Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Boy Who Turned 11

 The J-bird turned 11 this week, and as any Harry Potter fan knows, that's your Hogwarts birthday! Since he had a huge party last year, he needed to keep his guest list tiny this year - three kids from his class, plus his three close neighborhood friends that he's loved since forever. He wanted his sister and her bestie there too, so they joined for the first part, but then they jammed out to my neighbor's house, because the big kids watched a movie (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them - too scary for little kids) for the last two thirds of the party.

Just because it was a small party did not mean it needed to be boring. I love to throw parties, and this one was so fun!

The J-bird waited for his guests outside. They threw a quaffle around until everyone had arrived, and then we all stepped through the barrier at Platform 9& 3/4

There are so many free Harry Potter printables online, and for the ones I couldn't find, I just made stuff up. I've seen lots of ideas for a wizard wanted poster, but I went simple and used this mirror that already hangs in my entryway.

Window crayon worked well for this message on the bathroom mirror.

I laminated Moaning Myrtle with packing tape...for obvious reasons...

 The little cauldrons held (chocolate) galleons to take home

Hedwig watched the proceedings from this cage I scored at Goodwill

Of course, a Harry Potter party needs sweets from Honeydukes. The J-bird and I had a great time deciding which candy got which name. has handy lists of all that stuff, like all the sweets mentioned in every book. All we had to do was get a little creative.

We used golden plates, of course.

To sort everyone into Hogwarts houses, we did a quiz, and the kids all got a broomstick pen to keep.

We also decorated edible wands!

The most fun thing we did - in my opinion - was Potions class. All the ingredients were set out and labeled (again, check online for lists!). I used different kinds of pop, drink mixes, and water flavoring add-ins. Each child got to take a turn choosing what to put in their potion. We mixed it all together in a beaker, stirred it to make it bubble up, and then they got a cup with a lid to drink it out of. They were INTO this.

 You can't have a Harry Potter party without wands, so I made one for each child and set up a little Ollivander's Wand Shop. The kids lined up and took turns letting the wands "choose the wizard". It was pretty sweet how willing they were to play, and each kid got a unique wand to take home. They played with them the entire time they were here.

To make these wands, I cut dowels of different widths down to different lengths and then narrowed down the ends using my belt sander. I made the designs on the handles using hot glue and different beads. Once that was set, I spray painted them different colors. Once that was dry, I added detail by brushing on and wiping off other colors of paint until I was happy with each one.

Each child took home a bag of loot and - hopefully - some fun memories.

Happy 11th birthday to my sweet boy. The years are flying by, and I like and respect you more with each new milestone you reach. You're a good kid, J-bird. Your heart is kind. You are a great friend and a loving brother. You have a quick mind and a sharp wit, and I love spending time with you. Keep laughing. Stay kind. Don't forget how deeply loved you are. Here's to you, kiddo.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Hawaii 5-WHOA

 Some years ago, I made it clear to my sweet James that I won't be moving from our town. We have roots here, a community, people that we love, the school where our children are thriving, our church, my music students - this is home.  Because he loves me, he said that's fine, and so here is where we stay. James has a wanderlust that I don't possess though, so we travel. This time, we made our very first trip to Hawaii to visit to Big Island for a lovely week of adventure in its jungle, on its coast, and in its lovely sun.

We flew on Hawaiian Air, and we happened to catch their first flight from Portland to Maui. There was a fun party at the gate with music, dancing, and food.

and leis!

It was a looooong day of flying, and we kept seeing reports that the government was going to shut down. When that happened, Volcanoes National Park, where we had planned to hike and explore for the first few days of our trip, would close. We arrived in Volcano, HI late, but we drove into the park anyway, just to see something. We were able to see the glow of the caldera under the gorgeous stars. It was pretty special.

The next morning, we woke up in our Airbnb and, filled with hope, drove over to the park, just to see, but, alas....

And so, we decided to explore Volcano. We found a tiny sculpture garden and the coolest garden art gallery and tree sanctuary.

 The kids made good use of the swing in the yard of the house we rented, and we all sat in the hot tub in the pouring rain of the Hawaiian rain forest.

