Thursday, February 26, 2015

the road to never again

So the Road to Hana. This long stretch of winding, old road is known for its majestic scenery and also its penchant to cause car sickness. There are old, skinny, tiny roads with one way bridges and sharp curves. Of course, there is also spectacular scenery, but I find it just as beautiful when Jess brings the scenery home to me. Those cameras have an important purpose - they buy my freedom. 

I always find a way out of it. The old stand by, "The babies are too little. I'll stay with them. You go." Or there is, "Oh, the girls get car sick. Do you want to clean up puke?" Or maybe, "Just no. No." 

Somehow, and I'm still not sure how it happened, but I agreed to take the kids on the Road to Hana (now otherwise known as the Road to Hell). Jess promised to take it "normal person speed" and not "photographer speed." Meaning, Jess promised to not stop every time a bug moved and take a thirty minute video. (True story.)

To be fair, he stayed true to his word. But the Road to Hana. How can I? The Road to Hana with kids is just a very dumb idea. It's long, hot, humid, and why don't a bunch of fast food chains take up camp there? Do you know what some chicken nuggets would do for the stamina of the toddlers? JUST A BRILLIANT IDEA. I KNOW. 

Anyhow, the aforementioned curving road description is for reals. Thankfully, no one puked, but kids really don't care about the sweeping jungle vistas. They just want to be covering every inch of their body in sand and stuffing their faces with resort chicken tenders and fries. 

The hike Jess really wanted us to do, the one to the "bamboo forest" (we call it the Bamboo Forest Hike but it is actually called Pipiwai Trail, just adjacent to the Seven Sacred Pools), was at the very end of the miserably long drive. So it was like, let's sit in the car and starve and sweat for hours. Okay now let's get out and hike up a mountain. Four miles round trip.

We did that. Our babies did that.

(Side note. It was a very beautiful hike. But that fact is literally tangential at this point.)

I'm sure that I would love Hana if I went without the kids. I would enjoy the singular scenery of the Hawaiian jungle, stay in the car and read books while Jess filmed palms fluttering in the winds, all while munching on a roasted pig. Because hungry. The struggle is real. But with kids, no. Just no. 

Every person who ever said the Road to Hana was totally manageable with kids is a big fat liar. Or maybe insane. That said, I can now say I've done the Road to Hana. And I'm fairly certain I can say I'll never do it again.


This giant banyan tree is about 1/4 the way up the trail. You want to believe you've made progress. But then you start the uphill journey again and you realize it may. never. end. (The girls are sitting on one of it's ginormous extended branches.)

This is how basically every hiking photo of me looks. If I would've looked up, my death glare would've possibly killed Jess, at the very least, his camera.

Lou was a friggin machine. We would've turned back gladly had this little psycho not kept going and going and "Imma hiker!" "I'm da leader!" on and on and on. She is from another planet. I'm convinced. She's driving the ship, and we're just along for the ride, I'm fairly certain. 

All the way down we sang songs to distract us from our pain and starvation issues. Belle and I stopped to take photos. 

Exhibit A: fake.

Exhibit B: REALITY.

We reached the bamboo forest and we were like YAY WE CAN GO BACK. But at just that moment, Grandma and Aunt Jessica appeared. And suddenly the girls were like, "Heck yes we're going to make it to the top." And so we did. Major props to these babies who not only met their Daddy's expectations but exceeded them. They really were little amazing hiking troopers.

The distortion on this one is just too great to pass up.
Also, don't mind the FATALITIES sign my child is posing with.

And we're out. They literally slept like bears in hibernation that  night. So darn proud of these hiking babies who have a far better attitude than me. :) So long Hana!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

now and then

I graduated from Brigham Young University a decade ago. It really does seem like a different lifetime entirely. My hair had more random colors and could be coerced into somewhat natural curls. I was a twig (oh how I wish I would've realized that back then!) and I ran and ran and ran all the time. Wide leg jeans. I ate Del Taco at least three times a week. I drank 32 ounce Mr. Pibbs from the drive through Crest (gas station) on a sometimes twice daily basis. They'd see me pulling up and have it hanging out the window when I got there. I'd pull all nighters on a regular basis - for my senior project I remember I purposely waited to pull an all nighter. Because it was my last chance! Dude. What I wouldn't give to have that sleep back. :) 

Most of these vestiges of  my college self are fairly extinct now. I run occasionally, I sleep whenever I can, and Mr. Pibb gave way to the Diet Dr Pepper many years ago. But I've held on to a few things - my editing minor continues to serve me, my penchant for messenger bags (never ever did use a backpack and to this day I have a shoulder bag with me at all times), my rogue design classes have been the backbone of my little design business, my somewhat hippy love for Birkenstocks (year round, baby), and there are these friends.

