Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

I arrived home from vacation the day before the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta started, so rather than coming straight home, my family met me in Albuquerque, where we spent the night. We wanted to make sure we were at the park in time for the morning balloon glow. So at 3am we climbed out of bed and made our way over to Balloon Fiesta Park. I had gone to the Fiesta back when I was in grade school, but I do not remember it. I do, however, think that it had some lasting effect on me, though, because I have loved hot air balloons for as long as I can remember. So this was our chance, not only for me to refresh my memory, but to also share it with my family for the very first time.

And it was amazing! Absolutely. Amazing.

PS – No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to stop taking pictures of balloons when you are surrounded by them!

















Hawaii!! – Part Two

Aloha! Ready for Part Two? Here we go!

On Saturday we went to the Maui Ocean Center. For being a small aquarium, they had a lot of little fishes and sea creatures and turtles. The manta rays had to be among my favorites. They had about five of them and I do not think I had ever had the opportunity to see the underside of one before. As we walked through the tunnel, they would swim right over us!

Our next big adventure was snorkeling at Molokini Crater. There is something slightly intimidating about sticking your face in the ocean… on purpose… but once my face went in, I did not want to take it out! It was amazing! There were little fishes everywhere! I definitely preferred being in the water to being on the boat. Unfortunately, the water was a little rough that day, so the boat ride was a little rough, but we all made it through without feeding the fishes, so I think it was a success!

There were a lot of tide pools around our condo, so in the evening we would walk around to see what we could find. There were many little fish and crabs and urchins. Mom loves looking for shells and coral, and she found some beautiful ones on this trip! Of course while we were down playing in the tide pools, it was always a perfect opportunity to watch the sunset, which we did every night while we were there. I do not think one could possibly tire of watching the sun set over such a beautiful ocean.

Jessica had mentioned some time ago that we should all get matching tattoos while we were in Hawaii. Much to my surprise, Mom agreed to it. So did I, although I must confess that I had thought they would forget. Or change their minds. They didn’t. So on our final day in Maui, we marched our little selves over to Pacific Rootz and got ourselves a permanent souvenir. We all have the same design, but Mom wanted some Polynesian accents with hers, and Jessica wanted hers a little bigger with some vines. I was the only one too chicken to add on, so mine is just the original pattern. So now we all have matching tattoos, all the same, and all just a little bit different.

I suppose no vacation can last forever, though, and eventually it was time to come back home. Not before one last sunset picture from the balcony of our amazing condo…



Two and a half years of planning a vacation that I was convinced would never actually get here, and now, not only has it come, but it has also gone. And I loved every single minute of it. It has left me with memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

So to my dad, I know a simple thank you will never be enough, but thank you, thank you, thank you so much for the most amazing vacation with Mom and Jessica. Thank you for all the wonderful opportunities and experiences. I do not think you will ever know how much I love and appreciate you. Mom and Jessica, you two are so amazing! I am so glad we were able to spend such an incredible week together. Mom, thank you so much for wanting us along on this trip with you. You could have gone with anyone, and it makes me feel so incredibly special that you chose us. I love you all so very much!

Mom and Jessica

Mom and Jessica

Hawaii!! – Part One

About two and a half years ago, my sister and I were presented with special bracelets from our parents. My dad was sending us on a trip to Hawaii with our mom! Mom had been to Hawaii many times, but she wanted to be able to share it with us as well, and this was to be our first mother/daughters get-away ever!



Of course, at the time, two and half years seemed like a long way off, but we had a lot of things to arrange. Rob and I were still in PA at the time and had no idea where we would find ourselves in two and a half years. My sister had to plan for the time off work. Not to mention both husbands would have to be able to take over home and kid duties for a while. Somehow, all the pieces fell into place, and before we knew it, we were on a plane bound for Maui!

We spent eight days and seven nights there, and we did something different every day! The first full day we were there, we went to Lahaina for some shopping and sight-seeing. While there, we found a shop that had every name you could possibly imagine on a bracelet! For those who can easily find their names, this may not seem like a big deal, but for those of us who can rarely find our names spelled correctly, it was really exciting! We not only found Caryn and Mariah, but they also had Catheryn and Trinity! Lahaina is a cute little town, full of attractive shops, good restaurants, and the oldest banyan tree in the United States!

Next up was zip-lining, which was a blast! I must admit that it was slightly scary at times, as I am not normally one to throw myself off a perfectly good platform in order to zip my way over canyons and such, but what an experience! There were five zips total, with the last one being the mort terrifying. It was so much fun that we did not even care that it was raining! Since we were already headed in that direction, we ventured up to Haleakala National Park next. You climb from sea level to 10,032 feet in 37 miles! It is one of the fastest elevation gains in the shortest distance in the world! And also very twisty, so you might want to watch the road if you are prone to motion sickness. 🙂

Let’s see, what next? The Luau! The Old Lahaina Luau is one of the most traditional Luaus. I had never eaten pork cooked underground before! The feast was amazing, the dancing even more so. An experience that will never be forgotten!

We got up bright and early the next morning to catch our flight to Oahu. Once we arrived, our tour guide picked us up and took us to Pearl Harbor. This was a surprise from our parents, something that was not part of the original trip. Pearl Harbor is a must see, and I am so glad we were able to go. All the pictures and videos you ever see will never prepare you for what it feels like to be there in person. I cannot even begin to explain how it felt to stand out on that memorial, knowing what lay beneath…

We spent most of the day at Pearl Harbor, but we still had time for a tour of Honolulu before heading back to the airport to catch our flight. We had about an hour to get off the bus at Waikiki Beach. We were all so hungry that most of our time was spent in Burger King, but we still had time to walk down to the beach. I was so amazed at how many people were there! Our beach in Kihei was so quiet, especially compared to the famous Waikiki.

