Friday, June 9, 2023

Goodbye Freshman, Hello Sophomore

​Today, Annika wrapped up her Freshman year of high school. She had finals Tuesday-Friday. Her hardest/most taxing finals (honors bio and alg 2/trig) were on Tuesday, so the rest of the week was rather manageable for her. Today’s final was PE; the kids had to run a mile (hence the workout clothes in her pic below).

Annika’s first year as a Bear was full of fun, challenges, and adventures. Some of her key takeaways from the year include:

- Building a new friend group

- Being in choir, English, and painting classes

- Going to NY with her choir group

- Bio class field trips to Greenlake to test the water for their ecology labs (and some people jumping in!)

She’s looking forward to a summer filled with relaxing/sleeping in, sailing camp, Irish dance, and Miss Emma!

While taking this photo, Annika realized how she has grown into her Class of 2026 shirt. It used to go almost down to her knees (see 2nd grade photo) and now it fits her like a regular, ol' shirt.

(I truly appreciate her willingness to humor me and still take beginning/end-of-the-school year photos.) 

Friday, June 2, 2023

Proof we clean up from time to time

​Anyone who truly knows us understands that we are a mighty casual family. Shorts, t-shirts, and bare feet are our go-to attire whenever possible. 

A couple of weeks ago, we ventured to Lake Chelan to attend our nephew’s wedding. Yes, we still wore shorts and t-shirts most of the time (it was HOT!!), but we also donned our fancy clothes for the ceremony and reception. 

I think we clean up quite nicely when the occasion arises!

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Blog app acquired and Memorial Day fun

​I realized something awhile ago: I have many been as good about maintaining the blog (duh!) because most of my photos are on my phone and the blog was maintained on my laptop.  It was a hassle to get the photos moved from one device to the other; yes, I’m that lazy. Ha! Today, I took it upon myself to look for an app for our blog server. Lo and behold! I found one. Yippee!! Now I can more easily record our family happenings and adventures.

Speaking of adventures, last weekend was Memorial Day weekend. Our plan was to spend the weekend getting tasks at home done, but Eric also suggested that we head to the WAC (Aka UW waterfront activity center) and rent canoes for a little outing on Washington. Such a smart guy!!

We chose a gray, overcast day in order to avoid crowds, having to wait for boats, and sunburns. (Strategy!!) 

Eric and Annika were in one canoe; Conor and I were in the other. We saw lots of wildlife (heron, ducks, a turtle, an eagle, and geese) while on the water. 

We explored a new (to us) part of the lake, which was quite fun. In the past, we have always gone south l toward and under 520, but couldn’t due to the bridge’s ongoing construction project. Instead, we went north along the shore. We went right by the football stadium and under a very cute wooden foot bridge. (Yes, we did have to duck VERY low to go under the bridge!)

When we talked to the rental gal, she mentioned the possibility of seeing turtle by going north. We had no clue Lake Washington had turtles and were quite excited to see on sitting on a log as we paddled by.  (We also witnessed some sort of heron spat, which was exciting in a different way! So many large, flapping wings!!) Fortunately, the rest of the wildlife we encountered was less agitated than the herons were.

After an hour or so, we were back on shore. I’m happy to report no one capsized, no phone went into the lake during photo opportunities, and we remained sunburn-feee. Win all around!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Hello, 9th and 7th grades

 It is embarrassing to admit that it has been over a year since I last posted here. Life during a pandemic is odd, let's just say that.

I'm using the kids' returns to school as the oomph I need to reignite my blog-er-iffic record keeping and notes about our comings and goings.

Yesterday, Annika had her first official day of classes at Bishop Blanchet High School. Last week, she had 2 days of freshman orientation AND she had all-student orientation on Monday of this week. To say she was EXHAUSTED when I picked her up from school yesterday would be quite the understatement. Her brain was complete mush. Her school has a block schedule system; yesterday she had Algebra 2/Trig, Honors Biology, Personal Finance, and Theology.  Today, she'll have English, Treble Choir, PE, and Community Period (akin to homeroom, but with the addition of community topics/social justice/etc.) She has met a lot of new people so far and has a couple of familiar faces from CKS in some classes. 

