Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Four Generations!

While Jayson and Riley were enjoying the slopes in Denver, my mom and grandma came for a visit. For those of you who saw "Texas Quints", this is the same grandma that was in the second episode. It was so wonderful to have her and my mom here! She really got to bond with the quints and with Kaiya and we had a lot of fun! I am the oldest of her 53 grandchildren (yes you read that right...53!) and we have always had a close relationship. I wish that we lived closer so we could see her more often.

Grandma Rappleye eating breakfast with the kids

Grandma loved reading to the quints and the quints LOVED having grandma read to them! I couldn't even get mad at Kaydence for being on the table (totally against the rules) because it was so cute!

Grandma Rappleye, Mimi, Rachelle & Kaiya--Four generations! Thanks to GG and Ronnie, the four of us got to enjoy a night out on the town! We went shopping and out to dinner. Then our battery died in the parking lot and we were stranded for about an hour while we waited to get rescued! At least we were in good company :-)

Lunch at Firehouse Subs---Kaydence, Ryder and Rustin all got invited on playdates, so we took advantage of our small numbers and went out to lunch!

Grandma Rappleye, Mimi and Rachelle. My grandma will be 90 years old this June...Doesn't she look AMAZING??

While my mom was here, our big project was to make window treatments for my kitchen. The kids were so interested in what was happening that they all pulled up a chair to watch.

The finished product---YAY! Within the last couple months we have painted the kitchen and now added window treatments---it is amazing how much it has changed the feel of the room. I love my kitchen now! (Thanks for your help mom and grandma! You guys are the best!)

Grandma Rappleye with Ryder, Kyndall, Kaydence, Rustin and Kassidy (No one is allowed to visit our house without taking the traditional pictures on the couch)

Goofy faces!

Mimi with Kaiya, Kaydence, Kyndall, Rustin, Ryder and Kassidy


Friday, February 18, 2011

Four Days in Paradise!

For Christmas this past year, my parents gave me a ticket to HAWAII! My dad was in charge of a big sales conference in Kona for the company he works for, so they thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get away for a few days and also give my mom some company while my dad focused on his meetings. You know the old idiom, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree"? Well, that pretty well describes my mom and I---we are a lot alike. We both like shopping, photography, chick flicks, exercise, American Idol and eating out. We have similar tastes in decorating, clothes and even food (we are both chocoholics). Over the past four years she has been amazing in helping me with all the ups and downs of having quints. My mom is my best friend (next to Jayson), so spending four days in Hawaii with her was a BLAST!

Before I get into all the trip details, I must mention that I have the BEST husband and the most amazing friends on the planet, without whom this trip would not have been possible! As soon as my friends found out I was going on this trip, they immediately cleared their schedules and started "staking claim" on each of my kiddos. Ryder and Rustin ended up spending the entire time at their "church family's" houses. GG, with the help of Cassaundra and Barbara,
took care of the girls, and Natalie watched Riley and Kaiya after school everyday. GG made sure that my family was well fed and well cared for in my absence. In fact I started to wonder if my family would want me to come back! Jayson's responsibilities were actually lighter with me gone, than with me here! I feel truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life!

It took nearly all day to get to Kona with layovers and the long flight times. I was "forced" to read books and watch movies undisturbed for several was rough :-) (It is amazing how having seven kids can really make you appreciate being ALONE on long plane flights and layovers!)

The night I arrived in Kona (on the Big Island of Hawaii, for those of you unfamiliar with Hawaiian geography), my mom and I had dessert by the ocean side.

We stayed at the Waikoloa Hilton Resort (where my dad's meetings were). It was incredible! Right on the ocean, beautiful pools and scenery. It was also HUGE---there were boats or trams available to take you to your room if you didn't want to walk. One morning it was raining, so we weren't able to walk outside, so we just walked from one end of the resort to the other under the covered walkways. The GPS said it was about .6 miles from one end to the other.

Another view of the resort...

And another...

The resort had a large lagoon where dolphins swam.

Rachelle standing under the waterfall at the resort

My mom (aka Mimi) under the waterfall

The side of the island that we were on was the "dry" side. There was a lot of volcanic landscape.

With all the lava rock everywhere, people would take white rocks and make "graffiti" on the rocks. I couldn't resist....I had to make my own lava rock graffiti!

A cool beach swing

On our second night, my mom and I went to the LDS Kona Temple. It was beautiful!

On one day, we drove all the way around the island. When I was in elementary school, my family actually lived in Hawaii for a few years, though we lived on the island of Oahu. Oahu is very crowded and it was such a contrast to see how uncongested the big island is.

On the "wet" side of the island, we drove through miles and miles of these tall, tall trees.

Akaka Falls--WOW!

Rainbow Falls

It's Hawaii....I had to throw in at least one flower picture! I can't actually take credit for this one, though---my mom took it :-)

On our way around the island, we took a tour of the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory. This is a picture of the how the famous chocolate covered macadamia nuts are made. I was fascinated by how much of the process was done by people instead of machines---in this picture, four workers fill the boxes of chocolates by hand.

The most amazing part of the whole trip was seeing the active volcanoes. Here, my mom and I are standing by a steam vent from the Mauna Loa volcano. The last big eruption from this volcano was back in 1984 (which was when I was living in Hawaii, so I have vivid memories of it) and it could erupt again at anytime.

The Kilauea crater is a smaller volcano kind of on the foothills of Mouna Loa. By day steam billows from the crater.

By night, you can see the orange glow of the lava beneath the steam of the Kilauea crater.

