Friday, March 2, 2018

Beyond the Reef

Hello!
Here's a quick post about a recent trip the family took to the Hawaiian island of Kauai! Olivia likes to refer to it as "the Beautiful Island" and I couldn't agree more :)

We were lucky enough to be joined by my parents, so the kids got some great time in with Grandma Sherry and Papa Mike. There were several highly contested chess matches involved as well!

We stayed on the North end of the island in Princeville which tends to get more rain than the rest of the island. That definitely was our experience! It rained most of the time we were there... almost 7 out of 10 days. But the rain didn't put too much of a damper on things, as the kids still enjoyed the pool and swimming in the rain.

Here is a shot of sunrise on one of the clear mornings that we enjoyed.


In the picture below you'll see in the foreground a sea turtle that the kids are respectfully giving some 'personal space'. In the other picture, you'll see the island chickens and chicks that the kids would feed outside our door. Also, the national bird of Hawaii is the Nene and it is a protected species with only like 2,000 remaining in the world. You wouldn't know it by the presence of them at our resort because the place was crawling with them!


We had a fun yet fairly rough and nauseating passage one of the days on a catamaran boat to "The Forbidden Island" of Niihau. We didn't get to set foot on the island but we did get to snorkel in the water that was just near a huge underwater ledge. We were hoping to see whales pass by and you could hear them but not quite see them. When I first got in the water, I looked down and immediately saw a 6-8 foot reef shark passing just beneath me (yikes!). The kids and I were a bit freaked out at first but we all settled down after awhile. On the passage back, we saw a sea turtle swimming alongside the boat until a tiger shark leaped up and ate it (!). It was quite a National Geographic experience!


The Napali Coast was absolutely stunning. It is used in the filming of the opening shot in the Jurassic Park movies and also the backdrop for several other movies such as Indiana Jones. It was neat to see my cousin Brion Coughlin and his wife Dana in Kauai on this trip as they are spending their first year of marriage in Kauai before settling down in Chicago. On the day we did this tour, Brion and Dana and friends went to Polihale Beach to camp and hike up the coast. Kauai in general is an outdoor adventurer's paradise. There were so many things that we didn't get around to doing which makes it a place that for sure keeps calling you back!


Not shown here but very worth noting is that Quinn learned to snorkel on this trip! We were at the pool one day and he came over and asked for help putting his mask on. Previously he had been too timid to try it, but in typical Quinn-fashion, when he's ready for something he just does it! I got him geared up and then Olivia gave him some pointers in the pool. We got video of his 'maiden snorkel' in the pool and later that day he was snorkeling in the ocean! The water was a bit rough this time of year so, again, coming back in the Summer when the weather is more reliable and the snorkeling is better is definitely on the bucket list.


There are lots of plantations in Kauai which is a place that I think most anything will grow and thrive. Here's Quinn feeding the pigs. Speaking of that QUINN grew on the trip almost an inch. When we got home, I found that he'd outgrown lots of his clothes!


What we love most about beach vacations is the laid back way that days unfold.. exploring the coastline, catching crabs, digging in the sand and so forth. Olivia was actually digging in the sand at Poipu Beach when she picked up what she thought was a black rock.. until it reached out and pinched her on her finger! I was opening coconuts for her and accidentally opened one that was NOT good. My hands were stinking like rotten coconut (not a good smell!) for a few days!


I always come away from trips wishing we had gotten more pictures, but the ones we do capture sure take me back to our lazy days of Kauai in February. In case you wondered, "beyond the reef" refers to a line in the movie Moana. The kids often refer to a place far or dangerous or scary as WAAYYYY beyond the reef.

Signing off now with some tired travelers. Dreaming of new adventures beyond the reef!

Love always, Claire

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Chest

Hello!

We’ve had a wonderful Christmas in KC with lots of great family time and memories. We put the Christmas tree up and decorated it right after Thanksgiving per our usual tradition. It was fun to do Christmas this year at home since we were in the Cook Islands last year during most of the season. Olivia told me that she was really hoping Santa wasn’t mad that we weren’t home last year (!).

Note to self: At least for a few more years, we probably need to stay home for Christmas!