Conor begins his 7th grade adventure at Christ the King (aka CKS) today. He's quite torn - he's excited to see his friends on a regular basis, but he is also sad to say goodbye to summer. Yesterday, he and I went to the school's meet-and-greet event to drop off his school supplies and to meet the new 7th grade teacher. We were thrown for a loop because the 6th and 7th grade classrooms were flipped over the summer, so Conor wound up dropping off his supplies in the same room he was in last year. That said, he'll rotate rooms during the day based on subject. His electives for this fall will be drawing and board games (where were these fun classes when I was in middle school???)

In true kiddo fashion, both kids are already counting down to the upcoming Labor Day weekend so they can soak up a little more summer fun and relax. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Hawaii: Day 8

This morning was one I've anticipated for quite some time now. It was standup paddle board (SUP) lesson day! When we originally planned this vacation (cough cough pre-COVID cough cough), we asked the kids what they wanted to do while in Hawaii and Annika's request was "surfing lessons". Before cancelling our 2020 trip, we signed up for surfing lessons. That said, the realization that we'd probably never go surfing again in our lives was there and made the lessons seem a bit less practical. Fast forward to when we re-planned this trip, we opted to take paddle boarding lessons instead, knowing the chances of us actually using the skills again were much greater. (Plus, there were no surfing lessons available with Maui Surf Lessons the week we would have wanted them, so that simplified things quite a bit!)

After breakfast (this time, we did take-out from the Kihei Caffe), we gathered up our gear and headed about 15 minutes south to Makena Beach. Our instructor, Curtis, was there waiting for us as soon as we arrived and quickly proved to be very personable, knowledgeable, and safety focused.

Curtis started out with the on-land portion of our time together. He talked about how to ride on the SUP, how to fall off of the SUP (very important skill), how to approach waves, how to paddle and maneuver the SUP, safety signals, and what we might see while on the water. He also taught us a bit about the Hawaiian language, including how to pronounce some words, the meaning of some words, and how the 'okina (aka the stop that looks like a single quote mark) impacts words. Pretty neat stuff!

When it was time to enter the water, Curtis helped us launch one-by-one, starting with Eric, followed by Conor, Annika, and then me. Standing up on a SUP is no joke when you're a newbie. Fortunately for us, the water was incredibly calm. In fact, Curtis kept calling it Lake Pacific because of how smooth the water was. (We lucked out, apparently, because the day before, the SUP lesson he taught had to be cut a bit short due to wind.) We spent a good chunk of time getting our feet under us and figuring out how to balance while on the SUP and how to fall off of the SUP... a skill we all needed along the way. (Except for Curtis, of course, because he's the pro!)

Eric paddling away

Me working on the whole "balance on water" thing

The paddling Olsons!

If we did this shape on purpose, we could have called
it synchronized paddle boarding, but sadly, we didn't...

I love how intense his posture is

Conor catching his breath and enjoying his balance




Off to search for turtles

Dig, dig, dig

Once he thought we had the basics figured out, Curtis took us a bit further out so we could try to spy some sea turtles that like to hang out in the caves formed by lava flows. Lucky for us, we saw two turtles.... one of which popped up right in front of Annika's SUP. She (the turtle) was gorgeous and happy to let us peek at her for more than a second. (Per Curtis, the short tail is a way to tell that it was a female turtle and because she didn't dive right away, she was comfortable with us being there with her... at a safe distance, of course.)

Our new turtle friend

Hello, pretty turtle

After tootling around the bay for awhile longer, it was time to start heading back to shore. (Side note, I'd like to note I was the last one of us to go into the water ... and that wasn't until the last 5-ish minutes of our SUP time.) Curtis went to shore first and then had us paddle in one-by-one so he could help us safely return to shore and get the gear out of the water. Top notch experience all around!

We drove back to Kihei after bidding Curtis a fond farewell and de-sanded/de-salt watered ourselves. We kicked back at the condo for much of the day. I read my book on the balcony (and startled a bird on the roof when I sneezed!) while Eric and the kids hung out inside soaking up the AC. A little after 2, the four of us trekked through the parking lot and introduced Eric to Gus the Bus. Eric asked James (the owner) for a flavor recommendation. James said the coffee and dragonfruit flavors were his favorites. So, Eric ordered the coffee option and I ordered the dragonfruit option. Annika chose a combo of root beer, birthday cake, and cotton candy. Conor returned to his beloved lemon/lime flavor profile. After a bite, Eric was hooked!

