Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy 8th Birthday Josh!

Dear Josh,

Happy 8th Birthday!  Now stop growing ;) You are such a sweet, funny kid.  You are always saying hilarious things, and things that are wise beyond your years.  You are a person who values your alone time.  You like to have time after school or at the end of the day just to unwind and play with your favorite toy, the keys.  No one is quite sure why you love them so much, but not a day passes that you don’t play with them.  You also love to play your iPod.  Your favorite games right now are Civilization and Minecraft. 

School has been good for you this year. Mrs. Brown is your teacher and she is fantastic.  You are at the top of your class in reading and math.  But you hate when all the other kids cause disruptions.  It stresses you to no end.  At recess you favorite activity is still swinging, but you’ve also started the “angry pidgin club”  where you chase girls around the playground flapping your shirtsleeves at them.  I’ve seen this in action and it makes me laugh.

Sometimes it’s hard to motivate you to do things, but if you set small, reasonable goals nothing can stop you.  Recently you had a goal to get 25 miles at the school running club.  If you reached this goal I said I would bring you Chic-fli-a to school.  You worked so hard every time you were at club to get as many miles as you could.  We also just had kid dates, and you had a chance to earn “date dollars” for good behavior and happy attitudes.  You were quick to jump on every job and turn your frown around whenever date dollars were mentioned.  Then you and Dad spent your dollars swimming at the Erie Rec Center and buying treats from the vending machine.  You also were determined to conquer your fear of the big green slide and you did it!  Dad said you went down the slide 10 times. 

You also love to listen to audiobooks.  Your favorite series right now is “Land of Stories” by Chris Colfer.  I bet you have listened to each book 5 or more times. 

Josh you are such a sweet boy and never hesitate to tell me thank you for a special outing or snuggle up on my lap when I’m feeling low.  I think you and I are a lot alike in the way we think about things and so it’s always so fun to hang out with you and talk to you.  I love to see you play stuffies with Halle and Josh and marvel at the creative things you three come up with.  Our family is such the better place with you in it.  Keep on setting goals, working hard, and just being your fantastic self!

Love you so much,


PicMonkey Collage

Happy Halloween!

The kids went easy on me this year.  Halle was a baby, Blake was a Ninja Turtle (costume from the bin downstairs) and Josh was a tree. (where did he come up with that?)  Josh’s costume required a little bit of creativity, but we had fun with it!  We were at the mall  and Blake spotted a squirrel Christmas Ornament and he said, “Mom!!  We have to buy this for Josh’s costume!”  And so that’s exactly what we did. 

I also got to plan Blake and Halle’s School Halloween Parties.  it was lots of fun.  In Blakes class we made a cute ghost craft, read Halloween stories, and played a fun phonics i-spy game.  In Halle’s class they made their own Halloween Taboo game and we made Slime. 

 IMG_0027IMG_0029IMG_0021  IMG_0031 IMG_0034

Pumpkin Pizza Palace and Kids against Hunger

Our business is back!  The kids ran the Pumpkin Pizza Palace for the second year.  Every year around Halle and Josh’s birthday we try to think of a way in which we can give to those around us. This year they decided to donated 25% of their pizza earnings to Kids Against Hunger.  We took pizza and sugar cookie orders before we left for Hawaii and spent the days right after we got home shopping, prepping,baking, and delivering.  We figured out a good system last year, and we were MUCH more efficient this year. We banged out 25 pizza and 5 dozen cookies in no time :)

 IMG_0009  IMG_0016IMG_0015Then about a week later we were joined by many of our friends as we packaged meals for kids in need.  My kids were so proud to present their donation to the team leader at Kids Against Hunger.  Thanks to the hard work and generosity of our friends, we were able to package 1944 meals. We had a contest near the end to see which side of the room could package 10 meals the fastest.  Dom brought the winners donuts the next morning.  The kids thought that was so fun. They also loved rotating through the stations so they all had a chance to package, seal, and box up the food.  I feel so lucky to be surrounded by kind, generous, big hearted people!  It was a night we won’t soon forget. 


PicMonkey Collage

Sunday, November 23, 2014

One Last Day

This trip went by so quickly!  We feel like we were just getting started and it was time to go.  We woke up and headed to 9am church at the Kalaheo ward.  Rusty really wanted to give the kids a chance to see how unique it was to go to church in flip flops and shorts and say, “Alooooha!” at the beginning of every talk. We were running a bit late and my parents left before we did.  As they were leaving, my Dad said, “It might be pretty crowded so we might not be able to save you a seat.”  We said we’d look for them when we got there, but not to worry about us.  We arrived just a couple min late, couldn’t see my parents, so we just took a seat in the front row.  After a little bit Rusty saw them sitting in the back.  About 1/2 way through sacrament meeting he sent Blake back to sit with them but they were nowhere to be seen!  Turns out they sat in the back so they could save seats and they didn’t see us come in.  They thought we had changed our minds and didn’t come, so they left early!  I felt so bad. 

