Wish Trip – Day 6

Eddie said today was his favorite day of the entire week.  It was the day he had most looked forward to and it lived up to his expectations.

We started the day at Hanauma Bay for snorkeling.  This is a state park, marine conservation area, and nature preserve.  It was named the best beach in the US for 2016.  It sees more than a million visitors per year.  During the two weeks of Christmas and the New Year, it has more visitors than Disney World AND Disney Land combined!  To find out more about this must visit spot in Oahu, click here.

I realize when you think of Hawaii you likely think of hot weather and warm water.  That may be the case certain times of the year, but not exactly now.  This is the wet season here.  The water temperature is in the 70s.  While at Hanauma Bay, that was the lower 70s and the air temperature was in the low 70s/upper 60s.  It was very comfortable …. while on the beach.  The water, however, was very cold, in my opinion.  Eddie and I got snorkel gear.  I got to waist deep water and could not handle anymore.  I was just too uncomfortable, but Eddie was not about to let a little cold stand in his way.

He saw a variety of tropical fish and coral in the bay.  I enjoyed watching Deacon play in the sand.   This area, located in a volcanic cone, was so pretty.  There were rocky edges, sandy beaches, palm trees…..just as you would expect.  It was beautiful.snorkeling

After leaving there, we traveled across the island to the North Shore which is world famous for its surfing.  This was a priority for Eddie.  It took us around an hour to get there and we traveled through part of the interior of the island.  We passed by the stadium where the Aloha Bowl is played and the Pro Bowl used to be played.  We saw a number of military areas and the Dole Plantation.  We wanted to stop by Dole on the way back, but we spent too much time at the North Shore.

We traveled through the “historic town of Haleiwa” as the sign says.  Locals have fought against commercialization in this town so it is so quaint and filled with local shops.  In some ways, it reminds me of the Outer Banks.  There are food trucks everywhere many of which have been featured on television such as the Travel Channel and Food Network. However, it was challenging to find a parking spot and a place all of us would enjoy so we ended up eating at a local restaurant that had a great view of the ocean.  Then we headed down a small highway called Hamekameka Hwy. which seems to go around a big portion of the island.  We made our way to Waimea Bay which is known for its enormous waves this time of the year.  They did not disappoint.

waves

The beach was filled with locals who are experienced surfers.  Nobody was in the water above the knees without a board of some sort.  I’ve been on the Carolina coast as a hurricane barreled in and during a tropical storm and never have I seen waves and power like this.

We had heard that Obama stops in this area for shaved ice when he’s in Hawaii, so we wanted to do it, too.  After all, if it’s good enough for the president, it’s good enough for us!  🙂  So on the way out of town, Eddie got shaved ice, Deacon got ice cream and I got a pineapple bowl.  Perhaps it’s a bit melodramatic but my life is now measured in terms of before the pineapple bowl and after the pineapple bowl.  Yum.  It’s a concoction of pineapple shaved ice, fresh pineapple, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream (and a cherry but I threw that nasty thing out).

pineapple-bowl

A deliciously wonderful day that Eddie proclaimed was a highlight.

 

Wish Trip – Day 5

Day 5 was a favorite for everyone.  The boys and I walked down the main strip to Duke’s for breakfast.  Duke’s is one of the places Eddie has been dying to give a try.  It’s namesake was Duke Kahanamoku, the king of surfing and quite the legend in Hawaii.  We headed over for the breakfast buffet served by the ocean.  It’s quite a view.  dukes-breakfast

The breakfast was spectacular….Portuguese and chicken sausages, bacon, eggs, and omelet station, several cereals, yogurt, an abundance of fresh fruit, oatmeal, taro bread pudding, banana pancakes, …. I am salivating just remembering it all.

During breakfast, the waiter took note of our MAW buttons.  While Eddie was going after seconds (or maybe it was thirds), he took the opportunity to ask me about Eddie’s health and Loeys-Dietz Syndrome.  It was pretty cool to get the chance to share just a little more information with others who are unaware of LDS.  The waiter had the manager, Dante, over to our table to personally greet us.  Dante took care of our breakfast and invited us to return to the restaurant for another meal before heading back to NC.  They treated us like royalty.

We then traveled about 30 minutes away from Waikiki to Kualoa Ranch.  This is the site of some adventures such as ziplining, horseback riding, and our option….ATVs.  It is also a working cattle ranch and a common location for movies and television shows to be filmed.  For more information on Kualoa Ranch, simply click here.