James, our shaved ice chef

Oh the color!!!

I wanted to try for a few more turtle photos, so grabbed my camera and headed to the beach. (Yes, I'm pretty sure I've become an official sea turtle stalker... but in the nicest of ways.) I climbed up on the lava rocks I knew the turtles congregate at and waited ... and waited. The water was a bit rougher than I expected (it wasn't windy, which I hoped meant the water would be calmer than it had been on previous days) which I suspected kept the turtles closer to the bottom. Eventually, I saw a turtle head pop up. I realized that my turtle stalking has evolved ... I can now somewhat frequently find them when they are just under the surface of the water. I've learned to identify how the water moves a little differently as their shells slide along under the surface. I saw something today I had yet to see... turtles inside waves. The first time I saw it, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Then awhile later, I saw it again... and again. I tried to snap photos of the turtles in the waves but didn't realize I actually GOT any photos until I was able to get the camera's SD card into the computer and scroll through my photos. 

This sailboat was moored there the entire time we were on Maui.

Foamy waves

Molokini in the distance

Can you find the turtles in the wave?

Lava rocks getting swallowed by the waves

I could look at this water all day, every day

Eric grilled steaks for our final dinner in Hawaii. I'd like to point out that he made some AMAZING steaks all without the benefit of a meat thermometer... the man is THAT good at the grill. The rest if iyr dinner was pieced together based on what food items we still had to use up so things didn't go to waste. The kids thought they had died and gone to Heaven when they got to finish the remaining ice cream treats in the freezer .... seconds on dessert? Uhhh. yes please!

Following dinner, we officially entered "pack up and get ready to head home" mode. Packing cubes area an amazing little invention and made packing for this trip so much easier. Each person was responsible for packing his/her clothes into packing cubes, which I then Tetrised into the checked luggage. (We are grateful for a few travel-related inventions: suitcases with wheels, packing cubes, and portable luggage scales!)

As I sit here now, I half can't believe this trip finally happened. Our time in Hawaii was a 3+ years in the making and happened over a year later than we originally expected. Was waiting to be here worth it? Without a doubt. Tonight during dinner, Eric asked everyone if we'd want to come back at some point in the future. All of us answered a whole-hearted "YES!" That is always the sign of a good trip... if you hope to return in the future.

I hope this isn't a true goodbye. I am choosing to bid Hawaii "ahui hou" instead, hoping that we'll have the chance to return some day. (Ahui hou = Until we meet again)

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Hawaii: Day 7

Before we headed to Hawaii, a few people we know recommended things to do, places to eat, and places to go. One of Eric's co-workers has a condo on Maui and was full of incredibly helpful information. Two of the restaurants she suggested were put on today's to-do (to-eat?) list.

We had breakfast at Kihei Caffe and, oh my goodness, was it ever good! Eric had "eggs any way" (scrambled, duh) that came with a biscuit and Spam (Eric was one happy guy!). Annika had the fluffiest buttermilk pancakes we've ever seen ... and to make them even better, she had them topped with strawberry slices. Conor had a Belgium waffle topped with chocolate chips (another happy guy!). I chose the crab cake eggs Benedict. So good! We were all completely stuffed, but in a "I couldn't eat another bite, but I would if I could" sort of way.

After breakfast, we popped back to the condo to digest. Around 10, we headed north to Lahaina, which started out as a whaling town way back when. The drive up was very pretty with ocean views much of the way. The town's architecture was unexpectedly old. There were a few from the 1800s! We peeked in a bunch of the souvenir shops along the way and quickly realized we were just seeing the same shirts/dresses/necklaces over and over again, which made the shopping a relatively quick experience after awhile. That said, Annika did find a cute sundress and Conor found a sweatshirt to wear back at home when the cool weather returns. (Not now! We keep seeing alerts that the PNW is experiencing a heat wave.) 

