While many people think of the holiday season as consisting of snow and hot chocolate and other winter festivities, we much prefer sun and ocean and warmth for the holidays. And so off we went to Hawaii for Christmas! Honolulu never disappoints. (Nor does the Halekulani where we were staying.). We enjoyed warmth and ocean views.
And beautiful sunrises.
And equally beautiful sunsets.
Marcus and I took surfing lessons (and I graduated to an 11’ hardtop at his insistence). (Jade would have joined us, but, you know, a broken leg is a bit of an impediment…)
We even went to see “Hamilton,” which was playing at the Blaisdell Center. It, too, never disappoints!
Oh, and a session on how to make a pahi kauna, a traditional Hawaiian war dagger.
And, as always, there was delicious food—a wonderful dinner at tbd…, a Christmas dinner at Roy’s, and a lavish Christmas Eve brunch at Orchid’s.
New Year’s Eve was a casual dinner cooked at home with some close friends (family, really).
But we’re getting old so we celebrated New Year’s Eve on London time and allowed the kids to scatter to their own celebrations.
We hope you had a wonderful holiday season!! Here’s to a fabulous 2023!!
One of the advantages of the quarter system in college is that school doesn’t start until late September, which means that when you have a child with a September birthday, it is possible to go somewhere—say, hypothetically, Disneyworld—with that child to celebrate before school starts.
This year, it was a special birthday as we celebrated in Disneyworld for the weekend. Marcus turned 21 this year (although I am in denial about that), and we celebrated his first legal drink (note the very carefully worded description). Jade flew out from Atlanta to join in the festivities, and it was really wonderful to have the family together for such a fun occasion.
Disneyworld was magical, as usual. It was Marcus’s first time on the newest ride, Guardians of the Galaxy, and he enjoyed the three times he rode it (we had 3 different songs, too, which rocked). A lightsaber was added to his (already extensive) collection as an additional birthday gift. (Or, as his sister says in opposition, we continue to contribute to the arming of her brother.) We ate at the Brown Derby (in Hollywood Studios) for his birthday dinner. And to give the birthday boy credit, he didn’t think it was at all lame to celebrate his 21st birthday with his parents.
The summer was a whirlwind, and I have not enough space to bore everyone with our activities. Highlights include the following:
A joint birthday celebration at the Inn at Little Washington
Jade’s master’s degree (in theoretical computer science) graduation ceremony at Stanford. She is now at Georgia Tech getting her PhD in combinatorics (or theoretical computer science for those of us who don’t understand what combinatorics is).
Jim’s mom’s 90th birthday celebration in Chehalis, Washington. (Shhh, her age is a secret, as she doesn’t want people to think she’s old.) 🙂 There were over 100 people who attended, including family and friends from all over. It was a tremendously festive occasion.
Jim and I rented a house and spent 3 weeks in Hawaii. I am not sure how to start since I have run out of words to describe Hawaii (“earthly paradise” does not seem to do the place justice). The only cloud was that Jade was unable to join us (curse graduate school and its class schedule!). However, Marcus and Yinan were both able to join us for a week. It worked out well as Jim and Yinan played tennis while Marcus and I took surfing lessons. We also had some guests join us for various weeks. I think (hope!) that a good time was had by all. Highlights (in addition to the company of our guests) include:
Beautiful sunrises and sunsets
A visit to the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor
A visit to the Punchbowl (aka National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific)
Scenic vistas at Pali Lookout
Delicious meals, including at tbd…, The Pig and the Lady, and Piggy Smalls
and, of course, surfing lessons. Marcus (and Jade) are quite good–I have finished lesson #9 and am a work in progress… 🙂 (the video is from lesson #5)
Hawaii is definitely our zen place. We miss it already!
We have extremely good friends (family, really) who are huge KU basketball fans and invited us to go see a game with them the first weekend of March. (To my K-State peeps: you know that I will always bleed purple and white, but the dodo bird in primary colors does have its moments, especially when it comes to college basketball. Not to mention that Kansans need to stick together.) Having grown up going to Kansas State basketball games at Ahearn Fieldhouse, seeing a game at Allen Fieldhouse brought back some really lovely memories. It was Senior Day for the KU-UT(exas) game. (And, in an amazing coincidence, two of Jim’s cousins happen to be at the game as well.)
