Well, Aloha old friends! It’s been a heckuva long time since I tossed out some words on here! I spent all of January, nose to the grind, rewriting a new curriculum for our Junior High’s Red Ribbon Week. We introduced a “Week of Connection” to the students and talked about how they can improve mental health, build resiliency, and forge better connections with others. I’ll write about that in my next post. It was more successful than I imagined and I’m working on a tool kit to post here for those who may want to start up a similar program.
After wrapping up that project, it was all hands on deck to send out our Valentines. Front above, back below.
I also included a short update on the fam (which often turns into more of a ridiculous missive, with a few entertaining lines). Read if you have a handful of patience lying around. . . and a magnifying glass.
I love the pidgin talk/slang. A couple years ago Michelle introduced me to a pidgin version of the Bible, and I could not stop laughing as I leafed through. It’s called Da Jesus Book. Do yourself a favor and study it alongside your KJV. It’s awesome and cuts to the heart of every story.
Life has been moving at break-neck speed. I try to build margins into my day but they are almost always eaten up by the unexpected. Like Gordon getting a concussion at school, another child home with the flu, an emotional melt-down likely due to our new neighbors that moved in – “The Hormones,” phone calls, emails, a bracket coming off someone’s braces, or a litany of other pressing issues that suddenly roar into the forefront of my attention.
Parenting all these tween/teens is tougher than I ever thought it would be. I’m pretty sure no other job on this planet requires you to call on deeper reserves of wisdom, creativity, self-discipline, patience, intuition, and divine assistance.
And since I don’t really have any answers right now to the crazy, I’ll float back to our glorious Kauai trip in November. Took these photos our first morning out. Woke up to run this beach trail east out of Poipu.
That’s Doug on the trail ahead of me. Sky on fire. Ocean aqua blue in the first morning light.
We stayed at the Marriott, Waiohai Resort in Poipu. Rooms have a full kitchen, plenty of beds, activities for families, and an awesome pool area with walkout access to Poipu beach.
The kids could volley back and forth between pool and sand. It was the perfect ocean hangout.
Our first afternoon we decided to explore the island a bit. We heard one of the best places for shave ice was Hee Fat, along the Kuhio Highway.
It blew our minds. Real fruit syrup, made in-store, with vanilla bean ice cream on bottom and top. This particular flavor was Passion Orange Guava (POG). My favorite juice on the planet.
Look at those cups of yumminess. Snow cones on steroids.
Two of the best things about Hawaii: electric purple bougainvillea and POG.
Happiest serendipity was discovering that our dear friends, the VandenAkkers, were on the island, staying in the same resort! They invited us to Polihale Beach Sunday night to join them for a bonfire and dinner. Our kids were thrilled!
It’s was a solid 20 minutes of off-roading to get to the beach, but so worth it! Isolated, pristine, and the perfect place to watch the sun set. We played games, listened to favorite tunes, and told scary stories around the fire. Doug had us all on edge with his Kamikaze pilot story. (We learned later, he made it up on the spot.)
Then the stars appeared. First Saturn and Jupiter, Cassiopeia, Orion, and the Milky Way. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen stars like that. It was an incredible night. So grateful to the VNakks, who we got to hang out with a few more times during our trip!
Day 2 we drove up Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It’s a large canyon, approximately ten miles long and up to 3,000 feet deep, located on the western side of Kauai. Waimea is Hawaiian for “reddish water” – a reference to the erosion of the canyon’s red soil.
Look at this red sand! It’s like southern Utah but a deeper shade.
Spence looking mighty.
The canyon itself is stunning, with all kinds of layers and lava rock.
Ali off to explore.
Eliza and Sami
Pretty amazing view.
At the top of the canyon road you can look out over the Nā Pali coast. We did a short hike along the ridge line called the Pihea Trail.
Kauai is a magnificent wonder. All of it. From mountain to shoreline. Doug and I have always stayed on Maui and Oahu. But exploring someplace new with our kids was a grand adventure!
