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Friday, March 24, 2017

FINALLY!!! An Update

[Funny! It only took me TEN DAYS to finish this Blog post. How ridiculous!]
OK, super quick overview: Christmas was good. January was good-ish.  Sadly, the day after Mike’s birthday I came down with the stomach flu – or some sort of nasty stomach nastiness – that lasted over a week. Then Zachary had it the following week.  Thankfully – oh so VERY thankfully – our flu bugs ‘n colds were gone by February 21st which was when we left for six days in Hawaii!
We went to the Big Island – staying at a beautiful Hilton timeshare place in Waikoloa (Kona/Westside of the island). We had a two bed, 2 bath ‘villa’ on the top floor with a private balcony overlooking the pool, the golf course and then off in the not too far off distance we had a peek-a-boo view of the bright blue ocean.  All of this for the price of – well, I’m not actually going to tell you – but part of the payment was our required attendance at a please-join-our-timeshare-vacation-club shpiel.  (To which we said, “Thanks for the amazing, vacation, but NO, thank you!”)
The weather was perfect. And it was probably our first ever family vacation that was nearly 100% about relaxing and not camping or the go-go-go-see-see-see-do-do-do kind of trip that we’ve taken in the past.
The HI-LIGHTS (get it ‘HI’ as in Hawaii?! VERY clever if I do say so myself).
*We had a couple of days of snorkeling which we did in the lagoon at the main Hilton resort. This worked out super well since we didn’t have to worry about big waves/open water, but we still had the benefit of seeing all sorts of fish and sea turtles! 
*We had a day at the beach – Kayliana, especially loved body surfing on the waves.  When we rounded the corner and saw the beach below, she gasped and said, “It’s the beach of my dreams – with the blue, the sand, the palm trees, the people!” We stopped to get a picture of the ‘beach of her dreams.’ 
*Mike and I enjoyed an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime - happy 15th Anniversary/Valentine’s Day/Mike’s birthday to us – couples’ seaside massage.  While we laid there peeking out beyond the canvas cabana walls at the turquoise blue sea, I could see occasional whale spouts and flashes of black fin off in the distance.  MAG.I.CAL. to say the least. I felt so blessed and so spoiled. 
*We enjoyed many afternoons just relaxing and swimming at our hotel’s pool and hot tub with poolside bar and (on one evening) – live music at sunset.
 *One of my favorite parts of the trip was having my coffee on the deck in the morning. It was the perfect temperature and just so peaceful. Even the memories are bliss-filled (and smell like delicious Hawaiian coffee accompanied by a piece of dark chocolate).
*We all enjoyed the dinner luau we attended – especially the fire dancers and tropical cocktails! Even the boys have reminisced about their [virgin] Lava Flows.
*We spent a day driving across the island. We saw Rainbow Falls, ate at a local hole-in-the-wall, popular Hawaiian diner for lunch, and then drove out to see the active volcano!  VERY cool (or actually hot. Not that we got close enough to feel it, mind you).
*Our last day was spent lounging by the pool and having one last delicious poolside beverage and shopping at the waterfront market in Kona.
* Our final Hawaiian dinner was spent with my sweet friend Jessica – a fellow musician and music teacher – who lives on the big island with her hubby and adorable 4 year old son. Jessica and I became friends in middle school and attended symphony camp together way back when. SO amazing to see how our lives have changed and so fun to get together!
We took a red-eye home. Landed Monday morning at 5:30am. It was snowing. We had two hours to get Zach home, showered, changed, packed-gear collected and ready to depart for three days of fifth grade camp. (Yes, in February. In the Pacific Northwest. In the snow).  We’d all gotten about 3 hours of sleep.  Mike and Matthew both had bad stomachaches. Kayliana got into bed with her coat and bedroom light on and fell immediately asleep. So, I got Zachary off (he was the only one of us alert and chipper). I returned home and napped for a couple of hours before I drove out to teach two Montessori music classes. 
The weather had been weird all day – off and on snowing but not sticking – and occasionally hailing. The sky was super dark and cranky. One of the teachers said the weather had “PMS” and just couldn’t make up her mind, but she was pissed.  So true.
It was hailing as I came out of class at 4pm. I called Mike and said I was going to attempt a quick Costco run since we’d depleted most groceries before our trip. Costco was just at the bottom of the hill from my Montessori campuses (and 25 minutes from home). I made it through the store – grabbing the necessities – and was at check-out within 40 minutes (pretty good for a huge Costco run). The store was pretty quiet though…because other people were smart and got the heck home before things got crazy.  I glanced outside and saw that things had gotten crazy. REALLY crazy. There were two inches of snow and it was still coming down like CRAZY. Real crazy.
I pushed the fully loaded cart through the snow – a challenge! I got the groceries loaded and noticed the lady next to me had started her car to warm it up. Smart. I put my purse on the passenger seat, turned on the car, hit the unlock button and then closed the door to go return my empty car.  That’s when my sleep-deprived foggy brain replayed what had just happened and I realized I’d hit “Lock” and not “Unlock.” SUCKY!!!!! (And maybe some other choice words were mumbled).
THANKFULLY I had my cell phone in my pocket. I was remaining calm – even asked the Costco greeters at the front door if anyone wanted to be a ‘hero’ and help me out – no takers; other than making the suggestion to call AAA.
I called Mike…and that’s when my ability to ‘handle’ it and remain calm fell apart. I sobbed, “I turned the car on and locked the door! I’m locked out of the car with the car ON and it’s snowing and I locked the car and…it’s snowing and no one’s going to help me…and it’s snowing and I locked the car and the engine is on...”  He got the point. But there wasn’t anything he could do for me. He was home with the extra key, but also with a stomach bug and a minivan that spins out in a puddle! He gave me the number for AAA.
I called them and was thanked for my 14 years of paid membership but was told, “Um, it’s Monday at 5:30pm. In Seattle. And it’s snowing. No one can come help you for…hours.  Don’t you have someone else that can bring you the key?”
Just then, Mike called back to say our neighbor Erik had stopped by to see if Kayli wanted to play in the snow with his daughter. Mike told him what was going on with me and Erik stuck out his hand and said that he’d bring me our extra key.  In, his 4-wheel drive, suv, it took Erik over an hour to make the 20ish minute drive.  We got the car opened, drove to the gas station just to refill my tank and then Erik had me follow him home since he knew the best/least steep/congested/abandoned-car filled streets.
Like a good neighbor, Erik was there. 
And THAT was how we spent our first day back after a week in paradise!

