Maui 2017

This winter, Clay and I went to Maui for the first time. We went with Clay’s sales team at Imagine Learning and we’re so grateful for the memorable trip they provided us with.

The highlight of our trip was the Road to Hana. I am so glad we still went despite a lot of people telling us it may not worth the long drive on a windy road. The drive and the places we stopped at were some of the most beautiful natural creations I’ve seen in my life. My motion-sickness-prone hubby was grateful he brought his Sea Bands, though.

Here’s what we did on the Road to Hana:

Stop 1: Paia town. A cute little village where we walked around and grabbed sack lunches.

Surfboard wall in Paia

Stop 2: Twin Falls. A quaint waterfall. Pretty, but not a must in my opinion.

Stop 3: The Ho’okipa Lookout. The view was gorgeous, but the fruit stand was even better. We bought mango, passionfruit and bananas that saved us seven hours later when we were in the middle of nowhere with no food. (Rookies over here. Make sure you pack plenty of food, water and snacks!)

Ho’okipa Lookout

Stop 4: Garden of Eden Arboretum. A gorgeous, serene garden with stunning lookouts and great picnic spots.You have to pay to get in, but it is so worth it. This one is a must if you like things that are beautiful!

Stop 5: Ke’anae Arboretum. A really cool, quick stop along the coast to check out.

Ke’anae Arboretum. Yay for Sea Bands!

Stop 6: Wai’anapanapa State Park. This one is must! There’s a short walk to a black sand beach and beach cave.

Stop 7: Kipahulu, Haleakala National Park. This was by far our favorite stop. The seven sacred pools were closed, but still amazing to look at, and the ocean view is incredible. We spotted whales from the shore. The hike is what I want to talk about. We almost didn’t go because it was four miles and we wanted to get off the road before dark, but we are so glad we went for it. There are so many beautiful things to see on the trail: Waterfalls, a huge Banyan Tree and a dense bamboo forest. The best part is the waterfall at the end.

The next day, we went on a snorkeling trip and lost count of the whales we saw (my dream come true).

I love my Coco and Kiwi diaper bag that doubles as a great traveling purse. And I was pretty happy to score that Anthro dress for $40.

Now I’m torn about which Hawaiian Island is my favorite. Maui is right up there with Kauai. I think I’d choose to vacation in Maui but live on Kauai. (A literal dream of ours that we hope comes true someday!)

If I missed any Maui must-dos, let me know, because we’re definitely going back.

I’d go running way more if the scenery was like this. My new favorite workout leggings: Albion

 

Cheryl Strayed was the perfect beach companion. And you need this shirt from Cents of Style.

 

5 days of alone time with this man of mine was a dream come true. We need to get away like that at least every year. Swimmer from Called to Surf.

The problem with “How many kids do you want?”

Roxana B. Photography

As women, we are often judged in relation to our family status. Are you dating? If not, why not? If you are, when are you getting married? If you’re married, when are you having kids? If you’re not having kids, why not? If you have kids, how many more are you going to have?

As a young girl, how many kids we wanted was the topic of many conversations with friends about the future families we’d dreamed up in our heads. (MASH helped with the details, of course.)

When we confidently picked how many kids we were going to have, it was simply a matter of how many sounded good and whether we liked even or odd numbers. We never left room in our minds for the possibility that our future families might not match the plans in our little heads.

Now that I’m married and have children of my own (a blessing I don’t take for granted), the “how many kids” question still arises in the majority of my adult conversations. I ask it too. It’s a valid question, and one I enjoy discussing with people close to me.

But after asking other women how this question made them feel, the responses made me think twice about ever throwing out the “how many kids do you want” question without some deeper thought.

Here are some of the responses I got:

“My heart usually twinges, then I respond with, ‘Well, if I had a choice, I’d have a whole litter of 10. We’d be counting our lucky stars if we could get just one here.”

