One of my best friends Meredith and I can talk for hours on end, but it is difficult to follow the conversation. We start talking about one thing, which leads into another thing, then another….this continues. We eventually end up talking about all of it but not in a linear or ordered way. She calls this kind of conversation “spaghetti” because it loops around and is messy, but you still communicate effectively. I think about that term when we talk or when I have conversations with my sisters; Andy and my brother-in-law joke that trying to join our conversations are pointless. I called today a “spaghetti” kind of day because we started out with one purpose, but this led to another, then another, then another. These are my favorite kind of days because I find the best places!
We drove to Kaneohe to see the Byodo-In temple, located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. The entire park is a cemetery, with multiple chapels and worship centers for different denominations. It was beautiful, if you can say that about a cemetery, with so much green and the Kualoa Mountains in the background. The temple was constructed in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. It is a smaller version of the same temple located in Japan, and if this temple is smaller version of the original, I cannot imagine how large the original may be. Another reason to see Japan at some point! It is open 9:00 am-5:00 pm daily and easily accessible for all those who wish to visit.
The temple is a non-practicing Buddhist temple but is privately owned. Therefore, a small entrance fee is required: $3 for adults and $1 for children. Reconstruction and renovations are currently being performed, so parts of the temple were off limits. The grounds are full of plants and trees, and swans, ducks, peacocks, cats, and chickens free roam on the grounds. There are koi fish and turtles in the water surrounding the temple, and you can purchase food to feed them in the gift shop (military with ID receive 1 bag free!). You can take your time exploring the grounds and nature, taking in small waterfalls, gazebos, and ringing the bell before entrance to the temple. According to the posted information and official website, ringing of the Sacred Bell is “purify the mind of evil spirits and temptation…ringing this bell will bring you happiness, blessings, and a long life.” You must remove your shoes when entering the temple, and there is a large Buddha statue with access to memorial candles and incense. The whole environment is very peaceful and relaxing. We had the most fun sitting near the water and feeding the fish. The girls really enjoyed it here, and it was a very inexpensive discovery.
Since we drove to the eastern side of the island, I did not want to go home so soon. It can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to get here from our house, so I try to pack as much in as possible. We stopped for a quick lunch and decided to go to Kailua and explore the local shops (and to be honest, we needed a Target run). While driving there, I saw a sign for the botanical garden. Back in October, a woman who owned a local store gave me a few places to see on this side, and she highly recommended the gardens. I figured, why not? We had full bellies, water, sunscreen, a stroller – let’s go!
We were completely overwhelmed by the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. When you enter and pass the gates, you feel like you are driving through a rainforest. The trees and plants are huge! The road winds up and down and finally ends at the visitor center. Parking, admission, and maps are free – FREE. The gardens are open 9:00am-4:00pm daily (except holidays), and guided tours can be arranged. You can also camp here during the weekends with advance arrangement. I expected a small trail of trees and plants, maybe some exhibits – no. This is Oahu’s largest botanical garden! The park is 400 acres of green, various plants and trees, pavilions, and even a 32 acre lake. Words do not describe how gorgeous it was. I could have sat in the park all day! Fishing is not allowed, due to leptospirosis contamination, but you can feed the fish and ducks present there. We spent an hour here and barely scratched the surface. We plan to go back soon, this time with a picnic lunch and the hiking backpack for Leo – some paths are simply rocks or grass, so a stroller can be done but is difficult. All the girls could talk about was bringing their dad here and trying to convince him to camp here (I don’t camp, so they have to appeal to him).
After this, we drove into Kailua and hit Target and some other places. I love Kailua, even though it seems to be very popular with tourists. It has the laid-back vibe of a beach town with many business and homes. We found some beach hats, more pencils for the girls, a lemonade pitcher, my favorite ginger kombucha for me, and books for everyone. Our last task was to turn in our bottles for redemption. We take our money from bottle and glass redemption and put it in our save jar; at the end of the year, we add up all the change and cash and will save it for a vacation. I missed my turn and had to find somewhere to reverse around. Low and behold, we found something for the kids again – a playground.
This was not any ordinary playground – it was gigantic. It was part of a school, and Hawaii has some strict rules about loitering on school grounds outside of school hours. I figured we were safe, since it was overrun with kids and parents. After turning in our goods, I told this kids we could play here. The entire area is surrounded by a dragon wall! The head is the entrance, and the body encompasses the structures. Yes, structures, for all ages and sizes. I finally got Leo to go down a slide by himself! The girls weaved in and out of the boat structure. I showed the girls how I can still stand, swing, and balance on parallel bars (32 be damned!). The only thing that made us go home were the gnats and the exhaustion of the kids.
Finally, I missed 2 of my turns to get home. Andy hates when I drive because if I miss my turn, I just kind of shrug it off and figure another way home. Our route was longer but took us through the most amazing views of the mountain range. We also talked a lot in the car. I learn so much about my children while having simple conversations in the car. Today, I learned that Addie and Lorelei can bicker about literally everything, and it reminded me of my sisters and I during road trips. I learned that if I sing a song, Leo will clap at the end, no matter what song it may be. I also learned that Lorelei blames a lot of farting on Leo, which is a little unfair but I can also respect. He is not even 2 years old, so he cannot defend himself. I am afraid that Lorelei is too smart and quick – Andy and I have taught her too much.
Like I said, it was a “spaghetti” day. We began just wanting to do something outside the house during Spring Break, and we ended up spending the day aimlessly discovering new things. I love that my kids are up for a little exploring and do not mind being lost; I think this will benefit them later in life. It also reminded me of days with my friend Meredith – the conversations and the days we would simply get lost in Germany, finding the best food and stores by pure accident. It’s all spaghetti, my friends – you’re satisfied and happy in the end.
***For more info on the Byodo-In temple, see this link:***
***For more info on the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, see this link. Also, stop by to ask for info on camping, pavilions, and group visits:***