Kauai is known for its roosters. They’re everywhere. We saw them on every run, passed them on every hike, and heard them every morning. They’re regular Kauai citizens. At Waimea Canyon Park they seemed so confident in their reign of the island, they posed for photos. ⬆️
Day 4 was rather rainy, but by afternoon we headed up towards the North Shore to try and find Secret Beach. After parking at the end of a dirt road, we found the trail and hiked in our slippahs down the hill, boogie boards tucked under our arms.
When we dropped down on the beach, the sight was absolutely breathtaking.
Lighthouse standing resolute on this fingertip of the island.
Soft and sandy beach scape both directions,
With some of the biggest surf we’d seen yet. For the first hour no one dared get in the water — the waves were so big and clashed in a criss-cross motion, making a whirlpool sweep in some sections of the beach. We found a place where everyone dared to venture out and within minutes everyone was catching waves and riding in at full speed. The boogie-boarding was insane! Such a blast!
Pretty soon our favorite VNakks texted to see where we were and decided to join us. Yes!
We stayed the entire afternoon and boarded until dark.
Spence beating back the waves.
Spence, Luke, and Gordy.
These three didn’t get out of the water.
I love that they got to spend so much time together on this trip.
And this is one of the best photobomb pics ever. Ruby for the win!
Ali and Ruby are on the same dance company together. It’s fun because all our kids line up with the VandenAkkers. Eliza and Grace are in the same grade and swim together. Ali, Sami and Ruby are in the same grade. And Spence, Gordy and Luke are in the same grade. Just Josh, their oldest, doesn’t have an Arvy buddy, but he’s an awesome big bro.
The men got in their fair share of boarding too. Josh, Jason, and Doug.
And here’s Rebecca. I love her. She and I are serving in the Young Women’s program together in our church. We work with the junior and senior girls. I’m continually amazed by her wisdom and creativity, her compassion, and skills. This lady has oodles of hidden talents. It’s such a privilege to spend more time with her in this capacity. And hanging out in Kauai was a surprise bonus!
We took 20-plus jumping pics trying to get everyone in the air at the same time.
Lots of funny outtakes.
Swim Team girls. Grace and Eliza.
These two swam on a bunch of relays together this year and they were so much fun to watch!
As afternoon light began to fade, the clouds darkened and a heavy rainstorm rolled in. Because everyone was already wet, no one wanted to stop boarding.
So we played all the way through the storm until it was so dark we couldn’t see the difference between the treeline and the sky. We figured we’d better head up the trail before it got any darker, but what we hadn’t considered was that the trail was a slippery, muddy, mess of water. A small stream was now making its way down the trail towards the beach.
Everyone began sliding off the path, losing their flip flops, grasping onto anything that wasn’t moving – tree branches, roots, each other! We were beginning to lose Sami down the mountainside, but Doug snagged her. Towels dragged through the mud, boogie boards waved this way and that. Everyone was either screaming or laughing their heads off. We had to literally push each other’s behinds up the hill to keep from sliding down in one fell swoop. Luckily, Jason brought a headlamp which lit up back of the pack. At one point, as we continued to struggle up the trail, I heard Grace yell, “I think there’s a reason all the locals left when it started to rain!!”
Way ahead of us, a flashlight suddenly appeared and blazed onto the trail we were trying to navigate. “Who’s that nice person holding a light?” I called out. The response: “Just put your feet in the puddles, that’s where the good footholds are.” And he was right. As we passed him I asked, “Are you camping in those tents down on the beach?” He said, “I live there.” And I’m sure he wondered what these crazy main-landers were doing coming up in the pitch dark, during a rainstorm.
We arrived safely at our cars, completely drenched and mud all over our skin and clothes. We dried off as best we could, then went to Brick Oven Pizza in Kalaheo. So thankful they served us right before closing. The pizza was delish!