My favorite morning coffee spot.

Super windy on our first day - but warm and sunny, so who the heck cared?!

At the resort

The snorkle-friendly lagoon

 The beach of Kayliana's dreams!

This also happened to be the view from the massage cabana. Not too shabby, eh?
 Luau ready!

 Ahh, happy times.

Rainbow Falls - our last full day was overcast but still comfortable


How we felt about having to leave!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Exciting season!

I asked Kayliana the other day what she was going to ask Santa to bring for Christmas.  Her response was a very detailed description that went something like this, “A life size kangaroo that you can ride and it has two buttons one that says start and one that says jump and one that says stop.”
So, this doesn’t actually exist.  I told her that, seeing as this is Santa’s busiest season, she might not be able to expect him to invent a brand new toy right now; maybe she could come up with a back-up option.  She sighed and said, “Fine. Playdoh.”
Definitely thinks outside the box, this one.
Mike and I won’t be asking for much, if anything.  We just spent October-November having a huge backyard project done.  We had to have two fifty feet long, four feet high, railroad tie walls removed and rebuilt.  The whole yard was excavated – drainage added, terraced, sod installed, a tree removed, a pad for a shed put in, new flower bed put in, new walls, gravel patio area for an outdoor kitchen installed and a lower one for fire pit area, and a couple of staircases added (including one that goes down into the ravine). The two guys that were here every day were SO incredibly nice and did an incredible job.  It’s so amazing and so exciting and the photos really truly don’t do it justice! We feel so incredibly blessed that we were able (after 4 years of waiting and saving!) to have this project done.  Such an amazing gift.
Here's some old/random before photos:

And after!!! 
Fence gone, new walls, stairs. 
We may eventually add a gate where the brick fireplace is.

Back beyond the BBQ, we're going to add an outdoor bar/counter/kitchen and seating area.
This used to be "grass" that was really just a sloping swamp for 9 months out of the year.

This flat black area is where a shed will go. Flat backyard!!

This area will have a fire pit and more seating.
The yard used to be at the height of the wall and then slope to this level. (The wall is almost 4 feet high, so that's how much they excavated).

My mom gave me the big vase/pot to paint as I pleased. 

Already got a huge hydrangea (my favorite) from my friend's yard. And in the lower right corner of the new flowerbed, there's a "beautyberry." It has amazing bright purple berries and will grow 6 feet x 6 feet.

 Future site of s'mores central!