The game itself was a grind-it-out-in-overtime-because-we-can’t-buy-a-bucket kind of game, which was both painful and exciting to watch. And the atmosphere was electric—loud, passionate, enthusiastic, and occasionally profane. It was fabulous! KU won in overtime and then we listened to some really touching and heartfelt speeches by the seniors. We got stranded by an unexpected snowstorm in Kansas City flying back. Had we been stranded at an east coast airport, there would have been much yelling and anger towards the gate agents. But in Kansas City, while people were clearly unhappy, they did not feel the need to vent their unhappiness towards others, given that the weather was no one’s fault and out of anyone’s control. I like Midwesterners. We did eventually make it home (for those of you familiar with O’Hare, I made the E gate to C gate trek in 15 minutes!). And it was definitely worth it. It was all the more fun, then, to watch KU make their run through the NCAA tournament and ultimately win the national championship. (And what a mind blowing game to win it all!) Thank you, Sarah and Mark, for a wonderful weekend and an amazing experience! And Rock Chalk Jayhawk! (At least when they’re not playing K-State…)
This was our 3rd Princess 10K event (last year’s event being cancelled due to some random virus). We walked this one, as Jim had had an accident on the treadmill over Thanksgiving and had not yet been cleared by his cardiologist to exercise. (For the record, walking a 10K does not count as exercise!) While we would have liked to have run the course (well, I would have liked to have run it, but I don’t think I’m speaking for everyone), it was actually a really fun opportunity to see all of the details that Disney puts in to make a runDisney event a little more fun than a typical running event. There are photo ops with characters, there are DJs putting out heart-pumping music, and there are Disney “volunteers” cheering you along the way. One of the most fun events to attend during the weekend is the runner’s expo. Lots of vendors (although fewer this year than in past years) selling various needed and unneeded merchandise. Since we were walking it this year, I bought a matching tutu for my running outfit. It is the princess 10K after all. One of the best things about this year’s event is that we had some very good friends who were also down for the event. It was great fun to go to the parks with them. And because we were there for three weeks remote working (aka fleeing the DC winter), we were able to have dinner with some other friends as well. We also visited the Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Beach, and Tampa during our stay. But the VERY best thing about this year’s event was that the photos of both of us are presentable!! (This has not been historically true for a variety of deliberately vague reasons.). Those who need a refresher course on this just need to search the blog for previous princess 10k entries. 🙂
Two joyous events, especially in a year like this one.
In mid-June, we celebrated our daughter’s graduation from Stanford (total brag: she graduated with a degree in math, with distinction, and phi beta kappa). The graduation was a limited in-person event (two fully vaccinated guests per student). Issa Rae was the graduation speaker, and she did an excellent job. In addition, we had two VERY lovely friends who opened their home for a reception after the ceremony for Jade and her friends and their families. It was a truly celebratory day, and I think everyone appreciated the moment even more than they usually would.
Our summer trip was to Honolulu a few weeks later. We rented a house and enjoyed spending time with family and friends. There was a beautiful ocean, there were many beautiful rainbows (Hawaii isn’t called the rainbow state for no reason), there was fabulous food (fancy and not fancy), and there were wonderful guests who stayed with us. It really was a perfect time to relax, eat, and have fun.
I cannot tell you how wonderful Hawaii is. I can feel my blood pressure going down after landing at the Honolulu airport. My east coast friends wonder why we don’t go to the Caribbean for sun and ocean since it’s so much closer. I’ve concluded that it’s best to smile and keep the magical island paradise of Hawaii as a west coast secret. 🙂
Because Marcus (wisely) decided to take a gap year instead of attending college in the fall, we decided that his birthday needed celebrating and what better place to celebrate someone’s birthday than at Disneyworld? Disney felt very safe with hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations everywhere, socially distanced lines, and everyone masked. (And when someone—usually an adult—wasn’t masked, a cast member was always quick to remind them.) There were some constraints (no park hopping and no Fastpasses) and not everything was open, but we rode all of the rides we wanted to ride and then some. We even managed to get on The Rise of the Resistance our first day there. And, of course, a Darth Maul lightsaber was a must have as a birthday gift. Marcus even discovered the perfect Magic Band for himself—it’s a Stitch in Hawaii band, combining two of his favorite things. Disney, even under the constraints it was operating under, is still the happiest place on earth.
What’s the best way to get rid of the winter doldrums? The answer is to travel to the happiest place on earth (aka Disneyworld), run a 10K during princess half-marathon weekend, and then luck into being able to ride the newest ride at Disneyworld, The Rise of the Resistance.
This is the second year that Jim and I have run the Princess 10K. It’s the perfect distance for us. First, it’s not a real race distance, so there are fewer hard-core runners in the race. Second, it is the perfect psychological distance because you are done once you hit double digits. And, third, I don’t have to train for it because Jim sets the pace during the race. 😊
The unexpected obstacle we hit this year was the unusual cold in Orlando. At 5:00 am the morning of the race (which started at 5:30 am), the temperature was 47 degrees and windy. This is perfectly good running weather. This is horrible wait-for-the-race-to-start weather. I don’t think I thawed out until the next day (when it was 72 degrees and sunny). But the race was good, and Jim did much better this year than last year. This year, no one asked him on five separate occasion whether he was okay in the 100 yards between the finish line and the bus. Progress.
