Sunday, January 6, 2019

Holiday Recap

It's the last day of the winter break.  I read a bunch of funny tweets the other day about winter break from a parent's perspective.  My favorite: "The hardest part of winter break is remembering to feed my kids meals all day." I struggled with that this break. Alden got sick the two days before the break started -- so, at this point, I've been home with kids for 18 days. Today is day 19. Not that I'm counting.

It was a very different holiday from what we've done every other year for the last decade (more than a decade, actually). This year, given that we took a week off and traveled to NYC in the summer, Hawaii in October and Baker City for Thanksgiving, we decided there would be no winter travels for us. The combination of the bathroom remodel, a sick cat (with a vet bill approaching $4K!! Ouch) and all the other trips we took this year have left us without any funds for travel. And, we just really needed some time at home after what was a busy and emotionally exhausting year.  It meant no Timberline this year.  I thought Kai would be more upset about abandoning the tradition -- but, she didn't seem to mind.  She loves Timberline, but she was very understanding of why we couldn't go and agreed that we've done a lot of other fun things this year.  She often is wise beyond her years and very easy to reason with (usually).

Not only did we stay home... we stayed home without any plans for things to do. There were days we barely left the living room. I definitely didn't feed the kids three meals a day most days. We had a lot of "fridge days" -- aka days when the kids were free to get whatever they could find out of the fridge and eat it.

We did celebrate Christmas. Alden is a true believer in Santa -- despite our best efforts to dissuade him of his firmly held belief. He went to a hockey game with Will early on during the break and came home and said, "well... it's true. Santa is real." We asked him how he knew this and he said he met him at the hockey game. We pressed a bit harder and reminded him of the scene in Elf when there was an imposter Santa in the toy store and asked him how he knew the Santa he met was real. Alden was nonplussed and responded, "they said there was a visitor from the NORTH POLE. So, that's how I know it was the real Santa." I feel like I may be failing in my attempts to raise children who are critical thinkers. Although, it is equally possible that Alden is messing with us. Or, maybe Santa is real after all and we are the ones that are misinterpreting reality.  In any event, Santa didn't actually bring Alden any presents (we never label presents from Santa). Despite this, Alden has decided that his favorite presents came from Santa.  I do admire the strength of his convictions. So funny.

On Christmas Eve, we spent the day baking cookies and made cookie tins for our neighbors, delivering them that evening. It was fun to walk around the neighborhood handing out our treats -- and it was fun baking them together. We made gingerbread whoopie pies, sugar cookies, blondie bars, and Rice Krispy treats shaped into reindeer.



Christmas morning was a lot of fun. As with past years, the kids slept into their usual time and woke up seemingly unaware that the holiday they had been so eagerly anticipating had finally arrived. Once they remembered it was Christmas, they were excited and the living room didn't disappoint, greeting them with stuffed stockings, a tree brimming with gifts, and a huge balance beam up leaning up against the wall.


We stretched the stockings and present opening out over many hours. Alden got a Wild Krats costume and a bunch of creature power discs. You put the creature power disc that represents whatever animal you are becoming into the vest and then turn into that creature with all the powers inherent to that animal. Alden has played HOURS of pretend since getting that vest, transforming into a new animal multiple times a day. He's had a blast. He also got a safari vest and a bunch of adventure tools (like a compass, binoculars, magnifying glass, bug catchers, etc) . He's had a ton of fun playing with those, too. He also got boots and recently told me that he never wants shoes for Christmas again. Eric responded that he was going to get shoes every year from now to eternity. Alden decided not to press the issue. He got magnetic blocks and some art supplies, too. All the new toys early on in the break have made for a lot of make believe and time spent in the playroom. 

For Kailey, it was the year of gymnastics. She got a beam, gymnastics mats, a stretcher (to help her get better at the splits), and a new leotard. We transformed what was my work out room (in our in-law unit) into her gymnastics studio (although, my elliptical machine remans). She now spends hours in the back working to perfect her skills -- although, it hasn't reduced the number of handstands and cartwheels she does in the living room when we're all trying to watch TV. She's constantly tumbling. She also got new art supplies in furtherance of her other favorite activity. 