I’ll dive in with an Olivia update! According to her teacher, Mrs. Wiedeman (who Olivia absolutely adores), she is “quite a peach.” We couldn’t agree more! Olivia loves bringing presents to her friends and teachers. Many days I am trying to get her out the door and off to school while she is throwing together some goodie bags or other item to share. When I asked Olivia what she wanted for Christmas this year, she mostly mentioned wanting things to give to other people... she said to me “Mommy, I really don’t need anything you know. But there are some things I would LIKE to have, it’s just that I don’t really need them.”  It is good to recognize the difference between wants and needs and think of others during this time.

This year, Quinn has caught the LEGO bug. He is also a major Star Wars fan. We enjoyed going to the new movie that came out right before Christmas, Star Wars Episode 8, The Last Jedi. We actually had to fib about Quinn’s age in order to get him in the theater. I am not in favor of ever lying about something but I guess lying about your age is a pretty common one!

This year, Santa was being a bit tricky about the present that Quinn had his heart set on this year which was the LEGO Death Star. This all played out pretty similar to The Christmas Story and was absolutely adorable. After we opened all of the presents and Quinn hadn’t received that most coveted and sought after gift, Daddy asked him if he still had a good Christmas and Quinn replied “Yes, it’s ok because I am with my family who I love <3.”

It was so super sweet and a very mature and thoughtful perspective for a little boy who didn’t get the toy he REALLY wanted..... until... just then Olivia spied something tucked way back behind the tree. WAAAYYYY back there. Daddy managed to fish it out and lo and behold, it was the DEATH STAR!

The shrieks of joy and ecstasy from Quinn still ring in my ears. He was beyond thrilled and grateful, bouncing around and off the walls and ceiling for quite some time.

Some other news.... Olivia is becoming quite the skier. We skied a day in Breckenridge when we went to Colorado for the week after Christmas. She love finding little ridges and bumps to ride and also she is a natural tree skier! You practically have to chase her out of them, and I've tried warning her that skiing in trees can be dangerous. Olivia is now preparing for a winter dance performance later this month with her Ballet/Jazz class which will be exciting. Though she is not wild about dance class, she has really stepped up and embraced the busy rehearsal schedule. It’s a good example of following through with your commitments.

Quinn has been to several birthday parties this Winter which is a good way to break up the long, dreary and extremely cold weeks. In addition, we hosted two parties for his own birthday which was January 7th. One for school friends at Dave & Busters and another ice skating party for cousins and their families. In addition to some great LEGO sets, Quinn got a really cool art set from his cousins and he is adamant about keeping it nice (which means not letting Olivia get to it though he does let her borrow it as long as she puts everything back!).

I’ll close with a few pictures of them doing their thing and enjoying life in general. Here is Quinn with his art set plus pics of his old beloved bike and also one of the new bike he got for his birthday which is nearly identical but larger. Pictures of the Death Star construction process, Little Penguins 2017-2018 (quite a resilient bunch with lots of weather to contend with!), Olivia practicing make-up on Quinn and pics from the Carriage Club Santa Brunch where we were joined by Jason's cousin Amber and her daughter Emma.







We feel so blessed to have this precious time together.

Love always, Claire

PS: Last Christmas Papa Mike taught the kids and I to play chess and “chest” is how Quinn pronounces it. I don’t have the heart to correct him on it since it’s so darn cute :) We always play a lot of Chest when we are around Papa Mike and Grandma Sherry.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sunnyside

Hello!

This post is a tribute to my amazing, sweet, wonderful and now 6-year-old daughter... Olivia! I do realize that as her mom there is some built-in bias about the extent of her incredible-ness, but God's honest truth, this little gal lights up every room she walks in.

Jason said it best when he said that Olivia somehow turned out with the best qualities of both of us. From me she got the power of forgiveness, emotional resilience and hopefulness. She was also blessed with Jason's incredible kindness, sensitivity and the ability to see the best in everything. She has a great singing voice with near perfect pitch and that is not something she got from either of us!