– Jess, Highland, Utah

“I know so many women who struggle with this subject. To me, there is no right answer. Even when we have plans to have a certain amount of kids, life happens, and we may change our plans. We originally thought we’d have three or four, but now we are just trying to keep Ava (who has cancer) alive, so our plans have changed to having two kids. At first it was hard for me, but now I’m embracing my two girls and living every moment with them as if it were my last.”

– Kady, Farmington, Utah and Frauenfeld, Switzerland

“Somehow, being an adoptive mom makes people think it’s OK to make assumptions about why we adopt. They think they know things about my fertility, but they simply don’t. They often assume our choice to adopt is a second-tier option, when in fact it is what I chose instead of pursuing fertility treatments. It was the perfect choice for me. And because I’m also an angel mom, with one baby in heaven, even the question, ‘How many children do you have?’ is super emotional and touchy for me. It feels like a betrayal to say four, but confusing to say five. I’ve learned to say ‘Four plus an angel,’ which always brings a little awkwardness to the conversation, but feels honest and loyal.”

– Rachel, Highland, Utah

“I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis when I was 18 and was told by doctors that becoming pregnant would be difficult for me. Four surgeries later, I had my little girl, but dealt with PPD and severe anxiety. I’ve been terrified at the thought of adding another little to the family ever since.”

– Hailee, Herriman, Utah

“We lost a sweet baby girl almost three years ago to a fatal birth defect, so we honestly don’t know how many children we can bring to live on this earth. Although they called it a fluke and our chances of having another baby with the same defect is only 3-4 percent, we had it happen once and our chances were only 0.03 percent. The fact is, having babies can be scary business for both women who can’t get pregnant and women who can. I know that no one asks this question to be insensitive and they are genuinely interested in your life and plans, so I always answer ‘we take it one at a time.’”

– Misty, Lehi, Utah

“I wish we would share more. I totally understand that sometimes it’s too raw to do so, but if we are able to, I think it helps in so many ways to share our struggles. It educates the people who may not know about these things (and they may think twice the next time they go to ask that same question), and it helps us connect with others who may have similar issues.”

– Brianna, Provo, Utah

“I think this issue goes both ways. I have four kids close in age and would love to have one or two more. When I go out in public I am frequently asked by complete strangers if I am done having kids. Some people say pretty mean things like they think I’m overpopulating the earth. This is a very personal matter and what’s right for each of us is different. We all need to be less judgmental and a little more understanding.

– Laura, South Jordan, Utah

“It was never a hard question for me . . . until it was. I didn’t really think about it too much until secondary infertility made it ALL I could think of. It was a question I had even asked people to just make conversation. Most people have no idea what it can do to a person’s heart. They really are just making conversation and building on common goals, interests or ideas. If we are confident in whatever we decide to do, then we won’t feel guilt or shame when we see what other moms are doing. If I know my husband and I are on the same page and we are both on the same page with God, so we shouldn’t feel ashamed to answer with happiness and love. Sometimes the question can open up a beautiful conversation with someone who is needing to be strengthened.”

– Jen, Saratoga Springs, Utah

“A category of people that are never really addressed in these conversations are the women who desperately want children, but who have not found a partner to have them with. In these cases, it is twice as difficult. These women not only feel lonely and often don’t love themselves, but at the same time, they struggle with knowing that as time passes they are less and less likely to have any children at all. My heart goes out to everyone who has certain hopes and expectations for their lives that they can’t attain.”

– Devon, Potomac, Maryland

What I learned from these women, who are only a few of the many women who struggle with the “how many kids” question, is that our situations vary infinitely.

For some families, infertility and other health issues take away the choice people would otherwise have to control their family size.

But even for those who have the choice, there is a lot to consider. Sometimes, especially in Mormon culture, we feel like we are expected to have as many children as we can physically handle. But considering how many we can handle emotionally and mentally as well is just as important. Sometimes, I worry that if my husband and I choose to have three children, it’ll be compared to the larger families around us and won’t be considered “enough.” People will wonder why we chose to stop. This, of course, is a mindset that is not shared by most of the world, but here, I feel the pressure.

