War and peace.

  We rang in the 4th of July this year by visiting Pearl Harbor in Honolulu.  Such a bittersweet place.  Gorgeous setting, palm trees waving in the breeze and the clearest blue skies and warm sunshine...but you can still feel the sting of the tragedy that occurred there, as pungent as the smell of the oil sheen that still swirls on the surface of the water from the sunken battleship below.

That's right.  It's still leaking oil.

   "The day before the attack, the USS Arizona took on a full load of fuel — nearly 1.5 million gallons. Much of that fuel helped ignite the explosion and subsequent fires that destroyed the ship, but -- amazingly -- some of that fuel continues to seep out of the wreckage. According to the History Channel, the Arizona continues to spill up to 9 quarts of oil into the harbor each day and visitors often say it is as if the ship were still bleeding."  


   The most moving display in the entire museum for me, was a collection of interviews of Pearl Harbor survivors.  The men shared about the details of that fateful day, and what it felt like to be there.

To see it happen.
To know the ones who died.

   It never struck me before how young some of them were.  19, 20 years old.  They were kids.  They said the planes swooped so low they could see the pilots faces.  They said that the oil was burning on the surface of the water and so when men would try to come up for a breath of air, they would sear their lungs.  Rescued men pulled from the waves would have burning skin dripping off of their bodies.

  I've often heard the story of the sunken U.S.S. Virginia with trapped men still alive inside, and you could hear the banging on the walls.....but I never knew that it took up to 16 DAYS for some of them to die.

No one even told their families.  They wanted to spare them the pain.  You can read more here. 

   But as tragic as all of it is, and believe me, it haunts me to think of the lives lost on those infamous days that we dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.   I cannot begin to imagine the horror and the tragedy of it all.  The casualty estimates are staggering, but it is easy to forget that thousands died, not only initially from the bomb, but much later from cancer. People like Sadako Sasaki.

   Sadako was just a little girl, the same age as Charlotte on the day that the bomb fell.  She contracted leukemia from radiation exposure and spent what should have been carefree childhood days in a hospital bed.  Hoping in the ancient Japanese legend that healing would come to you if you folded a thousand paper cranes, she folded one after another until she had folded 644.  She died at the young age of 12.

   I left the museum feeling slightly dazed......the horrors of war are so far-reaching, I cannot even begin to grasp it all.   I am so thankful for the sacrifices so many have made so that we can live in freedom, but I am heartbroken that it has had to come at such great cost.

   We live in such a broken, shattered world!  It just makes me LONG for Heaven and for perfection and completeness and wholeness and happiness and endless joy.  We just will never know perfect peace this side of Heaven.  Never.

Pain is all around us.  

   Right now a family I know from back home in Iowa is facing their own battlefield of grief, after losing their sweet, precious, little girl.  You can read the story here.  

   She was just Jocelyn's age and it shatters my heart to think of what they are feeling right now.  Her mother shared pictures from her funeral and what a beautiful, heart-breaking, meaningful day it was.  You can see them here.  

   The tears keep coming as I reflect on all of the special details of her day....pretty toenails and red balloons and her teddy and doll laid to rest with her.  I can't stop thinking about what it must be like for her mama right now and the tears keep coming and Jocelyn wonders why I am crying and asks so many, many questions.

   And for once, I am not frustrated with her endless questions, and I answer each the best I can, all the while squeezing her tight and thanking the Lord for her over and over with ragged whispers.

We are not guaranteed tomorrow.
We are not guaranteed today. 

   Please lift this family (and their extended families) up in prayer and hold your loved ones a little closer today.



Grace, new blog obsessions, and other things.

 We interrupt these topical Hawaiian messages over here in blogland because I feel the need to share something with you all.   Or rather, share SOMEONE with you.  A National Treasure, if you will.

 My sis-in-law Jessi introduced me to this gem, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that my life will never be the same.   The first post of hers I ever read was just completely hysterical, and not in a "Isn't-my-family-so-cute-and-funny" way but rather a "My-kids-simultanously-humor-and-infuriate-me" way, and I was sold.  

Meet Grace, who blogs over at Camp Patton.

   After further checking into her blog, I honestly felt like the mommy-blogging Heavens opened up and the angels sang.  I mean, it's not that her blog is THAT radically different or filled with ground-breaking theories or anything.  It's that it is just so REAL.  I kind of feel like I've been reading all of the wrong blogs lately and it was totally bumming me out.  It truly made me want to give up on blogging.  The doing, the reading, the following, all of it.  I was just done.

And then I found Grace.  

   She's got great style, she writes freely and in detail about her birth stories, (which you know is going to always be an A+ in my book) she doesn't take herself seriously at all, she has a great sense of humor, she has 4 adorable little ones and is still in one piece......and many other admirable traits and qualities that would take up the rest of my girls' nap time to list.

