One of our favorite traditions of the Christmas season is our Christmas activity tree.

In years past, Little B has painted a big ol’ tree on large craft paper and we’ve “strung” the tree with paper ornaments with activities scrawled on the back. I’ve loved the whole process and B has always enjoyed it too.

Except that now that sweet, little, gap-toothed kid is now wearing braces and taller than his momma and all sorts of teenager-y.

Where does the time go?

So this year, while waiting in line at the Starbucks for a plain black tea I could have easily brewed at home my eyes fell upon an ornament advent “calendar.” Each Christmas ball ornament is stuffed with a wrapped piece of chocolate and is now neighbors with activities for each day that I just finished stuffing inside. We went out a purchased a small table top tree on which to hang the numbered ornaments and although it’s not as cute as BB’s handmade trees or his little painted paper ornaments… it’ll do.

I’ll take a picture and post it later, ’cause it is all kinds of cute and is befitting of my budding teenager.

Traditions are traditions even if they must be tweaked a bit as time passes!

Here are our activities for this year:

24. Letter to Santa (Shh! Don’t tell the boy to tell me one way or another what he believes!) and time capsule ornament.

23. Candy Cane Hunt and a Christmas Movie

22. Make tie-dyed wrapping paper and homemade ornaments.

21. Decorate the house with snowflakes.

20. Attend Honolulu City Lights (parade downtown Honolulu).

19. Gingerbread-house making and Christmas movie watching.

18. Make candy cane bark for gifting to friends.

17. Attend the Christmas Tree lighting on Schofield and check out the lights in the neighborhood.

16. Candy cane shakes and family game night.

15. Night walk to see lights with hot cocoa in hand.

14. Attend the Haleiwa Christmas parade on the North Shore.

13. Attend the Nutcracker and visit Waimanalo Farms for their rending of the Christmas Story (roast s’mores and go on their sweet Christmas Caroling hay ride).

12. Ice skating!

11. Make homemade ornaments and make teenager friendly egg nog (I’m not quite sure if that’s a white whale or not, as I’m not an egg nog person but by request…).

10. Watch an old Christmas movie on the projector outside with cookies and cocoa and popcorn and other yummy treats.

9. Make fudge for friends.

8. Decorate and make homemade gingerbread men (save for tomorrow).

7. Read Christmas stories by the tree and eat those yummy gingerbread-men we saved from yesterday.

6. Attend the PCC 30 minute canoe ride light extravaganza (and watch a star wars movie).

5. Host a game night for B’s friends along with a Christmas cookie decorating fiesta (plus watch another Star Wars movie).

4. Make homemade ornaments (plus watch another Star Wars movie).

3. Indoor “snowball” fight and Lights Scavenger Hunt (plus watch another Star Wars movie).

2. Christmas Carol with family and friends far away via Skype and sleep at the foot of the tree (plus watch another Star Wars movie).

1. Christmas Eve shenanigans: Make cookies for Santa, read A Night Before Christmas, make Reindeer Food, Open one present, and attend a candlelight service.

Merry Christmas everyone! May your Christmas season be warm, bright, and full of laughter and good cheer! May you be surrounded by love from both near and far! Enjoy the new memories made and as always…

I remain grateful.

Heading into my first class at Boston University in pursuit of another degree I knew things were going to be a bit wonky at times. Perhaps wonky isn’t the best word to describe filling in every open moment with copious amounts of reading, but it seems like it captures the wonkiness that is pursuing a master’s degree while homeschooling my seventh grader and being wife, ally, and best friend to my Beau.

In preparation, and very much keeping in mind the busyness that was our sixth grade year of homeschooling (not that it wasn’t every bit of amazing it could have been), we took a good long look at Brooks’s academic plan for the year, made sure it reflected not only a strong representation of the core subjects we always cover, but also streamlined his extra classes and activities into a category of “passions” and/or “must-haves.” I wanted to walk away with a good balance of challenging him while also staying true to not over-scheduling us and paying attention to the stuff he loves.

That was all good and dandy and I was feeling pretty proud of myself.

What do they say about pride coming before a fall?😉

Proverbs 16:18King James Version (KJV)

18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Okay, we didn’t get so much destroyed because in essence what came next was a melding of a blessing (Brooks getting more responsibility at work) and the culmination of LB’s robotics season (as well as a rearranging of bedtime to combat headaches The Boy was having).

So as we hit our stride in homeschooling and I killed, KILLED, my first semester (with the grace of God!) Brooks received the aforementioned information that he was about to incur more responsibility while at the same time LB was needing to attend more robotics meetings while combating headaches…

Did I mention I also tutor 21 students in el español?

I put off sleeping as much to make sure I helped and supported Brooks during a time period when putting in long hours is the norm. B and I worked the schedule for school as we could and worked on his bedtime routine to combat the headaches. I kept my readings for school close by to read what I could when I could and diligently worked the schedule while amazed at the energy God has given me lately to chug through what became some very long days.

