Monday, January 27, 2014

A Family's Guide to Maui

We went to Maui for our honeymoon about 9 years ago and we were fortunate enough to return with our two children.  The first time we stayed at Westin in Kaanapali, and this time at a condo in Kihei. This was our first time staying at a 2 bedroom condo instead of a luxury hotel and it proved to have many advantages for families, the most notable benefit being not having to pay high prices for simple meals for kids. We enjoyed being able to eat local Hawaiian cuisines as well as the flexibility of cooking for ourselves.

Kihei is located along the southwestern shore and considered the driest and sunniest part of the island.  It features 6 miles of beaches and has a more "local Hawaiian" vibe compared to the touristy Kaanapali.  We arrived tired after a long 5 hour flight and went straight to bed as soon as we arrived in our condo.

The next day, we took advantage of being on Maui time (+3 from California) by getting up at 3 am to watch the sunrise at Haleakala Mountain Top. It was freezing and the road was dark and windy (an experienced driver needed) but what awaits at the top was worth the time and effort.

The way a tiny light streaks the dark sky at the break of dawn is surreal and the colorful transformations that occur during sunrise is amazing beyond words.  It was one of those transcendental moments where I felt at one with God and the Universe, where silence and awe seem most fitting even for the little ones.

We stood at the mountain top as family, silent and in awe of the breathtaking view. It happened so fast that we didn't want to miss a beat and I hope it was a spiritual and transformative moment for the kids as it was for me.

Sunrise at Haleakala Mountain Top @ 5:20 am

2. Surfing Goat Dairy Farm

 Surfing Goat Dairy

Feeding goats at Surfing Goat Dairy

Surfing Goat Dairy Farm was another highlight of our trip. You can purchase a bag of food for $1 each and feed friendly goats all day!

The kids had a blast feeding the goats and we enjoyed their goat cheese platter with crackers. Yum~ They also have a wide selection of all natural goat milk soaps and goat cheese truffles.

The location was spacious, well maintained and very sunny-- so be sure to wear a hat & plenty of sunblock during hot months.

3. Kihei / Kamaole Beach Park

Kamaole Beach Park, Kihei

Kihei was less touristy with tons of local activities and authentic food. The sunset here is amazing and family friendly activities like fishing, art/craft fairs, parks and canoeing are abundant. We spent about five days at a spacious condo overlooking the ocean. Unlike Wailea where everything closes by 10pm, Kihei felt more alive & busy, albeit less luxurious.

It was our first time staying at a timeshare condo instead of a resort and it proved to have many benefits. Having a full sized kitchen and large refrigerator is so nice especially when traveling with kids. Aside from being able to save money on food (Wailea is overpriced), you can experience the island alongside the locals.

And did I mention Kihei has the most amazing food ever? The loco mocos, spam musabis, poke bowls, shrimp trucks, shave ice, endless tropical cocktails... It's heaven for those who enjoy authentic Hawaiian cuisine.

4. Road to Hana

Road to Hana is a must for anyone traveling to Maui. Be prepared to leave early in the morning with an ice chest packed with food and drinks if you want to explore all the little hidden wonders of this road. 

There are so much to see and so many hidden gems that you want to give yourself one full day to explore this part of the island. The drive back down can take 2-3 hours and it's not easy to do so once the sun sets. I might even consider staying in Hana overnight so I can visit all the hidden beaches (i.e. black sand beach) and hike to the waterfalls.

I never considered myself to be an outdoorsy type of person until I experienced the Road to Hana. Your senses are engulfed by the lush greenery and wonders of this island that you gradually become one with nature. I never knew so many different shades of green existed until this experience and there is a certain healing energy that permeates this road. 

We ended our one week trip by spending the weekend at Fairmont Kea Lani. We were debating between Fairmont Kea Lani, The Grand Wailea and Four Seasons Wailea but ended up staying at the Fairmont Kea Lani because 1) We were already pleased with Fairmont service and standards from our previous trip to Fairmont Mayakoba and 2) Fairmont Kea Lani seemed less crowded than the Grand Wailea and more kid friendly than Four Seasons. It was also the only resort that offered standard suites in which there is a separate master bedroom and living room for the kids.

