Sunday, May 20, 2018

We Want To Go Back!!

Found this little gem in our photos.  I'd forgotten all about it. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lightning Before the Thunder at 15

A couple years ago I blogged my children's birthdays with their baby songs.  This year I'm attempting to blog their birthdays with lyrics (poem, song, etc) that reminds me of them NOW.  Smack in their teen years, or pre-teens, or adolescences.  This will be difficult for the younger ones because their personalities and tastes are ever evolving.

But here goes James.  


Imagine Dragons, "Thunder" is all about James.  A young gun with a quick fuse.  And while James does love this song and the album, it's more about my thoughts towards him and the parallels I see in his life.  He usually laughs when I mention this.

James is the thunder.  He's the pounding you feel in your gut when Platzman hits those drum chords.  And when Reynolds punches his point.  He's the force that is so much bigger than you believe at first sight.  That's James.  Light, truth and self confidence.


"I was lightning before the thunder."

At least... I hope James will be the thunder I see in him.  Because right now he's definitely the lightning.  He's the stunning, powerful foretelling of amazing things to come.  He's in the middle of all those critical decisions that will shape him for decades that follow.  And as Greg and I have allowed him more freedom this past year to make choices, we've watched him come face to face with realities while playing a heavy balancing act.  He's fallen, but he's risen so much more.  

That's another reason I love this piece when it comes to our oldest son.  The hidden line at the end that Reynolds repeats.  I feel like that's Mom & Dad whispering to James as he hopefully makes the transition from lightning to thunder.        

Never give up. 

(And stay close to your Father in Heaven.)

Your thunder will be a force to be reckoned with.

        

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

#BeOne


"...grow more kind.  To be more loving.  To feel more whole."   

Monday, May 7, 2018

April

I've been reflecting on my blog lately.  

This has been a tremendously helpful tool in terms of recording my immediate family history.  I have loved this.  But I worry my monthly recaps are turning into "travel logs".  Maybe I'm getting a bit tired with this approach.  Although, I'm not sure how I want to alter things - if I DO alter things.  

Need to spend some time thinking this over.  You know, in those moments when I have spare time to think about things beyond volleyball, work, what's for dinner, scripture reading, school work, church callings, summer plans, 20th anniversary coming up, frustrations, etc.  

All those spare moments.

In the meantime.  Here was April.

#1 -General Conference & The Silver Strand

Our favorite part of General Conference this spring was Andrew going to Priesthood Session for the first time with Greg and James.  Three handsome-looking guys who glow with goodness is hard to beat.  Plus there was the very-much-looked-forward-to dinner at Outback afterwards.   



In between Conference sessions on Saturday, we loaded up the bikes and finally did the Silver Strand off Coronado Island.  

We'll never do it again.  

Road bike appropriate but horrible for family rides.  It was like biking along a freeway.  We were protected by a separate paved bike path, but it was far too loud - both wind and cars.  Nearly impossible to visit or joke around - which is a big part of our biking adventures.  After 10 miles we cut the whole thing and turned around.





#2 - Borrego Palm Canyon

Behold...the latest camp out for the boys.  Greg was lousy on pictures this time.  More scenery than substance.  Also loads more dust and sand than before. Poor boys.  They had to hurry back super fast Saturday morning for Andrew's volleyball game, so they missed the hike to the waterfalls and Greg missed his chance to go off-roading in the FJ.  





#3 - Swim Team Continues...

We were still in the thick of Del Norte Swim Team in April.  Thank goodness we're almost coming out of it.  

Even after his first full season of high school swim team, James refuses to wear a speedo and sticks every faithfully to his jammers.  We're good either way.  And in other news, Andrew and I figured out we could volunteer at the snack booth while watching James race.  Many happy Thursday nights working together.   




#4 - Fun Run

Bubbs and Pretty Girl had their annual school fun run the last Friday in April.  I got to haul a Costco-size case of water bottles down the entire hill leading to their school (really pathetic parenting moment that I hope nobody witnessed).  But enough parents came together in the end with delicious melon and oranges.  And I got to hug one red-faced and sweaty little Bubbs at the finish line.








#5 - LDS Trek

It's official.  My oldest has participated in LDS Trek.  This is a spectacularly hard re-enactment of the Mormon Pioneers crossing the plains in the late 1840s and early 1850s.  Period costumes and packing instructions are pretty rigid.  But everyone who goes never forgets the experience or the personal stories they discover during the trip.  

Our particular stake trek was only 2 days and 1 night - a fact I kept drilling into James about how lucky this was for him.  His Ma and Pa were older youth from our ward and he was only 1 of 2 boys in his family - the rest were all girls.  He was also the only person at drop off who had actually fit ALL their gear into the provided wheat bucket.  This was in large measure thanks to Greg and the awesomeness of James' sleeping bag. 

I know James loved the whole experience because he had to miss a JV swim invitational to go on Trek.  He has zero regrets about missing the chance to swim.  He said Trek was one of the best things he's ever done.  






