Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Go Fish


I'm doing some catching up on this blog thingy and wanted to kick off this update with a post about our super fun trip to Colorado in July!  Jason and I were both really overdue for a vacation and a 5 day trip to the mountains to meet up with my parents at the mountain house (aka Burnbrae) just about hit the spot. It would have been enough to just escape the sweltering heat back in KC but to visit such a gorgeous place and spend time in the mountains was absolutely perfect!

Before we embarked on the trip, Jason and I decided we would focus on fishing and getting the kids to a place where they understand the mechanics of fishing, how to cast, etc in order to be in control of their own rod and really start to have fun with it. I'd say our plan worked!

We had a few work meetings to attend for a development project in Colorado but other than that, we devoted all spare time to the craft of fishing.  We actually decided to stay an extra day because I was not ready to leave on Sunday and OLIVIA was the one who convinced everyone to go fishing for another day on that last day.

The first day this grand plan started out as a Fishing 101 class taught by Jason. But the reality and sometimes boredom of fishing set in and things seemed to devolve into an exercise resembling Torture by Fishing until things came back around to sessions such as Advanced Knot Untangling, Worm Wrestling for Beginners, and Chasing Down the Chipmunk Who Stole Your Lunch.  Eventually this all added up to a whole lot of family fun. 

I think grabbing a cooler, packing lunch, worms, patience, sunscreen and whatever else it takes (SERIOUSLY, I don't honestly know what all is needed.. I defer to Jason on this stuff) to get out there with a fishing pole and tangle with some fish... it's all good in my opinion.  

Fishing at 11 Mile Canyon
Learning to Fish with Daddy
Not her first catch ever, but the first after she learned to cast!
We threw all of the fish back! No fish were harmed by the making of this blog.
Fishing Not Catching. AKA It's OK to be bored sometimes says Mom.
Besides fishing, we did make time to visit 7 Falls which is always fun. On the way down, we ran into a guy who INSISTED on getting the perfect family shot of us. OK!
Summer 2018, 7 Falls
A few more pics on 7 Falls which involved far less effort.

The kids recently started back at St. Paul's in Kindergarten and First Grade. They were both super excited to return to school so I'm thinking they must be doing something right!

First Day of 1st Grade Self Portrait
All Polished Up for Picture Day!
Proud of the Yard Sign they gave us and Pic Day Ready!
We're all settled back into school now and enjoying getting back to the routine of it all. The kids are taking music lessons, Olivia is taking voice and piano and Quinn is taking ukulele/guitar.  We got a new couch for my birthday for the main family room! 

The sounds around our house these days include Quinn's whistling (he is a whistler!), Olivia practicing her spelling words, the kids talking to Alexa (google AI device!) and Vanna's panting, scratching, etc (however we did have to euthanize her on Oct 3rd and she is very much missed). Vanna lived a few days short of 13 years and was hardly ever sick a day in her life. 

R.I.P. Vanna!  It's hard to believe we are officially a dog-free zone.
Love always, Claire & Family

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Silly Squirrels

School is out and Summer officially started today. It's been packed with quite a bit of fun already :)

Olivia and Quinn are both doing swim team this year. Olivia is in 8 & Under competitive swim and Quinn is enjoying Pre-Compet and learning all of the strokes, quite literally! They are both doing tennis as well.
Carriage Club Swim Team Members who are also on the Hockey Team!
Olivia and Quinn with Maxwell

Olivia (left) w/ Friend at 1st Swim Meet!

Quinn Playing 'Little Stars' Tennis 
We've been active outdoors trying new sports too like lacrosse (Spring teams for both Q & O) and also basketball. We've had some fun family 2 on 2 games after dinner these days trying out the new basketball goal we got for the driveway!
Shooting hoops after dinner
We have also been doing some home improvement projects in the back yard and on the deck. We are growing cucumbers, bell peppers, jalapenos, habeneros and tomatoes. Father's Day weekend, the kids had fun with Daddy assembling the new cooler for the deck as well!

Nice Addition to the Deck :)
Believe it or not, one of the highlights of the Summer so far has been watching the critters in our yard and trying to outsmart them, kind of like our own version of "The Great Outdoors"!  I think the kids get some of this tendency from their Dad, and it really cracks me up. Just the other morning, Olivia tore into the kitchen and started rummaging through the cabinets. She then ran outside clutching a plastic tub and yelling "I'm going to catch that chipmunk, Mommy!". I'm not sure really what the plan was since she came up empty after stalking it around the yard for awhile.

The real story here is all about squirrels though... Actually birdfeeders but eventually we get to squirrels. So as part of the home improvement initiative, we decided to get a good bird feeder to attract more birds to our yard. For the past 12 years I've been in the house, we've had a cardinal that claims our yard as his territory. He fights off every other bird around to keep his home base intact. I think this is the year we're gonna change that.

We went to the store and bought a nice bird feeder, lots of seed and a "squirrel proof" dome for it. We installed this under a tree and quickly the squirrels converged on it, devouring all of the seed. FYI, we have what could be considered a squirrel infestation in our yard. Not kidding. In the morning, we routinely see what we call 'squirrel parties' in the yard which basically amount to 8+ squirrels all hanging out and squirreling around. There are massive squirrel nests in several of our trees.

So, since our squirrel proof feeder was immediately defeated, Quinn and Daddy decided to up the game. They went back to the store to get a pole and some wood to mount the bird feeder away from the squirrels. Then came the stake-out to see if the new plan was a success.
Quinn with the Newly Mounted Feeder
Well.... it was not exactly a success, but we're having fun with it! The squirrels figured out how to launch themselves from the fence to the feeder. Jason even caught this hilarious action shot!
Ready, Set, Go!
So Jason decided to move the feeder away from the fence.
This has to work, right??
Nope. At this point, I'm sorry to say that the score is Squirrels 3 - Cunninghams 0. And that's even AFTER Jason greased up the pole to hopefully keep them from climbing up it! See results of that experiment below...
Ninja squirrels showing off in our yard!
We do have a few more tricks up our sleeve such as putting a slinky on the pole and reinstalling the squirrel dome UNDER the bird feeder. We're not giving up easily and in the meantime, lots of critters like rabbits, birds and chipmunks are enjoying the seed on the ground around the feeder, so I guess in some ways its "mission accomplished"!

With the crazy heat wave we've had, we've been spending lots of time at the pool and just the other day Jason noticed in the tree behind us at the pool there was a squirrel hanging over the branch dead asleep! We'd never seen that before so we pointed it out to the kids and they all got a kick out of it. They woke the poor thing up and then it sauntered a few feet up the branch and passed out again in the crook of a branch all splayed out.

Here's a picture of my sleeping squirrels who love to bunk down each night together during the Summer. Don't even THINK of trying to separate them! They are best buds and the sweetest lovies to one another.
Sleep tight, My Loves! Quinn w/ a fresh drool spot + 3 layers of blankies.
We are enjoying the blessings of family and nature around here, and we wish our friends and family all the best. Hope you all enjoy these dog days of Summer!

Love Always,
Claire & Family

Friday, March 2, 2018

Beyond the Reef

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



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



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

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!