These cute gals are the kind of friends that you hold on to. We haven't seen each other in years, but we've kept track of each other. It's a long story, but we met up at Home Depot for the Kid's Workshop a few weeks ago. And then they came to our little house for dinner a few days later. (Why didn't we take photos?!) They gave the girls a Valentine that said, "Roses are red, violets are blue, I know we just met, but we love you." And they do. They are like the aunts the girls never knew they had, but how they love them already! And so do I - we talked for hours, much too late for our Grandma bones, but the catching up we had to do! And the memories! Like that one date I went on in the middle of the woods with a shorter than me guy that had a mustache. Remind me to tell you that one someday. And these girls are some of my favorite conversationalists. Funny and witty and know something about everything. I remember even in the good ol' days craving a good conversation with these ladies - I always came away a little better, my spirits lifted. And it is still the same with them. I just love their guts.

And so my friends - thank you for keeping track of me. And my babies. Here's to many more (not too) late nights of the best chats and even better laughs. :)

This wood was much thicker (? more dense ? I'm really not well versed in construction terminology)
than other projects, and it was pretty hard to get the nails in.
Lou resorted to using the other end of the hammer.
I know it's blurry, but really, she's hilarious.

Annabelle's apron with all her pins has gone missing.
It's killing me! If you could all send good vibes my way,
I'm sure my mom brain will remember where we put it at some point.

Monday, February 16, 2015

so loved

This year, our Valentine's holiday was replete with preparations and activities. But there was one that I didn't capture on film. Er memory card? And so I want to capture it here. Because I want to remember it. Indulge me if you will. (Or if you'd rather, just scroll down for photos. :) )

We have a favorite cashier at Target - Yvonne. She's the Target grandma, and the girls love her. She squirrels away little gifts and stickers and suckers for the girls, and on holidays, she always has a little something special for them. Sometimes a few somethings. She's the old fashioned kind of cashier - the one who knows your name and how you're doing and has a special place in her heart for your little ones. When she sees us, she'll give a wave and a "Lou Louuuu!"

This year, the girls included her in the Valentine bracelet making that we do each year. And so on Valentine's Day, we stopped by Target and visited Yvonne with a little card and bracelet. Of course, Yvonne had gifts for them (although she'd already given them a gift earlier that week), and then she took each of their faces in her beautiful grandma hands, hands with wrinkles worn by a lifetime of living, and kissed them each on the forehead, her eyes squinted shut in that way we do when we're keeping emotions from slipping out. And then the girls, each in turn and without prompting, wrapped their arms around her neck and pecked her on the cheek, a kiss for Grandma Yvonne. The girls jumped up and down and yelled "Have a happy Valentine's Day Yvonne! We love you!" And Yvonne waved them goodbye, one hand wagging in the air, one over her heart.

I don't know what faith Yvonne claims or if she even claims a faith at all. But I do know this - her love is as Christlike as I've ever seen. It's not just for my girls either; she loves each and every person that walks through her line. She takes the time to talk to them - she knows their stories, their dogs. Their struggles, their dreams. She notices when you cut your hair and knows customers by name. She wants to know about your vacation and how kindergarten is going. I've watched her and listened to her and loved her for years now. And on this Valentine's Day, I watched as she loved my girls and they loved her right back. And I want to remember that - hearts full of love. No reservation, no reason to hold back. Just love. 

I feel so very blessed that my girls have so many people who love them and watch out for them. Not just Mommy and Daddy, who unabashedly love them from their tops of their heads to their tiny toes, but also aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, cousins, friends, teachers, coaches. And even their favorite cashier at Target. What a wonderful thing to be loved by so many. May they ever give their love in return.


Photos from our many Valentine's Day preparations and activities.

We didn't do candy Valentines this year.
We opted for Lou's favorite animal instead. :)

She's my favorite. :) All pink and red and Valentinesy.

Heart hair! (Thank you Pinterest.)

Lou and I got to help with the Kindergarten Valentine's Day party.
Oh the sugar and chaos. It was magical. :)

By the end of the day, they were SO WIRED.
Out of control.
So here we are watching a movie
in a desperate attempt to stop bouncing off the walls. :)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

happy heart day!

