Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hawaii: Part 1

Next Monday (August 26, 2013) I am starting classes for my PhD in applied mathematics. School=busy=no-time-to-write-blog. Which means in the next four days I am going to be crazily trying to catch up on recording the last year and a half of my life. Here goes nothing!!

I think where I left off was the Kennedy family trip to Hawaii last March (meaning March of 2012). Since everyone else in the family had the same week off for spring break except me, we decided to go March 10-17, which meant I had to skip a week of school to go to Hawaii. It was hard to catch up but TOTALLY worth it. 

We started off the trip strong and in full anticipation of family bonding time by playing games in the airport during our layover in Los Angeles. 

I think this was Uno. We fluctuated between that and playing scum.
We landed late Saturday night (March 10), then in the morning were able to attend church at a nearby ward. When we got back to the beach house Caro and Rachel played some hymns on their ukeleles and I remember that being a lot of fun. I sure miss those girls!

After church we got our first taste of the beach by walking along the seashore and checking out the Sunday afternoon surf.

A little cloudy, but still a ton of fun.
Then we got the classic Matsumoto Shave (NOT shaved, apparently) Ice and on our way home stopped by a local fruit stand to try out some exotic stuff. I know we got some weird fruit, but what I remember most was the sugar cane. Andrew was quite insistent that we all brush our teeth when we got home...haha. Love that boy.

Apparently swimming is breaking the Sabbath but buying Shave Ice isn't...oh well. We do what we can. 

Sugar cane!

I honestly don't remember the name of this place, but we also stopped at an amazing jetty where we could really see the waves pounding against the rocks. Of course being ourselves, the siblings all took the opportunity to have a little photo shoot. We aren't posed as well in this one but it was pretty fun.

And OF COURSE, a little scum back home. My fave. Seriously tho I love that game.

On Monday we got to visit the Pearl Harbor memorial, which was quite moving. At that time Andrew was considering going the military route for dental school, so I found it especially poignant while considering the sacrifices many wives, sisters, daughters, and mothers made during that time and today.

Memorial over the remnants of the USS Arizona.
After leaving Pearl Harbor, we did some more sightseeing around Honolulu and saw the palace of the queen of Hawaii. That night we went to dinner at Hard Rock Cafe (Andrew and I suggested going to Costco, but were overruled).


All the girls!

The next day (Tuesday) we started the morning out visiting the BYU-Hawaii campus. 

 Right next door was the Laie Hawaii Temple. The temple was beautiful and being able to worship together there was honestly a wonderful experience as a family. That is the last time our family will be in the temple all together until probably the summer of 2015, so I consider it a really special experience.

Families are forever.
The rest of the day we spent at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is seriously like the Disneyland of Polynesia. There were boat rides, little villages to explore, a parade on the river, cultural events like dancing, singing, cooking, sewing, art, etc. to both watch and participate in, you name it. It was incredible! Seriously so much fun.

Boat ride on the river that runs through the PCC.

The parade!

Climbing coconut trees.
We ended out the evening with a luau (including a roasted pig with an apple in its mouth) and an amazing show of song and dance that took you through the different traditions of each of the places highlighted in the PCC. 

Kalua pig that had been roasting in the ground for hours.

We were exhausted by the end of the day, but we absolutely loved it. Highly recommended to anyone visiting Oahu. Okay, this is already getting ricidulously long, and that is only half of the week, so I will put the rest of the pictures in the next one. 

Hawaii: Part 2

To continue...we got back from the PCC way tired, but really happy. The next morning, Wednesday, the family wanted to do different things so we split up. Rachel and I think Matthew and Mom went shopping at a flea market, Caroline, Andrew and Dad and I went on a hike, and Daniel and Leah went back to the PCC. 
What's a trip to Hawaii without a little shopping?
On our hike we saw a BUNCH of different terrain the higher up we went, and at the top of the mountain had an incredible vista view. Honestly I would take hiking over shopping any day. I think Andrew lucked out on that one :) 
Caroline had a thing smelling flowers the whole trip. Idk...

When everyone grouped up again, we went to the beach a few feet away from where we were staying and wandered out to a little island that was in wading distance. I also tried snorkeling for the first time which wasn't too hard surprisingly!

Those were the major events for the day...I think some more games and sightseeing was involved. But I'm going off of what I have pictures of.

On Thursday we started off super early with the traditional Diamond Head Hike, which was basically hiking to the rim of a very massive and inactive volcano. It was pretty touristy, but hey, that's because it was pretty sweet. There were some WWII bunkers at the top as well which were cool to see. 

Honolulu in the background.

And later that afternoon we went to the Dole Pineapple Plantation. We got pineapple whip (delish) and I also convinced some of the siblings to do a maze through a pineapple grove with me. Did you know that it can take anywhere from 2-3 years for a pineapple to fully form? Crazy. 

Which brings me to Friday...our last day in the morning we saw some of the sights that hadn't been checked off our list yet. My favorite was probably a buddhist temple which I now do not remember the name of. But they had a huge gong that you could ring for good luck, which we all did.

There was also a Japanese rock garden and overall the temple just had an incredibly sweet and peaceful feel which I truly enjoyed.

The last thing we did in Hawaii per Rachel's request was to visit Turtle Beach. We were all skeptical of there actually being sea turtles, but we walked a ways around to a little alcove and found a TON of them--like 19 or 20. It was kind of freaky, but mostly just awesome. 