I think this is a good place to end Part One of ‘Hawaii!!’ Stay tuned for Part Two! Mahalo!

Welcome Gatsby!

It is no secret that Remington P. Cat was my baby. My heart still aches for him and probably always will, I have his picture by my bed and do not go to sleep at night without saying good-night to him, I still cry when I sit and think about him, like right now…

I know that when you lose a pet, there is absolutely no way to replace him. It’s silly to even try. But I also know that the hole left by the loss of a pet can be too much to bear, and sometimes you need a little help to ease the pain. So we took a trip to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, not to try and replace Remi, but to share the love that we had for him. Remi came from a shelter, so it seemed only fitting that his successor should do the same.

I love being able to help an animal from the shelter, but hate that we have to leave so many behind, especially since they, too, so desperately want a place to call home. Since bringing home all of the kitties was not an option, we had to pick one.

Everyone really liked “Denmark,” a little tabby boy who had spent most of his life in the shelter. He started out at a shelter in CA, and was transferred to Santa Fe when they ran of space. He is about 11 months old now, and just a spunky little thing. Liam had always wanted to name a cat “Gatsby,” and this was his chance.

Gatsby and Hamish took a little while to get used to each other, but now they play just like brothers. One will hit the other then take off running, and the chase is on. Charbie loved Gatsby from day one, but Gatsby was not used to dogs, so he took a little getting used to. Now they act like they have known each other forever.

Gatsby did not have a lot of loving or attention in the early part of his life, so he is still not quite sure what to do when we pick him up or just try to love on him, but he is getting better. He is starting to purr a little more often and lets me hold him for a little longer before he starts chewing on my hair or trying to eat my ears. Every now and then he will crawl under the covers at night and purr, licking my fingers as I pet him, and my heart melts.

Welcome to the family, Gatsby, we are so happy that you are here. 🙂

❤❤❤  In loving memory of Remington P. Cat ❤❤❤

Summer Adventures ~ August 2016

August came way too fast this year! Most parents probably love the kids returning to school, but I love my kids home, so the start of the new school year is never my favorite thing.

We squeezed what we could out of summer while it lasted, though. We went to Cliff’s Amusement Park in Albuquerque where the kids had an absolute blast. We spent the entire day there watching them ride everything they possible could. It was strange to remember the days when they were all so small that they could not go on a lot of rides. Now, they are tall enough to ride everything and don’t need us for much of anything. We no longer need to hold their hands or go on rides with them… Sigh.

Middle school football practice started and Liam was so excited, especially after missing summer football camp. Every afternoon I took him to school and watched about 60 boys get ready for football season. After a week of practice, they picked up their jerseys for the year. You could tell the boys felt pretty cool, all officially part of the middle school football team.

Liam got his braces on his bottom teeth, Rob and I both celebrated birthdays, Charbie continued to get cuter everyday. Sweet Hamish, the little 5-week old kitty we found up in North Dakota, turned two! He is still the same adorable butterball he has always been. Perhaps the most shocking thing that happened was that Liam cut his hair! I had thought he was kidding when he went in for a hair cut just before school, but obviously not. He went in with longish hair, and came out with short hair! He looks so grown-up!

Liam had middle school registration as well. We picked up his student ID, got his books, found his locker and all of his classes, paid his fees for the year. He was anxious to get started, I think mostly so all the nerves about not knowing what to expect would go away. The twins had meet-the-teacher, and then it was time for school to start!

We have now completed two full weeks of school and everyone is doing great. Liam has the middle school routine down and loves not being in elementary school anymore. The twins both love their teachers and have good friends in their classes.

Meanwhile, it is awfully quiet back at home… Do you suppose it is to early to start counting down to next summer?

Summer Adventures ~ July 2016

July was another wild and crazy month in the Harper house. It started with a trip to Lubbock, Texas. This was the kids’ first time to Texas, so we were able to add it to our map! While we were there, we were able to meet up with an old friend of mine. Rhonda and I went to middle school together over in Germany about a hundred years ago, or so it seems. We both came back to the US in the summer after 8th grade, and had not seen each other since. It was great to be able to catch up and for our families to finally meet.

Liam’s long-awaited football camp finally came, only for him to be sick from a vaccination and miss almost the whole thing. I felt so terrible. Nathan ended up participating by himself while the rest of us watched from the bleachers. He had fun, but I knew it was killing Liam not to be out there with him. Nathan then participated in a week-long British soccer camp, which he really enjoyed. We also made it down to the Santa Fe Opera, which was amazing! We saw La Fanciulla del West, or The Girl of the Golden West. It was in Italian, of course, but we were able to read the English subtitles on the back of the seat in front of us. It was our very first open-air opera! Well, technically our first opera period!

Let’s see, what else? Regular days were filled with library visits, trips to the farmer’s market, swimming, small day hikes, that sort of thing. We started our back-to-school shopping and began keeping an eye on upcoming school events. The kids started getting excited to see who would be in their classes and who their new teachers would be.

And just like that, July was over. Sigh… Only a few short weeks of summer left…