The Transition 

Moving means no computer. I haven’t downloaded pictures since early May. My Facebook posts even seem to be slowing down. Our little Ohana hasn’t slowed down much though.

We made it to our new house. We visited with Hawaii friends and when we found out our stuff would be delayed almost three weeks past the last day it was supposed to be delivered, well we hightailed it to Grandma’s.

I’ve gotten several notes asking about our transition. The kids are awesome. They are enjoying their summer in KY. I think Arleigh is probably staying up too late talking to friends in all the various time zones. Hanan is enjoying planning and designing her new room. Bria is soaking up Grandma and as much attention as she can get. Jack is just happy to have toys and Legos again. Poor Ray is stuck in an empty house taking care of the puppies. I’m handling the transition better than I thought I would. The slower pace of summer here sure helps.

I’ll admit that our last few days in Hawaii and our first few in Virginia I spent fighting off tears. This pretty much sums up everything I was feeling…

And maybe we can spread a little aloha.

There have been adjustments. The traffic in Hawaii is awful but I can totally ride out Kam traffic with my radio on and window down. Traffic in DC is frantic. Drivers are mostly rude. I learned that I should just take back roads pretty quickly.

On our long drive home the big girls and I talked about how things were changing. They’ve lost some freedom. They are going to have to be more aware of their surroundings. It makes me sad but it’s just another something to get used to.

The news on the mainland is hard. I think social media makes it worse. I thought about texting my buddy Lillian. The kids and I have had hard conversations about race. They were definitely the minority at their school. They felt a little ribbing and there were a couple of downright mean kids that they had to deal with. Please understand before I say this that we spent the last 3 years in a very different demographic and very different culture. One of my kids said, “Mom, do black people not like white people here?” This was not a question I was ready for. She was right to ask it. On more than one occasion we felt a thick tension hanging in the air. We tried to talk it out. “It seems like people look at me differently.” “I feel like they are waiting for me to be mean.” “It’s just different.” Are all things that came out of those hard conversations. There were conversations when I clearly didn’t have any answers.

Can I just say mainland, you need to find some freaking aloha and we all need to just get along and quit trying to find things to be mad about. The country is acting like a bunch of kids that have been stuck in a car too long. Everybody is looking to make sure they have at least their fair share or worse to make sure they have the most without ever bothering to see if their neighbor has enough. 

It’s been hard coming home for other reasons too this time. Jack walks around the house saying, “Where’s my Grandpa?” The kids weren’t able to come to Ned’s funeral and didn’t have the same closure I had. Nothing is the same without Grandpa. Being here makes Tye’s absence that much more real too. 

I’m always missing them but I try to make sure we soak up everyone else. Here are a few pictures of our last week in Kentucky.

I’d say if you have to leave Hawaii, there are worse places to be. 

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Circumstance Is Not An Excuse

I preach to my kids a lot. I ask them to be kind. Lately I’ve been reminding them that if they are looking at what someone else has it better be to make sure that person has enough and not to see who has more or if it’s fair. Sigh. I apparently need to listen to my own sermons. I also tell them that circumstance is never an excuse. 

Boy howdy we are living out that lesson. We packed up almost all of our belongings on May 11. We’ve done without them just fine for a while now. We had every hope of seeing them again by July 6. The moving company let us know that in fact we won’t be seeing any of our shipments until July 23. The next 2 won’t come until August. 

We did really well at first. I enjoyed having less to clean and a simpler life. That’s easy to do in Hawaii when the kiddos have plenty of free space to roam and friends to roam with.  Then the moving started. First we went to an apartment like place then the Navy Lodge then a hotel in Virginia. Currently we’re residing with Grandma. Thank goodness we finally have space to spread out. 

Even so, we are making our own sunshine, trying not to fuss and fight and remember to be grateful that we have clothes even if my teenagers keep reminding that they’ve been wearing the same 5 outfits for the last two months. 

We are trying really hard to remember that our current circumstance is not an excuse 

  1. To fight.
  2. To pout.
  3. To whine.
  4. To grieve our beloved island.
  5. To overspend on comforts that we think we can’t live without.
  6. To be generally grumpy with everyone.

We’re trying really hard to remember. If you see my little Ohana moping about I’m not sure if I should tell you to duck and cover or join the party. Most likely, it’s join the party because if you can’t laugh you’ll be miserable.

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Jet Lag Stinks

We are officially back on the mainland…the continental United States…dare I say it, home. Let me just say I’ll take the traffic in Hawaii and driving with aloha over the DC rat race traffic any day of the week. Holy cow people! Drivers here are crazy aggressive and completely selfish. Tonight as we drove through a shopping center, stopping at each cross walk we noticed that pedestrians were shocked as we stopped. We aren’t in Hawaii anymore Toto.

We have the keys to our house. The kids are loving the backyard.  