But I sure do love our little Mormon Community.  Guess who we saw at church?  The cinnamon roll lady from Costco!  What a small world.  We also chatted with the missionaries for a bit, and found out they knew Landon Hathaway, a missionary from our Colorado ward. Landon was on the Big Island at the time, but one of the Elders had served with him previously. 

After church we went to the Poipu shopping are and did a little souvenir shopping.  Josh got a shark and another lobster.  Blake got a gecko named Holo. (pronounced Hollow).  And Halle got a dolphin named selikie. Yipee.  More stuffed animals to add to our crew.

The kids also had a special surprise for Grandpa and Grandma.  They performed the “Hukilau” and their skills would give the best Hawaiian dancers a run for their money.

From there it was all about the beach.  We ate a quick lunch and then headed to the “Sheraton Beach” which was by Poipu beach.  It was pretty good but the surf was so strong (and it was high tide) that it was knocking everyone around pretty good.  Rusty rented a surf board for $10.  He couldn’t catch any waves but I took it after and caught a couple. I ordered us some food from the bar at and then we went swimming in the hotel pool.

IMG_5193 IMG_5198 IMG_5200

Then, the highlight of the day. FUNKY MONKEY SHAVE ICE. Banana and coconut shave ice over a bed on chocolate macadamia nut ice cream. Topped with a drizzle of fudge.  I declare this to be the best shave ice on the face of the earth. 

Photo Oct 26, 8 46 38 PM
We were trying catch the sunset at Brennecke on Poipu beach.  It was hard to get everyone showered and ready to go. We made it with about 3 minutes to spare. The drive to Brennecke was along the beach and it was gorgeous with the sun setting creating amazing beautiful colors. This was easily the prettiest sunset of the whole trip.

WP_20141026_015 WP_20141026_018We sat upstairs and all the windows were open to the palm trees and the ocean.  It was amazing.   From there it was sadly time to load up the car and go.  

First was Kauai airport to Honolulu. Then Honolulu to Phoenix.  Trying to figure out all the seat assignments was a challenge in itself because for some reason we never had the 5 of us together the way we wanted.  The redeye was a pain.  Nobody would try to lay on the floor.  Josh laying on Rusty and Halle was being so sad because she couldn’t lay on anybody. It was rough. Blake and I fared a little better.  He curled up on on lap and then I could stretch my legs across his seat.  

Photo Oct 27, 1 01 40 PMWe had to RUN from our plane in Phoenix to catch the Denver flight.  And then we proceeded to sit at the gate for 20 minutes :)  From there it was a relatively short flight home. We were wasted from the redeye and spent the rest of the day unpacking and just laying around.  We were so sad to see this trip end, but so glad for the amazing memories we made along the way.

Even with Hurricane Ana, one ear infection, one awful cough, a lost driver license and subsequent full body pat down at the airport, drown iPhone, and leaving my Kindle on the airplane in Phoenix, I’d say we had a pretty magical trip!

Until next time Hawaii, Mahalo!

Kauai Bike Path


Today started out with a trip to the Kilauea Lighthouse.  Anyone who knows my dad knows that lighthouses cannot be missed.  Josh said, “I really like this lighthouse.  But that doesn’t even compare to how much Papa loves it!”  The lighthouse sits on a bird sanctuary so the Park Ranger told the kids if they could each come back with one new fact about birds they would get a special prize. They came back with all sorts of random facts and were rewarded with stickers and tattoos. They had fun looking for birds with the binoculars and we even spotted a pod of dolphins out in the ocean. 

IMG_5127 IMG_2725

We then drove back to Kapaa and ate our lunch of turkey on Costco rolls, a bag of chips, and a bag of cookies.  We ate this same lunch every day in Hawaii :)

Next up was Josh’s favorite adventure.  We biked 10 miles on the Kauai Bike Path.  It was so fun to have the sea breeze blowing as we peddled along on our cruiser bikes.  Rusty and Blake used a Tag Along bike which thrilled Blake to no end.  He loved the illusion that he was actually riding a bike.  He was getting tired on the way back and kept trying to go to sleep on the bike.  We had to keep waking him up so he wouldn’t topple off the bike. He said he was just “resting his eyes.”  Josh said when he was in the NBA he would come and ride this trail for his cross training. His bike didn’t have a back fender so he ended up with a very mudy back riding through all the puddles.   Halle absolutely loved her bike basket.  She carried all the sunscreen, snacks and water bottles.  Grandpa and Halle and Josh got separated from us at the end of the ride and they ended up with another mile or so under their belts as they made their way back to us. PicMonkey Collage My favorite part were these beach swings we stumbled upon.  This pic of Blake might be my favorite of the whole trip. 2014-10-25 14.53.16 HDR