Lahaina felt very touristy (at least, where we were) and I realized we kept seeing the same things store after store. What really stood out to me was the architecture. The old colonial feel was still very present in the buildings along the main street. At one point, there was even a wooden plank section of sidewalk. It felt a bit like a trip back in time. We even saw the Baldwin Home, which was the home (turned museum) of Rev. & Mrs. Baldwin, two of the original missionaries in Lahaina. 

One of the things I really wanted us to see was the Lahaina banyan tree. It started out as a single-trunked 8' tree that was planted in 1873. Now, the single tree that is 60' tall and spans an acre of land. Apparently, banyan trees not only grow up, but out. There are trunks all over the park and the leaves/branches have created a gorgeous and refreshingly cool canopy. Someone really thought ahead with that tree and the park! Initially, the park was planned to give the local working class a place to escape the heat and find a comfortable place to relax.

On our way back from Lahaina, we stopped at another place that Eric's co-worker recommended, Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop, which is in Olowalu. We picked up a to-go lunch and some of their mini pies. Once back at the condo, we sat down for lunch (due to COVID, there was no in-house dining at Leoda's). To say the sandwiches were tasty is an understatement. They were fantastic. The bread is made right there at the restaurant and if I'd known how good it is, I would have inquired about buying an entire loaf of it. It was a delicate wheat bread that had great flavor and texture ... basically, the prima donna of bread.

After all of that delicious food, we needed to burn it off. We donned our swimsuits and headed to the pool. The water felt marvelous! Eric and Annika busied themselves by having races from end to end while Conor and I practiced our underwater handstands. We also had fun standing with our heads under the waterfalls, which are part of the rockery at one end of the pool.

Eric decided to take full advantage of being on vacation and opted to take an afternoon nap. To help him succeed in his endeavor, the kids and I decided to go for a walk. (Quiet condo = better nap!)

Annika, Conor, and I quickly got detoured when we noticed the shaved ice van (Gus the Bus) was parked outside. Win! Gus the Bus is a converted blue/white VW van from the 1960s, and it is beyond adorable as a shaved ice food van. We'd heard of this famous Hawaiian treat, but hadn't gotten around to trying it yet. We decided it was high time to right that very great wrong! I had expected a snow cone, little chunks of ice bits that are flavored with a syrup of some sort. Boy, was I was wrong. It is more like eating fluffy snow, and it is quite delightful. I ordered a POG shaved ice, which was literally POG juice frozen in a huge cylinder and then shaved. Annika had POM (passion, orange, mango). Conor chose a lemon/lime option. 

Gus the Bus

We took our treats to the Kamaole Beach Park I (aka the beach that is across from the condo complex) and happily sat on the sand while digging our toes in the sand and enjoying our shaved ice. After the kids finished their treats, they happily put themselves to "work" creating a variety of sand art and sculptures. I happily sat on the beach, watching the kids have a great time and taking in the glorious ocean views. The breeze kept us from feeling too hot... as did the occasional dips of toes in the ocean.

Annika's "sandman" creation

By the time we made it back to the condo, Eric was up and ready to hear about our adventures. I promised to take him back to the shaved ice van tomorrow so he could find out how tasty it is first hand. He is definitely in for a treat!!

The rest of the evening was very low key. We picked up dinner from the food trucks (Aloha Thai Fusion and Kina'ole Grill) that park outside the condo complex each day. With our yummy food in hand, we happily kicked up our feet for the remainder of the evening. I read my book, Eric and Annika watched a movie they found on TV, and Conor played a video game. 

Tomorrow will be another activity day, so a little R&R evening was just what we needed.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Hawaii: Day 6

 This morning, I was bound and determined to hit the beach (Kamaole Beach I) early and attempt to get some photos. I happily had sand-covered feet before 7 AM (there are serious advantages to traveling this direction in terms of time zones... we are ready to start our days nice and early!). In the early morning hours, the water is calmer, which makes for rather tranquil landscape photo opportunities. I had a clear view of Molokini and was able to get shots of some pretty waves as they broke over the lava rocks. 


Waves and lava rocks

While I was out, I happened upon a very chatty retiree who has lived on Maui for the past 7 years. He gave me the scoop on some of the sea life (including the helmet urchin we saw a few days ago), recommended we avoid going to Big Beach (no lifeguards + sudden depth change = unsafe), warned me about a venomous shelled creature on the beach, and offered some restaurant recommendations. All in all, quite a handy person to meet!

