Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hawaiian Adventure Is Dream Come True

Cinderella sings that "a dream is a wish your heart makes." And our dream came true this month with Grace's Make-A-Wish trip to Hawaii.

When Grace was diagnosed with INAD in November, we decided we wanted to give her every opportunity that life has to offer. We didn't really want to call it a bucket list, because we felt like that seemed more like an ending, and even though our time with Grace may be short, we still hold out hope for some sort of miracle.

Thanks to our awesome community, Grace has had lots of really great opportunities, like dunking a basketball, throwing out a first pitch, earning trophies and even being queen for a day.  Kyle and I are still compiling a list of things we want to do with Grace, but we had a chance to do some awesome things in Hawaii this month.

Grace's first experience at the ocean.
 In January, Kyle contacted Make-A-Wish about the opportunity of doing something for Grace.  Since she's always loved soccer balls, initially he was thinking about something when the US women's soccer team played at Busch Stadium in April. However, it takes longer than that to get a wish set up, so we started talking about other opportunities with the volunteers.

They do a wide variety of things to make kids' wishes come true. From room redecorations to shopping trips and pools to playgrounds, they make sure to take care of each and every child.

One of our volunteers suggested a dolphin experience in Hawaii, and since Grace loves the water so much and animals, we thought it was a great idea. Then, she started telling us about the Disney resort near Honolulu, and we were sold.  We didn't even realize there was a Disney resort in Hawaii, but we knew Grace would love a chance to see Mickey and Minnie again.

It was kind of hard for Kyle and I in the beginning because the child is supposed to make the wish themselves.  That just wasn't possible with Grace.  We just had to do the best we could to try and pick something that would mean the world to her.

Once we decided on Aulani, the volunteers and wish coordinators worked together to make it an unforgettable trip.  And they don't leave anything out.  We were picked up by a limo at our house and taken to the airport, and they also brought us home at the end of our trip.  They provide money to check your luggage at the airport, for meals and even souvenirs for Grace, and she definitely came home with a few new Minnie Mouse items.

As the trip neared, I know we were nervous about taking Grace so far from home, but excited at the same time to share such an awesome experience with her.   It was a long flight, but Grace did awesome, and the view from our balcony alone made the trip worth it. During the week, Grace got her own private meet and greet with Mickey and Minnie, the chance to kiss a dolphin and the opportunity to swim in the ocean for the first time. 

For Kyle and I, one of the neatest experiences of the trip was watching Mickey and Minnie interact with Grace that very first time. They discovered she liked to play peek-a-boo, and got right down by her and did just that.  Throughout the week when we would see them, they remembered Grace and would get down to play peek-a-boo with her.  It was amazing to see her smile.

I would have to say Grace's favorite part would have been the swimming, both in the pools at the resort and in the ocean.  We took her new life vest with us, and she absolutely loved the water.  There were parts of some of the pools that were shaded, so she could even open her eyes while we were swimming.  And she loved rocking in the waves of the ocean.  We swam out there for over an hour one day, and it was so soothing to her that she even fell asleep.  We tried to make sure we did some swimming every day because that seemed to be what Grace liked the best.

Although Kyle and I had hoped to tour Pearl Harbor when we were there, it just didn't work out.  It was much easier to stay on the resort and just relax.  And besides, when I traveled with Mrs. Barb Hewitt, she always said that you have to leave one thing undone so that you have a reason to go back.
For us, the Make-A-Wish trip was such a special time just to be together as a family.  Grace loved having her mom and her dad all to herself for an entire week, and for us, it was a break from doctors' appointments, therapy sessions, and even INAD.  And for that, we will always be truly grateful to the Make-A-Wish organization.

Just before we left, we had a chance to share our story at the annual McKay NAPA Make-A-Wish charity golf tournament in Godfrey. McKay has raised thousands of dollars over the years for Make-A-Wish, and this year their goal is to raise $50,000. If you get the chance, make sure and support their efforts, to help make wishes and dreams come true for other families.  By supporting Make-A-Wish, you truly are providing families with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they will never forget.  I know we won't.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Grace Race Goes Global!

While Kyle was golfing in the TEAM golf tournament this morning in Raymond, Grace and I decided to help stuff some of the race packets for A Grace Filled Journey 5K event.  It's hard to believe that it's only one week away!