One of the things Eddie most wanted to do in Hawaii was drive a jeep through the jungle/rain forest.  That wasn’t possible, but this was pretty close.  They had individual ATVs, but the ranch hooked us up with a Raptor vehicle which is a cross between an ATV and a jeep.  It holds 4 people.  You had to be 16 to ride and 25 to drive.  The company was already breaking its own rules by allowing Deacon and Eddie to ride.  We spoke to the manager, Lani, and explained that Eddie’s wish was really to drive the vehicle.  She explained they would have Eddie drive through a practice loop, have us sign off on liability sheets, but they wanted to make his wish happen so they would allow it.

As we were off to get a safety briefing and get our helmets, Lani then hugged me and asked me about Eddie’s health.  It was such a sweet and kind moment that really moved me.  It also gave me another opportunity to share about Loeys-Dietz Syndrome which was an added bonus.  Then we were off.

raptor

We enjoyed the hour long tour by some of the most idyllic settings on Earth.  We marveled at the signs telling us about which movies were shot here and there.  Eddie managed to hit every mud hole on the trail, also, leaving us spotted, dirty, and laughing.  We did stop at two points along the way for pictures including where this “log” scene from Jurassic Park happened:

jurassic-park-34-a-flock-of-gallimimuses

And here we are getting our picture taken around the log on our tour yesterday:

jurassic-park

Kualoa Ranch then sent us on our way with a complimentary picture from our adventure and we returned to the hotel.  Eddie and I went out for sushi while Rick and Deacon hit up the local Subway.

Another great day in the books.

 

Wish Trip – Day 4

I just don’t know where the time is going.  Last week when counting down the days to our trip, each day seemed like an eternity.  Now that we are here, each hour seems to fly by.

Yesterday was a free day of sorts for us as Make a Wish had no activities prearranged for us.  It’s nice to have a mix of scheduled activities and free days.  Eddie and I had decided the night before we would head over to Diamond Head to have a sunrise hike.  We set the alarm for 5 am and made our way early.  The park’s gates open at 6 am and we were parked and starting out by 6:15 am.

It was a challenging trek for a number of reasons not the least of which was we were in the dark.  It was pitch dark when we started.  A few other hikers had glow sticks or were using the flashlight on their phones.  We did not.  The first portion of the hike is on even concrete paths.  And then as you make your way up the crater side the path gets more narrow, rocky, and uneven.  There are scenic spots along the way for picture opportunities and breathtaking views.  We were able to stop and enjoy the myriad of colors in the sky as the sun came up.  sunrise

The last portion of the hike is a climb up some intense stairs.  There are lots of steps, but the challenging part is because of how steep they are.  diamond-head

Then just as you are dying to catch your breath, you turn a corner to see another staircase: this one a spiral.diamond-head-stairs-photo_1002629-770tall But finally, you emerge at the pinnacle and the views are totally worthwhile.  And the best part was sharing it with Eddie.

mom-and-eddie

After we finished our hike, we met the rest of the gang for breakfast at McDonalds….Deacon’s request.  While everyone else ordered the usual biscuits, breakfast meats, and pancakes, I decided to try out more local fare.  My friend, Shannon, had been stationed here when she served in the military and she shared the McDonalds serves spam, eggs, and rice for breakfast.  So when in Rome…..

That was gross.  End of story.

After breakfast, Eddie wanted to take a turn at the zoo and to get in a trip to the Waikiki Aquarium.  Just as they did with Deacon the day before, Eddie was escorted to the gift shop to choose a donated stuffed animal.  He picked a turtle donated from a couple in Washington state.  We viewed giraffes, birds, and our favorites, the spider monkeys, to name a few.  We then walked a couple blocks down to the aquarium.  It was a small aquarium but something fun for us to do together.  We were particularly interested in learning about sea life indigenous to Hawaii and Polynesia.  As guests enter the aquarium, volunteers take pictures of your party.  On your way out you pass by the stand to view and purchase pictures.  Seeing our Make a Wish buttons, the manager bundled all our pictures together and gave them to us as a gift.  It was an awesome gesture.

Finally we returned to the room where Eddie was able to watch his beloved Demon Deacons win the Military Bowl.  We then get dressed in beach attire and finished the day enjoying the sea and the surf.

It was another phenomenal day.