Kailey also really enjoyed shopping for us this year. She got Eric a narwhal mug (from the movie Elf) and walkie talkies (which have proven to be super helpful around the house!) She got me the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biography, cozy socks, and weights (to aid in my workouts). She really thought about the gifts she got this year and was as excited to be giving gifts as receiving them. It was pretty cool. Alden got Eric a toy Hey Hey (from the movie Moana) -- and it screeches the way the chicken in the movie does when he discovers he's in the middle of the ocean. It might be the world's most annoying toy. Alden and I were shopping together for Eric and he said, "Mama... I know EXACTLY what Daddy wants. Come." He took me straight to the toy aisle and pointed out the toy chicken. I told Alden that I didn't think Daddy wanted that and he said, "he DOES. He TOLD me. I'm SERIOUS." So, we got it. Turns out Eric had told Alden he wanted that. So, it seems that Alden is also getting into the swing of giving and paying attention to what people say they want. That chicken is annoying, though. It may need to get misplaced soon.





Following Christmas, we returned to our hibernation mode. We watched 5 seasons of Kids Baking Championships (those kids are amazing) and were inspired to cook a lemon cake for our NYE party from scratch, using lemons from our lemon tree. That cake was amazing. It had a lemon syrup in between each layer. And the lemon frosting was divine. There was quite a bit of creative disagreement between me, Kailey and Alden about how the cake should be decorated. Ultimately, it was an amalgam of each of our visions with sprinkles, stars, and frosting flowers piped around the top layer. It wouldn't have won any prizes on our new favorite show, but it was fun to make and, like I said, it tasted amazing. 

We also threw a really fun NYE party. We made a TON of food: prime rib, tamales, a side of salmon cooked over a fire in our backyard (using the outdoor fireplace, of course), scalloped potatoes, sweet potatoes, artichoke dip, brussels sprouts, lemon cake, crispy chickpeas, and more. Then our friends brought more tamales, quiche, cherry pie, cheesecake, more sweet potatoes, key lime pie, and more. We had so much food. And so much fun. The kids all played, mostly spending time in the playroom. We talked and laughed so hard telling stories about our kids (and our often inept attempts at parenting) that it made me cry. It was a great group of people. We rang in the east coast new year and were in bed long before midnight. It was a great party. We took no pictures... I always forget to take pictures! 

This last week, we've watched more movies but also gotten a bit more active. Alden has gotten good at riding his bike, although, he still cannot start on his own. But, he can ride for long stretches and really enjoys riding. So, I took the kids to the bike path that runs along the river for a long ride -- over 5 miles! I had to walk/jog alongside Alden the whole time to help him get started... so it was quite a workout for me, too! That day, my fitbit tells me I walked nearly 10 miles. I've also been good about working out nearly every day. I've been trying to get the kids to exercise with me -- but, beyond the bike riding -- they haven't been super interested in participating. Although, we did get in all their make up swim lessons (we've missed a bit of swimming lately) -- so they've had 4 lessons in 3 days. Kai also went ice skating with a friend and has continued to go to gymnastics practice. So, it would be an unfair characterization to say they've been inactive. They just don't want to do circuit training with me. Go figure. 

Eric has also worked diligently on the bathroom remodel during the break. We passed the rough inspection and Eric spent most of the break putting up the walls and ceiling, picking out tile and fixtures, and getting the bathroom to a more completed state. In the near future, we'll have a working bathroom again downstairs. So exciting. It's amazing what Eric is capable of doing with a remodel. I'm really excited to see the finished room. The kids are also quite interested in the remodel and check in on Eric repeatedly throughout the day. They like following the progress and asking questions about what he is doing -- and Eric enjoys engaging them in the work. In a few more years, they'll be able to help out quite a bit more. Just in time for remodeling the upstairs bathroom and adding a master bath. 

It was great to have a couple weeks at home without a lot of plans. I think the kids are feeling ready to return to school. I'm not sure I'm ready to return to work -- but, I am ready to start engaging with the world again on a daily basis. So, that's something. 

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Thanksgiving Recap

Hard to believe it's December already.  November felt like a really short month. But, I suppose it was the same length as always.

