Monday, August 20, 2018

The First Day of School

Well, here we are.  All back to school.  You know what that means.  It's time for all the first day pictures.  I, for one, absolutely LOVE seeing everybody's pictures on Facebook and Instagram because it truly is just such an exciting time.  I love that parents celebrate the First Day.  I love that kids are excited.  I just love when people love school... and I think it's so important to make a really big deal out of it every single year.  That doesn't mean we go all out and have a party, but it does mean that we spend a lot of time celebrating the fact that a new school year is starting.  I also believe that how our kids perceive school can also be altered by how we, as parents, talk about school around our children.  If I want my children to have a successful year, then it's VERY important that I don't talk negative about the teachers, the school supplies we have to buy, or the kids in their class.  And that isn't always easy.  It's so much easier to get into a "we have to do this this and this" "we have to buy HOW many folders?" and "we didn't get the teacher or friends in our class that we want" mentality.  But any bit of negativity can completely change the way our kids walk into that building on the first day.

Off my soapbox now.

Now let's talk about the first day!  Our kids are to the point where they can be almost completely independent in the morning.  They woke up to their alarms at 6:15, got dressed, brushed their teeth, Joelle put her NEW contacts in, and did all of their lotion.  Then, they came downstairs to finish up their hair.  I will say... having them get up, dressed, and almost completely ready BEFORE seeing us is AMAZING.  We started this last spring and it has been a complete game changer.  Now we aren't dealing with grumpy, groggy kids.  By the time they come downstairs (which usually takes about 15-20 minutes), they are fully awake, ready for breakfast, and happy to have a conversation!  I'm sure they have a few arguments while they are getting ready, but I don't know about it, so I don't care, ha!
 We started our morning with breakfast and a family devotional.  Our evenings are normally a bit more chaotic with sports and church, so we find it's best to do our devotionals at the breakfast table!
 After that, it was time for ALL THE PICTURES!  Which, they weren't too annoyed about ;)  Both of the kids picked out their backpacks and lunch boxes this year, so they were happy to show them off!
 Joelle has a new obsession of JoJo bows.  She's a couple of  years late to this trend, but I have to say I LOVE IT!  I am THRILLED she wants to wear a big bow on her head... and if that means I have to buy a certain brand, I'm okay with it!  Give me all the JoJo bows!
The lighting was actually MUCH better outside, and I love how these pictures turned out!
{Message boards from Amazon HERE (Amazon Affiliate Link)}

 Ohmiword, look at that face!  Can  you tell he was excited???
 I mentioned above Joelle got contacts and we are SOOOOO happy to see ALL of her beautiful face again!  Plus, she can finally see what is happening in the world, so she is happy too!
 Israel came downstairs and said "What's up pretty lady?" per Joelle's suggestion.... we all thought he looked so handsome!
 Once we got to school we went straight to Israel's class.  Joelle was so concerned that he wouldn't know where to go, what to do, or how to function at school.  I assured her that EVERY kinder student is just as lost as he is, ha!  But, it did help having her see that he got to his classroom okay :)

Side-note... Israel had to put his lunchbox in a certain place, open his locker, and put his bag inside.  While it took him MUCH longer than it would have taken us, it was SO very important that HE was the one getting his stuff where it goes.  It would have been much faster for us to take his bag, open his locker, and stuff it inside, but he has to know how to do it.  Independence is very, very important to us! {There's another soapbox for you ;)}
 After getting his things situated, he found his number, sat down, and got right to work!  No tears at all!
 Then we walked our sweet girl to her 4th grade classroom.  Thankfully she isn't embarrassed by us, so she gave us some smooches, posed for a picture, and then started her day!
I can't wait to hear all about how it went!  We have been covering our kiddos and their teachers in prayer all day!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Getting Ready for Back to School


Can you believe it’s time to go back to school?!  Our children have been counting down the days until they get to step foot inside of their school.  They love everything about being in school which always makes going back a little bit easier.  This year we have a 4th Grader and a KINDERGARTENER!!!  That’s right... both children are in school which means gone are the days of paying that monthly tuition, ha! 
{Sidenote:  This is a little photo wall I put together at church so that parents could take pictures of their kids before school starts back.  The paper fans (similar ones on Amazon HERE Aff Link), burlap banner (similar ones on Amazon HERE), larger letters, and colorful pennants (similar ones on Amazon HERE) are from Hobby Lobby.  The pom banner (similar ones on Amazon HERE) is from Target}

First, let’s talk about Israel.  We were worried for a little bit that he wouldn’t be able to go to Joelle’s school since she’s a transfer student.  BUT, we are so excited that his transfer was approved and they will be under the same roof for one year.  It seems crazy that this will be the ONLY year they are EVER in the same school together!