We were very pleased with our choice. We were greeted with leis, tropical drinks and beach toys for kids upon arrival and our weekend stay was luxurious and personable. We spent most of our time lounging around by the pool, playing on the slide and relaxing by the ocean. We watched the beautiful sunset every night while swinging on the hammock and dipping our toes in the sand.

Birthday dessert for my husband

Like with any amazing family vacations, the saddest part was leaving. Our girls didn't sleep at all on the flight back to LAX yet we managed to travel back without any tantrums or meltdowns (Thank you God!)

Maui is definitely one of our favorite destinations for families. We loved the beaches and historic sites in Riviera Maya but if I had to choose between Hawaii and Mexico, I'd choose Hawaii again.

There is a certain level of comfort and safety when traveling to an English-speaking island and the Hawaiian hospitality is unprecedented. Similar to Oahu, the people of Maui are so genuinely kind and giving that you leave the place wanting to be a happier and more generous person.

The best part of Maui though, is its healing energy that connects families and bring them a little closer. Traveling as family is priceless and I'm so thankful for our shared memory.

Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience. - Francis Bacon

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Happy 7th Birthday Tess

My Dearest Tessa,

This morning you returned to school after a long winter break excitedly saying, "Mommy, this is my first day of school as a seven year old!" Seven years after your entrance into the world, you remain bright and vibrant as the sun and your exuberant spirit can lift anyone from the darkest days.

I still can't believe how fast the past seven years flew by and as I write this, all our memories flash before my eyes like an old filmstrip that I wish to recover but can't. I know I should find solace in our thousands of pictures and memories etched deep inside my head yet I can't help but to feel a tinge of sadness that you are no longer a baby. It makes me wonder if this is how your grandmother felt when I turned seven years old. You see my child, you always inspire me to reflect on valuable life lessons, including those I somehow missed while raising your sister.

Today, I feel this sudden urge to go back to 7 years ago to the day you were born. I even chuckle at the thought of wanting to start all over again as I know time cannot be retrieved. I know I begged you to fall asleep more quickly last night as you were going to bed, but I must continue to remind myself to enjoy every bedtime kiss because you are growing every minute, the way you did since the moment I held you in my arms for the first time.

I still remember the day you were born like yesterday. I started having contractions on the morning of my due date in the form of a dull ache in the bottom of my belly. It came and went, and came and went in tiny waves. I was beyond excited as it was finally time to see you for the first time, although I already knew you by your tiny kicks and movements in my body for months now. We left your sister with grandparents and daddy took mommy to the hospital. We stopped by at Starbucks for a cup of iced coffee and Del Taco for some french fries because mommy was craving it for some weird reason (Sorry baby for the bad cravings).

I was admitted to the hospital in the morning and you entered the world that evening at 5:02 pm. When it was time to push, you came out so easily I remember saying "That's it?" to the nurses after what felt like a few minutes. Unlike the first time, your birth was fairly smooth and I was lucky to be able to breathe in every detail of your first minutes with a clear head and grateful heart.

You were smaller than your sister at 6 pounds and 6 ounces with a head full of dark hair. I still remember you squinting your eyes at me with the cutest wrinkles around your forehead and nose. My heart leaped with joy at your cuteness. I thought you were the most beautiful little person in the world.

A few days later daddy brought home a doll that looks just like you. You eventually named her "Mimi" and still sleep with her every night. And until this day, you make the same wrinkly nosed face when you smile at me as if you already know that it's my favorite face in the whole world.

When you were born, your older sister was about 20 months old. By this time we knew your sister needed early intervention, so you have no idea how grateful I was when you began to walk and talk on time. God first gave me your sister to teach me patience, perseverance and strength, then he brought you into my life to consecrate his plans. Through both of you, He gave me the courage & faith to let go of my selfish desires and plans, for his plans are more perfect than our own. I let go and he gave me you. You brought so much love and joy to this family and completed us by being the perfect youngest child and little sister to Elise.