Stairs up from the ravine.
All of the big rocks/boulders - the guys dug up when excavating the yard. Then they used it in landscaping.

The kids have already loved kicking the soccer ball against the flower bed wall.  

A groundcover/trailing geranium will (hopefully) be growing/spilling out of the tipped pot.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Halloween 2016

I better get this up before it’s THANKSGIVING (a week away)! 
Halloween was fun, fun, fun. I love that we have at least two – usually three – events each year, so we get a lot of wear out of our costumes.  I dusted off my prom dress to be a queen, Zachary was the Court Jester, Mike was a knight, Kayliana – a dragon, and Matthew…an army man.  (Yeah, it’s been a few years since he participated in our family theme). 

We stopped by to see my mom (Charlotte with her web and babies) and the library was all decked out – perfect for a photo shoot!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

August and half of September - done!

All of August, half of September – done and done.  And thus ended the busiest (but possibly most fun!) summer we’ve ever had followed by our craziest (and eventful!) back-to-school time ever.  Phew!
We started August with Kayliana mastering two-wheels!  (And Mike and I both got about 59 more gray hairs…each).
August 11th, 2016 was our 15th Anniversary. (FIFTEEN?!!).  We celebrated with a family camping trip to Lake Wenatchee State Park.  It was a lovely, laidback, long weekend.
Happy Campers!

Less than two weeks later, Mike and I abandoned (lovingly) our children in the caring hands of our besties – Jason and Rebecca.  The next morning Mike and I left on a jet plane for NEW ORLEANS – a combo Anniversary and National Engaged Encounter Convention trip.  I’ve ALWAYS, ALWAYS wanted to go to New Orleans .  With my French major and History and Music Minors…it’s like New Orleans was MADE for me.  Bucket list, baby. 
A SeaTac selfie - SO excited to say the least!
We landed at 10:30pm (only 8:30pm our time) and immediately went with some of our great EE friends down Bourbon Street to experience all the Bourbon Crazy…and the grown-up slushies! 
The next morning, we walked back down Bourbon to CafĂ© Beignet in Musical Legends Park.  As we arrived the rain storm ceased, the steamy humidity kicked back in, the sun broke through and - to the sounds of a live jazz band - we had our first beignets.  I teared up.  Totally, totally cried.  It was a dream come true.
Later that morning, we went with our friends to the Bayou for an airboat swamp tour.  Holy stinkin’ Moly it was SO MUCH fun.  The captain would slow the boat down, then kill the fan and then feed the alligators marshmallows (probably not the healthiest thing, but it brings ‘em to the boat).   We saw tons of alligators including one that was 12 feet long and a nest of two day old baby gators.  Super fun!

Albino alligator!
While seeing alligators, tons of fantastic live bands and street musicians, the incredible architecture and historical sites of New Orleans (not all at the same time) we also managed to drink and eat our way through the place.  We did it all – we ate alligator, gumbo, jumbalaya, red beans and rice, muffaletta sandwiches, po’boys and, of course, plenty of beignets. 

The Engaged Encounter Conventions are like a big family reunion and wonderful.  We even had a marriage vow reaffirmation ceremony at the Convention Saturday night before a bunch of us went out and found yet another fantastic band.  Sigh.  I miss NOLA already and missed it the moment we left, but…
We missed the kiddos more and couldn’t wait to see them.  They’d been handed off to my mom for the last part of our trip and were home, all set for the beginning of school.  The kids and I had one last  Summer hurrah and spent an afternoon at the zoo, and then...

Monkeys at the zoo
The boys started September 1st (Matthew 7th grade and Zachary 5th grade).   Kayliana had to wait (oh, the torture!) for September 7th for her first day of FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN!  She is SO happy and SO loving school.  She still claims that her favorite part of each day is riding the bus.  She was SO freakishly excited to FINALLY step foot on that bus (after years of watching the boys get to ride).  One of the best things is that Zach’s class is the 5th grade buddy class to Kayli’s class, so they have two (out of three) recesses and lunch together.   
Needless to say, Kayliana handled going to Kindergarten like a champ and I managed to just get slightly-teary seeing her off on the first day.

In addition to school starting, we had a couple of wonderful staycations with Jason & Rebecca including a Labor Day weekend extravaganza with a birthday party to celebrate Matthew turning 13.  THIRTEEN.  

Now, we have a teenager (who finally got a cell phone –yikes!) 
AND three kids in school all day every day.  CRAZY TIMES.
Summer’s come and gone, back-to-school madness is simmering down…and now we’re already in the thick of it!  Here we go again!