It was a month of a lot of travel.  I was in LA a couple of times, North Carolina for a quick trip and, unexpectedly, we went to Baker City, OR for Thanksgiving.  We were supposed to be hosting family for Thanksgiving this year, but the largest wildfire in California's history burned just 100 miles north of here just a couple of weeks before the holiday, resulting in Sacramento having the distinction of the worst air quality in the entire world.  It was really awful.  Worse, of course, for everyone who was a victim of the fires.  We only had to deal with the resulting smoke.  But, the air quality was absolutely horrible the weekend before the holiday.  They even canceled several days of school.   I remember how much I wished for canceled school due to snow as a kid.  It never even occurred to me that school could be canceled because the air is dangerous to breathe. Everyone in our household developed a cough.  It was not a great environment for a Thanksgiving celebration. So, we decided to relocate our Thanksgiving to Baker City, OR, after calling upon Nick and Ang to take over as hosts (which they were happy to do).

Sometimes things just really work out.  Thanksgiving in Baker City was awesome.  It was a beautiful drive to eastern Oregon -- a stretch of road we had never traveled before.  We've driven the I-5 corridor to Portland so many times.  Driving to Baker City took the same amount of time -- but, traveling a new route made it seems much more exciting and the time went by really quickly.  The kids were fantastic.  They are finally road warriors.  We didn't even watch videos much.  We talked, listened to music, they napped, and we played games.  And, we took in the incredible scenery.  It was a great drive up.  The worst part was stopping in Nevada for dinner and to spend the night.  The place the hotel host pointed us to for dinner was inside a casino.  And they allow smoking in casinos in Nevada.  Kailey was beside herself.  She really has never been around cigarette smoke and she was gagging the whole time we were in the casino.  We got a seat at the very back of the restaurant near a window -- so, it wasn't that bad once we were seated for dinner -- but, she was quite unhappy about it.  When I was a kid, there were smoking and non-smoking sections in all restaurants.  When I was a young adult, all bars allowed smoking.  It was ubiquitous.  Cigarette smoke was part of socializing.  Even though no one in my home smoked, I was not shocked by the smell of it -- although I didn't like it.   Kailey's reaction to it was a reminder of how far we've come in certain areas (of course, we've taken gigantic steps backwards in many other ways... we're not going to kill ourselves off second-hand smoke, but instead by the unmitigated impacts of climate change.  Progress is a relative term).

Anyhoo.... we arrived in Baker City on Sunday afternoon.  Kailey and Alden were beyond stoked to get to spend a week with their cousins.  My parents, Teagan, Kate and Ryah arrived on Monday -- so we had a big crowd most of the week.  And, Nick and Ang have a perfect home for hosting a crowd and live in a great city for family fun.  Baker City is a really awesome town -- with lots of quaint shops and eateries.  They live right downtown, so we walked everywhere.  Kailey loved being able to walk into town with her cousins (and with no parents).  Those moments of independence are great for kids -- especially for Kailey.  She definitely needs opportunities to do things on her own (or with a few friends).  She still won't stay home alone -- even though I offer to let her stay home by herself with some regularity.

Nick and Ang's house was built about 100 years ago -- it's super charming with a great fireplace, sitting room, dining room... so much space to spread out.  The kids had a blast playing hide and seek, and there were so many great places to hide.  They also played a ton of games, had dance parties, watched movies, played with baby Ryah, and helped with cooking.  Gabe especially had fun on Thanksgiving day helping us make various dishes.  He was a fantastic helper.  And, Kai and Mary made the sweet potato biscuits -- which were one of the big hits at this year's dinner.  They were delicious.

Nick and Ang were fantastic hosts... in no small part because they let us take over their kitchen and just go to town making our favorite meal of the year.  And, we took over their kitchen more than once! A couple days before Thanksgiving, we spent the day making tamales and enchiladas.  It was fun to make two huge meals for a crowd (but, man, they ate!  Hardly any leftovers!)

I love Thanksgiving week.  I like being able to take a week off to just cook and be with family.  I cook all the time at home.  I meal plan.  I make different recipes.   But, it's always rushed.  It's part of our weekly routine.  It's smooshed between the workday and bedtime.  Every evening feels like a gigantic rush to get dinner on the table, force kids to eat foods they are unfamiliar with, clean up, make lunches, make coffee for the morning (programming it), finishing homework, bath and bedtime.  It's a constant struggle.  I try really hard to make sure we're getting good food and that we eat together -- but, it's not fun.  These last few weeks, I've been back to vegan meal planning.  The food has been great.  But, it's not relaxing.  It's not enjoyable.  I'm often proud of my ability to be a working mom that has a very demanding job and still cook meals nearly every night -- but, it's possible to be proud of things that are more struggle than reward.  Thanksgiving is different.  It's my time to really get to cook.  To enjoy cooking with others.  To plan a crazy menu and then execute it with the people I love.  To sit down and enjoy a meal together and linger over that meal -- because there's no need to rush off to cleaning up, to homework, to bath or to bedtime.  It's cooking and family as those things should be -- in the most idealized sense of the words.  It's still work.  It's still exhausting.  But, it's more rewarding than the weekly grind.