I asked Israel a few questions and here are his responses:

Favorite Color:  red and blue
Favorite Toy:  superheroes and cars and dinosaurs
Favorite Movie:  Peter Rabbit and Lego Batman
Favorite Place You’ve Traveled:  Oklahoma and Hawaii
Happiest Memory:  When we took pictures in the woods and the leaves were different colors (not a clue where this came from, ha!)
Saddest Memory:  When Lucas played football and he didn’t win
Future Career:  The Flash
Favorite Book:  The Comic Book I made
Favorite Sport:  Running and Basketball
What do you think Kinder will be like?  I think we will go out to recess, but maybe not every day.
This boy is ALL ready for Kinder!  Crossing our fingers and toes AND saying our prayers that this year will be WONDERFUL!

Alrighty, now onto Joelle!  Joelle will be in FOURTH GRADE this year!  That is officially BIG KID status which makes our hearts just a little sad.  We really do love every stage they go through, and seeing her so confident and independent, yet loving and helpful really is a blessing.  This year she will be rotating to four classes AND gets a school laptop (not our favorite thing ever, but that’s a whole other subject!).  Needless to say, I think our little girl isn’t so little anymore. 

I asked Joelle some questions and here are her responses:

Favorite Book:  The Babysitter's Club
Favorite Movie:  Coco
Favorite Place You’ve Traveled:  Hawaii
Happiest Memory:  When I got to hold Cannon
Saddest Memory:  When Cannon was sick
Future Career:  Scientist
Favorite Sport:  Soccer
What do you think 4th grade will be like?  Fun and exciting
What makes a good friend?  Someone who is always there for you
Where do you want to go to college?  Tulsa

We will be back VERY soon with all of the first day pictures.  I’ve already warned the kids that the camera will be ready for ALL THE SMILES, ha!  They let out a few moans and groans until I reminded them that I’m mom and I get what I want ;)



Friday, August 17, 2018

Joelle's 9th Birthday Party!

It's been a good three years since I've blogged about Joelle's birthday.  I'm not real sure how time has gone so fast, but it definitely has.  And blogging definitely went to the wayside!  Before we get into the good stuff, let's talk about Joelle's birthday:

1.  It always falls during the first week of school... also known as the BUSIEST time of year ever.
2.  We normally vacation until the end of July, so birthday parties are the furthest thing from my mind.
3.   I love celebrating birthdays, but I do not love planning a party!

This year she decided she wanted to take some friends to a trampoline park.  But, since I didn't plan very far in advance... we had to go on a Wednesday night.  However, it worked out really well because the place was pretty empty.   Plus, they do EVERYTHING for you.  We just showed up with the kids and a cake... perfect for Last Minute Lucy over here!  If I had it my way, we'd be going to Urban Air for every birthday party from here on out!  Everyone had a great time and the kids got to play for a solid two hours.
 Also, Israel lives his best life at a Jumpoline Park (as he calls it).  It wouldn't surprise me if he decides to have his party there in October!
 He jumped in and out of this pit no less than 182 times.
 And my big kid... I mean husband...played the entire time too.  I think he was feeling his age by the end of it!


 The wonderful thing about Urban Air is you do not have to do a thing!  They take care of all the details for you and connect you with a host on their team.  Book it, sign the waivers, and show up with a cake!  They had all of the balloons, plates, water, etc.  This last minute mama was HAPPY!  
We ended with a friendly game of dodgeball where Jared attempted to take down all of our party guests.  Meanwhile I tried to keep the little ones from being knocked out ;)
Most years we take Joelle and one or two friends to do something special since it's such a busy time of the year.  We've avoided (I mean - missed out on) big birthday parties so far!  However, the joy, giggles, sweat, and fun from Wednesday night sent all of our kids home with big smiles and great memories. 