Day 4 we hiked to Ho’opi’i Falls. Pretty little hike to a rope swing. Tevas or more secure sandals would have been the best option for footwear. Or runners. Too slick for slippahs.
Sami found a pretty leaf parasol.
The Falls were lovely.
And the rope swing was a blast. Everyone took turns.
This hike was a lot of bang for your buck. Not too far, but beautiful terrain, and loads of fun.
We passed lots of roosters, rousted out a few wild piglets, and admired these African tulips that littered the jungle floor with bright spots of orange.
Also joining us were a number of husky Hawaiian mosquitoes. We should’ve sprayed down with repellant. Look at Gordy’s back.
After our hike we stoped in Wailua at Street Burger. Our family agreed: this was the best burger we’ve ever eaten. Home made ketchup. Everything fresh and cooked to perfection. And they even have an in-house brewed root beer which was heavenly, if you’re a root beer fan. And I am.
Street Burger has become legendary in the Arvy annals.
In between adventures we swam at the hotel, walked over to the shops at Kukui’ula to browse and took in the holiday decor. . .
It quickly became a nightly ritual to grab ice cream at Lappert’s. So good.
On Thanksgiving night, we said goodbye to the VandenAkkers, who were headed to Oahu. We’ll forever cherish our time with them in Kauai.
I loved walking down to the beach at night to listen to the waves, watch for stars, and gaze out to the edge of the waters. I get that sensation on a quiet beach of being so very small, yet so known. I’m so thankful God gifted us this precious earth.
Days 5 and 6 we drove way up to the North Shore to explore Hanalei. And we were stopped in our tracks by the beauty. Hanalei is the most darling, quiet little town, tucked away in what I would call, Hawaiian heaven.
This charming old church was the first built on the island in 1834 but blew down in a heavy storm and was later rebuilt in 1912. It’s name, Wai’ oli Hui’ia, means “joyful water” or “singing river.”
This is the Mission Hall. The entire area, known as the Mission District, covers 17 acres and stretches back towards some of Hanalei’s most pristine mountains and jungle.
The Mission House, pictured here, served as lodging for missionaries, a school, and is now a small museum.
Eliza and I took a walk across the grounds to take in the scenery, the waterfalls cascading down the mountainsides, and discussed what a sweet and peaceful feeling there was here.
After exploring, we parked at Hanalei Bay for more boogie boarding, swimming, and beaching. Spencer, heading back out to tackle the surf.
As Eliza and I were walking back to the beach, a local man, carrying handfuls of papayas, was walking towards us and stopped to hand us a fresh papaya. He was happy to share the treasure from his tree. I was so touched by his generosity, sat down on the beach, and ate it right then.
Sami told me a couple summers ago when we were in Mission Beach, California: “Mom! I think I found my sport! It’s boogie boarding!” We had a good laugh. She really does love it. Too bad it’s not a year-round sport for Utahns. 😂
Compared to Secret Beach, the waves here were much more mild, but still lots of fun.
We ate lunch in downtown Hanalei. Lots of good choices. I think this container was a chicken sandwich for one of the kids, but I took a photo because I love that the server wrote this verse on the lid.
After graduating from high school, Kara and I spent a week in Hana, Maui, with Kara’s grandparents, Duff and Maxine Hanks.
Both are gone now, but how I love them. They owned a home in Hana that rested on lush, green hills above a rocky black shore. It had a large, white sundeck that overlooked the ocean and was the most peaceful place. That home was made for reading and pondering.
Kara’s grandfather was known as a great teacher and leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it wasn’t until years later that I better understood how beloved he was for his unconditional compassion, his service, and wisdom.
One evening he invited us to sit down with him at the kitchen table. The windows were wide open to the sound of the ocean and trade winds rustled his papers.
