Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oh, 7.

Dear Riley,

Today you are 7.

1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.

7!  Oh, 7.

Just a bit before midnight last night, I snuck into your room for the last - 6 year old - kiss good night. The time flies my love, because I can't believe it's already been a year since I gave you the last - 5 year old - kiss good night.

But a year since your - 5 year old - kiss, is nothing compared to this.
Your first birthday, also on a Saturday, SIX years ago.

I can't get over your sweet one year old self.

Back to 2015...

We all slept in a little bit today, after a busy Friday night party prepping.  I came into your room, hugged you tight, kissed your beautiful face and sang Happy Birthday to you before we went downstairs.

You were surprised to find presents waiting for you at your seat at the table.  We had told you that your American Girl of the Year, Grace, (that we helped you buy after Christmas) was your gift.  You were okay with that idea, though you did casually mention a few times that maybe a surprise would be waiting for you on your birthday.

I couldn't help myself.  You were so thankful - you even complimented my wrapping job.

We got you a new brush for Grace, the second Grace book for us to read together, and BONBON!
I loved the look on your face when you saw her.

I'm glad you are perfectly happy with a stuffed dog.

You were ready for your pancakes with "special surprise things, please Mom?" after you opened your gifts.  Buttermilk pancakes, whip cream and chocolate sprinkles and then some of my scrambled eggs is the breakfast of 7 year old princesses.  You ate while enjoying "Happy Birthday!" phone calls from your Gammy + Gampy and your Tutu.

After breakfast we measured you on the growth chart. You love that you are tall.  I'm in shock over the visual of how quickly you grow.  (Your six year old measurement was marked on the left underneath the '4')

We had a bit of downtime before we split up into "the girls" and "the boys" to run some errands. My favorite part of our morning was taking you to get your nails painted. You asked for hot pink on your left hand and purple on your right - with glitter of course. It was fairly empty in there this morning so everyone on the staff was just fawning over you, wishing you Happy Birthday, gushing over your fancy dress, and hugging you.  As we walked out to go meet Daddy and Cam for lunch at El Sol, you turned to me and said, "Whoa! I got the treatment in there!"  You are always full of surprise one liners like that to make us laugh and laugh.

Camden was a little bit jealous of all the attention and excitement for you today, but he did his 4 year old best to put a smile on. He is absolutely your biggest fan, and he thinks everything you do is pretty awesome.

This year you asked for a Patisserie party, just like the American Girl of the year has. I did my best to turn our home into the whimsical Parisian bakery of your dreams. You invited ten of your sweet friends over to your patisserie, including your best bud.

Ouvert pour les affaires!

It was a very busy afternoon in Riley's Patisserie "painting" sugar cookies.  (Seriously the coolest idea ever courtesy of Michelle from Sugar Cookie Creations)

And decorating mini two tier cakes.

With lots and lots of frosting and sprinkles.

We played a hilarious game of pin Grace on the Eiffel Tower before it was time to sing and blow out the candles. It was the first year that we shared your candle moment with this many people, but you were thrilled and that's what this day is all about.

We brought back the birthday chair this year - the incredible idea of twinnie.  There's something special about sitting with each friend while you open their gift and read their card out loud.  It acknowledges the thought they put into getting a present for you and it's the perfect lesson in gratefulness.

Your friends absolutely spoiled you with a bevy of arts and crafts things that are just perfect for you, our budding creative genius.

We bid each guest an enthusiastic "BON SOIR!" as they left and then met up with Daddy and Cam and our friends for dinner at the Wing Factory.  That wasn't your venue choice, but you didn't mind because you love hanging out with them anytime you can.

Then it was home for the first chapter of Grace Stirs It Up, before I gave you the very first 7 year old kiss good night.

Oh, 7.

You used to accept everything I said as fact, but as you've matured you question me more.  That's a good thing, part of you growing up and learning to apply reason and your own logic to everything you intake.

Today in the car, you said something so clever and funny and I told you, "You are one of a kind."  You were skeptical that in a world full of people there isn't anyone like you and you challenged my statement.  I had to convince you otherwise - because it's true - there is absolutely no one like you in this world.

Riley, you are the smartest, wittiest, most loving, beautiful, hilarious and loyal little person.  It's impossible to know you and not be completely charmed by you.  I can't believe your Daddy and I made someone so amazing and I'm thankful for every second of every day we get with you.

Happy, happy, happy 7th birthday my sweet, one of a kind, Riley girl.

I love you so, I always will.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hawaii Day 9: The Mai Tai to Turtle Canyon, Poolside Happy Hour, and a "Trolley" to Ala Moana Shopping Center

When I called Ala Moana Beach Day my favorite part of the trip, I forgot all about our ride on the Mai Tai. 