And, this year, we did so much more than cooking.  Because we were in Baker City, we explored.  We went on long hikes, we hung out, we cooked, and we got to delight in the antics of our crazy kids.  The hiking was a true highlight.  We got to go on some beautiful hikes -- one with the kids in the snow! Another with just me, Ang and Eric.  It was nice to get the time together.  And, we had fires every evening complete with long winding conversations.

We also played a lot of games (me less than others).  But, one night we all played Pictionary... well, not "all".  Just the adults.  I was on Ang's team.  Eric and Kate were on a team.  Nick and mom made up the third team.  It was hilarious.  Ang is a pro at that game -- you should have seen the f--- up version of a seal (the animal) that I drew... and, yet, somehow she guessed it.  It looked like a blob with eyes.  It had no resemblance to a seal.  None.  It made me realize that while I THINK I know what something looks like... I really don't have any sense of what pretty much ANYTHING looks like.  That, or I can't draw.  Probably both.  But, somehow, she guessed my crazy bad drawings and we all had fun.

The next day, we played again with the kids -- which was also quite funny.  There's a lot more explaining with the kids.  We had to constantly break to go in the other room and explain what the thing was that they were supposed to draw.  But, they were quite good at it once they knew what they were supposed to be drawing.  Diana would often draw the most detailed aspect of a picture, neglecting to get to the heart of the thing quickly enough.  But, her drawings were a million times better than mine.  All the kids could out draw me.  My pictures were so pathetic.  That said -- even though I truly SUCK at the game, I think we need to get Kailey a Pictionary game for Christmas.  She really liked playing (and, of course, she's pretty good at it... being a kid inclined towards artistry!)

Speaking of artistry... it was also a treat to see the coffee shop that Nick has created.  He is a true craftsman.  He's made all the furniture and bookshelves in his shop -- and it's such a peaceful and beautiful space.  Every morning he would walk over to the stop to make espresso for all of us.  It was fun to join him on the morning outings a few times... both because it was great to hang out in his shop and it was really nice to get some extra sibling time.

It really felt like a holiday and a vacation and I'm so glad that we ended up having to travel for the holiday, even though I thought I wanted to be at home.  It was better to go some place new and get to visit with family in a new environment.  Ang took a gazillion awesome pictures.  I don't have a ton of them on this computer -- but, here's a few of the ones I have:


























Eric has declared that we are going to Baker City for every Thanksgiving.  Hope Nick and Ang are ready for our new tradition!!  Bottom line: I'm so thankful for all these people and so thankful to have had this week together.  

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Pure Alden

Alden has a new saying -- "pan in the face" -- he says it whenever he does something embarrassing or something he shouldn't do.  It's hilarious.  He was setting the table the other day and he forgot to put spoons on the table.  I mentioned this to him and he said, "oh, pan in the face!"  We believe he made it up after watching a cartoon of a character getting hit by a pan in the face. Picture Bugs Bunny.  It's ingenious and now we all say it. 

He also punctuates his own actions with narrative.  I'll say, "Alden, I've told you THREE times to go get your pajamas on.  Go!" He'll respond, "POOF!" and stick out his arms and then run out of the room.  

"POOF!"  