This is our bishop (pictured above) - Bishop Isaac.  I'm being totally sincere when I say he's probably the best bishop I've ever experienced.  There is something amazing about this man - his genuine light and nature, his constant giving of time.  You can feel - in a palpable sense - his love for our congregation.  One of the best men.  




Three of James' best friends pictured above - Noah, Jake and Michael 







#6 - Minecraft Sundays

I have to throw this in here.  We have a standard rule about no video games on Sunday unless you're actively playing with a sibling.  But we decided, (after a story from Boyd Timothy in Hawaii) to let Minecraft in on Sundays as long as the kids constructed something they learned about in church.  It MUST be church related.  

This was the result from James.  I couldn't help it - I laughed.  The first photo is Mormon's final battle with the Nephite and Lamanite army from the Book of Mormon.  And the second one is Joseph Smith's First Vision.  Not too shabby. 




#7 - Carvers in Town

Gelatos and cousins!!  We'll all have seconds please.   





#8 - Everything Else...

Beach time with friends.  And Andrew's massive project for social studies - building a pyramid.  




Aha!  Here are my shoe offenders.  A pair of these shoes belongs to EVERY SINGLE ONE of my children.  Which means they are all equally guilty of violating the "take off your shoes outside" policy we've been trying to implement lately. 

Except the night I took this photo - I had just come downstairs from tucking everyone in and I was hit with the realization that all shoes means everyone's home.  Everyone is safe.  They're all still under one roof.  

And then I loved the shoes even more. 


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hawaii


In the voice of Homer Simpson - 


"THE MCKINNONS ARE GOING TO HAWAII!!"  



#1 - The Timothys

We could not have done Hawaii without the Timothys.  Boyd and Kandi graciously opened their home to us on the north shore of Oahu in Laie.  We were within 500 yards of both BYU-Hawaii and the LDS Hawaii temple.  It was awesome!  We walked to both locations almost daily.    

It was so great to see them!!  It was a mini SuperFriends reunion with many many many late nights talking after the kids fell asleep.  Seriously, Greg and I did NOT get enough sleep during our trip and it all came down to these late night visits.  It's just so rare we get this type of chance to visit with our friends.  Soaked up every minute we could.

Plus, I kind of fell in love with little Minnesota all over again.  How can you not love this girl??  


































#2 - BYU Hawaii and the LDS Temple

We were on BYU Hawaii campus a lot, usually running around and playing.  I signed up James and Andrew for a campus tour through one of the students - good exposure for future options.  The guide was excellent - just what the boys needed.  James was especially keen on so many students carrying skateboards and long-boards.  

We also really loved the temple.  Every night we pulled in late to the Timothys, we'd drive down Hale Laa Blvd just so we could watch the temple with the lights.  We spent Sunday afternoon walking the grounds and discovering another cool, multi-vine tree in the back.  Wonderful feeling!







































#3 - Food

The food in Hawaii is nothing to write home about, especially when you're traveling with 4 children.  For 7 days we lived on guava juice, muffins from Costco and cereal.  We also had multiple trips to McDonalds, the food court at Ala Moana and to Greg's absolute joy... Jollibee (fast food from the Philippines).

There were some definite highlights though.  I didn't realize until this trip that McDonalds in Hawaii (for whatever reason) still makes their pies FRIED.  Again, FRIED!!  This is no pathetic baked process they've sold out to elsewhere.  No.  Pure fried, fat goodness.  I ate at least 1x/day.  

There was also Leonard's malasadas, fried mango/peach pies from Jollibees, Matsumoto's shaved ice, and my personal favorite that I've been craving for 13 long years - Ted's Bakery Pies on the north shore.  These pies are incredible!  I would take home dozens if I could.   

Also, I'm fairly positive I gained 5 pounds.  



















#4 - Beaches

The north shore was hit with clouds and rain during our stay, so our search for beaches took us to the south and western parts of Oahu.  Turned out to be a good thing because Greg and I discovered beaches we never knew existed and these were absolute gems.     

Our top favorite - Ko Olina.  No contest.  We ambled back and forth between Lagoon #4 and #3.  The background scenery was majestic and the waves calm for playful swim, but enough current to keep it interesting for snorkeling along the rocks.     

We discovered the Top Ramen did NOT work, but we still saw lots of fish.  Poor Bubbs got a bad sunburn on his back.  But thankfully no ER visits or cuts from coral. 

























#5 - Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC)

The PCC was Bubbs' favorite part of the trip.  He keeps talking about it - even though we've been back for weeks.  But we all loved it!  Samoa with the tree of life coconuts "drink this and you'll look like me" and Tonga with their drums were our favorites.  

The ticket price included a huge buffet dinner and I was spellbound by the dining area.  Massive decorated doors and huge murals inside.  The evening performance is a new one since we last visited - called the Breath of Life.  And it was actually really good!  Lots of action and enough sentiment to keep even mom interested.  Even skeptical Andrew was awed by the fire dancing.        