Grace has her bib, and she's ready to roll!
Thanks to some very generous sponsors, those participating will not only get a purple Grace shirt, but also a drawstring bag, special race bibs, can cozies and a few other goodies.  Since Grace slept in some this morning, the volunteers were mostly done stuffing bags when we got there (they were already to the letter P).  But we got a chance to help a bit, and Grace enjoyed her supervisory duties that came with a donut for breakfast.

As of this blog, there are 520 participants signed up for the Grace race.  And we are so excited to see everyone next Saturday.  We feel so blessed to have so many of you on our Grace-Filled Journey.

Grace helped to supervise the packing of the race bags.
One thing that has really been fun to watch as people have signed up for this event is the virtual participants.  When Johnny and Emily started planning this, some of their friends said they wanted to join the fun, but couldn't get to Hillsboro that day. They wondered if we had ever thought of adding a virtual element, meaning that participants could sign up and run or walk wherever they were that day. How awesome is that!

As we started to add virtual states, the race literally went from coast to coast with Kyle's aunt and uncle the first to sign up in California, and some of Johnny and Emily's friends signing up to run in the nation's capital.  Then we added a participant in Alaska, Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, and the states continued to grow. Currently, there are runners signed up to participate on Sept. 5 in 16 different states. Although not officially signed up some Hillsboro residents will be walking a 5K that day as they await the birth of their grandchild, and some of Kyle's family signed up virtually in Missouri, but they will be in Florida that day and do the 5K there.  That makes 18 states - we're almost to participants in half the states!

The virtual map for participants.
Those participating represent the states of California, Nebraska, Illinois, Texas, Virginia, District of Columbia, Wisconsin, Alaska, Michigan, Arizona, Missouri, Georgia, Colorado, North Carolina, Montana, West Virginia, Utah and Florida. If you don't see your state on there, then get signed up today!

Then, I got a message from Kylie Walch of Raymond, who I had just interviewed for a story in the paper.  She is teaching in Mandalay, Myanmar in Asia for the next year and wondered if she could do the Grace race there.  We loved the idea of going global.  Another of my friends from high school, Kyle Stewart, will be joining the fun from London, England in Europe and Hillsboro native Allison Ernst will join the race from Melbourne, Australia.  

These are the signature bibs for the race.
So, not only will there be participants in nearly half the states this Saturday, there will be four countries on four continents as well, helping to raise awareness for INAD, literally around the world.

All the race goodies are in these bags.
There's always time to join the Grace Filled Journey too!  We've been packing race packets all weekend, so we may not get you a shirt or some of the goodies, but we'd love to have you join us in Hillsboro or represent your state on the virtual map.  I am SO excited to see all the photos from race day from around the world. For more information or to sign up, visit

And if you're not a runner or a walker, come out to Hillsboro High School that day anyways. Members of the Hillsboro Lions Club and the Hillsboro Sertoma Club will be serving up lunch. And there will be plenty of family friendly activities, including face painting, a bounce house, Ronald McDonald, Professor Longhair and more. All the kids activities will be free to everyone on race day as a way to say thank you to a very special community.

Grace said the race packets are ready to go!
I have lived in Montgomery County nearly my entire life, and have seen time and time again how the communities pull together when there is a need.  But until Grace was diagnosed with INAD, I had never been on this side of that. We have been so humbled by the generosity of the community in both organizing and supporting fundraisers since January, and I am proud to say we have raised more than $50,000 for the Washington University Research study. With your help, I know we can #beatINAD.

We'll see you at the race!


Friday, August 28, 2015

Those Crazy Characters

Shortly after we announced Grace's diagnosis at church and at Grace's preschool, members of the church's preschool board asked us if they could do a fundraiser for Grace.  One of her teachers said Grace really liked the puppets at school and thought a puppet show, called "Giggles for Grace," could be a lot of fun and raise money for anything that we needed.

Grace was very excited for the puppet show tonight, and she got a brand new Minion friend!
At the time, we thanked the board for their offer, but said we weren't really going to do any fundraisers.  Our insurance covered all of Grace's needs, and we just weren't sure about fundraisers yet.  Then, we found out about the INAD research study, and have been so humbly overwhelmed by the generosity of our community and beyond.

We told the preschool board at church they could do a fundraiser if they wanted, and we ended up deciding that fall might be better.  The preschool checked with Mr. Rick Cina, who works for the Hillsboro school district, but also puts on a really great puppet show, and the kids all love him.  It was originally scheduled for Aug. 21, but when Grace was granted her Make-A-Wish, Mr. Cina graciously moved it back one week.