The biggest balance in all this, juggling school work and homeschooling and being wife and mother as well, was making sure I was spending quality time with my boys. I know it sounds weird to think of it that way, in regards to the littlest Brooks in our household, but truth be told, poring over books and having long discourses or discussions on various topics, completing science experiments or working on programming… those things are all amazing and exciting and fun… but it doesn’t beat sitting down with B and playing video games or going for a walk with the dog with him or simply listening to music together… cooking in the kitchen together or drawing side by side…

Those are the moments when I can not only glimpse his heart but in which we can enjoy just being together.

And then of course, my poor beau. Who is working long hours and sometimes the extent of our time together was him working on his computer while I sat nearby, curled up with my reading and a cozy blanket. Sometimes the most time we had together was while I was cooking breakfast for him while I tried to figure out what the rest of our day might look like.

So, it wasn’t easy, but when you look at the big picture (this is just a season, this isn’t forever) and you couple that with your blessings (Brooks is doing something he absolutely loves, I have the ability to go to school and have so much support from my friends and loved ones, B is enjoying his school year and still finding time to spend with the friends he so loves, we are all healthy and happy and grateful) then the tough stuff doesn’t seem so tough as much as this-is-our-now.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t miss spending time together. So on Friday night we took off, just the two of us in search of a date that is not so much just dinner and a movie (though that’s exactly what we did) but an adventure, something new we could do together while enjoying each others company (even though it involved rush hour traffic and me reading on the way down to our date spot).

We ended up in Kaimuki. I’ve been in Kaimuki with my sister and Little B to eat at one of our favorite spots on island, Happy Days restaurant. I had no idea my search for a quirky and different spot to watch a movie would take us close to one of our favorite eating spots. Searching for a fun and different date minutes before we left the house found me trying to decipher this place called the Movie Museum. The show foreign and old movies as well as new stuff. It’s a good mix. And the website said there were leather seats involved and you could bring in your own food and drink. I was already sold. I called the number listed and can you believe a real person answered the phone? And not just any person, a gentleman who embodies the aloha spirit through and through. He took his time to explain his establishment, gave us clear directions, and then happily asked about our eating preferences while raving about establishments in his area that would no doubt leave us satisfied and full. He was all sorts of awesome.

We ended up arriving early, so we checked out various spots, picked out a location for dinner after the movie, and bought a present for the family to be withheld until Christmas at the comic book store nearby. The Movie Museum was tiny but amazing. We reclined in leather chairs with our fellow movie goers, held hands, and every so often I snuck looks at my Beau and marveled at how lucky I was (true story, as sappy as it sounds).  Dinner was as fabulous as promised and we ended up having an amazing time, catching up, and just enjoying each others company.

Dating is pretty awesome, even after you’ve said “I do.”

And even though we have been super duper busy, things are slowing down and nearing normal.

Life is good.

It’s sweet.

And as always, I remain every so grateful.

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Oh boy, oh boy!

I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around the fact that Little B is not so little anymore, and in fact, every day he shows in subtle and not so subtle ways how he’s growing, maturing, and turning into a young man. Every stage of his life has been fun, but every stage has also been cause for adjustments, be it in schedules, managing heart issues, friends, and imparting responsibility, among so many others. It’s a learning process, for the three of us, and thankfully, has been fodder for many discussions along the way.

I’m grateful for the heart my beau and son have not only for each other, but for our family. We truly enjoy each other’s company and I remain ever so thankful for that.

So seventh grade, although truly just another milestone in Brooks’s education, is cause for celebration. I have witnessed big changes this summer in my boy and it’s exciting to see how those changes will spur on changes in his schooling.

So we did what we do so well around here on big important days: we made it special, we did something to set that particular day aside for reflection, celebration, and joy. I kept things simple this year, y’all, and you know what? It was truly the most treasured of all our first days of schools.

I decorated the dining room simply for our special breakfast of too many pancakes, bacon, and fresh tropical fruit. I pulled out the table cloth and the fancy straws and pieces of tableware that were meaningful to our family. I wrote quotes to inspire my boy on his seventh grade journey and put them here and there around the room to delight and cause deep thinking.

We spent a lovely morning checking out new curriculum, taking an easy pace, laughing over unexpected results in our science experiment, and played some games. Lunch was a last minute change affair: fried peanut butter sandwiches paired with ice cold milk, veggie chips, and fruit. Brooks was so delighted at not just the laid back pace of the day, but at the way the schedule was set, that he worked so proficiently throughout the day, producing an amazing writing piece on his very first day of school. We worked on some fun art that held meaning to Brooks’s many “homes.” It led to a lot of reflection and memory sharing. We covered tough current events and discussed how things could be done differently.