   I'm currently trying to figure out why this blog seems so monumental to I mentioned earlier, I think a big part of it has to do with the small fact of just reading the wrong blogs, and starting to collect all of their individual voices into one big, throbbing echo in my head that was telling me I would never be enough.

The ones that are always trying too hard.
The ones that imitate, instead of inspire.
The ones that are always SO SERIOUS.
The ones that are always making you feel like you can't, and never will, measure up.
The ones that make you feel like a horrible person because you don't have an immaculate craft room.
The ones that make you feel like a horrible mother because you don't document every sneeze.
The ones that make you feel like you wear burlap sacks every day.
The ones that make you feel like you're always missing out life.

   I don't know, I guess I had just gotten to this unhappy, discontent place of comparison and feeling like I'm always falling short.  And then I felt like it wasn't even OK for me to talk about it, or share how I was really feeling in both life AND parenthood because of the thoughts that would always inevitably find me....... "She has like 17 kids and she's happy all the time", or "She has 5 under 4 and her house is amazing" or "She only has one kid but she also has a blog/business/shop/book/magazine/modeling contract/etc/etc/etc"  and it was all starting to weigh me down.

  I just felt so pointless.  Like my voice isn't heard.  Like my struggles don't really matter.  Like I'll never be able to quite find my way in this big world.

   And then Grace.  Literally, reading her blog just feels like grace.  It feels like someone standing up on the mommy-blogging platforms and shouting encouragement for once, instead of condescension.  It feels like someone telling you, "You are enough!  If I can do this, then YOU certainly can!"  It feels like someone laughing with you at the chaos that is your life right now, and then telling you it's going to be OK.  It feels like someone giving you a hug instead of a cold shoulder.  It feels like someone actually reaching out into blogland and offering a helping hand instead of a superior attitude.  It feels like someone is finally using their voice and their soapbox and their words to bring light, laughter and encouragement, instead of the opposite.

And it feels so GOOD.

   And so in honor of Grace, I tried to give my girls a little grace today too.  We were grocery shopping and Jocelyn was bit by the crazy bug the whole time.  Sometimes she was trying to be helpful and throw soy cheese substitute (and other things I would never buy) in my cart and other paraphernalia and sometimes she was just trying to be downright naughty.  And I quote, "Mommy, I'm not going to listen when we go into the store."    ?????!!!!

   But we stumbled/fought/wrestled our way through our stops and I was determined to just dash into JoAnne's for a few tiny, quick things before heading home.  Hilarious, I know.  So I went in there and Jocelyn immediately found a bouncy ball and proceeding to hick/throw it down the aisles.  In a craft store.  With many, many tiny things and breakables all around.  And the craziest part?  I contemplated all of that and then proceeded to LET HER DO IT because at that point the cost of a few broken items was well worth the short span of entertainment for her it was buying me.  That is what it had come to.

   I grabbed my items and stood in line to pay and that was when it all broke loose.  She was standing right there in line with me, but kept "losing" her ball down the aisle and chasing after it and then ending up like, 5 aisles away calling, "Mommy, where are you?"  when I was the one standing in one spot the whole time!  So one time out of desperation I dashed off to grab her and left Charlotte in the cart alone, but when I realized Jocelyn was a lot farther away then I though, felt bad and went back to get Charlotte and take her with me, rounded up Jocelyn and got back in line, and just shriveled under all of the condescending looks from other women in line.

   And that's when Jocelyn started trying on crowns and dancing around saying she had to go potty.  Potty.  In the back of the store.

  I took my chances and tried to wait it out and pay first because I did NOT want to wait in line again with my little scoundrel escaping all of the time and she got more frantic and I got more impatient and the lady at the counter seemed to sense all of this and was NOT impressed.  Finally I had paid and we got the key and we were on our way to go through the circus that is "Take a Toddler to a Public Bathroom With another Toddler trying to Touch Everything".  After that was all done, we managed to get out of the store with only shouting a few times and several looks that could kill.

   At this point, I completely nixed my previous plans of buying discounted bread to feed to the ducks in the park, and eating a Taco Bell picnic.  I was sweating, angry, completely humbled and just DONE.  We were going home.  But then I had a little change of heart and we swung into Dutch Bros. and got them drinks, in spite of them completely undeserving them.  Well to be fair, Charlotte did great and deserved hers.  Even extra whipped cream great.  I think she must sense the drama and chaos her older sister creates and just quietly adjusts to try and keep life in one big sort of cosmic balance or something.  Either that or she just doesn't want a crazy mama.

(Jocelyn enjoying her mama's Dutch Bros. on a different, better, much-less-naughty day at the pool.)