They are also loving their Chick-Fil-A fix.

At some point during our move Jack asked if he would have friends in Virginia. It was a sad little moment for us because he doesn’t get outside as much as the girls do. He was really concerned at the time. I’m happy to say In less than 24 hours Jack and Aiden are trampoline jumping, fort climbing, Infinity playing, tire swinging buddies.

Ray and I have both picked up our new rides. I love my Pilot. I told the kids that she is helping me find my aloha. Arleigh said, “That should be here name!” Aloha it is. I’ll always know that I found my aloha hours after we landed.

Jet lag is the devil and the six hour time difference with Hawaii is his minion. I can’t find the right time to call or text my friends. 

Our household goods have been delayed until the end of the month. In spite of the fact that we packed out on May 11. I love our new to us house but it’s hard to get excited when my stuff is missing. It still doesn’t feel like home. 

So it’s been a while but I’m back and our adjustment and travels should provide plenty for me to write about. You can find our pictures under #findingouralohainVA on Instagram. 

Hopefully I’m headed for sweet dreams.

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Rites Of Passage

Graduations in Hawaii are a BIG DEAL. It’s like a bring your own air horn, plaster your kid’s face on a sign, 1,000 leis, pool floats, stuffed animals kind of big deal. Can I tell you I love it? It’s an accomplishment to be celebrated and celebrate we did! 

In the eighth grade your ceremony is called “Rites of Passage.” The ceremony is quick. The president of the class made her remarks, the assistant principal spoke. Names were read. Diplomas were passed and it was time for chaos bedlam the lei ceremony. All the kids step out to find their family. They get leis. Some are made of yarn. Some are made of fresh flowers. The tuberose is my favorite. Some are made of candy. Some are just handmade flowers. There are bags of oreos or chips tied to strings. Before you know it, you’re wondering how they can breathe. 

The smile says it all. She is officially a Freshman. Pray for me. I’m really not sure how I’ll survive the next few years. Hanan is right behind her. Bria and Jack will be entering middle school the year Hanan graduates. 

The beginning of the lei ceremony…

Someone asked me about her pool float. Pool floats are handed out at graduations here. See the sharpie in my hand? Friends and family write messages on them. As I understand it, they are given to represent the support of family and friends as they transition into the next chapter of their life. It’s also a representation of being anchored to your family. I honestly don’t care if this is the real story or not, I’ll be sticking with it and and we’ll be taking it to the mainland when Hanan graduates from middle school next year. 

This is my FAVORITEST thing written on her float… I only wish I had a Rohan…


As you look at the pictures you might get a better understanding of why Hanan is so upset she won’t be graduating high school here. Middle school is scaled back from high school graduation. Here are a few of the highlights of graduation, her teachers and the after party at the Tea Farm.

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I was a day filled with aloha that we will always remember. Mahalo AIS for all you’ve done for both of my girls. 

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AIS Pride Night

Graduation is over. Summer has begun. I can’t even talk about it yet. The time is slipping through my fingers way faster than that sands in the hour glass bull I used to hear every day when Gran turned on Days of Our Lives. 

I can talk about Pride Night though because my kids are… well they are FREAKING AWESOME!!! Brace yourselves. The proud Mom post is coming. 

I received separate notes that we really needed to be at Pride Night for both girls this year. This is nothing new. If you are going to receive any award they tell you to come but you have to guess what the award will be. Arleigh was banking on that whole Perfect Attendance thing. More on that later… We got ready and got to the school, I thought early. I (ahem) forgot that food was being served. That means you need to back up your arrival time by at least 15 minutes. No matter. Remember we had that whole Perfect Attendance thing going for us and we knew Hanan was receiving an award for going to the district science fair. 

Did I mention… there was food? The aunties and tutus from the cafeteria prepare a meal and the Stiff Ohana can devour some spaghetti. 

Jack wasn’t even thinking about stopping to take a picture. That whole pile was totally gone including the homemade roll by the time the ukuleles started playing.

Arleigh performed with the band during the dinner hour. The highlight was Uptown Funk and I’m super sorry that I didn’t get a recording. After the band, we got to hear the ukulele club perform. Somewhere around Hotel California I felt the knot that seems to be ever present in my throat. The thought was already forming. I will never again enter a school and hear this many uke’s preform. Sigh. At just the wrong moment, Ray leaned over and made the mistake of asking, “Are you gonna miss it?” The dam broke. It wasn’t quite the ugly cry but it was darn close. Then the chorus stood up singing Elvis. Good freaking gravy!!! I think they were trying to kill me. 

We watched the video club’s clips which were cute and funny and I was finally entering recovery mode. Meanwhile Bria and Jack were wondering who had died as their mother was acting a fool and all they wanted to do was shake their groove thang to the music. Good times I tell you. We got to hear the Improv Club perform. Funny stuff. At this point I was almost breathing regularly. 