We capped off the night with a quick ride to the North Shore, arriving in time for the sunset to dazzle with all it’s many colors, the water seemingly peaceful and serene. The boys ate too much sushi at one of our favorite spots, thinking about the ones we love that are so far away and who miss these moments and only experience them through the retelling.

But that’s okay. This is our journey now, and I have to say, for a first day… it was stellar.

It’s going to be a good day, not necessarily because I know it, but because with gratefulness we can see the silver lining even in some tough moments.

I’m grateful, for firsts, for memories, and for people to share them with.

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photo-19Little Brooks and I are still enjoying our summer. I’m on week two of grad school which means I’m still working out the kinks of balancing copious amounts of reading with being Momma to Brooks and Wife to Daddy Brooks. And Runner of Errands. And Patient. And Spanish Tutor. The list goes on. You get the gist.

All these hats I wear, and many more, are not complaints on my part. I count them all blessings, truly. When I begin to grumble at the running errands part I remind myself that I’m grateful to have a car in which to change the oil. Or that I can afford the ink for my printer which allows me to tutor and to perform well in grad school. When I begin to feel like a pin cushion from nightly fertility drug shots I remember how inexpensive this has been for us, and I breathe a sigh of relief and say a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving. I could go on, but the biggest thing is that gratitude tinges the ins and outs of my day, and that makes the busy seasons not only enjoyable, but one to cherish, because, as the saying goes… “this too shall pass.”

Admittedly, one of the hats I wear that I’m not the biggest fan of, because it’s just not my thing is Player of The Talking Game.

What is The Talking Game you ask?

The Talking Game is a game of talking. B, who loves loves loves to use his imagination to concoct all sorts of things, both in his sketch pad and writings, also loves uses that creative brain of his to come up with novel games in which talking is the only form of play. Admittedly, a few weeks ago the game included maps and sketches and a log to keep track of play, but Brooks prefers bouncing a ball or walking or skateboarding from one end of the house to the other (yes, we allow that) to putting pen to paper in our game play.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I really dislike The Talking Game.

It’s not my favorite thing.

Secretly, when Brooks joyously finds me in the house and with a look of pure bliss and expectation asks if we can play… I groan while plastering my face into a smile followed by an enthusiastic, “Yes!”

Obviously, The Boy does not read my blog.

Sometimes I’m just too tired to be creative, because by definition the game involves back and forth talking in which we both create scenarios for each other and responses to aspects of the game.

But B LOVES this game. He relishes it. It’s like Christmas morn for him, that moment when you run down the steps and realize the jolly old elf has struck again. And the truth of the matter is that I’m grateful for these moments of play. Not at first, obviously. I get my silent groan out and my frozen smile and inwardly wish one of the dogs would accidentally pee the floor so I could rush to take care of that instead (obviously, when I say floor, I’m hoping the pup would choose a bare spot of floor, uncarpeted, and so far from any other piece of furniture it has no chance to spread enough to wet anything else).

I remember, then, that some day, Little B won’t be home to play the Talking Game, that maybe… he won’t want to. I remember that this too is a season. I remember that these moments of play are cherished by him, that that hug he gives me at the end might really be an indicator that he realizes deep down Momma does this out of love, pure and simple. I remember to stay in the here-and-now, enjoying the moment for what it is, and as he zips through the house (he tends to move a lot when being creative) I watch him and relish the gift God gave me when we were blessed with Brooks.

Being grateful really changes the way I view things, from that oil change that seems to take too long to what seems like too many doctor’s appointments lately. But mostly, it reminds me to see the ins and outs of life in my little family as the blessings that they are.

I remain, grateful always.

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It’s no big secret that I thrive on a schedule. There’s something about having things explicitly written out, annotated, and/or planned for that makes me feel centered and at peace. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the Mister’s fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants methodology of last minute, changing plans, let’s-see-where-the-mood-takes us.

In view of such differing expectations and differences one would suppose it’s a miracle squabbles don’t break out in our home over the “what-to-dos” and “whens”. It’s a bit of give and take in the day to day (which I have learned over the years): yes, I plan for stuff (ie. excursions, outings, activities, etc.) with the laid back attitude of we’ll-see-where-the-day-takes-us.

I planned an outing for a stellar museum but the boys are feeling/needing some sun shiny rays? Sure thing! Similarly, there have been days we planned to veg around and one of us got the hankering to go out and explore: I can plan an outing in a few minutes with the help of Google, of course. Life is a series of give and takes when you co-exist with those you love, wouldn’t you say?

So I’ve learned to relax in many respects with my ceaseless zest for planning the day out to the last detail. I’ve learned to roll with changes, to let the day and our moods and desires dictate what we do and don’t do. On the other hand, there are times that scheduling and planning are beneficial, with the caveat, of course, that life happens and is unpredictable and that last minute things (such as a friend dropping by, a last minute invitation, a lingering illness, an emergency, a feeling one is burnt out, a particularly sunny day… the list is endless) do happen and that flexibility is oh-so-very-important to a happy and balanced life (in my opinion, of course).