No clue what this is but it was really neat to look at.
It reminded me of a huge marble.

Sea urchin holding on for life

As luck would have it, a sea turtle surfaced while I was standing on a rock outcropping. Hurray!!! It stuck its nose out of the water a few times. (Eric says I should name it Sheldon, which seems very reasonable to me!)

Hello, Sheldon!

Sheldon showing me his big smile

After I got back from my beach photography excursion, we rallied the troops and hit the beach, snorkel gear in hand. We started out in water with very little visibility due to the churn and shallow depth of the water. As we made our way north (and into deeper water), we were able to see a bit further. During the first part of our snorkeling, we really saw nothing more than the sandy bottom. Fortunately, that shifted as we neared the lava rock jetty I'd visited a little bit earlier when I was out taking photos. Pretty soon, we started to see a variety of pretty fish and coral below us, not to mention sea urchin and interesting rock formations. Then... I saw it. A sea turtle! A big sea turtle was tucked up on the sandy bottom next to a rock formation. I swear that my heart skipped a beat when I realized what I was looking at. I tugged on Conor and pointed out the turtle to him. As soon as I knew he saw it, I popped my head out of the water and signaled for Eric and Annika to join us so they could see it, too. Needless to say, we were all quite excited. Then we saw another turtle ... and another ... and another! It was AMAZING. Before we came to Hawaii, I saw a video online that was made by a family to document their Molokini/Turtle Town snorkeling. At one point, one of the little boys in the family said, "I saw a gwampa tuwtle" (he coudn't say his R's yet). We DEFINITELY saw a "big gwampa tuwtle" today, too. The fourth sea turtle we saw was enormous. It took every ounce of strength not to just stay there all day watching it rest on the ocean floor. What is so neat about these marvelous creatures is how still and calm they were. They just hung out on the sandy sea floor while we gawked at them. (I can't help but wonder if one of the turtles that I we saw during our snorkeling adventure was Sheldon!)  After awhile, however, it was time to move on. Conor and I started to make our way back to our belongings on the beach so we could try out body surfing and because my left foot was getting a sore spot from where the fin was rubbing it. While we did that, Eric and Annika made another loop around the rocks to find any remaining sights to see before packing up for the day.

After wrapping up our snorkeling and body surfing adventure, we walked back to the condo, showered, ate breakfast, and relaxed for a bit. I briefly zipped out to return the snorkel gear and make a much-anticipated run to Starbucks for iced Americanos for Eric and me and strawberry lemonades for the kids. MMMM!! Coffee!!

I had hoped the turtles would be near the surface again during high tide (the retiree I met earlier said they are sometimes more visible then because the feed off of the rocks), so Annika and I meandered back to the beach around 3 to see if we could spy any. We didn't have any luck in the turtle department, but definitely had a great walk on the beach together. Annika had fun making feet prints, writing words and hearts in the sand... and trying out her own photography skills with my phone's camera. The water was very choppy due to the wind, which we guessed might have kept the turtles away from the rocks. (Smart turtles!) 

I could sit on this beach all day, every day
and simply watch the waves on the sand

Annika and I were here!

Annika making her mark on the world

Sharing a little love with Kihei

Annika's photo of the West Maui Mountains, palm trees, and the Pacific

Annika's palm tree reflections photo

While we were out and about on the beach, Annika found a coconut that was floating in the water. (Initially, I thought someone lost a hat, but it wasn't a hat at all!) She got a good case of the giggles because each time she threw it back in the ocean, it kept coming back to her. That coconut reallllly liked Annika! :)
Annika and her new best friend "Coconut"

For dinner, we opted to try a highly-rated restaurant called Coconut's Fish Cafe for takeout. Eric and I had mahi-mahi fish and chips while the kids had shrimp and chips. Prior to our trip, we all thought it would be fun to watch the Disney movie "Moana" while on Maui and tonight was the night. We sang along with the characters, laughed until our sides hurt (often before the funny part happened ... we just knew what was coming!), and simply enjoyed being together. We have a few family jokes/favorite movie quotes from "Moana" that simply don't grown old for us: "Boat snack", "You're so amazing", and "You're WEL-come" are definitely at the top of the list!