Olivia is a sponge at school these days, really soaking up the learning and advancing quickly with reading her little "book in a bag" to me each night. She's the darling of her Kindergarten teachers. My sister Chandra once said that it's no wonder that Kindergarten is the age when the outside world wants to teach our kids because they are just so darn cute right now. I couldn't agree more.

She's a wonderful big sister -- here she is working with Quinn to read one of her books in a bag!

Olivia is altruistic in nature, often putting the needs of others ahead of her own and planning nice things to do for people. Every few weeks at Olivia's behest, we prepare a treat, special card or work of art to present to the teachers at school. When we went to Disney World a few weeks ago and her Papa gave her a little money to spend, she spent it on gifts for her friends! She didn't buy herself ONE THING with that money. We were all surprised.

Olivia is highly prolific with her art projects. We have stacks of pictures of the family and many scenes of Olivia and Quinn holding hands. Her pictures often include big happy faces and bright colors. I bring them to work, posting them around my office, and they seriously brighten up my day!

She loves singing and making up her own songs too. She loves the "Mister Golden Sun" song. I named this blog "Sunnyside" after another favorite and also because around Olivia things are usually kept on the sunnyside.... isn't that something? She has a genuinely cheery disposition and it lightens up every situation.

As I said, Olivia is optimistic, forgiving, hopeful and resilient. A perfect example of this is when I over-schedule our busy Saturday and we run out of time to go to the park even though promises were made that we would go. Quinn will probably be mad about this, whereas Olivia will move quickly past the disappointment to "It's OK, Mommy... Maybe tomorrow we can go. Ok?"

Here's a cute one of Olivia and Quinn practicing 'flexibility' and the Double Sloth Hang at Papa Mike's house!

Finally a picture of Olivia, Daddy, Papa Craig and Great Grandma Joleen at her 6th birthday celebration dinner at Waldo Pizza last week!

Olivia, your family loves you SOOOOO MUCH! We look forward to sharing your 6th trip around the sun together.

Love Always, Mommy, Daddy and Quinn

PS: this blog is scheduled to post at the exact time of your birth 6 years ago :)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Double Infinity Best Buddy

Hello!
Checking in here with a little Quinn update. Our little guy amazes us daily with his insight and intelligence. I'll just dive right in with some fun Quinn facts:

1. Quinn is an early riser and not one to stay up really late. The kids still sometimes do sleepovers but Quinn likes his 'roost' on the 3rd floor and seems to know when he needs his alone time.


2. Quinn LOVES breakfast. I've been on this low-carb/no sugar diet which works really well for me, and as a result, I've been advocating fewer carbs for breakfast (that rules out cereal). Quinn really loves breakfast burritos with eggs, cheese and sausage. He also loves bacon. When the kids eat this kind of breakfast, I notice far less snacking throughout the day.

3. Quinn is really into Star Wars and Legos (and especially Star Wars Legos!). He also loves dinosaurs. I got him this 3 in 1 Lego set where you can make three different dinosaurs with the same pieces and he knocked them out, posing with each special dinosaur!


4. Quinn keeps his room really nice! He enjoys making his bed and arranging his pillows. One Saturday, we made a plan to get a shelf for his room so he could organize and display his Lego creations, dinosaurs and baseball stuff. Quinn told me exactly what he wanted and where it should go. We went to World Market and bought the perfect shelf for his room that we were able to assemble together. It was really fun to help him spiff up his room and he was super-proud of his ideas!
5. Quinn shares a bond with Daddy regarding baseball. He enjoyed playing t-ball this summer with his friends and we made it out to a few Royals games together. We love collecting the bobble-heads!
6. Quinn likes getting dressed up, wearing button down shirts and ties, even bow ties! We belong to the Carriage Club and one of the bartenders there likes to tease Quinn about his ties!

7. Quinn loves helping Daddy build car washes! Jason is currently finishing up the site at 83rd and Wornall in KCMO and Quinn got in on the action, learning to drive the skid steer!

It's funny how different Quinn is from Olivia. Across the board, she is more fun-loving and social while he is more serious and focused, but I know they are a good influence on one another. 

