluids, he was diagnosed with nothing more than dehydration. We took a taxi to the Best Western for the night & bought our tickets to meet up with the ship in Maui the next day.

SUNDAY On Sunday, June 15th, I woke up in the hotel (well, I never really slept, to be honest! I'm such a worrier!) around 4:30 am. Since I wasn't sleeping, I knew it would be a great time to skype with the girls since it would be 10:30am there. In their usual fashion, they weren't too interested in sitting in front of a computer to talk to me, but since it was the first time we actually got to talk to them since we left, they sat for a moment or two. Once Gregg got up, we took a walk around Honolulu for a while & then took the hotel shuttle to the airport to wait for our flight. We took a 45 minute Island Air flight to Maui, which we were told, should be seen as a plus to the obvious downside, since many people pay good money for an aerial view of Maui - it really was beautiful! Maui had a cool little airport & we picked up a couple of local travel magazines before we headed out to catch a taxi. Our taxi driver was a really cool guy who chatted with us on the short drive to the pier. Once we got there, we asked the taxi driver about things to do and he told us about a nearby strip mall, so we took a little walk and discovered the Maui Mall. I grabbed some lunch while Gregg ate some crackers. As we were sitting with our food & relaxing, the doctor spotted us from across the way (he must've been out doing some shopping on his time off!) and stopped over to see how Gregg was doing. He commented that Gregg looked much, MUCH better and was glad about that.

TIRED but extremely happy to be in Maui!
Our ship, the Pride of America, from the pier in Maui
Kara and Josh came back from their day of shopping in Lahaina and met us at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center (an open air mall) where their shuttle dropped them off. We walked around for a while & then back to the Maui Mall where we hung out until about 5. We FINALLY got to re-board the ship & after a quick medical check for Gregg, we were on our way to enjoying the rest of our vacation! Gregg and I went back to the room to unpack our bags (which we didn't really get a chance to do before leaving) & to change for dinner. We all went to the Cadillac Diner (50s style diner) for dinner & then back to our room (Kara and Josh came, too!) to hang out for a little bit before bingo. Kara asked our steward, Julius, to come in and "do something weird for us," which was to take a picture of us all in one room - the girls on the bed & the guys on the pull-down bunks. Oh man, that was so funny, but it's probably one of those things you had to be there for to truly appreciate it! ;) 9pm finally rolled around (we were all exhausted at this point!) so we could head to the Mardi Gras Lounge for Bonkers for Bingo. Despite the name, it was somewhat lame...especially since a 12-year-old won the grand prize (Na Hoku jewelry), but we all had fun (and Kara and I enjoyed our coconutty Blue Wave drinks!), so I guess that's all that matters!

SO happy to be on the ship our first night!
"Hey Julius, can you come do something weird for us?"
Bonkers for Bingo!
MONDAY On Monday, June 16th, we woke up early (between 6-6:30 seemed to be the average wake-up time for all of us as we attempted to switch our bodies over to Hawaii time) & met for breakfast around 7. We went up to the breakfast buffet at the Aloha Cafe & took our usual seats on the deck outside. This was another day in Maui, so after breakfast, we decided to walk over to the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center and catch a bus up to Lahaina again since Gregg and I didn't get to shop there the day before. It was about an hour bus ride. Gregg thought it was pretty cool that we saw "Re-elect Victorino" signs all over, as former Phillies player Shane Victorino is originally from Maui & his father is in the local government there. Once we arrived in Lahaina, we strolled around for a while & we all decided that there would be no better way to commemorate our 10th anniversary vacation in Hawaii than to get Koa wood wedding bands. We were originally told (by someone who acted like they were "in the know") that Koa trees are endangered & therefore cannot be cut & also cannot be exported off of the islands. Supposedly only the fallen branches could be used to manufacture items. We later learned that this was completely untrue, but the rings are still an awesome way to remember our trip to Hawaii. After visiting many jewelry stores (and purchasing rings from 3 different shops), we each had the perfect ring on our fingers!