  2014-10-25 14.56.34 HDR 







2014-10-25 14.53.58 HDR








We were so hot and sweaty when were done biking and couldn’t wait for a giant shave ice to cool us off.  We were sorely disappointed in Ono Shave Ice.  YUCK. 
2014-10-25 15.42.42Landon’s flight was leaving later in the evening, so he and my parents went back to pack up while Rusty and I took the kids back to Lydgate beach.  But apparently I didn’t take any pictures of that. The kids played together on the boogie board and in the sand while Rusty and I had a rest on the sand.  

We were looking for somewhere fun to go for Landon’s last meal in Hawaii but ran out of time and so we ended up at Costco eating pizza.  And that about sums up our culinary experience in Hawaii. It was actually quite a picturesque outdoor eatery.  Easily the most scenic Costco in America.  We bought some cinnamon rolls to have for breakfast the next morning and the last thing my mom said to me before they left to take Landon to the airport was, “Don’t forget the cinnamon rolls.”  We got in the car and were backing out when a lady comes running up to our car window and asks if the cinnamon rolls left on the table were ours.  I was so grateful that she ran after us.  It saved our breakfast! 

Everyone was sad to see Landon go.  We loved every minute we got to spend with him.  

Halle is 11

Dear Halle,
Happy Birthday to my sweet, smart, responsible girl!  I love you so much and can’t believe how fast you are growing up.  You are an absolute joy to be around and always willing to lend a helping hand.  Your favorite thing in the world right now is your pink stuffed seal, Princess.  She travels everywhere you go, and often after you leave for school I find Princess set up in a book club, tea party, school room, or other fun adventure.  You don’t want her to be lonely or bored while you are gone.
We had such a great soccer season this fall and it was so fun to be your coach and watch you grow and progress.  You are becoming a great defender and always try your hardest.  Being aggressive doesn’t come naturally to you and I’m proud of the way you are willing to step outside your comfort zone to become a better player.
This year has been the best traveling year ever with the Mexico Cruise, Summer in Boston, and Hawaii in the Fall.  I love traveling with you.  You are always up for whatever adventure comes our way.  You never complain about long days or tiring walks.  I love how excited you are to see new places and how you want to embrace all the experiences there are to offer.  In Hawaii, Dad wanted you to swim under Secret Falls with him, but I could tell you were a little afraid.  I watched you take a big gulp, muster up your courage and dive into the water.  I love that about you.  You are willing to take risks and do things that scare you.  And you had a blast under that cold waterfall. 
I love reading with you.  Recently we finished “I am Malala.”  I loved our discussions about girls all over the globe, and how lucky we are, and what we can do to stand up for women and children everywhere.  You have such a kind and giving heart and I know that you are going to make a difference in the world. 
Halle, keep being you, because I love everything about you! 
Love, Mom
Halle 11th bday 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tunnels Beach