We also snorkeled with some sea turtles back at the main part of Turtle Beach. 

And of course, Caroline got her shrimp. She had been talking about it all week and we stopped by the famous Giovanni shrimp truck on our way home before we had to get packing.

And....that is it!! We flew back to Utah the next day. The trip was a blast. I had a great time checking out the sights and getting to spend time with the Kennedys all together. This was our last big hurrah as a family before Caroline left on a mission to Hungary last summer, and it was a great way to be together having fun and seeing amazing things that you don't get anywhere else. Thanks to everyone (mainly Ken and Nancy) who made it happen!

Friday, June 7, 2013

How we ended up on Long Island.

This post kind of summarizes our second semester of married life, January-April 2012. It was during this time that we decided to move to Long Island for dental school, hence the title. I will get to that in a minute.

My second semester of graduate school was much less stressful than the first. I was taking fewer classes, and I enjoyed all of them, so that was great. 

Meanwhile, Andrew graduated in December (although he had already walked in a graduation ceremony the previous August), and he started working full time at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, UT.

For those of you not from Utah, Park City is about an hour’s drive away from Provo. Andrew’s twin brother Matthew also got a job at Deer Valley, and Matthew moved down to Provo so they could commute to work together every day.

We had some good times with Matthew while he was living in Provo. I think my best memory is of their birthday party in February. We had a piƱata, which Andrew and Matthew took turns breaking open with our wedding sword (see my last post) and a wooden sword we borrowed from my brother-in-law Chris. Too fun.

What is it with boys and swords?

Also, Heather Scott and Kayla Cardon made some incredibly delicious and beautiful birthday cakes.

The most adventurous part of the semester was in March, when the Kennedy family went to Hawaii. I have enough pictures of that that I will give it a separate post, probably the next one.

Those are sea turtles, not rocks.
Other exciting events between January and April included me walking in the April graduation ceremonies for my Masters Degree.

Walking in for the college convocation. Nice artsy picture Camille :)
I was technically graduating later in August of that year, but we would be gone then so I walked early with my brother-in-law Chris who was also graduating in April. 

We obviously knew each other and were sitting next to each other wearing wedding rings, so a couple of people asked if we were married. Hahaha. Even more awesome, I got my MS in math and he got his MFA in creative writing. Way to reverse gender roles! :)
Two graduation ceremonies in 8 months is kind of a lot. Thank goodness the next one won’t be for another few years!

Me and my sister Rachel (Chris's wife)
The most stressful/important/life-changing thing that happened during those four months (other than writing a Masters Thesis) was figuring out where we were going to spend the next 4 years of our lives. As anyone reading this probably knows, we ended up on Long Island at Stony Brook University.

Our new mascot.

I've actually seen this shirt on campus. I was wondering the same thing.
I don’t have too many pictures to document this process, but a lot of people have asked me how we ended up even applying to, and then choosing to go to Stony Brook considering we are from Utah and California. So here is the story for the sake of posterity (and anyone else who is curious).

When Andrew applied to dental school, I was also planning on attending graduate school for a PhD in Mathematics. Andrew’s application cycle was way before mine, and by the time my applications were due he had already gotten his acceptances.

Through a complicated series of events (and some bad timing), Andrew ended up putting tuition deposits down to reserve a spot at three schools, one in Boston, MA, Richmond, VA, and Stony Brook, NY. As a result I only applied to schools near those places, hoping that something would work out.

It’s kind of funny, because the place we decided to go was the only one out of the three where I received a rejection letter. So why did we choose to go there anyways?

The logical reason for us to choose Stony Brook was that the schools in Virginia were about an hour and a half apart, creating a frustrating commuting situation, and the schools in Boston were ridiculously expensive. I could reapply to Stony Brook the next year after getting to know people in the department, and then if I got in we would both be at the same (much cheaper) school.

This thought process all makes a lot of sense, but if a checklist of pros and cons was the only reason that I was forgoing graduate school for a year (or possibly longer), I think I would be left feeling less than satisfied.

At the core of our decision for Andrew to attend Stony Brook was the fact that we felt inspired to go there. We prayed about the decision for weeks and fasted a number of times about it as well. After a lot of soul searching, I had a particularly strong experience at the temple a few days before we had to make a final decision. I had the overwhelming feeling that Stony Brook was the place that we needed to be and the place where I would be able to find the most joy in life. I also had the impression that a Math PhD was not what I was supposed to do right then. Surprisingly, when that thought came to me I wasn’t really upset about it at all. In all actuality, I was probably a little relieved—and when I was honest with myself about that feeling of relief, I knew that Stony Brook was exactly where we should and would end up.

The fact that choosing Stony Brook made logical sense, combined with the experience I described above, helped us confidently go forward, and we haven’t looked back since.

So, have I found my life purpose here on Long Island yet? Not exactly. BUT, I ended up deciding not to reapply to the Mathematics Department, and instead will be starting a PhD in the Applied Mathematics/Statistics Department this fall. (The distinction between math and applied math might seem nonexistent to some, but trust me, they have some major differences that I am pretty excited about.) I’ll save that story for another post, but suffice it to say that I am glad we are here.  

Up next: Hawaii.