Joelle is such a special young lady!  Every day we wake up we realize how blessed we are to call our two beautiful kids 'ours.'  This time of year is busy with back to school shopping, soccer, football, and what feels like a billion other things; but we wouldn't trade this crazy life for anything in the world! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Our Trip to Disneyland

Disneyland and Disneyworld are kind of like Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper.  They both have some of the same ingredients but they couldn't be much more different than they are.  Disneyworld is HUGE and Disneyland is much more 'contained.'  Disneyworld has all of the new gadgets, ticketing, resorts, and rides; but Disneyland has done a great job including new elements while really preserving the history of the place Walt built.  We had such a blast at Disneyland over our three day visit this past Summer.
I'll start off by saying the cursed words we'd never say at Disneyworld:  We didn't stay at a Disney hotel.  I know, taboo!  We stayed at the Best Western Plus Park Place Inn.  The mini-suites are larger than a normal room and you can get a room for less than $200 per night.  You also get free breakfast and are literally right across the street from the entrance of Disneyland (no buses, no parking, just a 3 minute walk to the front gate)!  In my opinion, it's closer to the parks than the rooms at Disney that are $400-700 per night.  It may not have the 'magic' (as Amy says), but it's a great bang for your buck.
Disneyland is so much different than 'world' when it comes to their FastPasses.  World has a FastPass system that you better be familiar with about 60 days from the start of your trip.  Land really allows you to show up clueless and figure it out as you go, and that's "kinda" what we did.  I'm a planner so that was really difficult for me, but the FastPass system at Disneyland was super simple and we were able to ride every single ride we wanted at the parks.
My first bit of advice is download the Disneyland app on your smartphone and purchase the MaxPass.  It's $10 per day, per person, but it keeps you from running all over the park to ride rides.  From your phone you can book your first FastPass of the day.  As soon as that hour long window for your ride begins, you can book another FastPass.  Your other option is walking around the park, scanning your ticket at the ride you want, getting a return time, and heading off to another ride to scan your ticket while you wait for your other ride.  That sounds confusing right?  Now add two kids to the mix....don't do it.  It's worth the $10 per person!
Here's how it works:  You want to ride Guardians of the Galaxy (because it's literally the best ride on planet earth) so you go into your app and find a time that works for you.  Let's say you get 10-11am for your ride time.  You can show up any time between 10-11am to ride Guardians.  All you have to do is scan your ticket once you are at the ride.  When the clock strikes 10am, you're allowed to start booking your next FastPass, even if you haven't been on Guardians yet.  It kind of helps you stay 'ahead of the game' for rides.  These FastPasses are unlimited for your day so use it as many times as you want.  But remember, you can't book your next FastPass until the time slot for your current one.  If you enjoy riding rides, aim for earlier FastPasses for rides to get more in.
Our favorite park was California Adventure, simply because we LOVED Guardians of the Galaxy.  Joelle and I rode Guardians FIVE times.  That's kind of sad to admit.  However, each time you ride it's a different experience.  They play 6 different songs, and have numerous different videos as you work your way through the ride so each ride is a different experience.  It's really cool.  I honestly giggled like a school girl every single time I rode it.
Our other favorite rides were:
Radiator Springs Racers - such an incredible ride, and SO well done.  Israel was in Disney heaven on this ride and we all enjoyed it so much too!

Toy Story Midway Mania - This one has become a classic for our family already.  We all agreed to let Hope win one game...don't tell her though.  She's convinced she won on her own.

Incredicoaster - This ride is intense and SO much fun!  They just recently re-made this ride to include the Incredibles and we actually were able to ride it in it's first week of opening.  Pixar Pier is such a neat place at Disneyland.  Be sure to stop and grab a cookie right outside of the ride when it's over.  Or grab one while you're in line and then grab another after the ride!  That's the Lemons' way!
Sidenote- Israel wasn't quite tall enough to ride this one!  So, check the height requirements before walking up :)

Pirates of the Caribbean - This is one of the classics that has be re-done over the years.  Riding a ride that Walt himself came up with was really neat.

