Purpled Up

Kids to school on time: Check

Kids wearing purple for school: Check

Appropriate footwear for field practice: Check

Lunches: Check

Mom resembling Barney in her purple outfit: Double Check 

Praying that there really aren’t Purple People Eaters…Wait. Were they purple and ate people or did they eat purple people? I give up.

Take a picture of everyone wearing purple: I’ve got nothing. 

April is designated the month of the military child. I have some pretty great ones to hang out with around here. These kids are awesome. They step up to the challenge and roll with the punches EVERY SINGLE TIME. In support of their friends all over the world we put on our purple yesterday. 

Bria was so excited when we got to school. I was thinking on the way over there. My kids are pretty privileged compared to most of the local kids. In fact, we’ve been talking to one child about entitlement and her attitude while consoling another when her friend lashes out because she sees my child as having more. (Parenting is hard. I need a parent’s award. Kids need awards just for surviving each other in middle school. Another blog…I know.) Anyway, I was thinking that it wouldn’t surprise me if there weren’t many local kids wearing purple. As I made my right turn, Bria was squealing. There was purple everywhere. I will admit tears welled up in my eyes. 

It just so happened that we were chatting with Grandma that morning on our drive in to school. I was telling Mom how much it touched me and may have mentioned that I think Bria is the only white child, maybe only military kid in her class. Bria stopped me right there. “No, Mom! There is only one brown kid in my class. Everybody is white. There’s …and she lists off the names.” Oh my word that made me laugh. Bria is the only while child in her class. Every name she listed is either Hawaiian or Asian. I wonder what color she thinks pasty mainland kids are. 

I read an online news feed about military spouses called Spouse Buzz occasionally. A week or so ago I lost my mind. A friend posted an article that I missed in honor of The Month Of The Military Child. It listed 13 ways the Obama girls are like military children. The comparisons were stretched so thin you could see right through them. One of my favorites is that their Dad’s job is dangerous. Um. Yes. He also has a security force surrounding him sworn to protect him at all costs at all times. I don’t think it’s exactly the same when you’re In Country. I was irritated with some of the comparisons but even more irritated when I read it was written by a spouse. I’m sure President Obama’s daughters make huge sacrifices, their privacy is top of the list but they really aren’t the same. We are currently in really nice military housing but it’s not the dang white house and there isn’t a maid. If there is, she needs to be fired which would also be fine with me because does that mean more beach time for me if I’m fired? Anyway why compare the two?

As I pulled into the school I was wondering why on earth we were celebrating my super privileged compared to some of their peers kids. Then I remembered. They give up everything and move a world away from our families. They set up shop in new places and learn to make friends quickly. They are helpers and learn to step up when the military member is away. They savor every moment they get with their grandparents because they know it might be a very long time before they see them again. There are too many things to mention.

I should’ve learned my lesson. There is no comparison between my kids and civilian kids. Each make various sacrifices. I’m totally okay with celebrating mine for all they do. 

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Jack Jack’s Time Hop

So I have that Timehop app on my phone. It lets me see what I posted on a certain day years before. Yesterday after an excruciatingly long homework session with Jack that had me a bit down I opened the app. I saw a picture of Jack standing on the bridge of a playground at the girls’ elementary school in Tennessee. I remember that day well. Jack walked up the steps by himself, stood on the bridge and actually smiled. 

Sure. This wouldn’t be a big thing for most of you. What you might not know is that Jack had been with us for about 6 months. After an icy winter, our friends would want to meet us at different parks to play. This was a problem for me. Arleigh and Hanan were in school. I had to chase Bria to keep her from breaking her neck. The sight of the playground terrified Jack. I had a hard time spotting Bria when Jack was screaming his fool head off. If we put him in even a baby swing, you could see his white knuckles as he clung to the chains. His eyes would be sealed shut so he wouldn’t have to look. Eventually he would start to yell or scream. Jack had given up on crying real tears a long time ago. We tried to put him on baby slides, holding him to slide or any variation. There was abject terror. He would scream at the top of his lungs like I had stabbed him. Fun playdates. 

I started taking Bria and Jack on long walks. We would stop for even a few minutes at empty parks. Jack would watch Bria swing, slide and monkey bar her way across the playground. I’m a firm believer in pushing Jack. If I don’t push a little, he won’t try. I would let him sit at the bottom of the slide. The next trip I would set him a little further up. Talk about a mad little boy. Months and months of just wanting to watch Bria and Jack play together like siblings. I can’t describe it. I read all the books. I knew there would be challenges but I thought in my heart that we would bring him home and he would fine. I had no idea how emotionally draining it would make me at the time. 

This was the picture I posted yesterday. 

Jack lost his fear of playgrounds a long time ago. It has still taken him time to learn how to play with other kids. Can you see the difference? Jack loves to go to the park across the street from our house. He gets a little flustered when new kids arrive that don’t understand him, but he rocks every contraption on that thing, even the pole. 