I'm amazed at how quickly they are both absorbing information and building their knowledge. We are really happy with the education they're getting at St. Paul's as well. For example, Quinn's class is learning about the solar system, and last night, Quinn was talking with Papa Mike about why Pluto got "demoted" from being a planet to an asteriod. Fun stuff!

Love always, Claire & Family

P.S. In case you were wondering.... Daddy and Quinn are Double Infinity Best Buddies! :)

P.P.S. A similar detailed update on Olivia is coming soon!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ski Bums & Water Babies

Hi!

I'm playing some catch up today with blog updates! We have had lots and lots of family fun this year since the last update.

I'll start with an update from the slopes. We had a wonderful time in early March in Beaver Creek, Colorado with my mom and sister Molly. Though the ski school days are long and grueling (and sometimes they start with tears at drop-off) we also learned that they serve fresh baked chocolate chip cookies at the base of the mountain after the day is done!

The kids both gutted through two full day lessons with the wonderful teachers at Beaver Creek. On the third and last day, we went as a family up and down the bunny hill about 8 times which was excellent practice for the kids, especially Quinn. It definitely worked best to have Jason or I in the front and back of the 'family train' to provide direction down the mountain and play cleanup on the back end when someone took a spill!


After that trip, we turned around and met Jason's family for a few days in Breckenridge. We skied one day in Copper Mountain and one day in Breckenridge. By the last day in Breck, we were ALL having a lot of fun (even Mom!). Quinn found his stride and we had a blast exploring the Kid Zones and adventure trails! All in all, 2017 was a great year for learning to ski and some great family bonding time in the process.

Fast forward a few months to warmer weather, this year was also an incredible year for learning to swim! Olivia joined the 'precompet' swim team at the Carriage Club where we belong. This gave her the opportunity to swim with a group for an hour every day for the month of June. At the end of the season, they held a Precompet Olympics which was lots of fun too!

Olivia was the youngest competitor in the Harrison Rupp Memorial Swim-A-Thon. She raised about $300 and swam 6 laps! I was so proud of her effort and willingness to help raise money for this cause.


Not wanting to be left behind, Quinn was watching and learning too. By the end of the summer, he was swimming without a floatie for assistance, diving for toys and even going off the diving board!


Here's a picture of Olivia trying new foods at the poolside crawfish and shrimp boil! And one of Quinn enjoying the water slide at Great-Grandma Joleen's 80th Birthday Bash!



Signing off for now.

Love always, Claire



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Firetrucks and Penguins

Happy Winter!

We have had a good winter here in KC this season, though we had hoped for more snow!  We celebrated Quinn's 4th Birthday on Saturday January 7th with an "all boys" party at the Fire Station in Mission, Kansas.


The party was really fun and it started with a tour of the station given by the firefighters who live there. They were really nice and also explained several important safety related things to the kids (for example how and why to call 9-1-1).  After the tour, we went to a Mexican restaurant next door for food, cookie cake and presents.


Quinn was really excited about his birthday especially because he got lots of LEGOS.  Quinn really loves LEGOS and he is really good at following the directions step-by-step to assemble really complex things.

Here is Quinn making a really cool firetruck that Papa Craig and Grandma Kim got for him.


Olivia and Quinn have been having a blast each Monday evening 'practicing' with the Little Penguins hockey team at the Carriage Club where we belong. This year's group of Little Penguins is really large which means we will have a great crop of hockey players coming up with our little ones too!


Jason and I both got skates and we've been taking them to the outdoor rink once a week or so this season during open ice time to practice our skating skills.  It's neat to see them improve each and every week.  Of course, the better they get at skating, the more fun they have with it (and so do mom and dad!).

Here's a picture of our Penguins all geared up and ready for action!


Each year at this time, though the weather might be dull and gloomy, I'm reminded why I do like the KC weather - because we generally do have four distinct seasons.  Spring is just a stones through away at this point and with it comes baseball (go Royals!).

Though we don't have season tickets this year, we will be going out to several games.  Here's a snap from last season when the person next to us caught a foul ball then gave it to us.


Signing off for now.  Stay warm and snuggley and we'll try to do the same!

Love, claire

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sun and Fun

Hello!