The kids just LOVED Mr. Cina's Crazy Character Comedy Show.
And tonight was the night.  Since Kyle was covering high school football, Grace and I went with mom to the Hillsboro Moose Lodge.  We got there about 20 minutes before the show started, and were so excited to be part of such a special night.  Volunteers had to set up more chairs twice to accommodate the crowd, which hit nearly 300.  The church also provided free popcorn and Capri Sun drinks to everyone that came.  Admission to the show was free too, and it was just a really special night.  They even made several photo collages of our family, and I enjoyed looking at them.

Before the show started, I got Grace some popcorn and we made our way to the front of the room.  As we headed that way, a little girl named Angel Grace, and her mom, stopped to say hi.  Angel had asked her mom to make Grace a stuffed Minion to play with, and they brought it for her tonight.  It's just the perfect size for Grace to hold, and she even snuggled it when she went to bed tonight. 

Grace was very excited to see her preschool teachers at the show tonight.
Then we got ready for the show, "Mr. Cina's Crazy Characters Comedy Show" to begin. The first character we met was Neal the Seal, who liked to do tricks, including a pie in the face for Mr. Cina.  Then we met Gary the Gorilla, who wanted to be a disco dancer.  Around 100 kids were sitting on the floor near the stage, and they just laughed and laughed throughout the show.  It was so much fun to see them enjoying themselves, and Grace really liked it when everyone laughed.

The next two characters were Hilda the Hippo, who really liked compliments and Phlegm the Monster, who had hygiene issues.  I think the kids laughed right up until the last minute, and we just loved being a part of it.  And Grace loved all the people who stopped by to say hi after the show.  She even got a smiley face balloon, which might have been one of her favorite parts.

The puppets were definitely the hit of the show!
As the show came to a close, the preschool board gave us more than $700 raised in donations and shirt sales.  We continue to keep the money together to take to Washington University this fall, and know that our community will make a difference in the fight against INAD.

Thank you SO much to everyone who made tonight such a success!
Thanks so much to everyone who came out to the puppet show tonight and those who helped to organize, set up, clean up and volunteer.  Our Grace definitely felt special tonight.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Whoever Gets The Win, Jesus Gets The Save

I couldn't sleep tonight so I decided to search Twitter at little before crashing. I saw the Cardinals were in a tough spot with the bases loaded and no out in the eighth, so I wondered who screwed up. Turns out it was Steve Cishek, one of the new additions from a trade with the Marlins, who walked 3 straight before Seth Maness got St. Louis out of the jam. 

For some reason I was curious to know more about Cishek, who has had ups and downs in his baseball career. From his Twitter feed and the magic of the interwebs, I found out that Cishek seems to be a pretty good dude.

His posts are generally positive, often family oriented and at times uplifting. He has a wife and a daughter, oddly enough named Emmie Grace, which made me think of my Grace. A self described follower of Christ, Cishek also keeps a bible verse in his back pocket when he pitches. 

Colossians 3:23 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters"

It's a well timed verse for me as I struggle occassionally with my feelings of inadequacy as a journalist, as a husband and as a father. This verse helps refocus my attention. As long as I'm doing what God wants me to do and living my life the way I should, I don't have to worry about anyone else's expectations, including my own.

This is a photo Steve Cishek posted wearing the gracelet we sent him.
I'm not sure why Cishek's faith was inspiring tonight, I've seen other devotions and verses that haven't hit as hard, but I'm glad it did. Tonight was one of Cishek's toughest outings as a Cardinal but it seems that he will continue in his faith in this less than ideal situation, something that Grace and her battle with INAD has taught me over and over again.

Ultimately, walking three players in an inning won't buy you a lot of fans, but tonight it did. Regardless of where his baseball career takes him, I will be a fan of Steve Cishek, not just the baseball player, but the person.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Aloha From Paradise - Day 6 (Last Day)

Today, we said goodbye to our ocean-view suite on the 15th floor at the Aulani Disney resort in Hawaii.  We took our last dip in the pool, ate our last fresh pineapple and greeted Disney characters one last time.

Gracer and I shared fresh pineapple for breakfast!
Even though it was our last day, we still wanted to make the very most of our time together.  We ate breakfast in our room, enjoying pastries and fresh pineapple.  Grace ate an entire slice of fresh pineapple, and really seemed to like it.  