Yesterday was a bloody nose mad at Mr. Arnie yelled at my kumu couldn’t understand number order made my mom completely crazy I don’t know if I should be sad frustrated or mad kind of day for Mr. Jack. (Jack’s kumu is his Hawaiiana teacher.) This gave me a high blood pressure frustrated try and fail at not raising my voice afternoon. That little Timehop app on my phone was a blessing. I needed to stop for a second and remember just how far Jack has come in a little over three years. 

I’m not telling you all this for praise or a pat on the back. This was not my doing. This is between Jack and God. I’m just blessed enough to be the witness and try my best not to mess it up. I hope that by telling the story, more people will understand that it’s hard but oh so worth it to provide homes and families for these kids. If I can encourage even one family, it’s worth all the time it took to share these few words. 

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Aloha Raheim

On Sunday we had to say fair winds and following seas to Raheim. 

I don’t even know where to start with Raheim. He was our big girls’ Sunday School teacher for a little while. He is hands down their favorite Sunday School teacher. I think it’s because he truly challenges them not to take their every day gifts for granted. He honestly let them know when he was disappointed and set the bar high and yet, if they fell or didn’t quite make it to the bar he loved them anyway. A mama’s heart loves a Sunday School teacher that will do that for her kids. He challenged them to make the right choices even when it’s hard. 

Arleigh wrote him a letter before he left Sunday. It was all I could do to hold it together. She really didn’t want me to read it so I won’t share all it said other than to tell you her gratitude oozed from her words. Raheim is special to us. I’m so sad he won’t be around to encourage all four of them. I have offered him my basement if he’ll just choose to go to school in DC. There’s always that… 

I think that people’s character comes out in how they weather life’s storms. A few months after Tye died, I sat in church hearing the horrible news that Raheim’s brother had been killed. It opened my own wounds and I just ached for him. I knew that there was nothing I could do to fix his pain but every ounce of me wanted to do something. Honestly, with the exception of maybe my own mother, I haven’t witnessed anyone overcoming grief with the dignity and character that Raheim did. He never questioned his faith. He continued to walk the line and even served others all while he was obviously going through so much. What an example at such a young age. 

A little while ago we were watching the Captain America:The Winter Soldier. During the movie they introduce a character called Falcon. That character is former soldier who spends his time helping others in particular military members suffering from PTSD. As they introduce him you could see that he was just an all around good guy who’s life was built on service. He didn’t need the wings or to be a super hero to be the good guy my kids were desperate to watch. Before you even realize that his character is going to be Falcon the girls started pointing out how he’s just like Raheim. 

Raheim is moving on to go do great things. He will always be a super hero in our eyes…even if you can’t ride a skateboard. We love you brother. 



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Do You Ever…

Do you ever tell your child her tummy probably hurts because she ate too many pickles only to hear, “It was only 5 pickles mom.” Not pickle slices, full on baby cucumber kosher dill pickles and a certain seven-year old ate 5 because she thought the jar was almost empty. 

Do you ever eat well past your full only to prevent a sibling from having the honor of getting the last one? Apparently my kids do. 

Do you ever look and look and look for a junior sized party dress for your daughter online so often that the sluttiest of ads pop up in your Facebook feed? Yeah, me either… Good grief. She’ll graduate from college before we find an appropriate dress that we can agree on.

Do you ever spend hours trying to detangle and adult sized Rapunzel wig and just give up before all the hair comes out and you are forced to purchase a new one but also have to consider it took forever for the one you ordered to arrive and the play is this weekend? Yeah… There’s that and the fact that there is a pile of synthetic hair in my floor. Good times. 

Do you ever convince your husband to purchase cheaper liquid detergent because the red dirt in Hawaii doesn’t come out of anything anyway? Well, I did. Let me tell you there’s a price to pay. Last night, Ray was trying to show me something and I heard a crash in the laundry room. I thought it might have something to do with a forty pound sopping wet wig. Nope. I had previously loosened the cap to allow more liquid to flow from the dispenser. The detergent decided to commit suicide, diving from the high wire shelf on top of the washer and then tumbling to a slow death on the floor spraying it’s vile blue gel on every surface in the room. It looked like someone had stood in the laundry room and thrown up blue gel liquid more than once. Because Ray was insisting on showing me something and I knew all four children were upstairs, I delayed running when I heard the boom. This slight delay allowed at least a half gallon of the oozing blue gel to leak behind the washer. In other news if the prior residents want their mail, we found it! Ray stood outside hosing off towels and rugs while I wiped down the walls, shelves, washer and floor. On the bright side, I don’t have to worry about my house smelling like animals. It’s surely going to smell like laundry until well after we move. 

Do you ever see oozing blue gel all over the place, think it looks like a crime scene and after you’ve cleaned half of it up think, “I really should’ve taken a picture.” If you have a blog it would have at least crossed your mind. 

Do you ever put Tide pods on your laundry list… cause I just did.