Californians

How long does a person have to live some place before they are considered of that place?  I've now lived in California for 17 years.  I don't know that it's the number of years or the behaviors you start to adopt. But, there are indicators that we are very much of Californian ilk.  For example, our perception of cold is very skewed.  It's November here.  And, at night it's in the 50s.  During the day it's in the 80s.  At soccer practice, it's in the 80s.  And yet, we've all been wearing sweaters and jackets and complaining of the cold.  And, on November 2nd we decided we couldn't take it anymore.  It was 72 degrees in the house as we had our Friday pizza and movie night and Alden said, "it's FREEZING.  We need a fire."  And so, we had our first fire of the year.  On a night that it was 72 degrees following a day that it had been in the 80s.  Because we're wimps.... also known as Californians.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

October recap

Every month feels busier than the last month.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this may be the new norm for the next decade.  I want to capture Alden at four and a half and Kailey at ten and a half.  But, it's hard to find the time to write.  I traveled every week in October (one of those weeks for Hawaii, but I also had 3 trips to Los Angeles).  And, in addition to the normal bustle of sports, school, homework, extra school projects, maintaining community and work -- we decided to take on a bathroom remodel.

Old houses are charming and strong and full of character.  And, they need work.  So much work.  Now that Eric has made the back yard really beautiful, I feel immense pressure to keep it nice.  I've been trying to keep ahead of the leaves -- a losing battle.  Some report recently found that Sacramento has the most trees per square foot of any other metropolitan area.  This is true.  So many trees.  So many leaves.  The kids an I worked on leaf clean up yesterday.  Well, Alden mostly wandered around making up stories in his head and complaining that he wasn't having fun.  Kailey helped.  We spent about 3 hours with the leaf blower and the rakes and have a HUGE leaf pile in front of our house.  And, if I'm being honest, it really doesn't look like we even tried.  I'll tackle more today.

While the kids and I attempt to keep up the regular home projects, Eric is deep into the remodel of the downstairs bath.  It's deja vu.  Well, sort of.  This house is much bigger than our Oakland house making the wiring and plumbing much more challenging.  And two kids with two busy schedules is really different than the one two year old we had when we remodeled the Oakland bathroom.  So, in some ways, the remodel feels more challenging this time around.  But, also, it's easier.  We have an upstairs bathroom -- so, we are not without a bathroom while we are doing this.  That's huge.  And, having a larger space means we can all be home while Eric is remodeling without constantly being in his way.  It means I can get all sorts of stuff done at home while Eric is working away.  It's meant a lot of long days for Eric trying to cram in remodeling between work and some kid time.

Despite being in the middle of a remodel and not having a downstairs bathroom, we still hosted Halloween this year.  That has become a signature holiday of ours.  We had the spider in the tree on the fishing line so we could lower it on the trick or treaters as they walked by, of course.  And, we upped our game a bit this year.  We got a cackling, screeching witch that we put on a broom stick and wired up from our bedroom window to a tree so that she would fly over the yard while cackling away.  It took an entire day to get her strung up, but made the house that much more festive.  This year we had about 30 people over at our house and everyone had a blast.  I think we got 1,000 trick or treaters.  Halloween is such a scene.
And it's a scene that both kids eagerly anticipate.  Alden was talking about Halloween starting right about the day after his birthday.  For the last month, he woke up every day and asked, "is it Halloween yet?"  When we told him it was fall (on Sept. 21) he lit up and yelled, "I LOVE fall!!  It's Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and cozy fires!"  On the actual holiday, I woke him up and said, "guess what, Alden?  It's HALLOWEEN!"  His face lit up in a huge smile and then he looked outside and said, suspiciously, "why isn't it dark?"  I was confused.  "What do you mean?"  Alden said, "you SAID it's Halloween, but it's not dark.  Why isn't it dark?"  So funny.  Halloween is only the night time trick or treating as far as Alden's concerned!

This year he and his friends had full command of trick of treating. They confidently walked up to each house and declared, "trick of treat."  We didn't accompany them to the doors, waiting back on the sidewalks.  At the scary houses, Alden said, "it's not really scary.  It's all pretend."  They went to every house we let them go to.  Kai, of course, has been this way for a long time.  She now goes off with her friends and one adult so that they can get through more houses and go at their own pace.

The main attraction doesn't ever seem to be the trick or treating.  The kids like being at our house with their friends working the spider and witch, handing out candy, playing in the dark in the backyard, and counting their candy.  They had a blast.  When every one left at about 9:30 PM, Alden said, "well! That was GREAT. And, now, tomorrow morning will be CHRISTMAS!"

First, we will be hosting Thanksgiving this year at the end of this month.  And, having a quiet Christmas at home.  This will be the first year in Kailey's existence that we won't be heading to Oregon to go to Timberline.  We did Hawaii and a bathroom remodel this year instead -- and I'm looking forward to time at home with no where to be (and with a new bathroom to enjoy) .