Completely, 100% worth it.  













#6 - Pearl Harbor

Not a lot to say on this one except Pearl Harbor was 1 of 2 obligations we felt compelled to do during our trip (the PCC was the other one).  We had to wake up at 5 am on the north shore in order to make the 1hr drive to Pearl Harbor by 6:30 to wait in line for tickets.  I think the whole experience meant the most to James who had just finished a documentary on the attack in addition to a massive paper on John Holland and submarines.    

After Pearl Harbor and the PCC, our daily activities fell into a natural rhythm that was surprisingly very satisfying.  In the morning, we'd drive to a selected beach from our faithful, Oahu Revealed guidebook, and on the way back we'd stop at all the recommended spots around that area.  It wasn't very scheduled and we definitely missed some things.  But it kept us at an easy, relaxed pace, which in the end was nice.     







#7 - Honolulu, Waikiki and the Punch Bowl

The Punch Bowl wasn't even on our list.  But while waiting for a storm to pass, we had some time to kill.  I'm so glad we went.  The views were fantastic!

And I love this second photo of Pretty Girl!  Hip, cute and sporting her latest budgeted souvenir purchase, my daughter was strutting her stuff in downtown Waikiki.    









#8 - Swap Meet

When Greg and I visited Hawaii together in 2004, the Swap Meet in the Hawaii State Stadium was kind of a new phenomenon.  Now it's full-fledged crazy - but a good kind of crazy.  It's only open on Saturdays and Wednesdays.  And while we meant to go only 1x during our trip, we ended up going back Saturday morning.  

All of us came away with a few trinkets, shirts and cold coconut slices that didn't taste so hot the next day.  








#9 - Diamond Head Hike

The near constant rain made our hiking plans void.  Too much mud.  

But we finally managed to hike Diamond Head on Sunday morning.  And what a hike!!  3 sets of steep stairs, 2 tunnels and at least a dozen switchbacks.  Also crowded.  But the views.  Oh, the views!  

Unfortunately, it was the morning after James caught some dreaded Kamehameha curse and was completely out.  He slept on a bench at the base of the volcano while we trekked to the top.  













#10 - The Scenery

Every time we drove the highways into Kailua, I started snapping pictures.  I couldn't help it.  

Our favorite highway was the H3 - the newest and most expensive of the 3 highways.  It's also home to the Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven).  You can sort of see the stairs/ladder along the ridge in the first photo below.  It will take you straight up to the cliffs where King Kamehameha forced his enemies to march right off the mountains to their deaths.  We were enthralled and very tempted to hike.  Except it's also illegal.  A big political mess.  There's another way around on the other side of the Ko'olaus, but it takes 8-10 hours and the trails are too steep for my mother's heart.  

Still - we were all fascinated and pointed it out every time we passed.      









   

#11 - The Pali Look-out

This spot is special.  

Check out the before and after moments.  Greg and I stood on this spot together 13 years ago.  We were in the middle of failing IVF treatments, piles of adoptions papers and days that weighed heavy on my heart.  I specifically remember soaking in the horizon back then in an attempt to lighten the dark despair that followed me wherever I went.  I remember that week helped a lot.  It was the calm I needed before the worst months that followed.    


Look at the view now. 



And more generations to come back another day.      




#12 - Valley of the Temples

On the way back up to Laie, you have to pass the Valley of the Temples.  I wasn't too impressed with this spot last time.  I've changed my mind.  We all kind of fell in love with this beautiful, peaceful place.  

Andrew was the guru here.  He was coming off a huge unit on Buddhism, and so the Byodo-In temple in the middle of the grounds made the darling boy go bananas!  Inside the temple, Andrew narrated the personal history of Buddha himself and a brief background on the faith.  It was perfect.  

There are 3-4 black swans here, and I was captivated.  There's also hundreds and hundreds of koi, turtles and a couple dozen toads - very loud, mating toads.  You're supposed to be quiet here.  The toads were not.  Ha!     

Regardless, it's impossible not to feel peaceful here.  














#13 - Everything Else

Full disclosure here (because it's important to record the bad AND the good).  There were several low moments on this trip, typical fights/arguments that had to be broken up, not once, not twice, but multiple times!  Sibling strife doesn't take a vacation just because you're on one.  We dealt with grumpy kids, grumpy parents, cloudy days, disappointments and my own lingering resentment towards my children that they weren't appreciating this trip enough!  I think I swore to myself at least 2x that I would never do a vacation of this magnitude with my kids again.  

From now on, it's just Greg and me

Of course, that resolve won't last.  There's too much I want them to see.

I hope they remember the good times.  The best times more than the upset times.  We won't be back to Hawaii again as a young family.  So I hope someday when they take their own families here, they'll have happy recollections of being here with us.   





























Reluctantly heading home to jobs with LOTS of pressing emails, 2 days of missed school for kids, obligations, and stress.  We left behind a rental car with soooo much sand.