Do you ever sing Blue Skies and Rainbows at church? We see more than our share of rainbows here but it’s true that rainbows are often accompanied by gray skies not blue. Saturday was not a bad day. In fact, we had the most beautiful weather for soccer. We were for the most part not rushed for anything. It should have been fabulous. For whatever reason, I was a grump. There is so much on my mind right now. I was thinking of a friend who has also had gray skies lately. I was thinking about this blog post and how it could have in some ways been written by me. (Although, Jaime is a much better writer.) As I turned the corner to head  up the hill in Aiea, I decided to say a little prayer. I prayed for a friend that is heavy on my heart all the time these days with marriage struggles. I prayed for my friend that has been seeing gray skies everywhere and I prayed for my attitude. As I topped that little hill, I saw it. It’s one of the few I’ve seen here. Yes, I felt like it was just for me. 

It was a true blue sky with a brilliant rainbow running through it. I couldn’t see the rain. I raced to the top of the hill and behind the school so I could take a picture. 

Do you ever have a regular to do list a mile long and then have to add to it, family is visiting soon and oh yeah, movers are coming list? That’s mind today so I better get busy!

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Hau`oli Lā Hānau Grandma

Let me start by saying, “It’s Grandma’s birthday and I’m so glad. I hope it’s the happiest birthday Grandma ever had.” That’s the family birthday song, in case you haven’t heard any of us belting it out. Mom heard it in a movie once and it stuck. For years, I thought she made it up. 

If you see this lovely lady around today, please pass on our aloha. Today is one of those days that it just stinks to be so far away. 

While I don’t tell her nearly often enough, she means the world to me. My aunt teasingly refers to her as her sister, Pollyanna. The truth is my mother is full of kindness. Her compassion spills over to everyone who knows her, especially the kids she taught in school. I should know. I was one of them. She is the most generous person I know. Nana Bonnie may call her a Pollyanna but Ray refers to her as a saint. I think I love that “Have Courage and Be Kind” saying from Cinderella so much because it makes me think of her.

My mother is strong and full of courage, even if she doesn’t believe it. She’s also extremely pragmatic. She isn’t jumping off any rock walls with her adrenaline seeking daughter, but she takes on any reasonable challenge without blinking. 

My mother has been through a lot. She watched her daughter that was supposed to set up shop next door move all over the world and managed to follow me to places she really didn’t want to visit. She’s been there for me more times than I can count. When we lost Jessa, she was there. When we went to China for 16 days, she was there. Move to the other side of the world…she visits as often as she can even when she feels torn to stay home. She watched a husband suffer from PTSD before anyone really knew what PTSD was. She lived in constant fear of strokes and heart attacks until she had to bury her first husband. Then came the son that chose a dangerous profession that kept her up at nights. While it wasn’t his profession, Tye died too early. You should never bury a child. She walked a long cancer road with her second husband. It was awful. The grief that she has been forced to endure is far more than most people can even begin to imagine. 

I’m not telling you this to feel sorry for her, or to pity her. Heaven knows she wants none of that. She is managing to pick up the pieces and continue to live her life the best way she knows how. We love to tell stories about the people we’ve lost and remember them. She wants to remember the good and laugh because she knows they are in a better place and she’ll see them again. Although, hopefully for my sake not too soon. 

I wish I was home to take her out on the town. Better, I wish she was here to take her on a day outing and out on the town. She’ll have to settle on a video from the grandkids, lots of FaceTime this afternoon between school, band, drama and soccer… We’ll celebrate this summer. In case you see her, please with her a very happy Hau`oli Lā Hānau!

I love you Mom. Happy birthday. Thanks for the example you set for all of us and always being there. You’re my hero! Here’s a little message from some of my favorite people in the world, and I think your too…



IMG_0036Hau`oli Lā Hānau Grandma! We love you very much. Sending you lots of aloha today.

Posted by Brandi Jackson Stiff on Thursday, April 9, 2015

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To Old Hoalohas

When I venture back home to that Bourbon State of Mind Kentucky my mother, bless her, sort of monopolizes my time. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t fuss at all if I tell her I’m leaving for a girls’ night…as long as I leave my children behind. So when I go home, I don’t see everyone that I used to hang with. By the time I see my family and a handful of people at church, the only time I have left is to hope I happen to bump into you at the Wal-Mart. That’s why I get so excited when someone comes to me. That means I get to monopolize their time on my little island. Like mother like daughter and all that jazz. 

Yesterday, Ray and I got to catch up with some hoalohas (friends, you know I had to throw some Hawaiian in there while I still can) from high school. John and Ray graduated together. Shelly and I ran around together, well for as long as I can remember until we ended up in different colleges and I left our little town for navy life. She drove me around in that red Cavalier of hers more times than I can count. Honestly, I don’t know how on God’s green earth she put up with fifteen-year old me. 

Anyway, we got to tour the base and Ford Island with the Hodges ohana. We had lunch and sent them off to tour the Arizona. I wish I was as good as Mom at monopolizing time. (Just kidding Mom!) They were on a family vacation and generously let us crash their party for a few hours. The great thing about old hoalohas is that in more than twenty years not much has changed.


Well maybe the hair… and the wrinkles and the… okay. Only Shelly’s hair has changed. I swear she looks exactly like she did when she graduated high school. She never told me her secret though. 

Thanks for a brief moment Hodges! Aloha!

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