Swimming in paradise one last time!
After breakfast, we donned our swimming suits for the last time in paradise.  We decided to check out the Aulani pools one last time, and started in an infinity pool, which looks like it has no edge.  As soon as we set Grace in the water, she started smiling and splashing her hands in the pool.  That's been the best part of the trip, just seeing her smile.  Kyle and I enjoyed the ocean view and just sharing some special family time together.

Gracelets (and Grace) in paradise!
While we were still in our swimming suits, we decided to try the lazy river for a few more laps.  This time, Grace and I tried out a single inner tube together, and Kyle found another along the route and we just floated along peacefully. That is, until Kyle pushed us under the waterfalls.  I'm not a huge fan of having water in my face, but Grace just loves it, so I didn't mind too much.  She just giggled and giggled every time we went under the water.

One last family photo from the infinity pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Since we spent most of the morning in the pool, we came upstairs to dry off and get cleaned up. Then it was back downstairs for lunch.  It just so happened that our lunch time break coincided with a character meet and greet, and Grace had the chance to meet Stitch.  He looked cute in his Hawaiian bucket hat.

Grace got to meet Stitch!
After meeting Stitch, we headed to one of the outdoor cafes for lunch, and Grace got a Mickey Mouse shaped cookie.  But she could barely keep her eyes open at lunch, so we headed back to the room for an afternoon nap before some last minute souvenir shopping.  We just had to get Grace a Minnie Mouse shirt (or two) for school this fall.

One last Mickey Mouse shaped cookie for dessert!
All too soon, it seemed like it was time to say our fond farewells to our island paradise.   All our bags were packed, and even though we weren't ready to go, we boarded our taxi for the airport for our overnight flight home.  

There was a bit of a delay, and we ended up arriving in Phoenix an hour after our scheduled time, just missing our connecting flight to St. Louis.  We were tired and a little irritated, but ended up finding a fun surprise.  With three hours to kill, we made our way to a new gate and were trying to decide if we should get some breakfast, when we heard someone call our names.  My cousin Lesley's husband, Travis, was headed to Washington on business, and we had the chance to catch up with him for about an hour, making our layover time much more fun.

We took the newspaper, and this is the view from our balcony.
After Travis boarded his flight, we got ourselves some lunch, and before we knew it, it was time to board the plane for home.  Since our flight got switched, we didn't get to sit together, but Grace sat on my lap and Kyle was just a row behind.  Grace was asleep before we even reached cruising altitude, and slept the entire way. She's such a good traveler!

Thanks to Make-A-Wish, our driver was waiting for us by baggage claim to take us home.  It was so nice not to have to worry about any travel at all on the way home.  Kyle even got a chance to talk soccer with the driver nearly the entire way.

A sunset kiss in paradise!
He pulled into our driveway, and though we were ready to be home, it was a bit bittersweet.  It was hard to believe our week in paradise had come to an end. You see, for us, it wasn't just a week of sunshine, swimming, Minnie Mouse and relaxation. It was a week of escape, escape from doctor's appointments, therapy visits, AFOs and even INAD.  For that week, we were just Kyle, Mary and Grace, a family on an island adventure. And for that, we will always be truly grateful.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Aloha From Paradise - Day 5

Aloha!  Today was a our last full day in paradise, and there were no scheduled activities for the day.  We actually slept in a bit this morning, and enjoyed some breakfast pastries in our room.

I drew Grace's initials in the sand after we did some swimming today.
Then, we decided to give Grace her first chance to go swimming in the ocean.  Yesterday, we took her down to put her feet in, but we didn't really have time to go swimming.  So, today was the day.  We got all suited up and made our way down to the beach.

Grace loved swimming in the ocean today!
Grace and I got in the water, while Kyle ran to the gift shop to get some sunglasses.  As soon as I put her in the water in her life vest, she started grinning.  She really enjoyed floating on her back, and just giggled and giggled every time the waves rolled her.  It was a little bright and sunny, but it was also overcast some of the time, so we all really enjoyed our time in the water.  Kyle captured some really awesome photos on our GoPro camera, and we have been really glad to have it on the trip.

Gracie kisses!
While swimming in the ocean, we just marveled at the number of airplanes that flew in, guessing at least one every five minutes.  We also just really enjoyed the time to be together in the water.  Grace enjoyed it so much that she fell asleep.  It took us a few minutes to decide if she was really asleep, but the water was so relaxing, she just drifted off.