Whether you have no children, one child or seven children, it is enough. And whether you’ve chosen your number or it’s been chosen for you, you don’t need to spend any more time feeling guilty about it. You just need to spend that time loving the people you have.

I know that someone who can’t physically have more children will be “excused” for that, but for me, the question is less about how many I can have and more about how many my husband and I can care for while still feeling emotionally stable. Yes, I may be capable of having ten children, but knowing myself, I’m certain I would be mentally unstable and that would affect my children in a way I’m not willing to sacrifice for the sake of having more kids. I want to be a happy, healthy mother with energy and time to give my children what they need. I want to take care of myself and pursue my dreams, because I want them to learn the importance of that.

My heart goes out to the women who, for whatever reason, are not able to have the family they envisioned. You are enough. To the women who, like me, spend time worrying if they’re contribution as a mother is enough, it is. Whether you have no children, one child or seven children, it is enough. And whether you’ve chosen your number or it’s been chosen for you, you don’t need to spend any more time feeling guilty about it. You just need to spend that time loving the people you have.

There is so much more to this question than picking a number that sounds good for your family, or that meets social, cultural or religious expectations. The only “right” answer is the answer that is right for you.

I hope we can all be a little more understanding of the weight that might accompany the “How many kids do you want” question and approach it with sensitivity, understanding and a desire to connect and encourage, not to judge or assume.

This article appeared on utahvalley360.com and LDS Living.

 

Kauai Must-dos for families

We just got back from a trip to our favorite Hawaiian island—Kauai. OK we’ve only been to Oahu and Kauai, but the other islands would really have to sweep us off our feet to take Kauai’s place in our hearts.

It’s not too touristy or crowded and has so much to do. Especially if you’re into nature and world-renowned scenery. Or Jurassic Park, because most of it was filmed on Kauai.

This was our second time going to Kauai with our kids, and although people think we’re sort of crazy for bringing them along, it’s such a family-friendly place and heaven on earth for kids. I like to think of it as our second home, because we just feel like we belong there and never want to leave.

This trip was special because my close friend, Eleasah, and I had been talking for a couple of years about meeting in Hawaii and we were all finally able to make it happen. El and I went to high school together in Australia and have stayed BFFs ever since. Her husband, Dave, is one of the best people we’ve ever met and our kids were stuck like glue by the end of the trip, so trip tip no. 1 is to go with friends who you jive well with. Ha.

Here’s our shortlist of must-dos.

First things first, food:

 

Koloa Shave Ice: This was our favorite shave ice spot. Their specials are amazing! You should always get ice cream in the bottom and a snow cap on top, in case you didn’t know. 🙂

Fresh Shave: The syrup is made with fresh fruit and the flavor combos are unique and yummy.

Duke’s: I like the salad bar, and my husband said his ribs were exceptional, but the Hula Pie alone is worth going for.

Koloa Mill Ice Cream and Coffee: The cookies and cream and haupia (coconut) ice cream is some of the best I ice cream I have ever had in my life.

Bubba’s: The cheeseburgers are delicious!

Tortilla Republic: A step up from a casual cafe, but really quality modern Mexican food. I was feeling under the weather, so I got the tortilla soup and the brussels sprouts appetizer and they were both amazing.

Living Foods Cafe: OK it’s a health food store, but the garlic-parmesan fries are amazing! I didn’t even know I liked fries until I had these.

Kalapaki Joe’s: We got takeout from here and it was reasonably priced and pretty yummy. I got the coconut shrimp and loved them.

 

Beaches + other activities:

Kalapaki Beach: This picturesque bay has everything — waves for bodyboarding/surfing, calm, shallow water for kids to swim in, and it’s a great spot for stand-up paddle boarding and canoeing. (And it’s right by Duke’s, so you can get your Hula Pie.)

 

Glass Beach

Glass Beach: It used to be an autoglass landfill, and over the years the broken glass has turned to sea glass pebbles of all different colors. We walked along the beach and found petrified tires and other car parts which was unique and kind of cool. There’s also an old Japanese cemetery next to the beach which was interesting to explore.