 

Wish Trip – Day 3

Day 3 started with breakfast at a local place, Teddy’s.  There was nothing really unique about our choices to eat….bacon, potatoes, breakfast burrito, pancakes.  After breakfast Rick and I divided and conquered with the boys.

Make a Wish had arranged for a tee time and golf club rental at the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club here on Oahu for Rick and Eddie per Eddie’s request.  This course was designed by Arnold Palmer.  (You can click here to go to their website)  Eddie had an amazing round shooting an 83.  He said the weather and conditions were perfect.maw-golf

While Rick and Eddie were enjoying a day of golf, Deacon and I went to the Honolulu Zoo.  The zoo is located one block over from our hotel.  Robin and Liz, our wish grantors, explained that we needed to wear our Make A Wish buttons everywhere we go whil on our trip.  This came in handy because as we approached the entrance,  zoo employees spotted our buttons and whisked us through saying our visit was complimentary.  Then they took us to the back corner of the gift shop where a bin of stuffed animals were located.  Above the bin were a number of Make A Wish posters.  The gift shop manager explained that guests to the zoo are invited to purchase stuffed animals to donate to the bin and each MAW child gets to choose an animal to take home as their souvenir.  Deacon gladly chose a monkey to take with him donated by a couple from California.

Deacon and I spotted lions, elephants, and a myriad of birds before seeing the playground.  That was it.  Deacon played on the playground until he was almost too tired to keep his eyes open.  Then he asked if we could go back to the hotel room because he was tired.  We spent the majority of the day watching television with the occasional walk down the block for ice cream or lunch.  I hated to spend a day inside, but no day is wasted if I’m spending it with those I love and Deacon definitely fits that description.  This time change has really done a number on him and he needed a day to rest so that’s what he got.

After Rick and Eddie returned, Deacon rested with Rick while Eddie and I took a walk along the beach.  It was nice to be able to have some individual time with each child.  Then we went to bed early (before 10 pm) as Eddie and I had plans to take a sunrise hike at Diamond Head.  But that’s an entry for tomorrow……

Wish Trip – Days 1 and 2

A chauffeured SUV arrived at our home at 5:00 am Saturday morning to drive us to the airport and send us off on Eddie’s wish trip to Hawaii.  Our plane left Charlotte and about three and a half hours later landed in Denver.  Eddie has been on a number of flights, but it never gets old for him.  Deacon traveled on the plane to Baltimore for doctor’s appointments when he was just a few months old, but obviously, he has no recollection of this.  Therefore, this was practically a first flight for him.

We arrived in Denver for a fairly quick layover.  We had just enough time to grab some lunch before boarding the next plane for a seven hour flight to Honolulu.  The flight attendants saw Eddie wearing his Make a Wish shirt and gave him a snack box for the trip. Thankfully, Deacon and I dozed for a good bit of that long flight.  We arrived in Honolulu around 4:30 local time which meant 9:30 at home.  Because we were seated in the middle aisle of the plane without a window view, our first good look at the Hawaiian landscape was once we stepped out of the airport.  I could never have imagined such beauty.  I’ve been beyond blessed in my lifetime to see a good number of places, but nothing could compare to the picturesque nature of the rocky mountains next to sandy beaches with the clear blue sea.  All of us were blown away.

After claiming our luggage and our rental car, we made our way to Waikiki.  Our hotel, the Aston, is close to the beach, restaurants, shops, and so many attractions.  It makes it so easy to walk to anything.  Every room in the hotel has a balcony.  After checking in we made our way to a restaurant downstairs, Tiki Grill, for dinner.  Eddie and his dad took a walk on the beach, but Deacon and I went back to the room to go to bed as our bodies were screaming for sleep.  It may have been just 8:30 pm here, but our bodies felt as if it were closer to 2 am.

Sunday….Christmas Day.  It didn’t feel like Christmas Day….maybe because of the 80 degree weather or maybe because of the constant activity.  All the businesses along this famous strip of beach were open and engaging in regular business.  We went to a local establishment called Eggs and Things for breakfast.  We wanted to enjoy things local and unique to Hawaii.  A pancake with coconut syrup, omelet with local produce including zucchini, a grilled porkchop with fresh pineapple, and kona coffee.  Delicious.