Which brings me to the planning and scheduling of our upcoming school year: The Boy’s seventh grade year. From what curriculum to purchase (or needs to be purchased) to the day’s schedule to what classes are covered when… I schedule it all out. I’ve learned to use the schedule as a sort of guide: It’s important to stick to it, of course, or school won’t happen, but it’s also so very important to not do “brick and morter” school in our own home, because for us, that’s one of the benefits and blessings of schooling at home.

Perhaps, I’ve scheduled certain classes to occur in certain order but find several days into the school year that’s just not a good fit: I change it.

Perhaps, I’ve purchased some new jazzy textbook for some subject or other and find myself groaning every time I reach for it, or worse yet… the look of panic or indifference in The Boy’s face screams, “Please, no!” I stop using it, regardless of how much well earned cash I spent on it (this is particularly amazing advice I received from a fellow homeschooling momma when The Boy was in third grade, I believe).

Perhaps, a subject or discussion brought a plethora of questions or excitement! This is especially awesome: throw the schedule out the window and pursue that curiosity and zest for knowledge.

Maybe the weather has been particularly hot or rainy or sunny or too cold and now you find yourself facing a cool morning or a break in the clouds or beautiful puddles with cool rain or even a break in cold weather… aren’t those the best times to go out and explore and enjoy the beauty of God’s earth?

Obviously, we aren’t unschoolers, though there isn’t wrong with that approach at all. I’m a big advocate of doing exactly what is best for your kiddos and your family. Who best knows your family and family members but you? As not unschoolers we do stick to a schedule but allow the possibility of a day here or there being left to the whims of childhood and life and all the amazing things our current location might offer.

This approach works for us and took me some time to accept and love and embrace (I thank my sweet Beau for that). But more importantly, it’s one Brooks thrives on too, and that’s so very important because this educational journey (seeing as he’s an only child, hopefully just for the present moment) is all about him.

Last year we did too much and scheduled in too much and covered too much. We completed what we felt was vitally important, while dropping some extras that were making life too busy, and still by the end of the year we were burnt out and ready for summer. Well, really, who’s not ready for summer? But that’s neither here nor there. The point was that we were burnt out. We may have visited some amazing places and gone on some amazing outings, we may have covered some awesome material, and participated in some amazing events… but amazing only goes so far as long as, in my opinion again, there’s a fair and do-able balance that leaves us refreshed, amazed, and itching for more (not glancing at the calendar wondering how many more days until endless summer visits us with it’s lack of scheduling and copious amounts of resting and lounging around, books, and outings).

With that in mind, a few weeks ago I worked out our schedule for the year, began ordering curriculum, and figured out what subjects we would cover during the school year. I worked with The Boy to see what subjects he wanted to cover and made sure to schedule in a good block for his computer programming (which is currently what he wants to do with his life). And all the while, I made sure to remember that stuff will happen, that flexibility will allow us to enjoy every second of it, and that this journey called life is so beautiful I don’t want to miss it fretting about stuff that can wait.

And of course, gratefulness, even in the midst of lows, takes us a long way.

It’s not a secret at all that Brooks and I have been trying for Baby Number 2 since the doctor gave us the go-ahead after we welcomed Baby Brooks into our family (too much information, mayhaps).

Of course, I can’t really say we’ve tried for 12 years. That would be lying. Brooks deployed 5 times. Take into account schools, training, etc and MAYBE we tried for a good 6 years but that might be generous of me.

Somehow trying for little B (three months) seemed easy and we took it for granted.

I will say, those nine months of pregnancy were glorious. I loved and cherished every second and I’m grateful for that, looking back now, especially understanding how not easy it’s been since then to end up in the same state.

There have been months where it’s been gut wrenching, the not being pregnant part.

But mostly, it’s our faith that has gotten us through it and has seen me most months have a calm and peaceful acceptance of where we are. For one, we are so blessed to have Little Brooks. I’m grateful for that and don’t take it for granted, at all. I’ve cherished and loved all the stages, cherished and loved the moments big and small. I have no regrets with the passing of time.

At times I’ve felt horribly guilty and silly wanting another one when we have loved on and known so many other couples who have struggled and been unable to conceive even one baby. My heart grieves for them and rejoices, joyfully, when I hear that a friend or loved one is expecting. New life is a beautiful thing. And childhood, from the perspective of a parent… it’s breathtaking and mesmerizing and beautiful all at once.

But again, it’s been our faith… trusting God’s timing and purpose in our lives, that has gotten us through these longs years of endless longing for another little one nestled in our arms. I yearn for that in such a real and very raw way.

And always, my gratitude for what I have, not what I don’t, gets me through those hard moments when my yearning just gets to be a bit too much.