Hanalei Bay & Lumahai Beach: Hanalei Bay is one of Kauai’s most famous beaches, and Lumahai Beach, at the top end of Hanalei Bay, is even more beautiful, in  my opinion. It’s one of the places where South Pacific was filmed!

Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Reserve: I have a thing for lighthouses, so this was a must for us. It’s open Tues-Saturday from 10 am – 4pm.

Anaina Hou Park + Botanical Gardens: We grabbed food from the cafe and had a picnic while the kids played on the playground. There’s also mini golf through the botanical gardens, a chocolate farm you can tour, and a fresh fruit and smoothie stand.

Kalalau Lookout: The view of the Napoli coast from here is one of the most stunning vistas I’ve ever seen. Hit Barking Sands Beach (a “secret,” pristine beach) and Glass Beach on the way home!

Napoli Coast hike: We just did the 2-mile (roundtrip) hike to the beach and it was incredible. If you only pick one thing to do on Kauai make this it. The views of the ocean and cliffs are surreal. Get there early to avoid crowds, don’t get caught in the rain, and wear either water shoes with good grip or good hiking/running shoes. You’ll cross a knee-deep river at one point. Bring a picnic for the beach! Next time we want to hike up to the waterfalls, which are another hour and a half past the beach.

Kalamaku Luau: If a luau is on your list, there are a few to choose from. We hear the Aulii, Smith’s, and Kalamaku are the best. We went to Kalamaku because they had a show-only option and that’s what we needed, and we were so impressed by the performance. It was 45 minutes and even our kids were engaged the whole time (right down to our 1-year-old, who loved the drums). I thought this luau was different from others I’ve been to because it told a story and had live singing and music.

Makauwahi Cave Reserve: We didn’t know the cave was only open until 2, so check the hours before you go, but luckily there was so much more to see! The trail alone is amazing. There’s a land turtle sanctuary, which sounds really random, but the kids loved it. And the beach (above), although you can’t swim in the water because of high levels of bacteria, is beautiful.

Hanapepe Town: We happened upon this little town when we were looking for a snack, and we were so glad we did. It’s one of Kauai’s famous old villages. We had some homemade Hawaiian popsicles at a little shop and walked across a swinging bridge to a little riverside trail. It was a quaint little town and a fun place to break up our drive from Waimea Canyon.

 

Favorite romantic reads

I’m a sucker for romantic novels. In lieu of Valentine’s Day, here is a pile I’ve added to my favorites list over the years. I’d love to know yours!

At the top of the list are some classic regency novels, because when it comes to romance, nothing beats those in my romantic-in-the-wrong-century opinion.

Jane Eyre is not only a favorite romance, but if I had to pick, my favorite classic of all time.

Maybe not the most popularly picked of Jane Austen, but in my mind, it’s her best romance.

Wuthering Heights is a twisted, darker love story, but I can’t get enough of it.

Julianne is a local author I was lucky enough to meet and ask my burning questions to through Delicious Reads book club. Her “Proper Romance” novels are everything you’d hope for in a clean but tastefully steamy romance with a happy ending.

This was a refreshing, romantic read with a lot of interesting historical insight into the Gilded Age.

Both the book and movie are tear-jerkers. Worth the tears.

A few middle-grade books that are definitely worth a read:

An adventurous romance set in ancient Italy.

I read this over and over as a tweenager.

The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games? Yes, please.

Unconventional love stories:

This memoir spoke to the wanderluster inside of me. Elizabeth Gilbert is a master of storytelling.

A sweet story that is probably unlike anything you’ve read.

Find me on Goodreads for my complete reviews of these books.

 

 

7 ways to be a more present parent

Photo courtesy of Kali Poulsen and Kid to Kid

Have you ever noticed a mom brushing off her children while staring at her phone? Or who seemed constantly overwhelmed and exhausted by the demands of her kids?

It was probably me.

One day, I realized how bad it had gotten. I was going through the motions of motherhood, and it felt like I was on an exhausting, dizzying carousel of meeting little people’s big needs. The role I once felt joy and fulfillment in started to feel like an overwhelming chore I couldn’t keep up with.