Then we headed to the beach.  The strip of sand was not as wide as I anticipated, but the sand was unbelievably soft.  The water was so clear.  I rented an umbrella and beach chairs. Eddie really wanted to paddle board so we rented one for an hour.  One huge difference between the beaches I’ve visited in the Atlantic and this one is the ocean bottom is not sandy.  It’s rocks.  Sharp rocks with sea urchins in some places.   The water was cool and although the temperature was in the low 80s, it was so comfortable with a constant breeze.  Not too hot and not too cool.  The humidity also was a perfect level.  It was the most incredible weather.

We returned to the hotel after a couple of hours, took showers, had lunch, and then prepared to head to a luau.  Make a Wish planned a number of activities for us including this luau called The Chief’s Luau which is held inside of a park much like a small Seaworld.

At the luau, there was spear throwing, poi tasting,  local craft selling, and headband making.  We all enjoyed a variety of these activities.  Because our reservation was secured through Make a Wish, we were treated like royalty.  We sat in the VIP section for the show in front of the stage.  The food was a smorgasbord of local entrees.  Pork, chicken, some incredible fish, fresh pineapple, pineapple cake, rice….the list could go on and on.  There was unlimited fruit punch, water, hot tea, and coffee and sodas, wine, beer, and cocktails were available at the Tiki bar.

The emcee for the luau was an incredible showman with a great sense of humor and musical talent.  They shared some information on the culture as well as traditional dances of the Polynesian islands including Samoa, Tonga, Tunisia, and of course, Hawaii.  Near the end of the show, they invited Eddie to the stage and offered a Hawaiian blessing for good health and long life for him and gave him a number of gifts including a ukulele which he was thrilled about.  Interestingly, Eddie was ambivalent about the idea of attending a luau until we arrived.  He smiled and laughed and hula-ed throughout the show.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him that relaxed and enjoying himself.  Obviously, this is exactly the purpose of Make a Wish.

How blessed we are.

 

When You Wish….

I shared a while back about the good news that Eddie was being granted a wish by the Make A Wish Foundation.  We will be spending our holidays in Hawaii as requested by Eddie.  The entire process has been an amazing one.  We have gotten to know our wish granters who are volunteers.  They have walked us through the process and been expert confidantes, encouragers, and troubleshooters along the way.  It was been nothing but one surprise after the next with MAW….from barging into Eddie’s classroom to give him the news he would be spending Christmas in Hawaii (with the help of the Wake Forest baseball team and coaching staff!) to a send-off party hosted by Polo Ralph Lauren.  No details are overlooked.

I plan on blogging while in Paradise.  I can only imagine what amazing adventures we will get into.

Kindness in Action

So the past year has been hard in America.  And it all came to a climactic ending last night with the election results.  For months I have been concerned about the state of people and minds and hearts when the results were announced…..regardless of winners and regardless of which race.  This election had so much passion and apathy, encouragement and animosity, rhetoric and action that I felt whiplash as we swung from one rally to the next debate from one advertisement to the next soundbite.  It was tough.  I’m tired.  Regardless of winners and regardless of which race.

I live in NC so the gubernatorial and congressional races felt just as intense.  I was worried….still am, to tell the truth.  But I have found comfort in what I’ve seen today.

I am a high school teacher and I have witnessed kindness in action numerous times before lunch time.  I am encouraged.

This morning I have seen students dressed in their ROTC uniforms carrying themselves with the pride and patriotism of soldiers past and present.  I am encouraged to watch students stand and proudly place their hands over their hearts to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the school day.  Contrary to memes and wild posts on social media, we still say the pledge at school daily. Patriotism is not dead, my friends.  It may be redesigned for a modern day generation, but it is not dead.

I smile as I see multiracial friendships in the cafeteria, courtyard, and break.  True friendships.  The students banter back and forth, give high fives, and provide pats on the back with little to no regard for skin color or birthplace.  Racial divisions may be exploding in cities and on social media, but not on my campus.

I beam with pride as I see students that have Trump bumper stickers, hats, and other items speak kindly and share smiles with those who do not.  Those who would not.  Partisan politics may be rampant in polls and the news, but not among our young people.

I dance on the inside as a young man holds the door for me.  I see young ladies being spoken to with respect.  I see young men and women who choose to be countercultural in their fashion and self expression.  Misogyny and bullying may be viewed as ubiquitous in our society, but it is not found this morning at my school.

I may be concerned about the state of our nation, but I am encouraged today as I watch our future finding ways to navigate differences and learn to appreciate each other and be friends.  I am encouraged by the kindness I see displayed by my students.  I see kindness in action and I am inspired to join it.  I hope you will be also.