We didn't have time for Denny's breakfast this morning, because we had a catamaran ride to catch. My parents were shocked we had never been out to turtle canyon on any of our previous trips and insisted that we try it out. The boat docks at the hotel just down the beach from ours. You meet there at your designated time and the crew quickly gets you out to the canyon that's about 400 yards off shore.

You will notice that in almost every photo Riley is scowling. We later discovered that she was quite worried and afraid at the idea of getting in the "deep" water.

Cam was pretty stoked though.  Gammy is always reppin' KC - Chiefs and Royals - even in Hawaii.

I could have used the selfie stick like the man behind me had for this shot, but that's our hotel in the background as we motored away.

He was ready to swim with the turtles.

Diamond Head!  Finally a half smile.

Spotted our first turtle - and you can see the x band radar (looks like a golf ball) on its way out to sea in the distance.

So after about ten minutes we were anchored at the canyon aka cleaning station - turtles come here to be cleaned by the schools of fish.  The current was STRONG that day, so we had to keep swimming towards the boat the entire time we were looking, but other than that it was clear and we saw tons of turtles.  I started out with Riley, and we saw a turtle or two, but once she realized how many fish there were she wanted to get back on the boat.  TG switched kiddos with me and I took Cam further out and we saw lots of big turtles and he just kept asking me to show him more and more.

Before we knew it, our time was up and it was time to get back on the boat for lunch and the sailing portion of the trip.  Salt air and wind in our hair.

The sailing was just as fun as the snorkeling. They took the boat another 500 yards past the canyon and the water just turns this pure shade of cobalt blue. We're riding the waves and the water is spraying - sailing in Hawaii - what could be better?

They have no idea how lucky they are to be on their THIRD trip to Hawaii at the tender ages of 4 and 6.

My best attempt at a panoramic on a boat that was a rockin'.  Waikiki to Sans Souci and Diamond Head.

When we got back to the hotel the children who apparently weren't tired enough from the excursion, donned our crab bibs from the night before and became "SUPER Crab Kids"!

Instead of naps we opted for poolside cocktails.  I always love margaritas, but I especially love OCEAN view, poolside margaritas in Hawaii.

That night the plan was to take a Waikiki trolley to Ala Moana shopping center.  I got put in charge of deciphering the route map and I discerned that we needed the pink line.  However, the first pink line that showed up was a double decker bus both there and on our way back - so we all assumed that maybe the pink line was only buses?!?  Until we saw tons of pink line trolleys on the ride home.  :(

We made the best of it, but I know Gammy was bummed.  Til next time.

Hawaii Day 8: Denny's, Waikiki, Surfing, Shopping and the Crab "Fest"

We were all raring to go the next morning thanks to our early bedtime the night before. We got up and moving to my parent's favorite breakfast place. Denny's is only 1/2 a mile from the hotel we were staying in and we pass a Starbucks on the way there to make for the perfect morning eats.

As usual, Cam needed a lift. I should mention that Riley was such a trooper the entire trip and walked everywhere with only occasional complaining.

I love that I can get portuguese sausage, eggs and rice at Denny's in Hawaii.

Riley was begging us for surf lessons this year so we made our way down to the popular surf spot in Waikiki.  Gampy secured an umbrella and chairs for him and Gammy to watch Cam play in the water while TG and I took the "Queen of the Waves" to her instructor.

She was a little intimidated at first, but by the end (when we took this picture) she loved him.  He was awesome, knew just where to take her, knew just what adjustments to make and had her up and surfing on several waves in no time at all.

I do have to give Riley some credit.  She's exactly like TG - she is so in tune with her body and center of balance.  The instructor could give her a small change - move your foot a bit here, adjust your hand just so, turn your head - and she could execute it immediately.

The actual surfing pics we have of her aren't great -- thankfully she was wearing her neon pink rash guard.  I was standing/floating halfway out from shore (that's me just behind her) the whole time waiting to help her head back towards her instructor after every wave and to keep an eye on her in general.  TG took these from the rocks that were pretty far away.

I think this must be the first wave she caught because you can see me cheering on the right side.

Her last ride, of I swear 15-20 rides, she took all the way to shore.  She's hooked of course.  Now if only we lived near the water.

After we hung out under the umbrellas for a few more hours, floating, swimming and playing in the sand Gammy and Gampy graciously agreed to drive the kids to the hotel while TG and I walked back and hit some of the shops in Waikiki.  After naps we went swimming at the hotel pool and that night my Mom and I went on a date to the hotel Crab Fest.  We didn't take a single picture of ourselves which makes me sad, but we had such a good time.