Besties in Maui
Beautiful little beach in Maui
Our koa wood anniversary bands
After a long morning of shopping, and a quick stop at a little Maui beach to stick our toes in the sand, we found a little outdoor diner called the Cool Cats Cafe where we ate lunch. At the jewelry store where he bought his ring, Gregg had received coupons for free root beer floats at this diner, so we all enjoyed a float with our burgers and sandwiches before it was time to head back to the bus. After our hour-long trip back down the mountain to get to the ship, we went back to our rooms & relaxed for a bit until it was time to get ready for dinner. That night's dinner was one of the specialty dinners were would have while on the cruise, a Brazilian steakhouse called Moderno Churroscaria. It was a really interesting experience where they brought out 10 different meats (lamb, several kinds of chicken, two sausages, various types of beef, ribs, etc) to the table on skewers & carved them table-side. We had to laugh, though, as they brought out a plate of side dishes with four, very small cups of sides (beans, rice, mashed potatoes, & fried bananas) which we were supposed share amongst the four of us. We joked that we averaged about a tablespoon of mashed potatoes and five grains of rice per person! As for the main meal, we all agreed that the chicken was fabulous, as was the pineapple - I think we all could have eaten that pineapple all day! Our waiter, Terrence, was great & we only learned at the end of our meal that it was his first night on the job! He even came back over to our table with the pineapple and tried to help us figure out how to make it at home because he knew we all loved it so much.

Awful pic, but the only one we have of us from that evening at Moderno Brazilian Steakhouse
Josh and Kara at Moderno
After dinner, Kara, Gregg, & I got changed and walked down to the Hollywood Theater to watch a musical show. It was just ok. As the show ended, we attempted to walk back to our rooms & quickly learned that the seas were a little choppy as we sailed to Hilo & we couldn't walk without running into each other & looking like we had WAY too much to drink! The show was over around 10 & it was definitely a stretch for us oldies to stay up that late! We all headed back to our rooms for a good night's sleep.

Ready to watch the show at the Hollywood Theater
TUESDAY Tuesday, June 17th, was our day in Hilo. We had an excursion planned for the day, so we hit our early morning breakfast spot on the 11th deck, outside the Aloha Cafe (where Josh continued on his mission to eat an entire pineapple at breakfast each day - haha!), grabbed some snacks to take on our excursion, & met up with our bus on the pier. Our tour bus driver was named Harvey & he was great! The trip consisted of 7 stops over the course of 6 hours & he talked about the island, its people, the folklore, and its history the entire trip. Even at the stops, he would get off the bus & mingle around, chatting with all of "his family" from the bus, sharing his crazy (but true!) stories about Hawaiian life, culture, hunting wild boar, and more!

Hilo excursion day!
Harvey, our awesome bus driver & tour guide
Our first stop of the day was at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory. We did a self-guided tour, received samples, did some shopping, & took photos in their beautiful gardens. Next up was the Jagger Museum at the Volcano National Park. We walked around the small museum a bit, observed the steam craters & the rocky terrain, and even witnessed an engagement taking place before heading out to our next quick stop, which was at a lava rock field. This was definitely more what we had all been expecting when we thought of what a volcanic site would look like. Sharp, black rocks everywhere, dead blackened trees with new growth sprouting all around, craggy mountains of lava rocks & smooth black "streams" built by flowing lava. Before this stop, Harvey had warned all of us of one of the old Hawaiian legends about Pele, the Goddess of Fire, who will curse you with bad luck for the rest of your life if you attempt to take a piece of her fire (aka lava rock) home with you. Harvey even made a point of mentioning that pounds upon pounds of lava rocks are actually sent back to the Hawaiian Parks Commission each year, accompanied by letters from the rocks' temporary owners telling of the terrible woes Pele has struck them with. Upon hearing this, we all decided that we were highly superstitious & would NOT be taking a piece of the islands home with us (at least not of the lava variety!)!

Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory
Pineapple growing in the gardens behind the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory
Gorgeous flower growing in the gardens behind the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory
In front of a steaming volcanic crater at the Jagger Museum at Volcano National Park
Gregg atop a lava rock mountain
For our fourth stop that day, we went to the Thurston Lava Tube Site. It was basically a dark, damp tunnel (which has since been slightly lit to make it accessible to tourists like us!) carved into the landscape by hot, flowing lava. Any pictures we got really do not do it justice. The lava tube was both beautiful & fascinating. Knowing we were walking through a spot where hot lava had literally burned out a tunnel through a mountain was also a pretty eerie feeling! After the lava tube, we made a quick stop at an orchid greenhouse. The girls all received an orchid to wear in their hair (on the left side if you're taken!) and then we strolled around looking at all of the beautiful and colorful varieties of orchids. We even saw (smelled) an orchid that smelled just like a chocolate bar & an orchid valued at $20,000! We then took a short drive to Rainbow Falls. Supposedly, every morning you are able to see rainbows over the falls, but we didn't get to see that. They were still very beautiful & again our photos just don't show their true beauty!

The entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube
Josh, Kara, Gregg, & me at the entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube
Inside the Thurston Lava Tube
Just one of the many beautiful orchids at the orchid greenhouse we visited
The beautiful Rainbow Falls
Gregg and I at the beautiful Rainbow Falls
We then set out for our final stop of the day, Big Island Candies. As soon as we entered, we all received free samples of some Kona coffee & then got to sample various cookies, chocolates, & other goodies as we toured the store. On the way back to the pier, Harvey continued to tell us stories about the legends of Pele - she was a very jealous goddess & was known to engulf her intended lovers (and their romantic interests) in flames if they did not agree to be her lover in return. However, in one instance, Pele's sister intervened and convinced her to turn them into half-blossom flowers instead. Pele agreed, but only on the condition that the blossoms be separated, half of them growing at the top of the mountain and the other half at the bottom, never to be together again. So a word of advice - if Pele asks you to be her lover, you don't say no, or she'll unleash some kind of fury on you (and likewise, if an old woman asks you for food, you give it to her as it could be Pele in disguise)!
A half-blossom flower
After the tour was over, we hung out on the ship until dinner (buffet at the Aloha Cafe!) and then decided to hit the hot tub for a while. There was absolutely no one out on the pool deck, so it was very nice and relaxing...that is until a bunch of old guys came and kicked us out of our tub - good thing we were pretty much ready to leave anyway! After the hot tub, we hung out on our own little private pool deck, eating popcorn from the Golden Nugget Saloon & listening to an awful version of the Titanic song (shouldn't that be banned on cruise ships?) as we sailed to Kona. We all headed to our rooms to turn in for the night!

A little dressed up for dinner!
WEDNESDAY Wednesday, June 18th was our day in Kona. We woke up early and did our usual breakfast routine on deck 11 & then headed out to catch a tender boat (one of the ship's life rafts) to land. This was different from all of the other ports because there isn't a dock there large enough to anchor a cruise ship in, so we were actually anchored in the middle of the ocean, stepped off onto a floating dock onto the tender, and then transported over to the island. When we got there, we all got our picture taken with a Kona surfer girl & then headed out around the town to do some sight seeing and window shopping. There was a parrot dude who tried to take our pictures with his birds (whom we then had to avoid for the rest of the day after turning him down) & lots of interesting little shops. We also visited a nice little farmer's market where they were selling all sorts of Hawaiian fruits (papayas 5/$2, mangoes, enormous avocados) and veggies. There were art vendors there with paintings, carved toys and trinkets, jewelry, and purses, as well as Hawaiian shirts and dresses! After our shopping, we stopped by a little ice cream shop & then sat and watched the ocean for a bit. We soon headed back to the ship on our tender & just relaxed by the pool eating some really great snacks (popcorn, pretzel rolls, & rosemary focaccia bread were some of the favorites) while listening to the ship band, The Wave.