The Cunningham family spent the last two weeks of 2016 in the Cook Islands! The trip was amazing, relaxing and so very memorable. We had so much bonding time as a family, and as a additional treat, my parents were able to join us for most of the trip so they got a lot of time with their grandkids too :)

During the weeks leading up to the trip, the kids were a bit stir crazy and maybe a bit over-excited in anticipation of the trip, being more fussy and argumentative than usual. But once we departed KC (considering the unexpected travel delays we encountered), they both turned in to model "travel citizens". Perfectly flexible for whatever we encountered and overall just a joy to be around. Jason and I are happy to point out to them how good they were being because it really does enable us to do more things like this without the strain and stress of worrying about the kids.
Excellent Travelers!
The Cook Islands is really a special place for families and people who love the ocean and South Pacific Island culture. It is not overly crowded with tourists. There is only one direct flight from Los Angeles to Rarotonga weekly, so American tourists only make up a fraction of the people who visit. The pace is slow, shopping and dining opportunities are relatively minimal which is fine by us. A significant percentage of travelers who visit come from Australia and New Zealand.

Here are a few stories from the trip;

1. Olivia fell in love with coconut on the trip! She now loves both the water and flesh of the coconut. From our place on the beach at the resort, she would hunt for a good coconut and then take it to the Beach Hut and then sweet talk one of the boys in to husking it for her. She would then drink the water and ask someone to cut the flesh into wedges which she would offer to folks along the beach, of course making new friends the whole time! Daddy also learned how to husk a coconut and apparently it's harder than it looks, especially if you don't have a sharp stick to work with!

2. Santa bought all of our airline tickets to the Cook Islands, but we thought he might bring another little something while we were over there, so Jason and Quinn made a Christmas tree out of the palm plant in our villa!

3. The kids played hard all day and in the evenings we usually let them have a special ice cream treat. Here's Quinn getting ice cream at the Muri Night Market which was a cool event that happens 2-3 times per week when local people prepare and sell home cooked meals to tourists and residents alike, kind of like a food truck festival but with mostly food tents instead.

4. We went to two Island Nights which were really cool. One was an over water show with fire dancers and the other was a cultural show in the mountain region which my Dad enjoyed in particular. Olivia and Mommy got our hair braided for one of the nights. Quinn was generally sacked out before the show ended!


5. The snorkeling was amazing, particularly in Aitutaki. We went there for two nights and spent a full day with a charter boat on the lagoon, snorkeling and exploring the lagoon. That day had to be the highlight of 2016 for me! Jason had his GoPro camera under water and got some cool shots but we don't have them available yet. We did upgrade our snorkel equipment in Rarotonga and I got a mask that is much more comfortable as a little Christmas present to myself. Olivia is an expert snorkeler now. Quinn has yet to try it but he has all of the gear when he's ready for action!

Best day of 2016!


Our villa in Aitutaki

Taken at a deserted island that we kayaked to

That's a BIG fish she's looking at!
6. Villa 100 at the Pacific Resorts in Rarotonga was our home base and the place was lovely. By the end of the trip, we did rename it the "Crab Shack" due to the encounters we had with various types of crabs in and around the Villa. My dad was awakened the first night he was there with a LARGE crab clawing at his shoulder in his bed - quite a wake up call, I'm sure!
View from back door of  the Crab Shack
The kids and Jason hunted for crabs on the beach each night using the little flashlights we got for them. I'm telling you the crabs they caught kept getting bigger and bigger. I would for sure not want to sleep on that beach at night because it is absolutely crawling with crabs and other critters! They made an environment for the crabs to keep in the room and every day or so we would release all of them and they would catch more that night.
This was like the one that woke my dad up!

It rained a few afternoons which was fine by us because we were able to read (I finished two books cover to cover!), do puzzles and other games. My dad taught me and the kids how to play chess, or as Quinn likes to call it, "chest".

After two weeks of sun, fun and the most enjoyable family time imaginable, we returned to Kansas City just minutes before the clock struck midnight on New Year's Day. What a way to bring 2016 to a close and start 2017 on a positive note.
Buggy Tour - we swam in a (cold) waterfall after this pic!

Thank you Cook Islands! We will be back someday!

Love always, Claire