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First family enjoys day at the beach on Christmas Eve

By Star-Advertiser Staff and pool reports

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:22 p.m. HST, Dec 24, 2010


While President Obama and his daughters enjoyed a day at the beach, first lady Michelle Obama spent part of Christmas Eve answering calls about Santa's whereabouts.

The first lady took part in the "NORAD Tracks Santa" program, answering calls from children trying to find out the location of the Jolly Old Elf on Christmas Eve.

Starting at noon Hawaii time  the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command  coordinated incoming phone calls and directed them to Mrs. Obama, who introduced herself to the callers. When asked for Santa's location, she consulted the NORAD Santa Route Schedule and gave that information to the child callers, the White House said.

The first lady answered calls for about 40 minutes as the rest of her family enjoyed Pyramid Rock Beach where they also spent time during their vacation last year.

If the president takes a dip in the waves there, he will be out of view of the reporters and photographers traveling with him.

The group returned to Kailua at about 2:40 p.m. as the weather turned cloudy and are expected to spend the rest of Christmas Eve at their vacation home.

Obama began his second day of vacation in Hawaii the same way he started yesterday -- with a morning workout at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay.

The president and first lady were seen in a motorcade which left their Kailua vacation compound at 8:07 a.m. and arrived at the gym a few minutes later.

People waved and took pictures as the motorcade passed.

The president and first lady returned to the vacation home at 9:51 a.m.

On the way back, they may have caught a glimpse of a sign welcoming the family to Hawaii that was posted along the canal leading to the compound. The sign read: "E Komo Mai Obama Ohana."

A neighbor told reporters covering the president that she was able to meet first dog Bo when she was out walking her dog yesterday.

Obama and his family plan to spend a quiet Christmas at their oceanfront Hawaiian vacation home, with hopes that outside events don't interrupt their holiday.

A year ago, the president's Christmas was disrupted by the attempted bombing of a plane bound for Detroit, an incident that consumed the rest of Obama's vacation. This year, the president has his sights set on a more relaxing holiday after a volatile year and a frenzied lame-duck legislative session.

The Obamas will spend Christmas Day with the president's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her family. They live on Oahu, the island where Obama was born and mostly grew up. Several of Obama's childhood friends are also in town, along with family friends from Chicago.

On the first family's Christmas Day menu: steak, roasted potatoes, green beans and pie.

Last Christmas, the president and first lady surprised troops stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, greeting service members during their holiday dinner. White House officials wouldn't say whether Obama planned to visit the troops again this Christmas.

The base is a frequent stop for Obama during his Hawaiian vacations. He often starts his day with a morning workout at the base gym, and returned there Thursday afternoon for a round of golf.

The president has no public events planned during his vacation, though he is receiving daily briefings. He is also beginning work on January's State of the Union address, and evaluating a staff review headed by interim chief of staff Pete Rouse.

Obama arrived in Hawaii on a high note, having secured victories on legislative priorities: ratification of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia and the repeal of the military's ban on gay service members. He also compromised with Republicans to extend tax cuts for all income earners, a deal that angered some liberals but won him rare bipartisan support.

Awaiting Obama in 2011 is an economy still struggling to achieve steady growth, a divided Congress and a host of Republicans ready to run for his job in the 2012 election.

The Obamas are expected to return to Washington Jan. 2.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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