The boys left bright and early to go hike a little bit of the Napali Coast.  They hiked to Hanakapi’i beach.  The kids were fairly hiked out by this point, so my Mom and I opted to stay behind and meet the boys at Tunnels beach a little later in the morning.  They said the hike was awesome and that it was so fun to be down on the secluded beach. 
PicMonkey Collage
Tunnels beach is up on the North Shore, which meant a long drive for us with the kids.  They were getting restless, so we turned on some music and had a dance party. We sung all our favorite songs as we drove along the beautiful coast line.  Today was the first totally sunny day and Blake said, “Now we’ve seen the REAL Hawaii!” 
There is only a tiny parking lot close to where we wanted to be, so we parked further away thinking it would be no big deal to walk along the sand.  But holy cow—that was tiring!  We were dragging beach chairs, beach bags, snorkel gear and the lunch cooler.  By the time we got to our spot we felt like we had completed a marathon :)
But it was all worth it.  The view, the crystal clear water…ahhhh. And then this quote from Josh.  “Mom, do you know why I like the ocean? Because it’s basically just like a huge toilet.  You can go whenever you want!”
We had a perfect Hawaii day snorkeling, laying on the beach, and playing in the water.  Landon and Halle even saw a Sea Turtle! Landon spotted him first and then Halle Rusty and Blake went searching for it.  Halle got separated from Rusty and Blake as as she was trying to catch up to him the turtle swam right up in front of her.  She was so excited she didn’t stop talking about it all day. 
PicMonkey Collage (1) 
Josh couldn’t quite get the hang of breathing through the snorkel, so Rusty would tow him around on the body board and then he’d just stick his face down in the water to look around.  It was really cute. 
Blake belongs in Hawaii.  He body surfed, snorkeled and laid in the sun with the best of them.  And he cried every single day when it was time to leave the beach. 
We build a “sandman” and took a family photo for our Christmas card.  Here’s a little sneak peak.  Josh and Blake loved destroying him when it was all over.  IMG_4980But one tragedy did occur while we were at Tunnels.  A drowning.  The victim?  My iPhone.  I thought I was doing everything I could to keep her safe.  She was nestled in her waterproof Otterbox case, but that wasn't enough.  Rusty took her snorkeling to capture some pics of the fish, and she swallowed too much water. Apparently "waterproof up to 6 feet under" means something different to Otterbox than it does to me. We tried many methods of resuscitation but none were successful.  RIP, iPhone.
No one wanted to leave Tunnels but we also wanted to go see Queen’s Bath.  So off we went.  We were in for another muddy, slippery hike down to the rocky shoreline.  The snorkeling wasn’t very great, but it was such a unique setting that we are all glad we went.  Our favorite part was when huge waves would crash over the rocks.  We were there to watch the sunset over Bali High.  Stunning.
PicMonkey Collage
We hiked back to the car in the dark, which was certainly a unique adventure with all the slippery mud.  Halle is such a little trooper.  She never complains, she is always excited.  That girl is going to be a major adventurer some day. 
After dinner in Hanalei at Chicken in a Barrel we headed back to the condos, content with the memory of our perfect Hawaii day. 

Kauai by air and by sea

Landon convinced Rusty and I that we should all take a helicopter tour.  And we are so glad we did.  It was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.  We drove out to the airport about 7:30 in the morning, did our quick safety briefing, and then we were on our way to the helicopter.  Landon sat in the back by one of the windows and Rusty and I sat in the front.  I was right next to the pilot.  I can’t even describe all the beautiful things we saw. 100’s of waterfalls, beautiful sweeping canyon views, vivid blue ocean, and long stretches of pristine beaches. 
PicMonkey Collage

2014-10-23 08.48.40 2014-10-23 08.54.31 HDR 2014-10-23 09.13.12 HDR    

The kids had a great morning with Grandma and Grandpa.  They slept in, watched cartoons, and went to the pool.  They also got to do a fun craft.  The boys made Christmas ornaments and Halle made some fun sea shell bracelets. 

PicMonkey Collage2

That afternoon we headed over to the docks to take a boat ride of the Napali Coast.  We were scheduled for the sunset dinner cruise. During our initial briefing, the captain asked some trivia questions and whoever answered them correctly could win a shirt.  He asked, “What color are the Humuhumunukunukuapoa’a’s lips?  Josh’s hand shot in the air and he gave the correct answer, “blue.” He won a cute little t-shirt.  I also answered a question and won a shirt. I got mine in a kid size so Blake could have it.  Josh was so mad about that and kept saying, “But YOU earned the shirt.  It’s not fair that Blake gets it.”  Well, it turns out that Josh was concerned that I would take a picture of both him and Blake in their shirts together and he did NOT want to share in the glory. :) And then after all that, I didn’t even get a pic of Josh in his shirt.

2014-10-23 14.36.01

As we were pulling out of the dock one of the engines wouldn’t start.  The captain yelled, “pull the ropes back out—tie us back up!”  Then the engine kicked in and he said, “Never mind.  Let’s go!”  So go we did.
PicMonkey Collage Not too long into the ride, the engine failed again.  So, we were running on one engine.  We were going so so slow and didn’t even make it to the cool part of the coast before we had to turn around to go back.  We were all pretty disappointed.  They broke out the food, but now people were kind of in a bad mood and everyone at the front of the line piled their plates high in order to get their money’s worth out of the trip.  This resulted in the people in the back of the line, aka Rusty having practically no food left.  But that’s probably ok—the food was pretty sub par.  But then, miracle of all miracles, we ran into a pod of dolphins.  And it was AWESOME.  Our little Halle was in 7th Heaven.  There were even two little baby dolphins. They were swimming right alongside the boat and occasionally they’d jump up out of the water. Halle said to Grandma, “The boat breaking down turned into a good thing.  If it didn’t break, we might not have seen the dolphins.  It’s like karma.  That’s when something bad happens and them something good has to happen.” 