   And while treating them to Dutch Bros. after much naughty naughtiness feels a little bit like caving in, it also feels a lot like grace.  And I have been so inspired by the grace I've felt since finding Camp Patton and I only hope you, dear reader, can find a little grace here as well.  Because real is something I always, always want to be, and condescending is not what I want to be.

Here are some other blogs that offer grace......

The Wiegands
Grace to Be
The Natos
Beautiful Undefined
Tales of Me and the Husband
Skies of Parchment
Firefighter's Fam
Today is My Favorite
Little Rider Babies
Celebrating Life

   I'm sure there's like 1,000 others I didn't mention so don't feel bad if you weren't named, but girlies are waking up and it's time to go!!

Hope your Tuesday is grace-filled.



Hawaii, part 3.

I have never understood people who don't enjoy the beach.  

   There is just something about it that seems particularly mystifying and deeply disturbing to me.  What do you mean you don't like the beach?!  You don't enjoy feeling the warmth of the sun browning your skin or the smell of the salty ocean breeze through your hair?  You hate the feeling of soft sand between your toes and really could do without the incredible view?  You just get so BORED watching the magnificent waves and clouds and sea and sky?  You have better things to do than frolic in the ocean spray, walk along the shore with your sweetheart and go for a swim?  

I just don't get it.  Not one single bit. 

   BUT.....even if you are one of those people (hopefully you aren't) even YOU could find something to enjoy about a Hawaiian beach. I dare you to try and NOT enjoy yourself at one of these slices of paradise.  It's just not happening.  And so here are my top 5 things to do at a beach, even if you hate the beach.

  1.  Get moving.  If you're one of those people that gets bored at the beach and hates laying out....then for goodness sakes get moving!  I don't understand why people think that if they go to the beach they are somehow getting roped into sweating in the sun on a towel against their will for the next few hours.  It's not like you're there under court orders or something, swim! Snorkel! Surf! Jog! Or find an awesome rock to jump off of, like we did.  Can't stay bored for long doing that.  (Randy jumping above, me below)

2.  Go for long walks along the shoreline. Look for shells.  People watch. See what all there is to discover.  Strike up conversations with strangers.  Or don't.  The world (or the beach) is your oyster.  I found some seriously cool white coral on this walk that I desperately wanted to take home in my carryon for home decor, but we were filled to the max coming home and they were left behind. :(

3. Watch the surfers.  Or in this case, kite surfers.  (I think that's what this is called??)  You might even get lucky and see someone sporting a top hat as he bounds across the waves.  Downton Abbey meets tropical island paradise.

4.  Go exploring.  Look up what beaches in your area might be known for (historical sites, tide pools, etc.) and go check it out.  In our case, we went searching for the VERY BEACH on which they filmed the crash scene from the TV show Lost.  And we're 99% sure we found it.  Oh and we stumbled upon a sea lion too.

5. Take pictures.  This one is kind of a no-brainer but a favorite, nonetheless.  Blow up the pictures for canvas art when you get back home.  Make your own postcards.  I haven't done either of those, but hey, the thought should count for something. And last but not least, you can always sit in cool trees and avoid the ants crawling all over the branches for a quick picture before your escape.  

And even if after all of that you STILL don't want to go to the beach?!  

Well then I'd recommend counseling.

Happy Monday, folks!


Hawaii, part 2.'re planning a trip to Hawaii and  you'd like some ideas of things to do.  Well, I guess I mentioned them briefly earlier, but I will go over some in more detail in this post.  It really all depends on the level of activity you desire, and the amount of money you want to spend.  If you want to lay around the beach and do some shopping, options abound.  We could've gone to a different beach twice a day, every day.  If you are up for more of a physical, athletic adventure, there is as much of that as you could want as well.  So it really is all up to you.

   One of the few things we actually spent some money doing in Hawaii was renting kayaks and paddling out to the Twin islands.  DEFinitely something you want to do if you ever find yourself on the tropical island paradise of Oahu.  Once you reach the island you can eat lunch, read a book, lay in the sun, snorkel, etc. and then you get to enjoy the whole ride back.  I thought the whole experience was easy-to-moderate.  Hard core kayakers (is that a word?) would probably be bored, and it would probably be a little too hard for kids.  So I thought this was a great experience for the public in general.

   I mentioned hiking in my previous post and I'll say it again, PUT it on your bucket list.  The views were unbeatable, the weather was perfect, and there was something so amazing about working hard and EARNING your "lay on the beach time" for later.

   The first hike we did was the Lanikai pillboxes (pictures in my previous post) and I would say it was fairly beginner level.  The second hike we did was the Koko Head trail and boy was tough.  I mean, there were some seasoned veterans basically jogging the thing, but I honestly thought I was going to die a few times.  So I'm not sure what that would make level?  O.k. so it was probably more realistically moderate, and I just need to get in better shape.  But it was HARD.