Family photo op with the Aulani boat in the background.
After about an hour or so in the water, we decided to get out and play in the sand a bit.  Kyle was called upon to help push a big boat onto the shore, while Grace and I played in the sand.  I drew a heart with her initials on it, and wrote her name in the sand too.  Then, we buried her feet in the sand, and she seemed to really like it.

This is Kyle helping to push the boat ashore.
We decided we were sufficiently sandy, so we headed upstairs to clean up a little.  I'm still pretty sure we will find sand in places when we get home, but we got dressed anyways, and headed back down to get some lunch at Mama's Snack Shop, and we ate outside just enjoying the scenery.  We didn't even mind a few raindrops that fell, and saw a bride and a groom walk through the resort on the way to their wedding.  It was awesome!

I think we've seen Mickey Mouse every day we have been here!
After lunch, we decided to take on of the Menehune adventure trails, which is sort of like a treasure hunt for kids with various stops around the resort. When we stopped by the Pau Hana room to get started, we just happened to find Mickey Mouse greeting visitors.  He made a special trip over to see Grace, remembering she was on a Make-A-Wish trip.  Mickey played peek-a-boo with her, and made a game of catching the kisses she blew at him.  Grace was just delighted.  As we were leaving, we even saw another character, Stitch, on his way to greet visitors.

Mommy and Grace love ice cream!
The Menehune adventure trail had a variety of stops, and each one had a map to lead you to the stop. Some of them activated water squirters along the lazy river, which was fun to see.  It was sort of hot outside this afternoon, so we didn't' get to finish the whole trail, but got a Dole Whip ice cream treat instead.  We ate it in the hotel, just settling in to watch the view and enjoy our sweet treat.

It was another successful day for a nap, and Kyle and I rested too while Grace was sleeping.  I even managed to write some of our postcards, and am hoping to mail them tomorrow.

She woke up in about her usual hour and a half, and then it was time to get ready for our special meal at Ama Ama, one of the nicest restaurants at the resort.  Kyle has been looking forward to it all week, and it definitely did not disappoint.  

The outdoor restaurant features a variety of seafood specialities and we were seated just before sunset on the beach.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  I'm not much on seafood, but Kyle got a beach boil with prawns, oysters, clams and other goodies.  I had a steak, and Grace had pasta.  We even treated ourselves to some dessert.  Kyle and I split some chocolate cake, and Grace had strawberry sorbet.

As we were finishing up our dessert, one of the restaurant's managers came over to our table with our waitress to see how our dinner had been. They also brought a very special gift for Grace. It was an Aulani apron that had Grace's name on it, and signed by the entire staff.  Kyle and I were both so overcome with emotion for the special gift.  And somehow Grace knew it was for her and special too, because she just kept grinning the whole time.  She especially liked the picture of Minnie Mouse they drew on it.

Grace just loved her apron from the Ama Ama staff (and her mommy and daddy did too)!
Every single staff member at Aulani has been a very special part of our trip.  They have gone out of their way to make sure we are having a good time and looking after us.  The apron is such a special keepsake that we will always treasure from our trip.

We are down to our very last day in paradise before we head home to reality.  The resort offered us a late check out, so we can stay here until the taxi picks us up before our flight.  Stay tuned for our last day of magical adventure!


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Aloha From Paradise - Day 4

Aloha from another day in paradise.  We all woke up early this morning, very excited for Grace's character breakfast.  That was one of her favorite parts of our trip to Walt Disney World, so we wanted to make sure we did that while we were in Hawaii too!

All ready to meet some of our favorite characters at breakfast!
It started with a special photo shoot with Mickey, and of course we had to buy the photos because they were so cute.  There's one of just Mickey and Grace that might be my favorite from the whole trip.  The characters are just so attentive and really work hard to interact with her.  Mickey even got a few smiles this morning.

This was one of my favorite photos in our package - I just love it!

We definitely enjoyed the breakfast buffet too, especially all the fresh island fruit.  Grace even got to try papaya for the first time.  And Kyle, being the most adventurous one, tried things like Polynesian sausage.  What we like about the character breakfasts is that characters stop by the table for greetings and photos, so Grace got to visit up close with Minnie and Goofy during the meal.  She was less sure of Goofy, but Minnie definitely got some smiles.