On the tender boat to Kona!
Kona surfer girl
Relaxing under a tree in Kona
Gregg's view while relaxing under a tree in Kona
View of the ship from Kona
A rocky little beach in Kona
A Bird of Paradise flower in Kona
That night was our second specialty dinner on the ship, the Hibachi steakhouse, so after about an hour of pool time, we all headed to our rooms to get ready for dinner. We had an awesome Hibachi chef, Ryan, whom Gregg and I said was the best & most entertaining one we had ever had (and we've been out for Hibachi many times over the years!). Kara and Josh had never been to a Hibachi restaurant before, so they also had an awesome experience! The food was amazing (ok, well maybe except for that green tea cake and the seaweed salad, right?) and we left with some very full bellies that night! Gregg and Josh even showed off by catching a flying piece of food in their mouths - Ryan told them that if they did, they won a free meal...he just didn't mention until afterwards that it was a free meal at the ship's buffet! Ha!

Our Hibachi chef, Ryan
Selfie before our Hibachi dinner
Dressed up for our Hibachi dinner
After our awesome dinner, we went back up to our little private pool deck that we had discovered & hung out past 10pm! Woo hoo! Party animals!

THURSDAY On Thursday, June 19th, we spent our first day in Kauai. We headed up to the buffet & took in the amazingly beautiful view of the mountainous Kauai landscape with our breakfast. We checked out a map and discovered that there was a beach right off of the port in Lihue, so we put on our suits and decided to make this our beach day (since we hadn't yet had one)! We walked just a short walk through the Nawiliwili Park (where we saw tons of chickens that roam free, just like squirrels or ducks would in our parks back home) to the Kalapaki Beach. There was a perfect shady spot under a tree where we parked ourselves & people-watched all morning & into the early afternoon. We saw people getting professional photographs done on the beach and rocks, a kids' Jr. Lifeguard camp going on, paddle boarders, surfers, fishermen, you name it! After lazing around for several hours, we headed back to the ship, grabbed a quick snack, & then got ourselves ready to meet the bus for that evening's luau at the Smith Family Gardens. We were all really excited about this experience.

"Our beach" in Kauai
Toes in the sand of Kauai
Beautiful Kauai
Kauai chicken (and chicks)!
Gregg living it up in Kauai
Selfie in Kauai
"Our beach" in Kauai
Upon arrival at the luau, we were all given bead leis & then quickly got on a tram which gave a short guided tour of the gardens. We were then dropped off where we were free to roam on our own for a while. We saw some beautiful plants and flowers, as well as peacocks, roosters, and other birds roaming the gardens (one of which seemed to like Gregg and kept "talking" to him). We took some pictures and then headed over to the pavilion where we staked out some seats before walking over to the pit for the Imu ceremony (unearthing of the Kalua pig). It was a very neat process to witness as they unveiled this animal (and a pot of rice pudding!) that had been literally cooking all day in the ground, surrounded by hot rocks! After the Imu ceremony, we all went back to our seats in the pavilion where we enjoyed our free Mai Tais, watched hula dancers, and listened to the soothing sounds of the Hawaiian band while waiting for the food to be ready. Dinner was served buffet style and we all agreed it was delicious - the roasted pork was absolutely phenomenal - in fact, my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it! In addition to the pork, there were several other native items to try...mountain apples, Hawaiian sweet potatoes (purple!), and poi...yes, we all tried the poi with our pork...none of us were fans! For anyone wondering, poi is made from taro root and pretty much looks like gray goop....yep, not too appetizing!

Selfie on board the bus to the luau
All dressed up for the luau
All dressed up for the luau
Unearthing the pig at the Imu Ceremony
Mai Tai - bottom's up!
After the meal, we all headed down to the amphitheater where we would get to enjoy the entertainment portion of the evening. It was both educational and fascinating to learn about all of the different cultures that make up what we all consider to be the traditional Hawaiian dances. The show incorporated legends of Pele (Hawaiian fire dancing), as well as Hawaiian dances performed in the style of the countries that inspired each of them (Tahitian, Japanese, Chinese, New Zealand, etc). Gregg was partial to the Tahitian girls shaking their hula hips, as well as the traditional coconut-bra and grass skirt hula girls. Haha! The show ended & we all boarded the bus back to the ship where we promptly passed out in our rooms around 10pm!