    At one point in the trail, the ground falls away beneath you far away into the ravine below, and all there is to walk on is the railroad ties.  That was actually my favorite part.

   (I forgot to take a picture of that part, and so I found this one online over here.)  I heard someone refer to it as "Mount Everest, except with less snow."  Obviously they were exaggerating, but that definitely made me feel better.  But once again, the views at the top were unbeatable.

   Would I do it again?  Yes, yes I actually would.  But I would work my way up to it, maybe by conquering a few lesser hikes first, and not do it on the second day, immediately after we did the Pillboxes.  This resulted in searing pain and jello legs for the next few days, and so I never did quite feel up to another hike on the trip.  Sad, sad, so very sad.  I want to go back and hike All. The. Things.

   The place where we stayed was teeny tiny (another great way to save $$)  but it had access to a beach that was almost always empty and so private.  It was so beautiful there.  One morning Randy and I walked out there and watched the sunrise.

   Another way to save money is to stick to a mid-size, plain Jane, rental car.  And then if you're lucky like we were, they'll be all out of those and tell you to just upgrade to the convertible for free! :)

   As I mentioned earlier, Kualoa ranch was one of our highlights.  It is BEATIFUL there and they offer several different types of tours.  Bus, boat, ATVs, and horseback.  I would definitely prefer the horseback, but my dear husband has already endured that once before for me, and so it wouldn't be nice to make him do that again.:)  We took the bus tour and they shoot lots of scenes for movies and TV shows in that valley, and showed us all the different spots that they used.

  It was the perfect activity after all of our muscle soreness from hiking, swimming and kayaking.  Of course Randy could have kept going just fine, that guy is a beast.  One of these days he just needs to train for Everest or something because I am sure that the grueling, mind-numbing training would be a little bit of Heaven for him.  

  There is so much more to share, but this post is already too long, so tune in next time for more ideas for your next tropical vacation! 


Hawaii update, Part 1.

   Before we considered Hawaii as a destination for our (belated) 5th anniversary trip, I emailed Lisa Rondo  and asked her how to do Hawaii on a budget.  I'm not even sure what I was looking/hoping for, but her reply flooded my inbox with so many good tips, ideas and suggestions that we just HAD to try them.:)  

   Hawaii fever had bit, and after much research and planning, we bought our tickets for Oahu.  We practically used her email as an itinerary and I LOVED every minute!  I cannot stress enough the importance of asking locals, or someone who lived there before for ideas before you plan a trip.  Otherwise, you are going to get the touristy version of Hawaii.  And who wants that, really?  So armed with her advice, we were off for the vacation of a lifetime.  

    Would you take a look at this gorgeousness?  This was the first image out of my camera on the trip.  We got into Hawaii on a Sunday afternoon and took it easy, settling into our room and buying groceries and walking along our private beach.  Then the next morning we started things off right with a beautiful hike up to the Lanikai pillboxes (left over from the war) and the weather was perfect.

   See those twin islands?  On a different day we rented kayaks and paddled out to the one on the left.  If it's not on your bucket list yet, WRITE IT DOWN.

   Randy doing the obligatory "look like I'm holding the island" picture and being none too happy about it. ;)

   There are so many different directions these updates could take....where to eat, what to do, etc.  I will try to explore those areas further in future posts.  But for today,  I really want to just keep it simple, because saving money on vacation is just that.  Simple.  So here are my top 5 tips for "doing Hawaii on a budget".

1.  Book your tickets in advance.  If your vacation dates are flexible, that is best.  We just watched tickets for a while and had a vague idea of when we'd like to go, and then based our trip around the cheapest tickets we found.

2.  Don't splurge on a resort.  The island is incredible and you're going to want to get out there and see ALL of it.  So just rent a tiny little place off of that is big enough for the two of you, and maybe a little kitchenette.  That's all you need.

3.  Cook some of your own food. We used the little kitchenette in our tiny little place to make breakfast and stocked the fridge with bottled water and other groceries so we could pack lunches and snacks.  Then we tried to keep eating out to a minimum.  But when we did eat out, we made it count!:)  There are SO many amazing places to eat there. Which brings me to my next point....

4.  Skip the nice restaurants.  The hole-in-the-wall places have the BEST food anyway, and half of the time you have salty ocean hair and your swimsuit on, and so you don't really want to sit down in a fancy place anyways.

5. Do free stuff.  Our favorite activities were hiking, (Pillboxes and Koko head) swimming, snorkeling ($10 rental gear) and just walking in town or on the beaches.  I do wish we would have sprung for a surfing lesson, but that can be saved for NEXT time. ;)  Other things that weren't free, but still very affordable were  visiting Pearl Harbor, renting kayaks, and touring the Kualoa ranch.  

   Tune in later for more details of our Hawaiian adventure, and how even on a budget, you could have one too!

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