The hardest thing for me, truly, has been knowing Baby Brooks’s longing for a sibling. His longing is palpable too. He speaks of this sibling, this one he loves and daydreams about and longs for, quite often.

That’s hard.

And then there’s Daddy Brooks, who through 5 long and hard deployments, missed so much. He years for what he missed, and I can’t blame him. Photos and video messaging, letters from back, care packages… they don’t always bridge that gap of missing things as well as we would want them, though they help and I’m grateful for them.

Over a year ago I had the most vivid, real dream I’ve ever experienced in my life. I really thought what I was experiencing was real. I found myself holding this beautiful baby in my arms. For some reason, though her hair was short (and oh, goodness, how much hair she had) and she wore a simple white onesie, I knew she was a girl. I just knew it. My heart was immediately flooded with love for her. I took my breath away, this love that was so big and grand and overwhelming. I cooed at her and she looked at me with these big beautiful brown eyes. I nuzzled her and felt her sweet breath against my cheek, the soft tendrils of her hair… I was smitten.

And the next moment, I was awake, in my bedroom in Virginia, Brooks sleeping peacefully beside me.

The missing her, the realization it had been a dream… my heart felt torn in two. It’s so strange, the missing of someone who doesn’t exist, though the loving of this precious baby we’ve longed for for so long has never seemed strange or odd in comparison.

I feel like I’ve been chasing that precious baby since then, in a way I hadn’t before.

These last eight months, working with the fertility doctors here on Oahu, have been the hardest part of this journey. I keep reminding myself that it’s in God’s hands. I’m grateful for my faith, and my walk with Christ, because I don’t know how I’d cope otherwise. But it has been hard, both physically and mentally. And it does seem so weird, all the stuff they have you do or go through: so unnatural😉

We’re looking at another 5 good tries before the doctor’s here recommend IVF. I’m not sure we would take that route.

But regardless of what may happen, I remain ever so grateful for the life we have, the love we have for each other, and my family, regardless of its size. I love my boys with a passion that knows no bounds and am, in return loved just as fiercely. I walk life, hand in hand, with my best friend. We are surrounded by a plethora of friends and family. Our life is rich indeed, and I choose, especially in the hard momemts, to count those blessings and be grateful for them.

Always.

It’s a pity I’m not finding more time to blog. I’m trying to make it a goal to at least put thoughts to blog once a week as it’s a great way to look back at memories that sometimes sadly fade away.

In that spirit, we were blessed recently with the opportunity and ability to fly back to the mainland to visit with family we had not seen in three years. THREE YEARS!

Those of us with kiddos in tow understand how much growing, maturing… and CHANGING that occurs with the passage of three years. It’s huge. It’s profound. It’s tear inducing.

The truth of the matter is that those who love a service member make sacrifices. You don’t have to serve to find yourself sacrificing time with those you love the most. Little B and I have had our hearts torn asunder at the number of “see-you-laters” we’ve said over the years. We find ourselves cleaving tightly to things that make home feel like home, no matter where sweet and dear Uncle Sam sends my Beau. From family traditions to lugging around family heirlooms… we try to make those transitions as seamlessly as possible. But, regardless of all that, we can’t span the time and distance that sometimes keeps us apart from loved ones and vice versa.

It’s expensive to travel, people! Not just for us, but for our loved ones who have missed countless birthdays, holidays, sports meets, graduations, etc etc. My heart breaks at times for the loss of time B and his cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles have with each other, because I know how special those relationships are. Consider the countless family members and other loved ones who are currently at least several time zones and an ocean away… well, it’s hard at times.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am ever grateful for the life we lead. The blessings poured on our family due to Brooks’s service have been too numerous to count, and I’m every thankful for them. But it doesn’t mean that all those things make the missing of loved ones any less hard.

So flying eight hours in a plane to hug the necks of people we love, that we haven’t seen in three years… I was blown away by the opportunity.

B and I had an amazing time with my brother’s family. It felt like a holiday being with them, that’s how special that time was. I loved waking up in their home and hugging and loving on them, even without knowing how long our stay would be. Seeing B with his cousins was bittersweet and amazing all at once.

Since all the kiddos were on summer break, and since my sister-in-law was also on a break, we all jumped in the car and headed to the Texas shore for some fun in the sun together. Our plans included the Texas State Aquarium (it’s awesome, by the way), San Padre Island, Schlitterbahn (seriously the BEST water park we’ve ever been to), tubing in Central Texas (which we weren’t able to do), and enjoying the shore in general. Being the little planner that I am, I made a schedule for what days to do what, what food to pack and meals to make, how much it would all cost, what activities to do in the car, etc. I researched online the various places to get info on fees, operating hours, stuff to do… you get the drift. I’m the planner in the house… Big Brooks… he’s a last minute, fly by the seat of his pants kinda guy.