Space Mountain - Who goes to Disney without riding this classic?  Our kids both love Space Mountain.  Space Mountain at Disneyland is different because it is a side-by-side coaster which makes it a lot of fun.

Indiana Jones - This is such a well done ride!  It does jostle you around a bit if you have back issues, but it wasn't too bad at all.  There are so many different elements to this ride.  It had us wide-eyed and excited the entire ride.

I'm going to move on to food really quickly:

Flo's Cafe - This is a quick serve spot near Cars Land and it's a great place to stop in.
Cozy Cone - Do yourself a solid and get real hungry, then go grab a cozy cone full of chili or mac-n-cheese.  This was a fun stop in Cars Land as well.
Cafe Orleans - Skip the food (although it's good) and go straight for the beignets!  Oh my word!  Wade and Hope love the Monte Cristo here as well.

Blue Bayou - This is a really cool restaurant inside the Pirates ride.  It's a cool atmosphere with upscale New Orleans style food.  It is a little more expensive than the normal restaurant but was a really cool experience.  BOOK EARLY if you want to eat here!
Goofy's Kitchen - This is the character meal we chose at the Disneyland Hotel and we had a ton of really good food from their buffet.  You also get to meet Mickey, Goofy, Chip & Dale, and Pluto.  This was a really fun dinner.
If we had to choose Disneyland or Disneyworld, you guessed it - we'd choose both!  They both have a lot to offer, great weather, and unique experiences.  Disneyland is much more do-able in just a few days, and the weather during the Summer is really nice weather compared to the heat Orlando experiences at times.  We definitely hope to head back to Anaheim in the future to give it another go, but in the meantime, you go check it out and let us know your favorite things!
PS... We also saw Cruella for the first time EVER during our trip to Disney Land.  She was on-the-go and had the perfect snappy personality!


Friday, August 10, 2018

The Big Island

The Big Island...aka Hawaii, but that confuses people, is awesome!  The terrain actually reminds me of the mountains in Colorado a little, but the beaches are also great.  We love to travel to the Big Island because the water is beaming with life!  The Big Island is kind of our 'activity' island.  I know that scares some of you relaxing-type folk because it seems like the other islands are full of activities, but the Big Island is huge and needs to be explored!
We've stayed at the Sheraton in Kailua-Kona, as well as a house rental in Mauna Lani called Kamilo.  Both were great, but we'd always choose the house over a hotel.  Remember, traveling with friends helps cut the big prices down and gives you someone to share the experience with!  Before we forget, if you are on The Big Island... do yourself a favor and eat at Lava Lava Beach Club!

I should also mention that it's fairly cheap to bounce island to island while in Hawaii, once you've arrived.  For $65-120 you can purchase one-way tickets from island to island.  I'd only suggest doing this if you are traveling more than 8 days because packing up every few days and heading to the airport can be a headache if you don't plan ahead and have ample time to relax in between!  This past summer we headed to Maui on American Airlines, hopped to Kauai and then the Big Island via Hawaiian Airlines.  We knew we were going to do this so we booked our return flight home on American Airlines from Kailua-Kona.  All of our flights were one-way tickets, but it didn't cost any extra money to do things that way.  Make sure you book direct flights on Hawaiian Airlines.  It's not a huge deal to connect when island hopping, but it does waste time, and the direct flights are so much more convenient.

Here are our top things to do on the Big Island!

1.  Manta Ray Dive/Snorkel - (www.konadivingecoadventures.com) - This is one of the top scuba dive destinations in the world.  There is nothing quite like this, and the fun part is, if you aren't certified to scuba dive they offer snorkeling as well and it's just as cool.  Kona Diving has custom built surfboards with lights that draw the manta rays straight up to you for an up close encounter.