Checking out Goofy!
Visiting with Minnie too!
After breakfast, we had a few minutes before her next scheduled activity, so we wandered down by the ocean.  We took a walk down there on our first night, but didn't have a chance to put our toes in.  So, we took this few minutes to walk down to the shore.  I put Grace on my lap, and we let the waves roll in over our toes, and she giggled and giggled.  I managed to get my entire butt wet, but the smile on Grace's face was definitely worth it.  We plan to go back down and build a sand castle and let her sit in the ocean, but she had to be mostly dry for her next event.

Grace's very first time in the ocean!
Grace was scheduled for another activity "Fish are our Friends" at Aunty's Beach House.  Since Aunty's Beach House is really just for kids only, it was also set up for just one parent to help her, and since I went to the first one, Kyle joined Grace this time around.

I think it's safe to say the ocean is one of our new favorite places!
Which is where I (Kyle) take over the blog for the first time in Hawaii. I was truly excited to get this opportunity to take Grace to the "Fish" program. I knew going in that she wouldn't be able to do a lot of the activities, but the most exciting part was getting to spend some quality one on one time with the Grace Monster.

Grace got a new fish bag!
Cy, the program's leader, spoke about the different types of marine life to start off the program as the kids learned about herbivores, omnivores and carnivores. Each child also got to mix up some fish food, which included some seaweed, vitamins and the little flakes like you would put in your own fish bowl.

Grace and her daddy had fun at the fishy program!
Grace did awesome helping me stir up our fish food and we had a good time at lunch watching Finding Nemo. After that it was time for a field trip to Rainbow Reef, where we would get to feed the fish. The food looked a little different than before because they add additional nutrients to it, which turns it a brownish color. It kinda looked like dog food, and smelled just as good, but the fish seemed to like it.

They liked feeding the fish, even if the fish food was yucky!
Despite it being pretty hot outside, the fish feeding was Grace's favorite part, kind of like when we feed the carp at Glenn Shoals Lake. Cy was nice enough to hold an umbrella over Grace and I and another Make-A-Wish family that is here from California. With her eyes shaded, Grace was able to enjoy the experience a lot more. If you want to see a little of it, there is a video at

After the fish feeding, we viewed some of the fish at the underwater windows and headed back for some apple sauce. Before we left, we received a DVD of Disney Nature's Oceans and a "Fish Are Friends, Not Food" bag.

Grace handed out a lot of smiles to the staff as we left, all of whom should be nominated for sainthood. They were so kind and helpful to us and they did their best to make sure that Grace was included, even though she can't participate as much as some of the other kids. The best part of the whole program though was that I got to spend three hours by myself with the Princess. It was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Family selfie on the lazy river.
After several days without a nap, we finally talked Grace into one today. I think all the fun finally caught up with her. But it worked out great, because we could do some late afternoon swimming.

Daddy's sweet girls in paradise.
She slept her usual hour and half, and then we got all suited up to try out the lazy river at the resort.  Kyle helped us get situated in our inner tube, and then walked us around, lap after lap.  We figure we made five or six passes through.  It was a little overcast, which was just perfect so Grace could enjoy it.  She even got to see Chip and Dale, who were greeting young fans on one of the bridges, and Dale waved to her!

Grace liked the water in her face more than mommy did . . . 
Her favorite part seemed to be anytime we went underneath a waterfall, and all of us got soaking wet.  She would just giggle and giggle.  We stayed until our fingers were pruney and our tummies were hungry.  We ordered room service and enjoyed some quality time together before it was time to go to bed once again.  Just a few days left in paradise, so we want to be well rested to enjoy them!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Aloha From Paradise - Day 3

Another day of beautiful Hawaiian sunshine.  Today, I was the early riser (I think my inner clock isn't set to Honolulu yet).  So, while Kyle and Grace slept, I sat on the balcony and watched the ocean.  And I can't think of a better way to wake up.

Daddy's hula honey ready to head out and meet her dolphin!
Once everyone else was up and going, Kyle ran down to our favorite "grab and go" cafe to bring some breakfast up.  We've been doing some meals in the room just because it's easier, but we are excited for a character breakfast on Friday morning and a nice dinner at Ama Ama before we go home.

All suited up and ready to go!
After we ate, it was time to get ready for Grace's dolphin encounter.  I was a little nervous about driving to the park from our resort, but Kyle always takes good care of us, and got us there safe and sound.  It was about an hour from Aulani, and we enjoyed the scenery and driving by the Pacific Ocean.