Gregg's hula girl!
FRIDAY Friday, June 20th was our last full day in Hawaii (although we would be leaving Kauai that afternoon). We wanted to make the most of it, so after our usual breakfast, we decided to try and walk over to a little lighthouse that we had seen across the way from the beach. We walked for a while in the general direction of the lighthouse & then stopped at the golf course's clubhouse so that Josh could ask for directions. We learned that the larger lighthouse was pretty far away & not necessarily a safe place to go (not really sure what that meant), so we set our goal for the little lighthouse & continued our journey. We walked behind some water-front, cliff-side condos and wondered how much those people were paying to stay (or live?) there! The lighthouse was just below one of the holes on a nice golf course, so we walked down to one of the greens to snap some pictures and take in the scenery. Kauai was seriously the most beautiful island (and that's really saying something!)!

The light house and golf course that we walked to
View of the light house and golf course from the ship
View of "our beach" from the light house/golf course area
Crazy koi fish at a hotel
After taking in the views, we walked back to the ship & grabbed some lunch at the Cadillac Diner (though were were quite unimpressed with our room-temperature food) & then parked ourselves in four comfy arm chairs on the 11th deck so we would have good sight-seeing spots. The ship would be leaving the Kauai port shortly & taking us to the NaPali coast on the north side of the island. We had to wait for a couple of hours to leave port & get to the coast, but we knew that the decks would fill up quickly, so we hung out, listened to the sounds of the ocean, people watched, took naps (Gregg took mean pics of me napping! Well, actually Kara took the pics - Gregg just pretended to lick me!), and just enjoyed our last hours on the ship. The NaPali Coast, we were told, was ranked as one of National Geographic's 50 most beautiful places in the world, so our expectations were high and the scenery did NOT disappoint. It was absolutely breathtaking and the pictures, as stunning as they may be, just do not do it justice. The way that the green mountains are carved out with the smooth gulleys in them & the perfect rainbow we saw landing right onto one of the tiny was just the perfect way to end the cruise!

Setting sail towards the NaPali Coast!
NaPali Coast, Kauai
A rainbow at the NaPali Coast of Kauai
Sunset as we leave the NaPali Coast
The gorgeous NaPali Coast, Kauai
After we had passed the coast, we headed over to get some dinner at the cafe & then decided to pick up a popcorn snack from the saloon. It was too windy to enjoy it up on our little deck above the pool, so we found a nice poolside nook, tucked just beside the little ping pong room. We relaxed and talked for about an hour before we decided that we had better get down to our rooms (room numbers 4539 & 4531, just so we remember!) to start packing, as we had to be off the ship bright & early the next morning. As we passed the saloon on the way back to our rooms, we were serenaded by some drunk girl (I'm pretty sure she HAD to be drunk...either that or just hopelessly tone-deaf!) singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" at the saloon's karaoke night. That was definitely not going to be our earworm the next day, right Kara?

SATURDAY On Saturday, June 21st, we woke up bright and early to start our last (LONG!) day in Hawaii! We ate breakfast (a tiny bit earlier than usual) while docked in Honolulu. We had to be off the ship by 8:30am, so after breakfast, we grabbed our luggage, said farewell to our rooms, & away we went! The boys had one more excursion planned for our trip to help fill the time before our red-eye flight that night. We loaded our luggage onto the tour bus ("Captain V" was our driver this time - he loved his SPAM!) and headed over to tour Pearl Harbor.

On the bus to Pearl Harbor
Although there wasn't exactly a lot to see or do there, the significance of the place in the history of our country made it a very special place to visit. We watched a short video, which detailed the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and then took a small boat over to the USS Arizona Memorial. One of the interesting things to see there were the remains of the actual USS Arizona underneath us in the could still see oil spill rainbows floating on the water as the ship continues to leak oil all these years later. We also read on a sign there that veterans who survived the attack could request to have their ashes reunited with their fellow comrades in the wreckage under the water - it is said that when an urn is inserted into the remains, it is almost "sucked" down into the ship, as if they are being accepted in with their fellow soldiers. What a moving experience!

USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona Memorial
The American Flag proudly flies over the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
Part of the USS Arizona still visible through the water, under the memorial
Dedication Plaque at the Pearl Harbor Memorial
Once the boat portion of the tour ended, we walked around the premises for a while looking at various memorials & naval artifacts before sitting down for a quick hot dog lunch. We got back on the bus (after we waited for our bus driver to wake up!) and went on a brief tour of Honolulu, including a stop at a famous shopping chain, Hilo Hattie's (where Gregg and Josh got their pics taken with some giant-sized Aloha shirts)! We also stopped at a the statue of King Kamehameha in downtown Honolulu, which is shown behind the theme song for the modern Hawaii 5-0 series - that's where Josh got peed on by a random bird! Good times! After a few stops to drop some fellow passengers off at their various hotels, Captain V dropped us off at the airport around 3:30...good thing, too, since our flight was at...10PM!

Gregg with the World's Largest Aloha Shirt at Hilo Hattie's in Honolulu
King Kamehameha in downtown Honolulu
After taking our bags through the agriculture check, checking our bags, & then making our way through security, we only had 6 more hours to kill! We did some window shopping (did you know you can buy pineapples in the airport to take as your carry-on?) & some people-watching before deciding that we should probably eat a bit of dinner. After a long vacation, we all decided that we didn't want to spend a lot of money on our meals, so we thought Burger King sounded like a logical choice (plus I wanted french fries - priorities, priorities!). Well, we soon discovered that cheap meals are hard to come by in Hawaii - even at Burger King! Gregg and I each ordered chicken nuggets & we shared an order of fries...we didn't even get a drink and it came to over $15! If we wanted to order a 5-piece chicken strip "value" meal, it would have been over $12 for ONE PERSON. A Whopper Jr. "value" meal that would normally be about $4 on the mainland was close to $9! It was absolutely insane. I mean, I know that everything has to be shipped over to the island, but WOW!

Anyway, we sat at the Burger King for a while just chatting & trying to kill some more time. At around 7:00, we meandered over to our gate to charge our phones and WAIT. We boarded the plane on schedule, but then had to wait for everyone to load their carry-ons & switch seats (so annoying!), so our flight probably actually left about 20 minutes late. We all did our best to get a little bit of sleep (I think we all succeeded at least a tiny bit) on the 6.5hr flight home.

Twinning in the airport before the long flight home!

SUNDAY Our flight arrived in Denver around 8am, so we had about an hour and a half layover before we needed to board for our flight to Philadelphia. Kara and Josh came with us as we waited & we started formulating plans to somehow get together next summer and to then make it a yearly summer get-together tradition! After some hugs and tears, Gregg and I boarded our flight to Philly & started on the final leg of our trek home. Amazing friends. Amazing memories. Amazing husbands. Amazing trip!

Extra little memories (that didn't really go anywhere else)
  • Tiny Bubbles - a two-man ukelele band on the 11th deck sang this song, so we had it in our heads constantly!
  • This is Aloha - a popular song on the islands apparently.  We heard it at the luau, as well as on the last day in one of the shops
  • Miley Cyrus look-alike - we constantly spotted this one girl on the ship who (with her sunglasses on anyway) looked just like Miley Cyrus...from the crazy two-toned haircut, spiky ankle boots & crop tops to ruby red lipstick & super-short shorts!
  • gold-digger - There was a couple that we saw repeatedly on the ship.  We kept hoping that she was his granddaughter, as he looked about 80 and she looked about 30 (or maybe she just aged really well), but that just seemed highly unlikely!
  • Cruise director, Marky Marc - he hosted an *exciting* morning show called Marky Marc in the Morning that talked about the day's itinerary on the ship & "entertained" us with really awful jokes!
  • there were no clocks in our rooms (and no outlets to plug in our phones near the bed), so we never knew what time it was in the middle of the night. Josh and Kara told us about how there was a channel on our TVs that was a live-feed broadcast from a camera on one of the decks of the ship - if we woke up and it was still dark on the TV, we just went back to sleep, but if the sun was up, we were too (because we couldn't really trust our jet-lagged bodies to tell us when it was actually time to get up)!