Yep. It's sort of a fake holiday, but I love it so. I don't need many excuses to buy gifts or throw parties or eat sugar. So Valentine's Day is pretty much basically the best.

Over the years, I've taken to nixing the Christmas card (because time) and sending out Valentine's cards. They've turned into some of my favorites, and this year is maybe my very favorite. Those happy faces. I cannot ever get enough of them. I know we're only two months in, but 2015 is welcome to stick around for a while. The tide has shifted - the happiness is almost tangible and those smiles are so toothy. My heart is so full.

Happy Heart Day y'all. :)

Go here to see Valentine's Day 2010.
Go here to see Valentine's Day 2011.
Go here to see Valentine's Day 2012.
Go here to see Valentine's Day 2013.
Go here to see Valentine's Day 2014.

And the outtakes - because HAPPY.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


A close friend of the Cheneys' passed away last week. After a long and insanely valiant fight against cancer, a stroke took her. Linda is the Maui friend - their family is always there when the Cheneys are there. One of her grandsons, Carson, is a few years older than Annabelle and most definitely her first crush. This year, they played tag on the beach and giggled and smiled at each other, and I know I should be mortified, but I think it's just the cutest thing.

The girls came to the funeral with us, and although they could sense the sorrow in the room, they weren't emotional. I don't think they really understood. But then when her friend stood up with his family to follow his grandma's casket out of the room, Annabelle saw Carson and his tears and his sadness. And my Annabelle, the one with the most tender heart I know - the tears welled up in her eyes and she grieved for her friend, for his loss. It's a loss that she doesn't understand, but she does understand that her friend was sad. And so she shared in his grief, and we all cried for that shared grief, the sadness of losing someone so dearly loved. We know that forever is real and that in the long term, our happiness will be far greater than any earthly sorrow, but for now, this earthly mission of ours can be so painful. 

And so I let her cry. I didn't tell her to stop, to be a big girl. Because she was being a big girl. She was finding her way into empathy, and in a way I was so proud, proud of her ability to care so deeply. She leaned into my shoulder and sobbed as tears poured silently out of my eyes, for our friends' loss, for the shared sorrow of this life. We both leaned into that grief, and I let her take it in. Because as hard as it is, grief and sadness and all the things that hurt us - they come. 

And through our tears, I realized that while my babies will experience grief and heartache and sorrow, I know they will also experience the happiest of happiness. The opportunity to experience both will allow them to not only more fully comprehend their human experience but also to take care of each other, of their friends, of me. My hope is that the grief they experience will teach them to be tender and to keep their hearts open. To love each other and give room for grief - their own and others'. 

If I could, I would take away their sorrow in a heartbeat. I would experience it for them if someone gave me the option. Gladly. Because watching them hurt is far worse than any pain I have ever known. Ever. But then they wouldn't know that even on the darkest day, there is light somewhere. They wouldn't be able to experience the moments where we really see other, and take the chance to take care of each other. Sometimes I feel like everything is all so fragile. And it is. But I think that's what makes it valuable and worth protecting. And worth experiencing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

whale of a tale

Annnnd the whale watching tour. Because we happen to travel in a giant pack, we got our very own boat, which turned out to be super convenient: when a whale jumped on the opposite side of the boat, you could throw elbows or toss kids out of the way to get your shot. 

The whales put on a serious show for us. We saw several, including a few mommy/baby pairs, which are just my favorite. The best sighting - a big ol' whale breaching literally next to us - wasn't captured by Jess' camera (he should've thrown an elbow?). But the girls saw it. So amazing. One whale slid right up next to us, a big white, speckly mass sliding just beneath the surface of the water. Pretty magical. I love that the girls got to experience this, the magnitude of such an animal. So huge and majestic. And maybe a little teeny bit scary when they're like ten feet away.

Side note - that murky air isn't a filter or a camera glitch. They were experiencing "vog," or volcano fog. Locals would ask us how we were coping with their vog. We all live in the Salt Lake Valley's horrible inversion, which is maybe a million times worse than this so called air pollution, so we were like YOUR AIR IS SO PURE AND DELIGHTFUL CAN WE HAVE SOME MORE.

Oh, major props to Aunt Stephani who brought mini binocs for the kids. Does not get any cuter. Or more fun. When you ask the girls what their favorite part of Hawaii is, it's always a toss up between the beach and the whales. And no wonder. :)


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