The Rise of the Resistance is the newest and most popular ride at Disneyworld. Conventional wisdom says that you need to be at Hollywood Studios by 6:30 am, be in the park at 7:00 when it opens in order to obtain a boarding pass to the ride. There is no shortcut (well, I am sure there is a shortcut, but not one we could find, and we looked). The three of us decided it wasn’t worth getting up that early to try to get on the ride since we knew we’d be back soon, and we were leaving that day. However, we were at Hollywood Studios by 8:00 am and decided to try and get a boarding pass just for fun. While we did manage to get a boarding pass, it was a waitlist boarding pass. Disney only kinda sorta guarantees groups 1-63 (and not even that), and we were boarding group 132. So we thought not only was it unlikely we would get to board, but it was even more unlikely we would get to board before we had to leave to catch our plane.
We were in EPCOT when it became clear that our boarding group was likely to be called around 5:00 pm (we had to leave at 6:00 to catch our plane). We rushed out of EPCOT, drove to Hollywood Studios, arrived at 5:00 at which point our boarding group had already been called. We power walked through Hollywood Studios, arrived at The Rise of the Resistance at 5:09, and were through the ride by 5:50 pm.
In case anyone is interested, the ride (really, an experience/ride) was beyond description!! It was a totally immersive experience, the special effects were incredible, and we walked out of the ride thinking it was one of the most amazing theme park experiences we’ve ever had.
Well, more accurately, the 2nd summer trip, this time to Hong Kong and Tokyo—a quick trip as we were gone just over a week. Jade has been in Hong Kong this summer on an internship where she is developing a curriculum to teach disadvantaged Hong Kong kids how to code. (As a math/computer science social conscience Chinese-speaking person, this checks all of her boxes.). She’s had a great substantive summer and also has a great first-hand experience in how democracy should work (i.e. the importance of the right of assembly under the 1st Amendment). The first items the organizers hand the protesters are a mask (to defeat the excellent facial recognition software China has) and a bilingual sign asking the police to stay calm.
It was all quite civilized and British until the Chinese raised the stakes. It still is very safe as long as you avoid the areas where the protesters are (which are generally published ahead of time—did I mention that this was all very civilized?). However, with 10,000 Chinese troops garrisoned in Hong Kong, there is a very real risk of all of this going sideways quite quickly. In fact, I kind of feel like Dr. Strange in Avengers: Infinity Wars when he says he’s looked at 14+ million futures and only sees 1 where Thanos is defeated. I can’t picture that many scenarios, of course, but I don’t see one where it ends well for Hong Kong.
That being said, we had a lovely several days wandering around Hong Kong, including a trip to Hong Kong Disney with the four of us.
There is nothing quite like Disney to restore one’s faith in human nature. Perhaps our family chronicles can be marked solely by meals, trips to a Disney park, and trips to Hawaii.
Tokyo was our next stop. This year is the 20th anniversary of the US-Japan Leadership Program and the last year of George Packard’s leadership of the US-Japan Foundation. The celebration was festive and filled with gratitude and appreciation. Jim and I saw people we hadn’t seen in years as people came from all around the globe to help celebrate this milestone. There were people from every year of the program in attendance. It truly was an amazing experience.
We were once again fortunate enough this year to have our college-attending daughter share a spring break with our high school son. After some consultation with the entire family, we decided to spend spring break at the happiest place on earth (aka Disneyworld). It has been many years since we spent an entire week at Disneyworld, and we were looking forward to an opportunity to do some things that we had not done in a long time or had never done before in and around the parks. Our dual missions were accomplished successfully, as we all had a wonderful time and did things we had never done before (an encounter with Kylo Ren, anyone? He’s a bit scary up close and personal).
Highlights included meeting up with friends whom we had not seen for 20 years who live in Orlando (I know, shame on us); meeting up with friends whom we see regularly but who loathe Disney in an attempt to brainwash them otherwise (our attempt met with modest success);
and the velociraptor consuming a large pizza meant for 2-3 people by himself at Via Napoli (in Epcot) for lunch (I am incredibly envious of his metabolism). The parks were crowded, but we rode all the rides we wanted multiple times and even saw some shows that we hadn’t seen in a while (including Festival of the Lion King and, despite the reluctance exhibited by the daughter, It’s Tough to be a Bug). We ate well, played well, and spent some quality family time together. As the velociraptor said, “This was one of the best spring breaks ever!”