Manta rays can get 15 ft wide or more.  They have no teeth or stingers so they are, as our friend 'Flipper' says, the big labradors of the ocean.  They are incredible creatures and the dive is such an amazing experience.  Don't allow the night time swim to intimidate you.  If Amy and Hope can do this multiple times I promise you can too!  We met a friend on the boat last year and he went with us again this year.  His Instagram is @flippersunderthesea and he is as entertaining as he is fun/experienced.  He'll likely be on your boat tour and if he is, get to know the guy!  We've had so much fun our last two trips with him.

Promise me if you go to the Big Island you will give this a try!  These creatures are truly majestic, and it really is an experience of a lifetime!

2.  Kilauea (https://www.bluehawaiian.com/bigisland/tours)- This is the volcano that is currently erupting on the opposite side of the island from Kona (the airport).  It was so sad for us to hear how much tourism is taking a hit this year because of the volcano.  Tour operators and resorts are hurting more this year because people are scared to travel.  I can understand that on the surface, but if you do your research, you'll find that Kilauea is so far from the resort side of the Big Island (100 miles with a mountain in between) that you can still have an amazing trip!

This year we toured the lava flow with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters which was a first for us.  When a volcano erupts for the first time in over 1,000 years, and you're on the island, you go check it out.  I cannot put into words how incredible it was to see nature at it's strongest.  To know that God created this earth in 6 days, and has such an incredible imagination to create things like lava....blows my mind every day!  The destruction we saw is heartbreaking, but most of the people we met knew this was a possibility and have such a great respect for the history that is happening right now.  I have never in my life seen such an incredible thing as I did with my family on that helicopter.
We watched the lava flow, saw it bubbling up, and got to see it's entry point into the ocean.  It was an experience that truly made my jaw drop in awe!

3.  Dolphin swim (https://wilddolphinswimshawaii.com) -  Before you go freaking out about dolphin captivity read this whole section!  Roberta is a lady we met last summer on a dolphin swim.  The Big Island is home to massive pods of Spinner Dolphins that run free up and down the coast.  They hunt at night and then come in near shore to relax during the day.  Scientists are constantly trying to prove that swimming with these beautiful creatures is dangerous, but when you swim with them you'll quickly see they are playful, and when they are done playing with you, they'll leave on their own.


This is one of the coolest things we have ever done.  Our first day out with Roberta was incredible, and this past Summer's swim with her crew was even better.  We saw hundreds of dolphins, baby dolphins, and dolphins that came right up to us and leaped out of the water doing flips and singing their sonar songs.  The best things about Roberta - she has a very small boat that is GREAT in the water, so our crew of 6 were the only ones on the boat.  We had the entire tour to ourselves.  That also means more time in the water!  Try her out....she and her crew are awesome!  If you're lucky, they may even pack you a lunch that Wade King would die for (so good)!
4.  Waipio Horses (https://waipioonhorseback.com) - This one was a first for our family.  I grew up riding horses so trail riding is not much of a  thrill for me.  Joelle and Israel have never been on horses though so we thought we'd give it a try.  I actually combine that with forcing my friends from downtown Atlanta onto a horse to ride in the jungle....win/win!
This company was super professional and so much fun.  They were incredible patient with everyone and their horses were very healthy and incredibly tame.  Israel and Joelle both rode their own horse for about 3 hours without a single issue.  They did awesome, but a big part of that is this company.
It's a pretty good drive over to Waipio Valley from Kona, but Waipio Valley is one of the most visited places on the island because of it's incredible beauty.  We got to go inside what everyone else stands outside to take pictures of.  This is probably Joelle's favorite tour we've ever done.  We got to eat wild fruit, see incredible waterfalls and scenery, and spend a little time making fun of one another on the trail ride.  A word to the wise:  bring jeans....that leather saddle isn't always friendly to those in shorts!
Those are a few of our favorite things.  We've been here twice now and can't wait to get back.  We've honestly made friends on the Big Island, and have fallen in love with how different it is from all of the other islands.  Research and check into it...it's safe to  travel to and a lot of places are offering discounts because tourism is struggling more this summer.  Coolest part about the Big Island right now - when we return it'll be bigger than it is right now.  The island is still growing because of Kilauea.  There is already an extra mile of coastline from the lava flow on the backside of the island!

Check out Wade and Hope's VLOG to see all of our Big Island Adventures!