So off we went, on a fun 7 hour-ish road trip. Love my sweet little niece who asked a bazillion times before we arrived if we were there yet. The poor thing was not happy about the LONG car ride. But we had a great time. Aren’t road trips the best though? Endless conversation, good music, games… it’s the best. But I digress.

The first day of big plans was soon upon us… Schliterrbahn.

Oh boy!

I could just imagine the lazy river. The glorious sun. Exciting rides.

The kids were excited. Little B and I had talked up the park so much I think we were all just ready to jump in.

Now, since we were down by the shore it only made sense to go to the Schlitterbahn down by San Padre Island. It’s a new park and so we told the kiddos several times we didn’t know what to expect, but being the planner that I am, I pulled up the website and read them the names of different rides available at that particular park. Mind you, the website listed their operating hours, rides, calendar, etc.

As we make our way towards our destination, according to the GPS, we find ourselves driving past what looks like a beautiful, big water slide in the distance. Obviously, we are thinking as we are driving that Google has no idea where the entrance is and we’ll just have to figure it out on our own. The water slide is getting bigger as we continue to drive, looking for a place to turn around. And lo and behold as we look to our right, at that big beautiful slide… remember? It slowly comes into view that that that big beautiful slide is only half way finished. As in the top half is done but the rest… not so much.

This has to be a mistake, right?

No way is that half-finished thing our water park. It has to be some other water park, right?

As we make our flustered way to the entrance, of yes… that water park, the kiddos hearts sinking by the minute, we pull into the parking lot, which by the way, has it’s own entrance for CONTRACTERS and BUILDERS! The lot for current patrons, small in comparison.

Still in disbelief I make my way to the ticket window to inquire about what seems be a looming disaster in our plans. The young girl at the window informs me, rather sheepishly (seriously, she looked like she was apologizing), that there are only a few attractions open. A few as in one kiddie pool area, one ride, and a portion of the lazy river. Oh, and two pools that you can drink at the bar at… (Um, we don’t drink).

I immediately think to the Chevy Chase and his family’s arrival at Wally World or whatever it was. It was comical, for certain. And so was our current predicament.

Seriously, Schliterrbahn, how did you not clearly inform patrons that the park is not fully operational?!

My heart sank as I went to inform three previously super excited kiddos that Schlitterbahn was not happening. Poor babies. Thankfully, we were right down the road (10 miles or so) from San Padre Island. I was going to save this day if it was the last thing I did!

With new directions in the GPS, I began to extol the virtues of one of our national parks. which, by the way, I had always wanted to visit. San Padre was going to be great, I repeated. It was like my new mantra. The shore is always fun, I promised.

We made our way to the visitor’s center to get information on what activities we could do, any information we needed to know, and to learn a few facts about animals and plant life found in the area. The young park ranger was sweet. She answered all our questions and gave us some info and off we headed to picnic and to purchase supplies for the beach at their handy dandy little shop (remember, the car was packed for the water park this day, not the beach). I purchased sand toys, a skim board, and a kite.

We ate a delicious lunch and made our way down to the beach, excited at the hours ahead of fun in the sun together.

This was more like it, I thought as we spread out our towel,  placed our toys on the ground, and ran to meet the waves.

Day saved. Take that Chevy Chase and your Vacation movie. We had (er..in the spur of the moment) back up plans.

We played in the water, the kiddos skimboarded, we built mansions for little animals we found in the sand, and laughed too much. After a while we decided to head back to our towel to play closer to my sister-in-law who had been sunning herself. We’re all lugging our toys and full of stories to share of all the great fun we had when we notice Missy in the water furiously working on one foot.

Oh, no, I think to myself. She’s cut herself on something.

Not so much.

It turns out the beach was covered in tar balls.

Now, never having seen a tar ball in my life, but having seen many different beaches (and the way they all look different, from the sand to the water to plants and animals that may litter the sand by the shore) I had thought nothing of the black stuff on the ground. Consider the fact that the sweet young Park Ranger never mentioned tar balls when we asked her questions about what to do and what to look out for… I was confused.

No, it can’t be, I reasoned.

The murderous look on Missy’s face made me doubt my reasoning ability.

They would have told us, I assured her.

I looked around at all the families enjoying the water and sand. No one seemed bothered at all by the supposed tar in the water and sand.

It can’t be, I continued.

Then looking around I began to notice. We did have flecks of black stuff on us. The toys were covered in what appeared to be a black tar like substance that seemed impossible to scrape off. The blanket was ruined, looking polka dotted on the sand side. The cooler, skim board, our feet.. in short everything we lugged down to the beach and ourselves… covered in tar.

Now at the moment it did seem a little funny, but it didn’t seem like the appropriate time to laugh, because well… we were covered in tar and the water didn’t seem to have any affect on it. Plus, at the time Missy would not have been amused by laughter.