Dolphins, Napali Coast


So even with the boat breaking down we had a wonderful adventure.  Seeing the dolphins was Halle’s very favorite part of the whole trip. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Waimea Canyon

Rusty and I woke up early Wednesday and snuck out for a sunrise run.  Running along the coast is so relaxing!  We ran along some trails, over some cliffs and up along the golf course.  It was fun to be with Rust, but my legs still felt like jello from the half marathon. 

2014-10-22 06.22.49 HDR 2014-10-22 06.40.30 HDR

We all piled in the cars and headed toward Hanapepe to see the swinging bridge.  It was a fun little stop. 

IMG_4716 IMG_4723 We stopped in Waimea to get some shave ice at the famous Jo Jo’s but they weren’t open yet!  This disappointed the kids to no end. 

Next it was time to head up Waimea Canyon.  We stopped at a lookout to see the Waipo’o Falls.  I was totally blow away.  The different landscapes that exist on Kauai are just amazing.  So many diverse, beautiful things to see.

IMG_24202014-10-22 11.14.24 HDR

2014-10-22 11.16.07


We are really glad we got this view of the canyon because the fog rolled in just after this and we didn’t really see anything else the rest of the day. The picture below is supposed to be the best lookout spot in the canyon.  We were all pretty disappointed. Except Blake.  He thought standing in the cloud was pretty darn cool.  We went back to the cars and ate lunch, hoping the fog would clear, but no such luck.  During lunch we were surrounded by about a billion chickens all vying for any crumb that came their way.  We made the mistake of feeding them a few bread crumbs and they didn’t leave us alone for the rest of the time we were eating. 

2014-10-22 11.49.42We decided to take a hike to the top of Waipo’o Falls.  There was another waterfall along the trail as well.  We all piled into Grandpa’s car so we could 4 wheel drive to the trailhead.  It was a bumpy, rockin good time.  

Hiking in the fog was pretty cool.  Everything was hazy and it felt like you were walking along the edge of the earth.  Josh doesn’t love hiking so we bribed him with the size of his shave ice.  Every time he was happy and had a good attitude his shave ice was upgraded.  When he whined or complained his shave ice was downgraded.  Worked like a charm.  I told him he could earn up to a large size.  He asked what it would take to earn an extra large.  I jokingly said, “That would require you singing and skipping while you hike.”  Guess what Josh did for about 1/2 mile on the way back?  Yep, singing and skipping :)  At the end of the hike he said, “ Hiking is so much more fun when you just hike and don’t whine like I usually do!”  Well said Josh, well said.
PicMonkey Collage

2014-10-22 14.13.20 HDR

The first Falls were fun.  The kids got to cross on logs across the stream, climb up some big boulders and enjoy the view. 
PicMonkey Collage2

The second falls were actually the very top of Waipo’o falls. In theory, standing at the edge of this trail should have afforded you a top down view of the waterfall and a gorgeous canyon outlook.  We saw a wall of fog.  Halle is so fun to vacation with.  She never complains or gets tired.  She just keeps going and going.  It’s so refreshing to have a kid who actually likes and appreciates the fun.
Blake and Rusty were playing foxes and when they would pass people on the trail, if those people were wearing certain colors, Blake would growl at them.  It was quite hilarious.
2014-10-22 14.52.42 

We saw this pretty cool spider on the hike.  We were watching him in his web and a fly got caught.  In about 10 seconds flat, that spider had that fly wrapped and eaten.  The kids were grossed out.  I thought it was fascinating.  While hiking though the fog Josh also said, “I am so excited to tell Mrs. Brown that I saw evaporation and condensation IN PERSON!”

IMG_4798FINALLY we made it back down the canyon and to Jo Jo’s Shave Ice.  Come to find out, it was a one size establishment, but the one size they served was SUPER SIZE.  This was our favorite shave ice of the trip.  The size and the yummy flavor combos made it the clear winner.  We all dubbed Halle’s the best.  She had a berry combo with Raspberry, boysenberry and strawberry. 
2014-10-22 16.29.59

This day wasn’t over yet! After quick showers and dinner we headed to the Smith Family Tropical Paradise to watch the Night Show. Blake rode with my parents and Landon.  They were discussing Star Wars and Blake told Landon, “My Mom doesn’t let me watch Star Wars because she thinks it is too silent.” We all got a kick out of that.  The kids thought the show was pretty fun, as they’d never seen anything like it before.  I think all the adults could have lived without it.  Blake and Josh fell asleep on the way home and we carried them to their beds. 
Can’t find any of the luau pics right now.  I’ll try to add a couple later.