He opened his bible and began to tell us the story of Jacob and his twelve sons, the scattering of the tribes of Israel, the importance of gathering the House of Israel. (This is a concept we, as members of the Church, believe in. That God will gather those who are searching for truth unto Him.) Until this point in my life, I had never understood the significance of this story. But, as if to sum it all up with one overarching purpose, he asked if we had memorized John 3:16. I was a little embarrassed to say I hadn’t. Elder Hanks then repeated it out loud, in perfect accuracy, with so much feeling.
“For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Then he said, “Now you can’t learn verse 16 without learning verse 17. The two are inseparable.” He continued,
“For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
Then he told us, “Those two verses are the most important verses in all of scripture.” I memorized both that very night.
I have never forgotten what he taught us that night: Our Heavenly Father gifted His Son to the world, and that gift was the key to salvation for me, for the tribes of Israel, for all of God’s children. I have also never forgotten those verses. Even now I type them easily from memory.
Years ago I had my children memorize these verses. I’ve asked every children’s class or youth class I’ve taught to memorize them. They are powerful. God’s Spirit confirms them to our hearts every time we say them. They are words we can tell ourselves when we feel discouraged, or have questions, or when we need a reminder of what is most important.
On one of our last days on Kauai, we drove to Wailua Falls. The overlook offers a view of a beautiful little valley and this stunning cataract. You can also kayak the Wailua River, which the VandenAkkers did, and said it was way cool.
Sami talked with this man who was weaving baskets out of palm fronds. He rescued a little chicken who was injured and now keeps him as a pet. He asked if Sami wanted to hold the chicken, so she did.
I love her smile, that she was interested in him, and that they made this sweet connection. I wish I could remember his name.
The hike we really hoped to do, to HanaKaape’i Falls (part of The Kalalau Trail), was too busy and we learned you must now obtain a permit ahead of time to go into that area on foot. So if you’re planning a trip to Kauai, be sure to make a reservation at least a month before at gohaena.com.
Wailua had this cute neighborhood book exchange and we ate breakfast at the Kountry Kitchen Cafe.
Our last day was spent in Poipu, snorkeling, swimming, and enjoying the resort. I have to tell you, my last snorkeling experience was pretty rough and I’ve been afraid to try again. Ya know, breathing under water kinda psychs me out.
But on this trip, I was determined to try again. The kids came out with me on boogie boards (for moral support) and Eliza, who uses a snorkel all the time for swim couldn’t figure out why in the world I was so nervous.
After some deep breaths through the mask above water, I plunged my face into the ocean and told myself to breath slowly and stay calm. And wow – the fish! Every color of the rainbow! I’d never seen such a spectacular world, moving and swishing. We swam with sea turtles, saw an eel, and observed all kinds of incredible sea life. I loved it.
Just as the evening was waning and I was really getting the hang of it, there was a loud blare from the lifeguard’s bull horn: “There has been a shark sighting in the vicinity. Please exit the water or swim at your own risk.” What??! A shark?! And that was the end of my zen-like moment becoming one with the ocean. I was outta the water so fast, I tripped in my flippers and sliced a nice gash in my shin, looking ever so awesome and not at all frantic. 🤪
Tempering the slight hysteria of a shark sighting, a beautiful double rainbow arced across the sky to send us home.
The morning we left, we tried to get a family photo by the water. If you look carefully, you can see another faint rainbow coloring the sky.
Ali picked plumerias for all the girls.
And Raimundo, bless his heart, was trimming the grass, but kindly paused his work long enough to snap a photo for us.
Kauai is a quiet, rustic, adventurous island. No big cities or buildings. Small markets for food, one Safeway and a Costco, stunning beaches, and all kinds of ways to get off the beaten path. I hope we go back some day.
The islands always leave me feeling stripped down to what matters. I get on the plane wanting less and loving more.
I hope you are well, my friends. That you are surviving winter if you’re on this side of the globe, and that you can see signs of spring, gently finding their way. We’re almost there.