We went into the little store to inquire about Dawn soap. Isn’t that what you see people using to save wildlife from oil spills? The nice ladies there didn’t seem too flummoxed by our ordeal. Instead of Dawn they suggested baby oil (which for those of you wondering, worked like magic, the Dawn… not so much).

When we asked the sweet young Park Ranger about the tar on the beach she didn’t seem surprised and said that they typically posted it on their weather bulletin, casually waving behind her to a screen on the wall. Then she promptly handed us a huge roll of paper towels and a Costco sized bottle of baby oil.

So, although we had a very Vacation-ish day, from the not even half-finished water park to the tar ball covered national park… we still had an awesome time. The kiddos kept relaying the fun we had had and I was thankful we were all able to focus on the positives of the day rather than what hadn’t happened according to plan.

And in a way, this vacation day will stand out more than the rest.

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I love including nature exploration opportunities in our homeschool (and life in general). Give me a good hike, some hastily packed snacks in a backpack, and some time to explore and I’m a happy lady. Little B has been down for the count lately, slowly recovering from his last football injury. When a fellow homeschool mom planned a guided reef walk at Ala Moana Beach Park I jumped at the opportunity. There is one thing to go in alone, discovering all of God’s beauty and creations, and an entirely different experience to have an expert on hand to inundate with questions and inquiries. Little B is more of a forgo the expert/guided tour/docent talk, etc. etc. Internally (and externally at times) he groans at the prospect of attending such a function, instead happy and content to figure things out on his own. Thankfully, yesterday he was all groanless and excited at the prospect of exploring the reef with experts on hand.

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Our reef walk was super early in the morning (this former morning person is becoming a not-so-much-anymore-morning person), as in 815am. Our location was the beautiful Ala Moana Beach Park in downtown Honolulu, with the always amazing Diamond Head in the background. We pelted our guides with too many questions, marveled with glee at both our own discoveries and those of others, and left with tons of knowledge to boot. Plus, it piqued our interest in a lot of the creatures we saw, which always leads to further reading, exploration, and inquiry. I love how learning is not only never ending, but life long, and always tons of fun.

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If anyone really made out on Poppa Brooks’s birthday, though, it was The Boy. He came home from the reef walk a bit sore in his bad leg but thankfully his dear friends from VA were online and they played for a bit in the early afternoon. We had a short day of school due to the reef walk (I wont’ lie, we finished our language arts in the first 10 minutes of the car ride), and jumped in the car with Brooks to find some waves for him to ride on his very special day.

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Now, there are lots of things I love. I’m a joy filled person so I find delight in some silly trivial things, but my goodness, how I LOVE how my Beau loves the ocean. We’ve been married nearly 14 years – and boy have they flown by! – but I’ve never really been able to experience his joy and devotion to a hobby or passion like I have here on the island of Oahu. Forget the first two duty stations. Between deployments and the training schedule, he just didn’t have much time for self led pursuits, and rightly so, with the demands his job required at the time. But here, in beautiful Oahu, with the North Shore a short ride away, a surf board in the garage begging to be ridden, and a passion that knows no bounds (and time, precious sweet time) he’s like a kid who has discovered the joy of the carnival ride, or riding down hill with no hands, or the face you see on kiddos faces on Christmas morning. Seriously, this guy is smitten with the ocean and especially with surfing. I LOVE it!

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So what better way to celebrate his birthday, his very special day, then to spend it doing the things he loves. We spent the weekend doing mainly water sports, capping off the weekend with a BBQ right on the beach while Poppa Brooks and LB surfed. Since his birthday fell on a workday we figured we would head out to find some waves the minute he got home, and would then end the night with some crazy good sushi on the North Shore at Bonzai Sushi (which is AMAZING, by the way).

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It took some work to find waves: the first beach was a bust because of a shark spotting, the second was no good, and with daylight quickly fading we headed back to the first beach, you know the one with the shark sighting because that’s fun (I hope my sarcasm came across as just that), and My Beau took off to enjoy some waves before the light faded. I didn’t worry one bit, but I surely wasn’t stepping in that water myself! LB and I played and relaxed in the sun and watched Brooks surf.

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Life is pretty stellar. I’m grateful for the ability to celebrate another one of his birthdays together. It’s hard to take that for granted after the deployments, after knowing that so many didn’t come home. I don’t want to miss any moment or take anything for granted. It’s not so much about living recklessly in today but about seeing each day as an opportunity to love those around you, to tell them often, and to enjoy the blessings God has given us.

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I remain grateful, always.

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It’s rather sad I haven’t taken time to update the site in quite some time.

Would you believe I’ve been super duper busy?

That sounds so much better than neglectful!