October was a crazy month -- I've stopped pretending that the next month will be less crazy.  Go with the flow, that's my motto.

Here's to November!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hawaii


We took a fall vacation to Hawaii for the wedding of some dear friends.  I have to say, it felt bizarre to go on vacation at the beginning of October.  It wasn't great timing.  October tends to be a fairly busy month for work, school, and kid activities.  I hadn't considered all of that when we decided to accept the invitation and go to the wedding.  It was a strange time to hit the pause button on life and go to a far off island to unwind.  And, it wasn't until we were on the plane, halfway over the ocean, that it finally sunk in that we were really going to be in Hawaii for a week.

Of course, we did a bit of planning before getting on the plane.  We made reservations for a place to stay (we decided to go glamping -- or glamorous camping -- it was sleeping in a tent, but the tent was on a large, raised deck covered by a canopy and there was a king size bed in the tent.  We also had a compostable toilet, running water, a solar shower, and a propane stove.  There was solar electricity so we had access to a fridge and could charge our devices.  But, we also had no one else staying around us and we were on a beautiful property backing up against a creek.  It was about a 10 minute drive to the ocean and amazing beaches -- really, an ideal setting.  Except the bugs.  We got a LOT of bug bites.  But, other than bugs, it was fantastic).

Anyway, so we had a place to stay and we had reserved a car.  So, the basics were in place to make sure we would be able to sleep somewhere and get around the island --but, beyond that, I hadn't really thought much of what we'd do once we were there or prepped the kids for the trip.  Our fall schedule is so insane that it leaves little time for thinking or planning.  Every day is just a rush to get to work, get things done at work, and then rush off to a kid activity (or two) long before the work day has officially ended.  Then it's home to do dinner, homework and bedtime.  The days are a blur.

So, perhaps that means it was the best time to hit the pause button and take a vacation.  It felt surreal, but it was also really nice to get a whole week together without having to be anywhere (except the wedding) or do anything in particular.  Alden was nervous about the trip because he didn't want to swim in the big ocean.  Kai was not excited about snorkeling because she didn't enjoy using the snorkeling gear in our neighborhood pool leading up to our trip.  Kai also wasn't thrilled about the idea of flying on a plane over the ocean for 6 hours.  Something about being up 30,000 feet over water as opposed to over land unnerved her (I'm not sure why exactly -- a plane crashing over water or land spells bad news... but, she seemed to think water would be worse).  Neither kid had ever been to Hawaii and had no sense of where we were going.

The travel day to Hawaii was a bit brutal.  We flew out of Oakland and we decided to just drive the morning or our trip rather than staying in a hotel near the airport the night before (the way we had done when we flew out of Oakland to NYC).  That made for a stressful morning.  Our flight wasn't until 9:20 AM but getting to the Bay Area on a weekday morning can be difficult and we knew we needed to leave the house by about 5:30 AM to be safe (especially because we needed to get to the offsite parking location and take a shuttle to the airport).  We didn't leave the house until 6 AM and our phones told us it would be more than 2 hours to get to the parking location.  And, traffic increases by the minute.  And, it was the first day it rained in Northern CA in about 8 months so everyone was driving poorly.  It was a stressful drive.

But, we made it to the airport and the flight was boarding at the time that we got to the gate.  We hadn't had much time for breakfast, but we did load up on snacks to bring on the plane at an airport vendor.  And, I brought snacks with me.  It was a six hour flight and we had a layover in Kauai.  Then it was another short flight and we were in Oahu, but still had to get the rental car.  By the time we had the car, we were all shaky with hunger.  Especially Alden.  In fact, he lost it.  Totally lost it.  He was so mad and beyond hunger that he just started crying and throwing a temper tantrum.  We got to a place with food, but he refused to eat.  It took about 45 minutes to calm him down and get a banana into him and once that hit his system, he bounced back and became the happy boy he often is -- and promptly scarfed down TWO grilled cheese sandwiches.

After fueling up -- we went to our glamping site.  The kids were SO excited to get there.  There were peacocks, lizards and cats roaming around the property.  We unpacked and headed into the main village to stock up on supplies and get some food.  It was a long and tiring first day, but we were all happy to be on the island.