But for me, there was more to it than the natural demands of motherhood. I realized I was distracted and disengaged. Distracted by social media, by expectations outside of my family that didn’t really matter, and by all the things I had piled onto my plate to stay busy and “relevant.” I was engaged in other people and things instead of my own little babies.

I thought of them, older, and much more interested in their phones, their friends and their obligations outside of our family than in spending time with and connecting with me.

Which is exactly what I was doing.

I decided to take control of my time and invest it where it mattered. Here are some things that help me be present with my children. Now, instead of feeling disconnected and racked with guilt at the end of the day, I focus on filling their cups and mine in meaningful ways.

1. Wake up before your kids.

Or at least, if you can get away with it, stay in bed for a few minutes to read, think or pray before you’re launched into the madness. That quiet time to center yourself before the day begins works wonders. I know firsthand that this is not always possible depending on your stage in motherhood. If it’s not, plan a time during the day, even if it’s 15 minutes, when you can be alone: Maybe during a naptime, quiet time, while your kids are at school or when your husband is home. Instead of using that time to frantically get something done, choose something slow, relaxing and meditative that you enjoy. For me, it’s yoga, reading or writing.

2. Exercise.

I’m especially a fan of yoga because of how effectively it can bring about peace and mindfulness. However you choose to move, that time on your own is invaluable, and the endorphins will give you a happy start to your day. Cahoots Fitness, the Lehi Legacy Center and the Provo Rec Center are just a few Utah County locations with great childcare so you can have a guilt-free workout.

3. Put the kids to bed early.

Establish an early bedtime, or at least lights-out time. Having a peaceful end to the day will help break it up instead of them feeling like you’re in a never-ending cycle of need-meeting. Also, take advantage of this time to talk to your children and ask them about their day. Every night before bed, my kids tell me one thing about the day that they liked, one thing they didn’t like, and something they feel grateful for. This little ritual creates an easy opportunity for my children to open up about what’s on their mind.

4. Put your phone away.

Technology (especially social media) has an uncanny ability to suck us into its world and detach us from the people who are actually around us. This is a huge one for me. I’ve noticed that when my kids or I are interrupted in the middle of using technology, our reactions are much more volatile and grumpy than they would be if we were not having to jolt ourselves out of the technology zone.

5. Remember how fleeting childhood is.

You won’t always be this needed or wanted by your children. When you look back on how you spent these years, you will never regret spending more time with your children.Time spent with family is always an investment. This and this quote are a couple of my favorites to remind me to soak in what motherhood looks like for me right now.

“You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow they’ll be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift.” — Smart Mom

6. Have daily one-on-one time.

When I had my first child, we had a lot of mommy-daughter time together. But when our second and third children came, that changed. I made a goal early on to spend five minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time with each child every day. It’s amazing how much it does for my children’s happiness, behavior, and our relationships.

7. Adjust your agenda.

When I’m most overwhelmed by motherhood, it’s often when I’m falling short of my agenda for that day. When I’m constantly interrupted from completing the things I expected to that day, I get frustrated. I’m learning to change my expectations of what I consider a productive day. One day, when I ripped myself away from my to-do list and spent some time playing with my son in the backyard, I heard his sweet laugh. It was so joyful and pure. It hit me that I didn’t hear it often enough. It may sound cheesy, but in that moment, I decided that making him laugh was at the top of my daily to-do list. It’s really changed my (and his) life.

Six steps to new-year’s resolution success 

Roxana B. + Favorcart

 

Maybe we’re still mesmerized by the magic of the holiday season. Maybe we’re still in that notorious Christmas sugar coma. But for some reason, many of us mistakenly see January 1st as a magical switch we can simply flip on to leave behind all of our flaws and bad habits and become everything we want to be in a day. While goal-setting can definitely be a healthy and helpful practice, most of us go about it all wrong. Here are some tips to help you make your resolutions realistic and reachable.Read More