The thing about the blog, other than the obvious, it being a testament and witness to some of the hardest and yet most beautiful moments in our marriage and family, is that I find myself increasingly seeing it as a beautiful memoir of moments long pass remembrance. In the mundane moments of life, those easily forgotten small and seemingly insignificant moments, I find myself seeing the utter beauty of each stage, each part of the journey we walk through as parents to Little B and as spouse to each other.

The last several weeks I’ve reminded myself to sit down a moment, to slow down and jot down some of my thoughts about life, here and now. I don’t want to walk through this part of our journey and not have taken a moment to reflect and to be grateful, always for changes big and small, and for the little things that make my life ever so sweet.

For one, and I know Little B would cringe at his momma admitting this, but I also know that he tangibly sees day in and out my love for him, my little boy is not a little boy anymore. I find myself laughing out loud when I hear one of his new friends call him Little Brooks. He’s just not so little any more and I can’t quite take it out of my vocabulary just yet (it used to be Baby Brooks for the longest… I’m sure we moved to VA with that name still on my lips) and his friends have apparently taken it as his nickname and freely call him that and he just as easily answers to it.

But he’s not so little anymore. The changes are both obvious and not so obvious and I find myself trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this 11 year old boy is transitioning into young adulthood. He’s not so much a boy anymore; he’s carefully navigating the balance between child and young man and we are navigating and guiding him while I’m learning to give him more space and Independence.

I’m grateful he’s just as loving and carefree and kind and sweet and energetic as always. He keeps me busy and laughing, always.

And then I find myself so very grateful for each moment with my Beau. I don’t take the fact that he’s home lightly or for granted. That man still makes me want to swoon, my heart skipping a beat at the sight of him. Little B may think it highly gross that we kiss and embrace and flirt in front of him, but I’m so grateful for not just the passion in our marriage (don’t worry, I’m keeping it rated G!) but also for the man that my husband is… the leader, the father, the husband, the provider, the one I can lean on and who knows me better than anyone. I’m so grateful to be married to my best friend.

When we attended Camp Better America way back when, it was such a turning point in our marriage. Deployments had taken their toll on our marriage. Yes, we loved each other, but we were tired and exhausted and something had to change. We were holding on, but not very gracefully and we both said unkind things to each other that are long forgotten and forgiven. Our patience had worn out with each other because part of the journey we were walking on was so very separate and for reasons that make total sense but that still hurt and caused anger and resentment to build, we were leaning less on each other.

Camp Better American changed that for us. It’s hard not to look at those few days as utterly life changing. It saved our marriage and brought us back to square one, where love overflows without ceasing, where grace abounds, where kindness and laughter and patience and LOVE is evident in all we do. We aren’t perfect, but man oh man, do I find myself grateful that each and every year since we attended CBA our marriage has gotten stronger, more passionate, more amazing and I know we both feel that we’re in a place that is so much better than the previous one.

Our time in VA was incredible. And you find yourself thinking, how can this get any sweeter, any better? And yet it does. I’m grateful for that. It takes work, obviously, and patience, and lots and lots of love. It takes serving each other, taking heed to each other’s needs and desires. Patience and kindness and remembering how grateful you are for the here and now.

So changes big and small, whether it be a move to a new place, a new period of growth and change in Our Boy, major tweaks to how we do school, new activities, or new schedules… I find myself embracing the new while every grateful for what was and what is to come.

Good things, all around.

For sure.

There is so much more to a home than four walls, a roof, and a floor. When I think of home, I think of it often as the place where my heart is most content, most at ease, most filled to overflowing with love and kindness and acceptance. So it’s not uncommon for me to mention home as the place we are going to when we are visiting family. Or the places we have stayed at temporarily. Our hometown. And a myriad of places in between while traveling the journey of a military family over the last 13 years.

We have been without a physical address for quite some time. As in we stayed here, there, and everywhere while transitioning to our new home state of Hawaii. And now that we have the keys to our new home (B too, imagine that!), now that most of the house is settled and organized and set up just so… the things that make these four walls, roof, and a floor home are quickly making this place feel familiar and comfortable and homey and uniquely ours.

Things as simple as routines: my morning tea while I plan out the rest of the day. B’s artwork on the walls. Photos of loved ones dispersed throughout. Baking for my boys. Letting Nya out into the yard and watching her watch me while she contemplates whether or not she’s going to get her paws wet on the rain soaked ground. Brooks’s boots discarded by his chair. B’s blue hanging over the back of another chair. Items gifted to us by loved ones over the years. The sound of a ringing bell every time someone goes in or out.

These things and more make this new place home. I’m grateful for those things but more so for the memories contained within these walls, even though we’ve lived here a little over a week.

Some day we’ll pack our bags yet again and head somewhere new but regardless of where that someplace may be I’m so thankful that it won’t be long before the unfamiliar becomes familiar and cozy and warm and plain ol’ home. And I’m already looking forward to remembering and recounting stories of our time here in Hawaii.

Life remains ever so sweet.