Aloha from Sea Life Park, where they filmed park of 50 First Dates!
When we got to the park, we found out it's where they filmed part of the movie, 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, so that was really fun!  Oh, and Kyle already promised me a movie date night when we get back home so we can watch and see where we were!

Grace and I feeding the birds!
Those who know us well probably won't believe that we actually arrived at the park about a half hour before we were supposed to check in! 

Kyle feeding the birds . . . 
So, we started off in the shark cove, where they had indoor viewing windows to see hammerhead sharks and other fish.  We also stopped by to see the green sea turtles.  They offer a variety of sea life to see in their zoo-like park.

Grace's photo while she was dancing with Laka the dolphin.
After we got checked in for Grace's dolphin experience, we had a few more minutes before it started, so we visited the bird exhibit, which was one of the neatest parts of the park. When you entered the fenced in area, a staff member gave everyone a stick with birdseed on it, and you could take it to the birds.  Sometimes, they would even stand on the stick. It was a little surprising until you got used to it.  Kyle had a little more trouble getting used to it, as the birds flew about his head level, and flew right over the top of him.  Grace and I had a good time, and she even held the stick to feed some of the birds.

Mommy got a chance to kiss Laka the dolphin too!
Then it was time for the big moment!  We got our life jackets and all our instructions, and were with a group of about ten people or so for the dolphin encounter.  It was a bit warm out today, and Grace had a little trouble with the bright sunshine.  You couldn't take anything like sunglasses into the dolphin area, so she closed her eyes some before it started.  But as soon as it started, she immediately got a big smile on her face, and started splashing in the water.  The trainer introduced us to one of the dolphins featured in the movie 50 First Dates, and we got to give him belly rubs and back rubs.  Several of the dolphins did tricks right in front of us, and then Grace got to meet Laka and get her photo taken while she was kissing it and dancing with it.  The bright sun was kind of getting to her, so she was a little fussy during the actual photo part, but she really seemed to like being in the water with the dolphin.

Relaxing in the hotel room, and daddy got a pretty special Diet Coke.
After our dolphin encounter, we intended to eat lunch at the famous hot dog stand, Pink's, which is located at Sea Life Park, but Grace and I got a bit too hot at the park, so we opted to return to the hotel and get some lunch when we got back.  And then, we decided we would get some rest before the big Starlit Hui show, which is one of the favorite Hawaiian shows at Aulani.  Our friends in the Pua Hana room reserved a special spot for Grace.  She still thought there was too much to do and didn't take a nap, but we rested together for a bit.

This is Grace playing her shaker during the hula session.
As we were enjoying a snack on the couch, Kyle got a call to say that the Starlit Hui show had been cancelled tonight because of the weather, but that there was a Hula lesson in the Pua Hana room in just a few minutes.  So, we headed that way.  It was similar to the surf party on yesterday, and the leader explained some of the history of the hula dance, and Grace even got to try out one of the instruments for the song.  It was similar to a maraca shaker, but with feathers.  She really seemed to like it.  Then she and I tried the hula dance together.  We got some pretty good moves, and it got even better when Goofy came to visit and dance with us.

Goofy came to dance the hula with us!
As we were getting ready to leave, some of the staff said there would be a character meet and greet in just  ten minutes, so we stayed, and it was another chance to see Mickey and Minnie!  Grace was much more tired today than yesterday, but Mickey remembered how much she liked peek-a-boo and really tried to get her to smile.  No luck with a smile tonight, though. She was just too tired.  They told us Chip and Dale would be back in a half an hour, but we decided we would try to catch them another time.  Everyone at Aulani has been so helpful in making sure we enjoy our stay.

When we got back to our room, the turn down service left a flower wash cloth and some chocolates, right next to Bruce and Minnie.
After visiting with Mickey and Minnie, we stopped at the grab and go cafe again for some dinner, and Grace got a Mickey shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and she shared some sushi with her daddy.  Her mommy got some fresh Hawaiian fruit that was delicious.

Grace sharing some sushi with her daddy!
After a bath with her dad, Grace laid on my lap for her evening protein drink, and she fell asleep across my lap with her straw still in her mouth.  She rarely falls asleep in my lap, as she prefers to be in her bed and have me read books to her, so I savored every single snuggle in paradise.  It was another really great day in Hawaii, and we can't wait for tomorrow!

She fell asleep across my lap with her cup still in her mouth.  I just enjoyed all the snuggles!