We were very excited to get placed at a table on the grass near the front where the performers would be, until they brought out the crab buckets.  Then the flies descended upon us in droves.  We were feasting on crab, sausage, potatoes and corn cobs under cover of napkins - trying to eat with one hand and protect ourselves with the other.  It wasn't the most ideal experience, but my Mom and I still had a good time.  We stayed until dark and then went for a walk down the beach to see the stars.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hawaii Day 7: Aquarium, Zoo, Tiki's Grill, Kaimana Beach, & ACAI

I feel terrible for people who get sunburns easily and often. I woke up on Day 7 feeling pretty miserable - even with aloe and lidocaine spray I had a tossing and turning night of sleep trying to get comfortable on my side or stomach. My back was bright tomato red so we decided to stay out of the sun as much as possible for the day.

We opted to head further down Waikiki towards Kaimana for some fun out of the sun. Our first stop was a return trip to the aquarium.

It's a smaller aquarium, but there is plenty to see and do including a monk seal presentation.   I don't have a picture of this, but while we waited for the presentation to begin a volunteer approached my Dad and I.  He introduced himself as an intern that wanted to assess public knowledge about the seals before and then after the aquarium show.  He was British and had a charming accent, but he was WAY in over his head with my Dad.  My Dad is brilliant, not your run of the mill tourist visiting the aquarium.  I  suppressed giggles the entire time my Dad very thoroughly answered the man's questions about seals.

Before we left Cam was brave enough to hold this little friend at the interactive sea station.   Riley is terrified of creepy crawly things so she did not partake in the activity.

TG and I stopped in the gift shop for some free A/C on our way out and ended up buying these two a souvenir.

Waikiki Aquarium, August 4, 2014.

From the aquarium it's a short walk over to the Honolulu Zoo.   It's much larger on the inside than it looked from outside.  They have an impressive amount of exhibits.  

Honolulu Zoo, August 4, 2014.

I might have been a little cranky towards the end due to the heat, sunburn pain and hunger.  My Dad and TG know the signs of imminent danger so they rushed us all across the street to the Tiki Bar and Grill.  They have an open air restaurant with panoramic views of Waikiki.  Hubs had a delicious LocoMoco here and I ended up eating most of his meal instead of my BLT.

Crisis averted we ventured back out to Kaimana Beach.  I've never seen the waikiki natatorium before and though you can't go in there anymore it was fun to check that off my list of sites to see.  We tried to swim for a bit at Kaimana, but the water and current were pretty rough on that day.  My dad insists it's usually one of the calmest spots to swim and snorkel and thinks it might have had something to do with Iselle heading towards the islands.

After the beach we weren't quite hungry for a full dinnertime meal, but everyone was craving a cool treat so we drove up to our favorite Acai place for the hands down best Acai bowls you can get in Honolulu.  My mom and I both order ours with no honey, EXTRA-EXTRA granola.  In Hawaii, granola in your acai bowl is extra like guacamole and I don't mind paying for it.

It was a very full day of walking and we were all exhausted so we ended with an early bedtime for everyone.

Hawaii Day 6: Ala Moana, paddleboarding, swimming - my favorite day of the trip

We started Day 6 with a slower morning in the hotel.

I love this picture of Riley reading to Camden.

When we eventually got up and moving we decided to go paddle boarding at Ala Moana.

TG and I tried paddle boarding at Waikiki near our hotel in 2012, but I was not successful. The water at Ala Moana is notoriously calm, and protected by a reef, so we decided to head there on this trip. 

After consulting Google I found an awesome deal on this website - the reviews were 50/50 - mostly complaints about their slow response time - but once they did call us back their package deal could not be beat. They delivered two boards, paddles, chairs, umbrella and a cooler full of ice to us at our spot on the beach for four hours. If you are going to Honolulu, I highly recommend them.

Even the minis got in on the paddle boarding action.  Notice how calm (and of course beautiful) the water is.  Riley had Gammy and Gampy helping her while TG assisted the little man.

I was much more successful paddle boarding this time and took several long trips with TG and my Mom. Actually she let the current carry her almost all the way down the beach and I went on a rescue mission of sorts. We both worked out our arms hard on the way back against the current.

Then I took a much needed break in the shade on the beach with little man.

It was about this point that my Dad solicited me for an open water swim with him.  So I fairly enthusiastically agreed.  The water at Ala Moana isn't that deep and it's reef protected so I was less afraid than I usually am.  The swim went great - we went 1000 yards and I was tired by the end, but in a good way.

However, what I hadn't counted on was the sunburn I was left with after being face down on my stomach for an hour.  Please note that even though I am part Hawaiian, I apply good strong sunscreen every hour in Hawaii.  The sun there is intense and my skin is not as young as it used to be.  Despite careful sunscreen application before the swim, I had a new swimsuit for Hawaii that exposed a part of my back that hadn't seen the light of day in years, and I got the worst burn of my life.  So bad that now, several months later you can still see a scar of sorts on my lower back.  It's hideous.  Lesson learned.

BUT even though I left with a terrible sunburn it was totally worth it.  Ala Moana is bliss and it will definitely become a stop on every trip we take to paradise in the future.