We took a lot of food with us, and we stopped and bought groceries when we got there, because food for four people at restaurants in Hawaii for a week is no joke, but we did go out some. If you've ever met me, you know something about my passionate love for coffee, and I had the BEST time drinking coffee in Hawaii. They take it seriously over there, and it shows.

This is the face of a man who is relaxing.

We visited the Tropical Botanical Garden, a place I HIGHLY recommend you visit, should you be on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is stunning.

Predictably, it started to pour while we were in the garden, and the J-bird had "accidentally" left his rain jacket in the car, so I gave him mine and got soaked. As I explained to James, this is what mothers do. As I explained to Jimmy, children have to wear jackets in the rain. I only lamented my bedraggled hair, but it was already looking pretty sad from the humidity, so it was no great loss, and this was warm rain. We had a wonderful hike through truly beautiful surroundings, and I would visit that place again any time I got the chance.

(there's a tiny gecko silhouetted on the back of that giant leaf!)

We visited this really wonderful indoor orchid garden, called Akatsuka. There were so many varieties of orchids. I was surprised at how into this the kids were. They were ALL ABOUT it.

It was such a fun adventure to find places to eat. We asked a lot of locals where they like to go, and then we'd just go there. I always, always ordered coffee, and I never, ever regretted that decision.

Rainbow Falls is a neat place to visit. I was a little worried when we got out of the car, because I saw a few people COVERED in mud, but we managed to get in and out unscathed. If you climb up to the top and venture back into the woods a bit, there's this...indescribable tree situation that arches up and over with an exposed root system. It was breathtaking. We did not climb into the tree, because it was full of people, and I didn't want to damage it, but it was just beautiful.

Happily, for us, the US government came to enough of an agreement that they got things moving again. Government employees were being paid, so the national park opened back up. We had moved to our second location in Pahoa by this time, but we drove back to Volcano for a day in the park. Our very first activity was a one mile guided hike. We got about a quarter mile in, and the sky opened up. By that I mean that someone pulled the drain plug on the sky, and all the water that ever existed in the whole entire world poured down at once. Our guide was unphased, but our children were...phased, so we bailed on the hike and headed for the lodge, where we found a table and ordered lunch and (you guessed it) coffee. I headed for the restroom where I WRUNG OUT my ill advised jeans, and we all took a little bit to dry out and re-frame.

We saw some seriously cool nature.

The children scored yet another set of Junior Ranger badges.

And once it stopped raining, we hiked to the Thurston Lava Tube. I opted out of going too far in. That sucker is DARK, and I'm not about being in enclosed underground spaces. No, thank you.

Through Airbnb, we booked a tour of a small mom and pop chocolate farm. This was WONDERFUL. The owner showed us their entire small operation and told us their whole story. We sampled raw beans from a pod she cut off the tree and opened (GROSS), learned about tons of other fruit they grow on their farm, and learned all about how they process their chocolate. Lastly, we sampled fruit, honey, and, of course, chocolate, all grown and made on their farm. It was great!

The J-bird has decided that dark chocolate is the best chocolate. He says this is because he has good taste. I cannot argue with that.

This is a Rainbow Eucalyptus tree. We just thought it was cool.

I don't think you're allowed to go to Hawaii and not have shave ice. I think it's a law.

We saw a lot of rainbows.

Our second Airbnb was great. We stayed on the second floor of a house across the street from the ocean, smack in the middle of the jungle. It had a screened in lanai all the way around, so it was like living in a treehouse. When it wasn't raining, we explored tidepools, the nearby coconut grove, and the Wednesday night farmer's market.

We spent our final two nights (and last day) on the Kona side of the island at a beautiful resort hotel. We snorkeled a little bit in the protected, man-made bay, and we spent six hours in the pool. I think my children each went down the water slide about 70 times. I got a pretty great sunburn, in spite of my sunscreen. James drowned his phone. It was a great day (except for that phone thing. That was a bummer).

And then, it was time to head to the airport and fly home.

Thanks, Hawaii. You were lovely. We'll see you again someday.

Until then, it's great to be home. Man, I'm tired.