The drama teacher stands up to explain that the rest of the evening would be devoted to awards. They gave out a leadership award and an aloha award. Then they were going to give awards to the most outstanding boy and girl in each core. Arleigh told me that there are about 120 students in each core, there are three cores in each grade. She introduces the teachers who have homerooms in 7 C1 and they call, “Hanan Stiff.” Holy cow!!! I was thinking Hanan might get the math award. I was hopeful but I really wasn’t expecting Most Outstanding 7th grader. I was crying so hard, I could barely hold up my phone to take the picture. I promise tears are puddling as I write this.

At this point, she was pretty stoked. My heart was pounding. We clapped and she beamed as they made their way through all the other cores. Arleigh’s core was dead last. She wasn’t sitting with us. She was hanging out with her band buddies. At this point she said she was thinking, “Great. Hanan got outstanding and I’m going to get Perfect Attendance. Awesome.” The last name in the outstanding list was…”Arleigh Stiff.” 

Talk about a proud mom. We made it through the other awards and Hanan even picked up another certificate and a $25 Starbucks gift card for her Science Fair project. It was a good night.

Okay… so cue the tears again. I have every hope that they will continue to do just as well at every other school. I will admit, my heart was so proud and so happy for them and so sad at the same time. They are doing so well here. They have the best friends. I love love love these kids. I can’t tell you how much I love their teachers. So a little bit wonders, why are we changing everything right now? The truth is, on our way out of Memphis, the same thing happened. I have AWESOME kids. They are going to do BIG things no matter where we land. They are military kid strong and know how to bloom wherever they’re planted. It just took me a second to remember that because sometimes, the Beauton Wheeler in me comes out and I wonder and worry about what’s next. 

After our celebration, we got to hang out with another graduate to celebrate. 

Madi graduated from Radford the next night. More happy tears. Life is changing too fast but we are trying to enjoy every last second of it. 

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Eighth Grade Banquet

Graduation season is upon us. I am a hot mess. If this is what I’m like during eighth grade graduation season, what on earth will I be like in four short years when Arleigh graduates from high school and Hanan is right behind her? Heaven help us all. I’m not even kidding. Ray looked at me last night and said, “You have been way too emotional.” Really, what was your first clue? Maybe the crying over Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? Again. Not even kidding. I wish I was. 

Where was I? Oh yes… graduation season. Grad season in Hawaii is not like grad season on the mainland. There is no real way to describe it. You celebrate for weeks. It isn’t a graduation from Intermediate school. It’s called the Rites of Passage. One of the mile markers is your 8th grade banquet. It starts in your 7th grade health and PE class where they teach you how to dance with a member of the opposite sex and how to not be an idiot. I truly appreciate the time and effort it must take to teach a bunch of hormonal middle schoolers to behave with that kind of decorum. Then as your 8th grade comes to an end, everyone dresses up and goes to a ballroom in Waikiki for a sit-down lunch with real napkins and real glasses and more than one fork. After lunch, they go to a club and get a few hours to dance and generally act a fool. It is a special day. It’s like someone mixed a ball and school dance with a bunch of middle schoolers, shook it all up and poured it into a school day. It makes for one excited eighth grader. 

The down side is we’ve basically had to do a mini prom preparation at 6 a.m. I am not a morning person. I’m especially not a morning person when I have to help my baby who is supposed to look like this…


Look like this…


I need to thank Auntie Chan and Madi for waking up early and coming down to help. Those curls don’t curl themselves and I rarely if ever wear makeup so it was so nice to have second and third opinions. Seriously. They came down so early and I didn’t even have coffee to offer. One more ohana to miss as we move. Luckily they’ll only be hours away instead of thousands of miles. 

Arleigh looked fabulous and she had a good time. She has the best group of friends. I love them! I love all of them! They are sweet and funny and just good kids. I want to put them in our suitcase and take them with us. I know Arleigh can text them and Instagram with them and she’ll stay in touch. I will miss them and their fun stories and moving is just hard on all of us. 

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I’m prayerfully hoping that she finds another good group of kids in Virginia. If she doesn’t… well, Ray may have to retire and we’re going to live in a two bedroom shack on this little island. 

This is the friend I’ll miss the most. She’s such a regular fixture in our house, we think of her as our own. She is the polar opposite of my loud tribe. She is quiet and always watching but we do occasionally hear the fit of giggles that come out especially when she’s slightly embarrassed. She might be slightly embarrassed quite often by a bunch of obnoxious Stiffs but that’s another post. We all love our Kiki!

IMG_8081Don’t tell her Mom but we may just have to kidnap her for a while. 

These next few weeks are going to be hard on all of us, especially this mama’s heart. Pride night is tomorrow and Rites of Passage is next week. I’m trying to buckle up for this long ride. 



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