On the other side of the Kilauea volcano, there are active vents with lava flowing. We were fortunate to be there on a night when there was a lot happening! When we first got to the viewing site, this is what we saw. In the spot we were looking at (above) there was actually a house two days earlier. Lava reached the house and within hours there was nothing left.

We walked a little further up and actually stood about eight feet away from the river of lava above. It was absolutely fascinating to watch the lava flow, start to crust on top and get dark and then bubble up again.

This picture shows the blockades that were set up (and how close we were to the lava)---when the lava first started coming nearer, the park rangers started moving everyone back, but after a while they gave up.

Bigger view of several different flows

More lava...truly a once in a lifetime experience!

Back at the resort, we had dinner sitting on the water's edge watching whales breach and enjoying the beautiful sunset.

Rachelle & Mimi

A whale offshore

The sunset! If you look closely, you can see two whales spouting in this picture.

On our last night, my dad was finally done with his meetings and we all got to have dinner together before catching the red eye flight back home!

When I arrived back home, I was greeted by hugs, kisses and this cute sign made by all the kids!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Snow Day!

The past couple have weeks have brought record temps across the US, and Texas was no exception! It rarely snows here in Austin, but this is the second time in two years that we have had a decent snowfall. By decent, I mean that the snow actually sticks to the ground and hangs around for a couple of hours. The kids, of course, love the snow and snow in central Texas means almost certain school cancellation, since our city just isn't equipped to handle snow and make the roads safe to drive on.

The snow was no more than an inch deep, but the kids attempted to build a snowman anyway! The girls loved the snow, but the boys wimped out after about 5 minutes in the cold.



Kyndall---not even snow could keep her from travelling at her typical speed.


Ironically, Jayson and Riley left for Denver to play in the snow on the same day that it snowed here in Austin. It was blizzardy and COLD their entire trip, but they had a blast anyway. This was Riley's first experience snowboarding.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Calling All Wannabe Photographers

When I was ten years old, I got my first camera. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by the art of photography. In high school I took a black and white photography class. I loved working in the darkroom and experimenting with different camera settings and exposures. When Jayson and I graduated from college, my in-laws gave us a Sony Mavica digital camera, which at the time was state-of-the-art. It recorded the pictures on 3.5 inch floppy disks, and could fit about 9-10 pictures per disk. The quality of the pictures was not the greatest, but I could take as many as I wanted without having to buy and develop film.

Having children only fueled the flames of my passion for photography. I got a better camera (this one took pictures up to 3.3 megapixels, which I was soooo excited about at the time!) and I made Riley and Kaiya do all kinds of crazy things with props, costumes, etc. all in the name of art. I went through a "Kim Anderson" phase where I did black and white with partial colorization. When the quints came along, they became easy targets of my hobby. With the quints I explored my inner "Anne Geddes" and made them pose in flower pots, wheelbarrows, chicken costumes, etc. I am not picky about my subjects---I love it when friends ask me to take their family picture because it gives me a chance to do something different and experiment a little (also families with older kids are usually better than toddlers at holding still! If all else fails, they can be bribed!)

I have had the same journal since I was eight years old and it is not even half full. If "a picture is worth a thousand words", then I am hoping that the thousands upon thousands of pictures I have taken over the years will make up for my lack of prose. We recently started looking into online computer back-up services to make sure that none of these valuable pictures is ever lost. Many of the sites we looked at had a limit of 50 gigs of storage, but reviewers claimed this was not a problem since the average person needs only 20 gigs. We have 200 gigs in pictures alone. Yikes!

Some of my pictures, through the years...

Exploring my "Kim Anderson" side with Riley and Kaiya

Sharing an ice cream cone

Hard to believe that Kaiya was 2 and Riley was 5 in this picture----it doesn't seem like it was that long ago!

This one was inspired by "Lady and the Tramp"

Part of my "Anne Geddes" phase with the quints

I think this is one of my favorite pictures of the quints....there is something so cute about baby bums, and I love how this picture really shows their different hair colors

The Fab Five in black and white

I am a little obsessed with taking pictures of flowers

Waikiki from the top of Diamond Head crater. I love it when mother nature helps out my pictures with things like rainbows!

It is hard not to get a great picture when you are in Hawaii! Texas isn't quite this scenic!

These surf boards held completely still---no bribing necessary!

My latest photographic subject of interest: food!

So, where am I going with all of this? Well despite my love for photography, I still feel a bit clueless when it comes to my camera. I tend to leave my camera (I have a nice Sony DSLR these days) on "Auto", shoot pictures and hope for the best. I have many books on photography, and I know the basics of shutter speed, ISO, aperture, etc., however in the moment I can't always remember which settings are best for which lighting, subject type, etc. I am secretly jealous of people like my photographer friend, Kristen Duke, who know exactly what they are doing with their camera and who manage to get fabulous pictures no matter the situation. I have told Kristen on more than one occasion that I want to be her apprentice so I can learn all her secrets, so no one was more excited than me to learn that Kristen has published an e-book on photography basics. If you are a wannabe photographer like me, YOU NEED THIS BOOK! the book is called "Say No! to Auto" and it is a great introduction to getting over the fear of manual mode. It explains the basics, and has lists of guidelines for what ISO setting, f-stop, shutter speed, etc. are best in specific situations. Best of all, the book is actually made up of 4x6 jpg images so it can be printed out, bound (or put in a small photo album) and thrown in your camera bag for easy access when you are "in the moment". The e-book is available on Kristen's website. I am looking forward to "intermediate" and "advanced" e-books from Kristen in the future!