We decided to start off our first non-travel day with some snorkeling and headed to Shark's Cove.  It was a good beach to start. Kai immediately fell in love with snorkeling and didn't want to get out of the water.  Alden tired of it pretty quickly and wanted to spend time playing in the sand.  After spending some time on the beach and in the water, we went to lunch and then got Hawaiian shaved ice.  The kids were beginning to see the benefits of island living!



Day two in Hawaii was another beach day -- because, really, what could be better?  We also went to several different beaches on our second day.  We went first to a beach that we thought would be a very kid-friendly beach but it was high tide and there was no beach to speak of!  So, then we explored the North Shore and headed from beach to beach.  We found beaches with larger waves -- were Kai had a blast learning how to duck dive in the waves and body surf.  She is such a fish in the water and LOVES being in the ocean.  Alden was intimidated by the waves and chose to play in the sand, but he was in his element as well.  Later in the day, we found a beach with almost no waves to speak of where Alden swam and pretended to body surf in the little swells.  He had a blast imitating what he had seen Kailey doing earlier in the day.



We decided to spend our third day in Waimea Canyon, which has a short hike up to a beautiful waterfall where you can swim.  We had such fun exploring the botanical gardens, swimming in the waterfall, and there was a Hawaiian cultural table set up near the waterfall where the kids could try out Hawaiian instruments and games and try on Hawaiian headbands made from bamboo leaves.  The people running the station let each kid keep a headband and a little Hawaiian top.  Of course, Alden lost his before we made it out of the canyon, but he found another nice person to give him one later in the day (I honestly don't know that the headbands or tops made it home -- but they did have fun playing with the toys throughout the rest of the trip and wore the headbands to the wedding!) After we left the canyon, we headed to Turtle Bay for a little snorkeling.  We found a spot that was completely calm and also very shallow -- and Alden had a BLAST snorkeling around in the little pool.  We ended the day with more Hawaiian ice!









 (Alden was SOOO happy to see rainbows throughout our trip.  He would light up every time we saw one)!


Saturday was the wedding.  It was a beautiful ceremony and the kids had a blast meeting people, playing with the photo booth and doing art projects.  Alden developed a HUGE crush on Linnea's 16 year old cousin.  He followed her around the wedding like a puppy, drew her multiple pictures, and talked about his "Hawaiian friend" endlessly the rest of the trip.  He even got her email address so that he could continue to send her pictures.  Kailey created a beautiful page for Brian and Linnea's wedding book -- it included polaroid pictures of us and then was decorated by Kailey.  She included pop-out windows and all sorts of other detailed touches.  It was a true work of art.









Sunday we met up with our "Hawaii family" (as Alden dubbed them) again at a beach and had a great time playing in the waves (Alden had built up his courage and decided jumping in waves was one of the best activities of all time).  Kailey became quite a proficient body surfer and duck diver.  She was in the water nearly the entire time we were at the beach, coming out only to build an amazing sand castle with Eric and Alden.  We didn't take any pictures on this day -- but, we had a great time with our friends and playing on the beach.  

Monday was our last day in Hawaii.  We got up SUPER early to get to a beach known as one of the best snorkeling destinations in the United States.  What that also means is that it is a bit of a Disneyland atmosphere -- there were a HUGE number of people on the beach.  You have to watch a video before going down to the beach to learn how to protect the reef and wildlife.  It filled up and I was REALLY glad we were there by 7 AM when it was not quite as crowded (although, there were still a LOT of people there that early in the morning).  We did see some amazing fish.  I saw a red fish that was half the size of Alden!  We saw some beautiful rainbow fish and eels.  Alden didn't want to snorkel much, but again had a blast playing in the waves.  Kai did a fair amount of snorkeling.  Our phones were checked into a locker -- so, I don't have any pictures of our time at this beach.  But, we all had a good time.  

We ended our trip to Hawaii with a luau.  The kids had a BLAST at the luau -- they loved seeing people scurry up the coconut trees, they like helping to prepare the food (grating the coconut, peeling the bananas).  Kailey loved the dancers -- they featured dances from all the Polynesian islands.  Alden was amazed by the fire dancers.  He turned to me and said, "is that SAFE?"  By the end of the show, Alden had decided he wants to be a hulu dancer when he grows up.  







It was a great way to end our trip.  And, also a testament that despite much advance planning, time away is so needed and we all benefit from days spent together exploring the world.