To be honest, there were many nights when I cried myself to sleep because being a mother was so hard sometimes especially when no tests and therapies seemed to work for your sister. I often felt like I failed as a mother and a deep sense of guilt and regret crept in whenever I was mentally and physically exhausted.  It's as if God already knew this, because through you He taught me that I had not failed as a mother. I was truly special in his eyes, because he trusted me with two beautiful girls like you & your sister. How loved and blessed I am. You see my child, you helped me to love myself even more deeply during a difficult time and helped me to grow as a mother.

I still remember your adorable bob hairstyle that brought out your spunky personality. I remember the years of princess phase during which you would go through countless plastic princess shoes and glittery dresses. I remember your funny little dances in diapers. The mess you make with your food. The way you climb on your daddy's back like a monkey. The way you hold me at night and kiss me over and over again. The way you call me Mommy Queen. The way you throw tantrums, get in trouble, then quickly turn around to tell me you are sorry. Your countless drawings that began as soon as your tiny fingers can grasp a crayon.

The way you love me despite my mistakes as a mother. How quickly you forgive. How easily you love. How thoughtful you are. How your eyes light up when you come across something you like. How you make that wrinkle nosed smile over and over again. How you still like to be held like a baby with your head gently rested against my chest. How you and I discovered our sweet spot when holding each other so we can feel each other's heart beating. I remember all these and much more---and cherish every moment we shared since the day you were born.

My sweet Tessa, there is no way I can capture my love for you in words. I love, love and love you so much from the deepest part of my heart. And I thank you for entering this world as my daughter because you are so right for me. You are so similar to me, yet so different. I still can't get over how similar you are with your dad sometimes. You help me to see a piece of his childhood that I find it easier to embrace his flaws and mistakes. You help me to love more deeply and unconditionally. You fit into my life like a puzzle and I can't imagine a child more perfect for me than you. And I was given one wish, I'd wish to go back and do it all over again.

I miss the infant you, the one year old you, the two year old you, the preschool you and the kindergarten you. I wish I held you a little tighter and loved you even more. But knowing that time cannot be retrieved, all I can do now is love you more deeply and cherish every minute of your seventh year.

Happy 7th birthday my child, this is going to be another amazing year for you and me.

(I still can't believe it's already been 2 years since the last birthday post. Where does the time go?)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Making Wishes for 2014

I'm starting the new year with one of the worst sicknesses of my lifetime. I'm sure life can be a lot worse but I never knew having strep throat can be so painful and cumbersome. Taking antibiotics three times a day leaves me with the worst nausea that reminds me of pregnancy morning sickness and my throat hurts so bad that simple acts like swallowing and eating are painful.

To top it off, my younger daughter is also sick and we are on matching antibiotics. Yay- twinning.

On the bright side, 2014 has already taught me some valuable lessons.

1. Strep throat is caused by a bacterial infection; bronchitis is caused by a viral infection.
2. Advil helps with various types of inflammations, including that of the throat.
3. I'm getting old.

Despite the fact that I'm feeling pretty shi**y right now, I'm still glad that I got to host another NYE get-together with my close girlfriends and their families. This may be the last year in this home and I'm thankful I got to make lasting memories with people who make me laugh and hopeful.

We also began a cool New Year's tradition this year- the lighting of the wishing lantern. I was initially concerned about safety but the lanterns proved to be safe in an open outdoor space without too much wind. As expected the kids loved making their New Year's wishes and letting the lanterns float up to the sky. I wish I captured the moment better on my camera, but I was preoccupied with making wishes for my family and breathing in the beauty and excitement of the night.

All in all, this NYE was one of the best I've had since getting married and having kids. I'm already looking forward to celebrating next year's NYE in our new home (praying that everything will work out!).

2013 was a year of hard work with little result, during which I learned the virtue of patience through quiet storm.
I worked hard on several projects only to face a series of disappointments, many of which were beyond my control. I'm still learning and being an adult in its truest sense, learning to smile through the rain and dance through the storm.

Sometimes though, I think I simply didn't work hard enough.

Whatever the case, I'm excited for 2014 and all the changes & challenges it will bring. I must work harder and continue to push forward while remembering to count the numerous blessings that surround me.

My most precious gift from God of course, are my two girls- and here is a picture of them right before releasing their wishing lantern. Elise was a little scared by the fire but Tessa, as always, proved to be a trooper with big dreams.